I’m sure by now that among model builders especially in the tuner market and guys that follow certain blogs and websites will be familiar with the name Eightyone81. One of their products was featured here some time back. They hit the scene with their rocket bunny 86 and bensopra GTR and instantly got model builder itching to get there hands dirty. With their main prototype builder Toppi making modellers water at their mouths at the latest creations and future releases, they have grown at a rocket pace. Now I have been in contact with Thomas for some time and I felt it only suitable to actually speak to him about this venture. Its not everyday I speak to the owner of a growing business that is really getting exposure in all the good places Liberty Walk and Rocket Bunny just to name a few. So this interview has been planned for some time now but due to our busy schedules it was difficult to ‘sit down’ and do it however the time was made and here it is.
R: I would like to thank you Thomas for taking time out to do this interview with us. Before we get into Eightyone, could you give us some background about yourself and where the love for model building began?
T: I’m an engineer. Working in an IT company. Before I start the model build, I love the casemod and many many hardware modifications have been done / DIY some stuff, such as a Fan controller (Start from PCB drawing to a completed stuff, check this : https://www.facebook.com/thomasgtr34/media_set?set=a.10150399516044721.372154.790284720&type=3).
I started to model build from last mid of 2012. JDM, USDM style, hellaflush… these new terms hit my nerve. And I started to make my first model car: AE86 following the Hellaflush style.
After I finished this, I posted it to my Facebook and recieved many comments and many guys add me as friend. This is how I started my model life.
R: Do you stick just to plastic model builds or do you build a variety of scales and mediums?
T: I mainly focus on the 1:24 plastic model cars. They are easier to purchase, cheap and you can create your idea quicker. I’m also a die-cast collector,1:18 Autoart, 1:43 HPI, Ebbro… Some models like the Autoart 1:18 KPGC10, is a good model but it comes with the original rims… Which is a waste! The KPGC10 add-on kit was born:
R: Lets get down to business. Eightyone has become a worldwide name in the automotive model industry. Can you explain how it all began?
T: The Bensopra R35 and the Rocket Bunny FRS. This is a long story and these 2 cars changed my modeling life. Someday I was surfing my Facebook and saw a picture that made my face go 😯 … What is it? It was Toppi Eightyone’s built: Bensopra R35.
I sent a message to him and asked him about this model car. He is a nice guy and accepted my request: ” Why don’t we make the Besnopra as a transkit and sell it worldwide!?” After few weeks, the prototype came to my house, and I opened the box… and again 😯 … It is crazy! Fully handmade model can be made like that? What a master piece! I added some of my ideas and the parts I wanted the kit to have, this is now the kit selling on Eightyone webstore now.
This is the first kit we started producing: Bensopra R35 transkit. But the casting factory had some quality issues on the first run. Lots of faults, bubbles and imperfections… Made me mad… Finally I dealt with the factory and the Bensopra R35 become Eightyone TK001 – The first model kit we released.
After 1 month, the first batch of kits were all sold. Then I saw Toppi do another crazy built: Rocket Bunny FRS:
After the Bensopra R35 kit, we have gained experience about the kit development and casting. So we decided to develop the 2nd transkit in separate parts.
This kit is the key factor to our brand name. This kit sold 110 sets in 8 months. Not a really big number, but for us this is a big bang!
After I built the Bensopra R35 and Rocket Bunny FRS I sent the pics to SpeedHunters. Their response was beyond my expectation. Thanks again Rod and Dino from SpeedHunters!
R: What makes your products so unique and different?
T: We are selling the products that are quality. For us the most important thing is: Respect. We’re not only producing the kits, we also contact the manufacterers of these real car parts about the license approval. As I know, many of the transkit manufacturers don’t notify the factory about the model kit / transkit license. For the customers, it is not a big deal! If the products are cheap and the quality is good. I’m also a modeler.. I understand the “license” is not a key factor of a decision. However we want to keep the “respect”, Eightyone tradition. 😛
Another thing is : Customer services. We are willing to receive any comments or complain about our products. If the kits have any defects due to the shipping / the loss of package due to shipping, we will change / re-send it for free. We hope all of the customers are happy with our products and services. 🙂
Enjoy your hobby. Honestly, from the very first of the Bensopra R35, I didn’t planned to release the kit as a transkit. But I really love this kit and hope everyone who loves it can get one of it. So the project begun and it’s today’s Eightyone. Without Toppi Eightyone, there will be no Eightyone81. Million thanks to Toppi. Hope we can keep going and growing.
R: What type of struggles did you face when trying to start this venture? I’m sure getting your products mass cast was not an easy task.
T: At the very first beginning: It was a mess… The casting factory is far way from my city. We could only keep contact in via email. They sent me the sample of the Bensopra R35 and everything looked good. When the first order arrived I was completely shocked. Bubbles, twisted, broken, everything you can imagine, it happened. Dealt with the casting factory and decided to use more costly material to cast the body and thin parts. All problems were solved. When I get the kits back to my workshop, I started to clean up each part one by one. This is how we quality check the parts. Not a hard job, but you have to sit in front of the desk overnight.
OK. Some of you might ask: why didn’t you ask the casting factory if the quality works for you? Yes. We tried it before, but the result is not as good as we expected. So I would like to do these job myself to ensure each part is 100%.
R: We see that you are affiliated with liberty Walk and Rocket Bunny. Was it a struggle getting them to license your products? They must have been excited to see miniature versions of their real cars.
T: Bensopra, Tra Kyoto and Liberty Walk. I really love their style! Wider is better! Classic JDM design features modern autos. Just like saying : “Only in Japan.”
As I said before: “Respect”. We do things like a transkit maker. Make the prototype, cast it and sell it. That’s all. You can make the kit at a lower price. Make higher profit, more incomes. Tried to talk with the presidents, and they turned out to be really nice! After each talk, we send them a completed model car to them. They are very happy with this. And willing to sign their name on our products. Win-Win situation. 🙂
Bensopra: Kazunori Ueta san (He don’t like take pictures ><)
Liberty Walk: Wataru Kato san
Another milestone for us is that we have collaborated with Aoshima. Keep your eyes peeled for future projects.
R: We notice that you do have a new drawings division added to your company. Does this mean that there will lots of new and interesting parts that where never made yet? Possibly an Eightyone exclusive model car?
T: Yes. We have many prodcuts ( especially wheels) that were 3D drawn. Special thanks to my friend: AndyKenny Chu. He’s great at 3D modeling. Many products have been draw by him!
Currently we are busy with a RB26DETT that is fully detailed with workable crankshaft and piston. Thanks to todays 3D printing technology the only worry is casting.
We also have a Veilside Fortune in the pipeline, but we still need more experience at 3D drawing as it is a complex project. The 4G63 engine kit prototype was recently completed. The prototype is getting a final clean and check before going into production.
R: From all your products currently produced do you have a specific favorite?
T: This picture can answer this question: 😛
Each kit, rims, engines, decals, photo etched is my favorite. Toppi, AndyKenny and me. Without either of one of us. There is no Eightyone. 🙂
Thank you for taking the time out to be apart of 12TWENTYFOUR. Your work is a great example of what modelers out there can do.
Please note all media belong to Thomas and Eightyone.
For more infro about Eightyone81 check out their website at http://www.eightyone81.com/