Some significant producers have now retired from the scene, but take an active interest in both miniature and full size classics. Roger Tennyson is one such enthusiast, who has been surrounded by classic cars from an early age.More
Some significant producers have now retired from the scene, but take an active interest in both miniature and full size classics. Roger Tennyson is one such enthusiast, who has been surrounded by classic cars from an early age.
Roger recalls growing up within a classic car loving family. His father served in the RAF during the war, and when demobbed became an Aero Engineer with Rolls Royce. His love of old cars meant Roger and his brothers grew up with such wheels as Railtons, Talbot, Alvis, Daimler, Triumph, Auburn, Jaguar, Riley, Rovers, and at one point a Rolls Royce Doctor’s Coupe in black & yellow. It had tiny seats in the back that faced each other and they had a great time there.
As children they always had Dinky Toys and he recalls his first restoration attempt at about 10 years old. He tied a piece of string around the axle of a 38 Series Dinky Lagonda and dipped it into the tin of paint with which his father was painting the window frames. Needless to say the mess made is more the reason for the memory than the finished result. Like most children of that era Roger progressed to Airfix and Revell plastic kits and was always modifying them, but his first love was always cars; the odd boat or plane purchased for him were always built but not with the same enthusiasm.
During the 1980s Roger found some of his old Dinky Toys in a box in the loft and feeling sorry for them he found the correct colours and restored them. He also began to collect from autojumbles those that he could recall owning as a child, and restored these too. A friend saw these and asked Roger if he would restore his models. This started Roger on the toy fair circuit, purchasing battered Dinky Toys, restoring and selling them. It was whilst at a Buxton toy fair that he was asked by a fellow police officer from Cheshire to produce a model of the Cheshire Police Rover 90 in green. At first, Roger had no idea how to go about this, as white metal models were beyond his reach and awareness. However, at the same time, as a committee member of the 6/80 & MO Club, Roger, in company with the club treasurer, John Billinger, visited Jeff and Sue Sharrock at Pathfinder models. It was there they saw the Rover 90 model, which was the correct model on which to base the Cheshire Police car.
John was also a model enthusiast, and for a while the two had been restoring Dinky and Corgi Toys for their own enjoyment. John and Roger then took the step of creating Jemini Model Reproductions and an agreement was made with Jeff and Sue for Jemini to produce the Rover as a limited edition under licence from Pathfinder. The name was derived from the initials of the two partners, and ‘mini’, being an iconic British car. The models were supplied to Roger and John in kit form, sprayed and built by Roger in his converted shed, and boxed by his wife Joan in the kitchen. Roger continued restoring the Dinky Toys whilst John was busy producing Dinky reproduction boxes.
It was at this time that they discovered ModeleX, and took a shelf in one of organiser Ray Strutt’s glass cabinets to display the Rover. From then on they became regular exhibitors until the last ModeleX at Stoneleigh Park. However, the white metal bug had bitten and further investigation into master makers and casters in order to produce their own models was made. They followed the Rover with the Wolseley 6 in both civilian and police livery, using a master from Martin Field and cast by Peter Comben of Enco Models in Lincolnshire. Roger’s visit to Enco regenerated his police interest again, as Enco had produced the Mk1 Sunbeam Tiger as a kit and he knew the Metropolitan Police had used the Tiger as a traffic patrol car. Pete Comben agreed to produce a police model on the understanding that it was cast by him, thus another police car joined the range. Some were built by Roger and some by a builder in the Northampton area.
By now Jemini was becoming recognised. They received much support and advice from Pete Kenna, and asked him if he would produce a master for them. Through him Roger became aware of GTA Models in Exeter, who were at that time building for Pete, and who built their Wolseley 1300 Mk2 saloon mastered by Pete. Roger even tried experimenting with some old diecast models, creating a Mini Clubman estate from an old Corgi Mini van and a Dinky Clubman. The result was cast by Enco and sold as a kit. A few were sold built up, but the finished article left a lot to be desired. Roger still has the master, but is not proud of it!
However, Pete Kenna converted the Wolseley 1300 into a 2 door 1100/1300 saloon and an MG 1300 for Jemini along with more police items that Roger produced using Lansdowne models as a base, with the consent of Nigel Parker at Brooklin Models, who has also been very helpful to him. They produced a Staffordshire Ford Zephyr in conjunction with JM Toys, and a Lancashire MGB using the K&R Replicas kit. Pete also introduced Roger and John to Maurice Bozward at White Metal Assemblies who cast a large number of their models.
The Jemini partnership however became strained when Roger and Joan moved to a 200 year old cottage in Lincolnshire, called ‘Crossways’, in need of restoration. They were deeply committed to the renovation, John had family problems and the partnership eventually floundered. They had been warned at the start that a business partnership was a little like a marriage, sometimes doomed to failure; a hard lesson indeed, but they agreed to go their separate ways on an amicable basis.
