Playing with Fire

State of Hobby

By Michael J. Legeros


This month, a look at the state of our hobby. Just off the top of my head, here's how things are looking among the various manufacturers:

Athearn scored a big hit with their 1:50 die-cast Ford C pumper last year. Though they've repainted the thing several times, the prototypically correct Riverside release is a reasonably priced gem. With the seeming success of their 1:87 plastic rescues and telesquirts, can 1:50 die-cast versions be far off?

Boley looks to be limbo, though they haven't really been exciting (to me) in a couple years, not since they were planning that flood of assorted toolings that included even a tractor-drawn runway foamer. Remember that? And there's that 1:48 Oshkosh Stryker mold still out there, ready to be replicated in custom paint schemes.

Code 3 has demonstrated that they'll produce, at a minimum, one new release per month. Prices are a bit higher, and there's no necessary evidence of either a trickle or a flood of coming new toolings. Two of their latest toolings-- the Baltimore tiller and the Century ALF-- have had some problems, so even if new toolings are coming, there's justification for some skepticism on the "gotta have it" factor. But that said, and all said, they still have the licenses, and the production means, to make things that we all want. Plus there are low-use tools that we should reasonably expect to see reused, such as the Mack MR rescue.

Corgi by itself-- that is, sans National Motor Mint Museum-- appears to have scaled back on its US fire releases. Fewer release in the first half suggest a similar approach in the second half. The NMMM affiliation has allowed them to produce a number of new, classic molds, and so far everyone likes what they've seen. They're also appearing to commit to greater accuracy with special provisions for replacing poorly produced Roto-Rays on a recent release. Methinks Corgi will be worth watching. I'm still debating to cancel my NMMM collection subscription, however, to avoid having to return the ALF 700 and the Mack CF, plus whatever "don't likes" come down the pike. Those shipping costs add up! Corgi UK and Corgi France may have some surprises for us. You never know, though both have been more ho-hum in the last 12 or 18 months.

Diapet released two nifty 1:43 fire engines late last year, an 8x8 Morita crash truck and a Hino aerial ladder. I have no expectations of additional releases, but perhaps they'll start showing up on eBay with some sort of frequency.

Del Prado has another 20 or so editions to issue in Italy (among all the other countries) before finishing. That's good stuff, if you like Euro rigs. Most of them are modern, though don't expect much in the way of moving parts. No extending ladders, for starters! It's probably a pipe dream to expect a US distributor for all 125 releases. Befriend someone in Europe, or get thee to eBay. Of course, all their US rigs have already been produced and the quality of those varies. Del Prado is also mixed scale, so TS (tough situation) for those that require same-scale.

Eligor has a ladder truck in their coming line-up. It'll probably run $80 or $100, and maybe have more plastic than it should have at that price. I'll be tempted, that's for sure. And it should have a host of moving parts!

First Gear is wowing folks with their latest 1:64 stuff. At least one fire truck has to be on the horizon. They'd be crazy not to. There's also that Kenworth pumper rumor / confirmed rumor that's supposedly happening later in the year. While we may see surprises in 1:32, I think there's a bigger splash to be made with any 1:64 ventures. And have I mentioned how much I love my giant red forestry dozer from late last year?

Matchbox / Hot Wheels / Johnny Lightning / Racing Champions have been utterly uninteresting for over a year now. No reason to suspect the trend won't continue.

Minichamps made a run of German classics over the last couple years. Are they still planning more? Pricey, but if you like the detail...

Schuco's still making those affordable European classics. None of them, however, have interested me since the Opel Blitz tanker of a year or so ago. Plus you gotta import 'em.

Signature Models pleased everyone at the end of the year with those NMMM-produced (?) 1:32 and 1:50 classics. Are more in the works?

Siku's line-up most notably includes an 8x8 Rosenbauer Panther crash truck. The thing's painted in demo unit colors, however, which may not be to everyone's liking. I'd wager we'll see a repaint or two, though perhaps just for release outside Germany.

Tomy could very well produce a new pocket-sized fire engine, as well as their usual incidental ambulances and fire cars.

Yat-Ming certainly wowed us with their 2005 large-scale classics and there's no reason to suspect that this year will be any different. For that price, you can't beat the large-scale detail or quality. I suppose there could be a threshold where collectors just can't shoehorn one more large-scale release into their collections. There's also the repaint experiment with Wal-Mart that means nothing to me. I buy Yat-Ming for their prototypical accuracy and am not interested in repaints.

Postscript: Okay, Solido and maybe Verem are still making new models. But Del Prado's got them beat, and about the same price.



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Copyright 2017 by Michael J. Legeros