By Rod Ward and Charles Barnett, Jan 2014
Introduction by Rod Ward
Unlike many other French ranges of veteran and vintage cars made in the 1950s and 1960s, RAMI used diecast metal for their models, rather than plastic. Regarded as rather crude by many British collectors at the time, RAMI models have stood the test of time rather better than, and held their value much better than, such ranges as Matchbox Models of Yesteryear. The range was a joint effort with the Rochetaillée Museum in France; every model represented an exhibit in the car collection there.
As someone whose working life has been devoted to every aspect of model cars, I tend to avoid spending time with model cars (or real ones) in my two precious weeks of summer holiday each year.
Every year for ten years, therefore, we used to whizz past the chateau at Rochetaillée sur Saone on our way from Burgundy to Provence, knowing of the collection but never visiting it. We even had an invitation from the owner to visit the Museum, but somehow we never made it.
Charles wrote this detailed article for us in 1983 (over 30 years ago), and it was spread over three issues. It is reprinted here with only minor revisions to the text, and with some colour illustrations, as only monochrome illustrations were possible in MAR 5, 6 and 7. Not every model is pictured here; a couple are from my collection, others are from the catalogue. The second-type catalogue cover is reproduced at the head of this article.
RAMI by Charles Barnett
RAMI is a range of model vehicles which most collectors interested in Veteran and Vintage model cars will have come across, but few British enthusiasts seem to be aware of the full range of models.
There were 39 models in the series, the majority of which were not too hard to find in 1983, even though they were not imported into the UK in great quantities. Production started in 1956, and finally stopped in 1972. the models were made by Messrs JMK of Lure, Haute-Saone. The company first hit trouble in 1970-71, when all looked lost, but hopes were raised for the future when a few of the later models were reissued by the company in late 1971, and a new model was introduced, the Motobloc. This model, just to confuse matters, was given catalogue number 2, as it was intended to replace the original 2, the 1900 de Dion Bouton, the mould for which had broken.
In the following model-by-model summary, I will refer to the de Dion as number 2, and the Motobloc as number 39, to keep things in proper chronological order. To get back to the potted history, the hoped-for resurrection did not happen, and production finally stopped in 1972. An interesting feature of the series is that all the cars were modelled on vehicles in one museum. Le Musée Francais de l’Automobile, which is housed in the Chateau de Rochtaillée, in the Rhone valley. Apart from giving the collection of models a linking bond, it also explains the choice of some of the weirder models in the range (such as the Lacroix de Laville three-wheeler, for instance), and it reintroduces names from the early days of the French motor industry that may otherwise have been forgotten by model collectors. Would you have heard of Gautier-Wehrle, Luc Court, Hauter, or Audibert & Lavirotte, if it wasn’t for the RAMI catalogue?
Anyway, the range forms an interesting picture of the French car industry in the Veteran and early Vintage period. The best thing to do now is to look at each model in turn.
1. 1907 Renault cab Taxi de la Marne.
A model of one of the fleet of Paris taxis which carried troops to the Front in the First World War. Quite a nice little model, though the casting is a little basic by today’s standards. The colours are red and black, with gold painted radiator, etc. Main criticism? The wheels, often the case with RAMI, which are in a wholly inappropriate and garish yellow plastic. Sadly, the taximeter is missing on my model.
2. 1900 de Dion Bouton Vis-a-vis.
One of the hardest models in the range to find, as the mould broke quite early in its life, and was not replaced. The earlier catalogues were overprinted with the announcement that the model was no longer in the series, and the later catalogue illustrated the replacement Motobloc. A pretty model, a fraction over two inches long, in grey and black, with white plastic wheels, gold tiller and lamps.
3. 1907-08 Lion-Peugeot Double Phaeton
A little confusion here the catalogue says 1907; the base of the model 1908. The Museum catalogue says nothing, so the choice is yours. Rather an uninspiring model, in blue with black wings. The back seat, being part of the body casting, is blue, but the separate front seat for some reason is bright red, which looks rather odd. The catalogue shows that all the models are finished like this. It has yellow wheels, but I have seen it with white plastic wheels, with a gold painted radiator etc.
