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Where It All Began

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  • Member since
    June 2015
Where It All Began
Posted by massmodeler on Thursday, July 30, 2015 2:59 PM

When I first became a modeler, I was four years old, my older brother is to blame, he was seven. He had messed up a Revell 1959 Ford and gave it to me. He hated Fords anyway, he preferred Chevies. It was a Christmas present he had received from an uncle.


He made me pay him 25 cents for it, though I never paid him. I managed to take it apart and make it look ok and reassemble. He was angry, LOL, it looked good. Thus began feud, I fell inlove with Fords and he loved Chevy. But, many rainy days, we sat beside each other, making models. We used Testors and Pactra bottles, brush painting. They cost 15 cents a bottle and Testors glue was 10 cents.


Our only source for hobby stuff was Grants, then a very large national chain store. Our Grants store was amazing, it had a huge toy department with a model car section with AMT and Monogram models behind plastic cases. I've never seen any other store do that, and later, in 1966, MPC models (promos) in a display case that was at least three feet long. Why only Grants did this, I don't know.


We were a really low income family, getting Mom to give us even a dollar was difficult. However, when she saw how quiet we were when engaged in building models, she was pleased and coughed up the money. My brother and I used to roam the country side looking for tossed away glass soda pop bottles, they were worth 2 cents at the Atlantic gas station and store.


We'd mow lawns, we'd do anything for money to get model cars. We even looked into trash cans all over the neighborhood and found spray cans of automotive paint, the brand name I remember was Tempo back then. We lived in what was called a development in those days, new homes built on what had been farmland. Our house was a strange new house, built hap hazardly by uncles and friends.


It's funny that back then, if you were poor, you didn't know it. Very strange kits were sold at various stores, Palmer models were so totally garbage, but were 29 cents, a Corvette was the same size as a Ford Galaxie! The best kits until 1965 were AMT and JoHan, Revell was OK but Monogram was doing 1/24 rather than 1/25. When MPC came along, my brother and I immediately recognized that MPC was doing it better.


MPC kits captured the real look of real cars better than AMT and as good as JoHan did. It's no wonder that in just two years, MPC was the leading kit maker taking on AMT and outselling them. Compare an AMT from then to MPC, the AMT kits looked like mere toys. JoHan was as good as MPC though. I do recall when AMT fired back at MPC, in 1970 with their great Motor City stocker series, 68 cents each at KMart.


By then, I was 14 and my brother was 17. We planned to buy out the store at KMart! We did buy about a dozen and also that was when AMT showed us a new kind of 1/25th model, the semi trucks. He never built any of those kits we bought, he was killed a few weeks after our trip to KMart in his beloved '61 Impala convertible, with a 327 Corvette engine, he'd paid $75 for it.


So, now I am almost 60 years old, but you know, when I build models, I bet he is looking down and smiling. Way to go kid, and long live styrene and Testors model cement! This hobby we love will never die.


  • Member since
    April 2004
  • From: Sioux Falls.SD
Posted by gmcman52 on Thursday, July 30, 2015 3:55 PM

Nice story I remenber those days of hunting for glass soda bottles to support my modeling hobby. I'm 63 years young and the only thing that's changed is my eye sight.

Now I have more model kits then I have time to build but that why we do this


  • Member since
    November 2005
  • From: home of pikes peak
Posted by oldcars on Thursday, July 30, 2015 9:50 PM

Thank you for your story.Bow It has brought back a lot of (OLD) memories. If you could see the big smile on my face right now.Geeked Again, thank you. Will be 70 in a couple of months.Whistling Started models around 1953 or so. It was tanks, ships, planes, etc. until 1958. Then it became cars only. Thanks to AMT.Stick out tongue The world has not been the same since then.  Richard

  • Member since
    May 2008
  • From: Fallon, Nv.
Posted by helipilot16 on Thursday, July 30, 2015 10:08 PM

What a marvelous story, except losing your brother must have been horrible.

