AUTOart: The Concept Behind Composite Models •

AUTOart: The Concept Behind Composite Models


I can’t believe AUTOart continues to motivate and try to convince the masses with their propaganda. This is a new press release from their marketing team trying to influence the move to composite models once again. In all honesty, I don’t mind composite or plastic, my gripe is that the models aren’t up to standards – cost cutting measures are front and center in their latest release, the Jaguar F-Type R Coupe, for which AUTOart Europe has confirmed in conversation, the hood struts (front and back) and black roof were deleted to keep costs down. Even when the problem of missed rear reverse lights was identified, models were released without the fix being performed. But retail prices continue to grow. Wasn’t the move to help reduce manufacturing costs meant to make an opening price point more affordable?

Unfortunately AUTOart, your business model is flawed and pricing today is a riddle to most. Our recent review of AUTOCRAFT’s Lykan HyperSport is a perfect example that AUTOart is totally out in left field, a fully diecast model with opening parts and a suggested retail of $99US, yes $99US!! Come on AUTOart, have your marketing team convince the masses now. If you must please read the press release below.

The term die-cast model car generally refers to any toy or collectible model car produced by using a die-casting method. For many years, the bodies of pre-assembled and commercially sold model cars have been made of metal, usually a durable zinc alloy (Zamak) that is both easily cast and hand-worked and also structurally rigid, with plastic, rubber, or glass used for details.

Die-casting has been preferred by most model car producers above all other kinds of processes due to the quality of the finished goods and also the ease of manufacture. It is a metal casting process that is characterized by forcing molten metal under high pressure into a mold cavity. Zinc is arguably the easiest metal to cast, as it has a relatively low melting point of 385 degrees C (725 degrees F), high ductility, and high impact strength, and it is easily plated. It is also economical for small parts, offers high dimensional accuracy, and promotes long mold life (up to one million “shots” or castings).

However, there are challenges with zinc. When the molten zinc is forced into the mold cavity in a split second, as it is during die-casting, the molten metal cannot flow smoothly if the passage is uneven and inconsistent, thus causing turbulence in the molten material. This turbulence traps air and makes the casting porous, an unwanted result brought about by air pockets and void space inside the molded material. The phenomenon is more likely to happen if the molten material has to transition from a large area of the casting, such as the model car’s roof, down into a narrow passage, such as the A-pillar, then emerges again into a large area, such as the model car body. When the passageway between these two areas is uneven and inconsistent, porosity is a real problem.

Porosity arising because of turbulence inside a die-cast piece can cause weakness of the material, which can help make the finished piece brittle and fragile. The structure becomes less stable because the density of the metal particles melded together is not balanced due to the small voids of space within. In most cases such porosity is not outwardly visible, but when the die-cast piece is painted and then oven-baked, the heat causes the gas in the pores to expand, which causes micro-cracks inside the part and exfoliation of the surface. Tiny bubbles in the form of rashes appear on the painted surface and the piece must be scrapped. In order to avoid the problem, mold-makers create bridges in large open areas such as the windscreen to help the molten material flow smoothly.

Slots and vents are also made as dead-ends so that the flow will not be interrupted. Later, they can be opened through machining, or the voids can be simply painted black, depending on the quality of the model.

Die-casting is an ideal process to produce low-cost mass-market model cars when the body shape is small and simple. In those cases, the A- and B-pillars are often made disproportionally thicker in order to ease the flow of molten material during casting. Slots and vents are also typically closed off to avoid any uneven flow.

When the first die-cast model cars appeared in the market before World War II, they were made as toys with simple body shapes and no interior, and were mainly intended for children to play with. By the 1980s, it was apparent that adults were purchasing many die-cast model cars as collectibles, and not just as toys for children. The later die-cast model car body made of zinc metal emerged as easy to cast and rigid enough to withstand heavy impact, and able to be cast with a metal mold in mass quantity quickly and accurately and at low cost. The weight of the metal body also gave the model a good, heavy feel in the hands.