4. 1924 Citroën 5cv.
Different altogether, one of my favourites, both in the series and of this particular car, it is the immortal Cloverleaf tourer. A very pretty model, in orange-yellow with black wings, red seat, silver radiator, windscreen etc. The wheels are accurate this time, in grey plastic. The whole model is very cute and charming. Mine was brought from South America about 17 years ago (the mid-1960s), which showed that the firm did some exporting in those days.
5. 1900 de Dion taxi cab.
In direct contrast to the Citroën, this one is pretty horrible. The centre join line of the two halves of the body (quite a few of the early models were made in this way, but none so obviously as his one) grabs the eye, and the overall impression of crudeness cannot be redeemed by any of the details of the model, such as the decorative casting under the side windows, which is quite a good reproduction of this detail on the full-size car, as shown in the Museum catalogue. This catalogue says the original is a Doctor’s Car, which seems a reasonable description of this style of bodywork. It has a green and yellow body (green above the waistline), black wings and bonnet, with yellow wheels. It is tiny, at just over two inches in length.
6. Bugatti T35C 1928.
My information says that the T35C was the two litre supercharged version of the Bugatti Type 35, whereas the T35B (as modelled by Lesney in the Yesteryear range. and by Eligor) was a 2.3 litre supercharged version. The model is pretty, but not very accurate. I think the moulding lines on the body emphasise an altogether incorrect shape in section, square rather than the correct rounded section.
Model carries no spare wheel on the nearside, as most of the full size cars did, and there is no provision for one. The exhaust pipe is wholly wrong. It is quite attractive, however, in French racing blue with a red seat, and chromed plastic wheels which look reasonably accurate. Personally I prefer the Yesteryear model, even though the RAMI is nearer to 1:43 scale. The Eligor is probably best for those who want the most accurate scale model of the car in 1:43 scale, and of course there are plenty more in other scales to choose from.
7. 1925 Citroen B2.
Another Citroen, and another of my favourites, the saloon version of the popular B2. The body colour is the same as the 5cv, but this car has a black bonnet and wings, and a matt grey roof, with a silver or unpainted radiator, lamps etc. The wheels are the same as those on the 5cv, so it looks like the big brother to the 5cv.
8. 1906 Sizaire & Naudin.
A French sports car of some note in its day; the Museum catalogue describes the full-size car as a Sports Runabout. The model captures the overall lines of the original quite well and does a good job of reproducing the unusual frontal treatment; the large leaf spring across the front, in front of the radiator. The colour is white, with red seat, white plastic wheels, gold radiator and lamps. None has a really good finish; I think the paint was too thin.
9. 1895 Rochet Schneider.
A bit more confusion regarding the date of the car itself, which the Museum catalogue gives as 1898. The model stands out immediately in a collection, by virtue of its white parasol fixed behind the back seat. Looking at the photo of the full size car in the RAMI catalogue, it is apparent that the front seats can be arranged in either forward-facing position (as on the model) or, by adjusting the backrest, in vis-a-vis position. There is a folding footboard at the front, reproduced faithfully in the model. the colour is orange-yellow, with a black chassis and wings, red seats, white parasol and wheels, gold footboard, tiller, lamps and radiator. Overall, a very pretty little model, despite its lack of detail.
10. 1934 Hispano Suiza.
In a much smaller scale than the rest of the range, this is again a pretty model. Even now the casting looks just right, and it captures well the formal and regal lines of the full size car. The photo of the real car in the RAMI catalogue shows it with wire wheels, but the model has chrome disc wheels, and it looks better for them. The colour scheme is a buttermilk-cream body, black wings and chassis, black roof, red seats and silver or unpainted radiator, lights, windscreen, etc. A delightful model. I guess the scale is around 1:50, as it is four inches long.
