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November 1, 2006, by Bill Cawthon
As I mentioned last time, my friend Marc Schmidt sent me a box of new manufacturerís promotional models. Included in the package were some beautiful cars youíll be able to get right here at Promotex Online next year.
Topping the list has to be the new Audi R8. This is a model I have wanted since Audi first introduced this car as the Le Mans Quattro show car in 2003 and I am very happy that Audi decided not only to put the car into production, but commissioned Herpa to make a promotional model.
In my opinion, the R8 is one of the most beautiful cars Audi has ever made. The car was inspired by the R8 Sports Prototype race car that ran in Le Mans Prototype 900 (now Le Mans Prototype Class 1) competition from 1999 until its retirement earlier this year. A five-time winner at Le Mans, including a 1-2-3 finish in 2000, the R8 is considered by many to be one of the greatest sports cars ever made, right up there with the legendary Porsche 956/962. The R8 also captured six straight championships in the American Le Mans series, winning every year from 2000 to 2005.
While it was inspired by the Audi racer, the new R8 is actually more closely related to the Gallardo made by Audi subsidiary Lamborghini. This includes use of the Gallardoís mid-engine platform and a re-engineered version of Lamborghiniís E-Drive computer-controlled sequential transmission. For an estimated price of around $100,000, you also get Audiís Quattro 4-wheel drive system. The R8 will initially use the 4.2-liter, 420-horsepower V8 from the Audi RS4, which should get the car to sixty in about 4.3 seconds and be more than adequate to get you well into felony speeding territory. If thatís not enough, Audi says a 5.2-liter V10 will be offered later.
The R8 is a limited-production car. Only about fifteen per day will be built by hand in the specially constructed assembly area at Audiís Neckarsulm facility. Deliveries are scheduled to begin
While the price tag of the real car will put it out of the reach of most ordinary mortals, the same will not be true of the Herpa replica. To be honest, while I know Herpa will release it in base and metallic forms when it hits the general catalog in 2007, I do hope our friends in Dietenhofen will offer it as an all-out Private Collection model. It will be worth the extra cost. This is one of those models where Herpa really shows what it can do in 1/87 scale. The model I got from Marc has gorgeous paint with a beautiful silver insert and all the Audi markings. The five-arm, ten-spoke wheels with brake detail are truly first-rate and Herpa has done an excellent job of replicating the real carís transparent engine cover, quad exhausts and distinctive LED headlight system.
My only quibble is the fact my model is Mugello Blue with an Oxygen Silver sideblade and I believe that color will not be offered in the U.S. Iím hoping for an Ice Blue version; itís not only a North American color but itís also the closest color to the original Le Mans show car.
Itís almost unfair the Audi didnít arrive by itself. I have wanted one for so long it overshadowed some other models that are equally deserving of careful, even leisurely, consideration. One of these is another Herpa model that will hit the Promotex Online catalog next year: the new Mercedes-Benz CL-Class coupe. With styling cues borrowed from on the stunning CLS-Class and the wildly successful S-Class, the 2-door CL-Class was introduced at the Paris Auto Show. Built on the new C216 platform, there are two flavors available: the CL500 with a 382-horsepower, 5.5-liter V8 and the CL600 with a twin-turbo, 510-horsepower, 6-liter V12 which can propel the two-ton car to 62 miles per hour in about 4.6 seconds. Since the CL-Class is really the 2-door version of the S-Class, it shouldnít be any surprise to learn it carries a similarly lofty price Ė a CL600 will set you back about $140,000 in the U.S.
As was the case with the R8, Herpa did a great job translating the big Mercedes coupe into 1/87 scale. The wheels alone are worth the price of admission; the delicate spokes are beautifully rendered. Both exterior and interior are outstanding and, yes, the steering wheel is a separate piece. The pad printing is first rate, capturing the understated chrome trim of the full-size edition and tiny Mercedes-Benz logo on the engine cover.
Unlike the CL-Class, the other new Mercedes in the package is one that has been available in the United States for quite a while, at least in full-size form. Which is not surprising as it is built here. Of course, I am referring to the GL-Class, the big Mercedes SUV which is built in Vance, Alabama and went on sale last April. It was supposed to replace the venerable Gelšndewagen, but continued interest in the nearly thirty-year-old G-wagen persuaded DaimlerChrysler to keep both in production.
