Forward Models - from Forward Models
Forward Models at the terminus

Forward Models (Birmingham) Limited has announced that it is closing down. The announcement was made following the retirement of the founder, Derek Perry, due to ill health and prices rises which affected the sale of new models.

The company was set up by in 2011 by Derek who wanted to make a few models of the buses he remembered growing up in Birmingham in the 1950s and 1960s. He approached a model maker in Wales, Autodromo, who agreed to prepare prototype models. Through them he was introduced to Godfrey Crompton who had contacts in the Chinese die-cast model industry. Instead of the expected handful of models, Derek went on to produce over 4,000 buses.

The first model bus produced by Forward Models. A guy Arab tin front. Now preseved.Our first model. A Birmingham tin front numbered NGS-01.

These first models were all Birmingham 'Standards' as produced from 1947 including 'tin fronts' and Crossley radiators. They were well-received, being the first mass-produced models of the unique buses built for England's second city. Further models were produced in WMPTE livery and later in Edinburgh, Hull and Newcastle colours. The models were notable for their well-researched and accurate advertisements. 

Plans were made to modify the tooling to enable the production of 'tin fronts' from other operators. This style of bus, developed since the late 1940s and incorporating new lightweight bodies, had become the epitome of bus design in Britain during the 'glory days' of the British bus. By the middle of the 1960s, engines had been moved to the back, the entrance to the front and capacity increased. But that is another story. 

Designs were prepared for buses from Manchester and Glasgow, to be followed by Belfast, Coventry, Rotherham, Cardiff and other cities. The order was to be sent to the factory in China at the end of June 2016, coinciding with the result of the referendum which had agreed that Britain should leave the EU. There was no inkling of the devastating effect this would have. 

There was an immediate and regrettable reaction on the international money markets due to the referendum. The value of the pound dropped massively. The cost of the new models immediately shot up by a third This was disastrous. The order was cancelled until the price improved. Unfortunately, it did not. With a large investment already made, smaller numbers were eventually ordered. 

The models were delivered in early 2018 but at a selling price that was 50% higher than the previous models. Inevitably, they did not sell well enough in a market that was already in turmoil with the loss of EFE and other manufacturers. Forward Models embarked on a renewed marketing campaign using social media and other new methods. 

Derek Perry, the founder of Forward Models. Designer and manufacturer of model buses.Derek Perry, the founder of Forward Models, in pensive mood.

However, Derek was not well. He was diagnosed with a tumour of the colon and during the latter half of 2018 he was subjected to repeated chemotherapy sessions. This made it impossible to continue the tasks of administering the company and marketing the new models. It was with great regret that Derek decided to wind up the company in early 2019. 

This process is not formally complete. Derek has stocks of models which he is trying to sell. The factory in China holds the tooling owned by Forward Models although it may itself be closed down soon. However, the company has no other financial assets and trading is suspended. Derek says: 'My plans for the future are sadly ended. It is with much regret that I am simply unable to continue as Forward Models. I can, at least, say that I am proud of the models I was able to produce and I thank everyone who has supported this enterprise'. 

Those who know Derek may be pleased to know that in June 2019 he had an operation to remove the tumour which appears to be successful. He considers himself cured and is looking forward to recovering fully. He will continue selling second hand models and some Forward Models buses and may yet be seen at future bus fairs.

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