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  • Member since May 2020
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About 250KQuestion
The 250 k question
So the bank agreed to loan you $250,000 to spend on an all new 1/24-1/25th scale automotive tool. If the investment is paid back in the agreed time, let's say 3 years, an extra $500,000 is coming your way for further releases. If you fail, say goodbye to the extra $500 000, and say hello to your new best friend, the repo man! (Insert crazy laugh here)
Do you accept the challenge?, then read on..


What is the $250,000 or 250K question and where does this number come from?
The 250K question is a one of kind survey, which, with the help of friends, yours truly fired up in 2001. Its purpose is to find out what you, the automotive modeler would do, when given a budget to create an all new model kit and make a profit from that venture. The number was taken from a statement made by a former ERTL president in the late 90’s as to how much it costs to tool up an all-new car model kit. The number went South shortly after product development went East, joining the already relocated production facilities, but word on the street is, that it's on the rise again, and almost on par with North American counterparts if one factors in, lead time and transport.
After a 15 year absence I felt that the time was ripe to start it up again, but not as a contest on one forum, but on Facebook, where like’s will show how much the projects are supported by the automotive model kit builders community.
Now this little essay is more than listing dozens upon dozens of possible new subjects, but don't let this scare you a way, because this is so much more rewarding, and lets the manufacturers and distributors who often lurk these pages see in a positive way, what you the modelers want and how.
So hop on board and create your 250K proposal.
To help you on your way I created some guidelines and with the help of Tom Sheehy even wrote a pilot entry, so I’m confident that when you're finished digesting all this info, the ideas will come and the ink will start to flow, or your two fingers will go in overdrive when typing your proposal on your favorite digital device.
But remember there’s no hurry, proof read and check the facts, before going live, Thanks!


1) Select the type of customer you wish to reach. This will help you define the skill level, parts count, breakdown and price range.
  • - Youth (and parents- grandparents who most likely will buy for little Johnny..)
  • - Weekend (Novice) modeler
  • - Enthusiast modeler
2) Choice of subject matter:
You've selected your customer, now we need to find out what they want.
  • What's the current or expected long term automotive trend in the group you selected (Racing, Muscle, exotic, drag...)?
  • Which yesteryear's kits are (or were always) strong sellers and could benefit from a complete redo? (Amt vs Revell '64 Impala for example)
  • Are there still "missing links" in a successful series? (like 2nd gen GTO’s for example)
  • And last but not least do you think they're willing to pay extra copyright & trademark fees (not only from OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) but also from 3rd parties like tire, wheel and speed equipment companies, also racing body, sponsors, and media groups) because it can add up quickly when you go all the way.
3) Design of the kit & tool:
Now that you have chosen the subject matter for the target group selected, one can start designing the kit. It must not only meet the skill level (easy, moderate, challenging) of the target customer, helping (not fighting) him or her to create something they can be proud of.
It also sets the price bracket in which you will have to operate deciding on parts count, the choice as to parts breakdown depends not only on the skill level but the subject matter too. Here are two examples:
  • Skill level: molded-in headlamps are out of place in a kit marketed towards enthusiasts
  • Subject matter: Engines is very important in a drag racing car, but not in a Van where dress-up features are more desired, to tackle this, it's best to talk with fellow modelers (off or on line, go through your stack of kits or display case(s) lined with built models and write down what features you liked or disliked when assembling them. If you have any, take a look at your (old) promos and die-casts too, because they were/are designed for easy and fast assembly by non-modelers on a production line. I took the liberty of writing down some key elements which (for me at least) define the characteristics of an excellent kit, no matter what skill level:
  • Ease of build, no matter how many parts.
  • Parts break-down not only chosen in function of molding restrictions and possible future siblings, but also to avoid possible sink mark areas and optical distortions (on clear parts), the degree of detail you wish to incorporate, helping the painting process (like the separate grille inserts of the Amt (ex-MPC) '74 Roadrunner/GTX) or the mating of various sub-assemblies and also by trying to make the assembly dummy proof, by carefully (again to avoid ghost sink marks) chosen (perimeter) ridges, holes and pins.
  • Crispness of the molded parts, so clean-up is minimal and applying finishing materials like BMF becomes child's play. ,
  • Sprue attachments, designed not to damage the appearance of the parts when cut off the tree. This is especially important for plated parts.
  • Ejection pins, is it possible to position them on hidden surfaces, or on the sprues, maybe by beefing up the affected part(s) sprue attachment(s).
  • Parting lines, be creative and don't let them run too close to areas where they can affect the overall presence of the model, like too close to molded-in scripts, or try to hide by using the shape of the piece to its advantage, especially when dealing with plated parts.
  • Window/clear parts design, attach from the in- or outside? On modern cars (post ‘85 or so) would you like the fret (black window surrounds) pre-painted, to ease the build? What about the headlamp tail lights, Otaki and more recent, Tamiya had the blinkers molded in clear amber, taillites in clear red, and the back-up lights in clear.
Keep in mind that outright criticism of an existing kits flaws or shortcomings may not be appreciated by its manufacturer when reading your proposal. Try to use constructive criticism to avoid your proposal being sent straight to the shredder. Likewise, pointing out strong points of a model's design or engineering aspects may facilitate the acceptance of your proposal. For us, this may be just a hobby, but for many it is a business and a way to make a living.
4) Packaging and support
How do you want to present your product? The design of the box is the first thing the buyer sees, and may make or break, a decision to purchase the kit. Packaging of contents, as well as the layout of the instruction sheet are also issues that may reinforce the buyers decision of having bought the kit.
5) Budget issues, after reviewing your proposal, it seems the kit you're proposing is slightly over budget. Luckily you're still in the design stage, so what aspect or parts of the kit do you alter, lose and why?
It may seem like a cruel question, but it can help you focus on the essence of the proposal and get rid of the clutter, which at first seemed like a great idea, finding out it only beefs up the price and could scare off, some potential buyers.
6) Post a photo of the subject
Post a photo either from your collection or taken from the web (when doing the latter, please credit the source).
The 250 000 dollar / 250K question. Format created by: Luc Janssens,  ©2001-2020

