SOLIDO S1800502 Volkswagen 1303S GSR 1973
Reviewing the new diecast SOLIDO 1303 SEB models so soon after the resin OttOmobile OT637 Jeans S716 prompts observations about the differences between the two scale modelling formats now vying for collectors attention.
The traditional diecast (metal) models generally offer features such as opening doors and come glazed with injection moulded polystyrene whilst the resin models come with much finer surface detailing, without opening features and thinner glazing materials which often exude a flimsiness but do carry far better detail in, for example, such matters as heated rear window representation.
This does raise a point though in that when the doors on the SOLIDO 1303 are open the effect is so distinctively un-Beetle like with wide hinge gaps that the question has to be asked would not a solid body without opening features be a better proposition? The new 1303’s marks a significant rise in quality when compared with SOLIDO’s well known 1/17th scale split rear window (and contemporary cabrio) Beetle from the 1990’s. Fit of doors and fine detailing is significantly better than those earlier offerings from the company that were, at the time, early contenders in a scale that has since become far more commonly used in the model car world. An overall impression given by these two new models is that quite a lot of research was undertaken by SOLIDO in their preparation which as we shall see has sadly been partially watered down during the process of bringing them into production.
It used to be a common theme with toy manufacturers (and later with more accurate ranges aimed at collectors) that once all the toolings for a vehicle had been set up they would be reused for successive “versions” that were effectively colour changes on a generic base. More recently we have, thanks to major advancements in production techniques, got more used to variations on a theme that include detail changes in addition to simply change of paint colours and use of decals.
There is a slight hint of generalisation, or expediency, with these new 1303’s. We have two versions to hand but have to look also to the yet to be released third version – the formidable and very charismatic Porsche Salzburg rally version to understand the themes of generalisation. The overall proportions of this new issue 1303 model are generally very good – right down to having the correct shape valance panel over the exhaust tail pipes. The base model tooling does however include ventilation slots in the front valance panel portraying the Volkswagen factory option M550 which although is correct of the GSR and Rally is not for the Weltmeister – a detail though that will perhaps only be noticed by particulaly keen eyed VW enthusiasts. There is, also, the reasonable balance of commercial expediency used in bringing forward a series of versions based on one body type. In terms of the grill therefore as a detail in the main body casting the decision to include it was on balance the better choice than not including it.
More significant though is the generalisation in the way the models sit. The stance of the suspension conveys that of the Rally version and whilst somehow not particularly detracting in the case of the Weltmeister looks distinctly uncomfortable on the GSR. This is partly exacerbated by another expediency – that of the wheel tyre combination. Some of the full size ’74 Weltmeister Beetles and all the GSR had 5½Jx15 Lemmerz wheels and low profile Pirelli tyres. The SOLIDO models have a good representation of the Lemmerz wheel but give the impression of being shod with standard, rather than low, profile wall tyres. I accept that at 1/18 these dimensional differences in suspension height, tyre wall depth and wheel width may only be fractions of a millimetre but the “feel” that is conveyed (or not) is as significant element in the overall emotional response that is evoked by the model.
On matters of general detail my final point of constructive criticism concerns the interior. As portrayed in the ’74 Weltmeister it is correct with a good representation of the standard Volkswagen high back seats of the era (optional in Europe, mandatory in North America) and standard four spoke VW steering wheel introduced in the 1972 model year. I shall explain later though why it’s inclusion in the GSR is a disappointment. Both models include a substantial amount of careful finishing detailing bespoke to the versions portrayed so whilst what I have described at commercial expediency in using a common main body casting is perhaps understandable given the amount of other particular attention to correct finishing detailing I am surprised that separate (injection moulded plastic) components were not produced for the front seats, steering wheel and road wheel/tyre combinations specific to each model.
So in turning to the SOLIDO GSR in detail:
SOLIDO S1800502 Volkswagen 1303S GSR 1973
There were numerous GSR toys and model released in the 1970s – and indeed since – many of which were not particularly accurate and relied on the dramatic combination of yellow and black paintwork to pass them off as recognisable. For some time now collectors looking for a good representation of the GSR have sought out the 1/43 Minichamps offering which can regularly be found at selling prices belying the market hunger for it.
