"Model Car Collecting"

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Model Car Collecting,” by F. Brian Jewell. 104 pp. 7 7/8 in. x 5 1/4 in. (Temple Press Books Limited, 42, Russell Square, London, W.C.1. 15s)

The model car movement has been covered by quite a selection of books but this one is devoted mainly to commercial miniatures, from the collector’s viewpoint.

The author opens by discussing the origins of this aspect of the model-car movement, in a most interesting chapter, from which we learn that the first die-cast miniature was produced by Dowst in 1914 and was of a model-T Ford. Subsequent ventures are recounted, up to and beyond the welcome advent of the Meccano Dinky Toys of 1934.

Mr. Jewell does not omit the larger models of Alfa Romeo P2 racing car and those tin-plate Citroens that this reviewer coveted as a schoolboy but he appears to be too new to the game to have read post-war model-car publications, which would have told him that these were not made by the car manufacturers themselves, and that the classic P2 was sponsored not by Alfa Romeo but by components makers whose products were used on the real cars. Although I concede that you could buy your realistic 7.5 or 11.4 Citroen from Citroën’s Piccadilly showrooms – which is where my mother took me to buy my 7.5 2-seater (“Are you sure you wouldn’t prefer the 15s. tourer?”) in those golden days of youth.

Mr. Jewell also omits to mention the even bigger Hispano-Suiza tourer you bought from Gamages [I have one still. – ED.], or that Delage, Renault and Panhard-Levassor tin-plate models, with working electric spotlamps, were available as well as those Citroens. [I dealt with such matters in some articles I wrote for the Model Engineer just after the war. – ED.]

But on the whole this is a thoroughly worthwhile chapter (even if it doesn’t tell me who made those smaller, glossy black, very simple but fascinatingly realistic tin-plate model-T Fords –  there was a coupé, a 2-seater and a sedan; does anyone else recall them? – which, if memory is reliable, you found at Woolworth’s). Tables of British Dinkys from 1934 to 1940, French Dinkys of like antiquity, Tootsitoy car miniatures of 1914 to 1936 and Marklin models of 1935 to 1939 conclude this chapter, which will send collectors rushing to see whether their Dinky Triumph Dolomite 38e-2 is intact [Excuse me a moment – no, I can’t find this one but I have two S.S.100s, a 4 1/2-litre Lagonda, a Rolls-Royce and a big Vauxhall, the last two 1935 Dinky Toys but the former Dinkys omitted from Jewell’s list. – ED.). But although recent, better-quality, big-scale models like the Wiking 1/40th-scale VWs and Pocher 1/13th-scale Fiats get a mention, the author does not remember the March Models’ racing cars of before the war, nor does his list of pre-war miniatures include that Bimotore Alfa Romeo.

His next chapter tells how model cars are made and tested and then follows another historic discourse on the “Lost Causes” of the car miniatures’ world, in which the short-lived examples are recalled. Those Scamold racing cars made up to 1940 at Brooklands (Alta, E.R.A., etc., of which I possess typical examples) are included, but nothing is said of their scale, or system of suspension. I.C.I. and G.E.M. in Italy, Gowland & Gowland in America, Crescent from S. Wales and the D.C.M.T. models are recalled, as are the Klecware 1/60th-scale Edwardians, and the rare J. P. Convert and Quiralu models from France get passing mention. It whets the collector’s appetite no end!

Subsequent chapters are devoted to how to start a collection and store the models, the popular scales (from 1/24th to 1/86th) an ingenious marking system for assessing the accuracy of a model, and how to decide whether to collect antique, racing and sports or military models. The last-named chapter is again embellished most usefully with lists of appropriate miniatures, and the numbers are surprising, although 1914/18 military vehicles and historic commercial vehicles are sadly neglected by the manufacturers – what about a Lesney F.W.D. truck and Foden steam wagon? Jewell has fallen into the trap of listing the “Model or Yesteryear” Spyker as 1904, because it appeared in the “Genevieve” film, whereas it is of a 1905 car; and, unless it is no longer available, forgets to include the C.I.J. Renault gas-turbine record car and the 1961 F.1 Ferguson f.w.d. model by C.I.J. Ingap of Italy.

Perhaps because of the obvious gaps in spite of the variety of miniatures available, the author devotes much space to describing how one model, or several, may be cannibalised to make another version of a given make – “chopping,” they call it. He deals with painting and altering basic models to form race-winning cars, correct as to colour, racing number, cowls and lamps; etc., again listing (and the lists are impressively long!) the correct markings, etc., for 1961 Cooper F.1, Lotus 22, Lotus 18, Porsche F.1 and Aston Martin DBR1/300, etc., in many races.

There is a great deal of useful material in “Model Car Collecting” and I am glad that some pictures of those splendid lorry models in the Daimler-Benz Museum at Stuttgart, and a professionally-made model of a 1903 Standard are illustrated. [It is a pity other “real” models are not included, such as the Rolls-Royce “Silver Ghosts” and the Queen’s Dolls’ House cars – I could have told Jewell about these, and who built them. –ED.]. But this is hair-splitting, and it took this book to tell us you can buy a miniature of a 1923 G.P. Sunbeam, a 1922 T.T. Vauxhall or a G.P. Duesenberg – all by Mabri, to 1/43rd-scale.

Brian Jewell will incur the displeasure of slot-racing fanatics by his scathing remarks about such tracks in the chapter headed “Dainty Dicing” but I am intrigued to know that completely realistic control has been achieved on a prototype electronic track. But did the author experience slot-racing before writing that, because you can’t drive the models, “the days of slot racing must therefore be numbered except as children’s toys”?

The book gives excellent coverage of miniatures’ collecting but is not the last word on the subject. There are appendices listing the World’s model vehicle manufacturers and what they make (but not their addresses), ditto Clubs and Societies (with addresses) and conversion scales. – W. B.