1969 Dodge Polara CHP Cruiser by Tom Sheehy & Luc Janssens

1) Select the type of customer you wish to reach:

The enthusiast modeler,
As with big rig builders, police car modelers are rarely blessed with new subjects, and the few released were either simplified designs and retools or marketed towards youth, sometimes including questionable and costly extras.
Only one kit sticks out and then it's an old tool whose current existential status is unknown, namely the old Jo-Han Plymouth Fury, which was on the market for decades.
I firmly believe that police car modelers will lay the green on the counter for a detailed cruiser because they almost always had to rely on aftermarket companies to make a convincing model.

2) Choice of subject matter:
The 1969 Dodge Polara is widely known as one of the all-time favorite cruisers amongst officers who were active during the 60s-70s. It is also listed as the fastest cruiser of the time, even surpassing the 94-96 Caprice LT1s. The 1969 Polara equipped with a 440 4bbl was officially clocked at 147mph in tests.
It was basically a 4 door muscle car, which sat on top of the food chain eating GTOs, Chargers, Challengers, 'Cudas, Chevelles, Camaros and Mustangs for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Just the kit we need for keeping the tablecloths of America's contest tables free from tire burns! In fact, anyone who collects and/or builds muscle car kits must have at least one, just to keep his collection intact.

3) Design of the kit & tool:
Finding a pristine example will not be a problem in this case, because Hemmings "Muscle Car Machines" Magazine recently did a restoration feature on one. Likewise for someone to measure and photograph it, because it's in Tom Montgomery's (Former Amt/Ertl kit designer) back yard!
Body: Four-door body of course with fine and sharp engraving (Don't you love the window surrounds on a late 60s Jo-Han annual?) and without heavy molded-in features. For example, a dome light which can lead to a sink mark in the roof, which the modeler has to fill and sand. Small ridges and holes where to drill in the roof for roof mounted emergency lights will do.
Because this car has seen service in many agencies, it would be handy to either offer the side moldings as separate metal transfer pieces (like Galaxie LTD's 1948 Chevrolets). This may not be feasible and could be a possible giveback when running into budget issues, but since it's a thin molding to begin with, it probably can be sanded off with relative ease when molded-in.
The body closings will only consist of the hood dressed up with a separate lip* and hinges, in case the builder wants to show off the engine.
The following items round up the body assembly: firewall, inner fenders (as with Amt '68 RR), radiator brace, side mirror(s)*, door handles*, front bumper* with separate grille* (to ease the detail painting) with clear headlamp lenses, rear bumper*, tail lamp-surrounds* with a perimeter flange to reinforce them and provide a gluing surface to mount them into the body and provide a stop for the rear bumper, and clear tail lamp-lenses of course (* indicates chrome part).
Interior: The plain-Jane base level trim all around interior, would be a sort of snap-fit platform style, minimizing the risk of getting glue in unwanted places.
Consisting of a floorboard with a two piece dash, steering wheel and column with molded-in selectors, separate pedals, two piece bench seat, separate rear seat with package tray (flashed over holes for mounting the two CHP flashers), separate door panels to allow for easy detailing. Police radio set-up for the transmission hump. It can be similar to the Jo-Han Plymouth set up, as that was very accurate. However, having separate pieces for the radio, siren control and switches would be great so that different set-ups can be configured by the builder. Two detailed microphones are needed; there was only one in the Jo-Han kit which was incorrect for the set-up.
Chassis and drivetrain: Breakdown similar to AMT's 1957 Chrysler 300 or their 1960 Galaxie kit, 440 4bbl (what else!) with Torqueflite 727 Auto Trans. This police engine was rated at 375 HP. Kit should include two air cleaners, one stock and one low restriction. The low restriction is the police unit, and is similar in design to the one in the Lindberg 1964 Dodge 330 kit. It's actually referred to in the Dodge literature as an "unsilenced" air cleaner. Separate chassis, heavy duty rear end, dual exhaust, and front and rear sway bars round out the chassis. Wheels: two needs to be correct steel wheels with dog dish hub caps of correct vintage. I'd include a base series full hubcap as an option for those doing a standard sedan. Tires need to be a beefy vintage blackwall, Goodyear Polyglas or similar. The ones AMT has been using for years are actually pretty good.
