April 08, 2014 | 03:40 PMThis is not your little brother’s model automobile.
In fact, a significant number of model builders would back off with second thoughts about building a one-eighth scale model car with 2,378 parts.
The car is a 1935 Mercedes-Benz 500 K-AK. The model was made by an Italian company called Pocher.
While one-eighth scale sounds small, the completed car is about 25.79 inches long by 9.84 inches wide and 9.06 inches tall, according to an online model car catalog.
Barry Rawson of Lake Geneva got to know each of the parts one at a time, as he assembled the incredibly complex model from August last year to February.
Rawson, who has been building models for about 57 years now, is a member of The Butchers Model Car Club, Delavan.
He said the completed car weighs about 16 pounds. That translates into a handful as Rawson picked up the model Mercedes so a visitor could admire the undercarriage detail.
The wheels alone had 130 pieces each, said Rawson.
He had to position each of the wires on the five wire-rimmed wheels.
The seats are real leather and have a “giraffe pattern” print, Rawson said. The engine’s fan turns a fan belt and the pistons in the straight-eight model Mercedes engine pump up and down.
And, in what must have been a “can you top this” feature, Pocher included a miniature set of car keys, with some faux house keys, on a fob. Rawson didn’t like the fob in the kit, and made his own using some small leather scraps.
Stick the car key into the ignition and car lights turn on, said Rawson.
The model is augmented with some additional trim detailing Rawson made himself, and he lavished the exterior with seven coats of pearl-finish copper-red paint.
Rawson’s intensely detailed work on the Mercedes paid off. In his first model car competition at the Cedarville (Ill.) Model Car Show last month, the car won best of show and first in class. Rawson said the show draws some of the best model car builders, and their best models, from three states, Rawson said.
The model was sponsored at the show by Hobby Town, at Geneva Square Shopping Center, Lake Geneva.
Pocher went bankrupt, and it no longer makes the Mercedes-Benz model, Rawson said. However, the Pocher name was recently purchased by an English company. The Brits promise to rejuvenate the Pocher penchant for large, multi-thousand-part scale model automobiles aimed at expert model builders.
Rawson said that when the Mercedes kit first came out in the 1970s, it cost $500.
A regular builder of models, from motorcycles to old-fashioned sailing ships, Rawson said he was aware of Pocher, but the cost of the models was always a bit too steep.
But in this case, the price was right. Rawson said he got the Mercedes for free.
Go online, and Pocher models, unassembled and factory-sealed, are still for sale, for prices that range between $1,090 and $1,299.
Rawson said the Butchers club receives donations of unfinished and unopened models from members and from others who support the club’s involvement in Walworth County 4H and the Wisconsin chapter of the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
When the Pocher Mercedes model turned up in the Butchers’ donation bin, the club put a $300 price tag on it, a bargain for any hardcore hobbyist.
But no one was willing to put down the $300, probably intimidated by the model’s complexity and the Pocher reputation for detail.
Eventually, Keith Reimers, club president, gave it to Rawson, saying he knew that Rawson would get it done.
Rawson is no stranger to detailed work. His father was a furrier in Rockford, Ill., where he made and sold fur hats and coats.
The Rawson label can still be found in some well-preserved hats and coats in local second-hand clothing stores. Rawson said.
Considering the fate of the furrier profession, Rawson said he was glad he did not take up making fur clothing, but he did follow in his father’s attention to detail.
He was a gold-leaf painter, putting company names on downtown storefronts. Now semi-retired, he still builds shelves, installs paneling and does wood restoration work. But he also has time to engage in his passion — building models.
Rawson’s favorites are sailing ships. And he’s built a large number of them, gluing planking to hulls and painstakingly hand-stringing the incredibly complex rigging found on the clippers and ships-of-the-line from the 18th and 19th centuries.
He’s completed, and proudly displays, models of the Cutty Sark, its sister ship Thermapoly and the ship America, the racing yacht gave the name to the America’s Cup.
That attention to detail and almost superhuman patience needed for those models were absolutely necessary in building the Pocher Mercedes model, Rawson said.
Despite the realism that was already built into the Pocher model, Rawson wanted to go further. Pocher is well-known among model car aficionados.
A side industry has grown up, manufacturing more realistic-looking parts and pieces for the already intimidatingly-detailed cars.
In addition to real leather seats, Rawson’s car boasts a real leather top (rolled down) and brass and metal fittings in the engine and on the chassis, as well as a brass Mercedes emblem on the front.
He said he spent more than $900, almost a dollar for every hour he labored on the model, and for the extras through several Pocher-denoted websites.
While it looks good when completed, the real test of a Pocher model kit, is actually putting it together.
The instructions are sketchy. Pieces have been thoroughly examined and fitted, Rawson said. Sometimes the parts are too big or too small, meaning they have to be cut down or remolded.
As one model builder put it on his website: “So you want to assemble a Pocher Classic model kit. ... Are you sure? Are you out of your mind? Have you lost your senses? Do you really know what you’re getting into?”
Rawson said he had to turn to several websites and a book about building the classic Pocher model of the Mercedes-Benz sports car.
And while the car looks sharp, there are some niggling little problems that appear inherent in the model, Rawson said.
For example, if he ever loses the one-eighth car keys, finding them will take quite an effort.
And then, sometimes the doors, which open by turning the door handles, will stick or won’t close properly, Rawson said. Windows that are supposed to wind up and down also stick. The functional braking system sometimes doesn’t function properly.
Annoying little problems, said Rawson. Almost like the real thing.
Rawson said he hopes to show the car several more times this year at model car shows in Wisconsin and Iowa.The Pocher model company was founded in Turin, Italy by Arnoldo Pocher in 1966.
Although originally started as a model railroad manufacturer, the company quickly became famous for its one-eighth scale classic cars.
Pocher added one or two new kits to its lines of highly-detailed car models every year for about 10 years. In the mid-1970s, Arnoldo Pocher sold out, and the model-manufacturer company was taken over by a company called Rivarossi.
Rivarossi went bankrupt in 2000 and was liquidated. But an English company, Hornby International, also a maker of model trains, bought the company name.
In 2013, Hornby announced a revival of the Pocher name with the introduction of an all-metal, one-eighth scale Lamborghini.
On the completed models, brake linkages operate through the pedal, steering wheels turned through accurate linkages and suspensions work all around. Windows roll down, doors, hoods and trunks open, and, when a (very small) ignition key is inserted into the ignition switch, the headlights turn on.