11. Gobron Brillié.
A rather nondescript-looking model, like a metal version of the plastic Politoy model of the same car. The colours are the same. The shape of the RAMI is right, but detail is a bit lacking, I would have hoped to see a representation of the very prominent trim on the front of the scuttle, but there is none. The colour is deep orange, with black seats, hood and wings, yellow plastic wheels, gold radiator and lamps. It would have looked much smarter in the colours of the original car (as shown in the RAMI catalogue; cream/black with red wheels and seats). Not the best model in the range, but one of the few, along with the Politoy, models of this marque.
12. Gautier Wehrle.
RAMI incorrectly call this car a Gauthier Wehrle. It is believed to be a model of one of the early electric cars produced by this firm, but they were also making petrol-engined cars, having tried and given up with steam. Not bad for 1897. The forward-raked coupe top looks most unusual to modern eyes, but to contemporary ones was no doubt more practical. It has a grey body-chassis, bright orange hood, red seat, white wheels, and gold linings. The model looks for all the world like a closed horse-buggy without the horses.
13. 1912 Packard Landaulette.
From the description, one might think this will look like the Matchbox Yesteryear Packard Landaulette, but it is not. It is much less upright in styling, possibly because it is modelled with the rear hood up, and there is no doubt that it is a replica of a very different car. The model is fair, not one of RAMI’s best. The overall appearance is spoiled by the white plastic wheels. It has an orange body, black Chassis/wings, red seats, grey rear hood and gold lamps, but a silver radiator.
14. 1898 Peugeot Coupe
Not a sporting vehicle; very like a horsedrawn carriage, leaving the driver in the open, with the passengers fully enclosed. Again it is spoiled by the wheels. It has a blue body, black wings/chassis, red seat, matt black hood. white wheels, gold lamps and tiller.
15. 1908 Ford Model T.
This version of the Model T is a bit different from most models, in that it is a miniature of the two seater runabout, with the rumble or ‘Mother-in-law’ seat behind. It is cream all over, with red seats, grey hood, gold fittings, and RAMI tried to reproduce a mesh grille by using a fine gauze. Wheels in white plastic spoil it, but they don’t look as bad as they do on the next model.
16. 1907 Ford Model T.
Here the white plastic wheels contrasting with the black body are not the only problems. The model is quite an oddball; the baseplate calls it a Model T, whereas the RAMI catalogue calls it a Model R. The car shown in catalogue is a normal Model T tourer with the front doors etc just like the Corgi Classic model. The proportions of the model are correct, but there are no front doors. The museum catalogue show a Model T of 1910, with no front doors, but the chassis is longer, a double phaeton body with no windscreen. So. which is the RAMI modelled on? Is it a poor model of the 1910 double phaeton or is it the car in the RAMI catalogue with an elementary mistake in the moulding? A standard Model T, in all-black, with gold radiator etc.
17. 1908 Panhard & Levassor.
Called ‘La Marquise’ in the RAMI catalogue, the original is a large imposing touring limousine of magnificent proportions. The model captures the lines well, but why such a ridiculous colour? The original car looks well in deep blue and black, but the RAMI is poor, with an orange bonnet and lilac body. The wheels are not too bad, plastic but in a more acceptable wood colour, not as spindly as some. The chassis and wings are black, the radiator with mesh-effect grille, lamps etc all gold. A model which could well benefit from a session with the paintbrush.
18. 1899 Panhard & Levassor.
A smaller model of smaller car, again a semi-enclosed limousine, described in the RAMI catalogue as a ‘Tonneau Ballon’, but by the Museum as a ‘Tonneau 4 places avec ballon’. I assume this to mean a vehicle of the tonneau body style with the rear compartment roofed. It is nicely cast, quite accurate, with a good representation of the early serpentine-tube radiator, but again the effect is ruined by the ludicrous body colour of pale lilac. The bonnet, wings and chassis are black, roof matt grey, sea red, fittings gold, and wheels white plastic. Another one for the paintbrush, as the original car is green with red wheels etc.
19. 1898 Hautier.
This is another favourite because of its eccentricity of design by today’s standards. The car is best described as an electric hansom cab, with the driver in the traditional position behind and above the passengers. Entry and exit were through the double doors at the front, after negotiating the ornate wrought-iron lamp brackets. I have no photographs of the original, but the model looks accurate in casting. It is black with orange/ red side panels, doors, red seat and support. Lamps and brackets are gold. The wheels let it down, in white plastic. Worth having, if only for its sheer oddity.
