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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Mike Stephens founded Western Models in November 1973, in Epsom, Surrey, from an idea originally planned in Devon. They eventually produced more than 200 different 1:43 scale diecast cars and a line of model airplanes.

In addition to running the company, Stephens also executed all of the 4-view scale drawings used by their pattern makers to create the model from. Stephens was inducted into the 1:43 Diecast Scale Model Hall of Fame in 2008.

After moving from the West Country, Stephens along with, Bryan Garfield-Jones, and Ken Wooton, both of whom had been dabbling in the supply of replacement parts for Dinky Toys, founded Western Models Ltd in 1974, near Redhill, Surrey.

Western’s Models Ltd's first models, were a 1938 Mercedes-Benz and a 1937 Lagonda Rapide. Launched at a Windsor swap meet in January 1974, all 100 models made sold quickly and they also received a large order from the Lang brothers, who owned the Danhausen shop in Aachen, Germany.

Their range of 1:43 scale models quickly expanded and in 1975 saw a 1951 Jaguar XK 120 and a 1937 Bentley announced, to the joy of British collectors. Kits of all their models were also available. They also introduced a line of 1:24 scale models. Around this same time Stehpens and Garfield-Jones split the company and with Wooten having already left, Stephens assumed sole control.

Danhausen, with their large Minichamps, Metal 43, Metal 24, Plumbies, and Plumbies Inter ranges were Western’s most prolific customer and together, this volume necessitated a significant increase in staffing. At the peak of their production runs for them, nearly 40 people were employed in the Redhill factory. Such was Danhausen’s involvement that Gunter Lang sought a partnership with Stephens, his own brother Peter Lang having gone his own way as well. This was not agreed upon and the existing provider arrangement continued until 1984 when the Minichamps range was re-launched as a 1:43 diecast range made in China.

As a result, Western Models’ Redhill location closed and the business was moved to Taunton. With Acre Ridge, the company was again based in a rural setting, and the company had gone back to its "Western" roots. There with a reduced staff of 20, some having moved with the company they continued production, concentrating on their own ranges and other established contract work. During this time, Stephens was supported by his wife Joyce who took the responsibility of overseeing assembly and packing of the models as well as looking after the business administration. Also involved were his three children, Tim, Lynn and Nicola. Tim made molds for many years, after John Allen and Keith Williams left Western to set up their own company, Scale Model Technical Services, while Lynn handled the book keeping and Nicola gave assistance in all departments as needed.

The ranges then ongoing were Western Models - 1:43 Classic cars, including many American examples and Record breakers, Western Racing – 1:43 F1 and other Competition cars, Western Prestige – modern 1:43 and Western Formula 1 – 1:24 F1 cars. Small Wheels was a separate company brought into Western’s ranges in the early ‘90s.

Western's involvement with Formula 1 in 1979/80 was significant, the high standard of the 1:24 models took Stephens into the highest level of involvement with the F1 fraternity. This relationship started with Frank Williams and the Saudia Williams FW06. Full factory access was given to measure and photograph the race car together with other potential model subjects of his and many others who sought Western’s services like Brabham, Lotus, McLaren, Wolf and Aston Martin/Lagonda. They all resulted in a 1:24 scale model of each race team ending up being produced in lots of different scales ranging from 1:87 to l:4 original size.

The Formula 1 connection led to 1:8 and 1:4 scale vacumn formed plastic models for exhibitions and show stands with hundreds of these being made for that purpose. Two hundred 1:8 scale Porsche Le Mans being one example.

In the 1990s, Western bought the 1:43 range of Small Wheels diecast.

In 1995, a 1:200 scale aircraft range was launched and eventually included more than 30 models, including a Silver City Airways Bristol Freighter, their first plane model sold in 1994, by Geoff Noble. And a Super Constellation which was issued in various liveries. This was the first collection of aircraft models to be issued since those made by Dinky Toys in ? and represented 50% of Western Models then current production.

The Taunton factory was eventually closed and re-located next to the Stephens’ home in Devon. The building that served as a hangar for the Cessna that they had operated earlier was used to house the factory equipment. This location saw the introduction of a British car line of the 1930s, that included a 1938 Morris 8 series E saloon and tourer, and a 1938 Vauxhall 14/6 DX saloon.

As the new century unfolded, Stephens began to think about retirement. Buyers for the various ranges were sought, to include the patterns, molds and all associated items such as drawings, decals, vac-forms, etc. He found a buyer for the aircraft line in China. The American car line went to Route 66 Model Car Store in 2007. Models were still made in England but had been upgraded with many more details. That range is now called Western Models Collectors Editions or WMCE. The English car range was sold to pattern maker Adrian Swain.

The original Wester Models Ltd company site finally closed around 2012.

Western Models made 1:43 scale white metal models of American vehicles called "PTH Models" for Past-Time Hobbies in Chicago.

Kim's Classics was a line made for a company located in Rotterdam, Holland.

Sourced references -

Encyclopedia of Small-Scale Diecast Motor Vehicle Manufacturers - Sahakangas, Foster & Weber (2006)
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