ZERO-X by Aoshima

Mike Pigott looks at another one Gerry Anderson’s TV-21 models… a spectacular model of the interplanetary spacecraft seen in the feature film Thunderbirds Are Go!, produced by Aoshima of Japan.

The 1966 film Thunderbirds Are Go was a feature-length spin-off from the popular TV series Thunderbirds. However, the real star of the movie was not one of the Tracy brothers or a Thunderbird craft, but an interplanetary spaceship with the code-name Zero-X.

Many years later, in 2006, Japanese hobby company Aoshima released an incredible diecast model of Zero-X that could perform most of the functions of the ‘real’ craft!

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Marvel Comics Vehicles by Tomica

Mike Pigott’s takes a look at some dynamic Marvel Comics vehicles made by Tomica of Japan.

Over the years, there have been a lot of model vehicles based on Marvel Comics characters…although not many good ones. One of the reasons for this is because not many of the heroes actually drive cars, so it’s not easy making models of vehicles that don’t exist. So Batman from rival DC Comics has always been dominant in the diecast world, as he has a Batmobile – or rather, lots of different Batmobiles and other Bat-vehicles, from his various comic books, films and TV series.

Generally, characters who can fly, shoot webs, or possess powered exo-skeletons rarely need cars. There have been a lot of Marvel character vehicles produced since the 1970s, but very few have been authentic. Corgi made several fun Spider-Man vehicles during the ‘70s, despite the fact that Spidey never drove a car. Corgi’s other Marvel hero models were just unrelated, regular Corgi Toys with character figures and decals added.

More recently, companies such as Hot Wheels and Johnny Lightning have produced large numbers of licensed Marvel products, but these were just stock-standard car and truck castings with character designs and logos tampo-printed on them. Majorette and Hot Wheels have both produced Marvel ranges that were caricatures of super-heroes; they were cartoony vehicles with the colours and characteristics of Marvel heroes and villains. But again they bore no resemblance to anything from the comic books or films. So it was interesting to see Japanese company Tomica produce a small range of Marvel characters which were significantly different that previous offerings.

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UFO Commander 7 by Shinsei

Mike Pigott looks at this high-quality but bizarre range from Japan that consisted of futuristic construction vehicles, flying saucers and robots!UFO Commander 7 Packaging view 2An extremely popular entertainment types in Japan is ‘Mecha’, a science fiction genre involving giant robots, and thousands of comics, TV shows and films have been based on their adventures. Many toy companies produced licensed versions of these robots, which were massively popular in Japan during the 1970s and ’80s. Shinsei, a hobby company best known for diecast construction vehicles, jumped on the bandwagon with a line of diecast robots and futuristic construction vehicles that looked like they were based on a licensed property – but weren’t!

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Batman by Tomica

Mike Pigott looks at the models based on Batman feature films made by the famous Japanese manufacturer Tomica.Camouflage and black 4th BatmobilesTomica is a long-running range of Hot Wheels-sized model cars made by Takara-Tomy of Japan. Tomica first produced a range of five Batman vehicles in 2012, and later added a number of Bat-vehicles to its ‘Dream Tomica’ line of fictitious cars. As with other Japanese manufacturers, Tomica only did models of Batmobiles seen in feature films, and did not bother with vehicles from TV or comic books.

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Batman by Bandai

Mike Pigott continues looking superhero at vehicles, as he examines some high quality diecast models made by Japanese company Bandai based on the 1989 Batman film.

Batwing (view 2)

Over the years, there have been a huge number of diecast models based on Batman and his various vehicles from films, TV shows, cartoons and comic books. Most notable among these would be products from Corgi, Hot Wheels and Johnny Lightning. However, less well-known are the models from Japanese companies, such as Bandai and Tomica, which are usually only distributed in Japan and neighbouring countries in the Far East. In fact there have been a number of miniature Bat-vehicles produced by Japanese manufacturers, and to a very high quality. For some reason, the Japanese companies only seem to be interested in Batmobiles from feature films, and don’t bother with those from other media. Bandai only made one diecast Batman product, a four-piece set based on the 1989 film Batman, released in 2004.