In the late 1980’s, China opened its doors and people started to invest in the country because of its low labor cost. Model-car manufacturing gradually moved to China as the nation became the world’s factory, its labor costs only a fraction of those in western countries. The model makers could afford to hire thousands of workers to make sophisticated and high quality model cars, and still be able to export the models at very low price. The quality level and detail, particularly in 1/18th scale, started to move to a higher level due to competition and increasing buyer expectation. Collectable model cars increasingly became more complicated to manufacture, with the parts count reaching into the hundreds for each model, requiring hundreds of workers in the production line to create and finish each and every single piece of the model.

While die-casting remains popular in manufacturing low-cost mass-market model cars, it is no longer an ideal production method for collectable models that must have body shapes that are true to scale down to the smallest detail. As the slots and vents must be closed off during die-casting to avoid the uneven flow of molten material inside the mold, high-end collectable models will require these slots and vents to be true open passages, to remain accurate to the actual car. Thus they must be cut open by a milling machine, one by one and bit by bit, then manually trimmed at the edges until the opening is clean. This is a very labor-intensive process that adds substantially to the production cost.

When a model of a real car is made perfectly true to scale, some body parts, such as the A- and B-pillars, are usually very slim, which can cause the casting issue mentioned earlier. Porosity is one thing that can never be eliminated completely, and the product engineers are always battling to overcome the problem.

Another issue with die-casting is that during the high-pressure “shot,” a small parting line will form on the casting surface that results from the gap between the two halves of the mold. These tiny, hard-metal parting lines protrude from the body’s surface and can only be removed with a metal file, after which the surface is further smoothed manually by sand paper. On mass-market, toy grade models, the parting lines on the body are left untouched and go straight for paint coating in order to keep down the labor cost as much as possible. However, on collectable die-cast model, parting lines on the body surface must not exist. Therefore, intensive surface polishing has to be done manually before painting. Workers carefully remove the parting lines with a file and then polish the area with sandpaper. This process cannot be done partially; the whole car body must have a perfect smoothness in order to achieve an even glossiness to the paint. Therefore, each and every single body surface must be thoroughly polished by hand, and at a different intensity on different areas, to avoid any over-polishing on edges and creases. Otherwise the original shape of the body may be compromised.

And no matter how careful the workers polish the model body, the edges and creases inherent to the original car design will be rounded-off slightly during polishing. Thus, with zinc die-casting, the finished model can almost never replicate the original body shape perfectly. Moreover, the metal dust created from the polishing process can cause skin allergies in the workers. So, not only is the polishing process very labor intensive and costly, it is also the kind of work that most employees dislike.

These are some of the reasons why we are seeing fewer and fewer high-end collectable die-cast model cars launched into the market in recent years. It has become very expensive to produce die-cast models as the labor cost has increased ten-fold over the last two decades, and thus the selling price becomes so high that even diehard collectors are slowly abandoning the hobby because they simply cannot afford to collect anymore. Only toy quality die-cast model cars have a future in the market in the years to come, as they can still be sold at an affordable price as gifts or playthings for children rather than as collectibles for adults.

To counter the increased labor costs, many model makers have turned to resin to replace die-cast metal for the body. Resin models can be made very nicely and with minimal tooling investment, although the manufacturing cost for each one of them is much higher. And due to the nature of resin material, the models can be fragile, breaking or deforming easily when they are not handled with care. That’s because resin doesn’t flex, and also isn’t as rigid as a die-cast body. Because of these weaknesses, resin models are mostly made as sealed bodies with no openings. Because resin is brittle and breaks easily, it is not possible to install the small hinges that movable panels require without risking a failure of the resin after just a few openings and closings.

AUTOart has decided that instead of resin, it will transition to a composite model that uses injection-molded ABS composite parts. Modern injected ABS composites have proven to be an ideal material to form the body of a model car. Compared to a die-cast zinc metal body, injected ABS composite material surfaces, with the correct formulation, are smoother and the bodylines and creases are sharper. The openings for vents and holes are also reproduced more cleanly, and the panels can be much thinner when rendered in ABS composite material than in zinc alloy. That makes the finished body closer to the true scale gauge of real car bodies. AUTOart’s composite models are not sealed, but have full array of working closure panels, including the doors on all models and the engine bonnets on many subjects.