20. 1904 Delaunay Belleville.
Nicely cast model of this large tourer, with its famous circular radiator grille and bonnet. Again the mesh-effect grille is attempted, quite successfully, Colours are again unlikely; pale blue body with an orange bonnet, black wings and chassis, red seats and white plastic wheels. The hood can be in either grey or black. Gold radiator and lamps etc.
21. 1902 Georges Richard Tonneau.
Not a very good model, as it fails to capture the lines of the original, especially around the front. The hood and supports look too heavy. The only alternative would be to use plastic instead of metal, which would make a more fragile model. The colour scheme does not help: scarlet body, white seats and wheels, black wings and chassis, grey roof. The photo by RAMI looks much better in tan with yellow wheels, and the radiator, lamps etc in gold.
22. 1892 Scotte Steam Carriage.
A very fine casting, especially of the boiler, and it has decent wheels. It is not the easiest in the range to find, but worth it when you do. Orange chassis and front part, blue passenger compartment, grey roof, red seat and dark brown wheels. The tiller and lamps are gold. It sounds hideous, but it looks reasonable.
23. 1900 Renault Tonneau.
A nice model, a bit like a dogcart. Comparison with the real car in the RAMI catalogue shows the ‘balustrading’ round the seats to be incorrect. This was merely a figuring effect on the body sides, but it looks attractive. It is white, with black wings and chassis, red seats, dark brown wheels, gold radiators and lamps. A good one.
24. 1911 Lorraine Dietrich.
This is an enclosed touring car, with no less than 12 windows. I believe the company had railway ancestry, and possibly their car designers were influenced by railway carriage design. The full size car looks very imposing in cream and black. The model is : reasonably faithful by RAMI. but the bonnet is orange, with red wheels, and a dark blue roof. The radiator, lamps etc are gold. Not bad overall.
25. 1895 Panhard & Levassor Tonneau.
Another car which was too small and delicate for RAMI to model really aaccurately, but it is quite nicely done. Colours are; dark green body, black wings, orange front seat, white side-facing rear seats and white wheels, which once again ruin the overall appearance of the model. The full size car is shown in the RAMI catalogue, where it looks altogether more sober in black with rich deep blue seats. The bodywork aft of the front seat was panelled in wood on the full size car. According to the (rather poor) translation in the Museum catalogue, this car, or one very like it, ran in the 1896 Paris-Marseille-Paris race, but if it was this car, it would have run as a two-seater only. The rear bodywork has been altered since then. Digging back through my library, I have a photo of Charles Jarrott and S F Edge sitting in a two-seater version of this car, at a later race in England, where the vehicle is referred to as the Paris-Marseille car, so this seems likely. Thus this unlikely-looking vehicle can be classed as a racing car, along with the other equally unlikely RAMI racer, the number 10 de Dion Bouton steam carriage.
26. 1904 Delahaye.
A model of one of the earlier cars from this French manufacturer, normally associated with more exotic sporting and racing machinery from the 1930s. The model is quite well cast, but the hood looks much too heavy and the model is nearer to 1:45 or 1:48 scale than 1:43. There is a brave attempt at a mesh radiator grille, made of mesh! The colours are’ scarlet body, black wings and hood, white seats and wheels, with a gold radiator and lamps.
27. 1898 Audibert & Lavirotte.
An open double phaeton body with a very square radiator and front end, this car has been quite faithfully modelled, though details like the double wheel control on the steering column, on the full size car, but not on the model, would have made it more interesting.
Apparently the company made only about 50 cars, of which the one modelled is probably the only survivor. It is chain-driven, and another car with a racing pedigree. This one took part successfully in the 1898 Nice-La Turbie run. The colour is green, with the wings in black, seats in tan-orange, wheels in brown, and radiator in gold.
28. 1911 Leon Bollée Double Berline.
