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History of 1st Icon Models 1/8 scale

Pre 2004

During the last couple of years we kept coming up with various ideas for something that would be new in the model industry.  We canvassed a lot of customers with our ideas to find out what they liked and longed for.  Eventually we were convinced that we had an idea that the customer would love, we were impressed with their enthusiasm, positive comments and it happened to be something that had never been attempted before.

July 2004

So, we have the concept firm in our mind, a fire in our belly and we are ready to forge ahead.  To be right up there with the movers and shakers of the Australian model industry we have a vehicle with detail and quality that we believe will set new standards.  We are sure that this project will encourage new collectors who probably had never thought of owning a model.  The vision was to offer something that was fresh, innovative and with so much detail you would be “blown away”…..so “hold on”.

Aug 2004

We spent considerable time discussing the appropriate manufacturer.    The choice of manufacturer was extremely difficult as the high detail we required in the vehicle was of paramount importance. We toyed with the idea of going straight to the Hong Kong manufacturers but decided against it as we were uncomfortable whether we would be able to fully communicate our requirements, due to language barriers and the complexity of the project.  So we looked towards a few manufacturers in Detroit, Iowa & Cleveland with whom we had had previous experience,  knowing that they definitely had the capabilities to achieve such a huge project.  The manufacturers were extremely interested in our proposal and promised they would get back to us fairly quickly.

Sept 2004

The chosen manufacturer got back to us with drawings of a model which had a preliminary list of some 246 component parts.  This list was to confirm that the manufacturer had the same detail in mind as we did. What they suggested excited us and we decided to proceed in having the job costed.

The enthusiasm shown by Icon & the manufacturer was escalating.  Whilst they currently produce extremely high detailed product it is becoming apparent that our project would exceed even their high standards, creating a new benchmark.

We spoke to a friend in the USA who possessed intimate knowledge of the vehicle. He in fact is a long standing modeller and producer.  He agreed to contact the manufacturer on our behalf and volunteered his expertise in supplying details of the actual vehicle.

Oct 2004

We received revised drawings from the manufacturer showing the individual component parts.  We also received a detailed list of the parts.  This list identified what each component was made of  (ie. metal, plastic & other).  It was our job to go over the drawings to ensure that everything was as it should have been.  We were less than happy when we noticed that the actual model they were drawing was the right car but the wrong year model. 

Remember our friend in the USA who contacted the manufacturer….well he obviously misunderstood us and told them the wrong year model and gave them details & pictures of the wrong car.  So back to the drawing board to incorporate the small changes that the real car had from one year to the next. 

We were still not able to get a quote because even small changes can make a huge change to the cost of cutting the die and the production costs.  We asked for a ballpark figure but they were reluctant to give us one. 

We probably lost a month getting this little adjustment fixed.

Nov 2004

The manufacturer came back to us with the quote mid November.  They noted that due to the complexity of the model it would take approximately 8 months just to develop the casting mould.  The de-bugging process would take another 4 months.  The actual production would take approximately 3 – 4 months.    So at this point we were advised that the model could be available for sale in Australia approximately March/April 2006.

With the quote in hand we approached the financial institutions to ensure that we had no hiccups in this regards.  We did our budgets and cashflows.  We made initial enquiries to the international exchange section of the bank to see if we could secure the US dollar at the same exchange rate as we had budgeted.  They said it was possible and we should attend to it as soon as we had signed the contract with the manufacturer.

Dec 2004

Before we could commit to signing an agreement with the manufacturer we thought it would be a good idea to physically go to the States and talk to them face to face.  This was done because we were obsessed with the detail concept.  We had to feel confident that once the order was signed we were going to get the detail that we wanted and not end up with something totally different to the original concept.  It was a difficult trip because it was only 3 weeks till Christmas.  We could get a flight over there but were unable to get a return until the week of Christmas.

The flight took its toll.  Still suffering from a trip that took a total of 37 hours one had to be bright eyed and bushy tailed.  Imagine the level of concentration required to listen to a large group of people tossing around ideas and concepts.  We took along our list of questions and systematically went through each one until we were all confident that the answers suited both Icon Models and the manufacturer.  The more we talked the more the manufacturer realized that this project was huge.  We told them we wanted the vehicle to be so good that you could imagine getting in it and driving away (something like “Honey I shrunk the kids”).  We took a 1/12 scale Kyosho model with us for “show and tell” to demonstrate the minimum levels of quality and detail that we were looking for.  They assured us that their product would be far superior to our sample and that was pleasing to hear.  As Icon Models was actually paying for the casting moulds we wanted to make sure that the mould would be able to be modified.  This is an art in itself creating a base mould that could be altered, when and if required.  The total production time has now extended from 15 months to 18 months and we now have the scheduled selling date of June 2006.

Jan 2005

The manufacturer revised the component listing.  The total parts of the model have now exceeded 300 individual pieces.  We held preliminary talks with the licensing company and were given the verbal go ahead.  The actual licenses are to be confirmed in writing but the licensor was extremely happy with our concept and had no problems with the project.

