Memory Lane: Model Cars

Image result for images of plastic car model-making

When I had to buy and install a new computer monitor yesterday, I was afraid it would turn into a fiasco. But once I opened the box and saw the parts, I discovered the assembly was so simple, even I could do it. In fact, it was just like assembling a plastic model car–a pastime which my brother and I enjoyed many times.

You got a box with a picture on it, which contained a bunch of parts and instructions that we really didn’t need. After all, we knew what cars are supposed to look like. So we put them together, and used our imaginations to customize them with the extra parts provided for that purpose. My father built us a display shelf for the models. One great big hot rod model that we got for Christmas had so many extra parts, we were able to make completely imaginary extra cars out of them. I was even able to create a Martian invasion thingy on long legs made from extra exhaust pipes.

I wonder if kids are still making model cars. It requires an attention span, which is hard to come by nowadays.

In addition to being fun, the skills you pick up in passing just might come in handy, years and years later.


6 comments on “Memory Lane: Model Cars

  1. I don’t know whether kids are still building models, but there still seems to be a market for the kits, so someone must be doing it. I just checked Amazon, and there are quite a number of fascinating models for sale, as well as paints and glue. I’m half tempted to get a kit myself — except I don’t dare leave the parts out around my highly inquisitive cat, especially while the paint is drying. (And no, there’s no place in my tiny apartment to hide them without building up toxic fumes in a cabinet or closet.)

  2. Let me start by saying that my hard copy of The Cellar Beneath the Cellar arrived yesterday, hand delivered by an official representative of the United States Postal Service. Thanks Lee.

    Next, congrats on assembling the monitor. I run an IT department and can assure you that assembling something I’ve never seen before is a frequent occurrence for me. I’ve always had a strong mechanical inclination and it has come in very handy in my job. Some of the younger guys aren’t so inclined, and that can cause real problems. I’ve always said that one of my greatest assets in this business is the time I spent as an aircraft mechanic.

    Finally, models. They were my first love, as far as hobbies are concerned. My first model was an AMT ’49 Ford 3 in 1 kit which could be built Stock, Custom or Competition. I dreamed of having three of the same kit, so I could build each version. I also did a ’32 Ford Deuce Coupe, which a reverently built as a stock replica, in honor of my grandfather. Then I tore it apart and built it into a hot rod, in honor of me. 🙂

    There was a 1923 Model T kit which contained two complete cars and could be built in a stunning variety of permutations. Likewise, the Double Dragster kit gave me two complete drag-racing machines from the early ’60s and all sorts of variations which would allow me to start my stash of model car spare-parts.

    By the time I was in my mid teens, I had built some striking combinations using spare parts. Fords with Chevy engines, massive American muscle cars with the tube front axle from a Dragster and cars with massive tires on the back for that certain look that seemed so important 45 years ago, but seems so unimportant in hindsight.

    The skills required to do a masterful job, such as the examples in your picture, would definitely come in handy. None of my models approached the level of detail pictured above, but I definitely learned by building them. They were a good starting point for learning how mechanical devices fit together.

    I learned what manifolds were, and exhaust headers. I learned about the relationship between an engine, a transmission and an differential. The first disk brakes I ever saw were on a model car, probably six or seven years before my parents owned a car so equipped. It was definitely very valuable experience.

  3. My brother and I had model cars heavily adorned with decals. Today my brother has 3 classic cars he enters into car shows – been doing it for years. My brother-in-law finds old car frames and restores them to better than the original. He has a ’37 Chevy that wins awards whenever he enters it. Me? I like a car I can depend on to get me where I am going.

    1. I never advanced beyond the model cars. You should’ve seen my poor father trying to teach me how to drive a standard shift.

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