Before we began tinkering with tuner, track, or race cars, as children we all started with toys made by Tamiya. Whether it’s Mini 4WD, Scale Models, or RC, without a doubt these little kits played a role on how we all came to love cars.
Thus, it’s only fitting that to celebrate our passion for 4 wheels, we came to visit the birthplace of these plastic kits. The Holy Land or Mecca if you will of Tamiya. No it’s not in Japan, but in Cebu.
Tamiya Philippines designs, manufactures, and packages miniature works of art in a 40,000 sq. meter facility inside the Mactan Process Zone. It employs more than 1,000 people, produces about 90% of Tamiya’s entire lineup, and is the reason why its boxes read ‘Made in Philippines’.
They’ve been around since 1994, making childhood memories parts bag-by-parts bag right under our noses. The factory, however, is strictly off-limits and is accessible only to Tamiya employees. But on this very rare occasion, they invited us on a factory tour.
Satoshi Matsuoka, who happens to be its Manufacturing Manager, was our guide across the most drool-worthy ‘plant visit’ we’ve ever been to.
If there’s one thing Tamiya is best know for, it’s for their plastic parts. The quality, detail, and how they all fit together is unmatched in the hobby industry. And they have 51 machines here that do nothing but inject molded plastic pieces, that as we were told, can run 24/7 if needed.
Some of the items made that day were wheels for the Porsche 911 Carrera RSR and TT01 D Parts, which we so badly wanted to take a piece home.
All of Tamiya’s polycarbonate body shells are also made in-house. This is how a thin piece of lexan is vacuformed into a 190 mm touring car, or in this case a Konghead 6×6 and Ferrari 599XX. Those 6 mm body post holes are then pre-drilled one-by-one by a worker on a press.
Matsuoka-san stressed how Tamiya go through great lengths to get as much detail as possible onto its shells, utilizing a unique 3-piece mold. And they had a ton of these molds, stacked up high in shelves, from the newest to the rarest models you could think of. They’re all here.
Tamiya even has a team that does nothing but prepare shells for the Expert Built (XB) Series. Each one is carefully masked, painted, and trimmed before the finished body is shipped off to another room for assembly.
That line serves those who, unlike us, do not find enjoyment in building their own RC kit. A process that usually requires hours only take minutes for this production line to turn a bunch of part trees, part bags, and electronics into a working DF-02 Gravel Hound. 22 fully-built units is their quota, and that’s by the hour.
The 1/24 scale version of this is dedicated to Tamiya’s Masterwork Collection. Here skilled craftsmen (and women) spend all day, with their tiny brushes, paint bottles, and cement, creating highly-detailed pint-sized versions of the Honda NSX. Or whatever the plant demands.
Once every part is made, all the pieces, decal sheets, and instruction manuals are then carefully boxed up before its shipped around the world. As for the Philippine market, oddly it’s more economical for them to ferry their products to Tamiya Japan then back, rather to sell direct to the local Tamiya distributor.
Surely there are others like us, whose passion for cars and motorsports somehow began with Tamiya. That’s why a tour of the Tamiya Factory in Cebu is as educational as it is emotional.
It’s already mind blowing enough just to see how every kit is made. But for the all memories from our childhood, building and playing with these things, to gush in all in one afternoon is an experience that will last a lifetime. We will forever be grateful to the brand’s local distributor and retailers Shakespeare Chan of Lil’s Hobby Center, Justin Uy of Hobbes and Landes, and Robert Tan and Albert Go of Blade Auto Center for letting us be part of history.