Another imposing luxury vehicle, with a curved roof, hence the body style name. Like the Lorraine-Dietrich, it has the look of a railway carriage about it. A very good model, though the paper decals below the side windows would probably have been better left off (they are meant to represent wood fillets).
The colour is unusually accurate to the full size car for RAMI, being a red body and seats, blue roof and wings, and brown wheels, with gold radiator and lamps. Again a piece of gauze is used to represent the grille, and on a good example of the model you can find a Leon Bollée transfer on the radiator. It looks as if RAMI were really trying for a good model of this fine car, and considering their production standards and limitations, they did pretty well.
29. 1912 SPA.
Another favourite, a lovely model of this two-seater sports-touring car. The earlier plastic mis-coloured wheels were replaced by chrome plated ones, which complement the fine casting well, though they are not accurate.They ought to be black, according to the photo of the real car in the RAMI catalogue). It has a scarlet body, blue seats, gold radiator etc. I wish they were all as good as this.
30. 1878 Amedée Bollee ‘La Mancelle’ Steam Carriage.
Another beauty, probably one of the most sought after of the range, and one of the hardest to find. Very pretty and very accurate, the wheels being especially worthy of note. Like those of the Scotte steamer, they have studs cast in and are just right. Like the Scotte, the boiler assembly is brass finished, though the quality of finish can vary enormously from one model to another. I am not certain whether the full size vehicle is in the Malarte collection. There is no mention in the Museum catalogue, which is unusual for such an important and historic machine. It has a green body, black wings. red seats, a tan hood to the passenger section, a grey roof to the boiler, grey wheels, a brass-finished boiler and lamps. All in all, a gem of a model.
31. 1901 Luc Court Course 2 Baquets.
A good model of this sporty two seater. The old coloured plastic wheels are back, but they do not look out of place. They are not as spindly as before. The colour scheme follows that of the full size car: yellow body, black wings, maroon seats, red wheels, gold radiator. Nice one.
As you may have noticed, the last few models generally are a vast improvement on previous offerings, from the point of view of accuracy, except for the Scotte steamer, which was probably planned alongside the Bollée steam car. The rest of the models in the range were grouped as the ‘Luxe’ series, though they were not differentiated in the catalogue in any way. They were reissued in 1971 when the firm was trying to get out of its financial difficulties, but the original dates of issue were earlier, as the firm folded in 1972. All of these models have the chrome plated plastic wheels, as fitted to the SPA, and except for the Motobloc, all of their radiators were of plated plastic, whereas previously these parts were gold painted.
32. 1908 Brazier.
A landaulette-type body, again quite nicely modelled. The chrome wheels are not right for this model, however, as the original car had wood-spoked ones. It has a yellow body, dark green bonnet, black wings and front seat, grey hood with plated dumb irons. On the full size car in the RAMI catalogue, the wings, bonnet and body as far back as the rear passenger compartment were all dark green.
33. 1910 Berliet.
A nice casting, shame about the paint job! An accurate representation of this large limousine, but in an unlikely colour scheme of yellow bonnet, two-tone body (front section dark green, rear white). The roof and wings are black, the wheels are chromed, and the mock-wood transfer from the Leon Bollée makes another appearance. The finish is not at all attractive, but I have no illustration of the full size car with which to compare it.
34. 1903 Mieusset.
Quite a nice model; mine is in lilac, with black wings and hood, plus white seats. The RAMI catalogue shows ra ed body. I suspect mine could be a 1971 reissue, as the showcase is totally different to all the others from pre-1971. I have no illus tration of the full size car, but the casting looks accurate. Mieusset only made cars from 1903 to 1914 (making lorries into the 1920s) and made vehicles as a sideline to their main business of producing fire extinguishing equipment.
35. 1902 De Dion Bouton Course.
The full size car as catalogued looks to be an unlikely racing car. So does the model, but it is in fact quite an accurate replica. Unfortunately I have no record of the race(s) in which the car took part. Perhaps someone with a more comprehensive library could let us know? The body is white, and unusually the radiator grille, bonnet louvres and fluting are all simulated by transfers, which rather spoil it. The chassis is red, the seats blue, and the rear mounted petrol tank is grey, with a red circle transfer at each end to represent lining detail.
