Different Diecast Brands Breed Alfa’s Top Dogs.

I can wax lyrical for days about how Alfa Romeo is a storied Italian brand with strong ties to motorsport. Since nearly the inception of the company, they’ve turned a wheel in countless contests. Remember Enzo Ferrari? He was an early driver before founding Scuderia Ferrari to manage Alfa’s race cars (he eventually went on to create his own eponymous company, of course). Clout? Alfa has it in cloverleafs, err spades.

A look at the grids of any historic racing event and you’re bound to see contenders from Alfa Romeo rubbing fenders with the best of its competitors. And because Alfa’s racing stable is larger than many here have time for, I’ll focus [at first] on a ubiquitous model – the 105/115-series Coupes. Just one of the many designs penned by the prolific Giorgetto Giugaro, the Giulia Sprint and its progenitors had big shoes to fill, following up on the very successful Giulietta Sprint and Sprint Veloce. So did Cinderella’s glass racing slipper fit?

Since I have more of a Bachelor’s Degree as opposed to possessing a Master’s on any singular marque, I’m going to try and avoid parsing too many differences across the 1:1 model because I’ll probably ending up tripping over facts and fallacies. With that, let’s get rolling.

To my knowledge, which certainly isn’t exhaustive, the Alfa Romeo 105/115 Coupes were released by Matchbox, Kyosho, Tomica Limited Vintage, and Hot Wheels, in that order. I don’t have the Kyosho Giulia Sprint GTA 1600, so in its place is the 1750 GT Am. Matchbox’s release was limited in color, as Alfa was allegedly very strict with how their car was depicted, and subsequently in quantity. TLV chose to reproduce the GT 1300 and 1600 Juniors, offering two colorways for each. Curiously the 1600 was a right hooker. TLV also ran with the 1750 GTV in green and red, distinguishable by their four headlamps. Hot Wheels was the last to the party, introducing the Mark Jones’ Giulia Sprint GTA in the Forza Motorsport series of 2016.

Alleggerita! Aren’t Italian words fun to say? In English it means lightweight, and amongst numerous dietary provisions, the GTA swapped out some heavy steel panels for light aluminum ones. And since glass windows are for breaking, in went plastic replacements for the sides. In short, it was the competition version of the Giulia Sprint GT. Through its ten-year tenure, the GTA utilized the ‘step-nose’ front clip from the earlier car, further muddying easy identification.

The actual Giulia Sprint GTA was only released in Alfa Rosso and Biancospino, fancy ways of saying red and white. Therefore, Alfa’s licensors didn’t dare allow Matchbox to deviate from the original palette. The downside to that restriction was a real limitation for the casting and as such, it was only released a handful of times before redundancy relegated it to an early retirement. Oh what could have been had it not been named a GTA. And now that you know the differences between a GTA and more standard models are construction material, which clearly wouldn’t be represented in a diecast, why couldn’t they have just switched gears to a more feasible model?

On hand today from Matchbox are the two initial releases from 2007. Scaled at 1/59, they’re larger than the TLV and Kyoshos, and are nearly identical to the Hot Wheels. I’ll take a red Alfa any day, but the front tampos on mine appear as if they were applied by a preteen who had snuck into her mother’s makeup drawer. They’re unusually sloppy for Matchbox. The wheels are black knock-off Halibrand-style 5-slots with chrome trim, but I would prefer the disc wheels that came on the 2009 Superfast. That version doesn’t come up too often for sale, and when it does commands a premium.

The following year saw two additional white models. MB4 was in the Heritage Classic sub-series of the basic 1-100 range and could be found with a pearl white variation. The Best Of International added Alfa’s revered Quadrifoglio to its fenders and blackwashed the chrome interior. There is also a 2007 10-pack version in metallic red and the 2017 Best Of release in white, the latter looking goofy on those treaded wagon wheels. Oh, and one mustn’t forget the Matchbox Gathering of Friends dinner model from 2007. Good luck finding that one.

Kyosho introduced their first Alfa set in 2006, which featured some unfortunately crude castings of some very choice models. Included in that were two Giulia Sprint GTA 1600s (red and yellow) and a Giulia Sprint GTA 1300 Junior in red. Given the similar time frame as Matchbox, I’m not sure how they slid the yellow one past the brass at Alfa. Maybe the Italians just like the Japanese better? Who knows. Diecast red (err yellow?) tape notwithstanding, none of them have yet to find a home in my garage.

