Diecast Delights: A 1970 Triumph Spitfire in 1:18 scale

I find myself slightly baffled by the various diecast collecting websites out there. Choosing what to collect is obviously up to the choice of the individual, but an awful lot of people out there spend massive amounts of money on high-end models of high-end supercars. As soon as a new Ferrari is released, or even a new colour of Ferrari, they’ll open their chequebook and allocate a couple of hundred quid to make sure it’s represented in their collection in 1:18 form. Each to their own, but I’m not sure if that’s collecting. Isn’t it just shopping?
I’ve never made a conscious decision on what to collect. The models in my collection are mostly either of cars I’ve always admired or cars that members of my family have owned. They’re also often of cars which aren’t worth very much money, either. Today’s model just about fits into all three of those categories.

Like that bit in High Fidelity where Rob is arranging his records autobiographically, I like to recall exactly where I was when I bought all my model cars. There are memories associated with each and every one of them. Sometimes I can be very surprised when I come to think about how much time has passed since I picked them up. This model Triumph Spitfire was bought from a tiny model shop in the Devon town of Tavistock in the late ’90s. That’s nearly half my lifetime ago.
It’s made more remarkable when you consider that this model is still available to buy today with very few changes. It was built by Chrono who amalgamated with the SunStar brand, and indeed at one point it was not unusual to receive a SunStar model in a Chrono box, or vice versa. Anyway, I’m not at all surprised they’re still making this, ‘cos it’s a really nice little model.
I’ll go ahead and list the shortcomings first so we know what we’re dealing with. The panel gaps aren’t the most crisp, some of the hand-added components are a bit wonky (though the same was true of several 1:1 scale British Leyland products I could mention) and the paint looks a bit syrupy. Also, in the cabin the dashboard instrumentation is just a printed sticker with a cartoonlike approximation of the dials. Oh, the trunk’s sealed shut, but that’s really about it.
That cabin, aside from the gauges, is accurately laid out and proportionally convincing. It’s not the last word in detail, but everything is recognisable and well placed.
Things start to come alive under the bonnet, where that diminutive, rasping four-cylinder mill lurks, a pair of SU’s on one side, a bright orange oil filter on the other and a yellow cooling fan keeping everything chilled. Again, the detail isn’t precise on a molecular level like certain models by CMC and the like can be, there are no plug leads, for example. but it seems well observed and is certainly sufficient for somebody like me. But if you’ve spent your formative years wrenching on one of these suckers, you’ll probably be able to list a hundred faults in the above image alone.
I love how they’ve reproduced the action of how the bonnet opens with a paralelogram motion, rising up and pulling forward, just like the real thing. They didn’t have to do that, but they did. This model has had thought put into it. The wheels are correct for the ’70+ MkIVs, and there are tiny “SpitfireIV” decals on the rear flanks, together with little British Leyland plugholes on the front wings.
One of the wierdest features of this model, and one which I believe is no longer present on current SunStar releases, is that under the rear deck is concealed a rather toy-like pull-back-and-go motor. I can’t for the life of me work out why on earth they chose to fit one of those to what is ostensibly a product for adults. Not that this detracts from the model in any way.  The second odd thing is why they chose to model this car on a German market example, rather than a British one. Current SunStar Spitfires still carry German license plates, albeit different to the ones seen here.
The SunStar model which, as far as I can see, only differs by the inclusion of a chrome fuel-filler cap, can be picked up on eBay but prices vary wildly. The figure of $90 seems popular, which seems mental. I’m pretty sure mine was less than £20 new in the ’90s. If you’ve a fondness for these little British sportsters then this is a model I can recommend (Rusty’s rating? 70%), but only if you can find one priced half sensibly.
(All images copyright 2015 Chris Haining / Hooniverse)

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  1. Alf Romeo Avatar
    Alf Romeo

    Where's the " All parts falling off this car are of genuine British manufacture" bumper sticker ?

    1. Ate Up With Motor Avatar
      Ate Up With Motor

      Someone should sell these in 1/18th scale. Collectors could buy them by the sheet for their British scale models.

  2. longrooffan Avatar

    Just to let my fellow Hoons know, if you are dusting off one of these Spitfires and it slips from your hands, falling wheels up to the counter top, there is no saving that fragile windshield. Spoken from experience. It now is a part of my U-Pull-It wrecking yard.

    1. Rover_1 Avatar

      I have the same issue with a 1/18 Kyosho TR3.

  3. smalleyxb122 Avatar

    Having owned a Spitfire, I have a minor correction. You refer to the bonnet hinge as "just like the real thing" [only smaller] (apologies to Ertl). The four-bar bonnet hinge illustrated here is nothing like the real thing. The real car's hinge is a much simpler single pivot hinge.
    Also having at one time owned a Spitfire, I currently own a diecast Spitfire, but mine is in 1:43 scale, which understandably lacks much of your model's detail.

    1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

      Oh! I could have sworn…Ok, better than the real thing.

  4. Rover_1 Avatar

    Not completely authentic.
    No scale oil leaks.

    1. Ate Up With Motor Avatar
      Ate Up With Motor

      See, there is such an untapped market for appropriately scaled accessories for these cars. Tiny working oil cans (albeit perhaps with household-type oil rather than motor oil), the aforementioned bumper stickers, perhaps little puffy decals to allow you to simulate MOT-failing rust on the structural members of your choice. A sideline business plan for the enterprising graphic design student, perhaps.