8.27.2009

N Scale Cars!

There's nothing more fun than adding the 'icing' to a layout than adding relatively inexpensive additions like...CARS! From the bare bones Model Power blister pack, to the high end LED lit vehicles, there's almost something for everyone! Plus, the real secret to having cars (and accesible roads) on your layout, is that they are great decoys for young children! Instead of being the 'grumpy old man with the train layout' whenever some kid shows up (yours or others), now you have something that is relatively painless to let them touch and push around the layout! Of course, it helps if the wheels move so the precious little child doesn't gouge valleys into your detailed roadwork....

Anyway, I'm going to showcase a few of the N Scale automobiles I have from various manufacturers:

MODEL POWER:

These can be found in the states in nearly any hobby shop. The nice thing is that they are very cheap...there are like 6 or so in the blister pack. Unfortunately, they are pretty cheap, ugly, and totally uninteresting. Relegate these to the back of the layout.

KATO:

Kato sells a box of cars, usually nearby their Unitrack system. Unfortunately, Kato seems to have the N Scale contract for drab, boring, government sedans. The quality is better than Model Power, but the cars are boring. I suppose that's a huge advantage if you don't want to have flashy cars distracting from your trains, right?

WIKING:

Now, finally, with Wiking - a German company I believe - we're getting into some interesting models that you might actually want to look at on your layout. They do a decent VW New Beetle and Porsche Boxster (so the box says) that come together in a package. I guess this is a 'his and hers' type of thing, right? Too bad they chose such poor colors for both models though, as neither of them look as good as they could with a better color choice.

FLEISCHMANN:

Fleischmann, better known for their crappy warranty support (oh yes, they used to make N Scale trains too. See my last post for my little rant on that) also makes a few interesting cars in N Scale. The quality is on the low end, but I like the interesting Citroen car, and the Porsche is cool too. Again, what's with the colors? How depressing. No moving wheels on these.

HERPA:

Herpa, a company which 'owns' a small-scale model airplane market, also makes a few N Scale items. I picked up a package of two Mini Coopers that are really nice looking models! The wheels even move! This is a huge plus in my book. The wheels are not really attached that firmly to the axle, so one of my Mini's is missing its back rear tire. Ah well....should have gone with the extended warranty I guess.

BUSCH:

Better known for their scenery materials, Busch makes a couple of vehicle sets. My favorite is the DHL/FedEx combo. These look good anywhere on the layout...and the wheels move (VRRRRROOOOOOMMMMM!).

Another Busch favorite of mine is their "Polizei" combo. Seriously, who can't pass up a Smart fortwo police car? Talk about striking fear into the hearts of criminals in a high speed pursuit! Of course, as if its not bad enough that the police are using a Smart car, the wheels don't even move!

MINIMETALS:

Mini-Metals does a great job of producing nice quality, metal, N scale models of classic American gas hogs! The metal gives them some nice heft, and the wheels move nicely. Nothing more fun than having the Ford Custom rip through downtown with the Polizei Smart car paddle-shifting its way after them!

TOMYTEC:
Tomytec is by far my hands down favorite 'car manufacturer'. Moving wheels, great looking cars with a lot of detail, good colors, and a HUGE selection of models and types.

I went for the 'big one' and ordered their Tomytec Car Collection Vol 6. Although the box has way more Honda Fits, Demio's, and Vitz's than I'd ever really want, the colors and quality are great additions to the layout.

They also do a great line of trucks, trailers, semi's etc... Tomytec vehicles have become almost a separate little 'hobby' now given how cool these things are. They're not particularly easy to get in traditional hobby shops, but are easy to find a wide variety online.


That's sort of small snapshot of my thoughts on the N Scale vehicles currently sharing the layout with my trains (not to fear, passenger revenues for the railways in Quinntopia will continue to be strong as our urban planners maliciously planned that all of our roads and highways go absolutely nowhere! Ha ha!) back to the trains and layout in my next post.

5 comments:

  1. Ha! Very entertaining read. Tomytec do indeed produce a huge range of vehicles—all Japanese, though! I really love the Trailer Collection, semis with removable ISO containers that can be loaded on Tomix or Kato container railcars.

    My question: Who (if anyone) makes good models of modern American cars?

    ReplyDelete
  2. John F. Moore8/29/09, 10:33 AM

    I sent this to Model Railroader and several manufacturers as an open letter to the companies that make model automobiles – and it’s a cry for help from an N-scaler.

    We need modern-era N-scale American autos!

    We can buy Acela trains, wind-powered generators, cell towers, and modern-era buildings. But the vast majority of American N-scale automobiles are from the 1950s through the ‘70s (and even some from 80 or 90 years ago), while we can get up-to-date BMWs, Toyota, Mercedeses and even Mini Minors.. A modern-era layout with samples from all manufacturers would look like a newly affluent Cuba: modern autos from everywhere else, but clunkers from the U.S.

    Atlas has an exception: their nice ’96 Taurus. But their packaging is a turn-off, as their packs of two are both the same color. The German and Japanese suppliers Busch, Kato, and Wiking are smarter, and put two or more different colors in each pack.

