Brooklin Models 'A Little History'

 

Since 1974, Brooklin Models has been creating beautiful 1/43 scale miniatures of American automotive classics. Honouring American automotive history, design, and styling, and with a focus on the time period between the 1930’s and the early 1960’s, Brooklin has given us such Milestone cars as the 1935 Studebaker Commander, the 1941 Packard Clipper, and the 1953 Buick Skylark, as well as some unique automobiles, such as the 1936 Stout Scarab, 1938 Phantom Corsair, and the 1957 Rambler Rebel. The range even includes four trailers and a classic speedboat.
 
Brooklin Models Limited has its origins in the small rural town of Brooklin, located 35 miles northeast of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It was in the early 1970’s that John Hall, a design engineer teaching at the University of Toronto, decided to change a life-long interest in American automobile styling into something tangible – scale models in 1/43 scale. Compared to models found in the Brooklin Collection today, these early models were crude. The first two 1933 Pierce-Arrow Silver Arrow models, cast in the basement of John’s house, were made of resin, and had wooden sticks from ice-cream bars incorporated into their baseplates for stiffness. The earliest models cast in white metal did not have windows in clear plastic, no rear windows at all, and their tyres were made of white rubber. However,  by 1977, models from Brooklin were improved, complete with details of windshield wipers, clear plastic windows, and licence plates. Model car collectors and HO train buffs in the Toronto area, as well as the north-eastern United States, were soon collecting these models of American classics.
 
In 1979, John and Jenny Hall returned to England, setting up shop in the beautiful city of  Bath, Somerset. This move led to an immediate distinction between the earlier models and the new English ones, making the Canadian Brooklins more highly valued and sought-after.
 
Classic cars produced by the Brooklin factory over the following years included the 1948 Buick Roadmaster Convertible, the 1953 Oldsmobile Fiesta, the 1956 Lincoln Continental MK II and the 1958 Edsel Citation. The 1941 Hupmobile Skylark and the 1954 Dodge Royal 500 were some unusual pieces that had not been produced by any other model manufacturer.
 
Diecast models and hand-built white metal models ~ a brief comparison.
 
The average car model found in toy and hobby shops is usually diecast. Producing a diecast model involves the manufacture of automated steel dies, into which molten metal can then be forced, producing the bodies and other pieces that are assembly-line constructed into the finished product. Making the dies is an expensive proposition, at times costing in excess of  70,000 pounds, but their efficiency allows the manufacture of tens or even hundreds of thousands of models, which is essential if a profit is to be made. The need to sell such a large number usually dictates that the make and model of the car chosen is a popular and common one.
 
By contrast, models made by Brooklin Models Limited are hand-built, utilizing brass masters, vulcanized rubber moulds, and white metal. The expense of creating the masters for the body and the entire remainder of the model is much less than for a metal die, and this economic factor has given Brooklin the ability to choose and produce models of subjects that would be unviable for die-cast production. However, the market for these uncommon models is also but a percentage of more obvious subjects and thus production numbers of Brooklin made models are counted hundreds rather than tens of thousands.
 
Maybe, this relative rarity of our models is one of the reasons they maintain a value unlike the majority of die-cast product which often becomes worth less once purchased.
 
Hundreds of hours are put into the selection, research, and development of Brooklin models. Time and effort must be invested to find the full size vehicle to be modelled, to take accurate measurements, and to note the correct placement and proportion of detail. The preparations required for the various models in the Brooklin range are stories in themselves.
 
Taking measurements for the 1953 Kaiser Manhattan was relatively easy. It was one of a small collection of fully restored classic American cars owned by an enthusiast, who lived just 50 miles south of Bath. Any missed measurements or question of exterior or interior details required just a simple call or a quick drive down the road. Thus, in 1989 an accurate model of the 1953 Kaiser Manhattan joined the Brooklin Collection as BRK. 29.
 
The 1953 Airstream Wanderer was another American classic on British soil that joined the Collection. In this case, it was a trailer owned by David & Jennie Palmer. Brooklin collectors were able to view and examine this trailer (hitched to a 1955 Cadillac four-door sedan) at the 20th Anniversary celebration in Bath in 1994. Premiering as the Brooklin Collectors Club (U.K.) special model in 1994, the Airstream Wanderer joined the Collection the following year as a standard model.
 
However, not all the full-sized cars are so conveniently located. In the case of the 1936 Pierce-Arrow Silver Arrow, modelling this beauty in miniature required enlisting the services of Dick and Jo Ann Browne, of Roswell, Georgia. This car belonged to renowned West Coast car collector, Harris Laskey, who lives on a six-acre estate in Pacific Palisades, California. Dick and Jo Ann flew out to Los Angeles in November 2003 and spent several hours making almost 100 accurate measurements required by the Brooklin factory, as well as five dozen photographs of every angle of the exterior and every detail of the interior ( How did we manage before digital photography!). The product of their efforts was released as BRK 100x in metallic silver on September 30, 2004 as one of the factory’s 30th Anniversary specials, and then as a standard model BRK 100 in maroon on August 20, 2005.

