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Wooden Wonders
John Jones
John Jones
February 11th 2008 - NOW THIS MAN IS A TRUE CRAFTSMAN! - Bronco

In the back water country of the New Zealand town of Whangamata, John Jones receives mail from all over New Zealand, Australia and America. John Jones makes 1/16th scale models of speedway vehicles. He not only operates by mail order but also goes to tracks and talks to prospective clients.

John initially went to America with a few models, sold the lot, and came home with a wad of requests to build more models. A second trip meant that John had to give up work and become a full time model maker, making speedway cars of all sorts.

Each of these fabulous models is unique. The body is hand carved, the roll cage made from braising rod, the tyres made of wood, the crash-bars electroplated and the sponsors decals hand painted. The only parts of the model not made in house (literally because the business is a cottage industry with all cars made from inside the family home), are the aluminium wheels.

John works from photos supplied of the car he is commissioned to model. Wheels provide a reference for calculating scale and size. Modern race cars are much easier to draft to scale than the older vintage vehicles as way back then, race cars were much more individual in size and construction.

John's first models were made as presents for a couple of nephews. As more people asked for models of their race cars or their favourite vehicle, John spent less and less time as a cabinet maker and more time as a modeller. His own home is full of cabinets made by himself and filled with models, also made for himself. Now days there is no time to make self-commissioned models as there is a long waiting list of drivers, sponsors, car owners and fans wanting race cars to put in their own lounge room cabinets.

It may be a cottage industry supplying a niche market, but the house in Whangamata is just like the giant forestry companies - an exporter of New Zealand wood. The only difference is that John Jones exports a value added product which will be kept in pride of place at it's eventual destination. The forestry giants can send their wood over the water to be made into disposable chopsticks, packing cases for cars and other machinery being exported out of Asia, but John Jones sends his painted wood airmail, and the orders come back in droves the same way.
 
Further Resources:
www.speedwaymodelsnz.com