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The anatomy of AUTOart’s MotorSport Series: - 24 Apr, 2006

Our 1:18 Motorsport series, with sealed body panels, raised a lot of queries among the collectors why we are making die cast model cars with no engine, no opening doors and bonnets but yet still have a similar selling price to that of an AUTOart model with more features. Here are the answers: 

Many top racing events, such as Formula One, LMP, DTM, WRC and Super GT (formerly known as JGTC), would not allow picture to be taken or research to be conducted on the race car’s interior by model makers due to the team’s unique and covert design of their suspension setup and engine arrangement, which would be closely guarded as a competitive advantage among their competitors. Because of this, there are no modern Formula One die cast models that are made with engine, even if they do, it is being made with assumption from limited sourcing of pictures from the press and magazines.  The dimension will never be accurate and many small details are also incorrectly replicated. Other model makers went as far as placing a standard production car engine into a WRC rally car, just so that the model launched into the market may have an engine inside when the hood is opened in order to please the buyers who are mainly non collectors with little knowledge about racing cars.  For this primary reason, the AUTOart Motorsport series was launched, offering modern day racing model cars that lack engine or opening features and emphasizes on perfecting the exterior features. It is meaningless to replicate an incorrect engine in a model just for the sake that the model should have an engine.  For many model collectors, the most important thing for a die cast model car is to have the body shape replicated as accurately as possible to the real race car, since that is the first impression. The interior, such as engine and boot, is secondary. Unlike classic racing cars of which the engines expose all the ram pipes, wiring harnesses and small parts that become nice features on a die cast model car, modern racing car engines are mostly covered with large air intake boxes with little engine detail to review which can hardly be a nice feature in a model car. As a matter of fact, when collectors buy a model car, he or she would open the bonnets or doors once or twice and the rest of the time the model is being displayed with the doors and bonnets closed.

Another reason we are making the subject matter under Motorsport series is that sometime the car manufacture or racing teams insists the die cast model cars to be launched within a year or so of the actual cars that are still competing and only a model without opening features will be feasible to realize the project because the development process requires only seven months rather than 10-12 months for a model with full openings.

Making a model car without opening doors and bonnets will save 10% to 15% of production cost. However, the Motorsport series consist of many special features not seen in previous model making of which the production cost can easily increase to 20% to 30% more expensive than our traditional AUTOart Racing series with openings. Therefore, it is not a cost saving approach when introducing Motorsport series without opening. 
Modern racing cars are getting more complicated in their shape with a lot of vents, slots, fins, cooling ducts, aerodynamic aids and etc.; it is a huge challenge to replicate these features in die cast model making which are 18 times smaller in scale due to the limitation of the injection and casting technology. In order to replicate these features in our Motorsport series as closest to the real racing car, intensive labor have to be done manually. The opening of the small slots and vents on metal bonnets and fenders require the use of trimming machine, painstakingly trimmed away the zinc metal bit by bit in order to make them become through holes. Other manufactures would attempt the short cut method and use creative decals to achieve the substandard result.  Some racing models require attention to more than 20 such areas and such time consuming and labor intensive trimming process are not commonly found in die cast model retailing for less than a hundred Dollars.

Another significant feature worth noting about our Motorsport series is the stance of a racing car. Precise ride height, fender flare and clearance of the tires are critical to achieving the aggressive high performance appearance of the race car as compared to a standard street car. Replicating the correct ride height and fender clearance of a modern racing car is one of the main challenges for a die cast model maker. Zinc metal casting technology limits the thickness of the fender to a minimum of 1mm, which in real car term, is 18mm under the scale of 1:18. The actual racing car fender is less than 1mm in thickness and the rubber tires are so close to the fenders that they are almost touching each other, so in order to attain the same appearance on a model car, the metal fender lips have to be trimmed by machine manually to make it as thin as possible without breaking it so that the rubber tires can be fitted close to the fenders.  This feature can never be achieved in a mass market product at which the selling price would limit the amount of manual work on trimming and polishing.

To perfect the racing livery with sharp and shinny colors, tampon printing is used in most part of the body in Motorsports series. Racing cars with complicated multi-colors livery require over two hundreds hits of tampon print, because each hit can only consist of one color on one spot not more than two inches in size. Many model makers would use a much simpler cost saving method by applying water transfer multi-color decals to avoid numerous repetition of tampon printing.  The problem with decal is that the color is dull, it will have a border and it may get cracked easily and became yellowish when aged. If a clear coating is applied on the decal, the layer is too thick which would blur the fine detail of the body lines and gaps.

All the panels, edges and splitting lines are manually polished and filed to the best possible surface fineness. After applying the paint, the surface has to be buffed by real car wax so that the finish is exceptionally smooth and shinny. The process is in fact very similar to the painting of a real car.

Photo etching metal pieces are being used for delicate parts that cannot be replicated precisely by injection plastic/metal such as mesh grill, tow hook and latches. The photo etching metal pieces will give a realistic shape in the scale but they are expensive to produce which will greatly affect the production cost and therefore no mass market product will implement this feature. Motorsport series apply photo etching metal pieces in many areas in order to give the model a realistic appearance.

Also another important feature on the Motorsport series that we put high emphasis on is the wheel and brake. The brake disc rotors are made of photo etching metal, put together piece by piece and then placed on a rotating platform to manually sand in the hairline texture to simulate the exact braking surface found on the real brake rotor.  AUTOart also produces wheels for real car application for use in racing and street, so these wheel experts are also utilized in the factory for the development of the model car’s wheels. This is how we can ensure that the wheels on our model cars are being replicated in the best possible scale, contour and finishes.  Many car designers would emphasize the wheel is the soul of the car, making the wheels correctly and nicely on a model car is one of the most important mission for AUTOart. In summary, the introduction of Motorsport series has elevated the standard of quality of a racing die cast models car that retails within the range of a hundred dollars.