story by pablo deferrari photos by john findra
“Ah man, look what I did! It’s ruined, now I gotta start all over again…I’ll never finish this thing.”
I was in the middle of painting the body of the 356C Cabriolet model I was building and the inevitable happened; I got carried away with the spray can and yep...there were paint runs all over the side of the thing.
I was about 11 or so, just a year into my passion with Porsches. I should have been chasing girls but instead I began a ritual of buying one of every Porsche model in 1/24th scale and set aside time on the weekend to begin the building, sanding, painting, and application of the decals to finish yet another Porsche I’d one day own. I learned a hell of a lot about these machines by putting the nearly quarter scale replicas together, it helped me understand all of the parts it took to build a Porsche and how they went together.
the type 3 v-dub square back makes for fitting background
But then I started to find interest in other things. Time was taken away from my little ritual of sitting at my desk, listening to ‘80s new wave on the radio, and getting a little high from the glue I was using for assembly. I suppose I must have outgrown this hobby, never to be revisited again…it became part of my memories as a kid growing up.
"...riddled with gaping rust holes and perfectly simulated etchings of time..."
It wasn’t until almost 30 years later, when I thought I forgot about the countless hours sitting at that desk with a pile of plastic and rubber pieces before me, that I discovered someone who took this hobby to loftier, more sophisticated heights.
there probably was a time when a Fuhrmann 4-Cammer might have sat in a junkyard with other common wrecks
I was doing a search on 928s in junkyards. There, amongst all the photographs of these once very expensive and exclusive machines strewn about in various states of decay, I stumbled across an image of what looked like a scale model of rusting, sorry looking 928 next to an equally pathetic decomposed 911. When I clicked on the image to enlarge it, sure as hell, they were indeed scale models of Stuttgart’s flagships. I was nearly fooled into thinking they were life size specimens.
The attention to detail required at such a scale to make a model look like it just rolled out of the factory is hard enough to accomplish, but this artist took it to the next step. There they were, riddled with gaping rust holes and perfectly simulated etchings of time and dusty patina that only abandonment could cause. And they looked so incredibly accurate.
the bubbling paint...how the hell did he do it?
I felt as if I made an archaeological discovery, so I scrambled to share it with flüssig’s followers on Facebook. They just had to see this perfect facsimile of what some of their cars may have looked like before embarking on the long and arduous road of restoration. No one had ever done this sort of thing with models using Porsches as their subject matter before.
"Rather than toss them in the bin, he decided to make them into wrecks."
I found John Findra on Etsy. Here was the artist himself showcasing his creations on a tony version of eBay where fine artists sold their works. While scanning through all of his pieces, I thought of how this would resonate with owners of 924s, 944s, and 928s since some of these earlier Porsches are seen in this sort of state all over the country.
P7 shod phone dial on the roof, clutch housing on the fender...it's pretty comical.
Before creating his signature junkyard pieces, John built his models to perfection. On a rare occasion though, a few didn’t meet his concours standard upon completion. That’s when it hit him. Rather than toss them in the bin, he decided to turn them into wrecks. These new creations bearing scars of neglect were immediately sold to a client in London…it was that simple. That rest was history, Classic Wrecks, the name of his new enterprise, was born.
In order to execute this level of detail, John uses images of junked cars from photographs he’s either found or taken, along with his own imagination. Armed with the knowledge of being around scrapyards throughout his life, he knows precisely where and how this decay begins to set in and applies it to his pieces.
"...if you ask John how many he’s sold, he’ll tell you in all honesty…a lot."
This niche he’s carved for himself has picked up some serious momentum. He’s been at it for three years now and has developed a cult-like following. One of the collectors of his pieces has racked up 25 of ‘em, and if you ask John how many he’s sold, he’ll tell you in all honesty…a lot. In fact, 20% of his business are special orders from clients who have sent him digital images of their “wrecks” and would like a memento of what their car looked like before the restorative work was begun.
looks like the previous owner dropped an early 16-valve lump in an S4 body...
Now there are quite a few manufacturers of these model kits which include, AMT, Tamiya, Revell, and Fujimi, to name a few, but John can’t commit to any one brand. Interestingly, when he’s commissioned to create a wreck, John has to go with whatever company makes the car his client wants. Sometimes he even has to buy die-cast models if he can’t find a particular car in a plastic kit. You can see how involved this process begins to get. When it comes to Porsches though, he claims Tamiya makes the best; the only problem he has is finding the courage in making them look worse for wear!
the writing on the windshield is classic
I can vividly remember how difficult it was to know when to stop fussing with a model to make it just so, John has learned to call it quits when he feels the level of detail he was after is achieved. But there are moments when he’s just about ready to pack up his creation to be shipped out to his client only to find himself putting a few more finishing touches…after he’s put the license plates on! Yes, license plates...that’s how detailed these works are. I’m surprised there isn't an owner’s manual in the glove box.
A model can take him anywhere in the neighborhood of 4 hours to complete after which he sets them up in a light box for the money shot that he likes to keep simple; letting the details of his work take center stage.
"...by the time he wakes up, he’ll have thought of a new level of detail..."
Then he’s ready to put them on display over at Etsy. These guys are a market place geared towards fine artists and collectors alike, and honestly, this is the best place to showcase John’s work. It’s sort of like selling your pieces at Neiman Marcus as opposed to Walmart; you attract a different caliber of clientele who are more likely to appreciate the value of your work. Being that John’s pieces neatly sit on the higher end scale of things, this is the perfect venue.
When asked if his art gets him up in the mornings, eager to start, it’s a resounding yes. He looks forward to each day because by the time he wakes up, he’ll have thought of a new level of detail, something a bit more different to make things stand out more than the previous day’s work…he’s always a step ahead fresh with new ideas.
What I became curious about was that with the level of precision and detail going into John’s pieces, one would think he’s actually applying this on a larger scale like, say, restoring a car for himself. And he did, well, at one point, with a ’76 BMW 2002 which he very much enjoyed doing until a move thwarted his plans. Aside from that, he hasn't had much time for anything else what with all of the orders streaming in and writers like me pestering him for his story.
the best from Zuffenausen waste away together
What he plans on doing next, though, is messing with motorbikes which he guarantees will look great with his touches. With so many more little crevices, details, and at a much smaller scale should he remain at 1/24, they’ll no doubt be a challenge. He’s also looking to get these works into retail; maybe at shops in Auto Museums around the globe…the possibilities are endless but he’ll certainly be in high demand whatever the course.
"...John has a bit of a soft spot for Stuttgart metal…"
Will we see more Porsches coming from John’s studio? Hell yea! You see, John has a bit of a soft spot for Stuttgart metal…in fact, he’s always loved them. He had a 928 for 20 years with only 50,000 miles and was impressed by the fact that it could sit for a few years and start right up.
We’re equally impressed by seeing a 928 as one of his subjects, although we’re anxiously waiting to see how he would pull off aluminum corrosion or maybe a rotted Pascha interior in the next round of his works.
the master, John Findra plying his craft
which of these will be yours?