How it all started.

The photos on this web site are of my personal model conversions, they may be used with my permission but in return I would appreciate my link being added to your web site.  www.code3conversions.com 

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As a motor mechanic from the late 1960's through the 1980's I was lucky enough to be involved in one of the most colourful periods of UK motoring. 

Customising, imported from the U.S. rapidly became big news, generating it's own list of periodicals, specialist importers & retail outlets along with names that became synonimous with the whole movement.  Customised vehicles ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous & branched off in various directions, depending on personal taste & budget.   Overall, you could be as equally cool in a Ford Anglia pick-up with a good paint job & alloy wheels as in a bog-standard Ford Mustang. 

This was also the heyday of specialists such as Crayford who would hack the roofs off various cars & replace them with folding hoods.  Cortinas, Corsairs, Vivas & even the modest Morris 1300 were not exempt.  This in itself was one way of acquiring something out of the ordinary & non-production, but didn't come cheap. 

Already being a family man, I never got involved in a big way, but still got through a '68 Impala, Camaro, Chevy Caprice & a customised Ford Transit van.  Of these the latter remained a firm favourite with our expanding family with its array of 'Close Encounters' murals.   It was even suggested that the film's poster shot of the road disappearing into a brightly lit horizon on the back doors, might encourage someone to rear-end the van.  Thankfully it never happened as the kids would 'slob out' in the back on many a journey.

Sadly, my love of these 4-wheeled icons eventually affected my health, but by then, the custom scene was virtually dead on it's wheels.  For most the affection remained, but soaring fuel costs coupled with stricter construction & use regulations put the movement out of reach of even the most hardened enthusiast.  In some ways the latter was justified as some custom mod's & practices were unwittingly, downright dangerous.

Amongst the aforementioned beasties we had our fair share of 'regular' cars ranging from Ford Anglias to Rover P5s.  These were cars with character & although the list was almost endless, all are remembered for a specific reason.   The day I confused a Vauxhall Vectra for a VW Passat was the day I was only interested in how efficiently one of these jelly moulds could take me from point A to point B.  Health, age & other circumstances encouraged me towards the next best thing being diecast models of those classic vehicles.

Selling them was not particularly lucrative, not so much through competition, but more through too many being involved in the same field, great for building a vast collection, not so positive for the bank balance.  Being an incessant hoarder didn't help either. Irrelevant as some might think, my greatest passion was & still is for Matchbox Yesteryears & Collectibles, but I made the collector's biggest mistake of opening the floodgates & diversifying beyond financial reality. 

Shelves of unopened models had to go, but this in itself presented a problem.  Many were collected for the sake of it & as many collectors will agree, one casting in a variety of colours gets a little boring if not a bit suspect after a while.  With a market flooded with these models, many were actually devaluing if not failing to sell. It was going to take something out of the ordinary to attract attention which meant turning to Code 3.   I didn't want to get too involved with paintwork or decals, as this can be expensive & requires appropriate facilities, but still keep an open mind on this.  Code 3 emergency vehicles were quite plentiful & demanded enthusiastic research for accuracy anyway.

Even before realising the basics were missing, I virtually decided on my direction.   I had not seen any models of Crayford conversions so this would be my starting point.  Manufacturers were never likely to entertain these.  To be economically viable they would have to produce more in model form than the full-size conversion.   I had seen some general Code 3 convertibles, but many left a bit to be desired & some were actually illogical.  Not that I was any sort of professional, but I also wanted to avoid too much of a production line finish, which meant a slightly more radical approach.

The moulded plastic hoods (or covers) from some toy cars could be adapted to fit others. These were acceptable for customised models, but were never the right shape for Crayfords.  I decided to experiment with thin sheets of soft vinyl, the type you find covering office files in particular.  With thicker material 'bulking out' the hood cover I was surprised how effective this was & despite being a gamble, it paid off. Fitting demanded a lot of care though as it had to be glued right to the extreme edges.   My first attempt was a Hampshire Police Cortina Mk.II with the decals removed, but must confess to it being a bit of a disaster.  The rest as they say is history, but from little acorns etc. etc.

I still have that first attempt to remind me of the mistakes that can be made, but have since diversified to such a degree, I've totally lost count of how many models I've converted & continue to try new ideas. Replicated Crayford conversions were always going to be limited by virtue of choice alone.  While enhancements such as alloy wheels, spotlamps, aerials, seat belts & other refinements extended these a little further, new ideas were necessary.

I also learned a new & valuable lesson.  Not all collectors were so fastidious as to demand accurate replicas.   There were a surprising number who simply wanted something totally different, but aesthetically pleasing to them, even if it never existed.  This offered enormous scope, but I laid my own ground rules for this.   Fantasy was all very well, but there had to be a degree of logic included.

While I continued searching out cars that had rarely or never been produced as convertibles, I wanted to go even further. By now I was not just chopping roofs, but adding them in the form of Vauxhall Viva Coupes, Triumph Stag hatchbacks & a Capri / Corsair hybrid which had actually been constructed.  It soon became apparent that any diecast model was within scope & all that was needed was imagination & a sense of logic.  I even broke one of my own original rules of avoiding 4-door convertibles, as most British classics would simply collapse in the middle.  However, with the right load-bearing structures in place & seen to be in place, even this became logical.

If the same rules were applied to a scale model as would be necessary on the full-size car, then it all tended to make sense.  While most of these models have gone through online auctions, I probably now do more privately through informal arrangement.  Such is the trust that can develop online that I frequently receive packages of models from home & overseas to be converted.  I'm even left to my own devices on some with just minimal guidelines & no two models are ever strictly identical.

This could never be a big business due to the extensive hours & diversity involved.   What this website presents, through hours of labour from my dedicated wife, is a cross-section of the models I've converted through the last few years.   Where has that time gone & is it no little wonder that I can only include a certain number at any given time? What might surprise some is that, not one of these models has been repainted, but that option will undoubtedly come in time.

My wife & I have done our best to show the vehicles adequately, but if there is something you are serious about please let us know by email, there may be more photos available.  Bear with us as it's early days, we will endeavour to answer all emails promptly, but please don't be offended if it does take a little while.

 

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