Diecast Delights: A Ford Model T Van in 1:18 scale

It’s a political hot potato, it seems. 1:18th scale cars find themselves being dismissed as mere “toys”, by my wife, many of my work colleagues and (whisper it) certain members of this esteemed website. Surely it’s all about context? Give a six-year-old a CMC Maserati Birdcage and it’ll be launched down the stairs as if it had Tonka stamped on it. For me, though, the finely crafted model car is simultaneously a toy, an ornament and a work of reference.
I’ve got books galore upstairs in the library, many lavish volumes crammed with wonderful photographs of the most significant cars in history. But photos are static. You can only behold the subject matter from the same perspective as the photographer. With a good model you can hold, move and zoom in as much as you like.
This is why I ended up with this Model T.

Make the photos bigger by clicking ’em or face an immediate one way trip to the slammer

I’m not wild on the NYPD livery because I can’t be sure whether it’s bogus or not. I would have preferred if it was plain black. In fact, I would have preferred it to have not been a van at all, one of the stakebed pick-ups would have been nice, or maybe an open runabout. But this one popped up on eBay and was being ignored by buyers in droves, so I bid, won and secured it for hardly any cash.
By the flat firewall and windscreen stays I can be confident that this model represents a “T” from no later than 1913, and I am pleased to have seen enough images on The Internet to be satisfied that Universal Hobbies got things pretty close to reality.
The proportions don’t seem far off; the ride height, the track width and the distribution of features look like a good deal of research was carried out before the tooling was ordered. My only misgiving is whether it’s slightly over-long, but I am neither fussed enough to work it out, nor concerned enough to care.
By its very nature a vintage vehicle tends to be rather more simple than a modern machine, with far fewer working parts and incidental details. Although this makes for less complex model, it does mean that what is there needs to be represented accurately, or the whole model fails.
I’m pleased to report that this model actually does rather well. The hand and foot controls appear to be close to the prototype, details like the the bulb horn and (freely rotating) starting handle are picked out (in brass-effect where necessary) and the firewall is correctly wood grained. Photographs I’ve found of real Model T vans seem to have wood-lined load boxes, a detail missing here; but then again perhaps the perps, scumbags and low-life who travelled in the rear of an NYPD Paddy Wagon weren’t afforded such luxury?
I love it when a model goes above and beyond the call of duty; and that’s exactly what we find here when we go to look at the engine. OK, the prime mover isn’t exactly a feast for the eyes, but opening the hood itself is so tactile an operation that, just like when opening a Christmas present as a baby, the contents are less interesting than their wrapper.
Both sides of the hood can be opened, in butterfly fashion, and they pivot along a central piano-hinge which looks dainty enough to actually be to correct scale (although it almost certainly isn’t). Care is needed to avoid breaking other items in the path of the hood’s operation, but it’s a pleasing enough aspect of the model to lift it way above base expectations and into the “this is a good model” league.
It seems that this model can be obtained in a number of liveries (including a probably fictional depiction of a Pickford’s Removals van) and branded as either Universal Hobbies or Motor City Classics. As is usual, prices vary hilariously to reflect differing degrees of removal from reality on the part of the vendors.
Apart from a few long-demolished Bburagos I received as a kid, I’ve never really collected models of pre-war cars, but I really did want something to represent the early evolution of the motor vehicle. I think this model occupies that slot rather neatly.
(All images copyright Chris Haining / Hooniverse 2016)

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  1. Rover 1 Avatar
    Rover 1

    Oh yes. If you have an Auto Art Porsche 911 and a Kyosho AC Cobra and a Kyosho TR3 on display and within easy reach of a four year old and you leave the room, you can come back in to see them being treated like large ‘Hotwheels’ cars. And it can take ages to carefully repair all the little broken pieces.
    Ask me how I know.
    I am now a huge fan of sealed cabinets. Toys. Indeed.

  2. marmer Avatar

    I’ve seen a real Ford paddy wagon that looked a lot like that. Not sure about the livery, though.