Both Minichamps and AUTOart started offering 1:18 scale versions of various road cars and racing cars in a price range that made them more exclusive. These brands started to offer details such as carpeting and soft-touch seats. Others followed and a competition of some sorts started on who could offer the most detailing, to the enjoyment of collectors. Some models such as the Hot Wheels/Kyosho version of the 1976 Ferrari 308 GTB offered pop-up headlights (see below).
Thailand brand Maisto came into the market in the early 1990's and was very focused on taking over the 1:18 scale market. They started introducing the features of the pricier brands in the more affordable price range that tops out at about $40 for Premiere Editions. On top of this, most of their models offered chassis details and real spring suspension. It is important to remember that these cars are not toys and will easily break under play. Young collectors often like these cars due to their lower price and great details, but great care should be given to the storage and display of these vehicles. One drop off a shelf or a desk and the damage might be too much for even a bottle of capable superglue... Below is a Maisto example of a 1959 Jaguar Mark II with 4 opening side doors and a beautiful interior.
As Maisto started to take over the 1:18 market on the lower end of the pricing scale, even buying competitor brand Bburago in the process, other brands started to emerge that even surpassed Minichamps, Kyosho and AUTOart from both a detailing and pricing perspective. Brands such as CMC and Exoto are targeted at wealthier collectors. Historical racing models from Ferrari, Maserati, Porsche, Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union are made from hundreds of individual pieces and produced in limited runs to safeguard their exlusivity. The Exoto model below of the 1966-1967 Porsche 910 is amazing and very desirable.
Several other brands have emerged that are worth checking into. French brands Norev and Solido are older brands that mainly focused on 1:43 scale in the past, but now make great 1:18 scale diecast cars in the $40 to $80 range. French-based brand Ottomobile and GT Spirit make resin cars that are amazing, but somewhat pricey with prices starting above $80. There are some competitors for Maisto nowadays. Jada Toys, Welly, and Mattel's Hot Wheels make cars in 1:18 scale that are very nicely detailed. Hot Wheels even has a premium Elite series that can be found in online stores or collector shops. Their Entertainment series has amazing releases such as Knightrider, the Ghostbusters' Ectomobile and Herbie (below).
Coming soon: Part 1.3 - Introduction: Collector Scale 1:12
Link to Part 1.0: Introduction - Collector Scale 1:64
Link to Part 1.1: Introduction - Collector Scale 1:43