Die Cast Insider - August 1999
© 1999 Paul M. Provencher
As a new parent I find that the things that kids get excited about remind me of things that attracted my attention when I was their age. It would be an understatement to say that my two-year-old son Teddy has not been influenced by my interest in automobiles and mechanical devices. One thing that I liked when I was small was a farm tractor. I grew up in a rural community that had several working farms. To some extent that continues to this day although many have succumbed to the economic pressures that have made farming unprofitable for small operators. Our next-door neighbor once had a large herd of dairy cattle. There were two or three tractors in regular use on that farm. They were the Ford 600-series of small tractors. But my favorite tractor as a kid was the massive John Deere that used to come down the hill to plow the field across the street from our house. The engine has a very distinctive note that can be heard for three-quarters of a mile. Its something like a putt-putt .putt-putt .putt-putt . If we heard that sound we dropped everything and waited for the tractor to appear. When youre about three feet tall these machines tower above you. And indeed, my son is frightened of the sight of the Model A that my neighbor runs regularly. Notwithstanding, I was pleased to find a nice model of the John Deere Model A.
The familiar Farm Country packaging from Ertl fooled me at first. It looked like all the tractors were missing the front wheels and tires. Closer inspection reveals that the wheels are just carefully protected inside cardboard. Once out of the box, the real fun in this toy becomes apparent. Although its a fairly simple model with only three colors (green, yellow and black) it accurately replicates the full-sized machine. The main casting is in two parts that bisect the model. Added to this chassis/engine/shroud are the steering wheel and linkage, rear axle, front and rear wheels and tires. The steering wheel operates the front wheels. All the wheels roll. And surprisingly enough, a flywheel is riveted on to the side of the model and it can be rotated! The sides are marked in yellow with the John Deere logo and "General Purpose" slogan. The rear axle housing and radiator also carry the logo. The spring found beneath the drivers seat is molded in. The tractor also features a good hitch that can be used to "operate" attachments.
It would almost be unfair to complain that the wheels are not made of metal since, as toys, they would be frail and prone to breaking. It would be nice in a more expensive model though. But this is more than made up for the detail in the rubber tires. The rear tires have the directional arrows molded into the side, presumably to indicate tread direction. This means that there are separate parts for right and left sides. There is a hint of control pedals, rear hitch and power take-off and shifter. The engine detail is consistent with the rest of the model, without much detail but vaguely accurate nonetheless. After all, not everyone is going to be comparing the toy side by side with the real thing. And to be honest, there really isnt much to these engines anyway. This is a great toy for kids and a good static model for adults. If you grew up with the Model A like I did, you will enjoy adding this to your collection.
I am fortunate to have been exposed to a wide variety of vintage vehicles. One of the most memorable meetings was experienced the day 18 years ago when I walked into a Volvo dealers repair shop to explain a problem to the mechanic and came face to face with a BMW 328. It was sensitively restored and very authentic. Ash body bracing and frames. Swooping fenders, low-cut windshield, and tremendous disk wheels with knock-offs. The smell in the cockpit was a mixture of Castrol, leather and horsehair. This, I realized, was a living, breathing, piece of history. I was very happy to learn that the owner drove the one I saw in vintage races. My luck in seeing one in person must be measured by the fact that only about 150 are known to remain of the less than 500 made between 1936 and 1940. Had not the war intervened, more would probably have been made. Indeed, following the war, the tooling was reactivated in East Germany and a few more were made. I spent several minutes admiring this car and have never stopped wanting one. Which brings me to this model from Yat Ming, makers of the Road Legends series of 1:18-scale models. Its a replica of the 1940 Bimmer
There is a choice to be made right from the start: Red or Antique White? I chose red. The paint is well done, shiny and thick. Finer paint details abound. The kidney-shaped chrome grill bars are highlighted with black, the space between the windshield divider is painted black, side louvers are chrome with black background. The familiar roundel is present on the nose, in blue, white and black. The clear headlights have chrome surrounds. The center pin on the headlight appears to hold the lens in place and detracts somewhat from the appearance but is not uncommon in models in this price range. The front marker lights are clear plastic set into the front fenders.
The interior is very nicely detailed. The seats are brown plastic that gives to the touch. The steering wheel has a black rim and banjo-style spokes that are chrome with black accent painting. It operates the steering front wheels. Gauges on the dash are crisp appliques and depict the speedometer (in kilometers per hour) and a tachometer that is curiously labeled "mph". Oil pressure and water temperature gauges are present but do not have a dial face on them. The glove box is bordered in chrome. There is a chrome grab bar between the seats and a chrome stick shift. The inner door panels and floor are black and have reasonable detail, including foot pedals. The suicide doors open on rugged hinges.
The chassis detail is minimal but does include a chrome exhaust pipe that runs from the engine to the rear of the car. The working steering mechanism is disproportionately large but overall does not detract much from the model. The engine compartment detail is not bad. The battery is molded into the firewall. The radiator has two silver caps painted on. The engine block is bright orange. I cant say if that is correct but it makes it easy to see! The triple carbs are chrome with chrome air cleaners.
The bonnet has a chrome strip that runs down the center axis, continuing the trim that starts on the nose. A disturbing element of this part of the car is the way that the bonnet opens. Now I could be wrong, but it seems to me that this thing should open the way most 30s cars do that is to say that the bonnet is split in two halves with a piano hinge in the middle. To access the engine, the mechanic/owner would release a handle on one side and open half of the cover at a time. Not so with this model - the entire bonnet is hinged in much the same way that modern cars are from the firewall. The entire bonnet hinges up, simulated leather straps and all. The radiator support bars are absent. This will not detract from the display of the car with the bonnet closed but is probably not correct. The windshield is clear with chrome surround. Wipers and rear view mirrors are molded into the windshield frame and are nicely scaled.
The wheels are a four-piece affair. They consist of a red backing, red plastic outer rim with holes and a chrome knock-off. Sandwiched between the inner and outer halves is a black piece that gives a nice look to the holes. The tires are made of soft vinyl and have a realistic tread pattern, shape and size. A spare tire and wheel are inset into the rear deck of the model. The rear view of this model is quite pleasing. Also featured are black gas filler tube with chrome cap, chrome tail lamps with clear red lenses, chrome license plate holder with a red, white and blue number plate that reads "BMW 328". The area behind the seats has three holes. These are used to align one of two top options provided with the model. It can be displayed with the top "up" or "down". They are both black, fit well and look realistic. With the top up piece has a clear plastic rear view window. All of this sits on a nice black plastic, wood-grained plinth, labeled with a brass-colored sticker. You probably arent fortunate enough to have the real deal, but this model is a nice substitute!
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