Matching numbers

29 March 2023
As a phrase, “matching numbers” has, in automotive enthusiasts’ circles, become increasingly significant when it comes to authentication.
Matching numbers Images

Seemingly, since time immemorial, diecast model manufacturers have been well-practised at the art of expediency when maximising the potential of a body casting. And why not for logical and economic commercial reasons - after all, it generally benefits us with expanding collections of liveries or type variations.

There are, of course, the inextricably-linked issues of resulting authenticity (or otherwise) that frequently arise from such expediency. What I wonder are the points at which dubious authenticity crosses the line in our minds? Without any inferred criticism or negativity implied, it occurred to me that Minichamps body casting for its long running 1/43 Porsche 911 makes a fascinating case study.

Detail or overall effect?

In the context then, of a mass-produced body casting, is the impact and appeal of a model, that utilises it substantially, founded in the original tooling (and ensuing casting) or the way it is finished and presented? Is the devil in the foundation of the model or in its outward attractiveness? Is it a matter of technical or artistic attributes that have the final sway in or decision to purchase (or not).

Taking the Minichamps early series 911 body casting as a case study, it is labelled as representing the first series production version from 1964 (here and throughout I refer to the Porsche model year of August through to the following July rather than calendar years). This body style originated as the O-serie, upgraded to the A-serie for 1968 and successively developed to culminate in the F-serie for 1973, before being replaced by the totally re-engineered G-serie for 1974. Despite many, many modifications and changes, the O to F-serie models looked outwardly very similar unless you are a deeply interested Porsche fan that can spot a long wheelbase from a short one at a mile away. Minichamps have capitalised on this accordingly.

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Badges, wheels and paint codes

Even if the (generally) minor successive annual changes in the body don’t necessarily catch my eye, what do are some of the more outwardly version-denoting attributes. In the context of the base model, the original 901 Coupé, that quickly became the 911, was initially a single model range car with six-cylinder, rear-mounted, air-cooled engine. The Coupé was joined in 1965 by the Targa version. Setting aside Porsche’s brief diversification into the four cylinder 912, by 1967 the line-up comprised of the 110bhp ’T’ (Touring), 130bhp ‘L’ (Lux), 140bhp ‘E’ with its electronic fuel injection and the 170 bhp ‘S’. The latter bringing with it the brand new Porsche-Fuchs forged alloy wheels. This latter version, of course, has become the ubiquitous image of the early 911 history and perhaps unfairly overshadows all the other versions when it comes to scale models. The year 1967 also saw the introduction of the ‘Sportomatic’ transmission and a noticeable revision to rear badging that placed the type number and version designation centrally on the engine lid, below the air intake grill.

From the early 356 days onwards, Porsche traditionally offered two brochure paint ranges - the ‘standard’ and ‘special’ colours. For 1965, and the new 911 model, these were both limited and conservative in terms of available colours. By 1967 choice had widened and started to become more vibrant - notably with the introduction of bright ‘signal’ colours into the ‘special’ palette. Although originally introduced in plain satin finish, the Porsche-Fuchs wheels were fairly quickly upgraded to include the black background accenting, which, when combined with the ‘signal’ paint colours and the ‘S’package, consolidated one of the most popular images of Porsche for eternity.

Going Dutch

The 1/43 Minichamps 911 models started modestly. Labelled as a 1964 Coupé and 1965 Targa respectively, the body casting represents the original O-serie carrying the offset ‘911’ engine lid badge and shod with chrome-trimmed standard wheels. Later releasing it as a 911S, with satin aluminium/black Fuchs wheels, Minichamps ignored the other versions until commissioned by Porsche Classic Center, Heteren in Gelderland, the Netherlands to produce a very attractive, well-presented limited edition, four model boxed set. Launched at the 2015 Nürnberg Toyfair, yet amazingly still with stock available from the dealership, the set is notable not only for its presentation, but the fact that it was intended to authentically represent the, until then, unmodelled 911L, T and E in addition to the S in authentic paint colours all as explained in the lavish booklet included with the set. Each model even carries revised engine lid script according to version represented.

Matching numbers

In my experience, Minichamps has a track record of producing its normal catalogue models in authentic factory paint shades, but often for the wrong model year. And so here comes the crunch. When it comes to the 1/43 911, there are some badly mismatching numbers in terms of the year represented against paint colour and wheel style used.

If we ignore the fact that the base casting is generally labelled as a 1964 911 body, the Dutch set, numbered 433 001968 (911 pcs), at least matches type designation, paint colour, wheel style and year correctly: 1967 ‘L’ in Buschgrün 6830 (1966-73) and three from 1968 ‘T’ in Ossiblau 6803 (1968-69), ‘E’ with ‘Sportomatic’ in Blutorange/Tangerine 6809 (1966-73), ‘S’ in Bahamagelb 6805 (1966-70). As does the normal series 430 067127 (1,200 pcs) - “1964” in Irischgrün 6406 (1964 -77) with standard chromed wheels and pre ’67 badging.

Not so authentic though are many of Minichamps other standard releases where the paint colour, and wheel styles, don’t match the labelled 1964 body. Should they be assumed to represent a version from when the paint colour was valid?

For example:
• 430 067132 (2,352 pcs) - 1964 Signalorange 116 (1970 -75) with pre ’67 badging.
• 943 067123 (500 pcs) - 1964 Indischrot / Guards Red 027 (1974 - 77) with post ’67 ‘S’ badging and post ’68/’69 Fuchs wheels.
• and finally, the latest Maxichamps reissue of the body casting as 940 067120 - 1964 in an orange that is far from anything offered in the early Porsche paint colour range yet has 1967/68 version Fuchs wheels and post ’67 ‘S’ badging. Presumably representing a 1967 911S?

Does it really matter? Well, I can happily accept the expediency at this scale of using the 1964 O-serie body to masquerade right through to an F-serie of 1973, but when it comes to the more visually impacting aspects then, for me, yes it does. The numbers - labelled year, paint codes and badges - all need to be matching.