With the demise of Jemini Model Reproductions, Roger and Joan decided that they would continue with white metal models. Whilst staying with friends, the conversation turned to a name for the new business, and it was suggested that they use the house name and call it ‘Crossway Models’. John retained the Jemini name, and when his difficulties were overcome, Jemini continued making reproduction boxes and dealing at toy fairs.
At ModeleX, Roger had met Glenn Thomas, who had introduced himself as a master maker and asked about future work. Roger suggested producing the Rover 75 Cyclops master, which Glenn agreed to do. Cast by CMA Mouldcast and painted by GTA, the final building was down to Roger, and it became the first Crossway model. Roger had been working on a project to create the Wolseley 16/60 as a 1:43 scale model, and had a master, part completed. This was sent to Glenn Thomas and he created the second model, again painted at GTA, although the two tone paintwork presented a challenge.
A Triumph Dolomite Sprint followed, but then Roger took a different route. At a previous ModeleX Roger had discussed with David Buttress of CMA the possibility of using their Riley RMA resin kit as a base for creating a white metal model. They proceeded with this, creating a new master to produce the model in white metal. Roger used GTA again for painting and built the models himself.
Another agreement with Pathfinder saw the conversion of their Morris J Van into the Post Office Telephones Planners van based on an existing vehicle in Birmingham, again cast by CMA and painted by GTA, with help from family to complete the detailed interior. Crossway later purchased the brass master of the J Van for future model ideas.
Around 1996 Roger realised that he could not continue building the models fast enough on his own to satisfy both trade and customer demand, working from a small room at the back of the cottage. Joan had mentioned this to one of their neighbours and they were introduced to Carl Merz. When Carl visited Roger and Joan, he formed a real enthusiasm for the models and was soon a regular at ‘Crossways’ when he had some spare time.
Carl and his wife, Amanda were expecting their first child. Amanda was leaving her job to look after Billy when he was born and she was looking for part time work, so she took over the office at Crossway. Roger never enjoyed the paperwork and accounts, whilst Amanda excelled at them. By 1999, when Amanda’s maternity leave ended, she became a permanent part time employee of Crossway. Her ability to understand the different models from each producer was impressive, enabling her to talk to customers with experienced fluency.
With Carl & Amanda in the team, Crossway Models grew, and at ‘Crossways’ production was moved to a new workshop with its own drilling and painting rooms. There was a large area at the front for building the models, leaving the old workshop area as office space for Amanda. Carl had dexterity at building, and also an exceptional eye for detail whenever a new master arrived. He would look at photographs of the car and then the master, picking details out within minutes when Roger had taken days!
Carl also has an excellent sense of humour, and Roger recalls that when he first joined Crossway, and was asked by family members what he had been doing, he replied “pumping up tyres” and the classic, “tuning in the radios”.
Roger, Carl & Amanda decided that instead of just retailing their own models they would also become retailers of other manufacturers’ items, and Amanda took control of this side of the business. By agreement they became partners, but at the same time Joan and Roger were considering selling ‘Crossways’, the house where all the work was done. Carl designed and built a new workshop at his own home, around an existing shed in their back garden, complete with a new office for Amanda. By this time, the model range had increased rapidly and a new kit range, Abbey Classics was introduced. The first two Abbey Classics models were the Ford Cortina Mk3 1600L and the Mini Clubman and 1275 Saloons, both designed to have full engine detail incorporated in the kit. The Cortina created a lot of interest when it was launched at ModeleX where Roger was presented with a picture which still hangs in his office. Both models were variations from existing masters and were converted to full engine detail by Glenn Thomas. Glenn continued to work with them and was responsible for most of the masters and their conversions at that time.
The Crossway range was on a limited edition basis, all certificated, with main runs being 600, in several different colour schemes to give the customer a choice. Smaller runs were used for the police and rally ranges, of usually 100 but sometimes as low as 25.
A Crossway Newsletter was developed and sent out to existing customers, proving very popular. It is still produced. They also sent model samples for review to the main model press, Collectors Gazette, Diecast Collector, Model Auto Review and Model Collector. With some help they also created a website for Crossway Models, together with a review site White Metal Model Reviews where Dave Turner would review new models. They also attended as many of the larger toy fairs as possible, keeping customers informed.
A personal ambition for Roger has been the commissioning of the master for the Morris Oxford MO, a replica of his own car, which has been in the family since the 1980s. Again, it was Glenn Thomas who made an excellent job of the master. However, with abundant separate plated parts, it was a pain to build, but the finished item was well worth the effort. During this time Crossway had also started to use another master maker, Lawrence Gibson, who did some excellent work and is still working with them.
Roger was also responsible for the development of a range known as Emmy Models, jointly with a friend based in Switzerland, but produced in the UK. This was fraught with logistical difficulties, and was a short lived project ending in difficult circumstances.
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