How to display your diecast models

23 January 2024
Helping you enhance your diecast collection with dioramas
How to display your diecast models Images

At about the same time in my life that I was introduced to the delights of diecast, on my third birthday in 1967, a rival for my attentions came onto the scene thanks mainly to the influence of my paternal grandfather, and it had rails. As a result, my two hobbies grew together and a natural result of this was that when my diecast collecting experienced somewhat of a resurgence a decade or so ago, I wanted to do more than just line them up side by side to admire them, displaying them in more of a railway layout scenario. Another influence inherited from my grandfather, an architect by trade in his day, has given me a fascination for building in miniature, either in kit form or built from scratch. All this is a slightly long-winded way of introducing this new series and I hope that along the way it will offer some inspiration to do something a little different to show off a part, or parts, of your treasured collection.

The great thing about this concept is that it can be applied to any area of the hobby, whether you collect a specific subject or, like me, have a wider spectrum of interest covering many types of transport, both new and old. The only limitation really is the amount of space available and as the shelving in my garage is gradually filling up as dioramas are added and rotated for display in the house, I’m beginning to wonder if I should actually open up a small museum!

Your diorama could take the form of something as simple as an old plastic toy garage, giving a simple yet pleasing extra dimension, right up to a fully detailed and scenically landscaped diorama with lighting. So please allow me to begin this series with a brief tour of just a handful of the ideas I have lined up for the coming instalments. They range from the aforementioned old plastic toy garage, through a selection of several ready-made kits currently available – some pre-printed and pre-cut, some pre-printed and needing cutting out, and some good old style plastic kits that require assembly and painting – finishing with a range of my scratchbuilt projects that will hopefully be able to be offered as a free downloadable kit.

So then, I start with that simple garage shown here with two 1/36 scale Corgi Minis. I had one of these as a very young boy and picked up a boxed version for just a few pounds about three years ago. Strangely neither the garage nor the box gives a clue as to the manufacturer or distributor on mine but a little online research led me to uncover the maker as Segic in the 1970s. Originally manufactured in the fifties by Coral Plastics, a variant branded as Mettoy appeared a few years later with corrugated sliding doors and all versions appear to have been sold in a variety of two- or three-tone colourways. More importantly, these seem to still be fairly easy to find for pocket money prices and those that have survived seem to have done so in good condition. A cheap way to start customising the display of any 1/36 scale diecasts and although this is not a particularly popular scale these days, there are plenty of vintage offerings around the correct size. Another little favourite of mine is the Corgi Juniors four-bay offering, pictured with four of my favourite Matchbox Superfasts. Again this is still fairly readily available for small money although finding one with all four doors intact/working and without cracks to the roof windows is getting a little bit harder.

Sticking with cars, the old OO gauge Kitmaster service station, more recently produced and repackaged by Dapol in Wales, will provide an excellent little backdrop for the Oxford Diecast RAC breakdown truck with Austin 1300 load and the fabulous Pocketbond Classix Triumph Herald Estate with opening bonnet. The huge array of OO gauge model railway accessories made over many decades offer a vast array of possibilities for the 1/76 scale market and we’ll explore more of these ideas in a later instalment of the series.

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The same can be said for 1/76 scale buses, trucks, emergency vehicles and trams of course and three alternatives chosen for this preview are the Corgi (made by Metcalfe) Southdown Bus Depot (ready-printed and pre-cut for assembly) and two of the excellent value offerings – a London Transport bus depot and a London Fire Brigade fire station - from Kingsway Models (ready-printed for cutting out and assembly) – Kingsway’s products really are superbly accurate replications of real buildings to add an extra level of realism to your displays. Both the Corgi and Kingsway kits only require a few tools and fairly basic skills to complete, as do similar offerings from Metcalfe and Superquick to name just a couple more – both of these two companies offer an impressive array of OO gauge kits suitable for our 1/76 scale purposes here; Kingsway offer some of its releases in 1/43 scale too.

Aviation, both vintage and modern, offers so many opportunities at several scales too. Again, thanks to railway accessories, there are many, many years of releases that can be brought into play for our needs. N gauge at 1/148 scale is close enough for the huge range of 1/144 diecast available, OO gauge at 1/76 is close enough for 1/72 and O gauge at 1/43 is pretty good for the larger 1/48 offerings such as Corgi’s World War One releases and Hobby Master’s larger aircraft. More recent smaller models at 1/200 and 1/400 scales are well served by a great range of airport accessories, including terminals, vehicles, runways and aprons by Gemini Jets. Illustrated here are a 1/400 scale Gemini Jets airport terminal set with a trio of suitable scale Airbus A380s and vehicle accessory set, and a 1/76 scale Superquick office and hangar adapted, with custom BEA graphics, from one of the kits featured in Diecast Collector recently as a reader offer suits both the Oxford Diecast 1/72 scale BEA Dragon Rapide and the 1/76 scale Commer Commando BEA crew bus, also by Oxford. My favourite though is the Corgi Metcalfe 1/144 scale hangar that will feature later in the series.

This area also offers me some of my most enjoyable diorama making sessions, as can be seen with the vintage airfield example, featuring an Oxford Diecast 1/72 scale Gloster Gladiator MkII from the Battle of Britain anniversary set, and Oxford Diecast 1/76 scale Bedford OX Queen Mary RAF recovery trailer and David Brown tractor. Using a homemade baseboard (MDF base and backboards with pine strengthening battens), this has been adorned with Busch grass matting, Peco scenic backgrounds and greenery, and homemade fencing. To actually add all the above once the baseboard was made took little more than an hour, demonstrating that this needn’t be a time consuming process.

One final area of great personal interest is motorsport. This also offers some great display opportunities of varying complexity, from the simplest track corner with coloured kerbing to show off a single vehicle (quite a few of the modern partworks are coming with this as a standard display base) to a comprehensive pits layout with figures and lighting – this is one I am currently working on for inclusion towards the end of the series (it’s proving to be quite an intense piece of work!). Another alternative is a very simple but effective stretch of the banking at the Daytona International Speedway.

So to continue this series, next time I will focus a lot more closely on buses, particularly depots and termini, and demonstrate some really easy ways to bring your diorama to life using some readily available accessories that might not initially spring to mind. Don’t forget to bring your craft knife and cutting mat...