• Car Lover Christmas Gift Idea: Scale Model Cars

    Got a family member or loved one who is a model car junkie? Ciprian gives you the pre-holiday rundown on which model car companies to check out.

It seems like only yesterday we took our hats off for the brand-new Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Corvette Z06 at the Detroit Auto Show. Either 2014 passed in the blink of an eye or we had so much fun talking about the newest cars of the auto industry that we lost track of time. All told, it’s that time of year again when we start decorating our houses and trees as we get ready for Christmas. A holiday about spending time with family and friends, but also a time that requires a long trip to the gift shop or several hours spent on the Internet for the perfect gifts.

We’ve already provided you with a list of 10 great gift ideas to ask for or use in your hunt for the ideal Christmas present, but we’re now narrowing it down to the "[insert car name here] that you can afford" category. No, we’re not talking about the most enticing car offers you can find around Christmas time, but a way you can get yourself — or someone else — that supercar you’ve always dreamed about with a very small investment. Welcome to the world of scale model cars!

Click past the jump to read more about scale model car gifts.

Why Buy Scale Model Cars as a Christmas Gift?

Car Lover Christmas Gift Idea: Scale Model Cars Products
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Why buy a model car a scale model car as a Christmas gift with so many options out there? Well, that’s fairly simple. Every gearhead that loves cars will definitely enjoy a miniature version of the vehicle he either owns, would like to own or simply enjoys staring at its gorgeous design. Sure, a model car isn’t actually useful when compared to car cleaning kits, racing tickets or a set of tools for the garage, but it’s a great way for car nuts to decorate their office or man cave. Not to mention that the model car industry has evolved to the extent some products are as exquisite as any other luxury articles, offering detailed views of the real vehicle’s internals. If you’re willing to spend at least $300 that is.

What’s more, some models can replace many memorabilia items with so many autographed miniatures on offer nowadays. Lastly, the options are endless more or less, with manufacturers selling models that represent nearly every important vehicle built since the early 1900s, in all shapes and sizes and with prices for every pocket.

What to Buy?

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You can always get a random model car. Most gearheads will appreciate that it’s quite accurate and that it makes an impact sitting on the office desk. However, if you’re looking to impress I would suggest you purchase an item that fits the recipients taste in cars. Don’t worry, model car manufacturers have anything from vintage to modern cars, racers, supercars, as well as hybrids or replicas depicting cars as common as the Volkswagen Golf in store. Of course, you may find yourself restricted to certain models if you’re on a tight budget, but the market is there to provide.

Budget Models

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Don’t worry if you’re on a tight budget, there’s plenty of models to choose from. If the recipient is just crazy about the latest sports cars, the hottest thing you can buy is Bburago’s new replica of the Lamborghini Huracan LP610-4. It comes in 1:18 scale, meaning it’s nearly 10 inches long, and has all sorts of opening parts and neat features to gaze upon. The model features both metal and plastic parts and it’s quite a piece for $55. Although Bburago has a reputation for making cheap-looking models, it seems quality has picked up lately, and the Huracan looks nicely done. Not to mention it’s the only option on the market as on December 2014.

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If the recipient is into racing and doesn’t have that much space at its disposal, the folks over at Ixo Models have a wide range of WRC, Formula One and endurance models in 1:43 scale (about four inches long) you can choose from. The offer includes just about any Ferrari F1 racers ever built, as well as a host of vintage and modern Le Mans racers. Unfortunately you can’t buy the Porsche 919 Hybrid just yet, but there’s a wide selection of Audi R18 models. Ixo’s lineup of rally cars is impressive as well, including anything from the Lancia Stratos, to various Imprezas and recent Citroen models. If you’re looking for McLaren F1s, Corvette C6.Rs or various iterations of the Le Mans-winning Ford GT40, Ixo is the manufacturer to go with as well. Pricing varies between $12 and $35 depending on models and stores.

