Lamley Awards 2021: Graham Heeps picks his Top 10s of 2021

The Lamley Awards blitz continues! Today it’s my turn to count down my favourite models of the year. Just like last year, you’re getting two Top 10s for the price of one, starting with…

My Top 10 new models of 2021

There are a few models that I had hoped to include in this list of my favourite new castings (more on those at the end) but I’ve stuck to cars that I have in my hand, rather than models I’ve seen in pictures but haven’t bought yet. Here we go, starting with #10…

10) Matchbox Land Rover Gen II Safari

The arrival of the ultra-premium Matchbox releases sold through Mattel Creations was a major development for the brand in 2021. I think we’ve yet to see the best of what this line could offer and there have been some hiccups so far – the typos on the Routemaster box were pretty awful. But this new Land Rover casting (similar to the existing basic tool, but different) is the best of the three releases we’d seen at the time of writing, and the first one I bought. From the casting itself, to the surf-inspired deco, to the beach diorama and the packaging, Matchbox and Michael Heralda did a stellar job.

(find Mattel Creations Matchbox Land Rover on eBay)

9) Hot Wheels Toyota AE86 Sprinter Trueno

[note: as per Marco’s comment below, this is a 2020 release! I didn’t realize as I didn’t see one until this year. I’ve decided to leave it here anyway]
I’m not a huge drift fan or JDM aficionado so this one was a real surprise. The proportions give it more style than the old AE86 casting can muster and the small wheels are perfect for the size of the casting and the age of the car. I added all three basic Falken versions to my Falken collection but also bought the premium issue in Slide Street, part of my favourite Car Culture set of the year.

(find the Hot Wheels Sprinter Trueno on eBay)

8) Matchbox McLaren 720S

Matchbox continues to raise the bar in licensed $1 cars, even if the cost considerations sometimes mean the end product can’t quite live up to a great idea (Bentayga or Taxi, anyone?). It didn’t get a ton of coverage on release but among a bumper crop of welcome new castings in 2021, this McLaren is a star. Good proportions, appropriate wheels, eye-catching colour. Job done!

(find Matchbox McLaren 720S on eBay)

7) Matchbox Moving Parts ’19 Pagani Huayra Roadster

Another Matchbox supercar! There was lots of chat this year about the Tarmac Works Paganis but for $3, this Moving Parts model gives anything a run for its money. The hinged engine cover reveals a level of detail that puts Tarmac to shame and the blue metallic paint is classy. This batch was hard to find but there are signs that Moving Parts distribution is improving now. Let’s hope so because these models are too good to miss.

(find Matchbox Pagani on eBay)

6) Hot Wheels 1997 Mercedes-Benz CLK-GTR

The first of two classic Mercedes/AMG racers in my list of favourites is the CLK-GTR. The proportions are beautifully captured, key details like the overhanging rear spoiler are great and even the deco is authentic, bar the missing Warsteiner graphics, for obvious reasons.

(find Hot Wheels CLK-GTR on eBay)

5) Matchbox 2019 Subaru Forester

Another terrific Basic from Matchbox, this time of the Forester crossover. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but this car just looks ‘right’. The understated metallic green paint is a great choice and the light clusters are perfectly tampo’d front and rear. The wheels may be unrealistic, but they look great! An instant classic!

(find Matchbox Subaru Forester on eBay)

4) Matchbox 1950 Chevy Suburban

The expansion of the Matchbox Moving Parts series is one of the things I’m looking forward to most in 2022. In the meantime, this year brought us some great new castings including this beautiful Suburban, which narrowly edged ahead of the Pagani as my favourite MP release of the year. The opening metal hood and detailed engine beneath are great, and who can argue with a National Parks livery?

(find Matchbox Chevy Suburban on eBay)

3) Hot Wheels Mercedes-Benz 300 SEL 6.8 AMG

Five years ago, if you’d suggested that Hot Wheels would make a realistic model of the ‘Red Pig’ (or Red Sow, if you prefer the literal translation), we’d have all laughed at the thought. Yet here we are! Making its debut in the Deutschland Designs set, this is a terrific chunk of metal in glorious red paint and with graphics mostly authentic to its race debut at Spa, 50 years ago this year. Another Merc, another winner. Best of all, Hot Wheels isn’t close to being done with historic Mercedes racers, with the 300 SL and Sauber C9 already released and more to come.

(find Hot Wheels Red Pig on eBay)

2) Matchbox ’65 Land Rover Gen II Pickup

Another classic Matchbox Land Rover? Why not? The rebranded Matchbox Collectors line got off to a slow start with some patchy distribution (Canada is still clearing overbought 2020 Superfast stock as I write these words) but some of the models so far have been amazing. The purple Beetle and white BMW 2002 hit the spot, but for me this understated pickup with opening doors is the best of the ones I’ve been able to get.

