At Model Citizen, it has always been our intention to strike a balance between two of the world's most popular sizes of model cars: 1:18 and 1:43 scale. We love 1:18 for its ability to convey maximum detail, while we find 1:43's ease-of-display and nearly endless variety of subjects irresistible. We try not to play favorites, carrying a carefully curated selection of both popular scales.
That's why it was such a surprise that when it came time to compile our annual list of the preceding year's five best new model releases, we found that 2017 was dominated by small-but-mighty 1:43-scale cars, taking four out of five spots in our ranking. It wasn't just variety that won us over, it was value: truly great 1:43-scale cars that might have once sold for $200 dollars can now be had for $60-100. We only hope that 1:18-scale cars will soon follow suit, offering increasing level of detail while keeping prices flat. With any luck, that will be the story of next year's review, but for now, here are our five favorite new model releases from 2017:
5. Audi S6 Avant Plus, 1:43 scale, by Spark. We've come to count on Spark Models to offer an unrivaled selection of 1:43-scale resin subjects, but even we were surprised by the left-field choice to offer this hot Audi wagon. One for true fans, S6 Avant Plus nailed all of the fine details, from its delicate badging to its soccer mom-approved roof rails. $72
4. Porsche 930 "Blackbird" Turbo, 1:18 scale, by AUTOart. We honored AUTOart's Wangan Midnight manga hero, the Nissan Devil Z, as our top new release of 2016. In 2017, the Devil Z was followed by its fictional nemesis, the Porsche 930 "Blackbird" Turbo, a tuned version of the classic rear-engined supercar. Built to AUTOart's customarily high standards, the Blackbird 930 was a fitting counterpoint to the Z; that it fell short of the Nissan's brilliance was due more to the detail-concealing nature of the source material...the Z was just a more open design that allowed the gemlike engine bay to shine. Outside of the shadow of Devil Z, the Blackbird 930 still stood on its own merits as our favorite 1:18-scale car of 2017. Sold out.
3. Aston Martin DB4 Convertible, 1:43 scale, by Spark. We know that everyone just loves James Bond's Aston Martin DB5, but to our eyes its predecessor, the DB4, was the prettier car. Too long ignored by the world's model car makers, Spark finally put a lovely series of 1:43-scale DB4 models into production last year, and in 2017 released their gorgeous convertible variant. Spark's attention to detail really shines through in the DB4C's interior, which is one of the best we've seen in a 1:43-scale car. $72.
2. Mercedes-Benz 300SEL 6.8 AMG, 1:43 Scale, by Minichamps. Sometimes, bigger is better. When we received the silver version of Minichamps' historic AMG racer, we were first struck by its weight...thanks to its big ol' sixties sedan body, the 300SEL is easily one of the heaviest 1:43-scale models we've ever encountered. Thankfully, the 6.8 is more than just porky; Minichamps has poured on the detail in this model, proving that diecast metal can still rival resin for accuracy in small scale. $80
1. Subaru Impreza WRX Type R STI, 1:43 Scale, by Mark 43. In a year of surprises, none was bigger than the appearance of Hobby Japan's Mark 43 line of wonderfully detailed 1:43-scale resin models. Hard to find in the United States, we were thrilled with the opportunity to become one of the first dealers on these shores to handle these desirable JDM models. We weren't disappointed: Mark 43 cars are the equal of the best sub-$100 resin cars offered by the likes of Spark and TSM in terms of accuracy and eye-appeal. We could have given the top spot on our list to any of Mark 43's offerings, so we listened to our heart and picked their magnificent GC8D Impreza WRX Type R STI as the best new release of 2017. The value in this model is simply incredible: the fit and finish are flawless, the detail second to none. We also love the high-end display packaging that comes standard with this and every Mark 43 model. For U.S. collectors starved for high-quality Japanese model cars, the emergence of Mark 43 is manna from heaven. $72.