Aston Martin


20150426_105417Pity for a moment the poor British sports car that is doomed to live out its days in its mother country. Rain and rust…that’s your destiny. Far better to find one’s way to sunny Southern California, where gentle sunshine and the adoration of cheerful enthusiasts abound.

Until the wind starts blowing. Then you’re still kinda screwed.

20150426_130658So it was at the 2015 edition of the long-running Queen’s English All-British Car Show, held as it is every year at Woodley Park in Van Nuys, California. Normally, this springtime show is a reminder of how spoiled we car folk are in this part of the country by glorious blue skies and warm days. This year, however, blustery winds meant that car owners and show patrons were blasted by blowing dust all morning and most of the afternoon, while parts and automobilia vendors (like us) struggled to keep our pop-up canopies from becoming airborne. Car detailing products will no doubt be in high demand among the region’s Jaguar and MG clubs this week.

Nonetheless, the collection of cars that amassed on the Woodley Park lawn was utterly excellent. Though the Carriage House crew had its hands full with brisk business for most of the event, we still found time to sneak away from the booth to check out the hundreds of gorgeous automobiles on hand.

20150426_105458Among the few Aston Martins on hand, Lawrence Fromm’s 1991 Virage was a rare treat…very rare, as only about 50 examples of the total 365-unit production run found their way to North America. Fromm’s car is in fact a Canadian import with an interesting history: its original owner received it as a medical-school graduation gift from a pair of obviously doting parents. With a proper manual gearbox and a KM/H-reading speedometer, the Fromm Virage is low-key, but still a fascinating supercar.

20150426_110735Is the Jaguar E-Type the most iconic British car of all time? It’s certain that supporters of the Mini would argue the point, but the Jag’s appeal is so pervasive there’s not much we can say that hasn’t been said more eloquently before. Instead, we’ll just point to Mitch Clements’ ’63 fixed-head coupe as an example of what makes the E-Type so universally beloved. Simply put, it’s stunning. Clements restored the car over a leisurely ten-year period, doing almost all of the work (save the paint) himself, and he is far too humble about the sensational results. “I want to drive it,” Clements said, “but quite frankly, where?” (Might we suggest Carriage House HQ for a closer inspection?)

20150426_130202Another magnificently restored classic that caught our eye was Ron Fine’s beautiful 1961 Austin-Healey 3000 BN7. The subject of a two-year, frame-off restoration (as with the Clements Jag, performed mostly by the owner himself) this Big Healey is a multiple national award-winning car. However, Fine drives the car to shows rather than trailering it, and he notes that the restoration has mellowed enough that he’ll drive it anywhere…as long as there is a safe place to park waiting at the end of the journey!

20150426_131009Don Thompson’s 1988 Lotus Esprit Turbo captured our attention with its absolutely flawless presentation, but a brief conversation with the owner may have revealed the true nature of the British-car enthusiast. Thompson cheerfully informed us that the car, a sure winner in any judged event for which its eligible, is for sale. Why unload such a perfect specimen? “It’s 100% done,” replied Thompson. There’s nothing left to fix, so he feels it’s time to move on to a new project. Hey, whatever works for you, sir.

20150426_144630In a show filled with iconic, often exotic machinery, it may come as a surprise that our favorite car of the day was something a bit more humble, but our choice was Larry Bisordi’s 1965 Ford Cortina Estate (shown by his brother Ray.) Honest, lovely and almost 100% original, the little Cortina wagon is completely stock apart from being lowered and mounted on Lotus Cortina rims. A U.S.-export model hailing from the southwest, Bisordi’s Cortina is exactly the kind of offbeat, affordable classic that we ourselves would like to own, and the fact that it’s a station wagon was just the icing on the cake.

The wind stopped just in time for us to pack up our gear and head home. It’s a virtual certainty that we’ll be back next year with an even bigger selection of British scale model cars (we got the message, MG fans) along with a very serious set of tent stakes.

Parking On Grass is the Desktop Concours’ irregular series on Southern California’s vibrant car show scene. Occassionally, cars may not actually be parked on grass.



033Car show season is heating up, with one of our favorite events taking place this Sunday: the annual Queen’s English All-British Car Show in Van Nuys, California. An incredible variety of English iron from across Southern California will congregate on Woodley Park’s expansive lawn for this free admission, family-friendly show which will feature almost every British car one can imagine, from the most humble MGs to the most outrageous McLarens, plus Austin-Healeys, Morgans, Bentleys, and of course, Jaaaaags as far as the eye can see.

Sparks for QEOf course, for Carriage House Models, it’s all about scale, and we’ll have plenty of it at the Queen’s English. We’re bringing our full range of 1:18 and 1:43-scale model cars for your shopping pleasure, with special show pricing on many popular favorites. In response to overwhelming demand, we’ll also have a great selection of classic and current 1:64 cars from Matchbox and Hot Wheels.

Jags ResizeThe Queen’s English takes place on April 26th from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Woodley Park, 6350 Woodley Avenue, Van Nuys, CA 91436. Abundant free parking is available, but get there early to get the best selection of models from the Carriage House booth. Hope to see you there!


autoart composite huracanThe annual Nuremberg Toy Fair is where scale model car companies traditionally introduce new products amidst very little fanfare, but this year Autoart dropped a bombshell with the announcement that they would soon release a line of products rendered in ABS-composite plastic. Yes, Autoart, the company that revolutionized mass-market 1:18-scale diecast in the late ’90s with their exquisitely detailed yet (then) sensibly priced models made from good old-fashioned zinc metal, was following the lead of upstarts like TSM and Ignition by moving to plastic-bodied cars. The protests from devoted collectors were as loud as they were predictable. Hell, it seemed, had frozen over.

Then, we actually got a look at the product.

Autoart Alfa

Autoart has pulled off something of a minor miracle. Their ABS models have the same substantial hand feel as their classic metal-bodied cars (as the plastic body panels are hung on a metal skeleton…much the same as many real automobiles parked in the world’s garages) with perhaps even finer exterior detail. Panel gaps and wheel fitment have long been among the toughest challenges facing model car makers, and though Autoart was already among the very best at tackling these problems, the ABS modelling process promises even tighter quality control in these areas. Plus, unlike most other plastic-based miniature cars (typically crafted from resin) Autoart’s models will feature opening parts, as one would expect of the standard-bearer of high-quality scale model automobiles.

Autoart AstonThe first of Autoart’s new composite cars to grace the halls of Carriage House Models will be the 1:18-scale Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3, which we expect to have in stock by mid-April. Though sadly lacking an opening engine compartment, the Aston’s doors open to reveal an interior that’s detailed to perfection. We anticipate pricing around $155, which demonstrates the additional value of composite casting: it’s a cost-effective way to offer premium-level precision. Please visit for availability updates.

(Of course, this does not mean that Autoart is planning to abandon zinc metal casting altogether…we’ll introduce an upcoming metal model later this week!)