Diecast Patina: Scale Models in Real World Durability Testing

Credit: Original article published by Classic Cars Journal.

A few years ago, I had some roofing work done on my home. One of the contractors knocked on the front door midway through the project and asked, “Do you know there are toys on your roof?” I chuckled and said, “Yeah, it’s a science experiment.” Those toys were in fact a collection of diecast 1:18 scale model cars that I decided to subject to Arizona’s climate to see how they would fare over a long-term window of time.

This BMW has seen better days.

These days, a well-worn exterior finish is desirable on some vehicles. The weathered look conveys age, experience, and vintage style. Some collector car enthusiasts even go so far as to advance or preserve the look of surface rust on a classic car’s steel body panels. While the look does not appeal to everyone, it’s a unique aesthetic and always makes a good conversation starter at car shows and special events.

Mercedes-Benz 500SL

It must have been around 2010 when I was rummaging through some boxes from my childhood and came across a handful of diecast model cars. I did not have much space to display them, and I had always had a fascination with durability testing. In fact, I used to “drive” my Hot Wheels on a treadmill to simulate the act of really putting miles on a scale model vehicle. With that in mind, I had the idea of seeing how the models would hold up outside.

Dusty engine bay

Each vehicle went up on a ladder to be placed around my chimney. About every six months, I’d climb back up to assess how they were doing. Occasionally, a windstorm would blow a door open. At one point, one of the vehicles lost a headlight lens. Another one had an interior that took on a sunbaked look. One of them had a couple of windows crack. The striking thing was how accurate some of the weathering has affected the vehicles: the engine bays are dusty, the interiors are filled with debris, and the whitewall tires have yellowed.

Side by side Nomads

Over the years, I shared occasional updates to my YouTube channel, and I had several people ask if they could purchase the cars to “restore” them. The concept seems sort of intriguing, so I might take someone up on that eventually.

Side by side Nomads

After about a decade in the sun, I decided to purchase a “new” version of one of the vehicles in my durability test. Thankfully, I found the turquoise 1957 Chevrolet Nomad on Ebay from the “Road Tough” brand car and bought it. When placed side by side, the contrast between the old and new models was striking. One of my subscribers suggested I transplant the chrome and “glass” from the new car to the old, to better reflect real-world characteristics.

Congratulations to the Ford Thunderbird!

Miraculously, my Raven Black 1957 Ford Thunderbird still retains most of its original paint. I need to write a letter to the manufacturer to congratulate them on their paint quality and application methods. The other vehicles in my test are a 1994 BMW 325i convertible, a Maserati 3200GT, and a 1989 Mercedes-Benz 500SL.

Any suggestions on what I should do with these cars? Or just let them sit for another decade?

Either way, I’m having just as much fun with toy cars at age 41 as I was at 11.