Diecast Delights: The Legendary Bburago Vipers

Today’s post is in honour of the car that started so many 1:18 collections, the humble Bburago Dodge Viper RT/10 and its GTS coupe descendent. Released among a wave of other new offerings from the Italian model-maker in the early 90s, a goodly number of pubescent lads awoke on Christmas or Birthday morning and found one of these lovingly gift-wrapped.
It’s also a great complement to Chrysler that the Dodge Viper should have tripped so many imaginations. A great many young car enthusiasts, previously immune to the charms of 1:18 models, found the bright red roadster irresistible. The model sold by the shipload, and an infinite number languish on eBay, seemingly unsellable at any worthwhile price. But just because it’s not really collectable in the currently accepted sense of the word, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth having.

Image size: Click ’em up to big ’em up.

My collecting was already in full swing by the time the Viper was released. I had been gifted two identical E-Types on Christmas, and my reception of them had been so positive that a Bburago (or similar) model became the default present that I would receive at subsequent celebrations. I was genuinely excited, though, when the Dodge hit the shelves, and my Grandparents were totally down with my collecting needs – it was agreed that I would recieve the Dodge Viper for Christmas and the Bugatti EB110 for my birthday.
This new wave of Bburago releases also ushered in levels of detail unprecedented over previous offerings from the brand. Previously, a lot of models had shared components where possible. The vintage models all shared the same spoked plastichrome wheels, while the same was true of the Jaguar E-type and the spoked-wheel versions of the Mercedes 300SL. The Ferrari Testarossa and GTO both used the same gaudily chromed five-spoke wheels, too. By the early 90s, though, things were changing.
There’s little arguement possible that Bburago did a fine job of capturing the essence of the Viper, and later the fastback coupe version. The proportions were beautifully observed, particularly the very subtle double-curvature on the surface of the bonnet.
The details were up to scratch, too. Though the absolute resolution of things like the headlights and exhausts aren’t a patch on today’s offerings, those iconic three-spoke wheels are there in all their glory, and don’t have to share the limelight with a beautifully rendered set of brakes – there aren’t any.
Great strides had been made in under-bonnet detail, too. By comparison many previous Bburago engines looked like enlarged versions of the plastichrome plates you’d find under the opening bonnets of certain 1:60 scale Matchbox and Corgi cars. The Viper engine had separate mouldings for the intake manifolds, the cylinder block and exhausts and the air-cleaner, while the valve covers were embossed with the Viper script and snakes-head motif.
Inside was more of a mixed bag. The overall form was virtually spot on. The panelling on the insides of the doors had been faithfully reproduced, in plastics that not only matched and aligned with the dashboard, but which didn’t feel wholly divorced from the 1:1 itself- a car which had rather more pressing priorities than top-notch interior trim.
The one big letdown was the fine detail. The gauges and the switchgear on the centre console were awful, and possibly a retrograde step over previous Bburag releases. To have dials represented by stickers, in itself, isn’t the end of the world. But when those stickers show cartoonized approximations of real life, something is wrong.
The layout is right, including the HVAC system, but the execution sucked and is by far the weakest aspect of the model.
The same criticisms apply to the GTS, which I don’t think is quite cast as well as the RT/10, either. But it’s the latter that’s the true classic, both as a model and as an actual car.
Astoundingly, the first gen Viper RT/10 was never taken on by Auto Art or any of the higher-end makers, which means that Bburago is about as good as Viper 1:18s will get. It makes a great basis for anybody who wants to up the ante a bit and add their own detail, with photoetch kits available for brakes and more besides.
It seems eBay sellers can barely give ’em away, so remember, if you haven’t got a Dodge Viper in your 1:18 collection, you haven’t got a 1:18 collection.
(All images copyright 2016 Chris Haining / Hooniverse)

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. Rover 1 Avatar
    Rover 1

    And having seen and sat in a real Viper I was delighted to find that Bburago had captured the essence of the plasticky interior perfectly.
    And, at last our collections overlap. I have both of these.

