1 August 2012

Small Beginnings

We all start somewhere. For these collectors, their passions began on the living room floor.

 

Imagine for a moment that the first car you ever owned was a D-Type Jaguar. When you were 11. It sounds like fodder for an automotive adventure novel, but it’s really not so far-fetched. Because of course we’re talking miniatures here.

There is a common thread among collectors that is traceable to their childhoods: The toy cars and models they collected then provided the spark for their collecting flame now. Ray Minella, Greg Galdi, Don Orosco and Angus Forsyth are four such collectors.

Ray Minella is an investment banker who cofounded Berenson Minella & Company and later joined Jefferies & Company, Inc., where he retired as Vice Chairman in 2010. He is currently Adjunct Professor and Executive Director of the Clarke Business Law Institute at Cornell University. His car collection is all Porsche and includes a 1962 Twin Grille 356 Roadster, 1955 Speedster, 1962 Carrera 2 coupe, 2007 GT3 RS, and the very last 1973 Carrera RS made.

For Ray, it started with Corgi Toys. “From about the time I was three and a half,” he says. “But I was more into model kits as I got older. Revell and AMT, and others. I built a lot, but I was never good at it. I just couldn’t get the painting right. The cars I built were muscle cars, which was what my interest was in.” But those models are long gone. “The stuff I made myself…none of it was worth keeping,” he says.

While his tastes have changed, and he stays away from building kits, Ray still collects miniatures, primarily related to the cars he owns. As he became interested in vintage 356s, he grew interested in everything related to them. “Models, books, ashtrays, all the memorabilia,” Minella says. “About 85 to 90 percent of my collection is now Porsche.”

Nearly all of his Schuco wind-ups are originals, and when it comes to scale in miniatures, Ray doesn’t much care, though “the smaller ones (1:43) are easier to keep and I have more of them.”

Detail counts too for Ray, and he has commissioned 1:24-scale custom-built models of several of his cars, including some built by the author. And while it’s too bad he sold his wonderful 356 Carrera 2 Cabriolet, there is comfort in knowing he has a great model of it.

Greg Galdi is a chemist-turned-IT professional. He is President and CEO of Custom Computer Specialists, Inc., which he founded in 1979. His collection includes a McLaren M23 Formula 1 car, Porsche 917K, Porsche 956, Porsche 911 RSR, two BMW GTP cars, a ’72 Lotus Europa, ’63 Lotus Super Seven and a few others.

The cars in Greg’s collection certainly aren’t the types one collects without having a rooted interest, and he is quick to tell you that the influence was there early on. “I had a hundred of them really early, since age four. Solidos, Corgis, Dinkys … so many names.”

He blames his obsession on his older brother Joe, who took him to his first Can-Am race at age 10. “Joe and I went to Westchester Hobbies every weekend and bought built models and kits. Then when I was about 16, I went to Europe with my parents, and I came back with at least 30 or 40 models. Filled up my luggage!” Greg also built kits, but admits they didn’t turn out so well.

Not surprisingly, the types of cars he had in toy form affected his choices in cars as an adult. “They certainly did influence me,” he says. “I had lots of Ferraris and other sports cars. Eventually those led to the real cars. When I could afford the full-size models I had Lotuses and then Ferraris, and, well, you know the rest.”

One of his favorite cars in his 1:1 collection is the McLaren M23, as is evidenced by the three different custom-built models he keeps in his home, from 1:43 to a big 1:8 piece. Greg still has some of the toy cars from his youth, and today he actively collects new model cars of all types and scales, but not the old toys. As with the McLaren, what he looks for now are mostly models of cars he owns or has owned. That should keep him busy for a while.

Don Orosco is a commercial real estate developer and president of DBO Development Company, which he founded in 1975. He also oversees restorations of his cars at his own facility, Orosco Racing. His collection includes several hot rods, a woodie station wagon, two Scarab Formula 1 cars, the Scarab Mk 1 sports racer and, to carry them all, the Scarab Race Transporter.

