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What We Want
April 1, 2003, by Bill Cawthon
In January, I wrote a column about the lack of new American-prototype models at the International Toy Fair in Nürnberg, Germany (Where the money is, January 15, 2003). At the end of the article, I mentioned I intended to find out what kinds of models might be interesting to fans in the U.S., Canada and Europe. This time, I want to tell you what I found out.
Last month, Bob Johnson, the 1/87 Vehicle Club's Webmaster, and I conducted a survey of modeler interests. In past surveys, participants would send in suggestions and they were tallied to see which were the most popular. As you might expect, the results were interesting but too varied to be much guidance. This time, we decided to arbitrarily select a small number of candidates in each of four light vehicle categories: Classic Car (over 25 years old); Classic Truck; Modern Car (within the last ten years) and Modern Truck.
In addition to some vehicles that had been brought up on the 87scalecars forum, we tried to select prototypes that had some significance: for example, the 1965 Chevrolet Impala was the best-selling car model of all time, with single-year sales of over one million units. In most instances, we also wanted working-world prototypes whose models could be re-released in a variety of forms, such as police, fire or taxi versions. That's why there aren't any Camaros or Roadrunners on the list. The Mustang we included is the Special Service version used by hundreds of police departments. In addition, in most cases, we tried to make sure there were other models on the market from roughly the same time period so these models would fit in a model railroad layout or diorama.
Finally, we also made sure that no competing product was currently available as a ready-to-run model of sufficient quality to appeal to collectors as well as modelers. The 1956 Ford F-100 is available in white metal kit form, but the only ready-to-run version is, shall we say, less than adequate. After coming up with a preliminary list, Bob and I asked a group of modelers and collectors to review the choices and make their own suggestions.
Here's the list of vehicles that made the final cut.
Classic Car: 1934 Chrysler Airflow Sedan; 1950 Ford Sedan; 1957 Plymouth Plaza sedan; 1965 Chevrolet Impala Hardtop and 1974 Ford LTD Sedan.
Classic Truck: 1956 Ford F-100 Pickup; 1964 Chevrolet Fleetside Pickup; 1965 Dodge A-100 Van and 1968 Chevrolet C-10 Pickup. The Dodge van was selected as there are no 1/87-scale models of the smaller American vans from the 1960s.
Modern Car: Ford Mustang Coupe; Dodge Intrepid Sedan; Chevrolet Impala Sedan and Chrysler PT Cruiser.
Modern Truck: 1993 Chevrolet Cheyenne 1500 pickup; 1994 Dodge Ram pickup; 1994 Ford Ranger pickup and 1996 Jeep Cherokee (not the Grand Cherokee, but the smaller version used by many public service agencies).
The survey was posted on the Club website for two weeks and we got almost 550 valid ballots, probably one of the highest response rates of any similar study in North America. While people from the U.S. cast most of the votes, more than fifty Canadians took part, as well as a number of people from around the world, including Europe and Australia. We even got a vote apiece from Japan, New Zealand and Botswana.
After the "polls" closed on St. Patrick's Day, Bob and I tallied the results. There were clear-cut winners in only two categories: Classic Cars and Classic Trucks. The 1974 Ford LTD garnered thirty-three more votes than the second-place Impala and three times as many as the third-place Airflow. The '68 Chevy C-10 won by an even wider margin, eighty-six votes ahead of the '56 Ford. The Dodge A-100 van was just nine votes behind the Ford.
In Modern Cars, the results were much closer and it was interesting to see the lead change from day to day. The PT Cruiser was the winner, primarily because it was the favorite of European voters. American fans preferred the Intrepid, which came in second overall, while the Canadians liked the third-place Impala. As it was, less than thirty votes separated all four cars.
The tightest race was in Modern Trucks, which was literally decided on the last day of the survey. Americans and international participants liked the Dodge Ram by a wide enough margin to overcome the Canadians, who liked the Chevy Cheyenne.
The Canadians liked every Chevy except the '65 Impala while the international voters were solid Mopar fans, putting the Airflow, A-100 and PT Cruiser and Ram on top. U.S. participants liked the '74 Ford and '68 C-10, but the Intrepid and Ram were solid favorites in the modern categories.
I wish we had had time to put the same survey out to North American model railroaders. I wonder how different the results might have been. I know we had some model railroaders participate, and they generally preferred the older vehicles, even to the point of indicating they were not interested in the modern vehicles at all.
Still, I am confident that we did reach many people who are interested in scale model vehicles and who will buy them. This is the most important criterion. As I mentioned in the January column, these are the people who will buy models in quantity.
Now that the survey is done, what's next? We are going to take the results and send them to every model manufacturer that has ever shown interest in producing 1/87-scale models of American vehicles, and even one or two that haven't. We figure any of the top finishers will make a successful model and we are hopeful the survey will provide some guidance as to the direction manufacturers might take in selecting future projects.
We'll be doing other surveys in the future, covering medium and large trucks, construction equipment and other areas. If you aren't doing so already, you should make it a habit to check by the 1/87 Vehicle Club's website every week or so. There's always something going on.
See you next time!
- Bill Cawthon
Bill Cawthon is an award-winning modeller and collector. His primary modeling interests are model railroading and vehicle models in 1:87 and 1:160 scales. He has written numerous articles for regional and division NMRA publications and is a contributor to the newsletter of the 1-87 Vehicle Club. He follows both the automobile industry and the European scale vehicle industry.
In real life, Bill is a full-time marketing and public relations consultant for the high-tech industry. He lives in Houston, Texas with his wife and four children.
Bill writes bi-weekly for Promotex Online. To learn more about him, click here.
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