“Scaled Down” gathering brings model cars and watches together in L.A.

550 Spyder

Sam Spade Detective Agency

Patrick Strong’s 917

Cars and watches come together at Auto Conduct’s Scaled Down

Cameron Barr examines the 312T

People who like classic cars often like classic watches, right? Next time you’re at Pebble Beach, look around at all those guys who just parked their Bugattis on the lawn, they’re likely to have some kind of interesting timepiece on their wrists. Watches and cool cars go together like pistons and rings.

So car culture entrepreneur Ezekiel Wheeler, who has organized 16 public Auto Conduct car shows in SoCal and 25 private ones so far, decided for this latest show to go small. Real small. As in 1/43 scale. The result is “Scaled Down,” a model car show and watch exposition held at Craft and Tailored, the vintage watch business owned by Porsche enthusiast Cameron Barr.

Barr’s office is on the 11th floor of one of old-downtown L.A.’s cool buildings, with marble floors, heavy wooden doors and wood-framed windows. Sam Spade would feel perfectly at home in it. There’s even a shelf of scotch in one room, to help entertain visitors. On Barr’s desk is a case of collectible watches, as well as several intricately detailed model cars. When I first met him, Barr was ogling the intake trumpets on collector Chris Price’s Niki Lauda-liveried Ferrari 312T grand prix car.

“Niki was a Heuer guy,” said Barr (it didn’t become TAG Heuer until 1985). “Niki gifted his yellow gold Rolex Datejust to Arturo Merzario, the driver who pulled him from his burning car at the Nurburgring. Niki got the watch for winning pole at Monaco, and gave it to him out of gratitude. Merzario still has the watch.”

There’s a story like that with every car model and every timepiece in the shop.

“The thing I like is the story behind each watch,” said Barr. “I like tying the history and stories behind these, that is so cool.”

Porsche racer Jo Siffert was also a Heuer guy, and Barr pulled up some photos on his phone of Siffert’s handsome mug, with his wrist obtrusively in frame wearing just such a watch. Barr actually got his 911 in a trade for a watch. He went through the case on his desk, pulling out several watches and reeling off the stories behind them. It was an Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch that allowed the Apollo 13 astronauts to time their final retro burn and plunge safely back to Earth at just the right angle.

“This watch actually saved three guys’ lives,” Barr said. “Most everything we have has a story.”

And then there are the car models. Several collectors had brought them to the Auto Conduct gathering: Porsche 917s, 550 Spyders and 911s, as well as any number of other race- and supercars. Their stories are a little more obvious, you can recognize the model and you know (well, you, Autoweek reader know) a lot about what it did as a race car or how it performed on the street. But there’s more to it than that.

“I’d love to go down to Singer, pull out my checkbook and say, ‘Build me a car,” said 312T owner Chris Price. “But I can’t. So these are what I collect.”

He has collected 80 of the minutely detailed cars over 20 years of collecting. In full scale he drives a 1974 BMW 2002, or he will once it’s through being restored. It’s all part of the car guy bug.

Porsche re-imaginer Rod Emory, who takes original 356s and puts modern engines and drivetrains in them while reshaping their exteriors, also has a model car collection. He figures he and his son, the actor Zayne Emory, have about 3000 models, but that includes all the Hot Wheels die casts the pair bought when Zane was just a tyke.

“When my son was born I had only about two Hot Wheels left, so I started taking him to the Porsche swap meet at the LAX Hilton, because a lot of guys sold die casts there. Zane got to know all these guys, so by the end of the swap meet Zane had a box of these cars.”

The collection is all on display in Rod Emory’s shop in North Hollywood. But that’s not what Emory brought to Scaled Down. For this show he brought a heavy steel model of one of his Porsche 356s, about a foot or a foot and a half long. It was built by an artist named Jamie Schena, who is also a clay modeler at GM’s design center in North Hollywood, Calif.

“It’s kind of his little gig,” said Emory, of Schena. “It took him about two months to do it.”

The car is heavy, made out of steel that Schena hammered, welded and polished into shape. His wheeled sculptures are almost interpretations of the cars he’s using for inspiration. There’s no question what each model is based on, but each line and every surface is an interpretation of the original, just as the lily pads are obviously lily pads in Claude Monet’s painting of them, but they’re more than that by the time they got through Monet’s imagination and onto the canvas.  

“Models are a common theme among all car enthusiasts and from that all car enthusiasm is born,” said model car dealer Patrick Strong (www.modelcitizendiecast.com). “Models allow us to amass our dream car collection, they are aspirational, and at the same time they link us to our childhood.”

And they’re fun to own and gaze upon when they’re sitting on our desks, luring us into the cockpit, which we imagine we’re in, Rolex Daytona under the Nomexed right wrist, wailing down the Mulsanne Straight at 300 km/h, at night, in the rain… wheeeee…

Wheeler’s next Auto Conduct will be July 27 at OVC, the place building the Shelby GT 350s down on Figueroa in Gardena. After that he’s planning a popup gathering in San Luis Obispo Aug. 15 and 16 to give those heading up to Pebble Beach something to stop for along the way. Exact location hasn’t been determined yet. Follow along as these shows develop at www.autoconduct.com, or on Facebook and Instagram under the same name. See you there.

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