Building dreams: Designer Raffi Minasian joins the Selection Committee

Cars weave a common thread through Raffi Minasians life, from his childhood right up to today, where he works as chief designer for Automodello. His latest venture will be as part of our Selection Committee, using his lifelong design experience to pick the best in models. From childhood hobby to designer and consultant in both the 1:1 and model car world, Raffi’s life has always involved cars and his fingerprints can be seen across the industry.

Raffi’s story starts like many in the hobby. As a kid in the sixties and seventies he was fascinated by model cars. As he puts it, that small box revealed a whole world. For him, a model car was much more than the sum of its parts. While the instructions were a guideline, with a little ingenuity it was possible to customize or combine models into something totally unique. Soon, beyond building what was offered, Raffi was in the beginning stages of taking on the role of designer himself.

After sending a drawing into Monogram with a suggestion for a new model, Raffi received a response urging him to visit the Art Center College of Design and he did just that. After graduating with a degree in transportation design, Raffi went straight to work designing. Some of his early work went into 1:1 cars, but eventually he found himself getting paid for just the type of thing he had been doing on smaller scale much earlier: working with models.

Working on the Delahaye Type 165

At this point though, he was doing much more than assembling kits. Raffi designed the specifications, patterns and bodywork for cars like the Testors Porsche 930 and F40, as well as muscle cars with Micro Machines.

One of Raffi’s biggest roles was at the Franklin Mint, where he eventually became Director.  As director, Raffi was able to pioneer innovative new directions for model cars including ClearCast, a design where half the bodywork of a model car was left clear and unpainted, as well as cars sold with patina or “Barn-find” finishes.

One of Raffi’s hand-made models for Franklin Mint
One of Franklin Mint’s ClearCast models

From 1999 on, Raffi worked with a wide array of model manufacturers, including Matchbox, Motor City Originals and Automodello. Raffi describes one of the defining aspects of designing model cars as one of careful consideration for the collector. As he describes it, as a model car designer, you’re building someone’s dream, something that must live up to it.

A Lotus 49 that took 2 years to develop

Needless to say, with such a deep connection to models and cars over the course of his life, Raffi has collected a few himself. One of Raffi’s unique collections involves concept models used for design, including 5th scale fiberglass models, resin masters and other special items. His 1:1 car garage contains two vintage Lancias along with a sports car he designed himself.

Raffi’s Garage

With such experience, Raffi is the perfect member to help judge this years wider array of models, and we’re extremely pleased to have him on board.