Of course, the new material also presents challenges. A body made of ABS, as with a real car made of thin-gauge steel or aluminum, is generally not rigid enough alone. It tends to flex and deform under twisting or compression. If such a model is made featuring opening doors, the doors will pop loose under flexing and they will not close properly once the body is slightly deformed. In order to make the whole composite body rigid enough, we pair it with a die-cast interior that is designed to support the body in all the areas that need to be strengthened. With a metal interior, the whole composite body becomes rigid, which is no different than the concept behind a die-cast metal body—or, indeed, many real cars that use internal structures to give the body rigidity.

The reinforced composite body will not flex easily and will never deform, and doors and bonnets will always open and close in the same position. Also, as a bonus, the finished model’s door gaps are finer when rendered in composite material than in die-cast zinc.

The concept of an internal structure is very much inspired by modern supercars, in which a very rigid carbon fiber tub supports all the external lightweight bodywork. After extensive research and experimentation, AUTOart has concluded that a composite body is better in almost every respect when producing an affordable model car body that will meet the exacting standards of our customers.

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36 Responses to "AUTOart: The Concept Behind Composite Models"

  1. slartibartfast229 says:

    This all reminds me of the Coca Cola mess and the creation of ‘Classic’. In the end we consumers will vote with our pockets, and either AutoArt gets the message or it will join the list of failed manufacturers. I used to shake my head at the decisions made by Revell Europe when choosing their subjects….

  2. lamborghini4Life says:

    I don’t really mind the quality changes on all models, but I hate that the prices are so high while it’s cheaper to make…. I really hope that the Aventador SV won’t be above €240.

  3. Wes Shakirov says:

    I don’t even care to read it

    • George K says:

      Agreed. Whatever their reasoning may be, the results are the same, lesser quality for a higher price.

      • Wes Shakirov says:

        Seriously. Only reason I bought the P1 is cause the sad engine makes for an interesting and challenging upgrade project. But can you imagine if I said that about the Huayra or the Zonda? Lol there was absolutely nothing to upgrade on those. Yeah understand McLaren restricted the amount of detail allowed, but what about the rest of the models? So far the only properly detailed ABS model I see is the Lotus 99T. Hopefully will write a review when I get it.

        • George K says:

          I have the Lotus. Nice, but lots of plastic, and it looks like it. You see light shining through the rear wing and its uprights. Honestly, for the money I paid for it, I’m sorry I bought it.

  4. Atalante says:

    Whatever is their technical argumentation to try to convince the masses it will come down to a simple case of Supply and Demand. If they don’t supply what us collectors want we’ll buy from the dozen of emerging (real) diecast models manufacturers that currently move in the opposite direction of Autoart: improving quality and details release after release. To continue to sell their ABS plastic models (not Composite – once again) they will have to lower their prices or face extinction. Simple.

  5. Martin Bloom says:

    Read the whole damn thing, but although it sounds logical it is not.
    Nothing differs after this statement as yes, lines can be more defined. The one positive, but with the high level Autoart was operating on, it doesn’t matter that much. The differences are really small.
    The negatives are the plastic like glow of the body and diecast innershell or not, most still twist a lot.

    They didn’t became cheaper either, so Autoart do something about it…..

    • JS Coleman says:

      Exactly! They were making excellent diecast models that were going up in price no faster than anyone else, and then suddenly they drop the bar and raise the price exponentially.

      And then they tell us it was to make the quality better and the costs less.

      So why has the quality gone down and the costs gone up??? Because AUTOart is lying through their teeth, and think we don’t notice.

  6. Daniel says:

    I haven’t bought a P1 even though I love it as a car simply because I refuse to add a single pound to this push to plastic.
    If no one bought their new products they would have been forced to re-think, but loads of you have so it will continue into the future I’m afraid.

    • Wes Shakirov says:

      Even if some people pick up a model here and there, the overall sales have dropped I’m sure. People are only buying the must have models as opposed to every single one if they were diecast with proper detail.

