You'll find a little of everything here. Genres covered in this blog include (so far) prehistorics, fantasy, old west, swashbucklers, pulp, Blood Bowl, Ghostbusters, gladiators, nautical, science fiction and samurai in 6mm, 15mm, 28mm, 40mm, 42mm and 54mm sizes. You'll also find terrain, scenery, basing, gaming, modeling, tutorials, repaints, conversions, art and thoughts in general about the hobby.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Machinas: What brand of cars to use?

Vehicles here are mostly Hot Wheels, but there are a few Johnny Lightning and M2 Machines to fill out the collection.

There are countless scales and manufacturers to choose from to play Machinas, but I will focus on just a few that I use, Hot Wheels, Johnny Lightning and M2 Machines - all 1:64 scale.

Something I don't mention in the descriptions below is that all my cars are pre-1960 models. In the Machinas background, the (nuclear) apocalypse occurred in 1959. So if you want a more authentic Machinas experience, use only car models from 1959 and older. My personal favorite below for availability of pre-1960 models is M2 Machines; their Auto-thentics line is almost entirely made up of cars from before 1960.

Hot Wheels

If you want to start playing, and I mean NOW, you have two choices: raid your kid's toy box, or head to Kmart and grab a few cars. Hot Wheels have been an American mainstay for 45 years, and of all your 1:64 die cast choices, Hot Wheels will be the cheapest and the most plentiful.

'53 Chevy custom. From the Hot Wheels Wiki
There are cars for almost every year in the history of the automobile, of all sizes, types and walks of life. And Hot Wheels is always releasing new cars, and if not new cars, then repaints of older or popular cars. Hot Wheels also has a few side brands such as Boulevard, which features new models with rubber tires and paint jobs. My first few cars actually came from the Boulevard range.

The only thing I don't like about Hot Wheels is that the bodies and frames are riveted together, and the only way to get them apart is with a Dremel tool and a steady hand. If all you're going to do is glue weapons to the body, then - rivets be damned - Hot Wheels is your best choice.

Pros: Cheap, available, NUMEROUS choices to pick from
Cons: Difficult to convert if you don't have the right tools


Matchbox cars, now owned by Mattel, were introduced by British company Lesney in 1953. In the U.S. these cars are about as easy to find as Hot Wheels.

Matchbox checkered cab. From the Matchbox wiki
I think the diversity of choices and the quality of the "sculpts" is just a notch below Hot Wheels, but if you're looking to fill out your collection, Matchbox helps to expand you list of choices once you've exhausted for Hot Wheel wants.

I don't actually have any Matchbox cars in my collection, so I can't comment on the construction and conversion possibilities.

Pros: Everything about Hot Wheels is just the same with Matchbox
Cons(?): Quality of the sculpts might be a touch less than Hot Wheels, (but really not enough to make a difference, in my opinion), not an as expansive choice as Hot Wheels

Johnny Lightning

Johnny Lightning cars were released in direct response to the instant popularity of Hot Wheels. Topper, the founding company, unfortunately went under in 1971. But the Johnny Lightning cars were reintroduced in the mid 1990s.

'57 Buick custom. This was one of my very first
Machinas cars. Copyright RC2 Corp.
These cars are slightly more difficult to find, though Walmart seems to carry a few now and then. The sculpts are better than Hot Wheels but the actual construction feels a touch flimsy to me. For example, the wheels seem to have a little bit of "rattle" to them due to the axles having a lot of give space. This isn't a deal-breaker with me, these cars might not do well on a plastic track, but they work just fine for Machinas. (None of mine have fallen apart- and the rattle doesn't faze me.)

'71 Chevy Chevelle ready to chase down the
Nightrider. Copyright RC2 Corp.
Still, there are a lot of models you won't always find in the Hot Wheels brand, including a few "movie" cars -- check out their 77 Dodge Monaco (Blues mobile), or their 71 Chevy Chevelle which has a distinctive Main Force Patrol (Mad Max) paint scheme.

Johnny Lightning cars are a bit more pricey than Hot Wheels and Matchbox. Whereas the former brands are usually just under $1 per car, Johnny Lightning cars are around $3 to $4 per car. But that price range isn't that bad, especially if you're looking for a specific car model not available from the other brands.

Again, these cars have that rivet construction, so be prepared to do some work if you want to do any heavy mods.

