England – France
1/43 wooden car models for collectors developed from my other modelling activities – publication of various articles, model car and boat plans etc.
In the mid ’60’s collectors started to be aware of these models and, in addition, specialised model shop owners such as Jacques Greilsamer (Eligor) in Paris and Jacques Simonet in Le Mans started to order these models in small batches.
At around this time also, Peter Atkinson (Acorn Models) in Swansea, and myself started to work together with vacuum-formed 1/43rd. kits which developed from our range of vac.-formed bodies for slot cars. After a
while, we started to produce plastic / white metal kits such as a 3-wheeler Morgan. All this fell apart when Peter suddenly developed ‘other interests’!
Enter John Day! He had grand plans for a range of white metal kits and got Dave Gilbert and myself to make some patterns. Since we were not paid, work stopped!!!
Leslie Hurle Bath was a customer for my wooden models and was already importing various die-cast models from around the World – Diapet comes to mind but there were many others – this was a sideline from his main business of importing fabrics into Holland.
We decided that we could produce our own range of white metal kits and so it was that Auto Replicas Ltd. was formed in Salisbury , England at the end of 1971 – following on from this Auto Replicars was formed in Amsterdam ( yes, with an ‘R’)
Our first kit, an ERA was premiered at a Swap Meet organised by Paul Gallotti and his friends, in Poitiers in the fall of 1972- following on from this , we toured Europe for several years to promote our efforts at Swap Meets – we even organised a International Swap Meet in Bournemouth (our home ground!)
We tried to introduce a new model every 3 months or so. Mike Karslake did some pattern work for us but most was done, along with casting, by Adrian Swain (ABS Models). Without him, we wouldn’t have got far!
Soon we had a range and a network of agents thru’ Western Europe, Scandinavia, USA, Canada, Japan, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand – we received the Quattroroutine Diploma Speciale at an exhibition in Italy.
This situation continued for some years but I then bought my own casting and mould-making equipment and got down to making my own patterns – Adrian continued to cast all the earlier models – we shared equipment since we were then both living in Poole!
With my own machinery, I then got outside sub-contract work for pattern-making and/or casting – such names as J & M, Pirate, Bellini, and Model International come to mind. By this time, Leslie had left the partnership so the business was then called BKL Developments but the range was still ‘AR’. The range grew, firstly 1/24 then 1/76 and 1/86 ranges – the latter was created for Otto Duve of Model International but when he went over to plastic models, his range was then mine!
Around 1990, Geneviève appeared on the scene!! She liked sorting and packing castings and doing the ‘office work’. The two of us moved to France in 1993 and took the business with us and at that point the changed circumstances meant that it wasn’t really ‘on’ for Adrian to continue casting, so we took it all over.
In France, as we soon found out, it is almost impossible to run a small business as the state just wants to crush you – in addition, the Chinese just copied our new designs and mass-produced them at ‘give-away’ prices. We staggered on for a few years but decided that 31st. December, 1999 was a good date to call it a day – we would start the new century as Layabouts!!!
Adrian bought all our equipment, stock, patterns (except the Bugatti ones that we have kept). He has never made use of them and is more or less retired himself – we are all getting old!!!
After that we moved, Geneviève and myself to the South of France so we can enjoy the sun and cheap wine!!! Geneviève is an artist and so we content ourselves with an annual exhibition, here in Port Leucate
Barry Lester, May 2008
Auto Replicas produced models in many scale including 1/24 1/32 1/50 1/86 1/76 & the BLK series which was H0 & 00 as well as 1/43.
They also manufactured models for others like Walldorf