The Hard Yards
Which Bike to Model ?
Packaging the Finished Product


One of the most interesting merchandising items in the Britten catalogue is the hand-built scale model of the V1000. The story of the construction of this 1:12th size "baby Britten" is a tale of resourcefulness that rivals the building of the real thing.

 Small, perfectly formed, perfection in miniature, the "baby Britten" is a labour of love representing 3000 hours of development for New Zealand model enthusiast Jim Wylie. Like the real Britten V1000, the prototype of the 1:12 model was designed and constructed after-hours using good old-fashioned Kiwi ingenuity. Says Jim Wylie, an avid Britten supporter and lifetime motorcycle enthusiast "I knew that such a project would be enormously time consuming and many difficult problems would have to be solved but, having often dreamed of creating a model motorcycle from scratch, I couldn't pass up the opportunity".  



The idea was first suggested to Jim by John Britten in 1992. The pair were taking a breather during the annual BEARS speed trials for British, European and American motorcycles. Held on a long stretch of closed public road outside Christchurch, the event had become a showcase of the Britten V1000's world-beating performance capabilities with speeds reached of over 180mph.

Builder-designer John Britten wanted the fans to have a more tangible involvement in his futuristic dream machine, and saw the model as an affordable way for diehard Britten enthusiasts to own a piece of the legend.Jim Wylie, a former professional architectural model maker, had built up many kitset motorcycle models so he knew the problems that lay ahead.

"Even before the work could begin important decisions had to be made," he remembers, "what form would the model take ? Should it be a kitset, a made-up model ? What scale should it be ? How would the pieces be manufactured ?"

"At length we decided it would have to be a kitset and that 1:12 was the ideal scale."


The Hard Yards

Large-volume model manufacturers make parts in injection-moulded plastic but the enormous cost of the dies meant that Jim turned to a more traditional method."The only option seemed to be to spincast them in pewter, a process used by makers of small-scale model car and railway kitsets," he says."Having no experience of this technique I tracked down a local spincaster for advice".

Armed with an assurance that his proposals were feasible, Jim set to work, painstakingly photographing every part of a real Britten V1000. These were translated into scale drawings from which brass masters for the mould would be made.The operation soon involved the Britten workshop with some major parts, such as engine, wheels and bodywork, roughed out on the lathe by Britten toolmaker Rob Selby and Christchurch model-maker Roy Parkinson.

All other parts were carved out by hand from solid brass using basic model-making hand tools such as miniature metal saws, needle and riffler files, rotary burrs, and chisels and scrapers ground from old hacksaw blades. "I tried to incorporate as much detail as I could to ensure the model resembled the real machine as closely as possible," says Jim. A steady hand, a good eye and artistic flair were the main skills Jim employed.

   To make just one tiny part, he would cut out a suitable sized block of brass so that plan and elevation drawings could be glued to the top and sides. The outlines were scribed through to the metal, the shapes carefully cut out then hand carved with files and scrapers before a final polish with sandpaper.
 The V1000's distinctive bodywork was cleverly made by soldering two blocks of brass together and carving out the fairing, tank and seat as a unit.

"The soldered join was on the centreline so that once the sculpting and finishing had been done the piece could be heated and the two halves separated vertically," says Jim. "All excess metal was then removed from inside the separated halves."

Smaller parts, such as the handlebars, were built-up by soldering together combinations of hand carved pieces and lengths of brass rod.

 Some parts were almost as difficult to build as the real parts on the Britten racer. For example, it took the factory 80 hours to bend and weld the V1000's curvaceous exhaust system. Jim's model version was scarcely less tortuous. "The complex bends were made by carefully heating and bending copper wire of the correct gauge until the right compound bends were achieved and then carefully silver soldering each pipe to the collector", Jim says.

The smallest parts threw up some of the biggest challenges. The embossed Britten script on the engine's cylinders was engraved onto thin strips of brass which were then soldered onto the engine master, while the underseat radiator was given a realistic look by soldering fine mesh to the underside of the rear sub-frame section.

"In total the work on the model masters took around 2000 hours, " says Jim.


Which Bike to Model ?

The real Britten was rapidly evolving as a racer during this time. "Like all racing motorcycles the Britten V1000 has undergone constant design changes", says Jim. "As I was building the model the real machine changed so much that we realised the model would have to be of a particular machine and preferably a race winner."

"When Andrew Stroud realised John's goal by riding a Britten to it's first Daytona Battle of the Twins victory in 1994, we decided the model should be a replica of that machine."

Prototyping the Model

Test castings proved the complete set of parts would cast cleanly from the masters and fit together as planned but, there was still a heartbreaking amount of work to be done before the model could be called finished.

Says Jim " Moulds had to be machined for the rubber tyres, formers had to be made for the vacuum formed windscreen and muffler heat shields, tiny machine screws had to be sourced, springs for the shock absorbers made, artwork for transfers drawn and jigs made so parts could be drilled for axle fitting, and so on."

Undaunted by a mountain of tiny tasks, Jim also embraced the demanding job of designing the instruction booklet and packaging for the model kitset. "To draw the exploded diagrams that show how the parts fit together I had to set the parts up as they appear in the drawings and then photograph them," he says. "Then I made enlarged photocopies of these photographs and traced the outlines of the parts over a light box".


Packaging the Finished Product
   Jim wanted the packaging to reflect the quality of the model he had so painstakingly designed and built and was determined to sell it in an attractively presented box with full-colour lid.

"Because costs had to be kept to a minimum I also designed the packaging myself and when no suitable action shots of the Daytona-winning V1000 could be found, I ended up doing the painting for the box lid as well," he says.

 To protect the parts from damage in transit, Jim designed a special polystyrene tray made in parts on a computerised hot-wire cutting machine and then hand assembled. The trays were sprayed with green flocking for a classy finishing touch.
    After more than 3000 hours the model was finally ready to go on sale, and no-one was more enthusiastic than the man whose bike had been copied. John Britten quickly added it to the growing list of company merchandise that is sold around the world and where ever the factory team is racing.

Says Jim: "We really didn't know how popular the kits would be but after almost two years of steady sales the gamble has paid off and proceeds from the model sales are still helping the Britten Team's racing endeavours.

 "That's the main reason we created the model in the first place so after all the effort I put into it that's really gratifying. "It's also been great to hear back from so many enthusiastic model owners, I'm really glad that so many people have gotten so much enjoyment from it".
 This story was put together with the help of Jim Wylie and Hamish Cooper.


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