- "Sacre bleu, Michel!"

1982 Fictional Formula 1 World Champion!

Recently, I was doing what I am doing a lot these days, Netflix and surfing eBay for diecasts that catch my fancy, when I spotted something that instantly took me back to my childhood living in Austria: An Altaya 1:43 model of a Michel Vaillant Formula 1 car. It wasn’t this particular model but one dated from the 2003 season. Now, that particular era doesn’t do much for me (“Souped up/Glorified Formula 3 cars” is my usual description of cars from back then), but a bit of searching turned up this model and at $18 with shipping, it was cheap to boot.

If the name Michel Vaillant doesn’t ring a bell, well, Wikipedia can help with that: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michel_Vaillant

Me, I grew up reading these volumes (translated into german) and would at times go to pretty great lengths to find the latest volume (they simply were not commonly carried at the local supermarket.) Finally, one of my dad’s Trap shooting buddies, who ran a news stand, did me a solid and would order each new volume for me. Those were the days! I’ve been jonesing for these books to be released in an English translation for pretty much forever now (years ago, a small publisher put out a hardcover of the very first volume – including a very cool intro by no less than dan gurney -- and promised to gradually publish all the remaining editions. Alas, number 2 never materialized and I’m still waiting…waiting…waiting…)

So, one of the things about the car designs that Jean Graton created for his books is that they really were pretty darn unique. His designs from that era tended to be a bit on the angular side in a Giorgetto Giugiaro sort of way) and this F1 model reflects that (especially with the rather rakish sidepod inlets.) There are some cues that resemble actual contemporary F1 cars, perhaps most notably the rea of the car from the rollhoop back, which has a passing similarity to the sort of boxy cross-section of the McLaren Mp4/1 and the Williams FW08 (probably necessitated by the venturi tunnels under the sidepods.) but really, the car it most resembles (or most resembles it?) is the 1983 Renault RE40. The engine cowling in particular almost looks like a straight copy (See: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renault_RE40#/media/File:Renault_RE40_Donington.jpg)

Btw, it kind of amuses me that on a quintessentially French team that ticks all the right boxes (blue/white color, elf fuel) this particular car uses Goodyear tires (Michelin was in F1 back then and supplied Renault, Ferrari and McLaren among others.)

Anyway, it doesn’t have to be high-end/grail like models – sometimes it’s the eclectic stuff that makes me smile.

Update - a few more images are located here: imgur.com/a/shxtuu8

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Comments (2)
  • I love these Vaillante models! I have a few of them through a buddy back in the homeland of the Netherlands and they are incredibly fun. Do you remember which publisher published the 1st volume in English? Id love to read some Vaillant books again and my French is very rusty...

    6 days ago

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