Smallest of the small
Jona Schellekens takes a calculated look at how ‘bubble cars’ have been scaled down yet further by our toy and model manufacturers…
The 1950s saw the introduction of a number of micro cars that became known as 'bubble cars' because of their rounded forms and curved-glass windows. Their attraction lay in their low price and low fuel consumption – and in the fact that their owners didn’t have to pay the full car tax on them. There is no universally accepted definition of a bubble car, but in this article I will only be considering toys and models based on the cars whose overall length doesn’t exceed 2.90m or whose engine volume is less than 400cc. I shall begin with the two most iconic bubble cars...
The scale of the Quiralu No. 16 Messerschmitt KR200 is 1:35. Image courtesy of Vectis Auctions.
In 1953, the Messerschmitt KR175 arrived, the creation of a German aeronautical engineer. The links with aircraft were strong, the vehicle itself looking somewhat like the cockpit of an airplane on wheels. Entrance was by lifting the entire roof. The teardropshaped Messerschmitt had two wheels at the front and one at the rear and its small bodyshell featured streamlined bulges at the front and over the two front wheels. The KR200 replaced the KR175 in 1955. The wheel cutouts in the front fenders are the most notable change to the bodywork.
In 1955, the German firm Siku released its V series of plastic miniature cars in the standard scale of 1:60. The series included a Messerschmitt KR175 in its first year and my computations indicate that the scale is accurate. In the same year, the French firm Quiralu started making die-cast model cars. Three years later, in 1958, it released three bubble cars, including a Messerschmitt KR200.
My estimate for its scale is 1:35 (MC Xmas 2013). This appears to have been the nominal scale of all three models. To the best of my knowledge there are no contemporary O scale Messerschmitt models. In the 1980s, though, Gama released a series of three bubble cars in the scale of 1:43. These were marketed as “robust toys in collectors’ quality” (my translation). I can recommend the second model in the series, the No. 51007 Messerschmitt KR200. Even though it was marketed as a collectors’ model, it features an opening canopy.
Read the full article in Model Collector August 2017
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