The Minichamps brand of diecast models
Minichamps is based in Germany and was founded in 1990. Since its foundation Minichamps has produced more than 10,000 different model cars. Minichamps began its range with DTM model cars, the first of which was a 1:43 Audi V8 of Hans-Joachim Stuck, the 1990 German Touring Car champion.
The range was quickly expanded to include classic and modern road cars in 1:43 and high quality 1:24 replicas.
By 1992 the excellent quality of Minichamps' diecast models had begun to attract the attention of top car manufacturers. 1992 also saw the creation of the first Formula 1 car, which was Michael Schumacher’s Benetton B192.
The success of Michael Schumacher in Formula 1 increased public interest in Formula 1 in Germany and Minichamps took the decision to introduce a full 1:43 F1 grid, along with its first 1:18 Formula 1 car.
The product range continued to develop and expand to include road cars and race cars in 1:18 and accessories such as helmets and figures.
In 1996 Minichamps began development of motorbike models which included high quality wheel spokes and photo-etched brake discs for accurate representation.
Minichamps introduced its first 1:12 replica in 1997, which was the 1988 McLaren Honda MP4/4 of Ayrton Senna.
The year 2000 saw the start of Minichamps' highly successful racing motorbike range.
Minichamps' philosophy is one of perfection. The quality of all new models is closely observed from Minichamps' Aachen headquarters, starting from the first picture right up to the finished model.
Administration, national and international sales departments and the R&D office are all located at Minichamps' Aachen headquarters. Product development is controlled from here, from the initial photographs, through approval of prototypes, right through to the finished product. Through this control the company can ensure that each model meets Minichamps' high quality standards.
The Minichamps Museum
Opened in January 2008, the Minichamps Museum, located at the company’s Aachen headquarters, has over 3000 exhibits in 600 square metres of floor space.
The museum has been stylishly designed with marble floors and chic illuminated display cases. It represents the high quality that Minichamps works towards in everything it produces. Every detail has been carefully thought out to present the history of the Minichamps model car brand.
The museum highlights the art of model making and the processes involved in creating models of high quality, with a detailed display showing the production process phase by phase.
The exhibition houses 3000 miniatures in all scales including items which have appeared in Minichamps' catalogue but never went on commercial sale.
Read the Minichamps Museum article taken from the Diecast Monthly magazine BR65, May 2009.
The model manufacturing process
A great deal of time and detail goes into every phase of production to ensure every Minichamps model is an accurate representation of the original vehicle.
The process begins with suggestions for new models. These may come from importers, distributers, experienced collectors and dedicated retailers, although the main port of call for ideas comes from the R&D department. Regular meetings are held to bring forward new ideas to the team.
When a decision is made to make a particular model, the search begins to find a suitable original to replicate. When an original has been found and full agreement given by the owner, accurate measurements are taken along with over 400 photographs to document the size and proportions accurately.
Blueprints and documents are gathered to create a detailed dossier. In the case of replications of current road cars, car manufacturers are able to supply Minichamps with original data.
CAD (computer aided design) is used to create a three dimensional form on the computer, using the detailed measurements and photographs taken earlier. A special printer which uses stereo lithography is used to create a three dimensional fore-model which is built up in layers of epoxy resin.
Some fore-models are created with traditional handcrafted methods, with skilled constructors creating the model using the measurements and photographs. 1:12 motorbikes are an example where the fore-model is made without the CAD technology. These motorbike models are often created at double the size of the finished product to ensure the finer details are accurately created. This will later be scaled down.
This fore-model is crucial in ensuring a high quality finish for the final product. It is used for approval by the car manufacturers, to locate the exact positioning of decorations; particularly important for race subjects, and to work out the fit and assembly of separate parts.
The largest investment goes into the construction of the steel mould and this can be in the region of a 6 figure sum. Once all approval and testing has been successful with the fore-model, the steel mould is constructed. Once the steel moulds have been tested and optimized for accuracy and fit of diecast parts, production can begin with the injection moulding of the zinc. Once cast, the model is ready to be painted and completed to form a pre-production sample. Once this sample has received final approval from the manufacturers or race teams, full production can begin.
Minichamps attention to detail
Minichamps puts a great deal of detail into its models. The precision and accuracy of the models makes Minichamps a highly desirable brand in the diecast market.
Minichamps' diecast models are constructed from many pieces which are then assembled by hand. Some examples:
1:12 Ducati 750 of Paul Smart consists of 207 parts, each of which is individually hand painted. There are 80 single spokes and 127 paint processes involved. In total there are 334 separate operations involved in creating this particular model.
1:43 Lewis Hamilton McLaren consists of 59 individual parts assembled by hand. The finish is achieved only when a number of different overlapping paint and print techniques are completed. In total there are 288 operations involved in creating this 1:43 replica.
1:43 Bentley Limousine consists of 70 parts individually varnished and assembled by hand. In total there are 157 processes involved in creating this detailed 1:43 replica.
1:18 Minichamps premium collection Bentley Blue Train involved 487 separate processes using 221 parts to create a highly detailed replica of this classic car in 1:18.
The Minichamps product range
The popularity of a driver, team or vehicle is influential in the subjects Minichamps produces. With the cost of a steel mould being such a large investment for the company, the popularity and success of a model is a crucial consideration, meaning at times lesser known riders or vehicles have to be missed out.
One of Minichamps' most popular collections is the Valentino Rossi collection and these models are highly desirable. View the Minichamps Valentino Rossi collection here.