In their place I have Kyosho’s fantastic 1750 GT Am in for its glamour shots and it’s a real stunner. The version in my collection was released in 2013 as part of the Alfa Romeo Collection 3. Three other styles were available, including a plain red, and a white with and without the Biscione, the iconic image of a serpent eating a human that’s associated with the House of Visconti’s coat of arms. Take it a step further to connect the Visconti family of the 11th century and you’ll find they were the Lannisters of Milan – home of Alfa Romeo. Got it?

Its ability to zip around the desktop race track has been sacrificed to the gods of stance, but those scaled down 9×13” Campagnolo wheels fill the widened fenders of the GT Am wonderfully. According to a video on FCA Heritage’s website, the ‘Am’ stands for America as it was based off the US 1750 GT Veloce. Someone should update the Wikipedia to remove the mystery.

No longer having to homologate a certain number of street cars to validate the competition car, it’s said 40 GT Am’s were built by Autodelta, Alfa’s competition arm. And where the GTA was nearly indistinguishable on the surface from its road-going brethren, the GT Am is a bulldog amongst pocket poodles.

While I can’t confirm I’ve seen an actual GT Am, there is a very convincing car in the New York area that turns up at local events. It’s seen above at Caffeine & Carburetors and the Dominic Spadaro Memorial Drive Against Cancer.

Inside, the Kyosho features a roll cage for added structural rigidity of the plastic chassis, ha. Flip it over and you’ll find a white-hot side-exit exhaust. Devoid of bumpers, the exterior is further accentuated by a fuel filler mounted in the trunk lid. This thing was built with a purpose and it certainly wasn’t to go to the shoppes.

Next to the game was Tomica Limited Vintage and their aforementioned 1300/1600 Juniors and GTVs. I still kick myself for not going all in when they were first released in late 2015/early 2016, but rather dipping my toes into the shallow end and only picking up two of the six. If I only remember what I was thinking at the time. Regardless, I feel confident in the ones I’ve chosen. It would be nice to see them in a future release though.

Starting on the lower rung, the bright blue coupe is the GT 1300 Junior. In researching this post, I’ve learned TLV recreated an early 1970s model for both the featured 1300 and absent GT 1600 Juniors. I’ve come to that conclusion based off the revised front lacking both the step-nose as seen on the Matchbox Sprint GTA and the four headlamps of the green GTV. The 1300 and 1600s were offered concurrently for a few years and the cars differed depending on the region (think larger and ungainly rear lights for the US market). The details, as expected, are phenomenal and easily validates the current market value for the casting. 

Making green great again is the 1750 GTV. The bumper overriders suggest a Series 2 GTV (’70-’72) and the wheels possess the fancier chrome dog dishes covering the lug nuts. The Bertone badge has been appropriately placed on the right fender of both models. The gold Quadrifoglio badge is clearly visible on the C-pillar, announcing its sportier intentions. 

The junior member of the G-Squad is the Hot Wheels’ Giulia Sprint GTA. In true HWs fashion, a bit of creative license was taken by designer extraordinaire Mark Jones. The body appears to have the wider flanks of the GT Am, necessitating the fuel filler door to be relocated to the rear deck.

A quick scroll through Jones’ CV and you’ll find countless selections of specialty castings. His earliest work dates to 1993 and by 1998, nearly half of that year’s First Editions were attributed to him. The series included an homage to the Jaguar D-Type that won Le Mans in 1956 (albeit with an extra nose stripe), the ’38 Phantom Corsair, Chaparral 2, and the Cat-A-Pult, a modified version of Bill Thomas’ Cheetah. In the 20 years since, he’s created myriad miniatures for real car enthusiasts. I put together a Lamley Daily a while back on his Alfa Romeo BAT 9. So who better a person to introduce Alfa’s iconic coupe to the diecast masses?

It made its debut as a premium model in 2016’s Entertainment – Forza Motorsport in red over white. I’m not too keen on the Forza/Transformers markings on the hood, but it’s a great vintage livery otherwise. And the 8-spoke Real Riders would be more convincing if they weren’t chrome. Can’t say I’ve ever seen a set of blinged out Panasports. Overall, a strong release.

A year later the Alfa was back in another premium line – Car Culture’s Cars and Donuts. Graphically, this is the oddball of the bunch. It didn’t benefit from the added tampos the Entertainment line was afforded therefore the front and rear are devoid of printed detailing. Despite that, the silver really highlights the sharpness of the casting itself. The tricolore stripe across the hood and along the door sills join forces with a simple roundel with the number 2 and a few sponsor/branding logos along the sides. It’s topped off by some nice looking shoes – chrome-lipped gray Panasport-style Real Riders. 

