I always think that road vehicles can really date a layout, even with no trains about. There’s a reason why period TV dramas and film have vehicles appropriate for the time in which they are set, for just this reason.
Over the last few years the number of accurate 4mm scale die-cast vehicles available has soared. One problem has been that many tend to be at the premium end of things. This isn’t what we really want or need – the ‘everyday’ is much more what we need.
Oxford Diecast is producing a very wide range 1/76th scale vehicles and many are exactly the sort of ‘everyday’ types that I think will be just what we need. I treated myself to two of their models the other day, a mark 2 Vauxhall Astra and a mark 2 Vauxhall Cavalier. For anyone like me, growing up in the eighties and nineties, these are two cars which you’d see all the time.
Even though the Astra which is the GTE version, not the everyday version, the Ford, Vauxhall and Rover performance models were very much performance for the masses. And even by today’s standards the GTE is a quick car! And cars like these were not uncommon sights in their day. Or maybe I just noticed them more than the boring models?!
The Cavalier though, is a very normal spec – nothing fancy and at primary school I guarantee than there will have been someone in my class whose family had one parked on their drive. It is a typical ‘fleet’ car, one which might have spent its life going up and down the motorway between offices and sales conferences. The sort of life which I would hate!
The models themselves aren’t bad at all – at first glance.
Shape-wise both are pretty good – they look like what they’re supposed to be. But these small models lag far behind the 1/43rd scale models which Oxford (and others) produce. The paint is terribly thick and the cast lights just don’t cut it. Big squares of silver just don’t look like real headlamps. And compare the Astra with the real thing – the tyres are a much bigger profile (and the wheels too small I feel) and the model looks like it’s on stilts! The rubbing strips on the corners of the bumpers are bigger than they should be. So can this be turned into something more accurate? Well I hope so.
The paint doesn’t help matters – it’s so thick and tough. Nitromors struggles with it – but beneath this horrible shell you will find a lovely, crisp casting which will be so much better for a decent paint finish.
So we shall see how these turn out. It’s all too easy to focus on the negative (as I have done!) but it’s far better to have these as starting points than not all.