I had a fascination with model cars when I was a kid, nothing unusual for a young gearhead. It all started when I was about three or four years old and saw some of the ones my dad had built in his teens, still on display in his old bedroom at my grandparents’ house.
Around the age of six I was shopping with my dad at K-Mart one day and he suggested we buy a model to build together. I can’t remember if he or I chose it, but we got a Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS — this was back when the real car was still in production. This was the first of many I built, or should I say attempted to build. My perfectionism always got the best of me, especially when it came to painting the body, I was not too good with spray paint and never got a good finish so more often than not I would just give up at that stage. I had amassed a nice collection of body-less model cars.
My interested in building models fizzled out in my early teens, mainly because I found the process of building them frustrating and by this point I was beginning to tinker with real cars.
Then in my early 20s I was wandering through a department store with my girlfriend (now wife) when I saw a kit for an ’81 Chevy Citation. Even cooler, this was the X-11, the sport version. My interest was suddenly reignited. I bought it.
You’re probably wondering why a crappy and failed early ’80s GM compact would make me want to start to build model cars again. Well, at that time in life I was feeling pretty nostalgic for my childhood, a time when there were not just one but three front-wheel-drive X-Body GM cars in my family. Shortly after I was born my parents decided to trade in their perfectly good first-generation Toyota Celica for a practical family car — a brand new ’80 Chevy Citation, the “first Chevy for the ’80s” and the first front-wheel-drive mainstream family car made by GM. This inspired my dad’s parents to get one themselves. My mom’s parents had a Skylark which was the Buick variant of the X-Body platform.
Me with the old Citation, circa 1986.
Back to model building.
So after buying the Citation kit and a bunch of paint and glue I went to work building it. As an aside, I distinctly remember this was in February 2003 as a special report about the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster had come on the TV as I sat at the dining room table of my apartment, my makeshift workshop. It started to go together really well and I was happy to have rediscovered the joys of model building. I had painted the interior a darker blue and the exterior a lighter blue, just like my parents’ old car.
In the interim I’d started buying more kits including a Revell Datsun 240z (just like the real one my dad had in the ’70s) and a Heller Citroen DS19 (my dream car) with the intention of building them. But I had hit a wall with the Citation, I was not happy with the way the body paint was coming out, too much orange peel and not enough shine. So I put it back in the box and gave up.
So nine years later in 2012 I still have the unfinished model of the Chevy Citation sitting in a box, in fact the photo above was taken this morning. The other kits are still unbuilt and gathering dust. Now and then I still think about trying to finish that kit and build the others. I’d probably need to get new paint and glue, the stuff I have is likely so old that it’s no good anymore.
My life is a lot different now than it was then — I have a house, a real job, a marriage, a daughter, two dogs and three project cars so who knows if I’ll ever get back into building models again. Last night I saw a Facebook post from a friend who said he was building his first kit in years, a ’49 Mercury. Maybe that will be enough to inspire me, it at least got me thinking about it again. If it happens you’ll read about it here first.