I’m sure many of the readers recall the jump in price of the 2018 Car Culture. Some are probably still feeling the economic impact of having to shell out nearly 25% more for the same product. Oh the humanity! Except it wasn’t the same despite many nearsighted collectors who were quick to dismiss the larger card art and added tampos of the newest CCs. The EuroSpeed Alfa regained exterior lighting and grille detailing, although in my opinion the bright green paintwork and chrome lace wheels were a bit lairy. But even though it’s my least favorite of the four, it’s like being the least popular Dallas Cowboy cheerleader, ya.

The Alfa vacationed in 2019, returning in 2020’s first Car Culture series in what is easily my most favorite deco. Even the 4-spoke Real Riders, although some may cry foul, can play the part of period accessories. This is the best representative of a car I can picture ripping around Lime Rock Park during the Historic Festival. The Door Slammer is a winning set, regaling the collector with a grid full of Tin Top racers. The GTA is presented in glorious Alfa Romeo red with a distinctive yellow nose, allowing the pit crew to tell teammates apart during inclement conditions. It bears the markings of SCCA B Sedan class and not much else beyond the Quadrifoglio and an innocuous red, white and blue circle sticker whose origins I am still searching for (anyone fancy a Pepsi?). A quick Google search yielded a strangely similar 1:1 bearing the number 23, but I’m unsure if the full-size doppelgänger, once owned by a Dr. Bernie Martinez, is just a coincidence or an inspiration. The deep web of diecast alludes me.

Over the years I’ve come into contact with more Alfas than I can remember. One standout for me continues to be the Giulia coupe, a car that’s on my must-purchase shortlist once my numbers hit.

The later ones lost a bit of the delicateness enjoyed by the early cars, similar to the Series 3 E-Types, but without the tortuous wheelbase stretch. There’s a heaviness to the front grille and the rear lamps became bulky. But it still retains the unmistakeable side profile.

And while I’ve photographed handfuls of exemplary and desirable examples, I was granted the opportunity to take the wheel in a late-model powder blue GTV a few years ago after the Saturday races at Lime Rock in 2018. It wasn’t fast compared to my car, but it really felt alive. The groupings of images above are just a sliver of Coupes that are racing through my memories.

Alright, now that the brief (ha) introduction of the 105/115 Coupes is complete, let’s focus a bit more on Kyosho’s incredible ability to tap Alfa’s historic treasure trove and recreate them in stunning 1:64 scale.

Keeping with the race car theme, the Giulia TZ2 is the second ‘Tubolare Zagato’, but only the first to be done in diecast. I’ve searched for a TZ to no avail, but if I’m wrong, please let me know in the comments.

In contrast to the TZ, the TZ2 was only built to race, utilizing fiberglass in place of an alloy body. They only made 12, and I’ve only seen one on numerous occasions, including the 2015 NYIAS, the 2019 Greenwich Concours, and at Lime Rock’s Sunday in the Park. The pictured car is owned by Lawrence Auriana and is part of an impressive collection of important Italian cars. And most of them are active, too, being raced by hot shoe Joe Colasacco on tracks around the world.

The TZ3 Corsa was a one-off racer built for a German customer. While the original (and only) car is red, Kyosho released it in red, black and white. You can see the prominent Alfa Romeo badge on the door, featuring the Biscione and the flag of Milan. The 3-section rear window of the Corsa is reminiscent of the original TZ (seen above in yellow).

While the Corsa is based on an Alfa 8C Competizione chassis, the Stradale (of which 9 were built), is rolling on a Viper’s, complete with the 8.4L V10 up front. The ones seen above were captured at Greenwich Concours and Amelia Island.

The Tipo 33 Stradale and the Carabo concept car are the unexpected separated at birth story. The curvy Stradale, which Kyosho nailed as a casting, was the street version of the Tipo 33 race car.

You can clearly see the mid-mounted flat plane race derived V8, which is a tiny 2.0L unit that revs to…wait for it…10,000 RPM! Only 18 were produced, with an additional five chassis being used for concepts by Italian carrozzeria. 

I was only blessed to be in the Tipo 33 Stradale’s presence once, at the New York International Auto Show in 2015. Given the proximity to his TZ2, I can only presume the Stradale is an Auriana car as well. Last year at Amelia Island, I was able to photograph the Tipo 33/2 Periscopio (#192) of Joe Nastasi. If you get a chance, I suggest you search for some on-track YouTube videos of it.

Which leads me to the Carabo. Only one was built and it’s currently in the Museo Storico Alfa Romeo in Milan. Kyosho’s version is spot on, honoring the lines originally penned by Marcello Gandini while at Bertone. This is the wedge that held the door open for future designs, such as the Countach, the Ferrari 308GT4 and even the first-gen Scirocco (if you squint, that is). And while Matchbox and Hot Wheels both offered their versions of the model, complete with opening parts, it’s Kyosho’s who has the details and the color down to perfection. And that squiggle on the back? It’s a silhouette of the car with the doors up spelling out ‘Carabo.’ 

