John Konig’s handmade 1:18-scale street machine models

John Konig is a street machiner on a 1:18 scale!

Photographers: Ben Hosking

Skyrocketing prices for the classics. A partisan and often aggressively passionate fanbase. Talented car crafters who can spend years building their perfect ride. Yep, the scale model car scene mirrors the real thing in almost every way. Everything is just… smaller.

First published in the June 2022 issue of Street Machine

John Konig has been lucky enough to have owned just about all of his favourite cars – in model form – over the years. He’s customised many of them, too. But more recently, he has turned his attention to building scale replicas or tributes to the iconic cars of his youth – the fertile 80s and 90s when chrome was everywhere, airbrushing was on-trend and the street machine scene was becoming the hotbed of innovation we all know it as today. Nostalgia is a powerful emotion, and John has channelled it into producing incredibly detailed 1:18-scale replicas of his faves.

How long have you been building model cars?

I started with plastic model kits at the age of 13, but was always frustrated with the cars being American. Later in life, I started collecting Australian die-cast cars and discovered groups where such cars were being heavily modified.

Is there a scene happening around model car-building like there was in decades past?

Yes, definitely! There are five die-cast groups that I’m a member of and the scene is huge. It’s comparable to the real car scene. Some of these builders create insane works of art.

Do you have a mechanical or car-building background, or have you learned skills along the way?

I come from a family that used to repair and on-sell older cars in the 70s and 80s. I used to watch Dad go through the body repair and paint process and became addicted to that myself.

How long does it take you to build one of your tribute models? Do they typically contain a lot of bespoke parts?

The length of time it takes usually depends on how fussy I want to be with that particular model. [My tribute to Howard Astill’s] Rock 3, for example, has been in the making for about three years on and off. That car has been pulled apart and changed or refined more times than I care to remember, but that’s the price for accuracy. As far as parts are concerned, it’s much like building a real car. They are found, bought or recycled from wrecks or parts cars. We even have a member of our group that runs a die-cast wrecking yard where various cars are bought and dismantled. Other members are getting into 3D printing of parts, which is another fantastic source.

What raw materials do you start with, and how much do you need to create yourself?

It depends on the build. Cheaper cars or damaged and neglected models can be a great source for parts or even the basis for a project car. Such things can be found on Facebook Marketplace; eBay; buy, swap and sell pages; market stalls; and within our own die-cast group pages. Rock 3 came from our die-cast wrecking yard as an incomplete XA GT.

What makes you choose the iconic cars you build?

Mainly memories. Rock 3 came about during a conversation with a mate. I’ve always been hooked on that car since it first appeared as Rock Solid, so I decided to build the blue version of the car. I posted some pics on a Ford group page on Facebook and someone tagged Howard Astill. So I figured I’d best have a real crack at it, and it’s been constantly evolving ever since. By chance, I also gained the attention of a young lad named Sebastiano, who was Mario Montalto’s son. He’d put me in touch with his father, who owns the car these days, and an intimate visit with the real car was appointed. A friendship was formed with Mario, but on the day I was meant to meet Seb in my then-home town of Goulburn, he was tragically killed in an accident. So now the car is a tribute to Seb as well as Howard. Rock Solid and Rock Solid II will form a trio with this car. Mark Sanders’s Torana is another car that etched itself into my brain.

What advice would you give anyone wanting to do this themselves?

Depending on what your skillset is to begin with, start with cheaper American cars, so if you bugger it up you are only out of pocket a few bucks. There are groups out there full of information about how to plan and execute a build of your own.

Do you have a real-life street car project on the go?

I do, yeah. I’m halfway through a 1976 TD Cortina that will be a showy street car. There is also a 1966 XP Falcon sitting and waiting patiently. The die-cast model platform gives me the ability to own all the cars I like without having to
mortgage a kidney.

What cars do you still want to build in the future?

Ah, there are so many! HQFORU, the Castrol Coupe and Rock 4, just to name a few.