In the small scale world it feels like we’re hitting saturation point. Endless supercars, endless Rauh Welt and Liberty Walk castings, endless erroneous and horrible Gulf liveries. But the fact is there’s still new ground to be broke in 1:64/3-inch land. There are many real world vehicles that could be turned into interesting and unique diecast: how cool would it be to see a Schuco 1:64 Trabant, Piaggio Ape or VW Fridolin? A Tomica Mitsubishi RVR Hyper Sports or Kurogane Baby? A Norev Panhard Dyna? I could go on. But the sad fact is that profit drives everything. Niche cars don’t sell well. A bin wagon or wheeled toilet adorned with Gulf/Advan/Monster colours will, however. Which is why it’s bloody refreshing to see a major brand bringing out something truly leftfield. And that’s exactly what Majorette have done with this: the Dacia 1300.
During the 1960s the Romanian government was looking to acquire the production license for a Western car to build in domestic factories. This would not only alleviate the reliance on expensive imports but also provide the economic cooperation with Western Europe that the government was desperately seeking. Many manufacturers offered to cooperate including Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Austin and DKW. However it was Renault’s offer of license building their 12 model that was accepted. At this point the 12 was still in the development phase so Renault also offered the tooling of the older Renault 8 to be built as a stop-gap. On release, the Dacia 1300 actually beat the Renault 12 to launch by 9 days, first being shown at the 23rd August Liberation Day parade in 1969. And so began one of the longest production runs in history, with the 1300 and the later 1310 model line only ceasing production in 2006 with the final pick-up variants! As the name suggests the 1300 was powered by the 1.3 litre Renault “Cléon-Fonte” engine. Later versions used a variety of Renault sourced petrol and diesel engines. The 1300 was also exported overseas to countries on both sides of the “Iron Curtain”. Examples reached North Korea, China Canada, East Germany, Greece, Denmark and the UK amongst others. Over 2.2 million were sold.
And it’s still possible to see them on the roads of Bucharest as I found out last year.
Majorette’s decision to replicate it in small scale is a bold move. Hell, even if they had made the Renault 12 it would be pretty left-field. But the fact they’ve gone for the Dacia first (a 12 will follow) is impressive. There’s a few colours and liveries out now but my pick has to be this authentic Bucharest Taxi livery.
And it’s a really pleasant diecast. The scale is 1:53, a bit on the large side for 1:64 die-hards, but I’m not one of them. The proportions are bang on, the paint and decals are good quality and as usual there’s the trademark Majorette suspension and opening parts.
The headlights are clear plastic with the rear lights painted, but as previously mentioned the paint is great and the decals are sharp enough that you can even pick out detail in the tiny Dacia logo on the grille.
The taxi livery is a fantastic choice but even in plain clothes the casting still shines. My other favourite so far is the Militia (Communist era police force) livery which looks brilliant.
Sadly there’s one gripe and it’s one I’m repeating constantly with Majorette vintage vehicles: wheel choice. These Volk TE37 style wheels work great on modern cars, but they’re an anachronism on this casting, and many others. The lack of a decent multi-use steel wheel is painful considering the Mattel brands (especially Matchbox), regional competitors Siku, and even Maisto have fantastic looking wheels in their mainlines. New Majorette wheel designs are coming admittedly, but still there’s nothing that can do some of the vehicles in their otherwise brilliant Vintage line any justice. And with a catalogue that will soon include a Jaguar E-Type amongst others, there really is no excuse for poor wheel choice anymore. Castings this good deserve more.
(Find the Majorette Dacia 1300 on Ebay)