Top-10 Automobilia and Model Vehicle Dioramas and Signature Pieces

Jerry Liudahl, aka hobbyDB member Oldirish33, is an veteran of collecting automobilia and of crafting high end dioramas and signature pieces dating back to 1974. Today he takes us through 10 of his favorite dioramas as seen through the lens of his camera. Check out his Old Irish Racing!



All images via Old Irish Racing

I have been collecting miniature cars for almost seven decades, literally all my life. Starting out with Dinky Toys and later Corgi, I developed a love for miniature cars and trucks which has carried over to this day. Over the years, I have amassed and sold a couple of collections, but have retained many of the toys from my childhood as my most prized possessions.

Today, I have a collection of over 2,500 models, mostly in 1/43 scale. When I was young, I always had a desire for realism in my miniature toys and as such, favored cars and trucks with drivers, as they always seemed to me more “lifelike.” This passion for realism morphed over to my collecting as an adult and wanting added realism.

When my collection grew to a certain size, I created a website primarily to help me keep track of models I already owned. The result was the creation of small vignettes, or little scenes, around the images I took of the pieces in my collection instead of just static images.

I enjoyed making the models come to life through this process.

The natural progression from this was the making of small dioramas. As a person with moderate modeling skills, I enjoyed the challenge of making these pieces based on the models in my collection. As I say, I have moderate modeling skills and I am in awe of the true masters in the hobby that make dioramas of a quality and detail I can only aspire to. Yet I try and I am proud that some of my work has appeared in books and magazines and even won some awards.

As the proverbial saying goes, an artist’s favorite piece is their current one. While hardly an artist, I too have a hard time picking favorites, so here in no particular order are pieces I have made over the last 20 years that have particular and/or special meaning to me.

Last Stop to Victory

I include this diorama I call the ‘Last Stop to Victory’ and it depicts the last pit stop of the Jaguar that won Daytona in 1988. It is the first diorama I made, now over twenty years ago. An epic victory for a Jaguar enthusiast like me, I wanted to capture that moment in diorama form and see if I could make a ‘realistic’ looking pit scene.

It was a learning process and I look at it now and see all the things that I would redo and are incorrect. I had the advantage of having been to Daytona not too long before and mainly used my mind’s eye to create the piece. I didn’t have many images to work from and memory caused me to over emphasize some aspects, like the car weathering.

However, the satisfaction and sense of achievement I got from doing this propelled me on to do more dioramas.

Le Mans 1970

My collection consists largely of racing cars. It was a natural progression for me to want to do a diorama around one of my favorite races by creating a paddock scene at Le Mans in 1970. Using cars and the support trucks in my collection, I created this rather large piece which taught me to limit pieces to the space I have.

As a result, I have often limited pieces to the size of the base I intend to use. One thing I have learned over the years is that photographic images of racing paddocks are limited. This is an early piece I created, and it is not historically accurate (something I would strive for later) but conveys a busy racing paddock in that period. It also allowed me to use many of the pieces I had on hand in my collection from the race at Le Mans that year.

Le Mans 1964

At some point, I became interested in trying to replicate images taken during actual racing events. While never 100 percent accurate due to my modeling limitations and skill, I strive for as much accuracy as possible.

This diorama was created from a period photograph and is from Le Mans in 1964. It features one of my favorite Jaguars, the Lightweight E-Type pulling away from its pit box with pit crew, drivers and spectators looking on.

I entered this image in the online Isolation Island Concours d’ Elegance during the Covid lockdowns and was happy to win a couple of awards. Like many of my pieces, it’s dismantled after the photoshoot and only lives on in images.

Only so much room!

Le Mans 1983

About ten years ago, I was approached by the former manager of the Richard Cleare Racing Team to make a diorama of their car and pits at Le Mans in 1983. They were one of the last true privateer teams to run at Le Mans and ran there three times. In 1983 they ran their Kremer Porsche CK5 and were doing very well until a poorly machined part from Porsche cost them their race.

Working with photos from and descriptions by someone that was there was an immense help. I was happy to have completed it before Richard Cleare’s passing and happy he gave it two thumbs up. To me it was a period at Le Mans that has sadly given way to big teams with large sponsors. When I asked why they raced at Le Mans, the answer was simple, “We did it for the hell of it.”

What could be better?

Targa Florio

Having already done many dioramas of Le Mans from the 1950’s to the 1980’s, for something new, I turned my attention to another endurance racing contest I hold dear, the Targa Florio. This was my first attempt at making a building from ‘scratch’ and chose the famous house at the hairpin corner at Collesano as my subject.

I wanted to use this building as a backdrop for photos of my Targa Florio models. Since it has changed some from year to year, race to race, I wanted it to not be any year specific, but have that ‘classic’ look and anyone that sees it would know it was an iconic part of the great Sicilian road race.

