Architects design buildings using a creative process by which they manipulate space and design elements to create a unified and compelling artistic statement. But generally, before any shovels did in the ground, a building model is made to let others know what the whole thing will look like, feel like, once it is created. The same process occurs with yachts, ocean liners and cars.
In the creation of automobile models especially, two aesthetic ideals align: the sensual – love of color, form, line, all depicting grace and style, and the practical, designing internal mechanical systems that to structural engineers, are as glorious as the car’s outside design.
Amalgam Fine Model Cars is a company that stands alone in the luxury model car niche. Founded in 1985, the company creates the highest quality model cars and yachts for designers, manufacturers, and high-end collectors worldwide.
The British company has become so successful, that some of their model cars are often worth more than an actual luxury car. Amalgam’s large format (1:8 scale) model cars for the one-off custom model cars can be price up to $65,000, with some even higher than that. The creation represents 350 hours of work from the six expert modelers at Amalgam. .
And in 2015, Amalgam introduced a new bespoke service for many collectors looking to recreate the favorite cars to display in their home or office –the Ferrari 250 GT California Spider as an example. Of course, the $65,000 model is a much less expensive by comparison to the $8 million dollar price tag of the actual car.
Amalgam’s founder, Sandy Copeman, got his start in the UK making architectural and yacht models for designers. From there, he started designing Formula One race car models for all the teams, and then began making models for Bugatti, McLaren, Aston Martin, and Lamborghini.
Recently, Pursuitist was fortunate to have had a design conversation with Sandy.
Pursuitist: What is your background and education? Amalgam models are so unique, and complex. How did you get started in this field? Did you complete models as a child? When did you know you had a talent for model making?
Sandy: Growing up in Southeast London in the cultural/political maelstrom of the 1960’s, I was given free reign by my politically active parents to pursue my interests. I quickly developed passions for cycling, motorcycling, art, music, and Formula One. Of the latter, I remember being incredibly amazed with Formula One Driver Jim Clark at the time. The way Clark raced made such an impression on me. For me, my passion for fine cars and F1 is very emotionally and aesthetically driven. It is all about the look, the feel, and the driving experience of these amazing machines.
Early on in my career, I realized my particular talent was in understanding the specific aims and aesthetics of our clients. This rapport enabled us to deliver these remarkably uncanny models that were finely attuned to each client’s unique vision.
This skill of being able to recreate whatever a client dreams up in absolute detail has remained a personal strength of mine throughout my model-making career. It is one the key assets that I bring to Amalgam.
Pursuitist: With all the care that goes into each Amalgam design, these models seem to be purchased as works of art in of themselves. They also seem to be also designs of remembrance. Can you tell us what attracts your clients to purchasing an Amalgam model?
Sandy: Model making is an ancient art, but it was also an important phase of engineering as well as commerce. Many of the nautical recreations at the National Maritime Museum for example were designed as a means of understanding how to build the actual ships themselves.
In the 19th Century, ship models were often presented to investors to see the design remotely, in order to sign off on commissioning its construction. Even with all the technology available to us today, model making remains a cornerstone of the design process in many fields.
Amalgam’s mission is to capture the totality of a stunning car or boat design. We then deliver it to the client in a way that they can experience every minute aspect and detail of the original subject wherever they wish to display it.
Often, Amalgam is responsible for recreating designs that are so rare that only a very few examples remain in existence. The Amalgam model becomes a convenient means of bringing these exclusive works of art into a collector’s life to share with those around them.
Also, Amalgam has a special program that allows us to recreate an absolutely exact scale model of an owner’s car, whatever automobile that may be. I find that we all generally tend to share a deep and instinctive fascination with miniaturization.
To recreate something in such painstaking detail to exact scale requires extreme skill and artfulness. The miniaturization itself works in tandem with the beauty of the original design to form a potent combination, that draws a person in.
Our clients include superstar automotive designers, Formula One drivers, and those fascinated by beautiful things. I put myself in the latter category.
Pursuitist: Are some automobile models more difficult to model than others? What are some of the variables in terms classic vs. modern exotic car design and color matching that complicates or simplifies this intensive process?
Sandy: Absolutely. The 1920’s and 1930’s era race cars are particularly challenging in that they tend to have a high proportion of finely engineered components mounted externally that are highly visible on the car. The process is incredibly demanding simply in terms of the number of components that Amalgam needs to create. The whole process is quite intensive. Every part must be precisely made and assembled. The Bugatti Type 59 and the Bentley Blower come to mind in this category.
Early and mid 20th century cars with luxury interiors can also pose a challenge due to their unique nature. It is also quite difficult to perfectly capture the many fine finishes available in exotic cars today in appropriate, accurate ways.
Amalgam constantly pushes to present our modern high performance and racecar models flawlessly. The McLaren F1 GTR and the LaFerrari come to mind. Our passion for model making must match the dedication and attention to detail that is behind each of these automobiles.
Everything down to the tiniest part requires a great deal of time and care to perfectly render. I feel that Amalgam’s Bugatti 57SC and our Mercedes 300SL Gullwing models are stellar examples of this dedication to detail.
Pursuitist: How long does it take to create an Amalgam model? What is the price range for these exceptional pieces?
Sandy: There are two phases to the creation of an Amalgam model. The first is the development phase, which in the case of a classic car design begins with a complete digital scan of all parts of the owner’s car. In the case of a modern road or racing car, Amalgam will be supplied the CAD scan directly from the manufacturer. Using either the supplied CAD or digital scan, we use the data to create patterns for every component of the actual car we are about to model. This is done either by hand using sketches extracted from the digital data, or by CNC machining or 3D printing parts and then hand finishing them to include the more nuanced details.
The initial development stage takes between 2,000 and 3,500 hours depending on the complexity of the model. The second phase is the casting, fettling, and assembly of each piece. This takes between 200 and 350 hours of work for each model depending on the complexity of the design. The prices for our core range of 1:8 models are from $7,000 and up. If an owner wants a specific interior or cabin treatment such as yellow stitching or carbon fiber, there is an additional cost of $1,200 to make the model precisely to an owner’s specification.
Pursuitist: What is next for Amalgam?
Sandy: We are keeping very busy. The Ferrari 488 GTB has just launched with the Spider model of that car is coming up in mid-December. Amalgam has also just delivered the first bespoke Ferrari 246 GTS and GT Dino models to customers. Ferrari is a longtime client, and we are continuing to work with Maranello to reproduce all the most important classic Ferrari cars throughout the years. The Ferrari 288 GTO and 330 GTC will be coming along very soon. Also in the pipeline are the F40 GTE and the 333 SP.
Amalgam’s new Bugatti Chiron model will debut after the car’s launch at Geneva in 2016. We are also delivering a small number of the Bugatti Vision GT soon. These latter models will only be available for sale from Bugatti. The Porsche 356A and B are coming before the end of 2015. And, the Bizzarini 5300 GT Strada will also be ready in the next few weeks. Finally, there are all the Formula One race cars for 2016 year we are modeling too.
Amalgam is very fortunate in the fact that there is never any shortage of beautiful machines for us to recreate. Quite the contrary in fact, we are always finding new and wonderful automobiles to model!