All three brands stepped up in a massive way this year. Photo by author.

And here they are, ten models from the year that saw me dramatically increase my collection, adding probably 20 new cars. This gives me a large polling pool upon which I can select the ten models that I thought was worth the scant cash I always seemed to have on hand.

PROLOGUE

With the Philippines experiencing runaway inflation, the models get consistently more and more difficult to justify buying, which means if I saw the thing on the web and I take to it, it pretty much locks in, unquestionably becoming part of my tightly-budgeted shopping list. It also means every casting has to be judged with great scrutiny. They better be worth it—since 2004 the price of mainline Hot Wheels has risen by about Php30 and Tomica basic rose by upwards of Php70.

Out of the many, only ten ever really stood out. The process was difficult, as the picks I made translated directly to a shoot.

THE EIGHT-MAKERS

Initially, this was supposed to come in no particular order, but there really was an apparent hierarchy with these eight that’s hard to ignore. Photo by author.

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But that’s too hard a choice, so I decided to open my list with eight cars that, while not in the Top-10 penthouse, is still right up in the sky, seeing the best views. In order that they appear...

2018 was so much of a hit that models like this slip under the radar. Which is a shame because this is a really cool model. Photo by author.

18. Hot Wheels Honda City Turbo II: The Toddler

I once wrote on LamleyGroup that the Honda City Turbo II is underrated because it struck a balance between plaything and collectible. To this day, it still holds true.

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At its release it was one of the models n my most-wanted list. Finding it this year is a miracle, but not as big as the others on this list. Photo by author.

17. Hot Wheels Porsche 911 GT3 RS: The Welterweight

Searching for the lime green RS became fruitless, but at least I got the easy-to-detail white. It looks better now, and I already thought it looked mighty good when I first saw it.

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There’s so much room to make this a better model—and it’s already pretty good! Photo by author.

16. Hot Wheels Dodge D100: The Ol’ Stomper

Part of an impulse buy, the Dodge D100 was a tumbler in all the right ways. Surprisingly springy, and the smooth 5SP wheels weren’t much of a detriment. But it was the livery that sucked me in.

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It still looks a bit too pristine. Maybe I should play around with it more? Photo by author.

15. Hot Wheels VW Type 2 Pickup: The Basic Flatbed

This VW flatbed was purchased solely to see if I can lengthen the bed enough that the VW Kafer Bug can fit. It hasn’t happened. For now, at least, it’s as good a shop rig as any.

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One of the more underrated models that came out this year is this M2, a car I swear isn’t a shrunken-down example of the real thing with crappier wheels. Photo by author.

14. Hot Wheels ‘16 BMW M2: The Bantamweight

I swear I could have ranked this M2 higher, because to me, it looks perfect. Correct stance, just enough pump, good tampo-printing, and stunning body accuracy for a $1 toy. Thing is, though, there were better casts.

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At night, in the dark, this car shines like like the sun. What an absolutely beautiful piece of kit. Photo by author.

13. Hot Wheels Gran Turismo Basic S2 Ford GT LM: The Mascot

I had the Renault Megane Trophy here...until I put it side by side with the Ford. Then the contest ended. As good as the Megane is, it wasn’t the OG.

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This might be the only time I collected two of the same car. No, the F1 GTR doesn’t count. Photo by author.

12. Hot Wheels Land Rover Defender Double Cab: The Giant

Part of the reason why I bought the Land Rover—in fact the main reason—is its treatment. This looks almost exactly something Bowler, a car company I like, would make, and the deco for both fit the model well.

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As good as the 917LH is, though, the 934.5 at the back is the bigger miracle in terms of the hunt. Shame about the headlights, though. Photo by author.

11. Hot Wheels Porsche 917LH: The High-Speed Classic

Now this is a casting that can stand up to super-premium models. While the 917LH isn’t as successful, the sheer beauty of the model shines bright. You would mistake this for a more expensive casting. It’s that good.

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And now, after you’ve seen the best of the rest, with not much ado...

THE BIG 10

With a consistently scant budget, there’s next to no opportunity for me to get anything beyond Php250 unless I set aside money for it or if I wind up with extra cash. Trust me, this had potential to be a more expensive shot. Photo by author.

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Difficult, isn’t it? There are so many cars released in 2018 that I adored so much and was at the top of my hunting list. Which means any model that gets on this high in the ranking is a car I really like. And here they are.

Which isn’t to say that I’m knocking the wagons out, no. This 10 is composed deliberately to show that my collection had such fine models. Some really are finer than others, though. Photo by author.

10. Hot Wheels ‘84 Audi Sport Quattro: The Shoo-in

Confession: that Quattro should not have made the cut. It should have been the RS6s in the background. But the thing is, the Quattro spoke to me more. Plus, the ‘16 RS6 disappointed with a lack of mesh grille, while the older-gen RS6 wasn’t that much of a show-stopping casting. The Quattro? Its place in rallying pantheon helped in getting the model to the 10, but the A-grade replication is what sealed its place. Still, it;s only the base model.