    There are far more types of N-scale trucks than cars. Why? This is just the opposite of what you see on real streets and highways. And HO scale has a reasonable variety of recent American autos, such as from Ricko. By the way, I contacted Ricko, and asked if they would make their PT Cruiser in N-scale. They replied that the smaller sales in N-scale wouldn’t justify the die costs. But N-scale doesn’t need as fancy dies – we don’t need wheels that turn, for instance. After all, we don’t let little kids push them around. And with the quality of fine-detail painting that’s coming out of China(?) the body can be one piece, without separate dies for the grille or bumpers.

    Could we please have some cars that are typical of modern streets and highways. They don’t have to have year-to-year variations; there are lots of autos whose looks didn’t change much for five or more years; the PT Cruiser is a good example. And how about Chrysler Sebring convertibles? They are the most common American convertible, and they’ve had almost the same shape since 1999, so they’d look at home throughout the era. Speaking of convertibles, why are they always modeled with the top open? On the road, they’re mostly closed… but if you insist on making them open (and don’t have a snap-on top), at least model a driver or supply some seated figures to put in, or else we can’t put them on the open road.

    I don’t mean to favor Chrysler. There are a lot of GM and Ford products that have a distinctively American look and would be at home from the late ‘90s up to today. Like Chevrolet’s Tahoe and Malibu and Ford’s Explorer (which I see Atlas is coming out with, but again with the dumb packaging of two of the same colors in one package).

    Also, please, no Mustangs or Corvettes or station wagons. Lots of them are still left over from early Bachmann sets and auto-transport rolling stock.

    Finally, pay attention to scale. I have Volkswagen microbses fron several manufacturers that differ in length by 20%!

    And, manufacturers, don't tell me they won't sell. Cruising the web. I find out that the modern cars are more likely to be sold out than the older ones or the trucks.

    ReplyDelete
  3. John F. Moore8/29/09, 10:34 AM

    I sent this to Model Railroader and several manufacturers as an open letter to the companies that make model automobiles – and it’s a cry for help from an N-scaler.

    We need modern-era N-scale American autos!

    We can buy Acela trains, wind-powered generators, cell towers, and modern-era buildings. But the vast majority of American N-scale automobiles are from the 1950s through the ‘70s (and even some from 80 or 90 years ago), while we can get up-to-date BMWs, Toyota, Mercedeses and even Mini Minors.. A modern-era layout with samples from all manufacturers would look like a newly affluent Cuba: modern autos from everywhere else, but clunkers from the U.S.

    Atlas has an exception: their nice ’96 Taurus. But their packaging is a turn-off, as their packs of two are both the same color. The German and Japanese suppliers Busch, Kato, and Wiking are smarter, and put two or more different colors in each pack.

    There are far more types of N-scale trucks than cars. Why? This is just the opposite of what you see on real streets and highways. And HO scale has a reasonable variety of recent American autos, such as from Ricko. By the way, I contacted Ricko, and asked if they would make their PT Cruiser in N-scale. They replied that the smaller sales in N-scale wouldn’t justify the die costs. But N-scale doesn’t need as fancy dies – we don’t need wheels that turn, for instance. After all, we don’t let little kids push them around. And with the quality of fine-detail painting that’s coming out of China(?) the body can be one piece, without separate dies for the grille or bumpers.

    Could we please have some cars that are typical of modern streets and highways. They don’t have to have year-to-year variations; there are lots of autos whose looks didn’t change much for five or more years; the PT Cruiser is a good example. And how about Chrysler Sebring convertibles? They are the most common American convertible, and they’ve had almost the same shape since 1999, so they’d look at home throughout the era. Speaking of convertibles, why are they always modeled with the top open? On the road, they’re mostly closed… but if you insist on making them open (and don’t have a snap-on top), at least model a driver or supply some seated figures to put in, or else we can’t put them on the open road.

    I don’t mean to favor Chrysler. There are a lot of GM and Ford products that have a distinctively American look and would be at home from the late ‘90s up to today. Like Chevrolet’s Tahoe and Malibu and Ford’s Explorer (which I see Atlas is coming out with, but again with the dumb packaging of two of the same colors in one package).

    Also, please, no Mustangs or Corvettes or station wagons. Lots of them are still left over from early Bachmann sets and auto-transport rolling stock.

    Finally, pay attention to scale. I have Volkswagen microbses fron several manufacturers that differ in length by 20%!

    And, manufacturers, don't tell me they won't sell. Cruising the web. I find out that the modern cars are more likely to be sold out than the older ones or the trucks.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Kato actually also makes modern cars. There is a set that comes with six 90s Toyotas (item no. 23-505): Vitz (Yaris), Altezza (Lexus IS), Crown, Noah, Harrier (Lexus RX), Estima (Previa).

    As to modern US types, Willmodels (available through ebay) makes some very nice unpainted solid resin models, such as Jeep Cherokee, Chrysler PT Cruiser, Cadillac CTS, etc.

    There's a pretty complete listing of available N scale cars on www.spur-n.de (title page is in German, click on N-Autos, it's bilingual with English from there on).

    ReplyDelete
  5. GHQ and Showcase miniatures also make very nice cast metal car and truck models, plus some interesting farming and industrial vehicles. They do require assembly, and painting, and do not have glass in the windows of course (all metal).

    GHQ especially has a nice range of eras, with quite a few modern-day vehicles for those looking. Their trucks especially are really nice, with some great detailing. Their PB 359 Tractor is among my favorite vehicles that I have.

    All of these vehicles are also made so you can remove the top from the chassis, which makes it simple to put a sitting figure inside.

    ReplyDelete