80 parts, 43 times scaled down, 14 months. An insight into the model car manufacturing process.
Volkswagen model cars are the product of an intricate and complex process, coupled with excellent workmanship. Their details and contours precisely reflect the originals. We take a closer look at the model car manufacturing process – from conceptualisation to completion.
Step 1: Design.
Each model begins as an intangible collection of data parameters, in the form of original vehicle design schematics from Volkswagen. Over 14 months before a new vehicle is publicly revealed to the world, design blueprints of the vehicle are entrusted to model car manufacturers such as Norev and Schuco under strict secrecy.
A team of experts from the manufacturer uses this data to develop a prototype – a three-dimensional surface model that mimics the exterior design of the vehicle. Made of plastic, the model is approximately twice the size of what the finalised scale model will be, as this is the only means of accurately replicating all of the vehicle’s intricate details and unique characteristics.
Whilst developing the prototype, all of the measurements and design schematics are checked for completeness, and then evaluated to ensure precision. Finally, the data is meticulously transferred to the model to ensure that all subtleties of the original vehicle model are present. Due to the effort required in producing this prototype, it is necessary to spend more time on creating larger models.
After the prototype is formed, it passes through two correction cycles to eliminate any minute flaws, and is finally submitted for approval. Once this approval has been granted, the actual production process begins.
A workpiece then begins to form. The workpiece is the first step to creating an actual die-cast model – as specialists utilise the prototype to manufacture a rough cut of the workpiece from a simple piece of steel. Gradually, the steel block takes on the desired shape, and slowly transforms into a recognisable reproduction of a Volkswagen car.
During the modelling process, the metal surface is milled – a machining process of using rotary cutters to remove material from a surface in different angles – to form raised areas and indentations, which will later serve to accurately replicate the design and details of the original car on a smaller scale. Extremely fine indentations such as wing mirror details are created using controlled shorting, which burns off minuscule amounts of steel.
Despite the advanced technology and machinery involved in creating model cars, some things are still done by hand. Craftsmen bearing magnifying glasses and engraving tools trace and smoothen the contours that the machines have created, until the model has been checked numerous times and deemed absolutely satisfactory.
As the metalwork is complete, the models arrive at one of the final steps of the manufacturing process, where they are finished with a lustrous coat of paint and printed with logos, letterings and other decorations. Simple as it may seem, each design and colour is applied precisely to the exact location intended, with no room for error.
The finishing touch to each model car is done by hand, where individual parts are put together and glued, and minute components such as door handles, brake lights and headlights are placed in their positions with a pair of tweezers, a magnifying glass, and a steady hand. Each Volkswagen miniature model is truly a true-to-scale replica of the original vehicle, created in a place where the phrase ‘Perfection down to the smallest detail’ is a reality.
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