16 August, 2012

28mm Vehicles

Perhaps the most divisive issue in miniature gaming is that of vehicle scale. One camp swears by 1/43 scale diecasts, the other by 1/55 scale.  Personally I'm a 1/55 guy. I'll tell you why.

1/43 scale vehicles are just ridiculously huge.  No one, of average height,  should risk being hit in the side of the helmet by the sideview mirror of a sedan.  I have some 1/43s but they were to support my Honourable Lead Boiler Suit 1/48 Ultra Moderns - a line that is no longer supported.  Cheap 1/43 diecasts are less common than they used to be, and most of them vary significantly in scale from 1/48 to 1/32 (1/32 is plastic army men size BTW).  It also shouldn't be a 20ft movement to cross from the left fender to the right.

Hot Wheels put out a load of 1/50 scale diecasts over the last decade.  "1/50" was more of a label than an accurate scale - they were made to fit the package (my Rat Rods '52 Beetle is closer to 1/43, and the DropStars Maybach is about 1/55, with most everything else somewhere in between).  They were mostly muscle cars, all of them pimped out, but they tended to be exaggerated in width making them a pretty match for many larger 28mm minis. Yes I said larger 28s. Few 28s are actually 28mm, most modern lines are in the 32mm+ range.  Anyway Hot Wheels abandoned mid scale diecasts (Rat rods, G Machines, DropStars) a couple years ago and, with the Hot Wheels collectors' market, they've become rather pricey.

I discovered Siku, a German brand of diecast car, at the Village Vanguard store in Kanazawa about a decade ago.  The nominal scale is 1/55, with some slight variation due to package space (but far less than with Hot Wheels or Matchbox).  1/55 matches my minis very well.  Most sedans came up to mid chest and SUVs were just short enough for the tall guys to look over.  I prefer Foundry Street Violence, Copplestone Castings, Artizan, The Assault Group, and EM4s (ex-Grenadier) Future Wars minis.  These manufacturers make up most of my miniature purchases and all of them mix very well. They are also rather small compared to newer "28s" like Corvus Belli, Victory Force, Mantic, Dust Tactics, et cetera.  Scale creep.  Since my minis tend to be closer to 28mm at eye level, and I base on washers not GW plastic bases, the 1/55 scale vehicles look great beside them. Yes the minis are a bit broad, but height-wise they look great. I'd rather have them look a little crowded in the car than dwarfed by it on the table.

I've discovered over time a number of other 1/55 scale cars, older Majorettes, Matchbox and Hot Wheels casts of sub-compacts, and a number of "1/64" scale Jada releases. I'm not sure why Jada calls them 1/64 - they are much closer to 1/55 - marketing towards collectors I suppose.  I started picking up a few cars here and there that looked right.  Then Battle Machines came out and I got all of them except the rigs.  A little small (1/58 or so) but close enough.  Then came Hero Patrol.

Since the majority of my vehicles are German Siku's or French Majorettes, I was sorely in need of US police cars.  I found a supply of Corgi Crown Victorias in Chicago Police livery in 1/55 and cleaned the store out. But they numbered only six, and are nigh impossible to find on the intertubes.  Then, last year, at WalMart, of all places, I found Jada's Hero Patrol line.  Chevy Impalas, Chevy Tahoes, and Dodge Charger police cars measuring just a shade smaller than 1/55 - and less than $3 a piece. I bought dozens.  A second wave (with Pittsburgh PD Impalas!), and now third have been released, featuring numerous department schemes and I am intent on collecting more.

Recently I discovered MegaBloks Need For Speed Action Scale vehicles in the clearance isle of Target.  Basically a Lego-type chassis with a single piece front, single piece back, two doors and a top.  Easiest building set ever - and in 1/55.  The vehicles are mostly high performance cars (as the NFS license would suggest) including Skylines, Porsche 911s and the Audi R8. The Audi R8 and McLaren MP4-12C are two I models I scooped up - the supercars make rather decent near future vehicles - and McLaren MP4-12C police cars are awesome!  The body pieces are all snapped to a standard size chassis - making for some slight variations in scale, and the body parts are tight fitting and not interchangeable (no McLaren front on a Porsche), but you can "damage" vehicles by removing pieces... if you don't mind revealing the Lego-type nubs.

In addition to civilian and police cars, I've tracked down a couple Chinese made diecast BTR-80s, two Russian army trucks, a New Ray AH-64 Apache gunship, and a couple M-48 Patton tanks (plastic army men tanks are spot on - look for older Timmee casts that are much more detailed), all in 1/55.  I've also added a pair of MotorMax Hind Ds and a few New Ray UH-60 Blackhawks in 1/60.  I find that larger helicopters can be a bit smaller scale on the table top and not look ridiculous.  I'm also looking to pick up a couple New Ray CH-46s in 1/55, and maybe their 1/60 scale Chinook.

Imagine trying to field those in 1/43 or 1/48 scale... there'd be no room for the minis to move.


  1. Nice looking cars. If I ever acquire some spare cash I'll try to find some...between all the summer birthdays and weddings there doesn't seem to be much green left over for me!

  2. Keep in mind my minis are probably a bit smaller than yours - so your mileage may vary. I favor true 28s (at eye level) I know you use a lot of 'Clix - those suckers tend toward huge and on a 5mm round may be better accompanied with 1/43s.
    As for cash - I hear ya...