(find Matchbox Collectors Land Rover on eBay)

1) Hot Wheels Escort Mk2 RS1800

It’s my New Model of the Year! For many European collectors, and especially rally fans, the absence of a Mk2 Escort in three-inch form has been a gaping hole on the shelf for decades. Full credit then to Hot Wheels and designer Mark Jones for this perfectly realized new arrival, which made its debut in a Ford-themed Walmart Premium set. The options for future decos are endless; let’s hope we see a ton of versions in the future, but in the meantime, customizers will rapidly start filling the gaps.

(find Hot Wheels Escort Mk2 on eBay)

Honourable mentions

Like I said up front, I haven’t been able to acquire all the models I wanted this year, partly because I refuse to pay silly money to get stuff shipped across the US border! The Hot Wheels Sauber C9 and two Matchbox – the Moving Parts Brat and Collectors FJ Cruiser – look great in pictures but hadn’t shown in Canada at the time of writing. The Hot Wheels Lancia Stratos Group 5 was another strong contender but needed some wider rear wheels. And while I’d hoped to be able to include the Mini GT Delta and Inno64 Sierra, neither arrived in time to make this list.

My top 10 models new to the collection in 2021

On to my second Top 10. I had a long think about my collection in 2021 and began (slowly, slowly!) to dispose of some cars that were just sitting in storage and won’t ever be part of my displays in the future. For now, that’s mostly meant 1:43s, but by this time next year I’m sure that will include more 1:64 as well. Watch this space.

In any case, 2021 proved to be surprisingly low-key for acquisitions, partly because I didn’t really start travelling again until the final few months of the year. A hoped-for trip to the Matchbox Gathering in July had to be called off due to the ongoing border closure between the US and Canada. Seeing as I’d already bought tickets, organizer Jim Gallegos was good enough to send me the dinner and dealer models. Hoping to get back there in 2022.

Older models continue to account for a good proportion of what I buy, especially obsolete Tomica and race and rally cars, so you’ll find a few in this Top 10 New Models of 2021. Let’s get going, beginning with my #10 choice and counting down to my favourite acquisition of 2021!

10) Hot Wheels ID Custom ’18 Ford Mustang GT Falken

I’ve been trying to keep my Hot Wheels Falken collection up to date, which this year included three versions of the aforementioned Trueno. But this Ryu Asada-designed Mustang was the best teal-and-blue model to join the collection in 2021. Since I paid $10 for this Hot Wheels ID nearly a year ago, the value has skyrocketed, which is no surprise because it’s an absolute beauty.

(find Hot Wheels ID Falken Mustang on eBay)

9) Schuco Ford Capri 1700 GT

The 1970 Ford Capri was one of the most anticipated Matchbox releases of the year among European collectors, but it turned out not even to be my favourite Capri of the year! Fellow Schuco lover Nick (IG @nms_collection_) hooked me up with this fabulous 1700 GT, one of several 2021 additions to my collection of these 1:66 1970s gems.

(find the Schuco Ford Capri on eBay)

8) Matchbox ’62 Volkswagen Beetle

What? The 53rd version of that old Matchbox Beetle casting? OK, it may not be quite that many but there have certainly been a few, in both its original and post-2018, retooled guise. But this one is amazing. Issued in the Matchbox Collectors series early in the year, the purple really pops, the painted roof panel looks great and Michael Heralda’s surf-inspired deco is loads of fun (and a perfect complement to the Creations Land Rover). Even the Hot Wheels steelies look amazing!

(find Matchbox Collectors Beetle on eBay)

7) CAT D11R Bulldozer

I couldn’t compile my Top 10 acquisitions of the year without reference to my continuing Mission800 quest to collect one each of the first 800 numbered Matchbox castings, beginning with the MB001 Dodge Challenger of 1982 and ending with the MB800 Road Roller from 2010. I filled a few more gaps this year but perhaps the most unexpected was the CAT D11R Bulldozer. Originally scheduled for release in about 2000, it had never been seen as a finished production model until a few emerged on eBay in China, seemingly completed by never issued. For more on the Matchbox Caterpillar models, read my article here.

(find Matchbox Dirt Machines on eBay)

6) Kyosho Alfa Romeo 155 V6 TI Martini

This is one of those models that I’ve been chasing for a long time. It’s cheap and easy enough to find the less desirable paint schemes for the Kyosho 155 DTM, but I really wanted the Martini and the Jägermeister examples. I’m still looking for the latter but this year I finally found the white Martini car in Japan for a good price. Thanks to fellow Lamley contributor Bryan (IG @onesixtyfourland) for the assist on this one.

