23 February 2012

Small Beginnings: Models fueled Rush drummer's passion for cars

Since 1974, Neil Peart has been the drummer and lyricist for the legendary Canadian rock band Rush. Rush holds an enviable position right behind the Beatles and the Rolling Stones for the number of most consecutive gold or platinum studio albums by a rock band. Not too shabby, and neither is his collection of cars, which includes a 2001 BMW Z8, 1964 Aston Martin DB5, 2010 Aston martin DBS, and a recently acquired 1963 Corvette Spilt-Window coupe, which happens to be one of his childhood dream cars.

Neil describes himself as “a car lover since infancy.” Growing up in the 1950s and ’60s, he had many Dinky Toys and Corgi Toys. His father attended a car show in Buffalo, New York, each winter, and upon his return would bring Neil a 1/25-scale promotional model of the latest Pontiac or Oldsmobile. “I thought those were really special,” Neil says. “I was fascinated by shiny, monstrous, noisy, grown-up cars, and had toys to play with until I could have the real thing.

Neil built plenty of his own models as well.“In adolescence I built many model kits in 1/25 and 1/24 scale, from Revell, Monogram, and AMT, with spray cans and tentative ‘upgrades’ like adding thread for spark plug wires. In the ‘3-in-1’ kits, I always favored the ‘custom’ variant, and asked my dad why we didn’t have fender skirts, a Continental kit, and twin rear antennas on our red ’55 Buick hardtop convertible. He snorted and said, ‘I don’t need all that junk.’ I thought he was a philistine, but I guess he was a purist.”

As young musician touring the U.S. and Canada, too, Neil continued his model-building. “I had a briefcase-sized road case containing a kit or two, paints, dozens of miniature tools, and an aerosol airbrush. On days off, my hotel room became a little workshop, and I had the pleasure of solitary concentration on a tiny, controllable bit of reality.” 

Though he didn’t keep any of his old toys and models, Neil has since amassed quite an impressive model collection focused primarily on sports cars and GT cars of the 1950s and ’60s, plus a handful of pre-war Bugattis. In the mid 1980s, Neil discovered 1/43 hand-built models, and since then he has made a point of visiting a network of shops around the globe.

The bulk of his model collection today is in that small 1/43 scale. “I acquired a couple of genuine masterpieces of miniaturization,” Neil says. “A Ferrari GTO with tiny sliding plastic windows, opening doors, and perfect engine detailing, and a Bugatti Type 35 with the piano wire attaching the bodywork rendered perfectly, as are the leather upholstery and bonnet straps. I define these delightful creations as expensive—and worth it.

In that rarefied environment of fine-art miniatures, Neil eventually found his way to my own shop, Creative Miniature Associates. “I began to commission a few particular favorite cars in my chosen colors—a black over red [Ferrari] Lusso comes to mind, and a 289 Cobra in the same combination.” He also owns number three of 100 Ferrari 166MM Barchettas that I hand built.

Finally, Neil has commissioned 1/24 renderings of his personal cars: a Porsche 911 Speedster, BMW Z8, and a pairing of the Aston Martin DB5 and the modern DBS. Says Neil, “These tiny jewels of intricate craftsmanship give me pleasure just in contemplating them.” 

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