The History of Maxi-Models
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away an 11 year old boy called Max Winter was parked at a commercial slot car raceway at the bottom end of Hamlet Court Rd in Westcliff-on-Sea by his grandmother while she went off to do the shopping. It was centred around 1/24th scale subjects as it was nearly all imported from the US. The seeds of a lifelong interest were sown and, as a result, his first slot car was a McLaren M6 Can-Am contender, liveried as driven by Denny Hulme.
Sometime later, now in his early 30’s Max stumbled upon a model car shop near his office called St Martins Accessories and, with a bit of disposable income to splash out, he spied the self-same McLaren that had spurred his interest in Motorsports some 20 years previously. It was a 1/43 white metal kit made by John Simmons of Marsh Models. The shop owner plonked it in his hand and its detail, finish and fidelity to the original was like nothing he’d seen before. He was smitten, a new hobby had been found. Soon after this, an article in Supercar Classics in 89 brought in slot cars to add to the static model habit.
The original concept for what later became a “Maxi-Model” first came about in the late 80s. Max Loved the old Scalextric/Exin stuff but wanted something better than the then current mainstream offerings that could approach the standards of the artisan produced 1/43rd scale models that he built and bought ready-made. He found the one 1/32nd scale resin multimedia kit available, a Michel Conte Ferrari F40 and set about converting it. It worked, after a fashion, but the full time job meant it remained just an idea and sat on a shelf. Then in the mid’ ‘90’s along came Fly, Ninco and the Spanish resin makers Slot Classic and Top Slot. Between them they really upped the game quite a bit and while all were excellent in their own right it was still not quite there yet to his eyes.
So, In 2000 Max decided to go into business as a small scale manufacturer trading under the name of Maxi-Models and marketing niche slot cars. That is to say, high quality slot cars based on race cars that might otherwise have been overlooked by the mainstream volume producing manufacturers. By now he had a large collection of both slot cars and static handmade miniatures from which to draw inspiration and he wanted to make something a bit more special than was on the market at the time. The cars would be accurate race/driver specific scale models while still having reasonable performance as slot cars.
Except for proprietary components such as the motor, gears and guide blades he proposed to make everything in house. Over the next few months Max tapped into the creativity of a group of talented craftsmen, including two of Britain’s top model pattern-makers, to ensure the success of this new venture.
Major contributors to the project included:
- John Shinton – made the masters for all models except the Ferrari 612P.
- Chris Sargent - made the masters for the Ferrari 612P.
- Dave Buttress/CMA Moldform – Resin mouldings, metal castings and vac forms.
- PEC – Photo etched parts.
- Professor Motor - 30,000 rpm Mabuchi “S” cans which replaced the original ‘cooking’ Scalex’ “S” cans.
- K&R Replicas – Tyres.
- John Simmons/Marsh Models – helped with a lot of information on car specifications and build advice.
- Spot-On Decals - They produce full size replica liveries for historic racers too.
- Milton Keynes Paints who came up with all the matches for the cars.
- Adrian Norman of Hornby Hobbies hosted the website and sales facility.
Having purchased a cottage which was formerly an antique shop he converted the shop part into the production centre, complete with a 65ft scenic track and set to work.
The first model was ready by July 2001 being the McLaren M6A #5 Denny Hulme 1967 Laguna Seca or #4 Bruce McLaren 1967 Laguna Seca, catalogue #MX-001. This was the very same car that had sparked his interest in motorsport, slot cars and modelling all those years previously.
MX-001 - McLaren M6A
The fully built RTR model was complete with a diorama base and CD-ROM V8 soundtrack at the then hefty retail price of £199 but to cater for smaller wallets it was also available as a prepainted kit at a lower price level of £99. The kit included the polyurethane resin body ready painted and finished, chassis, white metal castings, turned aluminium wheels, etched stainless steel detail components, vac-formed tinted screen, synthetic rubber tyres, Mabuchi motor, water-slide decals and a fully illustrated instruction sheet. Two heads with different helmets and choice of race numbers allowed you to build it as either Bruce or Denny. An unpainted kit was also available at £65 for the more experienced modellers who liked to paint their own.
It was a limited edition of 300 with hand written certificate and available through the specialist retailers who were most supportive of the venture – MRE, Scale Models, Pendle Slot Racing and Professor Motor.
It received rave reviews in the press and sold out in a fairly short space of time. Gary Cannell of MRE maintained it was probably the finest detailed slot car he had ever seen, better than a lot of collectors’ resin models but fully working and raceable.
Encouraged by this initial success Max continued to produce further models over the ensuing couple of years and the range eventually included Lola T160, Ferrari 612P and a Ford GTP J car. All were available as fully built models, painted or unpainted full kits. A number of short run reliveries of the M6 variants were also produced with alterations to the masters by Max where necessary.
Built models and kits were initially supplied in made to order white “postal” cardboard boxes with coloured labeling showing front and side views of built up models with a separate printed L/E certificate. Later kits came in MRRC or Scalextric crystal display type boxes with a similarly printed sleeve that sometimes included the certificate printed on it rather than as a separate item.Most of the built models were supplied with their own ‘race specific’ diorama base and cover. An entry level, basic ‘Super Sport’ body kit which required a donor chassis was available for all models except MX001 and there was also a very limited run of ‘Sprint’ kits for some of the M6 variants with a lightweight body and full racing chassis.
Peter Novani’s comprehensive review of the first model by can be found in the NSCC magazine archives December 2001 issue, page 13 of the pdf and John Dilworth’s review of the later Lola T160 is in the October 2002 edition, page 23 of the pdf.
MX-002 - Lola T160TS
In 2004, although the models were reasonably successful and profitable, Max decided that overall demand wasn't sufficient to provide a viable long term source of income so he returned to a ‘proper’ job and wound down production. All the remaining stock was eventually bought by Phil Smith (scaleslotcars.com) who has one built model and three full kits available at the time of writing. He also has a stock of the spares, decals, chassis and bodies but these are not listed on his website so anybody interested in them would need to contact him direct.
Another ‘lost’ manufacturer then but Max’s cars were absolutely top notch and very few ever surface in the collectors’ market these days. As fairly heavy resin bodied items they obviously don’t stand comparison with today’s speed oriented makes such as NSR but they were very acceptable home racers and the attention to detail was way superior to anything else on the market at the time.
My thanks to Max Winter for his invaluable help in compiling this article, all photos were provided from his files and remain his copyright.
By the way, the masters are still in Max’s possession, including those for a couple of unreleased cars. If any budding entrepreneur would like to buy a turnkey project with support material and resurrect the range then I will happily put you in touch with him.