Diecast Delights: '98 Porsche 911 GT1 in 1:18 scale

What is the point of the weekly Diecast Delights slot? Well, all over The Internet there are dozens, hundreds, several forums all discussing nothing but diecast models. Quite a lot of them seem to be frequented by folk with bottomless pockets, all high-fiving and back patting each other on their latest megabuck 1:18 purchase, often a Ferrari released so recently the ink hasn’t dried on the press release.
Who cares about the cutting edge anyway when eBay is overflowing with forgotten gems for our delectation? The model before you was an impulse buy for a large KFC meal level of outlay, despite its Le Mans winning pedigree.

Yep, that’s right. The #26 car with Scotsman Allan McNish sharing helmsman duties, won overall in ’98 and I’ve been ever so slightly besotted with it since seeing it tear up the tarmac at the Goodwood Festival of Speed last year. Fortunately the eBay listing for this model didn’t mention anything at all that separated it from any other model GT1 (and there are many) so its provenance didn’t affect its price one iota.
Maisto produced a series of Le Mans racecars (I wish they’d do the same for LeMons), and I’ve picked several issues up over the years. Being Maisto they would be seen as budget models by today’s standards, but back in the late nineties I don’t think there was quite as much of a diecast hierarchy as there is now. So for the purpose of evaluation we should look at this as a perversely hi-fidelity toy. Because that’s what it is.
There is a caveat to fulfil before your full enjoyment of this model can begin. Straight out the box you’ll find that Maisto have modelled the ride height of their GT1 on the first Porsche Cayenne. Maisto insist on fitting their models with a faintly laughable “working” suspension system. It’s  a nice thought, but the spring rates are definitely not to scale and the model is insufficiently weighty to compress the coils. So the first thing you have to do (and this is mandatory) is disassemble the model and shorten the springs. After cutting them in half (twist the two halves together to beef them up) the stance looks just right.
This model carries all the shelf presence you could need. From the other side of the room it looks beyond reproach. From a few feet away it’s as good as you could need. From six inches away the short-cuts can be seen, and on millimetric analysis the cost limitations are all too apparent. And that’s all fair enough.
Compare the above live-action shot with the model photos and you can tell see that the tampoed livery is within a spit of reality, correct sponsors and all. The application of the tampos is crisp, but not razor sharp as it would be on an AutoArt or something. But as sensibly price toys go, it’s pretty spectacular.
Open up those butterfly doors and peer inside, and again they have gone to some effort. I’m not going to find a photo of the real thing to make comparisons to, as I’m sure we’d find a dozen defects straight off the bat. But it all looks very convincing. Maisto have taken the trouble to reproduce switches and their labels, and a nicely modelled LCD dash cluster.
Best of all, (or worst of all if they turn out to be inaccurate, which I don’t really think matters anyway in this case) is the driver’s seat, which has been formed in such a way as to simulate a carbon-fibre shell. It looks terrific, and the seatbelts are separately detailed.
That carbon fibre finish extends to out back, where the engine (or what you can see of it) is shrouded by the stuff which forms various bits of manifold and intake ducting. Engine detail is limited to some bits of wiring and little hints of what looks like s0mething functional buried below. There isn’t much to it, to be honest, but it’s enough to look technical. More importantly, at least it’s in the right place.
As are the horizontal suspension pushrods and their springs, which look (to the casual bystander and the uninformed) “just like the real thing”. Ironically, given Maisto’s habit of fitting suspension to their models, it’s completely cosmetic, neither of the springs are actually connected to anything that moves. Again, though, it’s nice that they made the effort.
Fairly well sums up the whole model, really. In isolation every aspect could probably be executed a little more precisely. The rear lights, which were stock 911 items on the 1:1, are the right shape but have no depth to them; being made up of printed decals behind plastic lenses. The exhaust pipes are just that little bit too chromey. The carbon fibre finish is textured, rather than smooth. The branded tyres have fabulous sidewall decal detail, but the brake discs have no callipers.
I think it’s all entirely forgiveable. No doubt somebody out there offers a model of this car which is absolutely spot on in every detail, and they can reasonably expect to charge enormous quantities of cash for it. If you’re an absolute die-hard 911 completist, or maybe you own a 1:1 911 GTR, only perfection will do.
But for the rest of us, who just want a really decent looking model which acknowledges the existence of this car; a way of holding and looking and feeling the car in some way more tangible than from a glossy photo in a magazine, this is more than enough. My rating is 80%.
On eBay the completed listings on these range from £7 plus postage through to £50, so it really is the luck of the draw. There are plenty out there, though, and they go up on eBay so often that what sells for dozens 0f quid this week might find only one last minute mercy-bidder the next. That’s how I got mine for the equivalent of two Three-Piece Variety Meals, made large.
(All images copyright Chris Haining / Hooniverse 2015)

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  1. Rover 1 Avatar
    Rover 1

    And the advantage of the cheapness of the Maisto models was that you could collect the full set reasonably priced.

  2. nanoop Avatar

    GeI remember* the LeMans cars before they got their white paint, probably before the main sponsor was acquired: flat black carbon, with humble golden circles of the intermediate sponsor (a brewery), and spitting 4ft flames when lifting the throttle, according to Stuck “due to a software bug”… That car looked just right for this battle of a race, unlike this cheerful, glossy auto-mobil.
    If I had a kit and the time and the abilities. I’d make a model just like these early versions.
    *As a kid of the 80ies I remember it from TV, of course.