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Graham Ward

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Graham Ward is one of our more prolific entrepreneurs, but has perhaps remained more behind the scenes than others.

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Graham Ward is one of our more prolific entrepreneurs, but has perhaps remained more behind the scenes than others.

He recalls always having been interested in real cars and trucks and started collecting Matchbox at a young age with his pocket money. He always preferred them to Corgi and Dinky Toys as he felt that he got more cars for his money. As he grew older he started to make model kits of cars from Airfix and AMT, and the constructing bug started.

When Graham was about 14 he joined the Matchbox UK and USA clubs and started trading and corresponding with other collectors worldwide. He found himself enthusiastically seeking models with different labels and colours, and exchanging for examples not found in the UK. Graham now feels that this is something that is missing from modern collecting, the hunt for rare variations and odd colours. 

In 1982 Graham launched Promod with a shop. He decided to start working on his own, as he had previously found that he soon got bored in his earlier jobs, and decided that working for himself was the way forward. He had a friend called Bill Deane, who was a leading Britains dealer, and Bill gave him encouragement to go it alone. Bill’s adage was that if you start with nothing you have nothing to loose.

Graham’s first shop was in Longton in the Potteries selling diecast, trains and kits. Soon after he commissioned a number of special models from Lledo, Matchbox and Corgi at a time when they were prepared to manufacture specials. The ranges were limited and apart from Lledo quantities quite large. As a result, he saw a gap in the market to produce what are now called Code 3 models, based on other models, the first one being a Van Hool coach by Efsi. These were all hand painted in coach paint from the real vehicles. The first models to be issued under the Promod name were a joint venture with a company from Balsall Common called Gearbox which had grown out of the Boston-Nicholls pewter company from Birmingham.  

However, there were difficulties with this venture. Gearbox produced very fine complex models in limited numbers, and the companies that were seeking Graham’s Code 3 service were seeking large quantities of exclusive models. Gearbox wanted only to produce models with many fine parts and Promod needed models that were simple and easy to build in quantity. He considered investing in his own manufacturing but decided that it was more cost effective to sub contract the manufacturing and only do the painting and building himself. Graham recalls, on one occasion, a car company wanting 2000 hand built models, stating a price, and delivery time in 3 months. This was a challenge but his suppliers agreed they could achieve the deadline. He asked the customer for pictures and plans but they refused, saying it was top secret and they could reveal nothing until the launch. The only problem was they wanted the models for the launch!! Unfortunately therefore, Promod did not proceed with that order, but Graham was not surprised to discover that the real car was a complete flop as well, no wonder with marketing people like that behind it.

Promod has made exclusive models with runs of only 50, and also up to 3000 hand built models for some customers. Today Graham limits the collectors models to 150-250 of each, although as well as cars and trucks, Promod produces kits which are not limited. Promod’s range of pillar boxes and telephone kiosks are also unlimited and continue to sell year, in year out. Models which are not limited are brought back sometimes modified in new versions/liveries.

For some time Graham’s market has been worldwide, and he sells direct as well as supplying shops. Many of his sales are direct to companies, and for collectors he advertises through collectors’ magazines and real vehicle magazines.

The Promod production involves contracting out the pattern making, and all the casting. Graham then builds the models in house so he can keep an eye on quality. With ever increasing prices from China, with some Chinese diecasts, even in 1:43 scale retailing at nearly £100, it is now possible for the British handbuilt industry to compete again.

Graham is planning to expand with new ranges including more kits, and new areas such as soft skinned post war military vehicles. He is also planning the gradual re-launch of the Somerville range of models which Promod purchased on the death of Doug McHard. Rod Ward, acting on behalf of Doug’s widow Roly, approached Graham, and the subsequent sale included all Doug’s machines and moulds. Graham’s plan is to keep Promod’s models fairly simple in detail but affordable for those who find the mass produced models becoming to expensive. To this end, he has already simplified the castings of the three Vauxhalls in the range, and re-cast these, partly at the request of Vauxhalls. These can now be found on eBay.

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