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If that King Kuda was a Super, I’d have raised it to the top of the pile. Still, even the king needs backup, and in this case, it was the van that delivered. Photo by author.

09. Hot Wheels Mopar Series Custom ‘77 Dodge Van: The Budget Beater

“You’ll me mine, eventually”, I say to the van before leaving the toy store. I wanted the Mopar van so bad, but at Php200, it was Php80 more than I was willing to pay for. But I kept looking, ensuring it stayed on the pegs for me. After a slight windfall, I finally got it. And boy, did I feel happy. This was hard-earned money going to a prime van casting, complete with a see-through roof and a cool retro livery. Truly, this was worth the wait.

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This photo acts as a preview of a feature I’ve been meaning to do for Studio Diecast. Because the two cars here are just as much a boss as the big bad Merc. Photo by author.

08. Matchbox Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG 6x6: The Final Boss

Messing with a 6-wheel Gelandewagen will end in defeat unless you can match it. So when I saw the first-release crayon cream color in a second-hand diecast shop and saw the price tag, I relented. And held off. And soon after, gave up. There was now way I was going to get the Reiner Braun of trucks. I rationalized: it has no interior. It’s too narrow. It has no suspension. I forgot about it. Until of course I went to the big-box mall, where it was front and center along with another casting in this Top 10. The black one, as it turns out, looked even more sinister. And the best part? It was Php120.

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Maybe one day I might send that Renault off to you guys so you can dress it in the Alpine LMP2 livery. Photo by author.

07. Hot Wheels ‘16 Cadillac ATS-V.R: The Pugilist

No one has done the Cadillac ATS-V.R justice at all. Even me. While most collectors fawned over JDM and Porsche, this casting lurked in the shadows, waiting for the day it finally gets recognized for the sheer brilliance that it is. Hot Wheels nailed it, and it isn’t even that well-known a GT3 car. From front splitter to rear wing, few casting can match the Cadillac in its ability to belie its price point. One day I’ll be able to finish my Inspection Room feature on this model. Maybe by then collectors will realize that GT cars have good value too.

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How untouchable? The Super Trofeo got four marker passes. The Countach got two. The Performante got none. It’s as good as owning the real thing. Photo by author.

06. Tomica Lamborghini Huracan Performante: The Bull Prince

Question: what was the best Lamborghini I got this year? The Countach? The souped-up Huracan? Or the racing Huracan? Finding the answer was the most difficult choice I made—I liked all three. So I went on the internet, to see if the technique that made me adore my derelict 458 will work on these cars. Only the Performante, with its lack of modeling compromise, ever passed the test. Which isn’t to say that the other two are bad—they’re good. Tomica, though? They’re almost untouchable.

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Ah yes, ye ol’ Teshlurr, which is a model I got in 2017. That Model S is one of the best they have, and after painting them white, it looks even more snazzy. Maybe I should color the rims in the i8 blue. Photo by author.

05. Matchbox BMW i8: The One I Nearly Gave Up On

Hung next to the G63 6x6 is the black i8. That one I waited to find, both as a Tomica and as a Matchbox. Then I learned the Tomica i8 is pretty much gone forever. At the same time, I saw that the MBX version has released. Initially, it felt like settling for second-best. Until I freed the MBX i8 from the card. Why did I ever doubt? For Php100 less than a brand-new Tomica I got pretty much the superior casting. The body accuracy. The tampos. The wheels. I didn’t settle—I moved on to something greater. This is prime Matchbox, and from what I see in 2019, they’re only getting started.

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Either I get that red Tomica LaFerrari Aperta or I’ll wind up running a different feature to go with the Huayra Roaster. Photo by author.

04. Hot Wheels Porsche 918 Spyder: The Retool of The Year

My assertion above rests on one point: the 918's potential is finally realized. Sure, the concept was good, but it was inadequate. Middling. Aged poorly. Which is a shame because the real 918 is a true darling. Svelte, understated, but terrifyingly potent, the actual car is a shapely machine. I thought they’d never retool the casting, or that if they make the Weissach Package, it was too late. Nope. It was just in time. This 918 may only be the second most beautiful drop-top in my collection, but there’s no denying the fine work in this model.

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This came with a matching 1:90-scale car shell but it’s too dreary. The load you see it’s towing looks better. And yes, there’s a long story behind that dinged, broken R34 JGTC car. Photo by author.

03. Tomica Hino Yokohama Super Ranger Tow Vehicle: The Megazord

You want a big catch? There you go. Another case of “One day...”, this tow truck nearly slipped away from my fingers until recently, where it was the last one in stock. While suspiciously light and fairly plastic-y, the Hino Profia truck came packed with fully-working features. Actuated telescoping boom. Tow bar. The superstructure can be rotated. It’s a scaled down crane, and it works so well. I wish it was bigger, but then, it will be priced even further away from me if it matched 1:64.

