Uptown Automotive Hobby Shop
The Biggest Little New and Used Car Showroom in Central New York

Model Building Tips


Know your terms.
The term "scale" has become commonly misused, though we all have come to recognize it as describing the approximate size of a particular model car or truck. In the eary '50s, model kits were described more accurately in fractions such as "3/8 inch scale" (which we now call 1/32), "3/4 inch scale" ( 1/16), "1/2 inch scale" (1/24), etc. The fractions we now use to describe a model are easier to understand. For example, 1/24 means one inch on the model equals twenty four inches on the actual vehicle. Thus a 1/2" scale model would be one twenty fourth (1/24) the size of the actual vehicle.

Chrome Spears?
The Monogram '59 Cadillac El Dorado Biarritz and El Dorado Seville kits, and the Gunze Sangyo 1/32 '59 El Dorado kits have chrome taillight spears. This is inaccurate. The only 1959 Cadillac which had the chrome spears was the Fleetwood Sixty Special. To assemble the scale model El Dorado kits correctly, the chrome should be stripped, and the spears painted the same color as the body.

Large or Small?
Revell's '56 Ford pickup, in it's first release, kit #H1283, issued in 1962, had the small rear window in the cab. Later releases, such as kit #7384, issued in 1983, had the large back window.

Stake Bed
Several, but not all, issues of the AMT, and later Lindberg, '34 Ford pickup kits included a stake bed option. Interestingly, Ford did not offer this option until 1936 when disc wheels, stronger than the earlier wire wheels, became standard. However, the parts included in the '34 pickup kits accurately represent the 6 1/2 foot stake bed option offered from Ford from 1936 up through 1956! Thus, conversion possibilities exist for the Monogram '50, AMT '53, and Revell '56 Ford Pickup kits. Obviously the stake bed could be used on other makes as well.

Pot Metal scale model Jeep forward control trucks have long been somewhat mysterious. Some of the mystery no doubt caused - or contributed to - inaccurate information. The FC 170 stake truck model was often listed as 1/22. Measuring the model's wheelbase, however, one finds that particular dimension to be 1/24. The FC 170 pickup, commonly said to be 1/25, is more accurately 1/28.

Having difficulty getting a wheel to fit inside a rubber tire?
Try soaking the tire in hot water. This will make the tire more pliable, and it should then allow the wheel to fit easier.

Having difficulty twisting the cover off of a paint jar?
Try placing the jar under a faucet, and running hot water over the cover. (Remember science class? Heat expands.) The cap should remove without much effort.

Confused by the various shades of black paint (gloss, flat, matte, semi gloss)?
Take a piece of scrap white plastic, or a piece of sprue, and dab a sample of each, (leaving a space in between each) on the plastic, and leave your sample on your work bench or building table as a reminder. You can refer to it as you are building a model, to help you determine which shade to use for a given application. For example, during the "muscle car" era, many cars had flat black grilles. To simulate the openings in such a grille, one might use gloss black in contrast to the flat black grille. Gloss black also gives a realistic appearance to a tailpipe, or carburetor air filter opening; conversely, flat black may be used to simulate "soot" on the inside of a tailpipe. EXPERIMENT!

Can't find "glass" for that kit-bashed, scratch built, or extensively modified model?
Clear sheets of "plastic" are available in various thicknesses from Plastruct, and Evergreen, and there are other options as well. Plastic used under shirt collars, or in display packaging of many household, clothing, food, and scale model (imagine that!) products. For curves and other than flat shapes, some bubble, or blister, packages work well. Try to find clear plastic (some appears milky) and remember it can be waxed if needed, to remove scratches.

Have problems installing window "glass" in your models?
Use white glue (Elmer's, Testors, etc.). White glue dries clear, AND, before it dries, can be removed with hot water.

Jim Amado: The plastic surgeon, builder, collector, writer.
page updated 12/6/2006