"Once upon a time"

by  Peter Radcliffe



The first White Metal kits were probably produced about 35 years ago. One of the first in Britain was John Day who even sponsored the Works March F1 car. Even in those early days the subjects chosen were interesting and indeed this was perhaps one of the attractions as the quality and accuracy of the kits often left much to be desired. One of the other early manufacturers was Mikansue from Windsor in Berkshire. Every so often one finds an old unbuilt kit and at a recent show I bought 2 of the Mikansue Competition series kits; the Jowett R1A from Le Mans 52 and the Arnott Climax from Le Mans 1957.

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The Arnott is a particularly interesting subject as Daphne Arnott who had manufactured a series of 500cc F3 cars and small sports cars managed the company. She was perhaps the only Female Racing car manufacturer in history. They had some success but the costs of developing a record car that crashed in the attempt sent the company on a downward path. Another crash and non-start in practice at Le Mans in 1955 was really the last straw and the 57 attempt was very much the last roll of the dice. The car had a very interesting suspension system and was running well when the normally reliable Coventry Climax engine failed after 6 hours. Soon after the Le Mans race the company closed its race shop and the Carburettor side of the business was sold. Until at least a few years ago Daphne Arnott ran a Guesthouse in North Devon and still had one of her original Sports Cars. The Le Mans car still survives today.


The Models

The pictures show the parts of both the Jowett and the Arnott but only the build of the Arnott will be covered in this article. Both kits appeared never to have been opened and both were complete except for decals in the Jowett. The decals for the Arnott were present but were plainly cracked and seemed undersize. One of the problems of building kits from these early races is that it is seldom possible to find colour pictures. My pictures are all black and white and suggested the car was a medium colour. One good friend suspected it might have been a metallic mid green and Tim Dyke has a rare video of the 1957 race with some colour footage. Fortunately the car appears briefly in this film and again the appearance was of a mid metallic green.

 The instructions with the kit gave no information on colours so a black interior was the suspected colour from my black and white pictures.

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The actual castings were quite good but the cast on windscreen wiper, filler cap, taillights and race number lights were very poor. The tyres with the kit had welded themselves together over the years and the wire wheels were rather crude cast metal wheels. The headlight covers were part of the metal casting and my initial thoughts of cutting out the lights and making acetate covers were removed when I found that my Le Mans picture showed the car with crude covers taped over the lights. I decided to build the kit largely as per original but as the tyres and decals had to be replaced I decided to make a few other small changes.


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Cast steering wheel and wire wheel

Original wiper and filler cap


Tail lights


The taillights, number lights and windscreen wiper were removed from the body casting otherwise it was just prepared by removing the slight casting lines and minor flash. When this was completed the body was polished with wire wool. I did consider filling the panel lines and starting again as these are very much not up to today's standards. It appears they were cut with a blunt kitchen knife! I decided however that filling and cutting new lines in white metal did not appeal. Had the kit been resin I probably would have done so but also I felt that the rest of the kit did not justify this effort and I wanted to retain the period charm of the original.


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Polished body

Body before painting

New for old wheels and tyres

Built chassis and interior

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Painted parts



As I was replacing the tyres it seemed sensible to replace the wheels so a set of BBR photoetche wheels were used or rather a set and a quarter as I needed a spare for the rear shelf. Once all the parts were cleaned up they were primed and painted. The assembly was fairly simple the only complication being that the positions marked on the chassis base for the axles was rather asymmetric and several trial fits were made before a satisfactory fit under the arches was achieved. The original Vacform was a surprisingly good fit and very clear and thin for the period and the cast steering wheel better than many found in today's kits. Photoetche Wiper and new lights and filler cap completed the model and the decals came from my spares box. The final model is shown on a base from Heirlooms Crafts and is a fair representation of an unusual Le Mans car. The width is probably a little narrow and the bonnet a little long but never the less a worthwhile addition to my collection.


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Finished model