I could have sworn I bought far fewer tiny little toy cars this year than I did the year prior. Yet I stare at 46 cars on December 28, sussing out which of them drew closest to my heart. Two days later, you’re about to see twenty of my favourites.
Ten standouts and ten highlights paint a picture of my collecting habits, covering all sorts of price and quality ranges. But what are they?
Before we find out, I’ll have to take inventory of what I bought over the year. This lot shows 43 loose/opened cars, which I split into two groups. Hot Wheels lined up on one side; the rest are in the other.
The Hot Wheels lot proved exceptionally tough to evaluate; other than the rather underwhelming Senna, I’ve rated every single of these cars quite closely. But after a short nap, a hierarchy emerged. And some cars are cut from the list.
Among those that didn’t make it are these cars, though not because of any significant flaws or signs of age; they didn’t fuel my imagination as much or pale in comparison to others. That includes all those GT-Rs, both the Audi RS5 and Mercedes A-class, and even the Lotus Esprit.
The non-HW was an easier task, mostly because one brand got considerably better representation and was only ever upstaged by one car from another line. The rest move into the background.
Before writing this, I thought that coming up with a bottom nine was easy—some cars looked good enough but were just overshadowed by the Top 10. After lining every car up, however, the process proved to be far tougher. The final list included a tie and unexpected placings, but I reckon I judged these cars fairly.
Yes, you may be wondering why this thing is sitting just above the cut-off point. It’s the rear wing, an element that sorely betrays an otherwise finely-detailed machine. Getting it straight with water baths has led to more problems than solutions, which is a shame because I adore this Super GT machine.
As the smallest Hot Wheels model in my garage, this CR-X opened my year in collecting quite impressively. Its diminutive size nevertheless carried incredible detail, making it a reliable, fun pocket charm for me that can surprise total non-collectors as well—just ask my classmates.
That’s right—it’s a tie! Hear me out here: both cars are pretty good, but their flaws cancel each other out. The 911's outfit feels sparse compared to the Fiesta, but the Fiesta’s body is much more cartoony than the realistic 953. Result? Two rally models get beaten by one from a rival.
One of the more recent purchases that came into my garage, this Jag is the biggest surprise for me: a finely-shaped, robust and playable little replica of a cool sedan. The problem? Its grille, which should have been part of the interior and not some tampo-print.
You may be wondering why this plastic truck is above the XE and the Nissan GT500 racer. The answer is right in front of you. My most utilitarian model yet adds so much value to the collection by just being a car-hauling lorry. Then again, I haven’t found Majorette’s flatbed tow truck yet.
Dainty. That’s how I would describe this Alpine, one of the better stock models in the Factory Fresh line. With a complete suite of lights and a finely-made body, this casting looks so good it can pass off as the real car at times. So why use PR5 rims on it instead of J5 or TRAP-5 wheels?
Here’s a 2020 model that is somehow able to get itself on the list. And why wouldn’t it? Every part of it is well-made, with detail and finishing that can make it a standout casting for the upcoming decade. This model is so good that it can undercut Tomica Premium’s 22B by a large margin.
I have always wanted this M3 GT2 for many reasons: the debut livery is bang-on accurate, the body-casting is excellent, and its ability to straddle the line between collector-item and plaything is top-notch. This version from the blind-bag set fulfils two out of those three points.
Finally! I now have that Ford GTE-Pro car. And this car does not disappoint, even if it’s a little plain. The race car supersedes the road car Hot Wheels makes and displays a stunning quality that belies its price—not to the same degree as the Huracan Super Trofeo, but it sure is close enough.
These ten cars have one thing in common: they affected my heart. Here are ten cars that have left me breathless when I found them, got me playing them as characters in my stories, and proved their worth beyond coming out of the package. Differences between them, then, lie in how intensely they affected me. The 10th best made me tap my feet to a happy rhythm when I found it. The absolute best of this year represents a greater movement. What are they?
So far, three die-cast manufacturers have made the base-model AMG-GT in a palm-sized form: Welly, Hot Wheels and Majorette. You are looking at the superior toy of the three, with working doors and a well-tuned suspension. You are also looking at the first of five Majorette that reached the Top 10—an immense achievement in this feature. I’ll explain later.
I wish I can rank this model higher because the livery deserves a higher placing. Yet the smashing livery is laid on top of a disappointing open-wheel casting whose details, proportions and general quality leave so much to be desired. Fortunately, the car was mint when I got it (for a price that can be considered the heist of the century), so it does have a special place in my collection as the oldest casting I have with the best quality.
