In a memorable article in Model Collector in July 2005, Mike Richardson describes himself as an almost cured collector. He recalls being given his first Dinky Toy, a 22c Motor Truck, at the beginning of the war by his father, who regarded it as an investment. It is repainted and repaired, but Mike still has it. When Mike was an engineering student in Glasgow, he had a flat in which he kept a glass fronted cocktail cabinet, which was ideal for displaying his 60ish Dinkys that he had repatriated from his parents’ house. He bought new Corgis and Dinkys to help fill the cabinet, and then bought more cabinets. Exchanges followed with a Japanese student, whilst 1963 saw a visit to London where Mike discovered Automodels of 70, Finsbury Pavement. Here he stocked up on French Dinkys, and at around the same time first met Sue. A present of a Tekno E-Type confirmed to Mike that Sue was of like mind, and by 1965 they had moved together to Bracknell.More
In a memorable article in Model Collector in July 2005, Mike Richardson describes himself as an almost cured collector. He recalls being given his first Dinky Toy, a 22c Motor Truck, at the beginning of the war by his father, who regarded it as an investment. It is repainted and repaired, but Mike still has it. When Mike was an engineering student in Glasgow, he had a flat in which he kept a glass fronted cocktail cabinet, which was ideal for displaying his 60ish Dinkys that he had repatriated from his parents’ house. He bought new Corgis and Dinkys to help fill the cabinet, and then bought more cabinets. Exchanges followed with a Japanese student, whilst 1963 saw a visit to London where Mike discovered Automodels of 70, Finsbury Pavement. Here he stocked up on French Dinkys, and at around the same time first met Sue. A present of a Tekno E-Type confirmed to Mike that Sue was of like mind, and by 1965 they had moved together to Bracknell.
Mike recalls the availability of models being very limited in the early days. Paddy Stanley, a British Forces Chaplain, was producing simple kits cast by Denzil Skinner, who lived near to him when he was stationed in Aldershot.
Autokits 1:24 scale metal racing car kits were available from Automodels, but they were notorious non payers, and the range was taken on by Bob Wills, of Wills Finecast, which was instrumental in their production. From information Mike obtained from other collectors, it appears that another maker, known as Replicars or Graphic Designers, manufactured by Exacta Castings, made three 1:24 scale kits between 1956 and 1962. It was Automodels that sponsored a collectors club, which in due course led to the founding of the Maidenhead Static Model Club.
Mike remembers John Day’s first 5 models, which included a Jaguar C type, and Mike had owned the real car – chassis number XKC021, registration no. PUG 676, which is still running and even now may have a mileage of not much more than 40,000 miles.
Mike just had to have the model, so he wrote off to John Day, sent the cheque, but the kit failed to arrive. Fortunately, John Day was trading at the new Windsor swapmeet in June 1971, and Mike obtained his kit through this channel. There were beginning to be other concerns about John Day not delivering at this stage, as readers may have or will discover.
1971 also heralded the arrival of the Modellers’ World magazine, a step in which Mike and Sue were instrumental. The magazine ran for 14 years, by which time it was wholly owned by Mikansue.
By 1972 Sue, having given up part time teaching to give birth to their son, was looking for a new direction in her career. After having begun trading at swapmeets, they decided that running a mail order business from home, specialising in white metal kits would be a good idea. By October 1972 they had become an official distributor for John Day kits, and P models, made for Peter Oppenheimer, a Swiss collector / dealer in old toys.
At this point, Barry Lester arrived on the scene, with his own creation of an ERA, mastered and cast by himself, and the first in his range of Auto Replicas. This set a new standard in white metal, and showed up the John Day kits as somewhat crude.
Dave Gilbert had also entered the arena in 1971, and is fondly remembered by Mike as the first dealer to bring a supply of Kestrel lager to the Windsor swapmeet! His first model was the Austin chummy. By April 1973, John Day, now living in Ledbury, Gloucestershire, had re-cast Paddy Stanley’s range, and seemed to be the sole caster for many ranges.
To distribute his finished castings to those who would then stock them, a regular meet would be arranged at the Aust Services on the M4, now known as the Severn View Services. The tried and tested regular routine entailed Mike and Bryan Garfield Jones taking turns to drive there, meeting with John Day, Brian Harvey of Grand Prix models, and sometimes other traders. Initially they met in the restaurant, for a basic meal such as sausage, egg and chips, and discuss future models for their ranges. Sometimes relations between dealers may have been a bit strained and to avoid “industrial espionage” and the theft of trade secrets, they would each take a different corner of the cafe for their meeting with John!