(find Kyosho 155 DTM on eBay)

5) Minichamps Mercedes-Benz C11

The Hot Wheels Sauber C9 was an unexpected and welcome arrival in 2021, but I was fortunate to get this old Minichamps 1:64 (Microchamps) version of its successor, the Mercedes C11, from another Lamley buddy, @willdiecast. In 1990, the real car was driven to victory in Mexico by former and future F1 drivers, Jochen Mass and Michael Schumacher. The model may not be quite up to current Mini GT standards but these Microchamps models were cheap to buy at the time and predated the current premium 1:64 boom by 20 years!

(find Microchamps Mercedes C11 on eBay)

4) Matchbox Formula 1 Jordan

I’ve written before about my Formula 1 models and in particular about the Matchbox ones, but I don’t see them for sale very often so it’s hard to fill the gaps. A day at the huge NEC toyfair during a visit to the UK in October yielded this Jordan (actually a generic F1 casting based on the Williams FW14B), which represents Rubens Barrichello’s 194 from 1994. I still have three or four from this series to find, the search continues!

(find Matchbox Formula 1 on eBay)

3) Tarmac Works Wynn’s Mercedes-AMG GT3

I’ve written a couple of times about my experience with the Tarmac Works Owners Club this year. In short: great customer service, but overpriced shipping from the website and not enough models I want to buy. This one however, is amazing! It represents the Ben Keating car that I was fortunate to see race in person at Daytona in 2019. You can read more about it in a Lamley Daily that I posted back in the summer.

(find Tarmac Works Wynn’s Mercedes-AMG on eBay)

2) Tomica JGTC NISMO Silvia

The first car I picked up at the aforementioned NEC toyfair was this Silvia. I knew instantly it was special but had to do some digging later to get the details. It represents the NISMO-entered, S13-based car of Takayuki Kinoshita and Hideo Fukuyama in the 1993 Japanese GT Championship (JGTC). It was made in 1998 by Japanese hobby store, Gulliver. It’s a rare piece – certainly where I found it in the UK! – and I’m happy to have got it for a very low price.

(find Tomica JGTC Silvia on eBay)

1) JEC Ferrari 250 GTO

And so to number one! High-end 1:64 resin models (and unlicensed ones at that) are not my area. In fact, this was the first to join my collection. But when this 2020 release from JEC (about whom I know nothing) came up for sale at a good price, I had to get it. I used to live close to Goodwood so of the four available colours, I went for Innes Ireland’s 1962 TT-winning car.

The mint green paint looks amazing. The details are off the scale – there’s a wood-rimmed steering wheel inside! And the Enzo figure is genius. But what I can’t quite get my head around is how JEC managed to produce such a phenomenally accurate replica without a license – especially when real GTOs go for tens of millions of dollars, so can’t be all that easy to access for reference. Mind blowing!

(find JEC Ferrari 250 GTO on eBay)

Close but no cigar

Other favourite models added to the collection this year included an old Tomica Porsche 935, the Royal Mail version of the Mini GT Land Rover, some 1970s 1:43 Solido rally cars and two Matchbox models: the Russia/Global BMW 5 Series police car and the white Holden Ute from the basic range, which might well be the best ever release of that casting.

Hope you’ve enjoyed these rundowns, subjective as ever. Got a favourite? Let me know in the comments below. Hope you also found what you wanted in 2021 and Happy Holidays!

(follow me on Instagram @diecast215)

5 Replies to “Lamley Awards 2021: Graham Heeps picks his Top 10s of 2021”

  1. Graham, I agree with you that the JEC Ferrari is a stunning little model in hand. I have one, too. Same puke green color as yours.

    So I’m very sorry to dim your pleasure a little bit, especially during the holiday season! But the model has two flaws. The dashboard details and shape are incorrect. The rear tires on the model are larger diameter than the fronts, which is not the case in real life.

    Back in the 90’s, I was fortunate enough to get a thrill ride in a real 250 GTO. I will NEVER forget the shrill scream of that engine filling the cockpit at full revs. What a glorious car!

  2. Great list! But I’ve a few nitpicks (apologies in advance haha)

    #1 I don’t understand why you’ve included the Slide Street AE86, the casting debuted in 2020 Boulevard iirc

    #2 The CLK GTR didn’t flip, the CLR did #CLKDontFly

    #3 I don’t believe hot wheels has ever made the 300 SLR, just the 300 SL (RLC stock and Premium-Mainline modded)

    1. Yes, you’re right, thanks very much! I didn’t see an AE86 until this year. CLR – yep I got the wrong car. SLR was a typo I knew I’d made and forgot to change, different car of course. Text amended!

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