It all started a long, long time ago in a land far, far away across the galaxy, in a place called England. For many years, the tribes had toy cars to collect and display, from large manufacturers, who were only interested in producing models in massive quantities so as to make huge profits. They were not the slightest bit interested in the collectors, only his/her hard earned money.
The early 1970s
In the early 1970s, rebel tribes formed led by Legends such as John Day, Paddy Stanley and Barry Lester, to name but a few. The movement was growing. Not only in England were the rebel forces gathering but in the French and Italian countries as well, the then European war lords were Jacques Greilsamer, Carlo Brianza and Ugo Fadini. They produced limited edition specialist models for an ever increasing public to fall in love with.
I was hooked about 1973 when I was given a metal model kit of an MG as a birthday present by my parents, it was so easy to become an convert and so started the slippery slope. Many hours later, after being shut away in my bedroom, I emerged with my creation in hand to applause and congratulations from said parents, it thus began.
In the months that followed, I sought out all forms of the drug both plastic and metal.
Grand Prix Models
A couple of years later, as a hopeless addict, I found Grand Prix Models – an oasis for the converted in Radlett, Hertfordshire. Run by the master war lord himself Brian Harvey – Brian and his wife Rachael had started GPM from their garage at home selling plastic kits.
After outgrowing the garage they moved on to the infamous shop beloved by so many, a Mecca for the converted, a haven for all like myself, the fallen. They collated all the creations of the small one man businesses or “artisans”, for want of a better word, together in one place. As well as producing their own models. GPM Radlett became known the world over, particularly within the model and motor racing fraternity. Brian, a journalist, produced the first magazine for the hobby, namely Four Small Wheels (now known as FSW). At first, a photocopied paste-up that, for a small subscription, gave you the opportunity to see all the new models that were appearing worldwide.
More shops followed GPM’s lead, Boutique Auto Model in Paris and Danhausen in Germany, also others in the UK – the revolution gathered pace. Now FSW is the bible for the hobby, still in hard copy form by subscription or live on the internet.
A relationship that has spanned over 30 years
A relationship with the 1/43rd scale metal and more recently resin model car kit, is a sometime sad story of isolation. Many times I have lost control and ended up in a darkened room, almost a gibbering idiot. Sleepless nights spent counting model manufacturers ABC, AMR, BBR, etc.etc. Years of illusion chasing around the galaxy searching for the ultimate legendary model by Vincenzo Bosica or Renaissance … !!! I have travelled many continents in search of models, a sickness I hear you say, and yes I guess it could be described as such. However, the rewards are the highest I have ever achieved, all the models I have ever wanted and more. There are now models in this specialist field of just about every car you can think of. Your favourite road car and all the race cars you could ever need, land speed record vehicles, prototypes and just about every rally car that ever ran as well as historic, vintage and veteran machines.
The Hobby moves on
Some of the master creators have fallen by the wayside and others have gone to meet their own creator – but the hobby moves on. It is today probably at its best, there are simple kits to make very realistic scale models or there are super kits to produce, well almost drivable cars. The hobby has come a long way since those early days, when we sought out the latest creations from the one-man-bands. It is now a strong business in itself, no rival to the industrial ‘toy’ manufacturers because these models are still produced in very small quantities maybe 500 or so, sometimes fewer. That’s not many to go round the world. The majority of manufacturers, perhaps around 50 of them, are still in Europe although there are a few in the USA, Japan and a couple here in Australia now.
As a collector, there was a time I had to go cold turkey, as my full time job, the one that paid the mortgage, took over. Now I have returned to what I really wanted to do all along, to create one-off models of my favourite cars and, as a builder, to create one-off models for you. I have built over a thousand models, not only for myself but for friends, car clubs and model shops. There are many collectors of models cars and 1/43rd has become the collector’s scale. From the man in the street to rock stars, famous movie makers and royalty alike, we all love them, they are our passion.
Grand Prix Models are still one of the largest suppliers of model cars in the world and things have gone full circle. They now sell plastic models again but their main business is 1/43rd scale metal or resin low volume specialist kits. They are my preferred supplier and I can almost guarantee that I can get most models you would want from them. They now live just a couple of miles from where they started in Radlett and operate out of a large warehouse type building in St Albans, Hertfordshire. Brian and Rachael have now semi-retired (Brian is still writing about cars and models), and gone to live by the sea. GPM are now run by their Son-in-law and Daughter, André and Justina Marot.
There are others that can supply older kits or out of production models plus pre-loved kits, the second-hand market is there as it is with any item. Kits can be found even long after the manufacturers have stopped making them, you can contact me and I will do my best to find what you want.
Prices vary according to difficulty, all are considerably dearer – like everything in life – than when I first started. Today’s models are often miniature replicas of real cars, not the crude castings of yesteryear with their one-piece cast wheels and tyres. We now have real rubber tyres with correct tread patterns, real hand laced fine wire wheels, photo-etched fine detail jewellery standard metal parts to exact scale and stunning castings in metal and resin.
Who knows what the future will bring for our hobby? Maybe master miniaturisers in Europe or Japan will produce 1/43rd scale working engines. But what else? Have we seen the ultimate developments? Have we run out of surprises? I very much doubt it – watch this space!
Where are they now? Many of the old manufacturers are gone for good and their creations have gone with them, many have gone through changes and some still exist as they did back in the 1970s.