The Montreal is another which can be associated with not only the Tipo 33, but the Giulia GTV as well. The 2.6L V8 is a derivative of the 2L in the Tipo 33, albeit with a cross-plane crank, and the platform is from a Giulia GTV.

The attractive design is another from the great Gandini and includes those memorable C-pillar vents. With total production just south of 4,000 units, you have a good chance of seeing one in full-size if you don’t want to add Kyosho’s representative to your collection. 

The images above were shot at various venues/events in the northeast, including Lime Rock Park’s Sunday in the Park Concours, Hemmings Concours, and Caffeine & Carburetors. Seeing the different angles of the real thing hammers home Kyosho’s solid job.

The Alfa Romeo 155 V6 Ti is a touring car version of the somewhat staid 155 street car. Kyosho reproduced both the number 5 and 6 Martini cars, as well as a red street version. I don’t have much to add, as I’ve never seen one in person or race in period, but just look at it. It’s not hard to have at least one amongst the other Alfa racers.

And finally, the predecessor to the Giulia Sprint GT, the beautiful Giulietta Sprint, which was released in 2008 in Kyosho’s Alfa Romeo Collection 2. It doesn’t have a year listed, but given the thicker chrome on the three front grilles reminiscent of liberally applied lipstick on your Great Aunt Edna, and the location of the side lights, it’s most likely towards the end of the line. The Sprint (and Sprint Speciale, another one sadly not produced in 1/64) was the work of Franco Scaglione at Bertone. He’s also responsible for the aforementioned 33 Stradale.

Although as I mentioned at the top of this story, I’m not that well-versed in all the nuances of the different years and US/European models so there’s a good chance my assumptions are incorrect. 

What I do know, however, is my buddy, and one of the nicest humans Santo Spadaro, campaigns a 1958 Giulietta Sprint Veloce in vintage racing. It wears the number ‘555’ meaning it would have started the Mille Miglia at 5:55 a.m. It’s a tip-top specimen and sounds even better than it looks. I still recall seeing it for the first time at a local C&C, its not-so-subtle fuel cell waving at me from under the rear bumper. The light blue car belongs to another incredible man, Mike Bruno, who sadly passed away suddenly last August.

Let’s raise a glass for the readers who made it this far. This is just scratching the surface of Alfa’s 1:64 catalog and filling all the vacancies would be a Herculean feat. But it’s a task worth taking on for any and all Alfisti out there.

One of my favorite images, all three TZs together at the 2019 Greenwich Concours, with Lawrence Auriana deep in thought in the background.

The inclusion of real cars is to highlight the diecast designers’ talents when translating their craft to a smaller scale. It also serves as a basis for comparison amongst the mini makers. But don’t mistake this for a “who did it best” contest. Every diecast car showcased resides at their own price point. It’s up to you, the collector and consumer, to decide which proverbial keys you want to grab.

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4 thoughts on “Different Diecast Brands Breed Alfa’s Top Dogs.

  1. We own a 1:1 ’66 Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GT, so finding one 64 times smaller with the right details was really satisfied when the Kyosho and TLV models were released. I’m still hoping Tomica does a stepnose like our car, but I think they have moved on from the 105 series cars.
    Great article and wonderful pics. Thanks!

    1. Thanks Stephen! Awesome to hear you’ve got a full-size Giulia Sprint GT…what are the details??

      And yes, I really hope Tomica goes back at it with some different Alfas…I’m hoping once they run the gamut on the Ferrari catalog (will that even be capable? ha), they’re return to Milan.

      Cheers!

  2. An Italian diecast firm in the ‘60s called Politoys made 1/66 scale versions of the 1300 Junior, Sprint Speciale, and a 2600 Bertone in their Penny series. The paint finishes could rival almost anything made today. I’m sure Mr. Breithaupt and some European readers of this site would know about these cars. Very nicely done cars but can be hard to find and not cheap.

  3. Oh my gosh!!… that Kyosho Carabo!!… Man that thing is SWEEEEET!
    Reminds me of a custom I found on Custom Diecast Mexico, of a spectacular Carabo from a MBX Lesney! WOW!
    The Hot Wheels version in light green is pretty cool (even the rare yellow variation), but of course… it captures that wild, colorful time from the 70’s incorporated into that casting.. indicative of an item from the Flying Colors line!

    Oh yes, and don’t forget about the debut of the new model to debut later this year.. the HW’s 1969 Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale!
    But it’ll be interesting to see what wheels they’re going to show this thing with… i’m think those Minilite jobs, but we’ll see!

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