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Buyer beware: true cost of part-works car models exposed

22-Apr-2011 • Collecting

The Daily Mail today reveals 'how a DIY model could cost as much as an F1 Grand Prix race weekend.'

The roar of engines and the smell of burning rubber leap off the page. The page in question is a cleverly designed cover of one of many 'partwork' magazines promoting build-it-yourself models.

The first issue of Build Your Own McLaren, for example, costs only £1.99 and comes with a front wing kit and booklet including details of the 1:8 scale Formula 1 car plus a feature on the Silverstone circuit.

Its launch coincided with the start of the 2011 Grand Prix Season, and follows from the launch of an officially licenced Aston Martin DB5 model, complete with gadgets as seen in "Goldfinger".

Reporter Toby Walne writes, "My daughter, Sophia, 11, and son, Harrison, 9, share my enthusiasm to build the classic F1 car that Lewis Hamilton raced to win the drivers' championship title in 2009. 'Don't Miss Out!' says the magazine. A subscription will bring extra goodies such as a free cap, key ring and binder. It sounds appealing. But I discover the second issue will cost £4.99 and £7.99 after that. In fact, it would take 85 issues to build the entire car – a total of £670.15. For that money, I could take the entire family for a weekend to the British Grand Prix this year."

Such week-by-week promotions are common, with everything from Spanish galleons to the James Bond Aston Martin car kits.

Frequently backed by TV adverts, store promotions and free gifts, the deals typically drift to subscription only when news stand sales drop. So are they value for money? Stephen Barnett, sales assistant at national chain ModelZone in Croydon, south London, is not impressed. 'The initial idea is exciting, but this is before you realise it takes more than a year to collect all the bits and pieces,' he says. 'A better approach is to shop around and look at alternatives first. A kit with paints and glue can provide a perfectly rewarding first choice. The appeal of model-making is the fun of putting it all together. I certainly wouldn't start on an expensive model.'

ModelZone says that for less than half the Build Your Own McLaren price – £329.99 – you can buy a build-your-own 5ft long 1:75 scale kit of Nelson's HMS Victory, complete with wooden planking, rigging and brass cannon.

DeAgostini, which markets the McLaren kit along with several other offers, declined repeated requests for comment.

Rob Griggs, spokesman for the Advertising Standards Authority, says: 'Advertisers should ensure the cost of the likely ongoing commitment is clear. You may believe the terms and conditions of an offer represent poor value, but if the advert does not mislead and consumers understand the commitment, it is unlikely to fall foul of our code.'

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