I am 73 years old.  I began building when I was 11.  I began with Highway Pioneers.  My inspiration came from reading Hot Rod Magazine.  As soon as Johan and AMT began making their models, I was in heaven.  My first  contest winner was an AMT five window coupe, which I had channeled and raised the fenders on.  It was painted AMT's candy apple red out of a spray can.

Model building has been and will continue to be a large part of my life.

Marcus A. Pryor

Most people are as happy as they choose to be




  • Member since
    July 2007
Posted by FloridaBoy on Saturday, August 1, 2015 10:37 AM

I am 68, retired and have lived in South Florida since 1955.  My model building began in small town western Pennsylvania in 1952 at age 5 with my 10 year old uncle.  We all lived in a large family complex downtown - next to a Chevy/Pontiac dealer and my grandmother would exchange lots of favors with the dealer over the years.  One of the benefits was us getting the leftover dealer promos given to new car buyers the year before and were not used.  We always had plenty of AMT 1/25 "free" cars - unfortunately made of acetal plastic. We used base stuff to "customize" the cars - like using tape to make fender skirts, hatpins to make antennae, fingernail polish to make flames, and they turned out horrible.  But at the time they were great to us, and we were enthused.  Soon Highway Pioneers and Revell 1/32 stuff followed, then we moved to Florida.  The only toys I got to keep were my cars. 

In 1958 AMT came out with their 1/25 curbside kits, which in my memory are and will always be fantastic.  I have a couple left and they sure were engraved to a decent scale, detail and proportion, and at $1.39 each, I was always mowing grass to buy more kits. It seemed every store had car kits back then and I bought and bought and built. 

I joined a club from a new hobby shop and the club membership mentored my advancement and improvement over a short time, and by 1961, I was sectioning, puttying, molding, cutting, shortening, chopping, and wiring engines but comparing the work back then to now, very crude.  In late 1961 I started entering contests; the competition honed my techniques and I would spend literal hours looking at one or few models to get inspiration and ideas. I remember those cars like yesterday, and wish I knew the builders for today I would thank them. 

As time went on, I got more enthusiastic and entered every contest in the Ft Lauderdale/Pompano Beach area, including the 1963 Pactra which I won three local trophies and those cars were sent to California to be judged by Ed "Big Daddy" Roth -- wow, then put in CarModel magazine.  Today one of the better cars sits in the Museum in Salt Lake.  I also got a chance to meet Augie Hiscano from Miami and saw his national contest winner which blew me away. 

Over the years, I pursued college, marriage, home owning, competitive tennis, surfing, and Hobie Cat racing, and all the while would come home at the end of the day to build cars, even in the early seventies when it seemed like the walls caved in and the hobby went south - I built alone.

Over the years I created my own niche - hot rods, street rods, customs and vintage dragsters.  Now thanks to a dynamic club I belong, I have expanded to trucks, muscles, competition cars, funnies, and wild stuff.  The 73 year old guy participating in this thread has inspired me as well, as now I can see I have maybe a few more years left to build.

I officially retired model car contests in '94 and built for display only, as hardware became unimportant to just sitting my cars on a table and showing them to my buds. But last August I was urged by my club friends to enter, and won a top 10 in our contest, making it a 53 year span of contest wins. Heck, I never thought I would live that long, much less enter a model car contest!!!!

I am retired and volunteer my work as my career has been kind to me, and I spend at least 6 hours per day working on my models.  What has surprised me most is that the new kits in the last 10 years have really whet my whistle and when I open a box, the wheels start turning!!!!!

I am writing this in the hope that maybe a person or two out there is on the fence whether to go back to building in his/her retirement, and I encourage it BIG TIME!!!!!!  My level of enthusiasm has not abated since I set up my work area and put my unbuilt kits in the same room, with TV, cable, sound, and lights, and I am on my way.  Most of all thanks to my club in Ft Lauderdale, the Model Car Creations 2, who have supported, inspired and encouraged me to return to contests and build like a banshee in heat!!!!!