So how does this new 1/18 scale offering on the GSR theme fare? First impressions of the SOLIDO renditioning engenders a lot of excitement with its accurate Saturn Yellow/black paintwork and equally accurate representation of all the satin black trim items – even to the point that the fact that the full size GSRs had chrome headlight rims and front indicatory caps has not been overlooked.
Even the Saturn yellow “VW1303S” engine lid badge is faithfully reproduced. A nice, historically interesting, detail is the Wolfsburg registration plate number WOB-VE 82 which turn up on the original press photos of GSR and again in a dramatic, head on all-wheels-off-the-ground photo that has appeared in countless books and magazine articles.
Sadly the very special interior of the GSR is dismissed in favour of reusing the standard Beetle interior from the Weltmeister – something that will disappoint many enthusiasts and collectors.
Given all the attention to other small details differences between the two models and the fact that the interiors are comparatively self contained sub-components this further deepens the negative feelings prompted by the production expediency. The old saying spoiling the ship for a ha’porth of tar springs to mind.
The other significant issue is that of the suspension geometry and wheel/tyre combination already mentioned that results in a distractingly un-GSR stance.
What this particular SEB gives SOLIDO also is the first of a very short series of steps into the opening to a large and surprisingly untapped market. With minor investment in setting up toolings for new component parts to represent the larger front indicators and bumper fitted to North American market Beetles the GSR’s contemporary for the USA and Canada – the Sport Bug – could easily extent SOLIDO’s catalogue.
The Sports Bug was every bit as charismatic as the GSR and in 1/18 scale would, I suspect, be a very quick seller on both sides of the Atlantic on account of it’s reputation. I mentioned earlier a surprisingly untapped market. Given that North America was such a massive sales market for the Beetle and has, proportionally, a significant number of potential customers interested in accurate, high quality, scale model Beetle it is almost incomprehensible that (as far as I am aware) no model exists of a later series North American specification Beetle with it’s very distinctive large front indicator lights and larger bumpers. Something probably due to the fact that scale model Beetle (as distinct from toys) generally originate from Europe and therefore represent European market specification vehicles!
In conclusion a very attractive representation of one of the best known of all the SEBs with accurate attention to the details and paint colour of the original but with detracting erroneous interior and ungainly stance of the suspension and tyre representation. As with the Weltmeister the model feels restrained by it’s die- cast origins which do not allow the fineness of detailing that we have come to see on contemporary resin based scale models. In this respect it is noticeable the GSR does not have the black beading lines that divided body and wing panels that were so well captured on the Ottomobile OT637 Jeans model. Similarly perhaps SOLIDO are looking to the younger and more general collectors market with this model and as such have given them, and some more “serious” Beetle fans an exciting model provided you don’t look at the interior and perhaps give thought to somehow indulging in lowering the front suspension..
SEB Scale Model Overview:
- Overall historical accuracy of the reviewed scale model compared to Volkswagen’s original SEB. 100%
- Emotional appeal of the reviewed scale model. 95%
- Rarity or uniqueness of the reviewed scale model as a SEB subject 40%
- Choice of subject version from the particular Special Edition Beetle Series. 100%
- Overall impression of body shape, proportions and stance of the reviewed scale model. 70%
- Detail accuracy of the reviewed scale model compared to manufacturers original vehicle in terms of representation of components, paint colour and finishing. 65%
SOLIDO S1800502 total score: 78%
Appreciation: My grateful thanks to SOLIDO for making it possible to review this Scale Model for the benefit of SEB enthusiasts worldwide at the earliest possible opportunity after its release onto the market.
Stephen Paul Hardy,
Dorset, England. 06th July 2016
Further reading on this website:
The individual profiles for the 1973 GSR
Retro Speak RS004
Scale Models SMR002