Back when car design was a hands-on process, in the good old days before CGI and hyper-real “in the tube” rendering, car stylists were faced with a reality: what looked good on the drawing board didn’t always look so great in the light of day, or in any particular color. So, most car makers had a staff of on-site artists whose sole purpose was to sculpt large-scale, tabletop models of in-process designs. These scale sculptures would be painstakingly detailed if they were close to approval; other, less detailed bucks would be used to evaluate the way colors and paints played on a car’s overall shape – all the better to impress the corporate “suits” who would have to sign off on the designs before larger clays, full-sized mock-ups, hard parts or pigments could be commissioned for production.
Like that time-intensive procedure, most of those models have been lost to the ages. But a new craftsman has emerged, and he’s offering very limited releases of some of the most important automotive design studies ever. Samuel Sandifer is the fellow’s name, and despite his advanced age, he’s not only procured the license to replicate these cars in hand-laid fiberglass – he’s the one who lifted the patterns for the reproductions from actual, nearly-priceless design and color study models.
Hey, we’ll admit it. We’re a nostalgic bunch, and that makes this series of truly huge models one of the coolest ideas we’ve seen in a while. The cars are cool, too: everything from a ’51 Ford to the swoopy, space-aged Charger III, to FoMoCo’s stillborn “Cavalier” design study are on deck. That last piece shows just how connoisseur-grade this lineup gets – it’s a half-model of the kind that used to hang in studios for color checking and profile styling. If that doesn’t trip your wire, the casting of a Studebaker race car, complete with helmeted driver, should. Less externally detailed, but true to the color study it was lifted from, is a Packard, available in two tine maroon or blue, both with silver poly topsides.
The models have a timeless quality to them, despite the fact that the “youngest” of the bunch hails from the late ‘seventies, and from what we can see in these factory photos, Samuel Sandifer has done something really remarkable here – given collectors a glimpse into the creative process of car design. This homage to the days of rolled-up white shirt sleeves and tucked-in ties makes for bits of history that they can put at the center of their collections.
We couldn’t help imagining Harley Earl, Edsel Ford, Arkus Duntov, or any number of giants of design grinning from ear to ear whilst gazing down at the pieces, and for that, we tip our hat. Contact JM Modelautos – the exclusive representative for the “Sandifer Design and Color Studies” line – for info. We’d like to think that the giants would approve.