  2. crank_case Avatar

    I remember having a few BBurago models in my mid teens alright, never great quality, but affordable for 1:18 models. I started collecting 1:43 models in my early 20s again, but at that point I felt money was better directed to real cars, plus through a series of apartment moves, nearly all of them ended up slightly damaged in small but annoying ways (e.g. wing mirrors)
    Now that I’ve got the permanence of my own house, I’ve started collecting again, almost by accident. I discovered Oxford Diescast while browsing a toy shop to kill time before a doctors appointment. They do a really nice range of 1:76 models (to match British OO trains sets like Hornby or model trucks). Small scale means they’re relatively cheap it’s easy to find space to build a large-ish collection. The only problem is they’re very British centric in their range of cars, lots of Jaguar, Lotus, UK Ford, Bentley etc. with a smattering of Euro models like the odd Volvo or Citroen and pretty much no Japanese and American stuff in this scale (though they do US models in 1:87 to match US gauge train sets)
    I’ve probably picked the wrong scale but I’m sort of committed now having bought quite a few. Anyone know any other manufacturers that do 1:76 (not 1:72). Corgi do a few but that’s it. Wouldn’t mind adding a bit of variety to the collection.

    1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

      They are lovely, aren’t they? I have their Ford Anglia and a couple of Minis. There isn’t a great many 1:76 specialists, but Exclusive First Editions specialise in buses and coaches in that scale.

      1. crank_case Avatar

        Yeah, oxford diecast seem to be the only people doing 1:76 cars in a big way, its a common scale for model trucks, busses, aircraft and military.

    2. nanoop Avatar

      “The only problem is they’re very British centric in their range of cars, lots of Jaguar, Lotus, UK Ford, Bentley etc.”
      What is the problem? The H0 scale, dominant in Germany, basically offers everything from VWAG, Mercedes, BMW, but British cars seem to consist of E-Type and Mini.

      1. crank_case Avatar

        Going HO (1:87) would mean starting an entirely different scale collection, and I have around 20 now. I don’t have a huge interest in German cars, not entirely adverse to them, but I would actually find VAG for example a lot less interesting. They actually have a brilliant diversity in British cars in their range, not the cliche etype mini you might think. You have almost the full range of Jaguar/land rover/ daimler from 1940s saloons, s1 land rover, right up to the modern range rover and f-type. Uk fords like anglias, cortinas, transits, fiesta, granada, vauxhall, lotus, bentley, austin, commer, jensen, triumph, hillman, mg. It is easy to forget how many uk makes no longer exist, and they have the uk cars nailed. Outside that you have the one or two volvos, vws, citroens, bmws and a messcherscmitt of all things. It would be nice to have a few Italian, Japanese and American models in this scale. I am hoping theybwill diversify later.

        1. nanoop Avatar

          Well, the grass on the other side is always (British Racing) greener. I couldn’t be bothered with a w123, but an Imp on my desk at work would be a good conversation opener.

      2. crank_case Avatar

        ..looking around..a lot of people doing 1:87 scale in fairness, sorta wish I’d known that 1:76 was a very UK specific thing but then again I do really like these models as, my latest aquisition today is this 70s-tastic Granada, which makes me want to find some tiny cardboard boxes and call people “you slaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaag!!”

  3. nanoop Avatar

    The sweet deals one could strike with the grandparents! Months ahead, and one might even forget about the deal in between, but on The Day you’re actually worried that the grandies might have forgotten…
    I hope I still have that kind of patience in me, and am able to teach it to the alleged instant revenue generation.

  4. salguod Avatar

    This is one I have as well, at least the roadster. I don’t remember if I’ve got the GTS
    I moved all my 1:18 cars (4 or 5 large boxes) to the new house last weekend and was reacquainted with several I had forgotten. Isetta with a camping trailer, Cosworth Focus, Mercedes A series. Hopefully I can find a spot to display them.

    1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

      That Isetta is on my want list. I have the Messerschmitt and the Goggomobil – and the Isetta on my eBay alert list.

  5. Monkey10is Avatar

    Hey! If you like the 1:18 Dodge Viper maybe you’ll be interested to know that they now produce a version at 1:28 scale:
    Oh wait…

%d bloggers like this: