New Beginnings: Social Media breathes new life into Diecast Ramblings

New Beginnings...

February, 2017

The last installment of my thoughts and impressions as a collector of precision diecast models "The third time's the charmer" was written nine years ago at the height of the precision diecast boom. Unfortunately, when the bottom fell out of the market several years later, things around here began to look pretty grim. But recently I discovered a larger and more diverse audience from around the globe on social media, and voila--Diecast Ramblings was rebornÖ

For me, the thing that first got me interested in collecting 1/24 scale models was the incredible accuracy and detail. These were more expensive than typical diecast cars, but they were called "Precision Diecast" and the description was justified in most cases. The scale was always right, the colors were true to the originals, and the detail was phenomenal. Fully executed interiors with readable gauges on the dashboard, wired and plumbed engines, trunks with proper liners, spares, jacks, etc. and tiny labels in the trunk and under the hood just like the real cars had. I used to build car models similar in size when I was a kid, which was probably part of the attraction, but mine never looked half as good as these. When I first saw them at a friend's house I was blown away and had to have one.

I bought my first, a Danbury '59 Biarritz, from Vinnie at PhillyMint and I was hooked--the model was sheer perfection. I later discovered that the model was still available brand new from the manufacturer for less, but I could hardly complain because I'd received the quality and service I bargained for, so I chalked it up to experience. Live and learn as they say. It was a valuable lesson to shop around, and since then I always compare before clicking that "buy" button. Of course, sometimes you get what you pay for, and other models I bought were not always so perfect. I found that a lot of eBay sellers were notoriously unreliable when it came to statements of condition, and that everyone had a different idea of what "Mint in Box" meant.

As I acquired more models and buying know-how, I became familiar with the online forums and many of the collectors who were incredibly knowledgeable (and fussy) about the details of each model. This one had the wrong taillight angle, and this one had the wrong ride height, and that one had an incorrect roofline, etc. They made me aware of minor errors in accuracy that I wouldn't have known about otherwise, short of doing comparisons with photos of the real cars. Sometimes they seemed overly particular, but I could see their point--when you're paying a premium for accuracy, you're entitled to expect a little more precision. I looked forward to every new release, and read the forums daily, eventually participating in the conversation once I knew a bit more and had something worthwhile to contribute. I discovered that each site had its own cast of characters, and that I preferred the elevated level of discourse on the smaller site over the other, but I continued to follow both to varying degrees.

But as impressive as the two major collector sites were, I was never quite satisfied with the model photos. I admired and eventually became friends with the folks who ran both sites, took the photos and wrote the reviews, but after seeing the superior pictures taken by one of the members (Bob A), I started following his posts and we became friends. He taught me several techniques he used to get such incredible results, and I was off and running. I had always loved photography, having studied it in college and possessing some sophisticated camera equipment and image editing software, so I began my attempt to match my friend's high-quality images. It took a while, but I eventually got the hang of it. Being a computer geek, I decided to create my own diecast website to showcase my newfound talents which soon included reviews as well, since Iíve always been something of a writer.

I featured my work on the other sites, contributing a great deal of content to the one I liked best, but ultimately I was dissatisfied with the lack of discussion on my own site so I decided to create my own forum. My preferred site used an open-source forum program which I liked, so I went to the provider and got the instructions on how to set it up. Being self-taught in HTML, it took a lot of trial and error, but after lots of testing I eventually got it to work. To keep it from looking too much like the forum on the site which used the same program, I selected a different color palette, but unfortunately this was not received well by my friend who ran that site. He seemed to feel I was copying him and trying to steal his gig, so I became persona non grata, as did my friend Bob A, despite his enormous contributions to that site over the yearsófar more than even I had been providing. While I was busy working on my own site and developing a conversational atmosphere of my own with the help of Bob and many others, I was not watching that other site regularly so the owner booted us both, supposedly for inactivity. I had a lot of friends there so that hurt a bit, but most of them had already discovered my website and many had signed up and were regular contributors, so I moved on. I had my own forum to monitor and my own site to keep filled with new content. The larger site, which had been around the longest and had the largest membership didnít feel it was necessary to boot us from their ranks, which just goes to show you. I would still go there on occasion and still do from time to time, but mainly for the auctions. Because of the good relationship I always enjoyed with them, I continue to plug their auctions and sales division, both of which I personally buy from.

By the time Iíd been running my own website for ten years Iíd had my photography featured in several issues of AutoWeek Magazine, was on a first name basis with several diecast industry insiders, and the head diecast guru at Danbury Mint was sending me review samples. The mint even used a quote from one of my reviews in their advertising brochure. That was when I knew I had truly arrived. Sadly it was all to come to a crashing halt soon thereafter, when the major manufacturers of precision diecast halted production about three years ago. Suddenly I had nothing to photograph or write about, so I let the website languish. I maintained it as a reference source and kept up the hosting and domain fees, but with no new models coming out I had no inspiration to create content for the site. The other major sites featured other scales like 1/18 and 1/43 heavily, so they continued to soldier on, but my first and best loveóthe 1/24 scale precision models, were no more.

Occasionally a 1/24 model would appear in resin, but they were few and far between. Once Iíd bought my second one a few months ago, I was again inspired to start paying attention to the hobby. I started posting a few new items on the website and on Facebook, but while most of my siteís audience had long ago stopped checking in due to a lack of new content, my Facebook audience suddenly began to grow, including a lot of the folks I used to see on my site. Noticing this, I started posting some of my websiteís considerable existing content on my Facebook page in addition to the new material. Within a matter of weeks Iíd amassed an audience of thousands and discovered that Facebook has a 5,000 friend limit on personal pages. Who knew? I mean, what kind of person has 5,000 friends? Suddenly I knew the answer, at least in my case.

So the Diecast Ramblings group page was born in January of this year. As of mid-February our Facebook group has been joined by about 4,800 members and thereís no 5k limit for groups so we can continue to grow as more folks discover these amazing little cars which I had taken for granted until they were nearly gone. Iíve got tons of model photos, car show photos, vintage automotive advertising, and related content here on my website to share with my new Facebook audience, and Iíve resuscitated this website too. Itís not as active as when the Mints were cranking out models, but Iíve gotten creative about adding new content here too. One way Iíve done that is to take a fresh look at my collection, and single out all the models I hadnít photographed before. Iíve done just over a dozen over the last couple of months, and will continue to reach into the coffers to pull out the many little gems that never got the attention they so richly deserved.

If youíre still reading, I thank you for your interest in my story, and I hope you will continue to share my love of precision diecast, other models, vintage cars, advertising art, and cars in general here on my website and on my new and exciting Facebook group page. Your overwhelming support has inspired me to make the group interesting, entertaining and informative, and I will strive to keep up the momentum Iíve established. Your contributions are always welcomed, subject to a few rules of course (see the pinned post at the top of the Facebook page), but you are equally encouraged to sit back, relax, and enjoy the parade of automobiles in art and in scale. Likewise, you are all invited to explore this website in greater depth, to learn more about the happenings in precision diecast since I first got interested at the dawn of the millennium. Though I donít foresee them reaching the production levels of ten years ago, hopefully weíll see more precision models in the future, and I will continue to have the honor of sharing them with you.