Hungarian F1 photographer Ferenc Ember, aka “Frank Man”, has also been making a name for himself in recent years as a skilled maker of detailed F1 model cars.
It’s not surprising that Frank Man would develop a skill for making F1 model cars. He hails from Pécs in South Hungary, where a famous British model car maker set up a factory and where he worked for a time. Deeply passionate about Formula 1 model cars, his first model was the mid 2000s Ferrari of Rubens Barrichello, which he bought on eBay. He soon discovered that there was a big market for collecting rare models of F1 cars from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Teams like Hesketh, Minardi and other forgotten outfits.
Frank’s focus has been on producing rare and unusual cars like the Ligier of Oliver Panis, surprise winner of the 1996 Monaco Grand Prix, or Zsolt Baumgartner’s Jordan from 2003. And he’s found a market to sell his creations all over the world. He began by producing 1:43 models, but tells me how the demands of collectors have changed. “In the last decade, the market has boomed. Serious collectors are looking for more elaborately made models, as well as dioramas. There’s also demand for larger 1:12 models, which were previously unheard of,” he says.
His small workshop on the first floor of a blockhouse in Pécs is full of models, both completed and in production. He jumps from one project to another, depending on the orders from collectors around the world. He is already thinking of making an even larger 1:8 model. The bigger the model, the more detailed it can be, which is a true challenge for the creator.
Frank’s most recent love is the F1 model diorama. His first piece recreated Robert Kubica’s big shunt at the Canadian Grand Prix in 2007. Thanks to Frank’s parallel work as an F1 photographer, he was able to take this model into the F1 Paddock and get it signed by the Polish driver. “He was really shocked to see his accident in this form,” Frank remembers.
He also created a diorama of Michael Schumacher’s crash at the British Grand Prix in 1999 (when the German legend broke both of his legs), as well as Jacques Villeneuve and Ricardo Zonta’s crash from the same year, as well as the iconic scene when Ayrton Senna stopped on track to help an unconscious Erik Comas after he crashed at the Hockenheimring in 1991. More recently, Frank Man worked on a diorama of Romain Grosjean’s horror fireball crash at the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix (pictured above). He has also started working on pit stop dioramas, which means not only building the car and the driver, but also all of the pit crew. One of his recent buyers was so concerned about damaging his new toy that he got special approval to hold the box in his arms during his plane flight home!
Frank also takes on commissions, such as a specific request for Michael Schumacher’s car from the Macao F3 race. The German great competed at this iconic race twice, most famously winning in 1991 after a battle with Mika Häkkinen. “It takes a lot of research to find photos that can help me recreate the car and driver exactly as they were. For example, it was really hard to find out which sponsors Schumacher had on his overalls in Macau,” he says. “But it’s always an exciting process.”
Driver figures are also popular, especially the likes of Schumacher, Räikkönen and Lauda, but also lesser known drivers like Michele Alboreto. “I’m seeing a lot of demand from the USA recently. South America is another good market for me,” he says. “In Brazil there is a collector who is mad about the Ligier team, and he wants every model with every specification, with both drivers.”
He is now in contact with some of the biggest collectors around the world, even the Spanish fan whose house, including the toilet room, is full of display cases housing F1 model cars! “The Spanish guy is not alone,” Frank says. “This passion is a bit like a drug. You want to have everything. Which good for us, the model makers!”