Big things with little cars
Big things with little cars
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11th Heaven | Tomica Lotus 3-Eleven | Inspection Room

Illustration for article titled 11th Heaven | Tomica Lotus 3-Eleven | Inspection Room
Photo: shot and edited by the author.

Simplify, then add lightness.” If the Petro-Sexual Handbook was ever real, then this would be one of its central tenets; a gospel that is preached to anyone who dares to create a sports car. Lotus has always believed in this mantra Colin Chapman penned, and the model you see here is a modern example of its evolution.

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Illustration for article titled 11th Heaven | Tomica Lotus 3-Eleven | Inspection Room
Photo: shot and edited by the author.

Which means you might find it fairly odd to see that its toy is quite heavy, but then if a model car was too light, its quality would be put into question. Fortunately, heft is only one of many ways to tell if a scale-model car is any good, and the example you see here is one of Tomica’s brighter gems; one miracle in a string of many.

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In this edition of Inspection Room, I’ll be reviewing Tomica’s 2017 Lotus 3-Eleven.

[Originally drafted 11 March, 2019. I should probably post this on 3 November, 2020, but I need the money.]


PROLOGUE

Illustration for article titled 11th Heaven | Tomica Lotus 3-Eleven | Inspection Room
Photo: shot and edited by the author.
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Once again, I’m turning to another one of my older drafts for content, but considering how long it has been since I last held onto and played with these castings, it’s only right to give them much-deserved spotlight time, especially now that potentially more people can read these.


Unbound by Weight

Illustration for article titled 11th Heaven | Tomica Lotus 3-Eleven | Inspection Room
Photo: shot and edited by the author.
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In the beginning, there was the Lotus Eleven. Born from Chapman’s pen and bodied by aerodynamicist Frank Costin, the Eleven made its name in the 1100cc class of sportscars, with a highest achievement of 7th overall at Le Mans and a top speed of 143 mph at Monza (with a roof covering Stirling Moss’ head). That’s fairly hairy considering the car weighs just 412 kg (908 lb).

Illustration for article titled 11th Heaven | Tomica Lotus 3-Eleven | Inspection Room
Photo: shot and edited by the author.
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Fifty-two years later, the Eleven’s open-top philosophy made its return in the Lotus 2-Eleven, based on the Series 1 Elise road car. Only this car is 400 lbs lighter, has more power from its Exige-derived motor, and has as much aero as possible on this car. You’ve probably seen it in older GT4 races, hillclimbs or that time it was chasing down a 599XX round the Hungaroring.

Illustration for article titled 11th Heaven | Tomica Lotus 3-Eleven | Inspection Room
Photo: shot and edited by the author.
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The 3-Eleven is the direct sequel to the 2-Eleven, but with almost double the power and 120kg more weight for the race version. Then again, the new car is bound to be a faster machine given advancements in engineering, from sequential paddles to faster tyre compounds, and the fact that it’s now based on the upper-tier Exige V6 car, something Tomica has made before.

Unlocked by Aero

Illustration for article titled 11th Heaven | Tomica Lotus 3-Eleven | Inspection Room
Photo: shot and edited by the author.
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The difference between the 3-Eleven and the base Exige V6, however, is stark and easy to tell. It’s the cutouts that stood out to me when I first saw the 3-Eleven casting displayed in Tomica’s iconic boxes, and I wondered how they’d nail the complicated body lines of the real car that made me fawn over it.

As you can see, they nailed it.

Illustration for article titled 11th Heaven | Tomica Lotus 3-Eleven | Inspection Room
Photo: shot and edited by the author.
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To be fair, the larger 1:59 scale affords them more room to pack in detail — room that Tomica has maximized to full effect. Considering how complex the lines of the car inherently are, I’m astounded at the accuracy of Tomica’s model. What satisfied me the most is the depth of the cutouts. I can feel them mold my fingertips as they glide over the stellar paintjob, letting me appreciate the body more than just by looking at them. It’s such a fun casting to hold.

Illustration for article titled 11th Heaven | Tomica Lotus 3-Eleven | Inspection Room
Photo: shot and edited by the author.
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Especially because it’s got more than one place to hold it from. The rollbar has holes, the wing is hard plastic, there’s that engine cover with clear “LOTUS” printing, and the interior is mid-poly, which makes me happy because that means I can 3D-print a driver figure for it.

Unshackled from Restriction

Illustration for article titled 11th Heaven | Tomica Lotus 3-Eleven | Inspection Room
Photo: shot and edited by the author.
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Honestly, there isn’t a lot to pick this car apart for. Maybe the “3-Eleven” print is too fine and washed-out by the metalflake British Green paint that I can’t get a good shot of it ANYWHERE in any lighting, and the wheels are the usual anonymous Type 2 (Sport) wheels. But even the latter point is something I contest: the wheels on the real car are black anyway.

Illustration for article titled 11th Heaven | Tomica Lotus 3-Eleven | Inspection Room
Photo: shot and edited by the author.
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Besides those, the casting is nigh-irreproachable. I dare say it’s almost perfect: not only is it well-rendered, but thanks to its springy suspension, it also hits the play/display sweet spot that I always seek out in toys like this. A casting this clean and this finely-crafted doesn’t come often from most brands, much less for subject matter as densely-detailed as this, but Tomica’s 3-Eleven delivers.

Illustration for article titled 11th Heaven | Tomica Lotus 3-Eleven | Inspection Room
Photo: shot and edited by the author.
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The value proposition isn’t too bad either, provided you live in Asia. At Php230 in 2017, you’re getting something that looks five times more expensive. If it was equipped with more stylized wheels, I say it may not look out of place against some Tarmac Works cars even if the scales don’t match. Yes, it’s that good.


VERDICT

Illustration for article titled 11th Heaven | Tomica Lotus 3-Eleven | Inspection Room
Photo: shot and edited by the author.
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Finally, I can give a resoundingly rousing recommendation. But unlike the Huracan Performante, this is a faster decision. The 3-Eleven is not just a more interesting car in real life; it’s also the perfect sort of thing to use to show how good Takara Tomy can create a toy regardless of price point. The fact that this is on Basic makes this model even more appealing.

I can only ever ask for a shrink to flush 1:64, but for a palm-sized replica, you can’t find any better.

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LaLD!

+ body accuracy
+ beautiful paintjob
+ solid construction quality
+ clean printing

BaLD!

- it registers as blue/cyan in some photos


EPILOGUE

Illustration for article titled 11th Heaven | Tomica Lotus 3-Eleven | Inspection Room
Photo: shot and edited by the author.
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So ends my review of this casting. And not a moment too soon: DriveTribe’s monetisation model has changed, meaning getting on the DT homepage is the real money-maker. And given the niche I operate in, the chance of my LaLD pieces getting there is a bit scant compared to simply publishing news bits.

But I still want to create in this space because it’s just fun. I get to play toys like I was five years old while helping me practice actual writing and macro photography skills worth using in the long run. Derek Lynn commented in one of my verticals that I can parlay this into full automotive journalism. He has a point, though I reckon I’ll wait until I graduate before considering that.

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Illustration for article titled 11th Heaven | Tomica Lotus 3-Eleven | Inspection Room
Photo: shot and edited by the author.

In any case, thank you for reading!

FINAL VERDICT: A

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