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Marshall Buck

Designer

Founded CMA in 1982, sold exotic cars for a few years and wrote a featured model column for Vintage Motorsport magazine from 1988 to 1999.

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Founded CMA in 1982, sold exotic cars for a few years and wrote a featured model column for Vintage Motorsport magazine from 1988 to 1999.

In 1998 Marshall Buck guest curated a museum exhibition for the Stamford Museum (Connecticut) showcasing over 80 of some of the best models in the world for an exhibit titled "The Art of The Automotive Model."  In 2006 he curated an exhibit titled "Built To Scale" for the same museum incorporating Automobiles, Aircraft, and Ships & Boats.

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Marshall’s childhood was steeped in culture, including regular visits with his parents to museums, antiques & art dealers around the world. Quality in both piece and its presentation became very important to him at an early age.

Always fascinated with all types of miniatures, Marshal had a very strong penchant for cars.  As a child, he preferred car magazines to comics.  He recalls many friends and family visiting, and enjoying rides in the latest Aston Martin, Porsche, Rolls Royce, or Corvette.

As a child he began his collecting with toys produced by Corgi, Dinky, Solido, and many others, but by 13, his quest for more accuracy and detail introduced him to building plastic kits of hot rods.  At school, studying the French Revolution, Marshall became fascinated with the guillotine, constructing a scratch built miniature working model, about 1:12 scale, which caused some concern in the family! 

In about 1973/74 he purchased his first 1:43rd white metal kit from Grand Prix Models. It was a 427 Cobra, and he recalls it was a very crude kit. Marshall was attending boarding school in Gloucestershire, at the time, and the kit looked better in built form in their adverts than in the box!  He was disappointed and it never did get built, as he felt its details were no better than the mass produced Corgis & Dinkys.

After his family moved back to the States, and while still in high school, age 15, he had a keen interest in designing landscaped slot racing layouts. He produced his own scale drawings, and, encouraged by a close family friend, after much effort, Marshall got an appointment with the head of Research & Development at the Aurora Toy Corporation. From that meeting, he began to receive freelance work from them while still in school!

After a short spell working for a New York City audio/visual studio, Marshall moved into television production, but became dissatisfied with the “cut throat” politics of T.V.   Along the way, he was developing his model making skills and knowledge, reading car and model magazines, as well as meeting a few serious local collectors who taught him a lot. In his early twenties he started attending swap meets, buying and trading models, as well as building.  By the time he was working in T.V. production he was selling some of the models he had built through two local model dealers, and to a few private collectors. This all helped supplement expenditure on collecting hand built models and kits in all scales, but primarily 1:43 and 1:24.

In 1982 he was unhappily working for Broadway Video in New York City, and continuing to build models for a few select clients, one of whom was a Greek shipping magnate. With his strong urging and help, Marshall unexpectedly went full time into the model making business. One day when delivering a couple of built models to one of his regular clients the Greek client asked “What do you do when you’re not making models for me?”  which progressed to “....have you ever thought about doing it for a living?” and then finally to a point when he offered Marshall separate premises to work in, and funding for the business. The rest was history.

Tempted by his love of automobiles, in 1986 Marshall decided to take a break from model making, and went into sales of exotic cars in Greenwich, Connecticut, for a few years. Marshall had a lucky break in 1988, when his backer introduced him to the late Art Eastman who was the Editor of Vintage Motorsport magazine.  Art asked Marshall to write a featured model column for the magazine which he did for 10 years. However, he was constantly getting drawn back to models by many insistent clients, including his original backer, and in 1989, Marshall moved back to model making full time. Marshall started custom-building models for collectors, and advertising his building services in various automotive magazines. He believes he was the first professional model builder to actively advertise such services. He then expanded into buying and selling high quality handbuilts, followed by representation of the great automotive model maker Manuel Olive Sans, to finally launching his own production lines of CMA Models in 1:43, 1:24, 1:14, and 1:12 scales. CMA limited edition models was born.

At this time Marshall had established separate space for his work in a large vintage race preparation and restoration business also owned by his backer, at Aston Martin Vintage Racing in Connecticut. What a great place to have an office and work shop! 

Later, when AMVR closed, and he moved back home, he began to realise that he was going to need more builders very soon, and a much larger space. He found both on Parker Ave. in Stamford, Connecticut.  Once he had expanded his production facilities, he was able to produce his own patterns, artwork for photo-etch and decals, RTV moulds and resin castings in house.

Marshall had 9 people working there plus a few more freelancers and services.  There were numerous production and personality problems with all but one of his employees. The two most talented guys were truly fantastic builders and pattern makers. That said, they were also two of the most unreliable people he had ever come across. Marshall relied heavily on these two, and subsequently found that his business had suffered considerable damage. After taking a review, he set about working from home once again, and occasionally taking on outside corporate contract such as for Honda Performance and Toyota.

His first CMA production run was of the 1955 Aston Martin DB3S in 1:24 scale.  This was an all white metal model and was only produced as a hand built limited edition.  Not knowing any better, he took his pattern and project to a well known British model production company who were producing their own lines of models as well as offering contract production services to many other specialists such as myself. However, there were numerous quality problems, including missing parts. Marshall finally decided to withdraw from the arrangement, and contracted with Graham Price of GTA models to continue to produce the Aston Martin DB3S models.  Not only did GTA surpass the other company in terms of quality, fit and finish, but GTA even did it for slightly less cost! 

He believes that really great pattern makers, like great independent model builders, are not easy to find. Indeed, one of his later 1:12 scale runs, the 1970 Ferrari 312B, went through the hands of 5 different pattern makers before Marshall found a reliable one.  

