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  • Frankie@plasmojo

Obscure Alternatives

Updated: Jan 30

Take a trip down memory lane again, as most kids grew up in the ‘70s I was fascinated by all things Sci-fi especially those Japanese robot anime TV series aired non-stop every Sunday morning on both local channels. As one of the relatively small scaled model manufacturers IMAI had released massive amount of these subject related kits at affordable prices. Their scope of marketing never failed to surprise model buyers with vast variety of choices on subject matters ranging from robots, automotive to historic sailboats or even medieval amour series et cetera.


Although IMAI was never a renowned car kits manufacturer as opposed to other Japanese aces at the time such as Nichimo, Otaki, Nitto and Bandai (I opted out Tamiya here as their effort put on smaller scale car kits wasn’t really keen right until circa 1978 saw their release of then-new 1/24 series which had picked up what’s left off by their Cox inspired 1/24 slot racer series from the 60’s…), their products were never short of creative inputs.



The kits from a same series in front of my desk today definitely fall into this niche if not weird category. Upon opening one of these boxes, the first thing stands out must be the R/C cars inspired vacuum formed PC or “Lexan” clear body shell. Which might be commonly found on contemporary R/C cars but definitely not with 24th scale. Don’t forget back in the late ‘70s even Tamiya had all their R/C shells made out of PE starting with their ’76 release of 1/12 Porsche 934 Turbo RSR Vaillant, right through pretty much the whole ‘80s R/C line.

A funny story springs to mind, it happened when I had purchased this exact box of BMW 320i Racing some 44 years ago as my very 2nd 1/24 car kit (I’ll try cover the story of my 1st some other time) from a neighborhood stationery shop. I soon left the shop contented without checking its content thoroughly as it was commonly sealed with cellulose tapes.

When I got to open it at home, I was totally freaked out when the body shell was found “missing”! I then dashed back to the shop in no time in hope of getting my refund or something. Funny was even the shop owner didn’t have a clue on why it wasn't there and thought that the clear vacuum was a clam shell which holds a plastic body inside… not until he had finally checked on all other boxes from the same series on his shelf, we would realize that the clear shell WAS indeed the body itself! Proportion-wise it ain’t bad at all but just don’t expect any crisp and presentable details as found on other display-oriented kits.

Then came the real problems, due to the lack of painting technique and extra money, the car had to run with clear shell with only decals on right until its demise -those were the days and I couldn’t care less! Of course, nowadays when revisiting this same kit, it’s actually stated “Clear Machine” in Japanese on its box art. I think it did live up to its given name to the fullest.



Another unseen of feature found on this kit must be its monstrous power delivered to its real axle through a RE-260 motor driven by 5 x 1.5V “AA” (7.5V) batteries, which is truly a league of its own. Steering was a super strange single-bolt pivoting right in the middle of the front axle, as opposed to the rather common multi-link which everyone else was using. Love it or hate it, it definitely was not meant to be a handsome car kit at birth but its sheer ground covering speed did put a grin or two on my younger face.


It finally got whacked after a few good bangs on concrete walls but it did contribute itself as a gut donor to my then art & craft homework at school -an electric lantern made in the shape of a manta ray! You can’t be too creative in those days to get entered into those inter-school competitions, and I finally won a grand prize with it...a happy ending!

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