36. 1898 Lacroix de Laville.
The rarest of the whole range, possibly due to moulding problems. Certainly some fragile parts, like the steering tiller, and the curved chassis, may also have caused problems. In comparison with the full size car as catalogued, this is a very accurate model. It has a long tiller with one headlamp mounted at the front, a small belt-driven single cylinder de Dion engine, and four seats over the rear axle. It must have been an interesting beast to drive. It has a cream body, black chassis and blue seats. One of my favourites.
37. 1932 Delage Torpedo.
This could have been a really good model, but it is let down by the colour of the wings and the incorrect location of the front axle. A must for collectors ot vintage and post-vintage sporting cars. This is a model of the D8S, the bonnet is cast separately, but it is not removable. Deep red body with white wings and chassis, orange seat, black plastic insert to represent folded hood. Some, like mine, suffer from a lot of casting flash on the wings, and the chromework looks heavy. I also have a metallic green version with erected hood, but I am sure this is a private conversion. so I have not included it here. It looks like an original RAMI paint job, it is the mosy unlikely colour for this car, the hood looks like nothing I have seen before, and the model came in a RAMI showcase, so I might be wrong. Does anyone have any ideas about this?
38. 1927 Mercedes-Benz SSK.
A nice model in its day, but it stands too high for accuracy, the radiator grille insert is missing, but they are all like that. It is not easy to find. The body is red, wings and chassis black, with white seats.
39 (or 2). 1902 Motobloc Tonneau.
The replacement tor the original number 2 in the range, the de Dion Vis-a-vis. A lovely little model, but it has chrome wire wheels whereas it should have had wooden spoked ones. It has a red body, black wings a chassis and a white seat. A brass-style insert around the bonnet to represent the louvres is not accurate. A painted casting would have been better. Regarding the full size car, the name Motobloc came from the car being the earliest known to have unitary construction of the engine and gearbox.
As I mentioned earlier, the Motobloc was to have been the first of a new series, but this was the last model the firm issued. This is a pity, as the company seemed to keep clear of the usual Renaults, Peugeots etc. and go for the more unusual vehicles. The Museum catalogue shows that there was still plenty to go at. What about the Secretariad of 1891? It had three wheels, two at the front with a small steam engine, and one at the back, which was the steerable one. There was no room for anyone but the driver, seated amidships. Or the 1897 Hugot, with basketwork body and wings! Is there anywhere a model of a Cottereau? A Noel Beret? Or a Carre of 1909 with sprung wheels (i.e. spokes joined to the rim by a series of round springs). RAMI seemed to be the only firm making models of such unknown vehicles, and indeed this may well have been a major factor in their demise.
I have only seen two types of catalogue for the models. The first was a small three page affair (centre page loose) with pictures of the first 18 models in no particular order. The other (seen at the head of this article) was a properly assembled little booklet, with a photo of either the model or the full size car on each page. This later catalogue is much more common than the earlier one, as a copy was included with every model, when they were sold in showcases.
There were two methods of packing for RAMI models: originally they were in cardboard boxes, all featuring the same design, each stamped on their blank side panel and at the ends with the name of the model inside. Later the models were sold in plastic showcases with the later catalogues included. As I have seen the Mercedes SSK in the earlier box and the 5CV Citroen in the later box, the changeover obviously happened towards the late 1960s-early 1970s, when the full range, except the Motobloc, was in production. The showcases came with white, grey or black bases. Some had a paper sticker on the base with the name of the model, others had none, and one that I have (the Mieusset) has the name of the model stamped on the lid, and on a background sketch card insert. I would guess this to be one of the last variants.
Prices of the models when current in Britain started around 8s0d (40p) in the early to mid 1960s. When last available, they cost around £1.50 each in 1972.
In closing I would like to thank my old friend Mike Sheard, who loaned me contemporary articles mentioning RAMI, and also the Museum catalogue to which I have constantly referred. Without his assistance, this article would have been much less detailed.
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