Feb 2005

After an untolled amount of telephone discussions and emails the project has altered again.  The manufacturer made a valiant effort to ensure that the product was as close to reality as possible.  They convinced us that we should consider adding further components and detail and the mould cost went up accordingly.  We have been on the project for 7 months now and have yet to commit in writing.

Mar 2005

It is hard to believe that so much time has passed and we haven’t even got to first base.  As this is a first for both Australia and the manufacturer, things were not as simple as we had thought.  However, we have finally signed the formal agreement and forwarded our first funding, which was equivalent to 2/3 of the mould cost, to enable the manufacturer to commence the pattern.

The Design Engineers from the USA,  Kelly & Morris, came to Sydney and stayed a week.  Three of our customers had the real vehicles and were kind enough to let us use them for photographs and measurements.  During the engineers stay they took hundreds and hundreds of photographs, measured just about everything measureable on the cars and generally got a feel for the Iconic nature of the item they were about to create.  The reason for using more than one vehicle for photos and measurements was to force us to question any differences between one car and another.  When we did find the odd differences we did further research to ensure accuracy.  While Kelly & Morris were here we found time in their busy schedule to take them to see a few of the Sydney landmarks.  We even found time to take them to a model swap and on day 4 or 5 slotted in the Penrith Working Truck Show.

May 2005

Kelly, working with the photographs and dimensions he obtained on his trip down under, spent two months on the design in his USA office.  Hundreds of questions were asked of us to ensure he had the correct detail.  When he was happy with his work he sent it to Hong Kong to have them commence the pattern.  The pattern is a hand made replica of what they see the model turning out to look like, it is made larger than the finished product to enable the manufacturing plant to develop all of the required detail.  It  finished up being 42” long which was a 9” difference to what we thought it would be.  11 months have now passed.

June 2005

The first pattern, known as the preliminary pattern, is available for review.  This review is only done through direct internet link ups, dimensional computer drawings and emails because we all know that this is the part of the process that has the most mistakes.  The engineers from the plant did an exceptional job.  There were mistakes as we had all thought but they were kept to a minimum.  We were bombarded with hundreds upon hundreds of shots of the preliminary so we could confirm whether the USA & Hong Kong were heading in the right direction.

July 2005

It occurred to us that since we had gone to so much trouble to have the car manufactured we should consider the engine.  Our engine is an Australian first, in fact it is a world first.  We are well aware that there are a lot of collectors out there that collect engines.  So in the middle of the hype of the preliminary pattern we are now asking the producer and manufacturer to quote us on the engine as a stand alone.

Aug 2005

The preliminary pattern has now gone from computer drawings to the pattern or mock up model.  Kelly, the head Design Engineer from USA, goes to Hong Kong to view the real pattern first hand.  Some of the components of this pattern have been displayed on our Gallery page.  He makes further suggestions to have the pattern altered to ensure accuracy.  He contacts us and suggests that this would be an ideal time to go to Hong Kong ourselves to confirm that what has been done is in fact what the model should look like.  He was worried that he, not being Australian and not having this car in the USA, would be at a disadvantage……what if he missed something.

Sept 2005

We are now in phase 3 organising the licences.  We spent months trying to locate an orginal dealers flyer and an original 24 page dealers brochure, as we wanted to use them for promotional purposes.  We located  the dealers flyer ourselves but had to borrow the 24 page brochure from one of our customers.  The licences were granted on the condition that we did not reproduce them in the exact size as the originals.  This is the licensees way of ensuring that the secondhand market value of the real originals would not be damaged.  The flyer is a give away to anyone that receives our ordering package.  The 24 page dealers brochure is a FREE GIFT from Icon Models to anyone who orders the product.

Oct 2005

The second review of the pattern takes place.  This trip was an organisational nightmare.  We had already booked and paid for the flights with the plan to view the pattern in Iowa.  We were to spend the first 4 days in Las Vegas attending the Sema Convention.  (This car aftermarket convention is just awesome.  With over 2 million square feet of exhibits from Ford, Honda, Daimler Chrysler and General Motors just to name a few.  The other displays are tyre manufacturers, car care accessories, wheel manufacturers, celebrities…..they even have models (see  http://www.fordsixparts.com/SEMA%20Models.htm ……oops! wrong type of model).  Following Sema, we were to spend the next few days touring car shows and then 4 days in Iowa looking over the pattern.  The guys from China were to come to Iowa with the pattern and assist in the process.  However, at the eleventh hour Hong Kong decides that it was too risky (even with “fragile”, “this way up” and “top loading” stickers) sending the pattern to the USA. What if it got damaged or lost in transit, it would have put us back a couple of months, that was a risk that Hong Kong did not want to take.  As silly as it sounds the travel arrangements were altered and we go from Australia to Los Angeles (meet up with Kelly the Head Design Engineer) and together fly to San Francisco, fly to Tokyo then fly to Hong Kong.  The total trip from Australia took in excess of 40 hours, the only stops were in the odd airport waiting lounges.  After arriving in the wee hours of the morning….we had to have the next day off to recover from the flights.