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Thunderbirds Are Go by Tomica

Mike Pigott looks at Tomica’s models based on the new CGI-animated Thunderbirds Are Go TV show.

Thunderbird 2

Since it first premiered in 1965, Thunderbirds has remained one of the most popular children’s shows of all time. The adventures of the Tracy family, with their philanthropic International Rescue operation has proved a hit not just in its home market of the UK, but all around the world – and particularly in Japan. Thunderbirds was cancelled in 1966 due to distribution problems in the important USA market, but continued to remain popular in re-runs, most notably when it was replayed in the UK in 1991. There has been more than one attempt to revive Thunderbirds, although in different formats from the original live action ‘Supermarionation’ style which used marionettes and miniature model vehicles. A big-budget American made film from 2003 did not prove to be a financial success, possibly because it deviated from the original too heavily. In 2015, a new computer-generated animated TV show called Thunderbirds are Go made its debut.

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Classic Thunderbirds by Tomica

Mike Pigott looks at a recent range commemorating the 50th anniversary of the classic Thunderbirds series.Thunderbird 2 (A).Believe it or not, the classic children’s sci-fi series Thunderbirds celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2015. Thunderbirds was the most popular and successful of Gerry Anderson’s productions, and still remains extremely entertaining when viewed today. A new re-booted version made with CGI animation is currently airing on TV. There were also three new episodes made in the original Supermarionation style; these used the soundtracks from old vinyl EP records with new visuals, and were released direct to DVD. And Japanese company Tomica produced a brand new range of diecast models based on the classic series.

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Super Sound Premium by Iwaya

Mike Pigott looks at this high quality range from Japan that comes with a working sound feature.

Super Sound Premium plinth showing controls and audio jack[1965]Over the past decade or so, a number of Japanese companies have entered the market for high-quality 1/43 scale cars. Some of these are known around the world, such as Kyosho and Ebbro; while others such as Aoshima (DISM and V.I.P. Cars) or Sapi are not well known outside of their native Japan. Japanese collectors love models with gimmicks, and occasionally these find their way into quality diecast models. Aoshima’s DISM line featured cars with adjustable suspension and working battery powered headlights that did not detract from the realism of the models. How do you top that? By producing models with working sound! The Super Sound Premium range was introduced by a company called Iwaya in 2008, and all the models featured realistic engine sounds!

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Thunderbirds by Bandai

Mike Pigott looks at a littleknown range of Thunderbirds models produced by Bandai of Japan in the 1990s. 

K_The Bandai models were packaged in attractive boxes with Japanese and English textWhile there are a number of well-known models based on Gerry Anderson’s legendary TV show Thunderbirds by manufacturers such as Dinky, Matchbox and Corgi, there are also some great models that were not as familiar. One range that largely fell under the radar of collectors in the West is a series made by Bandai in the 1990s that included large models of Thunderbirds 1, 2 and 4, plus the Mole and several other vehicles.


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Harry Potter by Tomica

Mike Pigott returns to the world of magic with a look at the Harry Potter models produced by Japanese company Tomica.


The long-running Tomica range of model cars has been produced by Tomy of Japan since 1970. This high-quality range is similar in size to Matchbox or Hot Wheels, but is generally made to a much higher standard. In recent years, Tomica has begun producing a wide range of character models, ranging from juvenile franchises such as Disney and Hello Kitty, through to more dynamic properties such as Star Wars, Marvel Super Heroes and DC Comics. Tomica seems to have a separate licensing agreement for its models, which are mainly sold in the far East, and generally do not overlap with franchises for the same characters held by Mattel or Corgi. One of the more exciting character ranges produced by Tomica is based on Harry Potter, the incredibly popular boy wizard created by J. K. Rowling.

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