When we launched Model Citizen last September, 2015 was already on its way to being the year that plastic broke. We saw the launch of AUTOart's controversial line of composite-bodied model cars, as well as a steady stream of resin models from Spark and TSM. The predicted death of die-cast metal, however, proved to be nothing more than a pessimistic rumor, as new metal-body releases from AUTOart and Schuco proved to be among the finest new releases of the year.
With so much variety, it was tough to select what we consider to be the best new model cars of 2015, but as these year-end lists are pretty much obligatory for any self-respecting blog, we hereby present Model Citizen's Top Five New Models of 2015:
5. Cooper T51 (Stirling Moss's 1959 Italian GP winner), 1:18 scale by AUTOart.
Having already tackled Jack Brabham's 1959 championship-winning Cooper T51, the old-school modellers at Schuco brought out a second T51 in 2015 with some serious star power: Stirling Moss's Italian Grand Prix winner. Flawlessly finished and exquisitely detailed, the Schuco T51 is let down slightly by its lack of a removable engine cover. However, that does not detract from the overall desirability of this model, one which could be displayed alongside the more ubiquitous Ferrari and Maserati F1 models of the era.
4. Mercedes-Benz 600 Pullman (Elvis Presley), 1:43 scale by TSM.
Call us curmudgeons, but we're not usually moved by "celebrity cars" around Model Citizen HQ, but we made an exception in 2015 for TSM's brilliant little MB 600 Pullman as purchased by a musician of some notoriety named Elvis Aron Presley. Well, perhaps "little" is the wrong word: the 600 is around 6 inches in length, about 50% longer than the average 1:43-scale car, and every one of those inches is packed with thoughful detail. Our favorite feature of this model (apart from its gorgeous blue finish) is the delicate boomerang-style TV aerial. TCB in a flash, indeed.
3. Alfa Romeo 4C Spider (composite bodied), 1:18 scale by AUTOart.
In an effort to offer model collectors a lower-cost alternative to big-ticket die-cast cars, AUTOart introduced a line of vehicles bodied in ABS composite (a fancy term for automotive-grade plastic.) Besides the obvious benefit of a smaller sticker price, composite-bodied models offered further advantages such as superior wheel fitment and more precise panel gaps than normally can be achieved with die-cast metal. Among the first models in this new line was the Alfa Romeo 4C Spider, and if this car is any indication of the quality we can expect from AUTOart's composite line, hard-line metal model enthusiasts aren't going to be disappointed. The detail, tolerances and hand-feel of this car are exceptional.
2. 1969 Matra MS80 High-Wing (Jackie Stewart's Spanish GP winner), 1:18 scale by Spark.
The surest way to subvert the main complaint about resin models (that they have no opening parts and therefore lack critical detail) is to choose a subject that wears all its important bits on the outside. Such is the case with Spark's delectable 1:18-scale Matra MS80, the prime exemplar of the brief "high wing" era in Formula 1. The engine and suspension detail on this model are magnificent, making this the resin model of choice for people who hate resin models.
1. Nissan Skyline GT-R (KPGC-10), 1:18 scale by AUTOart.
Japanese classics are perhaps the fastest-growing segment of the collector car hobby, so when we heard that AUTOart were producting a lightly tuned version of the iconic "Hakosuka" Skyline, we waited with anxious anticipation. We were not disappointed with the result. The AUTOart Hako is drenched in quality, with some of the best interior detailing we found in a 1:18-scale car at any price in 2015. Almost singlehandedly, this Skyline proves the continuing viability of die-cast metal as a precise-yet-affordable material for the construction of scale model cars, and we hope that doesn't change anytime soon.