Published in 06/22/20
A partwork (pw) is a written publication released as a series of planned magazine-like issues over a period of time. Nowadays a pw commonly comes with a collectible or parts of a model, so that you can complete the model at the end of the series. In fact, some (big!) editorial houses like De Agostini and Del Prado specialize in pw series. They offer anything from Star Wars figures to chess collections to doll houses. And since there’s a lot of people that like cars, they also offer diecast model cars, usually in 1:43.
As a rule, the models that come with the magazines are very basic with a crude detail level. These series are for the general population or casual collector, so the accompanying models are very cheap. That being so, rare are the pw models that are half decent. Paint job is crude, moldings are far from crisp and a lot of details are molded on. On the flip side, it’s common to find a few models that the high-end brands don’t offer. Partwork models are consistently bad, so the “serious collector” dismiss them as rubbish. Well, though I may be guilty of that, I have to say that some are quite nice. If you factor in price, a few are actually good buys.
Partwork series are always showing up, all over the world. But most of the time nobody pays much attention because of the bad quality models. However, in early 2019 (late 2018?) some rumors surfaced that Spark (!) would release a pw series. More precisely, Hachette, another editor specialized in partworks, would release a new Le Mans series with models from Spark. And that was a big deal, since Spark is basically the benchmark for quality models. Would we get Spark-good models for cheap? Like me, many collectors got excited about that prospect. This series, called “24 Hours of Le Mans Cars Collection”, would come out in Japan, so it wouldn’t be a world-wide release. With that, availability would certainly be scarce.
And as expected, in the beginning models were hard to come by. In mid 2019 the models started to show up on eBay Japan, and at a premium price. Slowly though, with better availability, they became easier to find, and by the end of the year prices came down. Like everyone else I was really excited about this, specially because some of the models in the series were nowadays almost impossible to find in 1:43. AND just as nice, prices were very decent. Fantastic! But what about quality?
Being succinct, one word: partwork. You can’t escape that fact, so quality, like with all pw models, is a hit or miss. And don’t forget, all models are diecast and not resin. Some models of the series are VERY nice, but some are quite poor. In fact, on online forums there is now a dispute about who makes them, though you can see the Spark logo on the packaging. From the models that I have, I would say that the models “use Spark parts”. I never (ever!) saw a pw with photo-etched windshield wipers or with delicate taillights. Nonetheless, the body molds are kind of crude, in true pw fashion. So I think somebody else is doing the diecast parts (body) while Spark details the model with add-ons.
Of the four that I have, I’m very happy with them. Take the original Pantera, for instance. It’s REALLY rare nowadays, so even though my pw is not perfect, it’s very good and easily available. On the other hand the R390 is easily found, but from Ixo, and my pw is the better model. The same goes for the #76 Vette, where the Spark’s pw is a LOT better than Altaya’s version. However, Spark’s resin version is quite better than the partwork, but really hard to find. All in all there are 22 models in the series. Of these, 20 are “regular” models while two (1937 Bugatti 57G and 2017 Porsche 919 #1) are “gifts”. I think these gifts were for those who subscribed to the magazine series, but I’m just guessing.
Though my four are quite good, other models of the series are not. For instance, Hachette also offers the 1976 BMW 3.5 CSL #42. It’s a car I would love to have, but the wheels are terrible. And on their 1995 winning McLaren F1 #59, they used the wrong wing. Other models of the series are like that too, where you will have to compromise some quality for price. The problem is how much you will have to compromise. In some cases, even though the price is cheap, the model is not worth it in my opinion.
Bottom line, as a rule Spark’s original resin release will always be better than the partwork version. HOWEVER, the resin models are (very) hard to come buy and usually (very) expensive. Even so, in some cases the pw model is a pretty good buy. Since overall price × quality varies from model to model in the pw series, therefore you need to choose wisely. Just like with every partwork out there, you’ll have to be critical of what you buy. So, depending on the model it’s okay for the price, but sometimes not. Caveat emptor.
Recently I got a couple more models from Hachette’s partwork series, the 2017 Aston and the 1969 GT40 winner. The GT40 was an original release, but to the best of my knowledge, the Vantage is a more recent offering. Or at least, I never saw the Aston originally listed as part of the series. Nevertheless, both came in the habitual flimsy plastic blister. And of course, with those darn TA screws holding the model to the plinth. From my reviews, however, you will see I was NOT very happy with neither of them. Especially with the GT40…😣
Both share the same basic flaw, which is “dulled-out” body details. That is not because they have diecast (metal) bodies. In general terms, a model with a resin body has sharper details. Nonetheless, a good diecast model, like from Minichamps or Ixo, can have crispier details. Besides, many features are molded on the body, and are not separate pieces attached to the body. On the GT40, for instance, the grill on the rear deck is solid, and not perforated like on Spark’s 1969 winner. Moreover, on the Aston, the base paint is poor and the tampo printing is not correctly aligned. Doing the math, I am not happy with them 😒. Even though they’re not expensive. I am especially grieved by the Ford because it is an overall winner. Therefore, though the Spark resin version is hard to find (and EXPENSIVE), I am seriously considering an upgrade.
Back in June of 2020, I had a favorable view of the series as a whole. Some very good models, some bad, and most, decent. In general terms, I considered the series pretty okay. Today with a bigger sample, conversely, I changed my verdict. Now I would say that most of the series’ models are poor and a select few are nice. So if you are interested in one of the models from the series, try to see good pictures of it beforehand. Unfortunately, there’s a good chance that the model in question will not be a nice one 😕.