PLAS­TIC FAN­TAS­TIC

JA­PAN HAS AL­WAYS BEEN THE ONE PLACE THAT ANY­ONE WHO LOVES CARS AS­PIRES TO VISIT, NOT ONLY FOR THE FULL-SCALE SCENE BUT ALSO THE MINIA­TURE PLAS­TIC ONE — AFTER ALL, SCALE MODELLING HAS FO­CUSED HEAV­ILY ON THE AU­TO­MO­TIVE AND TUN­ING SCENE. I DE­CIDED TO HEAD FO

NZ Performance Car - - News - WORDS AND PHO­TOS: AARON MAI

Reg­u­lar J-side cor­re­spon­dent Aaron Mai trav­els to Shizuoka to check out the home of scale-model and RC­mas­ter Tamiya, and finds the show­room isn’t just about scale repli­cas of iconic race ma­chin­ery.

The com­pany is based in Shizuoka, which is known for its high-qual­ity green tea but also hap­pens to be the home base for Ja­pan’s big­gest scale-model com­pa­nies.

Walk­ing out of Shizuoka sta­tion and down to the fac­tory grounds, I was un­sure what to ex­pect, but, hav­ing built model cars for over 20 years, I was pretty ex­cited to see where thou­sands of my hard-earned dol­lars had gone. I an­tic­i­pated a show­room with a few com­pleted kit­sets on dis­play, and per­haps a lit­tle shop burst­ing with sou­venirs, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Tamiya has cre­ated a shrine to the art of scale modelling, and there is an im­pres­sive ar­ray of life-size mo­tor­ing arte­facts on the show­room floor, as well as pint-sized ones. In the late ’70s and ’80s, Tamiya was the lead man­u­fac­turer of For­mula 1 (F1) mod­els, and

had such a tight re­la­tion­ship with many teams that they re­leased their CAD data to Tamiya to recre­ate their cars in baby scale. So, when you en­ter the show­room, you see three mouth­wa­ter­ing clas­sic For­mula 1 cars on dis­play. The iconic 1976 Tyrrell P34 six-wheeler, a Lo­tus 91S, and a Lo­tus 102B are all sit­ting there for the fans, a gift from the teams to Tamiya — thank-you presents don’t come any bet­ter than that!

After drag­ging my­self away from the trio of race cars, I headed for the time­line mu­seum room. Here, there is a time capsule of Tamiya’s most fa­mous mod­els, all built and on dis­play, but the spe­cial thing about them is ev­ery sin­gle one is numero uno — the very first ex­am­ple of each off the pro­duc­tion line, and each was built, pho­tographed, and used to mar­ket the kit­set to the world. Ev­ery­thing from clas­sic F1 to rally, Ja­pan Grand Tour­ing Car (JGTC), and clas­sic street cars are lined up here in cab­i­nets. The num­ber of hours and amount of pa­tience in ev­i­dence in the mod­els dec­o­rat­ing the walls of this room defy be­lief, and the re­al­ity of why Tamiya is the go-to for many modellers is ob­vi­ous from just look­ing around. The com­pany has the motto of “First in Qual­ity Around the World”, and, in the world of scale mod­els, pro­por­tion and ac­cu­racy are things that sim­ply can’t be com­pro­mised.

While static mod­els are a huge part of the com­pany’s suc­cess, it also has a vast range of ra­dio-con­trol kit­sets that are ter­ror­iz­ing car parks and cir­cuits around the world, too, fea­tur­ing ev­ery­thing from off-road bug­gies to Su­per GT repli­cas in 1:10 scale, which adorn the mu­seum shelves as well, some older and more sought-after than oth­ers, such as the 1:10-scale Group B Audi Qu­at­tro rally car.

At the exit to the mu­seum room is a re­minder of how scale modellers were of­ten drawn into the hobby: a mind-bog­gling col­lec­tion of Tamiya Mini 4WDs that are a mix of an­i­mated car­toon and space­ship, only in race-car form and hang­ing in a colour­ful mon­tage from the wall. They cost around $15 each, and this is how many modellers got hooked, build­ing their own lit­tle race car and chuck­ing some AA bat­ter­ies into it to go rac­ing. They are easy to un­der­stand and build, even for be­gin­ners, which is just how Tamiya likes to en­vis­age all of its prod­ucts.

Once your senses re­cover from the over­load of im­mac­u­late crafts­man­ship around ev­ery cor­ner, you can head on over to the shop, be­cause, let’s be hon­est, you can’t go home without a lit­tle trin­ket by which to re­mem­ber your visit. You’ll find ev­ery­thing from tools to dis­count kit­sets on of­fer, and, with your credit card al­most jump­ing out of your wal­let, this is one place that you re­ally will need to ex­er­cise self-con­trol.

As you near the end of your self-guided tour, you’ll en­counter a small-scale plas­tic model press in op­er­a­tion, which gives you first­hand ex­pe­ri­ence of just how a plas­tic model kit­set is born. The plas­tic pel­lets are fun­nelled into the burner, and the ma­chine in­jects the liq­uid plas­tic into a mould, stamps it, and re­leases the kit­set, drop­ping it into a catch­ment box still hot, for you to take home.

By now, I was feel­ing pretty chuffed with my visit, and, as the staff thanked me over and over for tak­ing the time to drop in, a fi­nal sur­prise was in store. Sit­ting right at the exit was the Ray­brig NSX GT500 race car, one of the Su­per GT cars that has sported the Tamiya logo for over a decade. This is tes­ta­ment to the close re­la­tion­ship be­tween Tamiya and one of the most dom­i­nant race teams in Ja­pan.

One thing that re­ally stood out from my time at Tamiya was just how closely the au­to­mo­tive and tun­ing scene is linked in with the scale­model com­pa­nies in Ja­pan. When you break it down, Tamiya has done many race teams and man­u­fac­tur­ers the hon­our of im­mor­tal­iz­ing their 1:1-scale icons for­ever, only a few times smaller and in plas­tic: yep, that re­ally is plas­tic fan­tas­tic.

with your credit card al­most jump­ing out of your wal­let, this is one place that you re­ally will need to ex­er­cise self-con­trol

100

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.