by: Stephen T. Lawson [ ]
Originally published on:
If you were building models in 1969 –1972 you will probably remember Tom Daniel. His designs were model scale sized custom cars. In some cases his kit designs would be full sized into show car form. As a youth he doodled and drafted cartoon and real rod designs. When Daniel graduated high school, the General Motors director of design, Charles Jordan, invited him to join the GM team in Detroit. Over several years he was put to work in the advance truck design studio. This is where he designed the hood for the 1961-1965 Chevy and GMC trucks. By 1965, Tom moved back to California and shortly after the U.S. Naval Reservist was called to active duty for the Cuban Missile Crisis. He served for eleven months with antisubmarine squadron VS-772 and then was honorably discharged.
Following this, Tom took a position with the North American Aviation as a design engineer. Here he designed components for the space program, including the Apollo moon project. This position was short lived and he found himself once again working for Peterson Publications to resume his “Off the Sketchpad” work. Along with the ‘Sketchpad’ columns for Rod & Custom, he also contributed to other automotive magazines. Occasionally, Daniel found himself writing and illustrating articles on model car kits, slot cars, and even sometimes showing how a stock model can be customized. His mind began to wonder what it’d be like to design his very own model automobiles from scratch. This creativity led him to write a letter to Monogram Models throwing some of his ideas to them, seeing if they’d bite. This letter resulted in a meeting with Bob Reader at a Los Angeles auto show and from there an exciting new journey between Daniel and Monogram began.
Their products design people saw a talent in him and were ready to include his dream cars. As I mentioned several of these kits became so popular that full sized builders developed full-scale versions of these designs for the custom car shows. Matchbox even did about 55 of his 85 designs as die-cast collectables.
By 1972, Tom Daniel’s creations were estimated by Bob Reder himself to accumulate to about 42% of Monogram’s sales revenue. At this point Mattel had purchased Monogram and had reconfigured a majority of their catalog. In 1969 (pre-Mattel) out of the 129 models listed in Monogram’s catalog, Daniel had four. When the 1972 catalog came out, Daniel had 54 kits. This was a huge turn around and is now considered the Tom Daniel era in Monograms history.
After about 1974 this particular mould was relegated to oblivion. Somewhere in the back of a warehouse the steel moulds were packed and stored. Now 35 years later in 2009 the kits were back on the shelf. Some have speculated that the bagged kits were found in a corner of a commercial storage unit. One story says that the moulds were brought out to test their serviceability and after a run of some thousands they were repacked and stored again. Another story says that the moulds were shipped to China as part of a test relationship with TTI moulding company and the Revell/ Monogram Corporation. What is evident is the front suspension has been detailed and the body and its interior tub have been cleaned up for a better fit. The interior body shell sports a new 2009 copyright logo underneath along with some nice clean surface detail and smoother mold separation seams. You could even purchase a signed edition (on cellophane wrap) for $25.00. He even has a signed box top print for $10.00 from Tom Daniel website. (Some text from the Tom Daniel biography).
Tom Daniel wrote about his inspiration: “. . . I grew up during World War II and was influenced by military vehicles of the time. Rommel "The Desert Fox" was of course, an infamous and interesting character of the war and I thought it would be neat if he has his own cool car to drive in. Since it was a German vehicle, I married a Mercedes to a half-track and added some other cool features. It turned out to be a very popular kit back then. Monogram actually had a Mercedes SSK kit in stock so we just added the other tooling to that to make the kit.”
This is a combination of a typical 1939 Mercedes SSK chopped to a Hanomag Sdkfz half-track frame with a Mercedes limousine body in 1:24 scale. It includes a pair of uncommon sitting skeletal figures. One represents the Generalfeldmarshall Erwin Rommel and one Afrika Corps driver. All the Monogram skeletal figures lack frontal / breast plate details. In singles these skeletons were popular as signature pieces, but were not with every Tom Daniels kit but were evidently in the mechanical overview drawings to give a sense of scale.
The sprues were, and still are, moulded in a tan coloured styrene (53 parts). The parts are on 7 sprues, one of which has 10 chromed parts. The chassis and body (both one piece) are separate mouldings (with 2 clear windshields). Two rubber front tires are still included. Details also include extra gas cans, two machine guns, a full ammo box(es), supercharged Mercedes straight eight motor, shovel and pick.
These represent a caricature of markings and placards that would be seen on an staff car but most are spurious. The dash board instrument decals give the gizmolygst another great area to detail.
The kit instructions are similar to the old 1970 format. They are A-3 sized sheet folded twice to form eight panels with the text and 5 exploded views of the kit assembly. The new instructions acknowledge the mysterious tale(s) of the kit mould but provide no answers.
The real deal:
Rommel’s original staff car was captured and in the hands of Sir General Bernard Montgomery. The car disappeared and some of Gen Patton’s staff were questioned. But it was never found. Rommel’s actual desert rod was a Hanomag Sd. Kfz.250/3 half-track with the name “GREIF” painted on the sides.
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