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Model Cars

Model Car kits are great because they come unassembled and can be very fulfilling to build on your own. These kits comes with most of the necessary materials and end up looking great. Another great benefit of these model kits is the variety of vehicles such as cars, trucks, planes, ships, army vehicles, etc...

Below is a terrific introductory article where you can learn the basics and how to get started. You can help grow our learning community by contributing your knowledge to the article. Just click on the edit tab in the wiki article below.

Use the white subtabs above to navigate the other Model Car resources. We have a Model Car forum where you can get your questions & doubts answered, a page with Model Car how-to videos, a page with the best handpicked links to other sites, and a page with the best Model Car books and products.

Good Luck and Have Fun!
Duncan Davis

 

Introduction


The term model car differs from the model of a car. The later refers to the style and shape of the vehicle. The former is a scaled representation of the vehicle.




The world has always had a fascination with the automobile. Collectors of cars spend vast amounts of money to maintain and store the actual vehicle. Most people don’t have the money or space for such a collection. For these people who would like a similar collection, there is another option.




Model kits of cars provide people with the detail of the real thing without the enormous expense the actual car comes with. It is an involving hobby that takes time and patience. The following sections cover the history and different types of model cars there are.




Since this page covers the kit building aspect of model cars, we will look further into the model building process. The key elements of this involve the proper tools and preparations. The rest involves following instructions and/or your imagination.




Getting Started With Collecting Model Cars


When you get started with collecting model cars, the first thing is to decide on the scale – it could be 1:8; 1:18; 1:24; 1:43 and 1:87. The size most loved is the 1:43 and is called the collector’s scale. You get a huge range of models in this scale, mostly die cast or as kits that you can assemble. Collectors tend to collect the model of a particular brand, racing cars or cars that they love and have owned. Some of the most beautiful model cars are the classics from the 1920s and 30s, especially the Rolls Royces and Bugattis. There are several vintage cars in miniature on the market.




The best point about collecting model cars are the contacts that you will develop with other collectors. It is a friendly community that helps each other in finding a rare model car.




How Did Collecting Model Cars Become Popular As A Hobby


As a hobby, collecting model cars has its origins in the post World War II when there were Ace and Berkeley wooden model cars. The first real plastic model car kit was made by Derk Brand in England. It was the model of a 1932 Ford Roadster. Later, he made model car kits for the Gowland Brothers in England and Revell in the US.




Subsequently most car manufacturers made promotional models for their dealers on a 1:25 scale. Kids got to play with these and soon enough, they traded them or collected them as a hobby. As it happened, the hobby caught on during the 1950s and 60s, with promo cars actually bringing in a profit. Companies like AMT, Revell, Jo-Han and Monoram began making model car kits just around then.




The Current Scenario With Model Cars


Today, model car kits are technologically advanced and come with photo etched details, adhesive chrome foil for a chrome trim, engine wiring and aluminum billeted parts. In fact, this kit can be detailed to resemble an authentic car. Dinky cars, as the model cars are called, come with die cast alloy bodies and rubber tyres, like the real car. They also come with drivers and passengers. Around the time of the World War II, some unique military cars were made with tanks, caterpillar tracks and rotating turrets.




Collectors of model cars often auction off the rarer models for thousands of dollars. Today, die cast model cars fetch the maximum profit. NASCAR die cast models are the most popular with collectors of model cars. If you happen to be a beginner, you would take a little time before you built the entire collection!




The important thing about collecting model cars is to only collect items that you really like. It`s a good practice to collect only those items that you love and most collectors do some shopping around before finding the best buy. This helps them to trade the cars more easily or to sell them at a better price.




Experts advise that you do not stick to a specific type of die cast models. It is better to build a diverse collection if you are thinking about profiting from your hobby. What appears low value today could appreciate unexpectedly over the passage of time.




Older die cast car models are a great way to add to your collection and could earn you a tidy profit. Even if the model car looks outdated, you will always find someone out there who wants that particular piece to complete a collection or even to resell it.




Where To Find Model Cars


Surprising as it may seem, you will find some of the best deals in flea markets, on eBay auction sites and on forums. You can find rare bits and pieces for your own collection, as well as develop these routes as a good resource through which you can resell. At auctions sites like eBay, you only have to set a start price. Bids begin to come in and depending on the demand, you can earn a good profit. Some people also set a reserve price.




People do tend to buy model cars at shopping stores but these are often not as well constructed as the cars that you might find in a collectors shop. Those who are into the hobby of collecting model cars can make a good profit by developing their negotiation skills and knowing when to sell.




You will be amazed to know how focused collectors can get when it comes to model cars. They would do anything to find a particular item that is not easily available. Often, a rare car can be quite expensive but with patience, you will find the one you are looking for.