Andy Martin of Aardvark Models has done considerable work for Marshall over the years and was a key player in some of his projects, including the 1:14 scale Ferrari 166 MM Barchetta.  Andy took this over in the early stages after the original pattern maker failed to deliver. After it had not been available for Marshall to show at the Ferrari Club of America’s National meet, Marshall arranged to recover his pattern and all materials it from California. These were then sent to Andy Martin who came through with flying colours!

The Barchetta 1949 Le Mans winner model became a ‘tour de force’ in research, and detail, so much so that the collector who owned the real car used the model as reference for further corrections and updates in its additional restoration to ensure accuracy as it was at Le Mans in 1949.

Marshall was encouraged by others to make more than one Barchetta, which seemed a sensible business approach, incorporating all the detailed differences. However, he soon learnt that no two Barchettas were alike at all, and indeed there were huge differences! Marshall feels that he has learnt a lot from this, in terms of properly assessing the scope and potential of each model made.

He also recalls a difficulty with a batch of his 1:24 scale Ferrari 250 SWB, Rob Walker/Stirling Moss models being built by a French builder Marshall was working with at the time. On arrival, this batch was all painted the wrong shade of blue!  All previous work from him had been fine, so what had happened?  His explanation was that he had simply run out of the correct colour so had used another that he thought was close!!  The colour he used was almost black, not the correct dark blue.

For a more recent CMA production run in 2009 under the Black Horse Collection label, Marshall was researching Ernie McAfee’s 1953 Carrera Pan Americana Siata 208S Spider race car.  He contacted a man who he had heard knew Siatas quite well.  He explained what he was doing and asked specifically about the Pan Am car, asking what he might know about it and did he have any photos or know of where Marshall might locate some.  He replied that, yes he knew the car very well, and thought he could be of help, going on to say that the car was sitting in his living room!  

Creative Miniature Associates was the original manufacturer contracted by Legendary Motorcars to produce their line of 1:43 scale American Luxury cars. Marshall first produced the 1960 Lincoln Continental Coupe and Convertible, and later a short run of the Lincoln Mk II in both Coupe and Convertible form.   Marshall commissioned Paul Fisher to make the patterns, and all other work was done in house. 

However, the owner of Legendary wanted such a high level of detail that each model took an excessive amount of time and high cost to produce and build. Since we were losing money on every model produced, after we had the third pattern completed of the 1967 Cadillac Eldorado, we ceased all work for Legendary.  Marshall strongly suggested that the owner contact Illustra Models to take over all the work, which did happen. Marshall noticed that, though Illustra have made very good models, they may have reduced the detail level, which he himself would have liked to have been able to do.

Marshall is proud to have gained access to a number of race drivers and personalities, and to have achieved autograph deals with them for personally autographed plaques to go with many of his limited edition models.  This began in 1990. 

Commissions became a special part of Marshall’s business, on one occasion being approached by The President of Chrysler Financial, who also happened to be a client at the time, to produce a very limited run of 1:14 scale high end models of Walter P. Chrysler’s one-off 1932 Imperial Speedster for the Chrysler Corporation.  These models were used as awards for their top ranking International distributors. Commissions from Steve Earle, the original founder and promoter of The Monterey Historic Automobile Races, to build special award models for them were quite prestigious too!  Achieving such commissions requires the ability to produce top quality work in the first place, and creating a reputation for consistency.

The shortest time period would have been in production for just a few months to the longest being about 4 years.

CMA Models limited editions ranged from as few as 10 models to as many as 300, though Marshall’s preference is for low numbers of 25 to 50 at a time. Sometimes, such as with the 1:14 scale Ferrari Barchetta, he has produced three versions - distinctly different cars offered in editions set at 250, 100, and 50 giving a projected grand total of 400 models. In reality he stopped production after a total of 130 of all 3 versions combined had been produced. This has often been the practice, stopping production before the entire run or projected run has been produced. This has caused some collectors to miss out on getting some models, but has also made them substantially more rare as well.

CMA Models have always been sold retail direct to collectors as well as wholesale to dealers/retailers around the world.  Their direct sales to collectors were and are mostly via mail order, but also at various high end Concours and Vintage race events, as well as the occasional specialised automobilia show. CMA still displays and sells at two to four events each year. Toy Fairs are left for the retailers. 

Originally, Marshall issued flyers with color photos to promote the model ranges, then in 1989 he offered a large, full colour catalogue which was available up until 2000 or 2001. Currently, it’s primarily the web site.  Occasionally he will put out a brochure or colour photo sheet on a specific model, depending on what marketing is required.  No samples are ever sent to magazines, just high quality photos and detailed information. Often a journalist and or photographer will come to his shop, or to one of his clients for viewing and taking photos. He also sends out press releases.  CMA and its models have been featured in numerous automobile magazines over the years, which has proved excellent for marketing and promotion.  

For many years advertisements were also placed in various model car and real car magazines on a regular basis, but nowadays that is a rarity.  Marshall considers that the market has changed greatly, in addition to the increasing amount of information available.  He feels that the Internet has both helped and hindered the industry. 

Marshall feels that he has worn most hats in this business.  Model builder, pattern maker, writer, packaging and design, graphic artist, distributor, retailer, consultant, broker, manufacturer, project director, caretaker, shipping dept.., and more......

He has also had others manufacture for him. Some CMA issues were done completely in house and for others he has had parts or entire issues made for him. Marshall has worked with about 8 or 10 different pattern makers over the years. Some he feels were great, whilst others “couldn't glue two sticks together without the help of a good psychiatrist”! He holds the same view for some “so-called professional model builders”

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