As the Diecast Hall of Fame induction ceremony approaches, excitement is building within the diecast industry and collectors. The nominees to be inducted as our Entrepreneur of the Year all saw opportunities in the diecast collecting world and created their own businesses to fill those needs.
And you can help decide who will be inducted… After you read about these talented individuals, head over to the Diecast Hall of Fame ballot and vote!
Here are the nominees in the Entrepreneur category, listed in alphabetical order.
Lyndon is the founder of the highly successful Oxford Diecast brand, a company famous for its variety of subject matter and scale. Lyndon started as an apprentice for Mettoy and worked with Marcel van Cleemput on Corgi Toys. He joined Oxford Diecast Brand from the beginning and later became its owner.
Oxford Models adheres to scales that match the most popular model railroad sizes. As far as that being a marketing strategy, Lyndon says. “Oxford produces affordable diecast products – that is essentially it. I point you back to the roots of our company, Mettoy… we make what the customer is ordering.” The company has expanded in train models via Oxford Rail, as well as aircraft models.
The company takes pride in how quickly they can get a model into production. “We have a good team of people, but I don’t believe in drawn out processes. The engineering advances have meant that the time getting a product to market has decreased,” he said. “It took a year back in the 1970s. Today, give me a subject and the motivation and I could get it to market in 6 months.”
Paul is the founder of Minichamps, which was originally founded as Paul’s Model Art GmbH in 1990 in Aachen, Germany (the company officially changed its name to Minichamps in 1996).
His grandparents had owned a retail shop in Germany since 1921. “After World War II, the shop became more and more a toyshop,” he said. “I grew up in this toy shop and in the 60s, the assortment of model trains, hobby kits and Diecast model cars became bigger and bigger.”
In the early 70s, Paul started building models under the name “SD Models” exclusively for the Danhausen World Model Car Catalogue, a company he co-owned with his brother Hans-Peter Lang. His early models were 1/43 scale, and production eventually was outsourced to Western Models. He would also expand into other scales larger and smaller.
By the 1980s, European collectors were willing to pay premium prices for exquisitely detailed, limited edition finished models, so in 1990, he founded a new company under the name Paul’s Model Art, which led to Minichamps as you know it today. Because of their incredible attention to detail, Minichamps has produced official promotional replicas for the likes of Audi, Mercedes-Benz, and Porsche.
The Millhollins are the owners and operators of Collectors Events Unlimited. If that company name doesn’t ring a bell, they’re they organizers of the Hot Wheels Annual Collectors Conventions and the Hot Wheels Annual Collectors Nationals.
Their interest in Hot Wheels began in 1996. “We went to a toy show, and Mark purchased a 1995 Treasure Hunt Passion for $20,” said Jennifer. “I thought he had lost his mind, but then I absolutely fell in love with it. It blossomed from there.” They started collecting just the cars they liked, then went for complete series, and then they became hooked.
Jennifer eventually got a job at Full Grid, in Torrance, CA, and the two of them started working the conventions on the company’s behalf. From there, they started volunteering at conventions, and eventually became business partners for the Hot Wheels Conventions and Nationals (taking over from Mike Strauss, an Inductee from our 2014 Class).
They love real cars too… Mark likes the 1970 LS6 Chevelle, while Jennifer prefers the 1951 Mercury. The long time enthusiasts are also owners of the L.A. based Far Out Collectibles, a specialty diecast retailer and the Hot Rod Performance shop.
Steve has been a diecast customizer since the mid ’90s and has managed to turn his passion into a thriving career. He has created numerous custom designs for Hot Wheels Annual Conventions and other national events as well as promotional pieces for corporate awards.
He played with toy cars as a kid, of course. “In 1994, I was in the auto body industry and as a hobby started customizing 1/64 scale cars and pedal cars,” he said. “People saw what I was doing, and suddenly there was a demand for projects like corporate advertising premiums, and specialty customs for automobile clubs around the country.”
His inspirations include customizers such as Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, Tom Daniel, and Chip Foose, all of whom have had tremendous influence on full size and small scale custom culture.
Steve has worked in the automotive industry his entire career. He is the owner of Auto Body Specialist & ABS Metal Fabrication specializing in vintage Porsche and race car restorations. “I also have started a new hobby in public art, creating sculptures with recycled metal, including automotive or motorcycle materials.”
Jimmy is the founder of AUTOart, a global leader in model car manufacturing. In addition to designing well-detailed models of interesting vehicles, the company’s large manufacturing plants, competitive labor rates, and skills of their laborers have contributed to AUTOart becoming the world’s largest producers of 1/18 scale diecast models.
In addition to diecast model cars, AUTOart makes slot racing cars, and diecast motorcycles. It was established in 1998 and has since produced vehicles under additional brands including Gateway, Gate and UT Models. AEROart is another division producing aircraft models.
As for his favorite model, Jimmy says, “My favorite model is always my next model.”
The 2017 Diecast Hall Of Fame induction ceremony will be held November 2, at the House of Blues in the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas. For more details of to buy tickets, visit the DHOF event page.