If 1992 was one of the best-ever years for NASCAR diecast at 1:64 scale, 1993 was the year that Formula 1 peaked.
The 1992 NASCAR Winston Cup season, aside from featuring one of the most amazing finishes of all time when Alan Kulwicki nipped Bill Elliott for the title, was the first year that every full-time team made it to store shelves. Thanks to brands like Racing Champions, RCCA, Funstuf, and even Road Champs, there was no shortage of availability.
The next year, F1 responded with an increased selection of its own. Not only did Minichamps, best known for 1:18 and 1:43 replicas, expand its Microchamps line, but Matchbox also jumped into the fray by licensing a number of teams of its own. While some vehicles were issued in both lines, the selection was different enough to cover most of the top drivers in the series.
Of course, 1993 was a year of drastic transition for F1. After taking a sabbatical year in 1992, Alain Prost signed a deal to return to the sport with Williams, which had already been set with Nigel Mansell as its lead driver. Despite winning the 1992 championship, Frank Williams wouldn’t guarantee Mansell its lead driver status, so he jumped ship to IndyCar, while Prost would partner with Damon Hill.
Mansell, of course, would become the first driver to hold F1 and IndyCar titles simultaneously when he dominated the year with Newman/Haas Racing, and while Minichamps would issue Mansell’s new ride as part of its six-car IndyCar line, it was Matchbox that put out the commemorative sets featuring his iconic two-year stretch—fitting, as both driver and company were British! (Note that the Microchamps issue here was from 1992.)
The biggest difference between the Matchbox and Microchamps lines (other than the size!) was the intended audience. While the Microchamps cars were designed for the adult collector, screwed into their bases with fully detailed helmets, the Matchbox cars were no different from any of the company’s other offerings aside from the real-world graphics. As such, Matchbox only offered one of each team’s vehicles, forgoing each team’s second numbers. So while Hill, Ferrari’s Jean Alesi, and Sauber’s J.J. Lehto would see their cars immortalized by both brands, their respective teammates (Prost, Gerhard Berger, and Karl Wendlinger) would not.
The second biggest difference came in the quality of the teams each brand added to the mix. Microchamps added Benetton and McLaren, two of the sport’s frontrunners, to its lineup; this meant that both Michael Schumacher and Ayrton Senna would see their cars modeled at the highest level of detail. Schumacher was joined at Benetton that year by Ricardo Patrese, in his final F1 season, while both Michael Andretti and Mika Hakkinen would be included as Microchamps produced a special McLaren retrospective line of most of the team’s cars from the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Matchbox, meanwhile, centered on fun by licensing the Footwork team. The Japanese logistics company partnered with Arrows from 1991 to 1996, producing some of the coolest liveries on the grid (even if the 1994 car was superior to 1993’s look, in my opinion) and signing a mix of cagey veterans like Derek Warwick (who drove this car) and Christian Fittipaldi (who drove in 1994). I’ve also seen promotional photos of the 1993 Lotus raced by Johnny Herbert, but have been unable to track it down so far—although I do own the 1994 model that Herbert and Alex Zanardi shared.
On the track, the championship was never really in doubt, as a rejuvenated Prost won seven of the first 10 races of the season and clinched the title with two races to go. Senna placed second despite concerns about McLaren’s new Ford powerplants, finally breaking Williams’ 15-race pole streak in the season finale in Australia. Microchamps produced the cars of all four race winners, while eight of the top 10 points finishers, and 11 of the top 13, were represented (assuming the Herbert car made it to production).
Thanks for this post. I’ve been looking all over to see if MicroChamps (MiniChamps) made any other F1 die cast cars from 1993 or any complete season. It looks like the 11 you show (5 2-car teams plus one extra McLaren) are all that are available. I’ve started collecting these and should soon have at least one of all 11 cars. I was hoping to have at least 7 or 8 of the teams from one year in 1:64 scale. Some friends and I “race” the cars using a board game called Championship Formula Racing, which is an offshoot of Speed Circuit, a game from the early ’70’s.
Excellent stuff! Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find much more from 1993 at this scale… even Matchbox mostly produced the same teams, save for Footwork. I’ve seen a Lotus out there but haven’t been able to track it down and am unsure I believe it was made. 1:43 seems to have always been a more popular F1 scale. And I think I had a US version of Formula De as a kid, but the scale of the pieces would’ve been much closer to Micro Machines.
I have the Lotus in possession. As for Formula 1 cars, Kyosho is probably the brand you need to look for, as they did a huge variety of Formula 1 cars of Ferrari from the early days up to quite recently. They did a series of Tyrrell, McLaren and Lotus as well. Besides these, they did a series of the GP of Suzuka winners, which included some Benetton, Renault and Red Bull cars as well. Aoshima did a series of Williams cars. Microchamps did many more cars, as I replied to Bill before. These are all more high-end diecast cars in 1:64 Polistil did some nice series of F1 cars of the seventies, eighties, with even teams like AGS or Dallara in them (somewhat Matchbox-esque)! Best-box did a series of F1 cars from the sixties (let’s say “Matchbox like), as did Champion, a series made by Safir in 1:66 scale (rather more detailed). Recently, Sparky introduced some F1 cars.
I can tell that MicroChamps did far more as to what you write. They did the McLaren MP4/4, 4/5, 4/5B, 4/6, and 4/7A as well as the 4/8. From Benetton they did the B192, B193, B194 and B195, From Jordan the 191, from Ferrari the F92A and F93A, F310, F310B and F300, from Williams the FW14 and FW15. You might want to look at Polistil, which is expensive to find, does have a big variety of cars up to 1991 or so.