Danbury Mint Makeover

By John Quilter

The old MAR Online pages at zeteo.com will not be accessible for much longer so we have decided to transfer more articles from key contributors. This posting is by John Quilter and was originally presented under the Reader’s Chops heading in 2015.

A while back Danbury Mint produced a series of pewter models that I believe were “crafted” in England. There was a wide variety of international cars dating from the early 1910s to the late 1930s. They have now reached the secondary market and can be purchased quite reasonably from such venues as eBay. Since many represent cars not seen to 1:43rd scale before, they can make interesting additions to one’s collection. I was light on “brass era” cars in my model museum so some of the Danbury items fit in nicely. However, to add more realism and to make them blend with the typical collector scale model it was necessary to paint them in appropriate colors. They do not have rubber tires, the entire item being cast in pewter and there does not appear to be any way to disassemble them for ease of painting.

My method was to wash them down with detergent, prime them with an aerosol paint and spray a final colour coat. The colour choices can be picked by taking a look at Google images of the subject real car. There will be many to view and choose from. The tires are metal and will have to be carefully hand painted in flat black or in some cases white as were very early rubber tires. The seats are easy to do on open cars but present a bit of challenge in closed cars necessitating poking through the windows with a brush and dabbing on paint on the seats, door cards and steering wheel. This does not have to be done to perfection as the interiors are not easily visible. Bare metal foil can be added for chrome items or brass items on the very early brass era cars. In some cases the “scratch off” method of bringing out the stainless or chrome items such as side moldings can be used. Carefully with an razor knife scratch off the color coat and polish slightly with jeweller’s rouge and you will get a nice effect. On some items I added extra detail such as the circular windscreen on the Stutz Bearcat. I added a cotton Q Tip for a simulated steam exhaust on the Stanley Steamer. Details such as these can be researched using images on the internet. Windows can be made from sheet plastic (some common clamshell food containers are made of this material) and glued into place. Final work can be to polish the paint ever so slightly with the jeweller’s rouge for a nice gloss. Of course the painting process is a bit more complex if the car is two toned but by masking off one section at a time that can be done.

A few words of caution: Not all these Danbury Mint models are exact 1;43 scale so if you are a stickler for scale ask the vendor to measure the model before you bid or purchase. Some research in my books would tell me the wheelbase of the real car so I would inquire as to the wheelbase. Otherwise the accuracy of the replicas is quite good. Some may be a bit distressed as they may not always been in the hands of dedicated model collectors since new. I find, however that pewter is a pretty forgiving material things like bent windscreens frames, wheel alignments can be corrected with some judicious bending. The Cormorant hood ornament on my Packard was beyond salvaging but I was able to make a new one from scratch with some shaping of sheet aluminium. The wide whitewall tires typical of this class of car from this era were made from white package address label paper cut to size with a compass with a sharp blade an old trick I learned decades ago from my mentor in model building and customizing, the late, great Bill Harrison.

1909 Stanley Steamer

1909 Stanley Steamer with steam effect.


1911 Buick painted

1911 Buick in pewter finish

1911 Buick pewter side view

1913 Cadillac painted

1914 Stutz Bearcat

1914 Stutz Bearcat from the rear

1937 Lagonda in pewter

Assorted Danbury items painted by John Quilter

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