Following this, all would retire to the car park to their cars, all parked alongside each other away from prying eyes, open up their boots, and exchange shoe boxes full of castings. The kits at this time were packed by John’s family and supplied in plain plastic bags. The traders fitted their own header cards or boxes. A shadier looking group of people you could not wish to meet on a dark night in a car park. Happily the police never became interested!
And so the Mikansue range was born with No. 1, the Jowett Jupiter in October 1973, with a casting made by John Day, and patterns made by either Steve Bates or Rodney Henley who then worked for John.
In 1973 Paddy Stanley’s range had been re-introduced, with John Day continuing to do all the casting. John had bought a bulk supply of French Mini Auto magazine back numbers, as it had ceased publishing, and decided to use the Mini-Auto name to make a new range of kits to a slightly higher quality. This would effectively raise the price of his kits from £2.00 to £4.50 to be produced with a Limited Edition status, only 200 of each being made. The reality was that this was a regular production run for such kits in those days.
Needless to say, of the 8 models listed in Modellers’ World in 1973, all were sold. 1974 heralded the arrival of Danhausen in Germany, and Classic Car kits by Brian Harvey, the founder of Grand Prix Models. Both of these ranges were made by John Day.
The production of a number of model ranges cast by John Day begun to have an effect on the visual impact of those models for customers, in that they all appeared similarly crude. Yet the M4 traders group, Mike Richardson, Bryan Garfield Jones, and Brian Harvey all still regularly attended the Aust Services to meet John Day and collect their shoe boxes. John Day was by now announcing that he would be releasing a new range known as S. B. Models, which may have referred to the pattern maker Steve Bates, or in some people’s views, “Special B******s”! With another price rise to £5.00 each, this range was sold exclusively by Mikansue, although they had no influence on the choice of subjects. The advantage for Mikansue was that they did not pay John until the kits had been sold.
Western Models appeared in the market place in 1974, offering ready built models, whilst FDS, run by Francesco De Stasio of Naples, produced his models with what to Mike felt like ex-church lead! Walldorf Models run by Otto Duve, the owner of Model International, a German model shop, were one of the few ranges not using John Day, their castings being made in Germany.
Mikansue’s Americana and Grand Tourisme ranges were released in 1975, initially by John Day, and then taken over by Mikansue. October 1975 also saw the launch of yet another John Day range, the Museum Series. These were supposed to coincide with the opening of a museum of 1:43 scale racing cars by John in his factory which was then in part of the Morgan car factory. These Museum kits had far greater detail than the previous models. They featured engine detail which could be seen by taking off the removable bonnet. Mike cannot remember the actual museum being created.
Come 1977 a number of factors led to Mikansue and John Day parting company. Mikansue were appointed distributors for the French market, but unbeknown to them, French outlets had already been established by John Day, and they were not best pleased by this move.
The quality of John Day’s castings was not really improving, and so Mike Richardson approached Rodney Henley, John’s pattern maker, who decided to go self-employed, and began making master patterns for both Mike and Sue Richardson and Bryan Garfield Jones. The final straw came when on visiting John Day’s factory in Malvern, to make the break, Mike found no evidence of any kits being made. It turned out that they were in fact being made by Colin Tyler of Bewdley Leisure Products, who were making both the moulds and the castings.
A meeting was held by Colin, Rodney and Mike, and possibly Bryan Garfield Jones, to cut John out of the loop. Colin was able to offer them a significant quality improvement, namely, plated small parts for the kits. He had wanted to do this for John but he turned the idea down on grounds of cost. Having removed John’s percentage from the trade prices the group were able to offer the improved kits at the old price for some years.
During 1977 Mike began working with Martin Field as a pattern maker who liked working in brass; hitherto patterns had been made in metal. The very first Mikansue model created using a brass master was a Triumph 1800 Roadster, their No.10. This model’s body was an innovation, in that it was all one piece. Martin had obtained a steel wing from a Triumph Roadster, and used it throughout the creation of the brass master, in order to get the measurements right. This master had been kept by Mike for years, but was recently handed back to Martin in thanks for his work done.
