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Diecast Delights:- A 1961 E-Type (And how it all started)

Chris Haining December 22, 2014 Diecast Delights, Nostalgia 6 Comments

Last week we looked at a Plymouth Roadrunner model from about twenty years ago. Today we look at what I imagine is one of the most commonly found 1:18th scale models in the world. Bburago’s evergreen ’61 Jaguar E-Type.

You probably know somebody who owns one of these. It has been a stalwart of the Bburago range since, I believe, the early ’80s. At this time the scope of their large-scale range was a lot more narrow than it is now. In fact, the face of 1:18 scale modelling itself has changed massively in the time that this model has been around. Back in the ’80s Bburago were pretty much the go-to brand for anybody who wanted to go beyond toy cars and onto proper models.  Let’s take a look at what is now a vintage model.

As usual, click the pics to make ’em bigger, and please, being that it’s Christmas, indulge me as I take a trip into the past.

When I was a kid you had to make a specific quest to find a Bburago retailer. I seem to remember there being only one source local to me when I was a kid; Williams and Griffin’s department store on Colchester High Street. Their subterranean toy department was a world of excitement and inspiration, a showroom which satisfied the dreams of everybody from the most meagrely pocket-moneyed to the offspring of the Essex elite. There were action figures, construction sets and outdoor playthings beyond your wildest imagination. There were toy cars, too, what seemed like the Northern Hemisphere’s finest collection of Corgi and Matchbox models, and I would drool over them at every visit.

But in one aisle sat Bburago. Their models started at 1:43 scale, slightly beyond my weekly allowance. Then there were the 1:24’s and things started to get interesting; a model which you had to pick up with two hands. And then, sitting on higher shelves, in impossibly sleek black boxes, there sat the most exciting prospect of all, 1:18th scale. These were models that seemed only scarcely smaller than the cars they were based on. They promised opening doors including the bonnet and the boot. There was detail inside the cabin, on the engine and even underneath the car, and the steering wheel even turned the front wheels. Of course, they were far, far beyond my aspirations back then. These were toys that rich children were given and grown-ups would play with too.  I remember their price-point being £10.99, I would have been given about a fiftieth that amount for sweets at the end of a usual week. Since my owning one seemed such a distant dream, I never even decided which of Bburago’s 1:18s I would have chosen.

Christmas day went extremely well for me in 1987. I had already unwrapped a Lego Technic set with working pneumatics, it had building instructions in the box for making a crane-grab, a bulldozer and countless other wonderful things, together with a rich assortment of gloriously fiddly little components with which I could drive my mother to distraction by leaving all over the living room floor. I had also received the Observer’s Book of Cars and had spent much of the morning digesting it. That afternoon I was looking forward to watching ET with my family, but I still had a few substantial looking presents to unwrap. I reached for one of them, I remember holding it and feeling that one of its sides made a different sound when pressed on than the other five. Instinctively, I recognised its size and proportion and then, when I lifted it up, my heart began to skip.

Right then I was Charlie, a huge fan of Mr Wonka’s chocolate and there was a very real chance that what I was unwrapping would contain a Golden Ticket. My heart was beating double-fast and I had that appalling feeling that you get when you’re about to crest a wave and possibly plunge into disappointment. Then, my fingers broke through the paper and revealed a patch of packaging….in gloss black. Oh, that wonderful black box that in my mind stood for the absolute peak, the summit, the ultimate of everything I could hope for and aspire to. It was here! I would love to go back now and watch myself unwrapping it. The look of joy in my eyes must have been enough to reduce my parents to tears. Appreciating that what I was unwrapping was something special,  I removed the remaining paper with the utmost of respect, carefully peeling back the Sellotape and folding it out of the way. Then, there it was. Unwrapped. In my lap. The very model you see in these pictures.

Out the box a Bburago model comes securely fastened to the expanded polystyrene cradle that houses and protects it. Two long, black bolts reach from below, via an oval plastic stand. When I opened the box, very carefully, and my fingers touched the cold metal for the first time, it was stuck fast so I couldn’t really look at it with the freedom I wanted to. I could, though, open the doors and the boot, but not the bonnet. I could only reach one of the two black bonnet release catches.