A new team and a new era...
 
On August 6, 1998, Nigel Parker and Tim Fulford led a management buyout of the company, and in the years since have pushed the quality of their models to new heights, building on the traditions and values set by the company's founder. Models in the current range now feature improved detailing, with the fine touches of plated hood ornaments, windshield wipers, door handles and fine chromed wire trim. The Brooklin factory, nestling in the corner of Pines Way Industrial Estate, covers 5,000 square feet on two levels, with tight passageways and stairwells connecting the various production areas. Currently there are around twenty-five staff.
 
Brooklin Models Limited is currently the world’s leading manufacturer of 1/43 scale hand-built white metal models. The manufacturing process includes the meticulous creation of brass masters, from which vulcanized rubber moulds are made. Body moulds are created by the careful layering of strips of virgin rubber onto the master, encasing it in a steel frame, and vulcanizing at over 300°F. Centrifugal casting machines are used for creating baseplates, headlights, wheels, dashboards, seats and other small parts. Each white metal body, as well as the numerous small parts, is then individually and fastidiously cleaned of  flash and other imperfections. Bodies and sub-assemblies are then hand sprayed with automotive quality paints. Final assembly and packaging is also accomplished by hand, one model at a time. The manufacture of models occurs in three week runs, with several hundred pieces of one to three new models with the balance of the schedule used to replace “low stock” models. Overall, approximately 20,000 models are produced in a given year, with the average production run for an individual model over a five year period rarely exceeding 1000.
 
When asked how he got started in the business, Nigel replied that his interest in cars goes back to his childhood, but that he was not originally interested in models. After finishing college in 1982, he started in the paint room at the Brooklin factory at the suggestion of his friend, Tim Fulford, who had joined some 10 months earlier. Moving on to the casting room, and later to mould making, by 1990, Nigel was running factory production for John Hall.
 
In the last seven years, Nigel and his factory staff have brought us such classics as the 1936 Pierce-Arrow 1601 Sedan, the 1946 Mercury Sportsman Woody Convertible, and the 1954 Studebaker Conestoga. Recent models have included the1938 Cadillac 60 Special, the 1957 Oldsmobile Super 88 Fiesta Station Wagon, 1953 Nash-Healey Roadster, 1955 Hudson Hornet and 1958 Buick Roadmaster Riviera.
In 1993 a new name appeared within the Brooklin portfolio, joining The Brooklin Collection, US Model Mint and Robeddie. For some time there had been talk of introducing a range of British models to complement the American vehicles. Originally mooted by John Martin and John Hammick, the Lansdowne range consisted initially of four models. John Hall decided upon the Lansdowne brand name after the Lansdown area of Bath. He added the 'e' at the end but was never sure why!
The choice of subjects followed the Brooklin philosophy of modelling previously rarely available models in this scale. The Austin Healey Sprite was a miniature of John and Jenny's first car, and it joined the Vauxhall Cresta, MG Magnette and Minivan to get the new range off the ground. Other models swiftly followed, again bringing new subjects to collectors together with new castings that echoed classic choices from Dinky Toys' heyday of the 1950s. When the new range was being established John travelled to a remote rural location to measure the Vauxhall Cresta. He was ushered into the living room of a small cottage where smoke from the log fire filled the room. Settling down to talk to the owners over a cup of coffee, he asked if he could smoke. 'We'd rather you didn't', came the reply through the gloom.
 
In recent times some great names from Britain's motoring heritage of the 1930s have appeared under the Lansdowne banner. The AC 16-80, Jensen Dual Cowl Phaeton and Saloon, Triumph Gloria Flowfree, Railton Fairmile and Morris Ten Series 111 are just a few examples. Family cars have not been forgotten with Austin A90, Humber Hawk Estate, Hillman Minx and Triumph 13-60 Estate being just a random selection among the large range available. In recent times links have been established with Bentley Motors and Bristol cars, and officially authorised models from these two great marques have begun to appear in the range.
Other ranges that have appeared in recent years include Rod 43, International Police Vehicles (IPV) and Community Service Vehicles (CSV)
 
In 1997 The Buick Collection made its bow. Unique in concept, this new range represents the development of Buick between 1934 and 1939, the classic Harlow Curtice era. Curtice had been brought into the company in 1933 and is generally credited with saving Buick from oblivion by introducing the 40 series, a Buick designed for the popular market. Showing Harley Earl's early influence the 1936 models marked a new direction for the company even though this was to be a stand-alone design year.In 1937 the range was redesigned yet again, the new models causing a sensation. The Buick Collection has been enthusiastically received by collectors and   has prompted us to wonder what other possibilities are out there...