Premium Products

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This is where things become a lot more interesting, as premium manufacturers not only offer incredibly detailed products, but also a wider selection of models, including replicas of rare real-life cars. But more details and state-of-the-art accuracy don’t come cheap, so you must be prepared to spend between $60 and $500 for a replica. Let’s start with the small 1:43 stuff, as this is where the variety is overwhelming, with thousands of models to choose from.

While hypercars such as the LaFerrari, the McLaren P1 and the Porsche 918 are already sold out, their respective miniatures are still up for grabs. For instance, you can choose from a wide selection of P1s from True Scale Miniatures, including the camouflaged test car, the Geneva Motor Show launch car or the production version that made 375 customers very happy. All you need is up to $82 and a wrapper. For 1:43 scale LaFerrari miniatures you’ll need to check out Hot Wheels’ Elite division, which sells it in three colors for about $60. If you’d rather have the Porsche 918 Spyder, Spark Models is the manufacturer you should be looking for. Its 1:43 models retail from around $70. If you want to put a smile on a person’s face that’s into vintage stuff, NEO Scale Models is happy to help. Whether you need a classic Bentley, an old boxy Volvo or just about any 1970s Lincoln, you can have it for $80. NEO’s roster also includes some muscle cars and vintage pickup trucks for the same price.

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As far as race cars go, Spark has you covered. Its catalog features an enormous amount of Formula One cars, mostly from the 1960s and 1970s, as well as modern-day DTM and endurance racers. They also retail countless Porsche models, including the iconic 935, 956 and 911, as well as numerous Can-Am machines. Nothing says "I like greasy, 800-horsepower big-block V-8 engines" better than an orange McLaren M8B on your desk.

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Moving over to the bigger 1:18 model, options are equally tempting, but bigger also means a lot more expensive. A 1:18 LaFerrari built by BBR, for instance, will set you back around $400. These models are made from resin and have no opening parts, but their eye-watering stickers are justified by their limited numbers. BBR makes only 149 examples in each color, which means these models are quite rare and will increase in value over time. And I’m not kidding, I’ve seen $200 models sell for more than $1,000 five years since they went out of stock!

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For about the same amount, however, there are a number of highly detailed models you can buy from CMC (Classic Model Cars), a German manufacturer known for the huge amount of details it puts into its miniatures. The only downside is that CMC makes only classic vehicles, but if exquisite detail is what you’re looking for, you can’t go wrong with its products. The company’s most recent model is a replica of the 1938 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Coupe. The model is built from more than 2,000 parts and the details are downright amazing. It has a fine, perforated mesh as a front grille, leather straps to keep the long hood in place, realistic door hinges, perfectly scaled-down wheel spokes and as many movable parts as the real car, including the fuel cap and the front vent glass.

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The seats and the door panels are wrapped in real leather (!), while the floor features miniature mats. The engine compartment is equally impressive, with each and every component of that gorgeous 2.9-liter, straight-eight powerplant being crafted as separate parts. Rounding off this masterpiece is a functional suspension system. I guarantee it doesn’t get any better than this, and although this Alfa Romeo will set you back $471 at CMC USA or $499.99 at Replicarz, it’s arguably the most impressive miniature for the buck you can buy as a Christmas gift.

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The miniatures listed above are just a few examples of what you can purchase as a Christmas gift. The offer is way to broad for us to cover on these pages, so feel free to scour the manufacturers’ official website and their affiliated online stores for a lot more models. Be careful though, model car collecting is as addictive as any other hobby. All it takes is two or three miniatures and you or the friend you’ll be giving a nicely wrapped model car might find yourselves in need of a bigger house sooner than you think!

Ciprian Florea
Senior Editor and Supercar Expert - ciprian@topspeed.com
Ciprian's passion for everything with four wheels (and more) started back when he was just a little boy, and the Lamborghini Countach was still the coolest car poster you could hang on your wall. Ciprian's career as a journalist began long before earning a Bachelor's degree, but it was only after graduating that his love for cars became a profession.  Read More
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