I don't remember exactly when I started building models. My earliest recollection is somewhere around 1960. It was an early awakening one morning by my oldest brother Roger.. 

"Paul.. Paul.. wake up, I need to ask you something! - If you had to chose, would you want the turret on your tank pointing straight ahead or to the side?"

"To the front"

"Okay.. go back to sleep"

Later when I got up, I found my tank turret glued straight ahead. Which really pissed me off, because when I went to bed the night before it rotated like it was supposed to. I guess it was a good enough job to play with by my Army brother. I was glad when his leave was over. Not so much that he was going away, but it meant more room for me in a room jam packed with bunk beds and older brothers.

I was 8 in 1960. I know now, that the model car industry exploded just about then. But back then, it was the perfect hobby for an 8 year old who needed to satisfy an automotive appetite. I come from a long line of gear heads, and I'm no different. I tried a couple of airplanes, but it didn't "take" . I didn't get it. Now a car! That I could walk outside and see and touch. Roger had left a couple of custom car magazines behind, and customized cars by George Barris were real. The model car industry put miniature versions of what were in those magazines into the hands of eager 8 year olds like myself.

The first model car I do remember building during that time was the AMT 34 Ford pickup. I must have built it a few times because I remember having a few of them in different incarnations. Amazingly, that truck kit survives today under the Lindberg name. My expertise of customizing back then was gluing on upright exhaust stacks to the running boards, fender skirts, scoops, a brushed on paint job and the kit's decals. 

Sounds pretty goofy today, but at that age, what a sense of pride and accomplishment to actually build a toy I could play with! 

Feeding the model frenzy were television commercials (remember that guy flying out of the sky into a Hertz rental car?) and television shows that showcased model kits I knew I could buy. Route 66.. 77 Sunset Strip.. Bonanza was always good for the new year Chevrolets commercials. The first time I saw the 1963 Corvette Sting Ray, I went to my local S.S. Kresgese the next Monday to see if I could buy it in a model kit!

Later, around 13, we moved and I finally met another kid that was as enthusiastic as I was about models. He was part French Canadian.. somebody LeClair, I think. He was a ministers son. He had already used a spray can for painting a model car body! He was advanced in my book. But he showed me how. One day he and his family just moved away. Sad. But I pressed on in my hobby. 

I was fortunate to have gone to summer camp for a couple of summers. I remember going through plastic withdrawal so badly once, that when my mother came to visit me on one weekend, I pleaded with her to bring me a model! She brought a 59 Impala. I built it while she and Dad sat and visited with me. 

The next year at camp, I brought a model of Ed Roth's Road agent. I have no idea how that kit ever got built because I know I didn't have an xacto knife, and some of those parts in that kit are tiny.

From 13 through 16, if it was a model kit, I'd probably owned and built it. Being the youngest of 7 kids had it's advantages. All my older brothers and sisters had to was ask each other what model they'd bought me for Christmas, and they could get a different one. I remember 1 year I received 20 model car kits. All different, from brothers, sisters, Ma & Pa Santa, Aunts and Uncles. What a life!

I remember buying Monograms '29 Ford pickup. The Blue Beetle. It came with scuba gear and the kit almost fell together.  It also came molded in a light French Blue plastic. Just a pretty model. 

The Munsters, the Monkees, the Green Hornet, all had cool cars! All made it into model car kits!

I built the Monogram Predicta and drove it around my kitchen table for hours. Eventually I tried cutting the kits bubble top down to make a wind screen so I could steer it with the kits Uni~Stick. That didn't work to good using one of our steak knives. 

Amt's kit of the Silhouette was mind boggling to me. Aurora's Undertaker. The Orange Crate. These were all real show cars in those magazines I was buying as fast as they printed them. 

Then, one day, I got my license. And left my passionate hobby behind. L

Then, one day, I got married.

Then, one day, I had a son! Then another day, another one! And my model passion was rejuvenated!

The boys made models with Dad. Modeling started off pretty strong in the 70's but by the time my son's were getting into models, Vans were a big thing, and Corvettes with extra body panels, and more vans, and , and, well, there weren't that many great subjects available. But!, there was the General Lee on television, and a model kit of it. And Hardcastle and McCormick, and a kit of that show's 'star' too! But, mostly, the subject matter in kit form couldn't sustain my kids interest, or mine for that matter. My brother in law Frank had a passion for models, he kept my interest from totally dying away. Occasionally I'd build a kit, but, in 1985 I built Don Prudhommes Wendy's Pepsi funny car, and didn't build again until a friend asked me to build a model of her Trans Am. 

Then I just stopped.

In 1995, I found myself out of work and going to broadcasting school. I bought a model just to see if I still "had it". Something to fill the long days I wasn't in school, wasn't working, wasn't sending out resumes. That kit started the whole process over again. But in a major way. Which brings me to today. Building kits I loved in the old days. And luckily, (or regretfully if you ask my loving wife), with the advent of Ebay and the internet explosion,  there's a resource to find all those kits once again. Skills growing, it's not unlikely I won't buy a badly built glue bomb and try and save it's precious little life. Like this one and the custom vette above.

And besides, just look how lucky my grand kids will be someday to inherit all Grampy's "toys".

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pbc Wednesday, December 03, 2008 11:30:51 PM


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