It’s all in the details

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The die-cast model truck market is thriving, and Scania is a popular choice.

When we talk about Scania’s new truck generation we rightly mention the incredible attention to detail that has gone into the product development process over the past decade. But imagine trying to replicate those vehicles’ details on a miniature scale.

Welcome to the world of die-cast model trucks, a real niche market that appeals to hauliers looking for a tailor-made promotional touch, and to individual collectors who see these models as keepsakes and investments. As with their real-life big brothers, Scania die-cast model trucks are in great demand.

Strong market for miniature vehicles

Someone who knows a lot about the subject is Jim Newsome, who with his wife Brenda runs Search Impex, a UK-based specialist supplier of customised promotional model vehicles. He started the company 25 years ago when he was facing redundancy from his job in export sales.

“I was contacted by someone who made wooden models—including of Scania trucks—and he wondered if there was a market for it. I did my research and discovered that while wooden models were not so in demand, there was a gap in the market for die-cast models. I mailed 250 companies and Ryder Truck and Van Rental became my first customer for die casts with an order for 2,500 models.”

It took several years’ hard work to make the company viable, but since 2005 the Jim and Brenda have worked from their own office, instead of from home. As befits a husband and wife working together, “We mostly know exactly what the other is thinking and are often able to complete each other’s sentences,” says Jim.

How the model trucks are made

It’s not Jim and Brenda who produce these models. They act as a supplier for orders and work with die-cast manufacturers in various parts of the world. Chinese model-makers are increasingly prominent. The models are made by injecting a zinc alloy metal into a hardened steel die to produce a particular shape. Jim takes the orders from the customers, and using pictures and research delivers the origination material, complete with colour references and graphics files, to the manufacturer to get the artwork process started.

For 1:50 scale range of models, it can take six to eight months when you factor in artwork & origination, production and importing of a batch of several hundred trucks from the other side of the world. A customer who rings up for models only a few weeks before their company’s anniversary might be disappointed, though Search Impex has access to many different models and can usually offer other scales with shorter lead times.

Then there’s the sheer detail, especially as technology advances. The models can be as small as 1:87 scale and as big as 1:43 scale – though 1:50 scale models are the most popular. Customers usually want an almost exact miniature copy of their truck. That means capturing the finer aspects of the livery–airbrushed, traditionally hand signwritten or vinyl graphics–and getting the truck and trailer as close to real life as the die cast tooling allows.

“With a wide choice of cab variants and features including tipping cabs, posable wheels, independently-sprung trailer axles and spotlight bars, it’s sometimes necessary to temper customers’ expectations a little and remind them that it’s a miniature scale model, rather than the real thing,” says Jim.

Scania truck models are popular

Produced in batches of 175 or more and sold individually to collectors from around GBP 135 (EUR 150) and upwards, Search Impex’s orders tend to come from haulage companies looking to promote their business, launch a new livery or mark an anniversary. Scottish companies, with their very attractive and patriotic liveries, are good customers for Search Impex. Individual collectors can order models from Search Impex online or over the phone when new model releases become available.

It’s a world that keeps up with the trends: Scania’s New Truck Generation had miniature equivalents not long after the 2016 launch and there are a lot of orders for the new truck range. Jim says Scania is always popular: “Right now we are working on a quite a number of orders for Scania models, including one for a 6×4 Scania unit with crane and low loader trailer.”

Mind you, some things are beyond even Search Impex and the model manufacturers, even if the customer’s intentions were good…

“We even had someone who had been given a generic, novelty model truck and who asked if it was possible to make it look like a Scania!”

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