  7. Alex says:

    I stopped giving my money to AutoArt when they moved on to Composhit. I now give my money to CMC. Better company and workmanship, and its a real Diecast company. AutoArt I hoped you guys are reading this because I no longer buy your crap. I have spent alot of money with you guys when you were a real diecast company and now I have sold mostly all my AutoArt Diecast on Ebay and moved on to someone much better

  8. JS Coleman says:

    Oooh, lovely, unique innovative ABS composite. Except it isn’t composite at all, because it’s not a alloy of at least two different materials. It’s plastic.

    Rubbish plastic. I’ll have no excuses from you, AUTOart. I’m not buying any more and that’s the end of the story.

  9. basile says:

    bought Exoto a month ago instead of this plastic with lower quality details
    it makes sense if quality of composite models become better or cost become lower
    but no! it became exactly the opposite: quality is lower, cost is higher

  10. CN0711 says:

    And this is why i refuse to buy another Autoart composite model. I buy a Laguna Blue Z06 from Autoart directly and i get it a few weeks later, the body has a massive crack in the plastic of the front left fender. I ask Autoart to replace the model and they refuse to since it was “the shipping company’s fault not theirs”. Best advice for Autoart that i have , start digging your grave now….

  11. Sac says:

    Not convinced, AA !

  12. Risson says:

    Same opinion for me. Collecting Corvette’s and american muscle cars, I don’t even know if I’ll buy the C7 from AA. Fortunately, I find models to a reasonable price at Autoworld, Greenlight or, at a slightly higher cost, from Highway61.
    It’s really a pity to see what Autoart has became. It was one of my favourite brand when they were making diecast at a normal price (100-120€ for a Millenium model).
    Some brands (like TSM, Autocraft) will replace them, I hope.

  13. Lausambaychua says:

    Actually, I prefer their so-called “Composite” (an elaborate name for a material that is very common in the hard-bodied RC world – ABS) models, I cannot understand their decision to skyrocket the price. OK, I’d have purchased the Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG 6×6 if the price was in the $100 – $150 bracket, but no, it’s twice that amount, and nowhere near the $110 – $150 price bracket that AUTOart themselves initially said for these ABS models.

    • Lausambaychua says:

      I mean prefer the ABS models to the resin ones.

      • Mark says:

        Exactly, I mean, Autoart is fooling us, but I really dont understand these comments. It is just because you know, what this company was capable before. Otherwise, I really dont get it. If those resins ( not talking about some decent french based companies on martket ) are starting from 150 Euro to ridiculous 500+. I mean come oooon ! Any plastic C7R Corvette is way better than BBR 300,- closed resin. I bought Peugeot 208 T16 Pikes Peak winner for 185,- and except not fully tampo graphic, I cannot complain. Looks great and the real car had also ´plastic´ body. So are they cheating us – a lot I think ? Yes, but so is basically everbody else, no big deal here. Demand and supply, thats all it is, they are not your friends and you could show them by not purchase…

        • Mark says:

          And just a small thought, Im wondering, why the AA is no longer producing their closed Die-cast models. They looked way much better than any resin, I mean I have all rally cars, some JGTS cars, just awesome. No comparisson with resins and they were cheap, more or less. Today is different era, but I think the 150 Euro limit could have been kept. I will bought them a lot. Opening doors only doesnt make much sense anyway. I understand rising costs, but this was one of the way, which they even already tried. CMC is fine, Exoto is overrated, but if you like it ok, there is value fore sure, but lot off people is out of game.

          • Lausambaychua says:

            That’s right. If they want to cut cost, they can find a more “appropriate” reason and start producing sealed die-cast models. While I’m not a typical collector that just collect, I also enjoy fiddling the operable features and functions of a model, because it’s just so satisfying to do so. But right now, I find myself being so happy with the Peugeot 205 T16 from OttOMobile, and the only thing that bothers me is “It’s made of resin, so it’s sealed”, and that’s it. Otherwise, it’s fairly cheap, nicely made, and the overall presentation is much better than most “Composite” models out there. Until now, the only “Composite” model I have is the BAC Mono in black.

        • JS Coleman says:

          Yes, plastic might be better than resin, (what’s that really saying) but the diecast models AUTOart was making before this mopped those two clean up.