And by now I was being pressured to move on to my next present. It had been firmly established that this had been the greatest present ever given to anybody in the history of time, so it was time to move on and look at something else. Something probably infinitely less awesome, but…. you never know.  Actually, I’ll be blown if the next box doesn’t seem to be about the same size and shape. Hey, it weighs about the same, too. No, exactly the same. It isn’t? It couldn’t be? It was.

The stars had aligned and without any conscious communication between them, my parents and my grandparents had managed to buy me exactly the same thing for Christmas. On the Lucky Bastard scale seven-year-old me was registering a solid twenty out of ten. I was the beamingly proud owner of two model Jaguar E-Types. The big ones. Before long my Dad disappeared and returned with a cross-head screwdriver with which to free one of the Jags from their shrouds and let me hold and feel the promised land. Smell it, too. Bburago models have always had a particular smell that still excites my olfactory receptors to this day.

It was just before bed-time on that day that I made the most mature decision of my entire life. More so than signing a mortgage agreement or proposing to my Girlfriend. When my Dad asked me if he would like to exchange their E-Type for a different model, I said no. I asked him to take the un-played with, virgin Bburago and store it for me until I’m old enough to appreciate it. In the mean time I would play with, love and cherish the other one. I’m so glad I made that decision. The next picture shows the one that didn’t go into the attic for nearly three decades:


There’s not, to be honest, a huge amount left of it. By about my eighth 1:18 scale model collected I realised that an unboxed model is essentially a doomed model. With a very few exceptions, every model I have where I didn’t retain the packaging has been smashed, crashed, dropped, scratched or dismantled out of curiosity. They have not survived in any form that could possibly bring any pleasure other than for my own nostalgic sentimentality. Had I not received two E-Types, I probably wouldn’t have learnt that lesson. I learned to keep my models carefully boxed when I was eleven or so years old, and every one I have collected since, though they’ve all been held, fiddled with, scrutinised and rolled along the carpet, are all basically as good as new.

So by now you’ll appreciate why this is one of my very favourite possessions for entirely personal reasons, but what about the quality of the model itself? Well, by the standards of today, in terms of resolution of detail, it’s pretty laughable.

The dials in the interior are cartoon-like printings on paper stickers, which in turn aren’t quite stuck onto the dashboard straight. The door panels are plastic injection mouldings, once piece, with no additional  features. The window winders and door pulls are represented in vague shape only, moulded into the plastic. There is obviously no attempt at simulating carpet or upholstery (which doesn’t actually bother me as most attempts at that are laughable anyway) and the doors themselves pivot on unrealistic dog-leg mechanisms which involve a lot of bare metal intruding into the cockpit.

Oddly, though, the handbrake lever and gearstick are bizarrely accurate. An anomaly.

Outside, it’s nice that the wheels are spoked and spinners are fitted, but it’s a shame that the spokes are so coarse. But, almost perversely, the tyres are marked 7.00×15, the correct size for an E-Type. They’re branded as Dunlop, and the tread pattern looks convincing, too. These are not features you’d expect on a mere toy.

Its when you look at things like that that you realise that it’s really only the age of this model that counts against it. Moulding and die-casting has improved somewhat since the ’80s and amazing things can be done with decals and graphics that couldn’t have been envisaged back then. This model is held back from absolute excellence only by the constraints of what was possible back then without creating a model which couldn’t be afforded by anybody, let alone extremely lucky kids.

The engine is formed from one block of chrome-plated plastic, not several differently (and correctly) coloured pieces as would be the case on a new release today. But the form of the engine itself is accurate. Though there are no leads, the spark-plug spacing, with cyl’s 2,3 4 and s5 being closer together, is correct. The manifolds are basically right. You can see three SU carburettors sitting near a correctly shaped air-filter housing. It’s all there.

