Sunday, July 20, 2014

Building my holy grail car, a Panhard Dynavia

Most model collectors have a 'holy grail' car that they long to own. When I started collecting, the car I call my 'holy grail', the Panhard Dynavia, was no such thing. It was just another Panhard that I eventually wanted to get. But then it turned out that 1/43 scale models of Panhard Dynavias didn't seem to exist, and so that's when getting one became my 'holy grail' ambition. Here's the (very odd looking) holy grail in question...

It certainly is unusual! The Dynavia was a concept car produced for the 1948 London Car Show. Two were made. One survives, in the French National Car Museum in Mulhouse. The other was driven by its owner, a Swiss gentleman, until it was written off in a crash many years ago. If the Dynavia had been a readily available model it would probably have never become my 'holy grail' but it is an interesting car.

For its time it was advanced. Thanks to its super-slippery Cd of 0.26, its little 605cc flat twin engine got it up to 130km/h and delivered 4.2l/100km fuel consumption. With an ultra-light Duralium body it weighed just 810kg. And it looked very strange indeed, and never went into production.

Recently, I went through the highs and lows and highs of diecast collecting, all in one day. First up, I finally found a 1/43 Dynavia model, made by IDEM, for sale on eBay. Woo hoo! I put in my bid, knowing it might get pricey later on, and then watched the early bidding – even on Day One! – get out of my price range. That was the low...

Then I discovered that my saved eBay search for "1/43 Panhard Dynavia" actually had another listing, but this time for a Panhard Dynavia kit. It was expensive (60 Euros) but I decided I had to get it. Here's a link to another kit for sale at the moment from the company who makes them, CCC Models.

This turned out to be my wise buy of the year, and the Dynavia model being auctioned eventually sold for 360 Euros, which is way out of my price bracket.

Here's the kit, a mixture of resin (the body), plastic (windows),
metal (seats, wheels, fenders etc) and rubber (tyres).
My job is to apply the glue and paint very carefully.

Very helpfully, all the instructions are in French,
but thanks to Google Translate I think I know
what to do.
My first challenge is to find the right murky metallic green colour for the body, and that's proving difficult at the moment. I'll track something down. Somehow!

In the meantime I have been trawling the net looking for reference photos to help me with the building of the model. I found some fab pix at, and here they are (pinched without permission of course, but it's a great website!).

During my long lay-off from diecast blogging and creating my photoshopped dioramas, I have been teaching myself the very enjoyable pastime of building models. I've mostly been building plastic kits of planes and ships, but as this is the first time this 60-year-old child has done any model-building, I have been learning a lot.

Now I know why I took up model-building last year. Even though I didn't know it then, I was preparing myself for the important challenge of building my holy grail this year.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Smoke gets in your eyes

Shame about the environmental damage their smoky engines cause, but I've always had a soft spot for two-strokes. It was during my motorcycling youth, which I spent much of on Suzuki 250s and Yamaha 350s, that I fell in love with the way two-stroke engines worked and performed. I didn't care that they didn't sound great. I just loved the way a little guy like a Yamaha RD350 could blow away slow old British twins like Triumph 650s, and bigger, bad-handling Japanese fours. That RD350 was a rocketship for a 19-year-old in 1973.

Later on, as two-stroke bikes became more sophisticated, with water-cooling and even better frames, suspension and brakes, I still preferred the thrill of tackling a winding, racer's road on a Yamaha TZR 250 to scaring myself silly on the same road on an evil handling, but much more powerful, big Japanese four-cylinder four-stroke. I was a small bike fan, and still am to some degree.

And so while slowly compiling my diecast car collection, mostly in 1:43 scale, I have been determined to add a few two-stroke-engined cars to the mix.

Saab 96, model by Trofeu. Very nicely made model, and the
only one of my two-stroke cars which I have seen on the road.
Trabant 601, a legendary car for mostly the wrong reasons.
I was very happy to see this Atlas model when it arrived, as
it was much, much nicer than I expected. I kind of thought
a Trabant model would be as crappy as the famous car itself,
but not so. Well done Atlas on a nice little 1/43 guy.

As soon as I saw the colour scheme on this Wartburg 311
Coupe I just had to get one, and it's a nice bit of work from
the budget collector's friend, IXO. If you're not familiar
with Wartburg, it's another East German marque. Perhaps
because it was a pretty nice car it didn't fit into the Western
propaganda line about hopelessly inefficient communist
East Germany (a reputation for which the Trabant was
the proverbial sitting duck). Wartburgs were good enough
to be exported to the West. The company itself lasted until
German unification in the early 1990s, but it's these very
good cars from the late 50s which earned Wartburg's
relatively good name in the automotive world.
Finally, an odd little pairing (and I do mean little, these two
are 1:87 scale), of a Wartburg 311 Coupe towing a Trabant P50.
This set is made by Bubmobil, a German company, and they aren't
really meant to be perfect models, as you can see from the overly
large wheels. I see them as affectionate attempts to capture
the spirit of these cars, rather than their strict form.
I guess I should finish off this little homage to the two-strokes by adding in the 1:24 scale models of the few two-stroke bikes I could find.

It's only fitting that East Germany comes first: the MZ250ETS.
I owned the later model, the MZ250ETZ, but they were very
similar bikes. Engine and exhaust pipes the same especially,
but the ETZ had more modern styling and a disc brake.
Kawasaki Mach IV 750, the ultra-fast triple. Never owned
one, never rode one, but I had to have a model of one.
Yamaha RZ250. I owned an RZ350, as well as the earlier
air-cooled RD350. Great bikes, fantastic engines.
Phil Read's V4 250cc GP Yamaha of the late 1960s.

Christian Sarron's TZ250 Yamaha of the early 1980s.
This modern version of the Spanish Bultaco 250 Metralla was
as close as I could get to the 1960s bike which I was really after.
And while searching in vain for the 60s Bultaco Metralla, I
spotted this 1960s Spanish Montesa Impala, so I snapped it up.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

American beauty

I might seem like a "French car fan" but the truth is that description is far too narrrow. I love cars from every country, but I also love machinery in any form: motorbikes, planes, ships, trains, engines... there's really no limit at all, in fact.

And in the case of cars, I do like the look of some American cars, particularly those built prior to the 70s, which is the point at which I feel American car stylists seriously lost the plot for many years.

For me there are two examples of American muscle in particular that I have always loved, ever since I saw the first photos of them in car magazines in the 1960s. It's these two, and I am so glad I have a beautiful model of each, made in 1:43 scale by Spark.

'67 Oldsmobile Toronado on the left, '65 Buick Riviera on the right.
They just look so good together. If I was a zillionaire car collector
I would definitely need one of each. Couldn't buy just one without
the other. Both look predatory and powerful, yet sleek at the same
time. I'm thinking large cats like jaguars and leopards.

The colour is called Rose Metallic, and it glows.
This is called Metallic Green, and it sparkles.
I often wonder what it'd be like to wrestle this big front-wheel-
drive baby around at speed, but it sure looks fast standing still.
These are both high quality resin models, not cheap to buy (on eBay the traders ask around $80-$100 on a "Buy it Now" basis) but to me they are well worth it.