Accessories: Here's where it gets tricky. The Jo-Han Plymouth was actually a great kit for the roof lights alone. They were extremely accurate and looked the part. This kit should be done with that in mind, optional roof light set-up* for multiple agencies. Spotlights* for both sides are a must. Two styles of beacon lights, one like the Jo-Han, which is a Federal model 176H and one a flat top 4 beam (Federal 184, Dietz 211 or similar). The roof bar with twin beacons would be nice too. That's a Federal model 11, with optional chromed siren speaker in the center. I'd use the rounded speaker (like the speaker on the Adam-12 car) instead of the flat wide style in the Jo-Han kit. Since electronic sirens were just becoming popular, it would still need an old mechanical siren for under the hood as another option. To round it out, about six flashers of different sizes, 2 small, 2 medium, 2 larger, all single faced. These could be used for rear deck flashers, front grille flashers, optional light bar flashers, etc.
Now the most important necessity for all of these lights: MOLD ALL OF THEM IN CLEAR PLASTIC. Not red, not blue, not a mix... CLEAR. This allows the builder to tint them accordingly to the agency that's being represented.
The push bar would be a preformed pre-painted metal assembly, to keep it in scale and robust
Agency decals: I'm sure licensing and permissions are in order here. But it shouldn't be too bad, considering Hawk/Lindberg is issuing about 6 different state agencies in their reissue of the 1996 Crown Victoria. A CHP version is a must, this would negate the need for roof lights, too, as they ran most of these with no roof lights and dual spotlights, the driver's side being red. The CHP would also have two flashers, one red and one amber, on the back package shelf, both on the left side, facing rear. However, the 1969 Polaras were used all over the country, and offering different versions or including different agencies in the one kit (like the Jo-Han Plymouth) would be great, one thing will be certain the deacsl will be done by Cartograph of Italy.
About the tooling now, when planned and designed right, it canbe used for a plethora of C-body MoPar kits, from 1969 up to '77 as the chassis were virtually unchanged except for the yearly addition of annual emissions upgrades (or downgrades, if you will).
Therefore the tooling lay-out isn't one big chunk of steel with removable inserts but a cluster of several and smaller tools
A-Parts, Floorboard and chassis with suspension, axles & wheels.
B-Parts, Engine and accesoiries.
C Parts, Interior and body add-ons.
D-Plated parts.
E-Clear parts.
Taking this route, along the way one or more smaller tools in combination with others can be used in further siblings like for instance a '74 Monaco, one of the stars in the classic movie "the bluesbrothers", and seen in many many cop shows seen on TV like CHiPs, or a Gran' Monaco, remember Hill Street Blues?
4) Packaging and support
Boxart: I really like the way Sean Svendsen handled the Model King box designs of the '70 Wildcat and Camaro Funny Cars. He really knows how to present a built model, so I would put him in charge of that, but I also like the art work of Jairus Watson and know he would do a good job of a CHP unit burning sideways (showing off the "Wolfs Head" graphics on the door) through a sharp curve on Mulholland drive, in hot pursuit of some bad boys, Hmm...maybe I have to flip a coin ;)
The size of the box would be like the "Accurate Miniatures" Corvette kits, to show off the artwork and the neatly displayed contents when removing the box top.
Packaging of the parts: chrome, clear parts, tires, packed separately in poly bags, same for the white plastic parts, decals by Cartograph covered with a protective paper and bagged too.
Instruction sheet: I like the approach AMT/ERTL took in the mid 1990s, which was very detailed and every part was clearly identified.
Consumer support: On our company website I would post a whole range of photos taken when the engineers of product development were measuring up the cruiser, together with anecdotes, facts and fiction of the subject and the agency it served with.
Also a photo composing as per instruction sheet sequence would be available on line together with tips on how to build a perfect model.

5) Budgetary constraints
I would lose the metal transfers, and engrave the side molding into the cavity of the body sides, is a too simple solution for the cash problem, therefore I would get in touch with a die cast manufacturer (like Highway 61) to see if the project is of interest to them too, because the majority of model car collectors are not modelers, if they're interested the R&D costs would drop considerably, and could start a long term partnership

6) Post a photo of the subject
Courtesy of HMM
For more photo's of this beautiful restored vehicle, please check out the Hemmings Muscle Machines article via link below.
Note: The book "Dodge, Plymouth & Chrysler POLICE CARS, 1956-1978" by Edwin Sanow and John Bellah, Motorbooks International was used for reference.

The $250,000.00 dollar / 250K question
Format created by:
Luc Janssens

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Location: Belgium
Occupation: HVAC Tech (former automotive)
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