Model Cars: Plastic Kits

Tamiya 1/20 Grand Prix Collection 

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From the background, 2001 Ferrari F12001, Michael Schumacher, 2001 Italian Grand Prix. 2000 Ferrari F2000, Michael Schumacher. 1997 Ferrari F310B, Michael Schumacher, 1997 Monaco Grand Prix (includes BBR transkit including Marlboro decals, wet tyres and high downforce rear wing)

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Tamiya 1/20 historic Formula 1 cars. From the background, 1963 Lotus 25, Jim Clark. 1965 Honda RA-272, Ritchie Ginther.

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Same three Tamiya Ferrari Formula 1 models but with engine cowlings attached.

When it comes to plastic scale model kits there are very few people that would not only recommend Tamiya but they would go out of their way to recommend that the aspiring model maker not spend their hard earned money on any other brand… period. Put simply, if you start out model making on any other brand, there is a very good chance that the poor build quality will ensure that an alleged twenty-stage build process outlined in the instructions, will become a project that will not only occupy your entire winter, but become the seminal moment of your year and still won’t be worth displaying in a cabinet. In short, if you even manage to finish the model, it will almost certainly be your last.

While Tamiya is renowned for it’s creation of military model kits which include ships, tanks, motocycles and aircraft, it is their series of motor cars and motorbikes, specifically those concerning Formula 1 and MotoGP, that I have had the most experience with. Starting with the 1976 six-wheeler Tyrrell P34 driven by Patrick Depailler and Jody Scheckter, released in 1977, the Tamiya Grand Prix collection has grown in both the creation of 1/12 and 1/20 plastic scale kits. While the last brand new 1/12 Formula 1 release was the 1992 Williams FW12B that took Nigel Mansell to the world title, it is perhaps the greatest validation of the quality of Tamiya kits that over the last 8 or so years, Tamiya has re-released their kits from the 60s, 70s and 80s with the addition of photo etched metal parts to further enhance their accuracy.

Over the last fifteen years that I have been building model cars I have seen a notable growth in use of air brushes. There is no doubt that the use of air brushing is the best way to achieve the best possible finish in model making. Unfortunately I have yet to move into using air brushes, largely due to combination of a lack of space, lack of time, and due to this, an unwillingness to outlay the funds, so the models pictured below are all hand-painted with the use of spray can for the exterior body panels. The proliferation of air brushes has seen Tamiya marketing both airbrushing equipment but also home spray booths such is the demand for these techniques amongst builders.

For those starting out I would recommend you resort to ebay and look to purchase something like a 1/20 Ferrari F189 in either the early season configuration or the Portugese Grand Prix version. The main reason for this is that these models can go very cheaply on ebay (under $50US), are not too detailed, don’t require fiddly transfer applications (stay away from the 1992 and 1993 Lotus kits) and is a great looking car.

From a collectors perspective, while ebay does occasionally see very high quality builds, it is the high cost of postage and the risk of transport damage that means they are very hard to sell for the appropriate amount. As a result, Ebay has been great for picking up old kits for low prices, particularly since Tamiya decided to re-release all the old models, to the immense frustration no doubt of all those who were collecting the models un-opened. That’s not to say that unopened Tamiya models can’t fetch good money. Tamiya models that are rarely seen for sale include the Leyton House March kit (yet to be re-released), the original McLaren M23 from 1977, the Mika Hakkinen version of the Lotus 102D, the 1/12 McLaren MP4/6 and 1/12 Ferrari F190/2 clear-view editions.

