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Companies like Agora Models and Partwork Upgrades are the new faces of Big-Scale Modeling, so what makes them different to the long-established corporates?

Developing a new scale model can take many months or years and costs hundreds of thousands of dollars.

First, there’s brainstorming time by talented creatives.

Once you have the ‘next big idea’, there are often licensing deals and fees that can put an abrupt halt to an exciting plan. For example, if Disney or General Motors have already given the license for your sector – forget it. That idea is over. If they like the idea and you’re lucky enough to progress it, the fees can then be prohibitive.

Assuming you have the key relationships and persuasive powers to take your great idea into production and the distribution channels to get your model from production to consumer, is that enough?

Goodyear 1-8 scale
Manufacturing Cobra tires

We don’t think so!

There are many huge corporate organisations doing just that. But what they lack is the personal connection between the idea, the model, and the consumer. At Agora Models, we have all of the above, allowing us to be successful on a global stage, rivalling the long-established corporates. However, our team and our ethos couldn’t be more different. 


Because the Agora team are modelers too, and we’ve known each other for years. Some of us are also from the same family, and those who aren’t often spend more time with each other than with their own families. The same person who brainstorms the ideas, also swings the deals; rejects sub-quality parts; gets covered in glue; shares favourite posts on Facebook; and chats on the phone to you, answering your queries when customer services are busy. We’re a small team, which has arisen from a shared modeling passion with a focused mission – to bring the models you want, when you want them.

Shelby Super Snake

And that’s the key difference – each member of our small team understands every aspect of the business and has you – our customer – in mind, modeling away on your cutting mats, as we make each new move in our business.

And that’s what we have in common with people like Ian Campbell and his family.

Ian runs Partwork Upgrades with his wife, Julie, from their home in the Midlands, UK. Their business emerged by accident and they never imagined just how quickly their hobby, and now business, would grow.

Ian designs, develops and produces most of the products, except the dust covers – which is Julie’s department! She also takes care of admin and finances and they both procure supplies. Everyone, including their son (Robert) and daughter (Faye) mucks in with the packing and posting. In addition, Faye’s boyfriend moved in at the beginning of lockdown and they now have a baby. Things are a little cramped to say the least, but the joys brought from watching the little-one grow are well worth the squeeze.

Ferrari 1:8 Dust Cover

The young family will soon move to their own new home which will allow bedrooms to be converted for Partwork Upgrade use. Ian says “hopefully if we continue to be successful we can think about premises and reclaim our home”.

This is a situation we can relate to oh so well! Agora has been run from home for much of lockdown, and model parts now take the best seats in the house!

Personal favourites for Ian include the Valentino Rossi bike (his first scale model – a suggestion of another future road journey perhaps?) and he now has several models on the go, including the T-800, Enterprise, Ecto-1, Iron Man, DeLorean and the MiG 29

Partwork Upgrades emerged as Ian’s hobby started morphing into a business when he considered that some of his models would benefit from an add-on or enhancement. His first design was a stow pack upgrade for the Ecto-1, then Ian soon discovered that other members of the community were also keen to have it, so he set up a website within days, offering them to other scale-modelers.

Ian says “I couldn’t leave it there. I love problem solving and designing, and we now have over 50 products on our website. Sometimes someone will suggest a product and if it’s viable I’ll produce it and the contributor gets it for free”.


One of the benefits of sharing his hobby in this way is that Ian has got to meet some great people all over the world who have been extremely supportive and encouraging. He attributes a lot of his success to Wayne Green who often features Ian’s products on his YouTube channel ‘World of Wayne’, and has become a good friend in the process, always happy to give advice.

Just as for many of you, scale-modeling in a variety of degrees takes place on top of a full time job. By day, Ian is a senior consultant within the HR/Payroll software arena so as you can imagine, his days are long and he and his family rarely enjoy a day off.

The payback is the sense of achievement the Campbell family get from the business, despite the steep learning curve. They are looking forward to developing more ideas which, they say, they couldn’t do without their loyal customers, many of whom buy repeatedly and have become friends.

It’s clear that if you love what you do, and are prepared to give much of your life over to it – you have some of the key ingredients needed to become a fresh new face in a changing world with bountiful rewards! 

Visit Partwork Upgrades:

One Comment

  • Ken Meaders says:

    I love your work. I started building 1/8 replicas ( as I call them ) of race cars I owned at first the began doing them for owners, sponsors and drivers all over the country., in 2010. Never really built models as a kid or any other time. I had to learn or invent different methods to achieve the different shapes that each piece of a car has.. I did it at first just for me and would post pictures on Facebook for my grandkids to see that lived out of town. After a year of building and posting the pictures I was contacted by the CEO of Fatheadz eyewear wanting replicas of 4 sprint cars he sponsored back in Indiana. With just that amount of exposure my hobby instantly turned into a little business which it still is today. There is only one other guy here in the US that does the same thing. His name is Norm Sterner. We both build everything from scratch only buying rod ends made on a 3D printer. All the other pieces are made with styrene and aluminum tube and sheet using fiberglass to make the bodies. Check out my site Old Sprinter Models on Facebook . It’s a labor of love.

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