The list of criticisms of this model run as follows: Paucity of interior detail, over-simplification of engine-bay, unrealistic hinges, huge areas of exposed metal which escaped the painting process, cheesy-looking chrome, a really strange looking orange material used to produce the front sidelights and tail-lamps (actually, this was a common criticism of a great many Bburago models of the ’80s). Oh, and why, if this is a ’61 car, does it wear a ’67 (E-Registration) license plate? You see, it’s good to get this negativity out of the way because the rest of it is all good.

As a result of the E-Type being one of the most iconic and immortal shapes of the 20th century, this is an absolutely beautiful model. Though absolute detail isn’t of the highest fidelity, this model still, overall, forms an excellent depiction of the original. The shape is, as far as I’m concerned, perfectly captured. Even the way it sits on its wheels. This model is how I would want my own E-Type to look.

Bburago still produce an E-Type, in both this drophead form and in a fixed-head coupé, but not, as far as I can see, in this colour. They are available readily second hand on eBay, with prices from a tenner postage heading upwards depending on the ambition or delusion of the seller.

Of course, today there are other companies beside Bburago who will sell you a 1:18 E-Type. If you’re willing to spend several times as much you can buy from Auto-Art, but trawling through the net will reveal that people have done wonderful things to their trusty Bburagos to add depth to the rock-solid foundation that the model gave them.

I can’t possibly say whether a Bburago 1;18 scale ’61 Jaguar E-Type can possibly give you the degree of satisfaction that mine has, and by the same token I can’t allow myself to give a it a rating which isn’t unnaturally weighted by my own emotions (I personally give this model a million percent score).

What I can do is urge you, if you haven’t already finished your Christmas shopping, to find something for the child in your life that they will love just as much in thirty years time as they do this week. Some things are transient, none are permanent, but it is possible that your child will latch on to what you have bought them and it will influence them right the way through their life. Choose wisely.

I believe that, without having been able to hold, manipulate and play with this model from an early age, I might not have built my appreciation for what this shape meant. What cars were all about. Why they all do different things and appeal in different ways. Truth is it didn’t even need to be an E-Type, it could probably have been any big model car. But it to have been a nice car, and an inspiring one, was essential. Something that piqued my interest. Something tangible that I could, in some way, relate to and which would later become a part of who I am.

Happy Christmas.

(All images property Chris Haining / Redusernab 2014. Thanks Mum, Dad, Nanny Peg and Poppa)


  • nanoop

    Ooooh, I think you got one of MY first 1:18 cars there – just go and check the number plate, it's identical!

    Honestly, my first was a black Mercedes 300SL, and I do indeed remember the oily smell of the models, too.
    At some point in the 80ies there was a rage about Bburago's F40 model, which I never understood: thanks to total coincidence and ignorance, I just bought one, not knowing that the original car was a supercar, the model was rare and brand new – 12yo me just liked the edgy look and bought one of the two that just came in the days before.

  • Van_Sarockin

    Strangely, and most inaccurately, those parts which are not oily, are also not rusty.

  • smokyburnout

    I got a Bburago E-Type for Christmas once! A coupe with nearly the same license plate. It was last year, actually. From this website's Ninja Claus. I've totally definitely already bought something equally awesome as part of my gift this year

  • That was a great read. I felt exactly the same when I received a 1:18 scale Bburago Ferrari F40 when I was 9. I still have it, and it's in okay shape, but some of the brittle plastic suspension pieces have broken.

  • My first 1:18 model was a McLaren F1, I believe in the early 90s. I eventually acquired some 30-40 of them and I kept all the packaging. I have one or two that were hand me downs that do not have boxes.

    They were on display for many years on shelves in our living room. Shortly after we bought our house, though, my patient wife thought that perhaps they should be boxed up and put away. The thought was they would come out again when the basement was finished. That happened in '09 but they still sit, boxed up, under the basement stairs.

    The only one on display now is the '60 T'bird convertible on my desk at work. That one comes from two models bought by my wife for Christmas, a white one with a red interior and a black one with a tan interior. I carefully disassembled both to swap the interiors so I'd have one to match my own car – black with red. I sold the other, white with tan, to a fellow owner online.

    I never got this Jag, though it was likely on my ever growing wish list.

  • Rover_1

    To get an accurate E-Type you just need to see AutoArt.

    For one of their 1:18 ones.

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