The Tamiya “First 100 cars” poster

A recent addition to my collection is an original copy of the much admired, but vanishingly rare Tamiya “First 100 cars” poster. A little item I’ve been searching for, for two decades…

So how did I find it? What did it cost? And why is it so rare? Well on that last point, I can only speculate. But read on, to hear me speculate anyway…

Apologies for the lengthy delay between articles. It’s not intentional, so much as it is just due to life and work getting in the way (I have a very busy job and team to manage). In addition, running a website can be tricky at times. I’ve spent 5 hours on website maintenance this week alone – time I would much rather spend having fun and writing about R/C models and collectibles! But ultimately, it’s all in service of the latter. So as always, thanks for stopping by, and for the many messages sent via the Contact page.

Please note that anyone wishing to join the site, must now use the contact page – and wait for an invitation. I’ve switched off the self-registration functionality, due to spam.

Onward and upward, and with those formalities out of the way, I just wanted to mention a recent stroke of luck I’d had a few months ago, from a “collecting” perspective. I managed to locate a very rare, original copy of the Tamiya poster loosely known to Tamiya R/C fans as the First 100 cars poster

This eye-catching, printed poster features an amazing photo of Tamiya’s first 100 models, arranged side-by-side – starting with the Porsche Turbo RSR Type 934 (Tamiya model #1) from 1976, at the top left of the image. The cars then run chronologically from top-to-bottom and left-to-right, finishing with the Top Force buggy at bottom-right (Tamiya model #100) released in 1991.

Apparently arranged and photographed together for real (not “photoshopped” together), the photo of all those pristine cars has long been an inspiration for many R/C model collectors.

When I first joined the Internet way back in 1995, vintage Tamiya cars were among the very first things I searched for information about, just to see if anyone had created a “fan site” about them. And it was on one of those very early fan sites that I first saw the Tamiya “100” poster, thanks to a collector by the name of Blazer Frazer. Like most early websites, Blazer Frazer’s Tamiya website is long gone. But the Internet Archive still has a copy, which you can see here. And as you can see, Blazer’s JPG copy of the Tamiya “100” poster was proudly displayed right there on the front of his site, for everyone to download… which of course, we all did.

This image file (above) was the only copy I actually had of this amazing poster for about the next 20+ years. While wondering if I would ever be able to source an original, printed example to put on my wall.

The poster itself was presumably released by Tamiya sometime in the early 1990s (and we’ve got to assume – 1991), to commemorate their achievement of producing 100 different R/C model kits. The Japanese characters at bottom-right of the poster translate roughly to the word “accomplish”.

I also tend to think that at least some of the models featured in the photos could be the same built examples that Tamiya still has on display in glass cabinets at their glorious headquarters in Shizuoka, Japan. But not all of them, since you can clearly see different paint jobs between poster cars and headquarters cars, once you go researching…

To the best of my knowledge, the poster must not have been made available to the general public. Or was it? If it was, why would it have remained so rare for the past 20+ years? More than likely, it was produced in limited supply, or it was only given to partners or retailers. I’m just speculating of course. But the poster’s scant history of appearances on the internet has always seemed unusual to me…

  • circa 2000: I first saw Blazer Frazer’s JPG of it. In a mediocre resolution of 796px by 563px. Okay for a desktop PC monitor wallpaper back in those days, but tiny in today’s widescreen world.
  • 2000 onwards: Most people on the web just endlessly shared that same Blazer Frazer file around. Such as this article on Tamiyabase in 2011. Or the goober running a website called R/C Toy Memories back in 2013.
  • 2010: Someone on Tamiyaclub popped up, selling (presumably illegal) copies of the poster. But the copies themselves, were copies of a copy. They also had English writing down the side, so someone either did that themselves, or there was originally a Japanese vs English version of the poster.
  • 2015: Finally someone on Tamiyaclub sold an original copy. But it was pretty crinkled and worn.

Then, in late 2020. I finally found this…

It’s definitely original, because it’s printed on both sides, and has the patina of any typical, shop-worn, Tamiya promotional poster (of which I own many). There’s certainly a crease or three, and some pin holes at the corners from where it was proudly hung in a model store. But beggars can’t be choosers. Overall it’s in great condition, and I was so pleased to finally find it.

Here’s the reverse side, which features all the corresponding box art images of the cars featured on the front (and in the same order). Albeit in black and white.

Here are some close-ups as well…

Curiously, and for a photo that would have required a lot of effort to put together, there are actually a few flaws in the arrangement of all those beautiful cars. For one, there’s a chronology mistake – cars #6 and #7 in the leftmost row (Martini Porsche 936 Turbo and Lamborghini Cheetah) are in the wrong order. The Cheetah should not be first.

In addition, some cars feature non-box-art paintwork. Although not technically a mistake, unless you’re a nerd like me who prefers the original box art. I also seem to recall others pointing out some other flaws over the years. I’m sure they will write in to remind me!

Nevertheless, there’s no denying what a great idea this photo was. Kind of a quintessential photo in the pantheon of R/C model history. If you wanted a single photo that summed up Tamiya’s entire, early years in the R/C hobby, this is the one that speaks volumes. As a kid, this poster of all the cars together in one room, would have been an unfathomable dream.

And I’m rather surprised Tamiya didn’t promote it and mail this image right around the world, to every dealer and consumer, to celebrate their 100-car milestone.

Today, 30 years after their 100-car achievement, Tamiya have released somewhere in the order of over 1600 different R/C models. Which is a sobering thought. Because as the poster shows, their first 15 years in the R/C  hobby yielded 100 models. Yet the following 30 years seems to have yielded over 10-times that number. Tamiya’s release frequency became a lot more rapid in the 1990s and 2000s. Although many fans (myself included) feel this came at the expense of the uniqueness and “special-ness” of their earlier models. With later releases consisting of lots of remakes, repeats and variations, and kits made up of more “generic” molded parts. All of which is why those early models – particularly the first 100 – remain so coveted to this day.

The original size of the poster is 51.5cm x 36.5cm – larger than A3, but smaller than A2.

As I am sure you’ve guessed, my example was sourced in Japan. Likely the only place the poster was  ever originally made available. And the cost? Well, let’s just say I paid well over $100… but hey, that’s still cheaper than a lot of vintage movie and travel posters.

It’s also a lot cheaper than recreating the photo yourself. Because owning all those cars today in mint condition, and photographing them together would cost you… oh, somewhere over US$100,000.

I think the safest thing to do is to carefully frame this example, for the hobby room. I have quite a lot of original Tamiya promotional posters, but after such a long search this is definitely the one I feel luckiest to own. Here’s hoping a few more turn up for sale in years to come, so that other collectors may have the chance to own them.

As always, happy collecting guys.


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