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Honoring Amalgam Model Cars, and Highlights from the Americana Manhasset Concours d’Elegance

Vanity Fair

During our misspent Detroit youth, we excelled at many things, but we were never very good at building model cars. This should come as no surprise, as we lack an interest in constructing anything more complex than a suggestive metaphor and have about as deep a reservoir of patience as Joe Biden enduring another of Paul Ryan’s prevarications. This did not stop our relatives, desperate to parlay our love of automobiles into something resembling hetero-normativity, from consistently purchasing these D.I.Y. kits for us on holidays or birthdays. The resultant product, hurriedly assembled, only demonstrated what our limitations looked like when compounded. Even after a paint job—often completed in one brief sitting while the Testor’s glue was still schmeary—our models resembled something you might find up on blocks behind your great uncle’s barn, or the remains of some disturbed fantasy from a J. G. Ballard novel. We did, however, enjoy the glue fumes.

The models made by famed British company Amalgam are the vehicular inverse of our youthful incompetencies. Founded in the 1980s to construct miniature architectural replicas for clients like Lord Norman Foster, the company's line has expanded to include automotive, nautical, and aeronautical models. Each exquisite miniature is hand built, taking more than 3,000 craftsperson hours of scanning, casting, weaving, and sanding to complete—not to mention our baleful gluing and painting. (Amalgam uses real automotive finishes, so its Ferrari red doesn’t just resemble Rosso Corsa—it actually is the same paint used by the factory in Maranello.) Amalgam’s 1:8-scale models—the core of its business—run in the high-four-figure price range. A 1:4-scale Ferrari 458 Italia costs about as much as a brand new Hyundai Elantra. And though, unlike the Amalgam model, you can drive the Hyundai on public roads, really, why would you?

Amalgam will even customize its models to reflect the needs and (at times questionable) tastes of its clients, creating something special and bespoke: matching interior materials and exterior colors to a customer’s actual vehicle. For example, for our mutual friend, and International Best-Dressed List Hall of Famer, Bijan, Amalgam even went so far as to install, in a scale model of his Bugatti Veyron, a miniature replica of the giant vat of his eponymous cologne, which the late Beverly Hills clothier had integrated into the center console of his full-size, and very yellow, Bugatti Veyron.

When Ralph Lauren needed models made of a selection of vehicles from his transcendent car collection—not coincidentally, the same 17 vehicles he loaned to the Louvre for a recent exhibit called “the Art of the Automobile”—he knew just whom to call. These 1:8-scale models of some of Mr. Lauren’s greatest non-sartorial contributions to American culture are now available exclusively at select Ralph Lauren boutiques, where they will make the perfect stocking stuffer for our nation’s more entitled children (and adults), though receipt of said gifts will require very large stockings.

To celebrate the release of the first five of these vehicles—two Ferraris, two Jaguars, and a Bugatti—the polo-pony loyal recently gathered at a local vortex of upscale consumerism: the Americana at Manhasset (or “the Fifth Avenue of Long Island”—don’t call it a mall). It just so happened that this launch coincided with the eighth annual Americana Manhasset Concours d’Elegance, a classic- and contemporary-car show arrayed around the not-mall’s ample parking lot. Since we can’t resist a Concours, even if it’s on Long Island, and since we were invited out to the event to eat smoked salmon and mini-quiches and perform an on-site Q&A session with one of the guys from Amalgam, we attended. Appointed as honorary judge of the Concours was the charming Alexander Klatt, vice president of global design for sexy-electric-car manufacturer Fisker. But that didn’t stop us from awarding our own selections from the considerable field. Click through the slide show below to view our outlier choices.