It used to be that collectible model cars were only available at auctions, estate sales or the flea market. Today, with the convenience of the Internet, you can easily look for those rare models. Let us say you want a Formula One racecar die cast collectible car. There are websites where you can quickly find what you want, or even source it from.




As your collection of model cars grows, you could build up a very valuable set that could be worth a fortune some day!




Tools for model kits


If you find that you are serious about pursuing modeling, you’re going to need a number of tools to help in the process. These tools are broken up into two major groups. The first is the essential tools of the trade. These tools enable you to get the proper amount of detailing found in professionally built models.




The second group of tools is more for luxury. These tools make the process easier and the outcome better. These tools are also more expensive so only get them if you find your hobby has turned into a passion. It’s recommended that you start with the basic tools before working your way up to the luxury tools.


 



Essential


Assembling a model by hand is only for the youngest and most basic model builder. These sets most likely have a snap together design with no tools required. Those types of models need little to know guidance and their outcome will show a very basic model.




When you’re ready for the ones you want to display, you’ll need a few tools to help accomplish this. The following paragraphs will introduce the tool and describe some of the functionality of the tool.




The first tool is a hobby knife. The knife comes in two parts the blade and the handle. The normal blade type used in model building is a number 11. The average brand for this knife is Exacto knife. The hobby knife is a great tool for removing plastic pieces from the sprues (the plastic frame that holds the pieces. It also is useful in removing the flash (extra plastic that is still attached to your piece) from the pieces. You can also use the knife in a dozen other situations that you might come across in the process of building the model.




Safety glasses are an important part of model building. When you`re cutting pieces tiny shards and debris are likely to fly about causing minor annoyance and/or injury. Since a good degree of eye sight helps in the model building process, it’s wise not to chance blinding yourself. The safety glasses also play a substantial role in protecting your eyes from harsh glues paints and other materials you might need throughout the build.




Sand paper can prove to be invaluable when trying to achieve a high degree of detail. It can be used to sand away excess glue or create a much smoother surface when painting. It’s recommended to get a variety of grits for these purposes. 400 to 1000 are perfectly suitable ranges when selecting the fineness of the grit. Some modelers go as fine as 2000 for their models.




Fine tweezers make an excellent tool in model building. During any detailed model build, you’ll find occasions to handle extremely tiny pieces. These pieces require a fine tool to allow you to grip and place the piece while still being able to see the piece. The fine tweezers are custom designed exactly for this task.




Paint brushes are a modeler’s best friend. Even when you use airbrushing techniques, you’ll still find that small out of the way parts will need a touch of paint. You can also use these delicate brushes to maintain your models. Perhaps they need a delicate dusting or a small piece needs a touch up to its paint job. Check with your local hobby store to determine if they recommend certain sizes for various jobs.




Pins prove to be ideal for applying a very fine bead of glue. They not only have the ability for amazing precision, but they also give the modeler great visibility on where the glue will be applied. Since the pins are made of metal, they will resist bending or warping like other options you might think of to accomplish this task.




Toothpicks may not be ideal for applying glue like pins, but they do have their uses. Mostly they’re best for stirring your small containers of paint. They also are a good for testing the color and consistency of your paint. It also helps that they’re really cheap.




Glue, without it your models won’t stay together. Check your kit for suggestions on which glues will work best. If no suggestions are given, Testers Glue in the tube will serve for most things. You can also get the advice from the clerk at the hobby store.




Filler, this usually comes in a tube. The large scale equivalent would probably be cocking. Its use here is to smooth out areas between glued parts. Once applied and set, you can use sand paper to smooth the area and get it prepped for painting.




If you aren’t sure if a part fits together, tape makes an excellent tool for helping to figure this out. Tape also makes it easy to cover areas you don’t want painted. Use it similarly to how you’d paint around a window.




Disposable gloves make a nice addition to your modeling tools. Some glue will recommend keeping away from contacting your skin. This will aid in making this possible. Also, gloves will help prevent finger prints when you get to the painting stage of your modeling project.




Finally, paints and thinners are the final essential tools. This will be where the primary amount of customization of your model comes in. It’s recommended that you select the thinner that the paint used recommends. This will insure the most optimum effectiveness and reduce damage to your model.


 



Luxury


As you build more and more models, you might find that certain areas of the process must have an easier method. A lot of times they do. However, it’s really only justifiable if you use the tool more than a hand full of times.




The following tools outlined here are designed to not only make your life easier, but give a more polished model. They may take some time to figure them out. Once you do, it will make a world of difference.




