By David Wright with contributions from Maz Woolley
All text and photographs by, and copyright of, the Authors unless otherwise stated.
David Wright tells us a bit about the first international swapmeet event in the UK and the shows us a Barry Lester model which was the first show special model in the UK. Maz Woolley looks at his own model of the same subject made from a Barry Lester white metal kit.
The International Swapmeet
Way back in the 1970s the collecting scene was in its infancy. There were no swapmeets or toy fairs and clubs were small enough to meet in members homes. By the mid-1970s interest had grown and swapmeets were being held regularly across Europe. Those collecting specialists who had turned their hobby into a way of life, also took to white metal casting and trading internationally. Mike Richardson, Adrian Swain, Barry Lester, Trevor Wright and Brian Garfield Jones have all told their stories of regular trips across Europe to trade in models.
Adrian Swain, pattern maker and white metal caster, recalls travelling with Barry Lester of Auto Replicas, and his wife to most of the new annual events in mainland Europe, organised by an informal group of white metal makers. He recalls that France was the first, in Poitiers in 1972. This was followed by their attendance at similar events across Europe over the next few years.
Eventually Adrian and Barry decided that what was good for Europe was good for England, and the idea of a UK based International weekend swapmeet was born! Being from the central South Coast they settled on Bournemouth as the location, and the Heathlands Hotel as the venue. They followed much the same pattern as the European ones that they had already visited, with a swapmeet/show on the Saturday, followed by a dinner organised by Adrian and Barry in the evening. A day out followed for the regular visitor group on the Sunday before everyone went home. On this occasion, an open-top bus, hired from Bournemouth Corporation, took twenty-five visitors to Beaulieu National Motor Museum, but alas the weather at that time was not in their favour, and only a few brave souls remained upstairs.
It appears that their idea of a promotional model for the show may have been the first in the UK, and Adrian believes in Europe, (Unless any readers know different!), and Adrian has confirmed that Barry made the master. The concept of being ‘on the move’ forwards resulted in a removal van being the subject, and as Barry Lester was very fond of Fiats, the grille and front end was intended to represent a Fiat van. At the time, in 1975, Adrian was heavily involved in making patterns for 00 scale white metal model buses, and he thinks Barry may have used his 00 bus wheels to save making patterns for them. Adrian cast the white metal components and Barry was in charge of painting and assembly of finished ones. About 50 were made specially for the event and painted in the yellow of Bournemouth buses, but some were also sold as kits for collectors to assemble. They were nominally to HO scale.
The unusual etched panel used for the sign-writing on the side was found to be cheaper than creating waterslide transfers, there was no additional labour to put them on the van sides, and they could not rub off.
The BKL Fiat Pantechnicon
The show model is an engaging little truck, built to about 00 (1:76) scale, with a one piece cast white metal body, and white metal baseplate, with Barry‘s initials, BKL cast into it.
The radiator grille is a separate casting, polished to represent chrome, and the wheels, indeed probably 00 scale model bus wheels, with doubles at the rear, are free rolling.
Hinges, door handles and locker box are all scribed on the body, and the overall paint finish is by hand.
The interesting part is the advertising panel on the sides. The engraving is very clearly worked, and is finished by hand, and reads –
heathlands hotel oct. 11-12 1975
This one shown here was purchased by John Wakley, long time collector in Surrey, when he visited the Fair back in 1975. He bought a kit, as he had hand painted many Dinky Toys in his early years, to a very high level of skill. While he has hand painted the main body grey with a black roof and side panel line, the advertising panel is pale blue.
In all, a neat, clearly presented, and solid model that would be equally at home on a 00 gauge model railway layout as in a display cabinet. This must be the fore-runner of all those Code 3 models produced for Modelex, and Toy Fairs around the country during the 1980s and 1990s.
The Editor’s example – Without Lettering
Sometime in the late 1980s I came across a number of Barry Lester Auto Replica models being remaindered in a model shop that was closing down. I bought all that I could afford and went away and made them up. Indeed one of the first items of mine seen in the printed MAR magazine showed made up and converted Auto Replica Models.
Included in the group was the rather curious Fiat truck that was rather out of place amongst all the ex-Waldorf Miniature castings made by Barry Lester of Ford Taunus, Porsche, and Triumph TR6. It did however have a simple period charm and was relatively easy to make up. For general release the side panels had been roughly filled in and the original inscription shown on the model above covered up.
The kit was very simple, containing few components. From memory I think that the body was in two parts but it glued together easily and being boxy was easy to line up. I chose to make mine up in a Martini livery over mid blue enamel paintwork which I thought caught the “swinging sixties” Italian feel. Indeed one would not have been surprised to see a truck like it stuck in the traffic in the film The Italian Job!
Since this time regular readers will be aware that I have collected and made up many 1:76 scale white metal models from later producers like John Day Vehicle Scenics and Rod Parker’s models but I still have a fondness for the BKL models which helped define and create the market for these small model kits of relatively modern vehicles. Not only under his own Auto Replicas brand in the UK but also through the sales of his models boxed as Walldorf MIniatures in Germany.
A History of White Metal Transport Modelling – Ray Strutt and David Wright
David Wright: Sadly, Barry Lester died in July 2010, so we were privileged to have obtained this history both from the History of White Metal Transport Modelling book, and also from his longtime friend Adrian Swain, and his encyclopedic memory!
Thanks also to John Wakley for the use of his model for this article, and his memories of visiting the Show.
We welcome your comments and questions. Please go to our Model Auto Review Facebook page, or email us at maronlineeditor at gmail.com.