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I seriously like the 720S, but part of me is bored with it. Maybe I’m just looking for a hotter, more extreme version. Maybe the P1 is just too good. Or maybe, just maybe, the F1 GTR is as good as perfect as you can have it. Photo by author.

02. Hot Wheels Gran Turismo Basic S2 McLaren F1 GTR: The Miracle Find

Mattel’s McLaren F1 GTR was a casting I vowed to have in my stable. It didn’t seem possible. Speed Machines was done. Cars of The Decades never really happened here in the Philippines. Second-hand prices are impossible to fathom. It was rare. It was out of reach. Then it was announced in the mainline. I yelped upon seeing the listing. Hunting it was arduous. Tiring. Draining. A new strip mall opened. A week passed. Another. Four weeks later, it was there. heaven didn’t let me down that night.

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What’s baffling is that the same situation happened when the second edition of the Gran Turismo 8-set was announced. But while the circumstances changed—a Hot Wheels anniversary event was live when I got to the mall—the journey to getting the orange F1 GTR was still fraught with frustration. It was at the back of the peg-wall. The only one there. Score.

Maybe someday I can get the Car Culture Gulf version and a Speed Machines sample through easier means. But one thing is certain: an F1 GTR will always be worth the price.

The silver F12 in the background bides its time. You will get yours one day. But for now, the spotlight shines on the LaFerrari.

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01. Tomica LaFerrari: The Desire of The Heart

Ah, Ferrari. It was my first car brand, my first sports team, my first love. It never died; rather, the fire burned brighter as I grew older. The 458 I have is the only HW left in my original collection. When it was new it was the best car in my box of toy cars. Now, it’s creaky. The paint is flaking. The glass isn’t clear anymore. So I pined for the silver/ZAMAC F12 and the red LaFerrari. Maybe I’ll get both of them. When I found this forum I became the resident news-boy. And in every HWEP thread, I looked for those two. I checked my collection—which cars am I willing to give to get a couple small cars? Yeah, sure, I loved them—that generation became my poster cars—but is it worth the hassle of shipping them off? I let it become a meme. Then that meme ran its course. Then I resigned to my fate: might never get them at all.

But I did. Partly. The silver F12 was a chance find at a reasonable price, and it lived up to my expectations. It was beautiful. A touch of marker later, it became the ideal. My 458 came out of the box to slide with the hairy, wily F12. Clarkson blared on the computer speaker. I had become a kid again, and it felt good.

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Still, something was amiss. One car stayed far from my grasp. LaFerrari. eBay was too oppressive. Amazon was unrealistic. I began to doublt the casting as a whole. Maisto showed promise, but squandered it with 1:55 cars that was great until it wasn’t. Everywhere I looked, that damned red Hot Wheels LaFerrari was never to be seen. Perhaps ever?

So you can only imagine what I felt like when I learned that Ferrari might wind up in the hands of Takara Tomy. Could it be? Is it even possible? What do these shadows mean? Anticipation swelled. Then the photos came. It was perfect. The catch: it was available only in Japan. Doubt set in. I won’t pay that much just to import that car here.

However, I was reminded of one thing: my desire to have this model began the moment I saw the first press release of the real thing. You wanted something like this for so long. Here it is. It will be worth your money. A seller said he had some stock. It was Php300. I bought it. The package came. I opened the box. Glory came pouring out.

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Now, I keep the model boxed, sitting next to my PC. I’ve prepared a feature on it, but haven’t had the time or will or creativity or lenses to give the only model I wanted so bad the essay it deserved. I play with it when I feel like doing so. Race it against the 918 and P1. Wins every time. Some things are worth it. Tomica’s LaFerrari, the summation of Tomica’s 2018 and unprecedented rise in this niche, is worth the wait and weight in gold.

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EPILOGUE

It would probably take about four of the 6x6 just to match the crane in a tug of war. In real life, mind you. Photo by author.

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To be honest, collecting toy cars can be a daunting challenge. With multiple brands vying for our money, the endless choice can be paralyzing and tempting—you’d rather have it all. So my targets stay low. Anything past Tomica Premium are off the market. Priority becomes key. What do I want the most? What would complete an idea in my head? Of the cars I long waited, which ones should I shun away? I can only buy one of a car I like, so it better be really good. The rest? Maybe a HWEP. Maybe a flea-market find.

Strangely enough, though, it won’t deter me from collecting cars in 2019. With the lessons I learned this year, the next addenda to my collection will come from better, snappier decisions. I already have some models locked in. Saving money seems fairly easy. More is coming. Here’s to a prosperous new year.

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As for these cars...

UPDATE: The 934, F12 and CLK are given parole. But not the BMW crossovers. They’ll die soon. Photo by author.

These five are meant for a different fate. Come New Years’ Eve revelries, these models will see a dramatic change. Really dramatic. There shall be fire. Lots of fire. Sparks and fire. Say goodbye to these cars now, and pray for them.