Category Archives: Somerville

Somerville SMK 156 Hillman Minx Californian

By Maz Woolley

All photographs by, and copyright of, the Author except that of the Lansdowne model which was provided by Brooklin Models.

Somerville models were one of the finest makers of 1:43 White Metal Models in 1:43 scale until their founder Doug McHard died in 2002. Many Somervilles were available as built models or kits.  After Doug McHard died the range was not bought but the masters were sold on to various people with many being bought by Graham Ward of Promod, as was the right to sell models as Somervilles. For many years nothing happened but in the last few years Somerville models made by Promod have been appearing on eBay sold as 1:43 scale metal kits. Some of them are re-issues of models originally made by Somerville like the Standard Flying 12 and Hillman Minx Convertible and Saloon from 1951. But some seem to be adapted from Somerville originals to create models which I do not believe were ever made by the original Somerville company.

An example of this is kits sold of the round grilled Hillman Minx Convertible and Californian said to be from 1952. I can find no trace of Somerville making these models. This post looks at the Hillman Californian from Promod.

The Hillman Californian with a round grille appeared initially in 1952 as a Mark Six version of the car. This had a new dashboard and a new round grille compared to the Mark Five but still sported the short tail of the previous version. This was the version modelled by Sangers many years ago shown below.

The Minx was updated to Mark Seven  in 1953 with the new long tail and this is the version produced by Promod. This is shown in the extract from the contemporary advert shown below.

In 1954 the Mark Eight was introduced and the grille was changed again with the addition of horizontal central section. That is the form that Brooklin has modelled the Californian in its Lansdowne range  as shown below:

The Californian name did not appear when the new Series One Audax cars appeared. It was replaced by the Sunbeam Rapier which was a similar two door coupé  which allowed the rear windows to be wound down into the body work in the same way as the Californian. Like the Californian it started out sharing its interior with the Minx  but quickly gained a more luxurious interior with wood and leather more fitting for a Sunbeam.

So to the Somerville Model. Looking at the baseplate it looks like this has been converted from the 1951 Convertible model which was #133 in the Somerville range and this number is still inscribed on the base of this model. Promod also sell a Mark Seven Hillman Minx Convertible as a kit.

Looking at the front end the grille looks a little too square to my eyes. The Hillman badging is just a simple set of bumps in the casting not a separate part. The vacform for the front screen is also a very flimsy and thin item. I have not added the small photo-etched wipers as I think that they would look at out of place on this ‘chunky’ model. The headlights are supplied as a chromed part with a dip in and you need to create your own lenses, using Micro Krystal Klear in this case.  The number plates are supplied as decals which do not adhere particularly strongly to the plated bumper. Sidelights are just moulded in.

The rear is quite neatly modelled with rear lights supplied as chrome parts that you need to add clear red paint to. The boot fittings are moulded well though the key hole is not quite centred. The main problem clear in this picture is that the top is supplied as separate part so they can re-use the lower body from the convertible. This would be fine if it fitted well, however it doesn’t fit well either at the rear or at the front

This picture shows the more than acceptable wheels and bumpers. The tyres seem a bit soft but actually fit the wheels well. Shame they do not have a white sidewall!

This view shows the neat chrome stone guards which are separate parts which fit nicely. Again the poor fit of the roof is evident.

Inside the dashboard and steering wheel are those of a 1951 car and have not been altered to make a Mark Seven interior.

The fit at the head of the screen is poor which is a shame. It might be improved by adding it and using filler before painting but then it would make doing the two colour painting more difficult. The picture below is affected by the wide angle lens setting as the car does not curve away front and back as shown below.

Whilst it is great to have a Californian to fill in the gap between the Sanger and the Lansdowne it also fills in the gap in terms of quality being better than the Sanger but short of the quality of the Lansdowne.

The Author would like to thank John Roberts for his advice and information provided whilst he was making this model. 


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