Psst... want to know a great secret?
Nov/Dec 2020 edition
Issue #13 AutoMobilia Resource Magazine
The amazing and captivating works from Racing Dioramics have to be one of the best kept secrets in the field of specialty car models for collectors. The two partners behind the magic are Crittenden Rumford and Nestor Spinelli. I own four of their fantastic works, and am hoping to acquire a few more… if & when I find any!
Racing Dioramics, based in California, specializes in classic Grand Prix and road racing scenes (mini dioramas or vignettes) in 1:43 scale. Their first little scenes were made in the mid 1980s, and by 1990 they started making them steadily for collectors. Currently prices vary from $450-$650, though some can be higher depending on details and degree of difficulty. Considering the work involved and the rarity of each piece, I’d dare say these miniatures represent great value. Today they build commission work of all eras, and some limited editions of only 10-15 pieces per edition. Their waiting list is a long one, hence they are not accepting any new commissions for any dioramas. But a number of driver figures are available to order as are separate jewel-like little helmets, well… that is if you don’t wait too long.
As a rule, I do not like any models with figures in them or around them, or any of the mass market CMC type of dioramas due to the fact they are most always poorly done, however… the dioramas by RD are a shining exception to that rule. Each scene depicts a real point in time from auto racing history. These vignettes are truly miniature works of art. Crittenden’s amazing ability to give life to her figures is more than impressive. Combining that with her partner Nestor’s great talent to create the rest of the scene and build the cars is a winning combination. Crittenden tells me that for the cars: “Nestor uses existing kits and modifies them if needed. Sometimes he makes his own model for a diorama. [Nestor has made a number of exclusive RD model cars for their scenes] The driver figures are hand carved, and custom fitted for each diorama. We don’t make many of any one subject. Usually one-offs or just a handful at most.” And keep in mind, the cars shown on these pages are only about 3.5" long.
stakingly carved & hand painted, by Crittenden; no CAD or any sort of 3D modeling. The oh-so accurate faces, period clothing, helmets, and gloves.....even their goggles have separate clear lenses! Folds in clothing, girth of some drivers like González and positions of hands, arms and bodies perfectly replicates the drivers in action, or they could be stepping out, or standing, or waiting in the cockpit for a race to start. No matter the pose, they have life. Each racing car is hand built (some from long out of production rare limited run European kits), beautifully finished, and with many custom added details; some have featured hand-laced wire wheels by Vincenzo Bosica. Each detailed display was, and is, created by hand.
Over the years RD have produced a few thousand pieces, the vast majority, past & present, are custom one, two or three of a kind. Most are genuinely one-of-a-kind. Previous limited-edition series ran no more than 30 of each, often less.
If you can’t find one of their full dioramas at the moment (which you most likely cannot), I strongly suggest the following: As I mentioned, RD also produces 1:43rd limited run driver figures and helmets. In the past they also made several 1:18 scale driver figures – long sold out. The 1:43rd figures run the gamut, from the 1950s to the modern era of around 2016, and are numbered limited editions of just 25 of each figure. You must see them! To date there have been about 151 figure editions, 76 of which are sold out.
For each edition, Crittenden makes one original master, which is then molded and cast. Each figure is assembled and detail painted by her, one at a time. These are made on a “to order” basis. Waiting time is several weeks. Prices range from $75-$165.
The helmets are each custom made; there are no edition limits. For any not shown on their web site, collectors just let Crittenden know what they need for their model and she will see if it’s something she can make. Prices range from $28-$75 each, depending on the graphics involved or other level of difficulty.
After more than 30 years, demand is still very high for everything they make! That in itself is a true testament to the excellence and desirability of their work. RacingDioramics.us
To read more great columns like this one from model car expert Marshall Buck...
Collecting Model Cars
Editor of AutoMobilia Resource Magazine, and owner of CMA Models, Marshall Buck caters to serious collectors of boutique and high-end model cars.