Mike Coupe has been an enthusiastic collector of model cars for longer than he cares to remember. It all started in the late 1940s when Mike had his first Dinky Toys Buick Viceroy, and, together with a Ladybird book on cars of the time, he began collecting the Dinky Toys pictured in that book. These included Standard Vanguard, Riley, Rover 75, in fact, all the 40 series, but that Viceroy wouldn’t go away. It was chopped and turned into a town car and later was repaired with Plastic Padding! His collecting was then overtaken by the draw of the girls in his teens.More
Mike Coupe has been an enthusiastic collector of model cars for longer than he cares to remember. It all started in the late 1940s when Mike had his first Dinky Toys Buick Viceroy, and, together with a Ladybird book on cars of the time, he began collecting the Dinky Toys pictured in that book. These included Standard Vanguard, Riley, Rover 75, in fact, all the 40 series, but that Viceroy wouldn’t go away. It was chopped and turned into a town car and later was repaired with Plastic Padding! His collecting was then overtaken by the draw of the girls in his teens.
The interest came back in his 20s, when Mike recalls picking up later Spot-On models, such as the Hillman Minx, cheaply and also Models of Yesteryear. Another hobby of his was collecting records of the era, and this led to him becoming a local mobile DJ. He spent a lot of time at the Shoulder of Mutton Inn in the small hamlet of Hardstoft about seven miles south of Chesterfield in Derbyshire. When the landlord asked him for ideas to generate some income, he suggested a swapmeet, but not too often as there were others in the area. And so Mike took the initiative, and in 1983 he launched the fondly remembered Hardstoft swapmeet at the Shoulder of Mutton. Alternating with the nearby Nottingham International swapmeet, it was held once every two months on a Tuesday evening. A feature of the swapmeet was a draw where the customer whose entry ticket was drawn at the end of the swapmeet, would receive a £5.00 voucher to be spent on the night at any of the stalls present. Needless to say, all dealers present waited with eager anticipation to see if their takings would be boosted by another fiver. As a comparison with today's toy fairs, the number of tables was between 30 and 50 at a cost of £5.00 per table. The swapmeet had a five year run, only curtailed by the pub closing!
After 12 months, Mike had accumulated a profit of £300, so he thought he’d start a model car business, and approached John Hall of Brooklin Models to supply him. Known as Brock Miniatures, trading began in 1984, and was gradually built up over the next ten years or so, based solely on mail order and toy fair appearances.
In 1995, an idea which had its beginnings a few years earlier came to fruition, and Mike launched his first model, the Series II Morris Isis, at the ModeleX of that year. The pattern for this model was made by Pete Kenna. Mike shared the ownership and launch of the model jointly with Roger Tennyson, then of Jemini Models. With a new business comes the need for a name. John Hall’s choice of name, being the place where the first Brooklin model was made, was the inspiration for Mike, and so he selected the street where he was born, Spa Croft. Mike’s intention was to model the cars that were around that area during the period from 1930 to 1960, whilst he was living in Spa Croft.
In recent years, as the name Spa Croft Models took precedence over Brock Miniatures in the minds of the collectors, Mike now trades under the new name for both manufacture and retail of white metal models, and has been supplying high quality models, from a range of quality manufacturers, of British and American cars to model collectors for the past twenty five years.
Until 2003, Mike had been supplying the specialist trade with Spa Croft releases, but in that year he changed his pattern maker to Ian Pickering. He also opted to assemble the models himself, and only supply direct, as it would have been too pressurizing to be assembling bulk orders for trade suppliers. In response to demand from his customers, Mike also ensured that there was added detail in the subject chosen. The first model under this new regime was the Morris 14. Previously, Mike had used Moldcast to cast his models, and subsequently GTA Models for both assembly and some casting. Pat Land now paints the bodies and interiors, whilst castings are produced by Maurice Bozward of White Metal Assemblies.
However, overall, Mike’s business approach is one of relaxed trust. Like many of his colleagues, he regards the white metal business as a ‘fraternity of gentlemen of leisure not bound by the formalities of life’; in other words, contracts are sealed by a shake of the hand, not the written word.
Mike’s wife Pauline was the sleeping partner in the business, accompanying him to swapmeets and ModeleX exhibitions, but since she passed away in 2004, he has chosen to restrict his sales outlets to eBay and his very comprehensive website.
Each Spa Croft model is meticulously finished, with much research carried out to ensure accuracy. Every model is produced in two colour schemes and total runs consist of 400, but in addition, an extra 100 are reserved to produce limited runs of other colour schemes, including a sub range, Le Car Noir. As the name implies, this is a range of all black cars, limited to 50 pieces, produced in response to collectors’ demands for cars in the colour which they remember, invariably black.
The majority of the Spa Croft range has been mastered by Peter Kenna, one of the UK's most sought after pattern makers, and more recently again, Ian Pickering. There are now 11 models in the range, the most recent being the Humber Pullman. New models either due or planned include a Morris 25 Coupé.
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