SMALL GOES BIG: Drake Trailers Australia Collectible Range Business Development Manager Bruce Hay.
SMALL GOES BIG: Drake Trailers Australia Collectible Range Business Development Manager Bruce Hay. Rob Williams

Tiny trucks become incredibly big idea for makers

DRAKE TRAILERS has been building some of the best heavy haulage trailers in Australia for more than 50 years and in that time has established a reputation as a company that looks for new opportunities where ever they may be.

A perfect example of that was their decision six years ago to produce 1/50th size die-cast models of their clients' interstate rigs and combinations.

Like the models the project started small, but it's now become a fully-fledged six figure business employing three full-time workers and one part-timer.

Drake Trailers' Bruce Hay initiated the project when he saw a gap in the die-cast truck model market.

He put forward the idea for Drake to design branded models of their trailer combinations and client's trucks as a marketing tool.

"Our customers kept telling us they couldn't find good quality die-cast trailer models in Australia, so we decided to make them," Bruce said.

The models were originally displayed in a small room at Drake's Wacol headquarters.

Now they are lined up in large showroom backed by an office and a storage facility.

The humble models have become so popular that one of the first limited run models recently sold for $2,700 on Ebay.

This wasn't a one off occurrence either, and Bruce says he's seen a number of the $437 first-run models sell for $2,500 or more online.

He puts the high value of the models down to the quality workmanship and attention to detail when they're scaled from full size down to 1:50, as well as the limited runs that keep them exclusive.

"The most popular models are always the limited run of truck and trailer combinations done in Australian company livery, like the McAleese or Doolan's."

Since kicking the operation off in 2010, Drake has sold more than 40,000 models and last year sold a staggering 6,000 units.

Most of these sales come from the online store, as enthusiasts from around the world buy up the moment a limited run is released.

"We have sold out of limited runs of truck models literally overnight," said Bruce. It's not just collectors and model enthusiasts that can't get enough of the die-cast collectibles, and in 2015 Drake won the Best New Construction Model award in the UK, as well as being voted into the top five die-cast models worldwide.

These awards explain Drake's success worldwide, with distributors in Europe, South America, New Zealand, South Africa and Japan. Bruce says he's been at truck shows across America and Europe where the Drake logo on his shirt has been recognised by model enthusiasts and truck lovers, which shows how well his humble marketing exercise has panned out.

The future for Drake Models involves more limited lines and a new Signature Series, featuring iconic trucks . According to Bruce, Drake even sells its models back to manufacturers like Kenworth, who proudly display them to show customers.