Diecast Delights: A Volkswagen Phaeton W12 in 1:18 Scale

Variety is the spice of life here at Hooniverse. Every-playa-has-one Supercars are not really guaranteed to get us twitching with excitement. We’re all grown-up enough to know that it’s engineering and thought, not just power and prestige that makes a great car. And there are more than a few of us who derive our interest in a vehicle from factors utterly unrelated to mechanical competence, hence my continued loyalty to a certain old Rover, despite its long and damning list of flaws.
One thing that seems to unite us all, though, is cars which keep you guessing. A car which externally speaks nothing of the amazing things it’s capable of. One such thing car is the W12 powered Volkswagen Phaeton, of which more after the jump.

The four-zone climate control system of the Phaeton  is designed to be able to “maintain a constant 72 degrees fahrenheit inside the cabin while driving at a sustained speed of 186 MPH through an outside temperature of 122 degrees”.
It was that statement, which I first heard on Top Gear in 2003 and which has been ricocheting around the internet ever since, which sold the Phaeton to me. Those numbers are flabbergasting, not least the one about a sustained 186mph. That’s Testarossa speed, from a car which looks as sober and unassuming as a country vicar. That said, there are some very suspect vicars out there.
I own several brochures and other Phaeton publicity ephemera, but unlike our own (well, TTAC’s own) Maxichamp, Jim Yu, I’m distressingly unlikely to ever own the actual car. Perhaps with this in mind, I bought this AutoArt model of it twelve years ago, and every now and again I just have to get it out and have a quick gawp.
It’s an astonishingly dull looking car, that’s for certain. The model does nothing to exaggerate the plainness of the subject matter, down to the might-as-well-be-hubcaps alloy wheels. It’s modelled well, though it should be pointed out that this particular example has suffered some light roll damage related to a high shelf / gravity scenario some years ago. It pulled through with nothing but a bent bonnet hinge and a slightly altered stance to give it away. That’s Phaeton engineering.
The view under the bonnet might inspire a yawn, too, but that’s not necessarily the fault of the model. VW may have employed one of the most fascinating powerplants ever to propel a car, but they chose to dress it up in the frumpiest set of clothes it could find. Aside from some manifold complexity and a sticker, there’s very little to suggest anything of the complexity below. Nothing much here to froth at the mouth over.
To be honest, there was nothing really exciting about the (fully carpeted) interior, either, aside from absolute comfort and peerless build quality. There’s little question, though, that this is anything other than the high point of the model. It’s fantastic. The switchgear is accurate, the woodgrain is accurate, only a too-thick transmission selector lets the side down.
Things continue to the same standard in the back, accessible through wide-opening rear doors, which are nice to see on a model. The chrome on the interior door handles and loudspeaker grilles is picked out delicately, and the impressive looking bank of rear seat media controls is present and correct. Note the very 2003 lack of TFT screens!
Though I’ve not taken any images, the chassis detailing is lovely, too, with castings for the wishbones and subframes all replicated. It’s a very difficult model to rate, really, taking its age into account the standards of detail, finish and accuracy are very high. The prototype probably didn’t give much scope for taking things further. The AutoArt Phaeton has become a pretty rare model and the few that came up on an eBay UK search cost a kings ransom. As much as I like mine, and am going to give it am 80% approval rating to be on the safe side, I don’t feel I can recommend it on the basis of value for money.
But if you did take the plunge, I can’t blame you. Blame Yu instead.
(All images copyright Chris Haining / Hooniverse 2015)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 64 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop files here

  1. nanoop Avatar

    This is such an unnecessary car, reflecting the typical ego/rivalry/neurotics density of the Porsche and Piech families.
    I like it very much, but I fear the necessary maintenance efforts in 10, 15 years.

    1. Vairship Avatar

      Maintenance will be limited, as long as you never remove it from the box 😉

  2. Maxichamp Avatar

    Great write-up, Chris!
    Being the practical guy, I got the V8 rather than the W12.
    Jack Baruth (who owned 2 Phaetons) wrote a piece today about the fallacy of cheap luxury cars. http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/no-fixed
    I'll give you an example. In the second picture of Chris's model is a shot through the moonroof. There are two rings below the shifter. Those are cupholders. See how each cupholder has four trim pieces? One of mine came off. It cost $136 to replace. And that was for a black plastic piece. I can't imagine how much VW charges for a chrome piece for the W12.

    1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

      For a 2003 I can imagine replacing one of those would be deemed an economic write-off by most insurers.

  3. smalleyxb122 Avatar

    Last week's Cobra II drove me to ebay. Not for me, mind you, but I know someone who dreams of one day owning a clone of Farrah's Cobra. Shipping was super fast, and it showed up at my door in two days.
    <img src="https://c4.staticflickr.com/8/7446/16260630417_1e0f755268_z.jpg"width=500&gt;

    1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

      Aha! That's what this series is all about! Sorry about that.

      1. smalleyxb122 Avatar

        At least this is cheaper than the inevitable day when the Craiglist Crapshoot presents something I find irresistible.

  4. Ate Up With Motor Avatar
    Ate Up With Motor

    I'm not sure this was a question many people were asking (a point that could be made of the Phaeton itself), but A for effort.
    Now, if they did some kind of cutaway scale model of the W12 engine itself, that would be something to see…

        1. Rover_1 Avatar

          Thank you so much. I will use this again and again.
          And Thank God that we have computers to work out the balancing forces, (and the animation)
          Making that working scale model should be so easy now.

          1. skitter Avatar

            They're pretty wild motors. It's easier if you know that VR6's have the same firing order and timing as a straight six. So you can think of it like a traditional V12 that's been scrunched up like an accordion. The W-16 is like two straight-8s. And the madman across the water is the W-18 of the later 90's Bugatti concepts, which was THREE straight sixes in a true W. They never could work out a crankshaft for it, and I would be very, very interested in seeing their attempts.

          2. skitter Avatar

            Now that I think about it, the bore spacing has to be as tight if not tighter between two VR banks as it would be between three straight banks. The model above, predictably, has corresponding cylinders sharing a throw.

        2. nanoop Avatar

          Sir, this is a family site. Lower your explicitness… (gasp)

  5. Maymar Avatar

    I think the most important point we've neglected is the question of if the ashtrays open, let alone at the same speed. I can't, in good conscience, approve of an A- mark for a model that overlooks that most important detail. If anything, it deserves the worst grade imaginable; A minus MINUS!
    But yes, I need to experience a Phaeton at some point. I've seen a number of contemporary Touaregs, and even Continental GT's, and there's enough stubborn Germanity there that I can infer what it's like (along with enough deferred maintenance to buy them all, I assume), but somehow, out of the roughly 25,000 cars I would have seen in the past 3 years, a Phaeton hasn't been one.

    1. Rover_1 Avatar

      I have only seen one in NZ, a V10 TDI.

  6. Sjalabais Avatar

    Fun fact: The license plate seems to start with "HST", standing for "Hansestadt Stralsund". A small coastal town in Germany that had its time in the spotlight as a G8 summit town almost ten years ago. Wait, a provincial town playing big on a neurosis born car? Freud, can you come over?

  7. I_Borgward Avatar

    I can only assume that the curly hair on the license plate frame is not to scale.

    1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

      Factory fit. Dust is disgusting, isn't it?

    2. Vairship Avatar

      That's the license plate wiper. What, your inferior automobile doesn't have a license plate wiper?