Who would be the best person to lead a model car brand? What sort of attributes would make them a good person to be making diecast? They’d have to be a car person at the very least, right? What about if the founder of the brand is a successful racing driver, a Formula BMW and Audi R8 LMS Cup champion at that? Well, that’d do it. Say hello to Pop Race and their founder Marchy Lee. Pop Race aren’t a stranger to the Lamley pages and indeed Lamley writer Willdiecast has already looked at a Pop Race Celica, albeit in full Safari Rally kit. And we’re going to be seeing a lot more of their models here. I had the chance to chat to Marchy recently and I’m going to share that with you shortly, but first we’re going to take a look at one of the brand’s recent offerings and one that has really impressed me: the Toyota Celica GT-Four RC.
The GT-Four was the peak of the Celica line up. Arriving in 1986 the GT-Four would be a fixture of the range over the next two generations of Celica until 1996 when the model disappeared with the final ST205 cars. The Pop Race car replicates the ST185 GT-Four RC which was sold between 1991 and 1992. The RC (know as the Carlos Sainz Edition in Europe) was built primarily for Group-A rally homologation and featured a new intercooler as well as exterior tweaks to the bonnet and front bumper to aid cooling. Power output was 225bhp from the turbocharged 3S-GTE engine and 5000 RC models were built.
The ST185 was an immensely successful rally car and memories of the Castrol liveried cars are scattered through my childhood from the Gran Turismo series and WRC coverage. And now Pop Race have bought those memories flooding back to me.
Normally at this point I’d having a detailed look at the model itself, but first we’re going to hear about what goes into making a Pop Race car and a little more about the man in the hot seat. This was a real “pinch yourself” moment for me. Marchy is a driver I have been aware of in motorsport for some time. A well known bonafide professional racing driver. And here’s me talking to him between my breaks at work! I could tell immediately he’s got a great interest in diecast, but let’s hear it from the man himself.
So, Introduce yourself! Who are you, and who do you work for?
Hi! My name is Marchy Lee from Hong Kong. I have been a professional racing driver since the age of nine; I started from junior karting and moved on to formula cars, WTCC and GT cars. About 6 years ago I started my own race team X works focusing on Asia and on top of all that I am also the founder of Pop Race.
How did you make a start in the diecast world?
During my long career in racing, occasionally I get approached by companies to make my race cars into scale models. As I also love model cars, that’s when I had the idea to start my own model car brand.
How do you decide what real-life cars will become Pop Race miniatures? What criteria are there if any?
It began with mostly GT cars with my Race team X works and we were heavily racing focused. We had to create each race car livery from scratch and actually race those cars in International racing events like Super GT, GT World Challenge, and Macau GP. I guess that’s the main draw for the start of collaborations like Evangelion Racing, where we had such a blast to design real car liveries but also had to keep the end product of the miniature in mind. Since then we were extremely lucky to have collaborated with some cool lifestyle brands like A Bathing Ape & Aape, Evisu as well as others like SF express and Bruce Lee charity foundation. This is when we decided to broaden our range and start to create not just race cars but something more unique in the market.
What model are you most proud of creating?
To me, I am proud of the detailing on our model cars and I believe with our passion we can push ourselves to make them even more detailed but at the same time try to keep them at a fair price to our fans. So going back to your question, I believe “proud” from my point of view is not important. What’s the most important is when our fans get their model cars and they are satisfied and happy with our products, that’s what makes me the most proud.
Going forward, what do you see for Pop Race? Which manufacturers do you want to work with and are there any upcoming models you can show us?
In the future our main focus remains on 1/18 resin and 1/64 diecast. It is our mission to make our cars as detailed as it can be, and I have this obsession to make sure it will roll smoothly. From my point of view as a racing driver, like finding a good balance in real cars, I am trying to demonstrate that in our products as well and it make sure it looks real, detailed and is fun to own. Pop Race will be working with manufacturers like Audi, Aston Martin and AMR, Toyota, Honda, Subaru and more will be announced soon.
Are you a diecast collector yourself? If so, what models do you collect? Do you have a favourite model?
Yes I am a collector of AutoArt and of course Pop Race.
Are you a car person? And what do you drive in your day-to-day life?
Of course I am a car person and car lover. As part of my job I am really lucky to be able to drive a lot of super cars and high performance cars throughout these years, on-track and off-track. But my daily car is actually a Tesla , you may be disappointed…! Although I do also collect some classic cars and JDM classics.
As you can see Marchy is very passionate about cars and collecting and that drive for quality really does translate down to 1/64. The Celica is a fab model to own and the attention to detail is brilliant right down to the last wheel bolt.
Two colours are available. Toyota Graphite Metallic (182):
And my personal favourite Super White (040):
The pop-up lights have been set in the up position which I think is a really neat touch (bring back pop-ups!) and there’s a metal base with axles that roll beautifully well. In fact mine rolled too well! Eagle-eyed Lamley readers will have perhaps noticed that the grey example is missing the front “CELICA” show plate in some pictures. It’s because the model rolled straight off the bench I had carefully placed it on and fell 2½ft onto a gravel floor. A heart stopping moment ensued but it proved the model is built solid; only the number plate detached which was easily fixed with a delicate blob of Humbrol.
It’s a very good miniature. And having recently got my hands on more 1/64 from Pop Race I can safely say that this isn’t a one hit wonder. Stay tuned to the Lamley pages for more from the brand and more from my hoarding!
(Check out the Pop Race website and find the Pop Race Toyota Celica GT-Four on Ebay)