Sandy Copeman is one of the original founders of the Amalgam Collection, a company dedicated to the fine art of producing faithful reproductions of the world’s greatest cars. From Formula One racers to classic sportscars, each model in the Amalgam Collection takes thousands of hours to produce and is built to last a lifetime on the shelves of collectors, fans and owners. Sandy tells us more about the story behind the models.
What’s the background story behind Amalgam?
I started the company as a partnership in 1985. There were four of us and we’d been working for a general model making company in Bristol, England. We decided to set up Amalgam. The core of our business back then was architectural models and a bit of prototype work. That went very nicely, and a really important client of ours was Foster and Partners. We developed a taste for working for really high-end clients and we did a great job. By 1995, we had grown and had about 12 people working for the company. There were two people working for us back then who were crazy Formula One fans. And I’ve always been a big petrolhead and motorcycle fanatic. So, we went to see some Formula One teams, and eventually, Jordan asked us to model their 1994 car. And that’s how it started.
What size are these models?
Our core product continues to be 1:8. That’s about 60 centimetres long. The most significant market continues to be 1:43 and 1:18. When we started, we were just supplying models to the teams for marketing purposes. We then developed a customer base for wealthy fans wanting these models. That rumbled along until we connected with Ferrari, just at the point when they were starting to win championships. From 2000, it went crackers. And that gradually developed to making models of the GT cars and the classics. We then did a few models for Ferrari at quarter scale, which we still do occasionally. We even made a few half-scale models for Williams back in the day. Now we work with pretty much all of the significant high-end brands, from Aston Martin to Pagani.
What do these car makers use the models for?
We’re starting a new programme with Ferrari where customers can order a bespoke model of their car. We will do everything the same, right down to the stitching of the seats. These are available in 1:12 and 1:8. To date, we’ve modelled every Ferrari since the F430. Some models we’d sell directly to owners, others through dealerships or the manufacturers.
How do you replicate the cars so accurately?
We get access to the CAD drawings. Quite often we’re developing the model before it’s available. We also get all the specifications. Samples, colour codes etc. We get all of that information so that we can design at an early stage how to breakdown the car so that we can model it, as well as include all the variations if we’re creating a bespoke model. For a classic, there often aren’t CAD drawings, and the drawings you do get aren’t great. So, we do a digital scan.
Do you make the models out of the same materials as the real car?
There are some model makers, particularly really high-end, obsessive model makers who want to make stuff out of authentic materials. And that’s their schtick. But that really compromises the look. If you use real leather, it just looks like giant leather when you use it in a model. Because we come from an architectural background, we use processes to find ways to replicate it. So instead of using leather, which looks horrible, we spray paint the seats and sometimes use a fabric that's equivalent to the real thing. And that goes right the way through our approach and rationale. The key thing is it has to look exactly like the real car. The acid test is if you take a picture of it, you can’t tell the difference between the real car and the model.
How long does it take to make a model?
The easiest model to make is a Formula One car. And the most difficult is a classic. About 2,500 hours for a Formula One car and 4,500 hours for a classic. And that’s the development and set up time. The build time is about one-tenth of the development time on top of this.
You must have been involved in modelling some incredible cars over the years. What’s the one that stands out?
I think we’ve probably made about 200 models in 1:8 scale. As for favourites, we made models of all Ralph Lauren’s 17 cars that he put into his exhibition at the Louvre in 2010. The world’s most valuable car, the Bugatti 57SC, is a fantastic model and a fantastic car. I also really love the Count Trossi Mercedes. It’s an insane beast of a car. If I were to drive one of those cars, it would be the Ferrari 330 GTC.
©Pictures: Tim Hall Photography, Amalgam Cars