Model Mania explores the world of construction scale model collecting and delves into why so many people have a passionate interest in these big iron replicas. From this page, you can click to read the full story or you can select a specific section. Just interested in looking at model collections? Pick a gallery and jump straight into it. And don't pass up your chance to win one of 13 scale models in our Model Mania giveaway contest.
In Section One of Model Mania: Serious collectors thrive on information. They like to know about upcoming model releases and offer their opinions on what models should be produced. And they love telling the stories behind their collections. Here we take an inside look at who they are, what drives them to collect, and the impact big iron introductions have on the miniature world.
In Section Two of Model Mania: Producing a scale model involves precise planning between model makers and manufacturers. And once a model is produced, it’s promoted by scale model dealers using a variety of techniques, including open houses and forums.
In Section Three of Model Mania: Many manufacturers feel there’s nothing better for promoting the brand than the scale model. Dealers want them, customers demand them, and people ask for them even if they don’t own the equipment. Part of the appeal: if a child gets hooked on collecting, maybe he or she eventually will become a customer.
Contractor Leon Thompson’s collection, which primarily features custom-made 1:3 scale models, is housed in a 3,000-square foot building on his Florida homestead. When he buys a model, he asks each model maker to give him the history of the piece and how they designed it, which he displays on cards alongside the model. Thompson started with small diecast models, and still owns several, but now likes to concentrate on larger scale models.
"I've been a model equipment and real equipment lover since before I could walk," says John Gibson. "I was even named after John Deere!" John's favorite model is his Ertl 1:50 Deere 470 GLC excavator. "I like it because of it's price, detail, functionality and build quality," he says, saying it was around $50, and citing details such as hydraulic lines, steps and wide triple grouser tracks. "It also has a hood that opens to show a nicely detailed engine and smooth 360-degree rotation. My more expensive models are incredibly fragile, but this one balances detail and build quality nicely."
Shay Stutsman, project manager for Stutsman Gerbaz Excavating in Snowmass, Colorado, is a third generation contractor. "I got into collecting because as a young boy all I wanted to do was to play with the real equipment, so my dad gave me the next best thing: a model of my favorite machine, a Cat 953 loader." When the company bought a D Series Cat 953 in 2008, Stutsman had a model built to match, including company and dealer decals.
Diego Ara hails from Spain and says he started building his own heavy equipment models after he couldn't find what he wanted, and "the big price or poor quality" of models he did find. He is pictured with his O&K RH400 shovel, a model he's especially proud of, which took him a year to finish, and involved more than 4,000 pieces.
"I've been collecting models since I was 10," says 55-year-old Jeff Jelinek, a fire protection engineer, who spend 25 years in the automotive/heavy truck industry. Jelinek collects with his two sons, and also builds models he can't find in the market. Most of his 800-model collection is 1:50 scale. "I have a room large enough to display about two-thirds of my models, so I rotate them from time to time so I can see them all." Jelenik is shown with two favorites, a CCM Cat D9 dozer and a WSI Hitachi 879 excavator.
Based in the Netherlands, Wouter Mol has been collecting 1:48 and 1:50 scale models for more than 30 years. After gaining a civil engineering degree, Mol worked for a contractor, coming in contact with it's "impressive 1:1 Caterpillar earthmoving equipment," he says. Now working at a desk, "the only sand I see is the dust on the edge of the windowsill on the outside of my office door." He maintains a website, http://www.minimovers.nl, to show off his collection.
An avid collector of both models and antique construction iron, Larry Kotkowski's model collection takes up both a family room and the basement of his home. In addition, he has a working model of a sand and gravel pit that allows children to experience how a quarry works.
Canadian Andre Grondin is pictured with one of his favorites, a Oshkosh mixer truck along with other models from his collection. "The Oshkosh looks like a total brute, with lots of details," he says. He customized the model from two different models. "It was a good challenge because the original Oshkosh model is hard to dismantle and has many intricate parts. I put around 40 hours of work on this beast. I love to modify models and add details that will make the model one or two steps better. "
Kevin Skinner has a 900-square-foot "Cat room," naturally painted in Cat yellow, and featuring his collection of models, dioramas, Cat memorabilia, and even the seat off of an actual Cat 990 loader. His collection has been featured in Toy Trucker & Contractor, and by Milton Cat's publication. He updates his Facebook page regularly with photos from his collection.
Based in Clevedon, England, Mark Bridle has been modeling and collecting "for about 40 years." He makes 1:12 scale radio controlled models from scratch, including the P & H 1900 AL electric rope shovel he shows here. Noting these models were used in the 1970s and 80s in open cast coal mines, Bridle visited the Nant Helen mine in south Wales and measured their parked 1900 as the first step to creating his model.
Even though he sold more than 600 models in the past two years, Colm O'Connor still has a sizable collection of model trucks, cranes and construction equipment in his dedicated model room.
Stephen Colucci started collecting models in 1985, and currently has around 450 models. "The first two models I bought mirrored the first two we bought for our site development and construction company," he says. "I enjoy building dioramas to display them, as well as modifying some of the pieces for local companies." A cement plant is the centerpiece of one the current dioramas he is constructing, all in 1:50 scale.