There is a popular mentality with collectors that “it’s only original once.” This means they want to experience all of the wear and tear that accompanies decades of use and treasure. These collectors believe that every chip in the paint and every crack in the plastic has a story to tell and should be preserved.
But when I look at the pricing of diecast cars, the highest priced cars are the ones still in the package that can’t possibly have any stories to tell. As there get to be more and more serious collectors, these pristine examples of the original cars are becoming more and more scarce. When a mint condition example of a rare car is found, new spreads through the collector community quickly and it’s not hard for a seller to find a home for the right car.
Currently, collectors tend to shy away from restoration of these cars. There are no serial numbers to track the cars and it’s easy for an unscrupulous seller to try passing off a restored car as the real thing. Because of this, a restored model will typically sell for less than one showing some signs of play.
I believe this will change as collectors deal with the fact that clean examples of the cars they want just aren’t available any longer. People will look at their collection and realize that dirty, scratched up old car may be original but it doesn’t fit with the other cars in the line up. They will realize that they don’t know any of the stories behind those missing chips of paint or cracked windshield and what they really want is a collection that looks great.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the stunning Dual Ghias owned by members of the Rat Pack. While writing the article, I hunted down a late ’60s model of the car built by Corgi toys. Mint examples of the car were selling for as much as $250 which made them something I could appreciate but not afford. What I did find is a well played-with example for a more affordable $20.
The car still has the jewel headlights and the Glidamatic spring suspension still has action in it. I love the silhouette of the car and how it looks on display at my desk. It’s when I look more closely that I start noticing the orange plastic showing through the silver on the bumpers and all the little dings in the paint and the cracked windshield. This bugs me.
What I really want is one of the cars of the Rat Pack. I want something black and sleek with chrome that conveys the cool sophistication of days gone by. I want to help my beat up old toy become that symbol of style.
Over the next few weeks, I will be detailing my process of transforming this cherished toy into my own personal dream. While not quite a proper restoration, I will be using many of the techniques employed in a full restoration of a model. This is not something I’ve done before so I will be using a diecast Miata from Road Champs as my test subject. The Miata will become the same shade of red with black bumpers that my buddy has on his real world example of the car.
All of the steps I take will be documented with photographs and links to suppliers of materials I will be using. At the end, I’m looking forward to having my symbol of the Rat Pack proudly on display with other favorite cars. I teased the idea of converting the headlights to ovals like George Barris did for Dean Martin but I’m thinking that may be reaching a bit too much for my first attempt at repainting a classic toy.