Schuco is a German toy maker founded in 1912 and has been working closely with BMW in producing the famous BMW miniatures. Recently, the company was commissioned to produce highly detailed 1:43 models of today’s best selling vehicles from BMW: X1, 5 Series GT, 5 Series Touring and even X6.
Schuco’s Senior Product Manager, Michael Baumgärtner, shares some insight into the creation of these miniatures. “It’s important that you don’t just look at the key figures: you’ve got to engage with the underlying philosophy,” says Baumgärtner, describing their minute analysis of the specifications. BMW is the only manufacturer that still demands a hood that really opens. Because the engine is visible, it has to be made and built in, which is quite a challenge in the model car business. It’s a chance to display our know-how and superior quality.”
Furthermore, here is a detailed description of the manufacturing process.
Every millimeter counts
As soon as the data analysis is complete, the CAD data are re-checked by measuring against the original at the BMW works in Munich. It takes three hours. Every minute detail, every molding, every alignment, every line in the headlamps is noted on the blueprint and photographed.
The package of photos, sketches measurements, and rules is then rushed off to the development team in Dongguan, south China. For over twenty years, Schuco has been working together with King’s Favour and its 800 employees, who have fully embraced the Schuco philosophy.
The designers and engineers take six to eight weeks to produce the prototype – a model made of epoxy resin. It’s twice as big as the eventual model, making the details easier to see. The prototype was air-mailed to Schuco’s headquarters in Fürth and shortly afterwards shown to the customer. Then BMW sprang its big surprise, a tiny extra highlight for the customers’ delight: the model had to have the panoramic glass roof which counts as special equipment on the original. Phew! A gasp from the Schuco team. But there’s still time. “It’s easy to make changes at prototype stage, because the casting mold has not yet been finalized,” explains Baumgärtner.”These last-minute changes are an additional challenge, of course, but our Schuco specialists can cope.”
With the prototype on show the finishing touches are discussed: Where is chromium needed? Where would it be best to use stamp printing, i.e. color rather than engraving? Spacings, for example, are often engraved, because real openings look too big on the model and spoil the overall impression. After the last big decisions have been made about the little car, the prototype is flown back to the Chinese manufacturer, which prepares the steel molds for the bodywork. This can take another ten to twelve weeks. The first models are exclusively for BMW: either sapphire black, with beige interior, or damask red with black interior. Schuco can subsequently produce other original colors for the specialist retail sector.
The first tiny beauty
At last, in July the first four models from the Chinese designer are ready for the final inspection. While the Schuco experts perform the absolute final check, back in China the mold is all ready and waiting to be fired. Tiny corrections are still possible at this “soft” stage. You have to be careful with test injections to ensure there are no slippages to the most delicate of edges or to a millimeter of engraving. The mold will not be fired until the customer has given the final go-ahead. This happened at the end of July. Including waiting time, the Schuco team had been working on the project for almost a year.
Something special about Schuco, and about the new BMW miniature, the underbody is fully formed. This high level of detail is unique to the market. “Best of all, our cars roll really well, which is more than you can say about many models on the market. Furthermore, the Schuco experts have endowed them with their own headlamps and tail lights – split, just like the full-sized version, and the interior is protected by a glass cover. On earlier models the lights were just pinned in.
Unique to the smallest detail
The interior detail is unusually authentic too. If you peek through the two fingers-wide windshield, or the side windows, you can see safety belts, contoured upholstery and the map on the tiny navigation system. You need sharp eyes, of course. “We always set out consciously to go that bit further than our competitors,” explains Baumgärtner.
When the full delivery arrives, in blank cardboard boxes with Chinese characters, happy smiles ﬂit over the faces of the six-man Schuco team. The little newcomer is a tiny work of art: a one-off, but many of them, you might say. But arrival of the new BMW 5 Sedan and Touring is already well advanced, and that goes for the models as well as the originals.
These models too are very, very small. And beautiful.Dickie-Schuco ]