Through the photographer’s lens the McLaren M8D looks every inch as intimidating as it did during the 1970 Can-Am racing season. Comically wide rear tyres hint at the colossal power; eight intake trumpets nestle tightly together above the V8 engine; and the vivid orange paint glistens under the spotlights turned upon it. It’s only when Master Model Maker Rob Winstone reaches in to brush away a few tiny specks of dust does your brain recalculate size and scale, suddenly comprehending – and appreciating – that the M8D is a beautifully detailed miniature.
Welcome to the (small) world of Amalgam Fine Model Cars.
Based in Bristol, England, the similarities with McLaren are palpable. The models, predominantly 1:8 scale, are hand-built to world-class standards – as is the case with every full size Sports Series, Super Series or Ultimate Series model at the McLaren Production Centre (MPC) located 100 miles east. In fact, McLaren supplies its CAD (computer-aided design) data direct to Amalgam, so the models are exact replicas. Even the paint is the same – McLaren supplies that too – and along with the exterior colour, however you specify your full-size supercar inside and out, Amalgam can create that, in miniature, to match. There’s even a shared past: in the 1990s Amalgam’s sister company built scale models of the McLaren Technology Centre (MTC) for designers Foster + Partners.
Amalgam Fine Model Cars itself was established in 1995, supplying large (1:8) scale models to Formula 1™ teams. Built to match the precise specification at individual races, these exquisitely detailed models were more than a match for the exacting standards of the world’s top teams. Now, Amalgam supplies to most of the current Formula 1™ grid, and the business has grown to encompass road cars and historic race cars too. Before us today are a McLaren P1™, a 650S Spider, two F1s, the M8D, an MP4/6, and an incredibly detailed M23D – just a small selection of the McLarens available from Amalgam.
Above: James Hunt's championship winning 1976 M23D Below: The championship winning 1991 MP4/6 as driven by Ayron Senna
‘To make the first model, the “master”, takes around 3000 hours,’ explains Rob Winstone as he finishes delicately brushing the M8D. ‘For one person that’s a full year, so we have small teams of specialist model makers, who focus on the wheels, the paint finish, the interior, but between them it’s still around 3000 hours. From that we make the moulds, and each subsequent model takes a further 300 to 500 hours to complete. There’s no conveyor belt, no stamping out of parts – everything is handmade. Someone primes the car for paint, sprays it, polishes it, exactly the same as it is done in the MPC.’
It’s the intricate details that really stand out: the individual spark plug cables curling through the M23D’s engine bay; the gearbox and rear suspension of the MP4/6; the sets of headphones inside the F1 LM; the red tie-backs that hold the F1 GTR’s race harness up and out of the way for quick driver changes; and the engine bays of both F1s that are just as breathtaking to behold as the real V12s.
‘We used to say that the models had about 1000 parts,’ reveals Marketing and PR Manager Jon Mills. ‘Now it’s over 3000 for many of them. The 1:8 scale is accepted as the premium size in the modelling world, and it allows you to see the curves and the shapes without it being too big or too small. Our models are incredibly complicated, with so many individual components – they really are pieces of art because so much effort and work goes into them.’
The tripling in the number of parts is down to technological advancements, and will only increase with further innovations (functioning exterior and interior lights are the latest example), while the historic models – digitally scanned from the best full-size example available, as they pre-date CAD – are accurate to 0.1mm and are precise down to the original hand-beaten asymmetric bodywork and creases in the fabric of the seats. Amalgam can even give your model period patina, or that ‘just raced’ look with the same dented panels received after close combat on track.
All of Amalgam’s models are exclusive and built in limited numbers – usually no more than double figures – but many are uniquely tailored too. However you specify your car, even if you’ve commissioned McLaren Special Operations (MSO) to create a one-off exterior colour or bespoke interior trim, Amalgam can replicate it exactly, whether it’s the paint, leather, or even the stitching on the seats – and with your licence plate too. ‘High-end collectors purchase our models,’ reveals Jon, ‘but for our customers who own a McLaren, alongside driving such an advanced high-performance supercar, it’s special for them to have an exquisite and precisely detailed scale reproduction of their pride and joy.’
With Amalgam fusing delicate craftsmanship with the latest advanced model-making techniques and technologies, it’s easy to see why its scale models are widely considered the best in the world – and why, with such shared values, McLaren is proud to have Amalgam build its road and race cars in miniature.