June 27, 2020 – by Doug Breithaupt
One of the best things about sharing our common hobby of toy cars is that even after 35 years of collecting, the surprises keep happening. Almost every time I share a story with readers, someone provides comments that enlighten me and often send me in search of models I’ve missed in my collection. This happened again last month after my piece on sub-compact cars.
You may recall my focus was on five of the most significant sub-compacts including the VW Beetle, Citroën 2CV, Fiat Nuovo 500, BMC Mini Cooper and original Honda Civic. The story looked at which toy car companies had the most examples. My collection included four of the five from both Hot Wheels and Tomica. I was missing a Fiat Nuovo 500 from Tomica and after publication, a kind reader informed me that this model existed. In fact, they have done two different versions. A Tomica Premium model is available and the casting looks great. The only problem being it is 1:45 scale! I was shocked to see the large size, especially when shown with the other four models. The second example is the Fiat 500 from the Japanese manga stories of Lupin the Third. I already had a version of this car from Charawheels, produced by Bandai and Hot Wheels. It is in a scale that works with the other four cars. I ordered it and it has arrived as you can see from the images.
This model is dated 2014 so it has been available for some time. It represents the second generation Fiat 500 known as the new or Nuovo 500 that was introduced in the 1950’s. The fabric top is shown rolled back although Tomica decided to extent the window glass to the top as well, which is a bit curious. Several additional items have been secured to the top, duplicating the car seen in Lupin the Third.
There is likely a back story as to why Lupin drives a Fiat 500 and what all the gear on the top is for but that is not my area of expertise. The Tomica car has a shovel, bucket, case and bed roll, while the Charawheels example has no gear, just the rolled top. Otherwise, the cars are much alike. The Charawheels casting is a smaller scale and it comes with two figures.
The Tomica model may be closer to 1:55 scale and the Charawheels 500 closer to 1:60 scale.
Tomica has also produced the most recent Fiat 500. It allows for an interesting then-and-now comparison. The current 500 looks smaller when in reality it is the older 500 that should be the smaller of the two. The contemporary 500 has an opening rear hatch and the traditional Tomica wheels.
The Tomica Lupin the Third Fiat 500 is a welcome addition to my collection and I am very pleased to have a complete set of these historic sub-compact models from a single manufacturer. Perhaps Hot Wheels will consider adding an original Honda Civic to complete their set of five? In light of Mattel’s recent focus on historic Japanese cars, this would not be a surprise.