Text by L. Broadfoot
Some NASCAR race aficionados are such ardent fans they would like to own their favorite driver’s car. Of course that’s not actually an option, so they will settle for the next best thing, and purchase a model replica of that very car.
“The attention to the detail on these cars is incredible,” says Darryl Janzen, of Pit Stop Collectibles and Janzen’s Paint and Hobby, “and that’s because NASCAR is big into advertising, so they want to make sure the paint schemes and decaling are perfect replicas.” Most NASCAR collectibles come in a one-to-twenty-four scale for most of the drivers’ cars, which makes the replicas about five or six inches long.
Many NASCAR fans start their collections with a car or two of their favorite driver, choosing them for the eye appeal alone.
The season starts in February with the Daytona 500 and winds up after thirty-six races in mid-November. There are forty-three drivers every race, but there are over fifty cars competing. Following a point system, the top thirty-five drivers will compete in every race, and the remaining eight positions are up for grabs each event, with positions awarded through qualifying races.
At the beginning of the year the cars, both real and collectible, are released with new colors and paint schemes, because the drivers change sponsors from year to year. Collectors will keep track of all the various drivers’ standings throughout the race year, and generally have interest only in the top fifteen cars. Janzen must anticipate either who will win or which drivers will be popular, because, “there are certain cars we have a hard time getting. The championship cars, for example are limited editions and more collectors want them, so if you can get one they’re worth more right away.”
Some drivers are popular because collectors just like the look of their cars or their sponsors, and they’ll cheer for them no matter how good they are. There are a few guys in the series who hardly ever win, but people still like to collect their stuff.
There isn’t a lot of variation in the overall look of the full-sized cars that compete in the NASCAR series. Ford, Chevy and Dodge now have representation and Toyota will be joining the series next year, but because of all the restrictions and modifications on the cars, they look almost identical by the end of the year. Major modifications are made on the engines, of course, as the cars are run at well over 180 miles per hour (288 km/h).
Even if the die-cast models won’t ever see such speeds, the models of these cars are exact replicas, and that’s why that market is really growing. All of the decals and components are exactly like the cars the guys drive. They’re very attractive.
Some fans are keyed in to everything about their favorite driver, especially what cars may be coming out in replica. Some will inform us in advance about a model that has been rumored to become available, so we can get a jump on an order if they wish to own it.
The Pit Stop also stocks one-to-eighteen scale die-cast ‘street’ cars–Chevelles, Mustangs, and Cameros are popular. If a person may have owned a muscle car in the early seventies, and maybe couldn’t afford to keep it, now they want to have a replica as a reminder of that great car they used to own. Or, some guys will buy a replica of a car their dad used to own, because it meant something to them.
The replicas of these cars are about ten inches long, and there are many different qualities. Some are incredible in their detail, they’ll have little keys dangling inside, and the dash and radio will have detailed components. On the outside, everything will be accurate, like the wheel rims and paint schemes.
There are cheaper collectibles available, through chain stores mostly, but they are usually lighter weight, due to the use of plastics rather than metals for some parts, making the cars less durable.
In the stock vehicle line, Ford F150s and Dodge Dakotas, for example, are available because, if a person owns that truck, that’s what they want to collect.
Even if they can’t find the exact color of a car from their past, there are services available for custom paint jobs on die-casts.
Most die-cast cars sell for $40-$60, with some as high as $80. The higher-priced cars are the harder-to-find models and those with enhanced detailing.
Some people will display their cars in the see-through front boxes they come in, and never take them out. Other collectors go to much effort to construct glass showcases, and clean and dust their cars on a regular basis. Individual wooden and glass showcase boxes are also available.
The NASCAR series replicas start at about $100 each, with special editions selling for as much as $140. NASCAR also sponsors a special owners’ series, and only issue a limited run, with each car numbered for authenticity. Because of their relative rarity, these cars have to be ordered before they become popular.
A car that may have cost $60 a couple of years ago may now fetch twice that, but most guys aren’t in this for the money, even if their collectible is worth a lot more than when they originally bought it. They are buying cars that mean something to them.