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The Model Citizen: Primer is Finer

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk


The Model Citizen: Primer is Finer

"9/10 ths of my modeling career has been spent spinning my wheels..."

Tom Geiger
August 1994

I think about a lot of things on my daily commute to and from work. I'm really not a radio in the car person. In the morning, I'm half asleep and on the way home I'm fried from the day's activities. This leaves me driving on auto pilot with a lot of strange and disconnected thoughts passing through my head. Needless to say, I plan a lot of models on my commute.

The other day I had a strange thought. This is a regular occurance, as those close to me will attest to, but one that will bear sharing in the spirit of this column. Everyone talks in jest about our collective "Unbuilt to Built" kit ratio as if it was the batting average for our hobby. I believe it's somewhere around 300:1 national average. It's a common thought that has been well played out in the hobby press.

My evil thought: What is your "Unfinished to Built" ratio? First let me define 'unfinished'. I will generously include the broad spectrum ranging from model cars needing little details such as antennia installation, down to a modified body we toyed with one evening with full intentions of building a contest killer someday. Ultimately, this includes every kit you've screwed with enough that you wouldn't try to sell it at a swap meet with a clear conscience. Scary, huh?

My personal ratio has to be around 50:1. Basically I have many more great ideas than I have manhours available. Also, my enthusiasm often disappears after I have all the correct parts in one box and I can mentally visualize the finished model. Sound familiar?

Keep in mind that I own seven finished models, built over five years of modeling. I have many times this number in the semi-complete stage. Another scary thought: 9/10ths of my modeling career has been spent spinning my wheels on these unfinished efforts." At this rate I'll never outgrow the china cabinet I keep my completed models in.

I hereby devote this column to these stillborn efforts:

'57 CHEVY NOMAD--- upon completion of my first adult model, my pink and white 1957 Ford, I was stuck in the '57 time warp and 3/4 finished this baby. I idolized this car as a kid and started several of these way back when. This is the old Revell kit, that if rereleased again, my review would simply say, "This kit sucks!". Not withstanding, my attachment to this kit was strong enought that as a semi-adult of 18, I intended to paint my real '56 Chevy to match the box art car in burnt gold with flames, but it got stolen while still in primer!

I learned to Bare Metal and funny fur carpet on this one. It stalled when I wondered how a Beretta v-6 from drive setup would work here. Never got past this and now realize that none of my finished parts were ever meant to fit together and reasonably resemble a Nomad.

THE DEORA HAULER--- Those close to me know that I bought two cases of Deoras for the slant six engines. Past this, there isn't much else useful in the kit. I practiced chassis lengthening and did my first scratch building, forming the hauler body from plastic sheet stock. I showed this one in the primer class at NNL EAST 5 and enough was enough.

THE VOLARE MESSENGER CAR--- I took an old Volare Junker donated to me by Todd Konsol, experimented stripping the body with brake fluid and created my first beater, changing my modeling style forever. I performed body damage with a candle and weathered it with a Polly S railroad weathering kit. It came out pretty good, so plans were to complete it as the New York City messenger car. It stalled somewhere around finding a suitably detailed chassis and we moved on to bigger and better things.

THE '53 STUDEBAKER GULLWING--- Another prominent memory, the '53 Stude Gullwing was my first major body conversion, carefully combining the curves of the 1953 Starliner and the Mercedes Gullwing to fit the Mercedes chassis with lots of green putty and patience. I propped it up with masking tape and toothpicks and it wound up in the Scale Auto's Readers Gallery. After that high, there was little sense of finishing it.

From time to time, another modeler will ask me, "Whatever happened to the...?" and I'll shrug my shoulders and reply, "Still in the box, unfinished". It's on these occasions that I reflect upon the wasted efforts spent bringing this or that one just so far. Then it hit me. Reread the last five paragraphs. Notice how prominently words such as "learned", "practiced", experimented and "first" are woven into the descriptions of these vehicles. The 9/10ths of my modeling career spent in their creation represents the long road of development of my own modeling skills.

Taking them out of their respective cocoons is like a chronicle of my five years in the hobby. My early cars, such as the Nomad, look crude to my learned eye, although they looked fine to me at the time.

Each successive box shows improvement over the last. New techniques, experiments and hard learned lessons. In short, without these babies, I wouldn't be building the models I do today. And I know this isn't a finite set... there will be new additions to the primer collection as I strive to be better and develop my personal cutting edge. The time spent building them wasn't wasted.

I used to promise myself that one day I would finish each and every one of them since they deserve a place in my china cabinet. Now, I only promise not to abandon then into my parts box.

Oh, and whenever I get too big for my britches, I'll pull them out and look them over one more time.

(This column originally appeared in the TSSMCC NEWS, Aug. 1994 and the JSMCC NEWS, Aug. 1994)

Copyright 1994 by Tom Geiger, All Rights Reserved, Used with permission.

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