Ken "FloridaBoy" Willaman

Ken Willaman
  • Member since
    February 2005
  • From: Southeast Pennsylvania
Posted by peanutgallery on Saturday, August 1, 2015 9:29 PM

Tom Brokaw of NBC News wrote a best selling novel titled "The Greatest Generation". It is a tribute to the members of the World War II generation. It is believed that this generation was the greatest generation that any society has ever produced.

I believe that kids that were born after World War II are considered "The Luckiest Generation". We are lucky to have been raised by the World War II generation. They instilled in us values and the rewards for hard work. They continued to make sacrifices so our lives would be better than theirs. That said, along comes 1958 and the introduction of the AMT 3-in-1 model kit. If you were a kid that ate and slept cars, model building was a hobby that could take you to the ultimate level of creativity. The greatest lesson learned by a kid was from the mistakes you made. Each model I built slowly increased my skill level. When I turned 16 and purchased my first car, those modeling skills were beneficial.....

The following is an excerpt from "Black and White TV" that has been posted on the internet. Thought I would share this with you "boomers" who were there at "ground zero" in 1958.

".......We drank water from a garden hose.....We ate cupcakes, white bread, real butter and bacon. We drank Kool Aid made with real sugar and we weren't overweight.......How did we pass math without a calculator?......Remember those Civil Defense drills..aka duck and cover. We really believed those wooden desks would protect us from a Russian missle.....You could walk or bicycle ride anywhere and no one worried about getting kidnapped... We played King of the Hill on pile of gravel on a vacant construction site. When we got hurt, Mom pulled out the mercurochrome and then we got scolded for being irresponsible . Today, it's a trip to the emergency room, followed by a 10 day dose of antibiotics. Then Mom calls an attorney to sue the contractor for leaving a horrible vicious  pile of gravel where it was such a threat.....To top it off, not a single person I knew had ever been told that they were from a dysfunctional family"

Yes, I remember 1958 like it was yesterday!!!!!




  • Member since
    March 2010
  • From: Midwest
Posted by High octane on Saturday, August 1, 2015 10:58 PM

You hit the nail on the head peanugallery as I too grew up in the 50's and it was an awesome time, and one I'll never forget!

High octane

  • Member since
    March 2005
  • From: bay city michigan
Posted by dartman on Thursday, August 6, 2015 2:41 PM

It all started for me when I was 8ish.Our church had every Monday night what they called craft club where you could make all sorts of crafts.The one my best friend and I liked the most was model building.We got to make our choice of cars.I think they were lindberg 1.4/3 kits.None of them came out very good but we were hooked.We started going to Grants and a hobby shop called Winkin,blinkin and nod in the plaza near us.Those stores got every penny we could make cutting grass,pulling weeds ,and washing cars or any other chores.I just recently got in touch with him and he could not believe i still built. He told me he would like to get back into it again.We live many miles apart (me in Michigan and him in our hometown Rochester NY) but will help us get close again.

  • Member since
    May 2014
  • From: Johannesburg South Africa
Posted by GT Junior on Wednesday, September 9, 2015 2:18 PM
I am from a younger generation, but I too grew up in a more carefree time. I got into model building when I was about 5. Here in South Africa we have a chocolate flavored drink called Milo. Back in the early 70's they used to package simple WW1 biplanes in the tins. This is when the bug bit and it hasn't let go. I progressed to 1/72 airplanes and later discovered 1/24 and 1/25 cars. I have been building cars ever since. Being in South Africa presents it's own challenges, but we find ingenious ways of overcoming these setbacks. I have a 18 year old nephew who recently took to building warships and a colleague at my work place has also recently returned to the hobby (He builds WW2 armour). I honestly belive the hobby will survive. As long as there are people who like to do things with their own hands there will be model builders. As for the older members of this forum, keep building the great models that you do and keep inspiring us (youngsters) to be better builders.
  • Member since
    May 2019
Posted by plydude55 on Saturday, July 27, 2019 4:56 PM

Hey, looks like a lot of us are old folks, 71 here, and started building when I was 10 or 11. Started with the little airplane kits and tube glue. Got my first car kit when I was in the hospital, must have been about 14, it was the AMT double model T kit, I was hooked.


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