Hot Wheels’ replica of the Porsche Panamera Turbo S e-Hybrid Sport Turismo (good lord what a long name) flew under the radar this year, possibly owing to its muted Chalk paint job. But believe me: it’s a brilliant replica, one that came out of left-field when it was released but is shaping up to be one of the more brilliant castings they’ve made.
Yes, there are five Majorette models in this list. Remarkable, but I find their inclusion here to be unsurprising—these cars have filled the niche that Tomica used to occupy a decade ago, and fares well against both Basic and Premium for less money. This Megane is a good example: with an opening boot and close-to-64 scaling, it blows the old Tomica Megane RS clean out of the garage.
Sure, the DS3 WRC Majorette makes does not have suspension or even an interior, but they fly right past the stock Megane not just by being rally champions, but for providing me with the best body replica of the car this side of Norev. Add to that its lovely paintwork, accurate livery and a 2-for-1 discount, its value becomes apparent.
Surprised? Well, the Gasser is in the Top Five so it’s not like I cheated this casting out of a higher spot. But being a mainline car, it isn’t as definitive as higher-priced treatments.
That said, the Bel-Air Gasser is a truly amazing casting, with sterling construction, unshakeable robustness and towering presence that drives home just how good this car is, and why people flock to premium versions. I’m glad to have a Bel-Air Gasser of my own.
I’ve already bought a GT8 Vantage last year before I got the Chrome Series version, and thought it was a good premium model that captures the style and aggression of the real thing. Then the rear wing came off mid-shoot in May.
So I waited until the Chrome Series lands so I can get a replacement. What I found instead is a model that shines even more with chrome British Green paint that enhances the casting by a significant degree. No longer looking drab, the Vantage GT8 instead looks like a jewel.
For the Bugatti Chiron to reach the top ten, let alone the top three, it must hit 280mph and arrive before I start culling. Good thing it can reach that speed, and good thing a shrewd collector let me have it.
I’ve pined for this Chiron ever since prototypes of it were revealed online. Now that I have it, the biggest headlining mainline car of 2019 delivers the goods: accurate body, suitable detail, high-quality construction. This Chiron gave me everything I wanted to see.
How come this Defender is one step below the top of the pile this year when the pick-up version Hot Wheels made was just barely in the Top 15 last year? Because I can open the bonnet of Majorette’s Defender.
Beyond that, though, Majorette’s Defender feels considerably more solid, better-made, and representative of the real thing than Hot Wheels’ effort. Top to bottom, the Majorette is a cut above Hot Wheels, and this replica may be the best toy example of the classic Defender cent-for-cent.
By itself, Tomica Premium’s replica of Lexus’ Super GT car is strong enough to be the best of the bunch. Eye-popping sliver paint streaks, precision metal construction and detachable rear wing justify its high price, letting me know that this casting is leagues above all others in my collection. Its only real flaw is the weird set of wheels that seem to have a massive flat-spot, ostensibly to keep it level to the ground but make the car roll in an awful way.
But there’s a deeper reason why I pinned the blue ribbon on this casting: it’s a symbol for Tomica Premium as a whole line. I want this to stand for the Premium cars that I want but don’t have, few as they are, and the whole brand in general. Set between the unreachable Limited Vintage and the hit-or-miss Basic, Premium is aspirational but attainable, and nearly every model comes out as smashing replicas of the real cars.
Any Premium car can reasonably lay claim to the highest step of the podium, so the place the RC F GT500 occupies here in this list has less to do with the car itself and more to do with the brand’s progress over the years and the sheer quality of the castings in its lineup. At its best, Tomica Premium is the ideal die-cast toy car brand, and that RC F racer adheres to that ideal splendidly.
And with that, I close 2019. Wow. My collection is now about 250-strong, and I’ve officially run out of space to put them in. The plan next year is to buy a display case to store all of them, a project that I hope to complete with my cousins just after the third week of January.
Looking back, I find myself both happy that I snagged the cars I wanted the most and disappointed that I didn’t budget well enough for Tomica Basic and Premium—there are items from both lines that could have been part of this feature, if not outright displace a large part of the Mattel contingent.
Still, I say that my year in collecting has been positive, and with multiple upcoming goodies coming next year, I look forward to acquiring more cars and writing about them. Live and Let Diecast has been an integral part of my life for this decade, and I owe so much to this community.
Thanks for reading, and may you have a happy new decade!