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miniature book on classic cars

SuperFinds Diorama

By Michael Kliebenstein

From the earliest stages of my SuperFinds book project I had it in mind to create a model display that related specifically to the book. There was no doubt about which car to feature; it could only be the 1938 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 B Speciale Tipo Le Mans that was found in an underground garage in Rome. This car is the epitome of an ultimate SuperFind – a car with great historical significance and one-of-a-kind rarity. To my eyes, it is also one of the most beautiful Alfa Romeos ever built. Bought in 1969 by Colin Crabbe from Corrado Cupellini for $6,000, the car was eventually reacquired by Alfa Romeo for the marque’s Museo Storica – where it is still on display today – in exchange for a 158 ‘Alfetta’ Grand Prix car.

With the car selected, the next task was to find someone suitable to ‘build’ the display. Having seen some of his amazing work before, I approached miniature model maker and patination expert Dirk Patschkowski of Limited Legends in Wuppertal. Already a fan of the book, it didn’t take him long to get on board. In his own words: ‘SuperFinds inspires so many of my daydreams. That, and my passion for model challenges led me to join this unique project’.

As mesmerising as the Alfa’s bodywork is, it hides an incredible Touring Superleggera spaceframe. Amazingly, Dirk quickly grasped my desire to expose it:
‘I was hooked into the idea of highlighting the fragile Touring Superleggera design through patination and ageing. The beauty of the superstructure is beyond words.’

1938 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 B Speciale Tipo Le Mans

Above: It was always Michael’s dream to create a display diorama specifically related to his SuperFinds book. When the time came he picked the unique 1938 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 B Speciale Tipo Le Mans, choosing to highlight its magnificent Touring Superleggera spaceframe and beautiful Le Mans race-scarred engine.

As a starting point, Dirk produced a rough layout that represented his vision for the diorama: ‘I wanted to create a model as if it was my own unique barn find, exactly as I dreamt it. What I like is when a model is not just a static display but also tells a story. I love this kind of work. It inspires me. The SuperFinds book was a great motivator to go even further with the patination process.’

He also started to produce 1:18-scale copies of SuperFinds which required a real binding process for maximum authenticity. These, Dirk suggested, could be proudly placed around the ‘scene’. For added visual effect, he even built an ‘old’ wooden Mobil oil box to house the little books.

1:18-scale copies of SuperFinds

Above: It took weeks to complete the ten 1:18-scale copies of SuperFinds used to populate the ‘scene’.

Alfa 2900 B

Above: Pages 292 and 293 in the full-size version, where the Alfa 2900 B is shown, are clearly visible in the diorama.

Scale model books

Above: These are definitely the smallest copies of a Porter Press publication yet. They may even be the smallest motoring books ever.

After two months and many nights of research which included tracking down the original Alfa Romeo chassis plate, libretto papers and the original number plate, all the necessary details were painstakingly miniaturised.

With the components completed, work began on the second engine which would be displayed alongside the highly patinated model on its own ‘built-from-scratch’ wooden pallet.

Scale model engine

Above: SuperFinds books were scattered around the engine, along with a miniaturised version of the Alfa’s ‘libretto’ and number plate. Both full-size originals were found recently in Italy. The wooden pallet was hand-made by Dirk.

It took weeks to find a suitable base engine to work from. Once sourced, Dirk began to work his fabrication, patination and rapid-ageing magic to turn the base unit into an accurate representation of the real thing.

As with every other component in this diorama, the engine has its own back story…
Despite being easily the fastest car on track and building a commanding lead at Le Mans, the Alfa was forced to retire with engine trouble late on Sunday morning. It had completed more laps by then than the eventual 4th place finisher but was not classified.

We duly decided to give the engine the look of a heavily over-revved unit with leaking cylinder-head gasket and a problem with the compressor oil feed. It was great fun imagining all the small technical details, each of them telling their own story.

Engine

Above: The engine appears heavily over-revved, with leaking cylinder head gasket as well as heavily patinated manifolds and ancillaries, all in keeping with the real car’s 1938 Le Mans 24 Hours experience

Dirk’s skill, creativity and artistry is amazing. It’s unlikely any similar connection of motoring book and historically significant car find has been created at this small scale before. The result is a unique piece of artwork that feels alive. I am certain that even connoisseurs of this model-making genre will be fascinated by the incredible level of detail.

Model classic car

Above: When transported to shows and events the model is safely stored in a suitable vintage box. Even the most discerning of motoring diorama enthusiasts are sure to be fascinated by the model’s intricate details.

With every tiny detail hand-crafted, it’s no surprise that this masterpiece took months to complete – a huge amount of work, but a remarkable result.

Scale model car

Above: What started out as a somewhat crazy idea to connect a motoring book to a scale model creation has ended up as a truly unique work of art

Images courtesy of Dirk Patschkowski

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