If you are interested in model-making then I highly recommend you view the following website:

Tamiya 1/12 Grand Prix Collection 

While 1/18th scale model cars are the larger size of choice for manufacturers such as Minichamps, Mattel and Exoto the 1/12th scale model car will always hold a special place in the eyes of most collectors. Large enough to enable increased detail while not so large that people look disappointed that the engine doesn’t start as with a 1/8th. Commencing with the epic 1967 Lotus 49 and championship winning 49B, Tamiya moved across various makes including the 1967 Honda RA273, 1968 Matra MS9, 1970 Ferrari 312B, 1971 Tyrrell 003 (World Champion), 1972 Lotus 72D (World Champion), 1974 Yardley McLaren M23, 1974 Texaco Marlboro McLaren M23 (World Champion), 1975 Brabham BT44B, 1975 Ferrari 312T (World Champion), 1976 Tyrrell P34, 1977 Wolf WR1, 1979 Ferrari 312T4 (World Champion), 1980 Renault RE-20, 1990 Ferrari 641/2, 1991 McLaren MP4-6 (World Champion),  and the 1992 Williams FW14B (World Champion). While Tamiya had a break of about ten years between 1980 and 1990 in producing a 1/12th scale kit, this is nothing compared to the current break of 20 years and counting. I have enquired as to the official answer to this question and will provide the response as soon as it is received.

For now Tamiya appears content to re-issue their previous 1/12th scale models with photo-etched parts, improving radiator details, wing end-plate accuracy and tyre stencils. While great for the younger enthusiasts, these re-releases have ensured that collectors of the kits have seen their value return to reasonable figures. A 1/12th 1970s Tamiya Grand Prix car can be purchased for about $150AU including postage from Asian sellers. A 1990s 1/12th will sell for $200AU including postage. This is a lot of money but nothing compared to the $500AU + that a 1/12th McLaren MP4-6 would command in the late 90s. Two models that remain highly valuable are the full-view 1990 Ferrari and 1991 McLaren’s as they have not been re-released and were very rare at the time. As an example, a full-view MP4-6 which also came with a fully painted Senna figure, is currently for sale on eBay with a starting price of $377US. While a 1990 1/12 Ferrari is going for $190US which I must say is an absolute bargain!! The limited collect-ability of the old kits has only been somewhat maintained by the boring boxes for some of the re-released models (see photos below).

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This is a built 1970 Ferrari 312B as raced by Jackie Ickx at the 1970 Belgian Grand Prix. The car was created using the Studio20 decal sheet which includes the numbers and yellow stripes amongst other configurations.

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This is the 1972 Lotus 72D as piloted by Emerson Fittipaldi in the 1972 Italian Grand Prix where he was crowned world champion. The older 1/12th scale cars come with tobacco decals however their age can result in them being prone to deteriorate when added to water.

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This is the Renault RE-20 from 1980 driven by Frenchman Jean-Pierre Jabouille. The RE-20 further refined the Turbo technology pioneered by the French manufacturer in Formula 1. The model has a rather tricky paint scheme and the body cowling is hard to fit, but the final product is very distinctive. This model was the first in which I sprayed a clear coat over the decals. A technique which only works provided that the decals are de-void of all bubbles and moisture. Failure to do so has resulted in some very frustrating outcomes in the past.


It’s amazing to think but it is 20 years since the last 1/12th Tamiya Formula 1 car kit was released. Despite this, the 1990 Ferrari, 1991 McLaren and 1992 Williams remain the pinnacle of 1/12th Formula 1 kits.

Revell 1/12 2002 Ferrari F2002

This is one of only a couple of 1/12 kits produced by the Revell. The other kit I am aware of is the 1982 Ferrari 126C2. The model was promoted with pre-painted body parts. While the paint finish is extremely good, the parts fit is so poor that any keen modeller would need to  make so many alterations to the body that it would almost certainly require it to be re-painted anyway. Fortunately however, I have not made alterations to the model so the poor parts fit can be seen in the photos below. While the quality of the parts feel and look cheaper than a Tamiya model and the instructions are far harder to follow, the final result displays nicely provided you don’t look to closely at the details. Having said this there is a blog currently being compiled on the construction of the 1/12 1982 126C2 which provides great detail of the build process.

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