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The Model Citizen: Appeasing the Model Gods


The Model Citizen: Appeasing the Model Gods

Tom Geiger
October 1993

Only when they are safely and permanently on my shelf will my model soul be cleansed

As we get older and contemplate our lives, we find that there were many deeds that seemed perfectly acceptable at the time, that we are no longer proud of. Then there are the sins we feel actual guilt for, and feel compelled to atone.

Most of my early modeling exploits fall into the later category. Many an innocent, and later valuable, model died a cruel and unusual death at my eager young hands. Even then I showed great promise in the building of my models, and even greater imagination in planning their entrance into Model Heaven.

To set the record straight, I have no regrets over unbuilt kits still in the box that screamed "Build me! Build me!" throughout my adolescence. They survive to live another day and oddly, a lot of people like them better that way.

Nor do I have any regrets over parts kits used for kit bashing or built models later sacrificed as parts to build better models. Their spirits live on in the cars they gave their all for.

The ones I regret were once proud examples of my workmanship that like Andy Warhol's prophesy, "shined brightly for 15 minutes" only then to be betrayed by their creator.

My earliest memory of model murder was that of an original 1969 Chevy Impala SS coupe. I was eleven and lived in Jersey City, New Jersey that year, one block from AC Chevrolet, where I spend a great deal of my time just being around cars. I was also influenced by the movie, "The Yellow Rolls Royce", so all my Chevys were painted a Testor's (19 cents) brush yellow and black two tone. These were also the two colors known to be as thick as honey right from the bottle and I know I gave it several good coats. You get the picture, but don't laugh. You'd be soaking it in brake fluid today if it had survived.

My main avocation at the time was racing Hot Wheels Cars. All us kids on the block would combine track to make one spectacular course. My house stood three stories high with a garage on the street level and two floors over it. We would attach the starting line to the second level porch rail and run it down to the street.

This being the year prior to our personal discovery of fire, we elected to run the track from the third story window and taped the track ends to the porch rail. Further engineering kept us busy for several hours taping the two Hot Wheels tracks together over the length to hold the 1/25 scale Chevy.

Finally the Chevy was released, ran the track and shot off the porch, hitting the pavement with a crash, splintering into a million non-rebuildable pieces. We could have achieved the same results by merely tossing the Chevy from the same window, but the journey was half the fun of getting there.

My very first light commercial effort was the original Monogram Tijuana Taxi kit. My seventh grade geography class did an exhibit on Mexico, and you guessed it. I built a shadow box around said vehicle. My index card proclaimed that all the Taxis in Mexico were just like this one, and strangely, no one challenged me on this.

I had begun to read Model Car Science magazine and there was an article on model photography and how to use outdoor background scenery to make your models look like real cars. I decided to take this one step further by adding fire to the equation. I figured I could impress everyone with my newspaper quality photos of a real car on fire.

About this time, we had personally tested the incinerary properties of fluids like thinner, paint and Testor's glue. We were also quite impressed with the black smoke emitted from burning sprue and had little concern for environmental issues at this point in our life.

I took one Tijuana Taxi, filled with thinner soaked sprue, to the hill next to my house. I promptly lit it and captured the moment with my Polaroid Swinger camera. My car burned to the ground while I counted the 60 seconds till my black and white photo developed. I was rewarded with a bright spot on an otherwise fuzzy portrait of grass.

Since most of my models were presents from well meaning grandparents, those Monogram Tom Daniels customs played an important part in my life. I literally built the Pie Wagon around a blockbuster. Upon detonation, the upper body shot somewhere in the ozone, but the suspension and engine lived a second life in my first scratch built. Picture a street rod modeled after the old Milk Truck. The frame was all round sprue and the body was cardboard coated with finger nail polish. Somehow, this baby survived.

Junior high school model club contests are like the early Greek Olympics. All the losers are hurled off the nearest cliff. The Thames Panel, Simple Simon, was the victim of a dare on the way home from one of these contests. I was challenged to place it under the real dual wheels of a large International Harvester school bus.

There was a large audience, which is rather important for adolescent showmanship and the pointless destruction of one's assets, so the Thames panel van was sacrificed. Not a piece was salvageable, but I did receive several days of good press at school from the affair.

The Tarantula represented our return to fire and quest for alternate fuels. I sealed the body and we filled it with Cox airplane fuel. Being a cautious type, I placed it in the sandbox and let friend Henry light it. The resulting fireball sent Henry into a backflip and cost him an eyebrow. I was done for the day, but he wanted to do it again. Kids, don't try this one at home.

The Model Gods have tormented me for years over these early deeds and I know the only way to set things straight in my mind is to seek out examples of these desecrated kits and to build them in atonement. Only when they are safely and permanently on my shelf, will my model soul be cleansed.

While I search the flea markets for the models of my misspent youth, I realize that I am not along. Every day more and more adults start back in the hobby and seek out those great kits of the sixties and seventies that we crashed and burned.

The model manufacturers also recognize this trend, bringing back old friends like the Miss Deal funny car, Munster Coach and the S'cool Bus, in what I refer to as the "Penance Series". Rarely in life are we afforded a second chance to make good on our misdeeds. No, we cannot go back to Ann's Candy Store to return the penny candy we stole, nor can we un-cheat our freshman english exam, but thankfully, the Pie Wagon can ride again.

(This column originally appeared in the TSSMCC NEWS, July 1993 and the JSMCC NEWS, June 1993)

Copyright 1993 by Tom Geiger, All Rights Reserved, Used with permission.

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