Model Reviews: 1:12 SCALE! SunStar 1950 Volkswagen Beetle Saloon Limited Edition.

Reviewed and Photographed by Peter Brown

The first thing that strikes you about this model is how real it looks, real like the actual 1:1 car. Those drab post-war colors like this nicely-finished gray example, were common at the time. It wasn't until the nineteen sixties and seventies that you started to see "mod" paintings and day-glow colors on these cars. At three and a half pounds, the model is heavy enough to feel substantial, but to not put more of a strain on your shelves (or its own suspension) than the average 1:24 model. Aside from the high build-quality which we'll get to, what grabs you first and last is that familiar silhouette. Getting the shape right was everything with this model, and it looks like SunStar has hit the mark.

That little turn signal flag on each B pillar was the forerunner of blinking lights on these early "Bugs," and they have faithfully replicated their quirkiness in an unexpected working feature. Good so far. Doors snap shut on light pressure, and the shut-lines are tight. An innovative feature they've incorporated into the door latches is making the outside handle the actual latch release. This works well, though sometimes you have to give the handle a little push when closing the door to make sure it latches. The handles are sprung, and all in all they work the latches well. Nice touch SunStar.

Up at the front end, the lenses look great, and all the chrome bits are separately cast. This level of detail continues throughout the model, totaling more than 400 parts in all. The wiper arms are movable and will sit properly at any angle you desire. I like the way SunStar protects the windshields for shipment with a removable protective clear plastic film, and uses clear plastic disks to secure each wiper to the film.

Real rubber tires with nice looking tread patterns, and a skinniness only the unassuming little beetle could carry off, help contribute to the effect. Smart looking two-tone wheels, painted beige and body-color, along with chromed and embossed VW "moon" hubcaps, give some added flair in the absense of whitewalls. Back in the 1950's, that was definitely going against the tide. The little side view mirror is properly hinged off the top of the driver's door's external hinge, which also looks perfectly to scale. This operates too, so you can pose it or fold it flat to the side window for transport or tight parking spaces. :-)

The folding roof is made of a soft, vinyl-like material with a grain to give it added realism. It has three plastic ribs built in, which span tracks on either side of the open roof and hold it snugly closed. The bonnet snaps shut on simple but unobtrusive hinges, and there's a realistic, hinged prop rod to keep it open. Out back, the engine compartment lid has an operating latch handle like the doors, only instead of being spring-loaded, you rotate it counter-clockwise to open.

Inside, we see nice use of two-tone vinyl for the seats and door panels. Separately cast handles and cranks look very convincing, so much in-fact, that it makes you wish the model had operating side windows. Front seatbacks flip forward on accurate hinges, and the rear bench seat back folds down flat.

Controls and switchgear, aside from the movable floor shifter, were relatively sparse on these cars, but the model does a good job of replicating the various textures of the dash, floor, and ceiling coverings, and interior fittings like the rear seat assist straps.

The folding top looks good open or shut, but you'll leave it open to view the well-executed interior.

Below, we see a detail shot of the folding roof and its guide tracks, and the rear compartment with decorated side panels, separately cast ashtrays, and a pair of movable bolster cushions.

From up here you get a bird's eye view of the front seat compartment, with its conservative, low-pile, industrial carpeting and textured floor mats replicated very believably. Add in floor-mounted air vents, foot pedals, inside rearview mirror, nicely detailed steering wheel and working sunvisor for the driver, and you get a very convincing result. In this close-up you can also see the grained finish on the folding roof.

The split rear window of these early Beetles was a stylistic exercise, not unlike the one on the '63 Corvette which wouldn't appear for another decade; but as with the Vette, limited visibility made this bold styling cue a mixed blessing. This, and those tiny red reflectors out back are some of the major identifying visual cues for this era of Beetle.

Wheels are held on with five real lug nuts, which may be removed with the special lug wrench. Also included are a jack, and a tool set in a VW case which fits inside the spare tire under the bonnet. The tools are all separately molded and chromed and boy are they tiny, so if you take them out of the fitted case, it may take a while to get them all back in their places.

The small, air-cooled engine is nicely replicated, with brackets, wiring, and a real rubber belt, and the engine cover hinges articulate like the real thing.

Another thoughtful detail is the light above the license plate, nicely replicated in clear plastic under the teardrop-shaped enclosure.

The SunStar 1950 Volkswagen Beetle Saloon, Model number 5202, is a limited edition of just 2,000 pieces, and retails for between $130 and $160. You can find it on eBay, and from other established diecast dealers and retailers. With its perfect shape, serious parts-count, and attention to detail, this latest offering from the folks at SunStar is a winner, and it's cute as a "Bug." Visit SunStar's website on our links page to see the whole 2010 lineup.