Fully Engineered Model Car Replicas

This is the title of my latest Photobox photobook, started five years ago and devoted to the life and work of a superlative model maker, Tony Dennis who lives in Sussex in the UK. The only way the material could be assembled for this particular book, was to rely on the couple of occasions each year when we could meet and also long telephone calls. The sharing of material for editing by computer wasn’t available to me in this case, respecting Tony’s age and preferences. Unlike other past masters such as Gerald Wingrove and Rex Hays and Michele Conti before him, Tony has had no previous publication of his work, other than a few magazine and newspaper articles between 1995 and 2001. Hence it was an honour for me to put the record straight. With Photobox shutting-up shop on their previous publication platform at the end of June 2024, we had to complete the final 25% via Royal Mail, shuttling printed material between us for editing.

Tony’s renaisance period was from the late 1990s until the late 2000s and focussed on scratch-built models using materials other than plastic and glue, nor paint other than cellulose car paint on the bodywork. Everything else was made from sheet copper and machined from brass or steel (rather than derived from casts from one master part). To each part, a surface finish was applied before permanent colouration by electroplating in any one of a number of finish and colour permutations to produce an item that appeared like it had been made from an original material – eg aluminium, steel, magnesium, chromed parts etc. Wheels included individually spoked rims and real rubber tyres. The engineering of these cars replicated that of the real cars with live suspension, other fully articulated parts including engineered bushes, with a realistic steering ratio and the car being able to support its own weight. The bodywork was so expertly made, that no filler was required before cellulose car paint was applied. The bodywork panels could be removed by application of a machined micro-tool to remove micro fasteners and because these miniature engineered replicas in either 1/13 or 1/10 scale have such value, owners are invariably never brave enough to prove the point.

This 160 page photobook focusses on one of his most well known subjects, the mid 1950s Maserati 250F and only touches on a few of his even more remarkable models in a larger scale where no holds are barred and in miniature, Tony replicated the real moving parts to scale as in the real car eg working splined torsion bar suspension etc. Each of his models were built on commission for wealthy patrons and so are not available to see. For this reason and with privileged access to his photographic archive especially, I compiled a detailed record describing how these were made, supplemented by a lavish collection of photographs taken by a professional photographer of the day, some derived from print film, later ones being digital. In this way, even though the models are held in unknown private collections, we are able to access the models as they were assembled in a glorious stage by stage format because of the photographer’s creative and experimental approach.

I had very few days to be able to print off thirteen copies at great expense to myself and so very few indeed are available at £495 + P&P.

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