The first two tools are the cutting pliers and razor saw. Both are designed for very precise cutting of small object. This makes pieces held by the toughest sprues a breeze. They can also come in handy if you need to convert a model and need a piece cut.




For those who want a more specific tool, you do have the option of a sprue cutter. This tool is specifically designed for modelers to remove parts. The only draw back is that it has a little less functionality that the cutting pliers and razor saw.




To get more visibility when assembling or painting your model, you can always invest in a desk lamp that has a magnifier. The magnification is not terribly powerful, but it does give you an edge in dealing with very small detail work.




If you find you get tired of gluing and filling, you can move to a more advanced glue. It’s called Cyano-acrylate glue. Many refer to it as C.A. glue. This will not only glue pieces, but it makes excellent filler all in one. It is a very strong product, so it’s recommended to wear safety glasses with it.




When attempting to get a better paint job on a model, it’s recommended to use either a spray can or airbrush. For an airbrush you’ll also need a small air compressor. Due to the application process, you will eliminate streaks left behind by brushes.




Other accessories that can aid in the painting process help the modeler more than the model. Three such pieces of equipment are the paint booth, turntable and hot-glue gun. The paint booth will help ventilate and catch loose paint that shoots from the spray variety paint applicators. It is perfect for those who don’t have the option of building your model outside.




The turntable allows the modeler from touching painted areas. The turning action also means they don’t have to get up from where they are sitting.




The hot-glue gun is used slightly differently. By utilizing the glue on a scrap piece of material, you can use it to position small plastic pieces when painting them. Fortunately, this is probably something you already have and won’t be an additional cost.




Finally, for the most advanced modelers, there’s the dremel motor tool. This is both a cutting and grinding device that makes alterations of plastic pieces possible. It’s recommended that when you begin using this tool, start out with more basic models that are less expensive. This will give you plenty of practice so that when it does matter you’ll have the experience needed for the job.




Preparations for model kits


Before starting you will want to prepare a few things first. The most important point is deciding where you’re going to build the model. A flat sturdy surface is essential for this task. Many people will choose the dining room table for this very reason. However, the model may take more than one sitting to complete.




This is why you should look for certain things when selecting a work space. First, is the surface flat and sturdy? Second, is there adequate lighting? Third, is there proper ventilation of the area? Fourth, is it okay if things spill in this area? With these questions answered you can determine the perfect spot for model building.




Now that you have a work space all picked out, you need to prepare the parts. This includes washing the pieces before assembly. In the model making process, the pieces of your model have to be pulled out of a mold. To do this a mold removal agent is applied to the parts. This agent will prevent other materials from adhering to the surface of the pieces, this includes paint you might try using.




This is why you should wash your pieces first. Take a pan of soapy water and lightly scrub the parts in the sprues with your finger. You can let the parts air dry on a paper towel or other soft clean surface. If beads of water settle on the parts you should use a blow drier to prevent them from spotting the pieces.




You can repeat this process before painting your model. The oils in your fingers can have a distorting effect on your paint job. They may leave finger prints and or cause an uneven coat of paint.




Fix parts that are defective in some way. This includes removing flash from the pieces. You can cut this off with a hobby knife. Fill in sink spots if necessary. Sink spots are typically caused by necessary techniques in the molding process. They show up as depressions in the plastic. Most of the time, these spots are put in out of the way places and don’t need filling. However, if the piece is highly visible you may need to use a filler.




Another fix that some parts need are cosmetic than anything else. For example a part may contain a copyright stamp by the manufacturer. This will be very noticeable if you’re going for an extremely detailed look. You can remove this writing with some rubbing with sand paper.




Read and make notes on your instructions. Many times the instructions will give you a good idea where the tough spots are in your model. You can make note of them and prepare yourself mentally to handle them. It also is good to make notes if you plan to alter the model’s design in certain areas. The instructions also are likely to provide a list of paints to use for an accurate portrayal of the model. With a list of paints in hand, you can have what you need when you need it.




As stated before, a model may take more than one sitting. This means you might want to prepare an area for storing pieces. For decals and small pieces that have been painted, you should use zip-loc bags or similar type container for storage. For pieces still in the sprues you can fit these back in the box. Make sure to separate these pieces with paper towels to prevent scratching of the pieces.




Now that you have all your tools and the prep work out of the way, you can begin building your favorite models.




Conclusion


With the wide variety of makes and models of cars, there is no shortage of possible models to build. Those who fantasize about their dream car can start by creating a model of it.




If time and a steady hand is where your talent lies, then model car kit building may be the thing for you. The pride found in such detail work can be appreciated by nearly everyone who loves cars. So put yourself in the driver seat and get ready for an absorbing ride.