A good die-cast car will look exactly the same as the original model, according to Omar Faruq Tipu, who can say this with some authority because he has more than 100 scale cars in his collection – and is very particular about the features of each one.
But even though his cars are not 200-miles-an-hour autobahn missiles or multimillion-dollar restorations of a version from Mercedes or Ford, he is demanding about the quality of their construction and the accuracy of their details.
"The scale car's engine, steering, seatbelts, wipers, grill, bonnet, doors and door handles will look the same as the real one," Tipu noted.
"Those are not toys, neither are they replicas. They are called scales due to their size," Tipu said.
He explained that the scale of a die-cast vehicle is an indication of its size relative to the actual car that it is modelled after. This means that a 1/24 scale die-cast toy car is one 24th the size of the actual car.
The collector said most of his cars are 1/18 scale – one 18th the size of the actual car.
Scale model companies have to obtain permission from the original car manufacturers, such as Mercedes, Ford or Fiat, for a fee. They must be licensed firms and must mention how many scale models of which model will be made.
"And cars with history and fame also fascinate me," he gave a small grin, as his collection includes Elvis Presley's 1968 Cadillac Eldorado, Eric Clapton's Ferrari 250 GT and Eleanor – the customised 1971 Ford Mustang Sportsroof featured in the 1974 film Gone in 60 Seconds.
Die-cast model manufacturers such as Maisto, Wiley, Hot Wheels Elite, Bburago and Auto Art are some of the scale-makers. Cars made by Maisto or Bburago are comparatively less expensive – Tk4,000-Tk5,000 per piece. However, models manufactured by CMC can cost several lakhs.
Apart from the cost, some of the models are very rare.
For example, Tipu said only five scales of Silver Arrow – America's first futuristic concept car – were made by a Japanese company. Three of the cars were destroyed in World War II and the remaining two are now owned by two American collectors.
Following a running passion in the analog time
It was before the 1971 War of Liberation. Tipu was a third grader at Narinda School in old Dhaka.
One day on his way back from school, he saw a red hooded car near the Narinda police station. A picture of a galloping horse was painted on the car. Child Tipu described the car to his elder brother after returning home.
After a hectic search of two weeks, the brother told Tipu that it could be a 1965 Ford Mustang. He was told that mustang is an American feral horse which is typically small and light.
Subsequently, Tipu came to know that the car belonged to the family of Humayun Saheb, the owner of the famous old Dhaka residence Rose Garden.
Tipu said his interest in cars developed in his childhood like other children.
In 1975 during the Eid holidays, Tipu was visiting his aunt in Dhanmondi. There was a shop named "Sagar Sambhar" behind Almas Super Shop. Along with books, toy cars were available at the shop.
There Tipu found a toy box with six vintage cars – some are made by Ford, some by Peugeot or Austin. Each car was priced at Tk35. Tipu said he had money to buy only three cars.
"Uncle, I am paying you for three cars. I will come after a month and pay for the rest. Please do not sell them to anyone in the meantime," he told the shopkeeper.
After Eid, he went to the shop with Tk12 that he had got as Eidi. He gave it to the shopkeeper and said he would give more in the next month.
"You had better take all the cars now and come later once you have the money," the shopkeeper insisted.
During the primary stage of the collection, he got a scale of Lamborghini – bought from Thailand – as a gift. In the 2000s, Tipu used to go to a shop named Et Cetera near Gulshan Shooting Club and other toy shops at Gulshan DCC Market.
Scale cars – mostly Mercedes, Ferrari or Lamborghini – were available at the DCC Market, but there was not too much variety as there was no importer of such cars. The models were carried with luggage from neighbouring India.
Models at Et Cetera were better, but were comparatively costlier.
In the beginning, Tipu said he was interested in sports cars or supercars. But after watching the movie Transformers, he started to feel more for those models. However, his interest in sedan or family cars remained as before.
He made a cupboard for his collection. The collector said he now gets more cars as gifts than he buys. His friends staying abroad bring him the gifts when they visit home. Relatives also gift him cars or planes on his birthdays.
"Now there is a lot of news on the Internet. Collectors across the globe exchange information through social media groups. There is also a Facebook group in our country called 'Scale Model Collectors of Bangladesh'," Tipu said.
He said he is now actively connected to the group and heavily relies on it for information about new cars.
"But at the very beginning, I mean in the 2000s, you would have to gather information, browse the shops and build your collection on your own," he recalled.
An addiction with no comeback
A glimpse of Tipu's collection would show 1954 Packard Executive Sedan – featured in the film Godfather in 1972.
Then the Mercedes-Benz 500 – whose nickname is Maharaja as the original car was custom built for a king in British-ruled India – would peep from the cupboard.
The collection includes Mercedes CLK GTR, whose doors look like a butterfly after opening.
Then comes the Porsche 550A Spyder. The series was first introduced in 1953, as Hollywood icon and racing driver James Dean bought one of the first lot of 90 Spyders.
Fiat 600, available on Dhaka roads in 1980s and 1990s and often referred to as "posh car for the poor", also adorns Tipu's collection. Tipu has a 1948 Chevrolet Fleetmaster. Its doors and panels were made of wood.
"It feels like there is no end to your collection," Tipu said. "This is an addiction that has no comeback, no end. At this retired stage of life, I have more time to spend with the cars."
"Does it sound crazy," asked the collector, adding, "More cars are coming. Come to see those once you get time."