Collecting Models

September 25, 2014 Comments (2)

About 30 years ago, I was living in Toronto, Canada. My then 2-year-old daughter and I had a Saturday morning ritual that centered on us driving my white 1967 Pontiac GTO to the Toronto Zoo. The 700+ acre zoo is located on the outskirts of the City, a twenty minute drive from our then home. Over time we developed a pattern that would see us visit all her favorite animal “buddies” and allowed me to stretch the legs of the GTO. Which I still kid myself she appeared to enjoy.

The parking lot at the zoo was huge and, like all other obsessive car enthusiasts, I would always park the GTO some distance from other cars. Without fail, upon our return, the GTO was always surrounded by other parked vehicles when I came to retrieve it.

Peter's models

Fast forward to 60 days or so ago when I was arranging my model cars for the image we used in a recent MMR Newsletter. This got me to thinking about exactly what drew me to these particular pieces and more importantly, their real counterparts.

I confess to this being totally subjective, but the look of a vehicle is, by a wide margin, the most important factor in determining whether I like a car. I have never bought an ugly car, but I have owned some horrible pretty cars. Next, the sound of a car is important to me and for some reason I have never been satisfied with an original exhaust note. Judging by the number of aftermarket exhaust system manufacturers, my bet is that this is equally important to others. If touch means, the experience of driving, that is next. The smell of leather and wool is really a bonus, as is provenance. That covers the four applicable senses.

Upon reflection, it is clear that while nothing quite grabs the senses by the throat like an original sitting before you, a lovely model comes pretty damned close.

Because the look is so important, the next most important criteria is that the model be correct. We have probably all demurred from buying a model of a car we admired because it just didn’t look right. Maybe it was the color or the fit of the panels or maybe it just wasn’t correct, but for some reason it was simply unappealing. More on this later…

Amon McLaren LeMans Ford GT40 MKII by GMP

As I have mentioned too many times, I do not purport to be a collector. However, I have always had models, usually 1:18 scale. I am not at all attracted to the most popular 1:43 scale format; the first time I saw a 1:12 scale, it was an Amon-McLaren Le Mans Ford GT40 MKII by GMP and I simply had to have it. The look of that car had an impact on me then and it still does today, umpteen years later.

Marshall Buck, writing a column for Sports Car Market made me look at my little assemblage with a fresh and more critical eye. His insightful comments unquestionably introduced many of us to vagaries of model manufacturing and what to look for, to avoid, and to value. While assembling a directory of valued goods and services for the recent MMR compendium that was shipped with the October issue of Sports Car Market, Marshall and I worked together to create the story we did of his model, the original of which subsequently won at Pebble Beach in August.

Original Scaglietti Rosselini Ferrari.jpg

Ferrari model on the workbench

We were walking the famous 18th fairway together and discussing the wonderful model material surrounding us when the idea for a series of stories, explaining the process involved in making a scratch-built model came up. You are now reading the first installment.

In this introduction, I will share with you what Marshall has patiently imparted to me about models and the market. In subsequent chapters, he will explain the building process and share his trials and triumphs in so doing.

The Market:

Mass production units obviously dominate the market and like everything else, vary in detail, overall quality, and pricing. This market is no different from any other in that it generally dictates the price. As investments, mass produced items have generally not appreciated. Considering the initial purpose for purchase which we have established is an attraction which has hopefully not diminished, this cannot be disheartening. You don’t make money on old socks either.

Ferrari 312

But not all models are created equal and there is a market stratification that, if what one counts the basic hobby store purchases to be the bottom, would have fully functioning, yes, with running engines and drive trains, at the top. A fully functioning Ferrari 312PB which took 15 years to build did not sell at auction for $90K. It later sold privately at an undisclosed price. Watch the story of that model:

So, having looked at the bottom and at the top, let’s look at the middle. This is probably where the greatest number of collectors live. The level below the fully functional unit is the “scratch built” model, like the 250SWB pictured above, which Marshall is building for us. This unit is currently in the final stages of a three-year build. Depending on the level of detail required, these begin at approximately $25K and take as much as two to three years to build. These are unique works of art and considering the man-hours involved worth every penny.

250 SWB model in progress

The product to which many new collectors are turning is the personalized, custom made car built from an existing kit. The pricing on these units is wholly dependent on the level of detail required and the quality of the donor kit. In cases where the donor models are not kits, the model maker may be obliged to completely disassemble the car. Although he may not make all the parts, he may need to change some to better represent the original and then make them all fit as they never did before. He then paints the car to the owner’s specs.

Another interesting aspect of model making is the demand for “weathered” models. Three years ago we made a video at Amelia with model maker Dennis Koleber. These models are intended to capture a moment-in-time in the life of the original. 

That brings us back to the lead image for this series, the Ferrari 250SWB serial #1905GT. In the following weeks we will follow the development of the model as Marshall Buck builds it. Enjoy!


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Comments (2)

  1. Carl Kirts:
    Sep 27, 2014 at 10:02 AM

    Really Great. Enjoyed the achievement of this Ferrari 312PB. The ultimate best was produced and the complete functional operation only shows what can be done to Perfection. I would like to have the time for such fabrication of my life pleasure, AUTO's. In my display Model Case there sits 20 different models with my most desired size at 1/18. Never dreamed of a 1/12 scale. I too had a GTO for several years and also a 1976 glass 308 for 9 years. The metal 1977 308 GTB (2.5 years now) I am not able to put it on the road here much because of speed laws. Not like in Germany. But quite often improving and refining many aspects of the 308. Thanks for the good work on the 312PB and to you Martin on this WEB Site . I always find time to read and enjoy your skills and work in producing it. Carl PS: I have been extremely busy for over 1 year in construction projects and not much time for driving pleasure or for Contacts with friends around the world.

  2. Carl Kirts:
    Sep 27, 2014 at 10:13 AM

    This WEB Site by Peter Bourassa is great and I accidentally placed Martin, but my error as at times I confuse who is who. My apologies Peter. Your WEB Site I always read it and always Enjoy Fully. Carl

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