Diecast, uh, Delights? A Mercedes-Benz SL500 (R230) in 1:18 Scale

Imagine a street full of steakhouses. Most of them are advertising a Mixed Grill including a 10oz sirloin, farmhouse sausage, lamb chop, vegetables and fries, for $19.95. One, though; “The Macerated Bullock” proudly offers all the above, plus ham topped with a pineapple slice, three different sausages, two grilled chicken wings and a dessert, all for that same Nickelback price.
So, with an empty stomach and a thin wallet, you plump for the latter on the grounds of value, then you find yourself served a mountain of so-so meat, soggy, pale fries, dry pineapple and an insipid dessert. You then wish you’d bought something a bit less ambitious.
Welcome to the dangerously unreliable world of budget diecasts.

Click to enlarge the images. They’ll still be blurry, but they’ll be bigger.

I’ll harp on about Maisto- and their knack of producing models of far higher detail and fidelity than their retail price-point demands- until somebody physically strangles me. Hopefully by now we’ve established that the one-time rival, now stablemate to Bburago, frequently punches well above its weight and produces 1:18 models which go way beyond their mission parameters of satisfying the needs of kids whose parents buy on impulse while at WalMart. Some of their models (the Porsche 550A springs to mind) are every bit good enough to negate the need to spend more dollars by a factor of ten to buy something high-end.
Maisto and Bburago don’t have the budget market sewn up these days, in fact, in toyshops and supermarkets the Motor Max brand seems to have taken their place. I was drawn to this R230 Mercedes SL500 due to its retractable roof and the fact that it had no bids at the £4.99 at which it was listed on eBay. So, including postage it landed on my desk at less than £10, putting it comfortably at the disposable end of budget. But is it still good value even at that giveaway price?
It’s quite a heavy model and feels substantial to hold, right up until you feel the doors moving up and down on their dogleg hinges, something they shouldn’t do. There are four opening parts to the casting and they all open cleanly, though the shut-lines aren’t exactly linear and there’s quite a lot of excess flashing along some of the edges.
The paint is reasonably even and well applied, it’s just a shame that it’s spoilt by surface irregularities in the casting beneath. This car could really have done with some attention from a metal file before the paint was applied.
Motor Max certainly haven’t skimped on the details- there are plenty of them and they’re all separate components. The problem is how some of them are applied in a rather slapdash manner and some of them don’t quite fit right anyway. The air extractor vents ahead of the windshield, for example, are uneven; the corresponding vents by the doors are wobbly and the headlamps don’t sit flush with their sockets, leaving a visible gap behind them.
The wheels are nice until you look at them closely and see the lack of any crispness to the hubs or the lug bolts, and the blurrily printed three-pointed star in the centre is an embarrassment. Also, the license-plates, attempting a German format and missing by miles, are printed stickers and are all wonky, so will be removed as soon as I’ve written this up.
In fact, badly applied stickers have a similarly disastrous effect on the interior, where the dials in the instrument cluster are actually reasonably convincing aside from having been applied at a 45 degree angle. The sticker-happiness continues with the navigation screen, which, amusingly, permanently reads “LOADING”. Feel free to ask anybody with the 2nd generation Mercedes COMAND system fitted to their twelve year old Mercedes why this is funny.
The rest of the cockpit is fairly accurately modelled; falling only on colours and materials. The woodgrain on the centre console and doors looks more like tortoiseshell than walnut, and I can’t quite answer as to why the shifter is finished in silver rather than the black, grey or beige that MB build them with.
The view under the bonnet actually passes muster for a budget model- the engine exists only as an injection moulded relief panel with a few highlighted details, but it looks creditably like the actual M113 V8 unit found in the real car, albeit possibly a bit on the shiny side.
It’s out back that the fun happens, though. The bootlid can’t be made to open in the conventional manner for inserting loads, but does play its part in allowing Mercedes-Benz’s patented Vario Roof action to take place.
In fairness to Motor Max, the mechanism is actually very slick. It follows the same operating process as the real thing- with the trunk lid opening first, then the roof cover opening first, then the roof mechanism itself folds out from the trunk and clips into the header rail, then once the two little flaps on the trunk-lid are folded away the trunk can be closed, and the process is finished.
The roof sits well on the car when erect, and the mechanism itself is reasonably sturdy, though the little corner flaps are extremely stiff, enough so that you fear breaking them in operation. The whole assembly, though, is sadly ruined by the uneven, crevasse-like trunk-lid shutlines. It’s just so typical of this model, painfully close to being really good, yet ruined by the details.
This is a model absolutely dominated by compromise. It means well, but Motor Max have really bitten off more than they can chew by promising so much for so little.
It’s like me attempting to cook Christmas dinner for twenty guests. The resulting feast will probably look OK and the ingredients will be fine, but the way it’s put together will leave you feeling nauseous and wish you’d gone somewhere else for your roast turkey.
(All images copyright Chris Haining / Hooniverse 2016. No outside photography today- I would have drowned had I ventured outside)

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  1. Ramón Rivera Notario Avatar
    Ramón Rivera Notario

    Motor Max are so-so most of the time. Maisto as you say, it’s better. But to me, the king in budget 1:18 diecast is Welly!

  2. Maymar Avatar

    As a small point of credit, I have a first-gen SLK (I think Maisto’s model?), and although the trunk lid is hinged to accommodate the folding roof (like here), it’s completely missing the roof.

  3. Tanshanomi Avatar

    Maisto’s 1:12 motorcycles are collectively probably the best out there, but their 1:18 bikes vary quite wildly in quality. I thought I’d gotten a badly produced Valkyrie until I looked in their catalog and realized it had the stance of a startled cat there, too.

    1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

      Valkyrie Trail Edition!