The actual factory that is manufacturing the model is in mainland China.  It is not a simple task to get the necessary clearances for a one off trip to mainland China so a couple of guys from the factory came to our hotel on the second day .  They came armed with the pattern and loads of paperwork and drawings.  The pattern was released from its bubblewrap and we were just amazed at the level of accuracy they had achieved.  Two days is spent going over every pattern feature to identify any errors.  The pattern needs to have further changes because of things like a missing footrest, the horn being in the wrong place and a couple of other minor things. So back to the drawing board for the Chinese and back to America for us to finish our trip to Las Vegas.  We still went to Iowa  and held discussions with the producer.

We were fortunate enough to locate an original vehicle owners manual on an auction site.  The seller of the manual must have thought he was the luckiest man in Australia.  We were bidding against someone else who obviously wanted the manual but we were determined that had to win the auction and buy it, whatever the price.  We won the auction and paid what seemed an unbelievable amount of money for a small book.  We agreed that the owners manual should be included with the model, as all new vehicles come with owners manuals. We then had to go back to the USA to get another licence to allow the manual to be re-produced.

 Nov 2005

We were highly embarrassed because we had to borrow one of the vehicles again and take further photographs and measurements for a couple of things that had actually been forgotten.  There was a lot of confusion regarding the extractors and the gearbox linkages and selector.  China had attached the gearbox selector to the gearbox instead of the floor. In the original photo shoots 8 months ago we forgot the wheel jack & brace. No vehicle is complete without these, what if you get a flat tyre.

Dec 2005

With only 6 months to go to final production we started the Icon Models website. We thought it would be nice idea to share the process with everyone to give you an insight into the complexity of model making.  We had a lot of fun in creating the hints and images and sincerely hope you enjoyed the experience.

This is the most stressful month of the project.  The pattern is to be confirmed and tooling starts for the casting moulds.  If we have made any mistakes they will be cast as such.  There are a total of 29 moulds to be made for our model (some moulds containing over 35 separate components) and China have realized that they cannot produce this model ready for sale by June 2006 and have put it back to November 2006.

Jan 2006

China have over estimated the capacity of the machines at the mould shop.  The machines use ingots of metal which are fed into it at a certain rate, the metal is melted at a specified rate according to how many parts are moulded per hour.  We have just found out our project has an operation that requires an amount of metal which exceeds the “capacity” of the machine’s ability to melt enough metal for the next shot. It is suggested that we cast the parts in aluminium instead of zinc because the mould shop has an aluminium machine with enough capacity to do the job.  The problem with aluminium is it is brand new technology and very expensive.  To counterbalance the additional cost it was suggested that the engine and other detail parts be made in resin using soft moulds to keep the price down.  Things are not looking good at this point and it appears that we may have to re-tool the whole project.

Mar 2006

After many weeks and a million different ideas to solve the tooling dilemma the manufacturer finds a mould shop with a machine that has the capacity for the large amount of zinc ingots required.  This however made a huge increase in the costings.  We made the decision to accept the increased cost and absorb it ourselves rather than increase the retail price of the model.

May 2006

The pattern is finally confirmed and tooling started 12th May 2006.  We were advised that the factory can only produce 200 models per week (a normal production run can produce 20-200 pieces per hour). Therefore time allowed for total production of the whole shipment is about 12 weeks.  The factory have allowed 8 months for the moulds to ensure everything fits snugly and 3 months for production and a buffer of 5 months to ensure the project is not put back again.  In fact there is large optimism that they can improve on this timeline. The model is now due for distribution November 2007.

June 2006

Our model kit is being manufactured by First Gear Inc.  First Gear produce amazing quality, mainly trucks & construction equipment, we are very proud to be associated with them.  We ask First Gear if they can provide us with something that we can use to show the public at the upcoming Diecast Convention at Parramatta NSW.  Kelly, the head engineer, said he would aim for the body shell and perhaps the motor.  We communicate constantly to see how they are headed and Kelly informs us that everything is going to plan.

July 2006

In the 4th week of July Kelly contacts us and gives us the shipping details of the package.  Fedex deliver the parcel Thursday 27th July.  First Gear had excelled themselves to say the least.  We did not receive the body shell as promised, in fact we received a fully assembled XY kit together with a fully assembled motor, the excitement was just unbelievable.  The Fedex delivery driver was waiting for the parcel to be opened and was the first person to order the kit after seeing the prototypes.

August 3rd 2006

We take the prototype to the Diecast Convention at Parramatta N.S.W. and the response was simply amazing.  Whilst this was the first shot from the moulds, the detail and quality were stunning.  There are still many things that need to be corrected on the final model but this is normal at this point of production.  We have been taking orders since the convention and the acceptance by the collectors has made us very proud indeed.