The GL is Mercedesí largest SUV and was designed to compete with other upscale models, most of which were designed more for looks and status than any actual offroad capability. However, the GL can go farther from the pavement that a gravel driveway or polo field. It may not be ready for the Rubicon Trail, but it will have no trouble with that backwoods trail that leads to a great fishing or camping site. With a 335-horspower 4.6-liter V8 and a seven-speed automatic transmission, the GL-Class is no slouch on the road, either. The 2.5-ton GL can hit 62 miles per hour in just 7.4 seconds and it keeps on going to an electronically limited 130 mph. In a comparison of new luxury SUVs, Consumer Reports gave top marks to the GL-Class, putting it ahead of the Volvo XC90 and Audi Q7 and well ahead of the Cadillac Escalade, which finished last.
While DaimlerChrysler normally spreads their model commissions among the three primary German modelmakers, Busch scored a hat trick by picking up all three of the modern American Benzes, the M-Class, R-Class and GL-Class.
The Busch CMD model, which will be arriving in the U.S. within a few weeks, is an exquisite replica, from its dual, flush-fitting sunroofs to the simulated optics in the headlights. Each component fits beautifully, emulating the tight tolerances of the real Mercedes-Benz.
Yet one more treat in my package was Wikingís rendering of the new 2008 Audi TT Coupe. The new TT is a refinement of the original version, whose styling elements have to among the most frequently copied designs in the automotive industry. The new coupe features beautifully integrated styling, more power and reduced weight, making what was already a fine sports car even better. The new TT will be available in two-wheel-drive form with a 2.0-liter inline four making 200 horsepower or a Quattro version with a 250-horepower, 3.2-liter V6. Taking into account the features of importance to American drivers, Audi assures us that even the cupholders have been improved (sigh).
The Wiking model of the new TT is equally refined and comes with one of the flawless paint jobs that show that Wiking is not just the worldís oldest manufacturers of HO-scale plastic vehicles, but is still one of the masters of the modelmakerís art. The TTís unique, sculptured wheels and flowing lines are captured in detail and the interior, complete with cupholders, is a gem. Wiking chose to model the 3.2-liter Quattro version of the TT; you can tell by the dual chrome-tipped exhaust pipes.
Marc attended the IAA (German International Auto Show) in September and kept his eye out for interesting new models. This year was the truck show in Hannover. [Note: IAA alternates between a car show in Frankfurt in odd-numbered years and a truck show in Hannover during the even-numbered years.] In the package was a diecast-and-plastic model of the new Mitsubishi Fuso Canter 7C18 medium-duty truck that is a source of frustration. For a variety of reasons, the Canter itself is not sold in the United States. However, the very similar Mitsubishi Fuso FE is sold here and can be seen on the highways and byways of most cities, where they are popular for light delivery work and similar vocational applications. The 7C18 would be roughly equivalent to the FE180; both are the heaviest models in their respective lines with GVWs of approximately 11 tons.
The frustration is not with the Canter or with the model: both are quite nice. There were two versions available at IAA: a blue box van and a red flatbed. While the Canter is not the same truck as its American cousin, they are quite similar; either model would be perfect for a modern-era American HO layout. And therein lies the problem: I have no idea how to tell you to get one. The model was made in China and carries no manufacturerís markings. I checked the Mitsubishi websites in several countries and was unable to find the model listed as being for sale through their dealer network. Even Marc, one of the best model detectives I know, has been unable to turn up any details about the modelís provenance. I canít imagine Mitsubishi commissioned only enough models for the Hannover show, so perhaps more information will surface about this mystery model in the future.
See you next time!
- Bill Cawthon
Bill Cawthon is a modeler and collector. His primary hobby interests are vehicle models in 1:87 and 1:160 scales and model railroading. He is one of the creators of the award-winning "Grimy Gulch" model railroad layout.
In real life, Bill is the managing editor of Model Railroad News and a marketing and public relations consultant working with the hobby and information technology industries. He also writes about real cars and has a monthly column covering the U.S. light vehicle industry. He is a member of the 1/87 Vehicle Club and the Texas Auto Writers Association.
He lives in Houston, Texas with his wife, Marge, and their children.
Bill's columns appear twice monthly on Promotex Online. To learn more about him, click here.
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