Pros: Nicer looking models, great "not"-movie cars, enough of a different variety than more common brands to help fill out your collection with your favorite cars.
Cons: A little more pricey, construction seems a bit flimsy

M2 Machines

These are my new personal favorites. I'm not sure of the history of M2, but the line is owned by California-based Castline Inc. These are some beautiful cars, with a lot more historical choices. All the cars have rubber riders (tires) and most have lifting hoods, opening doors and detailed interiors. Those with hoods that open (I don't have one yet that doesn't) also have nicely sculpted engines.

Auto-thentics '58 Impala. Copyright Castline Inc.
M2 Machines can be somewhat easily found. Walmart usually has a small selection, as does Hobby Lobby. They can also be found at different online retailers. M2 seems to be releasing new cars at a good pace, too, so keep your eyes peeled.

One thing I like to do is to take out the smaller engines (use gentle force if you try this) of some cars, and replace them with larger engines I've pulled from one of my Hot Wheels. If you prefer to have the hoods down, you might still remove the engines to save for a later conversion. All of this is also made easy in that the frames and bodies of the cars are put together with one or two small screws -- no rivets to knock out and glue back together!

I do have one minor gripe and that's with the interiors. The modelling is OK, but the construction seems a little flimsy. Windows seem to push in easy, and dashboards don't seem to be firmly fastened down. If this is something that bothers you, then keep to the other brands- especially if you don't want to pay the price for these cars (see below.) Personally, I don't mind. Since I cover most of the windows up with armor, blocking the view to the inside, I rip out the interiors and add the pieces to my bits box.

Other items of plastic, such as bumpers and exhaust pipes are also a bit flimsy. These cars are meant for display (and will stand up just fine to Machinas play), but are not meant for the kids. Again, since I'm putting a hell of a lot of glue and green stuff on these cars, anyway, the somewhat subpar construction doesn't bug me too much.

So what kind of cars are there?
Auto Projects '58 Plymouth Fury. Copyright Castline Inc.
Since I'm keeping to the Machinas universe, M2 Machines does have a LOT of pre-1960 choices, including cars, pickups, light cargo trucks and even a couple big rigs and a nice '57 Apache tow truck. If you want the Machinas experience, check out the Auto-Thentics line.

"Drivers" line: '70 Ford Torino Cobra. Copyright Castline Inc.
And for those of you who don't like to paint, check out M2's Auto Projects line; this is a line of cars painted to look like they've just been found in a junkyard: rust, weathering and bondo galore! Slap a gun on the hood and you're ready to rumble. There are enough choices in this line to keep to the Machinas universe, and plenty more choices if not.

If you don't want to stick to the Machinas background, M2 also has plenty of Detroit muscle cars (M2 even has a line devoted and so named "Detroit Muscle.")

Now for the bad news
These cars aren't cheap. they'll run you from $4 to $7 each.  So I'd reserve these cars for when there's a specific model you just have to have and can't find in the other brands.

Did I mention M2 makes limos! They can be found in the
Stretch Rods line.
If you go through eBay or Amazon, keep in mind that a lot of the pricier cars going for more than $7 are for models with hard-to-find paint schemes sought out by collectors.

My latest purchase was actually through Amazon; I bought a 6-pack of Auto-thentics cars for $30, which isn't too bad for M2s. And since the six pack was sold direct through Amazon, shipping was free. So if you like M2, do your research and shop around: The price discounts are out there.

Pros: Beautiful cars, plenty of pre-1960 choices as well as American muscle cars, easy to take apart and reassemble (with a small screwdriver), Auto Projects line has half the work done for you already.
Cons: Some plastic parts don't seem firmly attached, most expensive of all the options talked about here

Last word

So that's what I have for you. Some of you might notice I left out Jada. I don't own, nor have I seen any Jada cars in person. This seems to be a popular European line of die cast cars. Jada seems to have a nice selection, including a line of cars already outfitted with guns and cannon! Last I remember, though, is that Jada cars are a little larger and out of scale with many of the American 1:64 cars. But take a look and see what you think.


  1. This is so cool, i have so much guard stuff and bits from my 40k days, i want to put them to use and try my hand at this, your cars are great. Do you use an air brush on them??

    1. Thanks- no airbrush; all my paint is brushed on.
      I paint the main color(s), then stipple on a few layers of rust colors, and finish up with a light drybrushing of light tan (for dust.)

    2. Im trying to get my head around the scare you use, is it the tiny little scare, im thinking of the smallest scale they make die cast cars in??
      literally the size of a match box

    3. These cars are about 3 inches long and 1 inch wide, to give you an idea.