          And now they have the audacity to lie about it.

  14. GRKSTYL says:

    Conclusion of the Autoart propaganda after being run through the BS detector:

    “AUTOart (buyers) have concluded that a composite body is (NOT) better in almost every respect when producing an affordable model car body that will (Definately NOT)meet the exacting standards of our customers.”

    New Years Resolution 2017 save more money = buy less Autoart!

    Merry Christmas!

  15. Moondawn says:

    This explanation actually makes sense. If you do care to read it then you’ll find that AA does not explain anything about the high prices. It does explain why they have to abandon diecast metal. One or two decades ago, there was no serious competition for AA. But the last few years they have been surpassed by many manufactureres who simply make a better product, quality wise. Now, I’m really tired of the diecast “die hards” who’ll keep claiming that metal results in better quality. It’s just not true and AA explains that. However, moving from metal to composite or any other material does not mean that you automatically make a better product. AA has to learn a thing or two yet. For example, the composite material is transparant, so they have to put in some effort in preventing that from showing. So are the models priced to high? Absolutely. Are they on par with their quality. Nope. But that’s all up to AA; not the materials they use.

  16. Perry says:

    AUTOart, you can post as many essays and comparison pics as you want to justify why you think plastic is better than metal but you’re not fooling anyone. You’ve decreased the cost of production, detail, quality while increasing sell prices. Remember how you first said composite would decrease the cost to us too? BS. If you kept your promise with lower prices while maintaining previous quality and detail, you would still have me as a customer. And is matte black your new go to colour?

  17. Louie LeNoir says:

    I am a die cast purist. Die cast models will still hold up 50 years from now while plastic and resin will warp and become brittle. If it’s not metal, I won’t buy it, period, regardless of how bad I might want that particular subject.

  18. JM says:

    @ Louie LeNoir

    What about the painting on the metal? The typical issues? (more problems by Kyosho painting after years)

  19. JM says:

    AA make the best looking scale models(better as CMC!) When you look for exemple the Porsche 901 direction indicator from CMC and you compare it with AA. Than you see it a much finer!!!

    For me I find always AA makes the finest modelcars!

  20. JM says:

    Can somone translate this to dutch please? Thanks a lot!

  21. Rosa Buonsante says:

    In my humble opinion a closed plastic (composite) model or whatever they may want to call it is very cheap to produce so the can maximise their profits ,that’s the whole idea behind composite, paying $400 for a piece of crap like that is nothing but insanity ,you give a closed plastic model to a child to play with he’ll tell you to keep it ,I don’t mean to offend closed model lovers but that’s the way I see it . I purchased an AutoArt composite model out of curiosity ,exactly AUTOart Lamborghini Centenario quality wise just can’t be compared with an AuoArt made in die-cast

  22. Mike says:

    Abs is a composite… it’s a combination of Acrylonitrile, butadiene and styrene. Not defending autoart.. just saying. I’ll admit I ordered the RWB “natty dread”, was surprised by the lightweight, toylike feel of it. A bit disappointed. I have the matte green AMG GTR and while it has the same feel, it looks great. I recently ordered the lighting blue shelby gt350r. I admit when i look for my favorite cars I cross my fingers it’s not from the composite line. Maybe it does have advantages.. maybe the paint lasts longer or is less likely to chip. Either way they have also slacked off a little on detail in the interior and engine bay departments… so if you plan to put less effort into the tiny details and continue to build cars that feel less solid, even they might actually be stronger, you need to pass the savings along to the people who are paying your bills..US!!!

  23. Chuck Keith says:

    I collect ONLY 1/18th scale models. !/25 was the scale of D-I-Y build back in the day. I don’t want dinky cars,which require picking them up to see the detail! Mixing scale presents weird idea of actual vehicle size. I notice die cast models are going up in price with no improvement in detail, paint, etc. With real heft & strength, moving parts, lost with resin. Without opening doors, steering, suspension–they are just glorified ($$$) Matchbox in my opinion. Perhaps zinc should be omitted (obviously Pb/ lead) from diecast for preservation life. Given manufacturers of die cast metal improve finish, i will buy two of them over one resin with opening doors.

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