Around this time, in 1976, unbeknown to most people apart from friend Bryan Garfield Jones, Mike and Sue had purchased the Dinky Toy collection of the late Cecil Gibson. This included a massive archive which Mike viewed one Sunday when invited to lunch, and although there were other offers it is likely that the collection came to Mike and Sue due to their deep commitment to the hobby, and their plan to use the collection and archive to record for posterity the details it contained. The collection was collected in an ancient Morris J4 van, driven by Bryan Garfield Jones all the way to Leicester, complete with a load of cash. The collection occupied over half a double garage for some years, and it provided subject matter for many articles in Modellers’ World, and of course the books that Mike and Sue subsequently published (see later)
After October 1977, Mike had no more contact with John Day, and introduced a further range known as Mikansue Competition kits, consisting of mostly European competition and racing cars, the first being an Alta –Jaguar. There were 69 in this range, and the other ranges made by Mike reached 36 for the mainstream Mikansue, 27 for Grand Tourisme, and 18 for Americana.
Production runs for most of these ranges were approximately 200 on average, but some of the best sellers, such as the Austin Healey rally car, sold at least 2,500. This model was so successful that it was re-moulded 4-5 times, and the Jaguar XK150 was of a similar order. These two are excellent examples of popular cars that had not been modelled by any of the big diecast manufacturers. Rodney Henley launched his own range of kits at this time, C Scale, this being a pun as he also made waterline ship models.
Mike and Sue first began to place their, by now, extensive knowledge into print in 1981 with the publication of Sue’s book Minic – Lines Bros Tinplate Toys. From this came a commission from New Cavendish to write their Dinky Toy Book. This remained in print until in 2000 when it was superceded by their volume The Great Book of Dinky Toys, but only after selling about 20,000 copies.
By September 1983, Mike and Sue had obtained a shop in Eton Wick, near Windsor and used the name Modellers’ World for the new venture. After 5 years they decided to sell it as a going concern as it was taking up too much time. They did keep their personal ranges for themselves and returned to trading from home.
However, 1988 brought forth a wide range of superlative white metal models, and Mike was then feeling that they had reached the limit of their own technology, and were being overtaken. They either had to invest a lot of money to embrace the new standards, or sell out. First to go was the shop, which brought great relief at no longer being tied to shop hours, and was celebrated by a cruise on the Nile.
After that, the next decision was to sell the kit business. After, “putting the word around” a deal was struck with a couple named Morrison from North London. Mike took them to Bewdley Leisure Products where the moulds were kept, and all the moulds, patterns and remaining castings were passed into the new owners’ hands.
Since then, Mike saw the Morrisons at a Sandown Park Toy Fair with a pewter TVR Coupe, which had been made with their pattern, but without glazing. Strangely, the Morrisons have not been seen again, although some castings have surfaced which appear to be from Mikansue moulds. Some masters also reached Keith Edney of RAE models, in Chertsey, and reappeared slightly modified.
And so Mike and Sue turned their experienced hands to buying and selling on the toy fair circuit again. They also returned to writing books which they started in 1981 publishing Sue’s book on Tri-ang Minic Toys themselves. Dinky Toys and Modelled Miniatures for New Cavendish Books followed in 1986. Sue’s Diecast Toy Aircraft was in 1997, also with New Cavendish. Next was Christie’s World of Automotive Toys in 1998 and they returned to New Cavendish with The Great Book of Dinky in 2000. Mike did produced two short paperbacks for Francis Joseph; Collecting Dinky Toys in 2001 and a similar book on Corgi in 2004. Mike and Sue wrote regularly for Model Collector from its launch in 1985 until 2004.
In 2000, the Director of the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu, Michael Ware, proposed to put on an exhibition showing the history of motoring through toys and models. The exhibition, entitled Motoring Through Childhood, showcased the collection of Ian Cummins of Sydney, who was trading as Model Cars (Australia) some years before and stocked Mikansue kits. Mike and Sue have both enjoyed their involvement in writing and publishing, although Mike admits that it is Sue who is the more accomplished!
Since then they have spent much time travelling to satisfy their joint interest in archaeology, particularly around the Mediterranean region.
In 2004 Mike and Sue made a major decision to move to France, where they have enjoyed a healthy and rural way of life, unencumbered by the ever changing and hustling world of toy cars. A year later, they decided to sell their collection and books, apart from the 20 or so favourite pieces that remain in a cabinet in their home in France.
Their reputation travelled before them, even in the large Departmental city of Angers in the Loire valley, when in December 2007 they decided to visit a toy fair. They found traders and members of the public whispering, “Is it them?” “It is isn’t it?” Needless to say one, a Modeller’s World reader, finally sought confirmation of their identity. They found a trader selling a white metal MG PB Airline, one of Bryan Garfield Jones’ Motorkits range, an example of why they came into the hobby in the first place, and a model no one had modelled. The vendor had originally bought the kit from Mikansue and found that it started him in the kit-building business. In gratitude for getting him started he gave Mike the built model, which is now in the cabinet with their own models.Less
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