Since I made this piece, I have also made part of the Targa Florio pits and a typical mountain road section from the race as companion pieces in my display cabinet.

1924 French Grand Prix

I developed an interest in Grand Prix racing in the 1920’s, and the ‘real men’ that were the drivers and riding mechanics in that time period. Racing over public roads, often in poor condition (purpose-built automobile racecourses did not exist), there are many great stories from that era, as well as tragedies where one error could spell fatal disaster for drivers, mechanics or both.

The appeal of this era of racing to me is those elements of danger, combined with the frailty of machines. One of the Alfa Romeo cars in this race driven by the great Antonio Ascari was literally pushed over the finish line.

When I acquired a very nice model of the Alfa Romeo that won the 1924 French Grand Prix, I endeavored to make a diorama around that car and the Alfa Romeo team, busy preparing cars for the race in a French courtyard near the course. There were no organized race paddocks as we know them today, teams often prepared their cars in the courtyards where they were staying, or at blacksmith shops and early garages.

With no image of the Alfa team, I worked with a variety of images from that period to come up with a composite scene true to the era.

Group 44 – Bob Tullius

During the height of the Covid pandemic, I took an idea from a friend of mine (thank you Marshall Buck!) and created a series of small vignettes centered around signed plates by racing drivers and team owners that have been influences and particular favorites of mine through the years.

The centerpiece of each piece would be a particular car or cars that featured prominently in their racing career. This piece is signed by a personal hero of mine, Bob Tullius.

Founder and owner of the great Group 44 racing team in the USA, Bob put Jaguar back on the racing map in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. I had the added pleasure of watching both cars race successfully back in the day with Mr. Tullius at the wheel.

Like most of the pieces such as this in my collection, I made them to pass along to my son.

Peter Brock, John Morton and BRE

Long before I knew of Peter Brock’s involvement with Carroll Shelby and the design of the Daytona Cobra, I was an enthusiastic aspiring racer in the stands watching BRE Datsun’s win races back in the early 1970’s. Their principal driver, John Morton was a great talent that drove his smaller cars competitively with bigger, more powerful competition.

Memories of those races left a permanent mark on my love for racing.

Fast forward almost 60 years and I knew I had to pay homage to these two greats. Much to my delight, Peter Brock, besides being a great automotive icon, is a very approachable guy. Even more so is John Morton who has never gotten the credit he deserves for an outstanding racing career. I was very happy to get both of their signatures so I could create this piece which means a lot to me personally, even though I raced and rallied a Toyota!

1973 Press-on -Regardless

As I mentioned, competing in a Toyota (although brief) played a part in my life in the early 1970’s. Part of my choice in Toyota came from the success of two Canadian gentlemen on the Press-on-Regardless Rally in 1973 – Toyota’s first World Rally Championship win. Imagine my surprise when almost 50 years later I was introduced to one of the drivers through a shared acquaintance in the UK asking me to help him obtain a model of their car that had just been released.

This led to several email and regular mail exchanges, as well as obtaining both driver’s signatures along the way. I of course had to make a small diorama around the car and the epic win of Walter Boyce and Doug Woods on their winter romp through the Michigan woods.

The piece is based on actual photos of the car on the Press-on- Regardless Rally. It actually was that dirty. Google it!

Hurley Haywood

Old Irish

Hurley Haywood is one of the greats of international racing. He of course gained his fame racing with Peter Gregg in Gregg’s Brumos Racing Porsches in the SCCA Trans Am, which is where I first saw him race and win. He went on to have a very successful career racing for some of the top names, in some of the top cars, winning some of the most prestigious races here in the USA and abroad. His stint with Jaguar made him even more of a personal favorite!

Like almost all of the drivers I contacted for signatures with this project, Hurley Haywood was very accommodating and generous. Like most drivers he also seemed to appreciate that someone remembered them and was interested in their signature. He took an interest in my project and besides providing his signature, he also included some photos and a very nice note.

The tribute to Hurley I created here has the Porsche 917 he drove for a year in the final SCCA Can Am, but I have allowed the ability to swap out other notable cars from his storied career.

More from Oldirish33

Building dioramas and making pieces for my Signature Project have become great extensions to my model car collection. I have more ideas than I know I will have time, energy, or the resources to complete.

I appreciate hobbyDB allowing me to share this part of my hobby with you. A gallery of my dioramas and Signature pieces can be seen on my website at

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7 months ago

That 1924 scene with all those Alfas – mouth-watering! What a great job on all those dioramas!

Jerry Liudahl
Jerry Liudahl
7 months ago
Reply to  Karl

Thank you Karl, glad you enjoyed them!

7 months ago

Wow, you never cease to amaze!

Jerry Liudahl
Jerry Liudahl
7 months ago
Reply to  Joschik

Thanks Christian, high praise indeed!

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