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John Simons

Designer

John Simons, proprietor of Marsh Models, has built models since he was 6 years old. From this he moved to control line flying around 12 years and eventually to slot cars and at 17 had joined the Estuary Equipe slot car club. He recalls with pride taking part in a 500 scale miles endurance race that took a grand total of 63 hours!  His racing team for this event was the US branch of Team Russkit, racing 1:24 scale sports cars.

Through the slot car scene he met Ian Pickering, a name that is synonymous with quality modelling, and Chris Paterson. It was through Chris that he was introduced to his wife Pam. They also became friends with Barry Foley, well known for his Demon Tweaks cartoons in Autosport magazine and his St Bruno’s Lotus 7.

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John Simons, proprietor of Marsh Models, has built models since he was 6 years old. From this he moved to control line flying around 12 years and eventually to slot cars and at 17 had joined the Estuary Equipe slot car club. He recalls with pride taking part in a 500 scale miles endurance race that took a grand total of 63 hours!  His racing team for this event was the US branch of Team Russkit, racing 1:24 scale sports cars.

Through the slot car scene he met Ian Pickering, a name that is synonymous with quality modelling, and Chris Paterson. It was through Chris that he was introduced to his wife Pam. They also became friends with Barry Foley, well known for his Demon Tweaks cartoons in Autosport magazine and his St Bruno’s Lotus 7.

In 1975, John and Pam had moved to the Bahamas but returned to the UK in 1977, where John began work on the building of the Dungeness ‘B’ Power station. His hobby never waned, and when he was finally made redundant on completion of the project, through the suggestion of Ian Pickering, began making models for Max Kernick, the mastermind behind Abingdon Classics, and more recently Top Marques.

Initially things were somewhat crude, working in a spare room, with a self made spray booth that used an old hair drier as an extractor linked to  a hose from Pam’s vacuum cleaner dangling out of the window! Not wanting to be dependant on only one supply of work, John approached Grand Prix Models, and Lamberts of Ley Street in Ilford, Essex about building white metal kits. This led to Marsh Models being formed in 1981 by John and Pam initially as a kit building agency. The company was originally set up in the Romney Marsh area of Southern England hence the Marsh name and frog logo. 

In 1984, after becoming dissatisfied with the standard and detail in the kits he was building, John approached Ian Pickering to undertake the production of a pattern for a brand new model. They agreed that if Ian would make the pattern, for free, he would receive a royalty from the sales. This first model was the 1967 BOAC 500 winning Chapparral 2F.

Scale Model Technical Services were commissioned to produce the castings, and altogether John reckons that 2000 units were made and sold. At this time there were very few manufacturers making endurance sports racing car models, apart from the French diecast firm of Solido.

It was a wide open market, and so the new range of historic sports racing cars in 1:43 scale, known as Thundersports, was born. The plan was to produce 2 models per year, all in white metal.

A range of Corvettes followed, together with other specialist big engined cars such as the Lola Aston Martin. Marsh was also the first company to seriously look at making models of Canam cars, as this area had been little explored and Marsh has since been synonymous with this class of car.

In 1988, John and Pam moved to East Sussex and now have their studio on an organic farm, with Formula Models and Model Assemblies on the same site. In 1996, John and Pam set up their own casting facility to give them more flexibility. By then, Marsh had started to use Christian Sargant as their main pattern maker, his work making up most of the current Marsh range. John says that it is crucial to know the individual skills and interests of the pattern maker, so that the “feel” for the car being created is right, and the resultant model has added value. This confirms the view that the pattern can only be hand crafted, as the human eye is all important at this stage.

Whilst photo-etched parts were used when John started, he was the first to use it to make items such as rear wings and interior tubs on competition cars to replicate the real parts made in aluminium. This has been an example of the great advances achieved with the arrival of new technology and computer aided design. John feels that similar strides have been made in the drawing and creation of the most detailed of decals needed for accuracy, particularly in sports racing cars.

  More recently, Marsh Models have been using resin as the medium, with bodies produced by CMA Moldform, to provide greater definition, and to respond to the smaller market.

Looking to the future, John acknowledges the advances made by companies such as Spark and Bizarre, using economical labour in China, to produce good quality in mass production. However, his view in the long term is that there will always be a niche market for hand crafted models, particularly of those cars not viable as a proposition for mass producers.

Another development has been into aeroplanes. Their range, known as Aerotech, was suggested to them by Chris Sargant, who proposed its launch with the Luft ’46 aeroplane, in 1:72 scale. These were planes that were never built as they came too near to the end of the Second World War.  They have then moved on to 1:32 scale, and average sales amount to 150 units each time, with the popular DH Comet now being sold out These models are made in resin, due to the size and weight considerations. Pam now has an increasingly important role in the business having varying functions including kit production.

John and Pam have realised the merits of diversifying their ranges, and have established another new line of DecoArt, which has taken their production back into the traditional material of white metal for the entire car. This range began with a 1930s Delage and will continue with this theme. John believes he is very lucky having the mixed talents of Pat Land of Model Assemblies and Colin Fraser of Formula Models at hand and a great deal of co-operation occurs between the three companies. In a world of bland uniformity, Marsh Models believe in producing true hand made models to the highest standards. 

Currently, every model in their normal range is available in kit and built form with the built models being signed by John, and the newer releases now being limited to 100 built models only.  They will also occasionally produce models that have been either signed by the designer or by the driver.

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