Orosco credits the toys of his youth with his passion. “I have lusted after many of the vehicles that were modeled in the 1950s and ’60s.” One such model was the Scarab, of which he has an original Strombecker plastic model kit. “I have now managed to restore, own and race the real thing.”

His interest exploded around age nine or 10, when he was able to take the extra money from his paper route to buy and build model kits made by companies like Revell, Strombecker and AMT. Don was infatuated with Model Ts back then and remains a heavy Ford fan today. He was always building model cars. “I lived vicariously through them,” he says. “They lighted my imagination.”

Unfortunately, none of those early builds have lasted, and many of his childhood cars are gone. “I once had a collection of nearly 200 early tether cars, which reminded me of the Offy Midget I once owned and the World of Outlaws race cars that I dearly love to watch.” He also had a substantial collection of mint, boxed Japanese and German tin toy cars. But Don has made a point of repurchasing some of what he had as a child, specifically models of cars that meant something to him from that time.

He continues to collect models he likes in an assortment of scales, with a preference for 1:24 scale, which is likely traceable back to the scale of the kits he built as a child. Spread around his office and home are everything from a 1:43-scale model of his Bartoletti Scarab Transporter to a 1:8 Bugatti Type 35. There’s also a huge 1:4-scale aluminum-bodied radio-control Lancia D50, for display only (you’d have a tough time restoring that body if it got crunched!).

Why models? “Most serious collectors today had and still have models in their bedrooms and offices of the cars they wanted to own, did own or currently enjoy today,” says Orosco. For him, models are constant reminders of why he works so hard every day—to be able to spend his money on collecting and restoring the real thing. “It’s just that you can’t keep full-size hot rods and classic cars as reminders and incentives in every room of your house like you can with models.”

Angus Forsyth is the Managing Director of Hagerty International Limited, a position he has held since the inception of Hagerty’s International division in 2006. Prior to that, Forsyth was with Lloyd’s for 22 years. His present collection consists of a Volvo P1800, Jaguar E-Type Series III roadster, early two-door Range Rover, Jensen Interceptor Mk I and a pair of Triumph GT6s.

As with so many of the severely bitten car guys, it started early for Angus, and there was no turning back when at age six his father gave him a Dinky Toys Jensen FF. It was that very Jensen toy that ignited his car flame and served as the inspiration to one day own a 1:1 FF. Coincidentally, such a car happens to be the most recent addition to the Forsyth stable.

Collecting and playing with the various little cars from Matchbox, Corgi and Dinky was a passion. “Every weekend I took my pocket money to buy more of them,” he says. “I was also hugely influenced by TV shows of the day such as ‘The Professionals,’ ‘The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,’ ‘The Persuaders’ and ‘The Saint.’” Naturally, most of the cars that co-starred in these shows were immortalized in miniature by the toy makers. Though now in “battered and bruised condition,” Angus still has several of the Dinkys and Corgis from childhood, including the Saint’s Volvo P1800. Hmm…so that’s a Jensen and a Volvo—do you see a pattern here? Forsyth did build model kits too, but not cars. “For some reason,” he admits, “they were predominantly aircraft models of Spitfires, Mustangs and the like.”

And what of his toy or model collecting today? He is quick to say that he currently buys models of cars and events he has a personal connection with, such as the Mille Miglia. “I buy models, rather than old toys, of whatever strikes me,” he says. If he likes it he buys it—a simple philosophy that isn’t constrained by any particular scale or level of detail. As a result, his current model collection is eclectic (and growing), and contains an interesting and varied mix of Aston Martins, Healeys, Ferraris, Porsches and Lamborghinis, to name a few.

Whether your collection is comprised of the entire Scarab racing effort, a handful of vintage Porsches or a 1970 Nova you love more than life itself, chances are you’ve come by your passions honestly. And that means the best way of all—through the toys and models of childhood.

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