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AROUND HOME : Model Cars

November 12, 1989|MARTIN ZIMMERMAN

STILL IN STICKER shock after looking at that fire-breathing Corvette you've always wanted? No problem, you can still buy one--you just have to scale back your fantasy a bit--1/43rd scale might be the ticket or 1/20 if you're a bigger spender. Your dream car--model-size version--is waiting for you to claim it. All you need is a shelf, coffee table or display case large enough to hold it.

Collecting prebuilt, preassembled model cars is one of the few areas of collecting that doesn't require a loan from the bank. "Prices range from $2 to $500," says John Nobert of Autofanatics Ltd, "the top end being a hand-built model so real that you couldn't tell it from the real thing in a photograph."

Nobert, a former lawyer who started his business in 1975, says almost all of his customers are between 25 and 60 years old. "Collectors are adults in love with cars. Those who can't afford the real car want a model, and the people who can afford them want something to put on the coffee table."

Most of the newer models are made from resin plastic; the better ones show incredible attention to detail. There are some collectors who prefer the earlier technology of white-metal die-cast versions; again, the best ones are the models that are fully detailed.

Car model collecting is very big in Europe, with stores in every major city and in most mid-sized towns as well. Not surprisingly, many models are manufactured overseas, many of them replicas of such beloved American icons as the 1934 Chrysler Airflow and 1955 Chevrolet Nomad station wagon. Portugal's Vitese, England's Brooklin and France's Solido offer good quality and large selection.

American manufacturers are also active. ERTL and California Precision Miniatures are two U.S. contenders for the model-maker crown. Some of the most appealing models were made as promotional pieces--if the beloved old Karmann Ghia blocking the driveway is dust-entombed and won't start, that nifty blue one on the mantelpiece will always look good.

A few dollars well-spent will buy many miles of pleasure--and you don't have to worry about gridlock or insurance.

Model car resources are Autofanatics Ltd. in Sherman Oaks, (818) 788-5440, also mail order; California Mini-Wheels in Los Angeles, (213) 276-4433, also mail order, and Marque Products in Westminster, (714) 894-7717. Mail order outlets are Rovere Auto Miniatures, 406-412 Revere Beach Pkwy., Revere, Mass. 02151, (617) 286-2383; Motorsports Miniatures, 4157 Grand Ave. S., Minneapolis, Minn. 55409, (612) 822-9142; Miniature Cars, Box 188, Berkeley Heights, N.J. 07922, (201) 665-7811; Auto Motif, Dept. 35, 2969 Atlanta Rd., Smyrna, GA 30080, (404) 435-5025.

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