My Boyhood Model Car Collection

While cleaning out my attic about eleven years ago, I came across 3 large cardboard boxes full of the 1/25-scale model cars I had built as a boy. The first model car I built was a 1940 Ford Tudor sedan, modified to resemble the stock cars I had watched race at Weissglass Speedway on Staten Island. This was right after my family moved to a new house in late 1962, so I would have been 8 or 9 years old. During the next 5 years, I built dozens of them; every time my mother took us to a department store, I convinced her to spring for a new model for me. I think they cost $2 or $3 new. The five and dime I walked past on my way to school every day sold glue and paint. The small jars of Testor’s cost 15 cents. Soon I had just about every color in the Testor rainbow.

Going through the boxes in my current-day attic, the memories came flooding back. I would sit in my bedroom and build these while my two brothers watched TV (even then I was selective about my television shows). At some point, probably from seeing an ad in a modeling magazine I’d picked up at that same 5&10 cent store, I discovered Auto World. To a ten-year-old car-crazed kid, this was heaven. The Auto World catalog sold models, parts and tools via mail order, and I quickly got hooked. My favorite tool was an electrically heated hobby knife, which brought the blade to the perfect temperature to make clean cuts in plastic. I’d cut open the doors, buy hinge kits, and my models would have functioning doors.

By the time I got to high school and its increased workload, I had outgrown the model-building hobby. Yet they remained on display in my bedroom until 1981 when my folks sold their house, at which point the models got boxed up. Although I moved five times between 1981 and 2011, the models never again came out of hiding until that day I decided to declutter the attic.

Time had not been kind to many of them. Glue had dried out, some were broken from handling or poor storage, and others had dust baked into unreachable crevices. Checking eBay, where I had been buying and selling some small-ticket items, I discovered that model cars were quite popular. Promotion on eBay requires photographs so I cleverly created a diorama, using enlarged photos of my own garage glued to poster board. The scale isn’t quite right but I did think there was some positive effect to seeing these models posed as if they were in someone’s driveway.

Buyers preferred unbuilt kits, but it looked like anything would sell at the right price. I put most of my models on eBay and set reasonable reserves. Everything sold, and my recollection is that on average, the models fetched prices between $20 and $30. The models I deemed not sale-worthy were given away to an AACA member who I knew was in the modeling hobby. I had seen some of his work and it was outstanding. I hope that he was able to put my scraps to good use.


Sting Ray coupe, 64?

One of my first, built stock. I remember how pleased I was with the brush-applied black paint.


Sting Ray convertible, ’66?

Unpainted, built as a roadster/racer using the custom pieces in the kit


1965 Plymouth Barracuda

Unpainted, built stock by me except for extreme rake


1962 Pontiac Tempest

Gifted to me by a young man who was a co-worker at my first car dealership. I recall his dad drove a Saab 95 as a daily driver in 1978.


62 Buick 225 convertible

Built by the son of one of my father’s friends who gifted the completed model to me.


Fiat Topolino in box

Started and never finished, had intended to make a dragster from it. Note the $.89 price on box!


1965 Dodge Monaco

Stock except for engine and hood; gold color was molded into the plastic. This fetched one of the better prices on eBay.


1968 Chevy C10 pickup

Truck models were rare; this one has some mild customization


Henry’s Hemi Hearse, ’66 Cadillac

This already-outrageous concept was made more when I moved the front engine to the rear. Note the decal lettering, very influenced by the “Laugh-In” TV show.


1967 Ford Falcon

This is one of the last models I completed, built when I was probably 14. Also one of the few that got spray painted.


1975 Pontiac Firebird

Unbuilt; the last model car I bought. Bought this on a whim while in college and did nothing with it.


A 20-ft. high cat meandered onto my driveway….


All photographs copyright © 2022 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.




The Transportation Exhibits at the 1964/1965 NY World’s Fair

I collect maps. Unlike most other things I collect (cars, tools, books, cameras), maps take up very little space. I can bring home a few maps and slip them into my collection without it raising an eyebrow.

When I attend automotive flea markets, typically Carlisle and Hershey, I see vendors who specialize in maps, and vendors who happen to have a box of maps along with other stuff. Map collecting is a subset of the automotive hobby, and the map specialists recognize this and price their wares accordingly. I don’t know what makes one map more valuable than another, but obviously, age, condition, and rarity all play a part. I tend to do most of my pickin’ at the vendors who are not specialists.

A few years back, rifling through a box of maps at one of these shows, I came across a copy of the “official” map of the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair. It was in like-new condition, and while I don’t recall the exact price I paid, it was five dollars or less. I thought that was a sweet deal, especially since I didn’t own a copy.


The map’s cover and some general information

Although I attended the ’64-’65 NY World’s Fair six times with my family, I have only fleeting memories of it. I was just a kid, and as if you need the reminder, this was 56 years ago. So the map was a welcome way to revisit the event. It came as a surprise to me to see that the exhibits were arranged by category: Industrial, International, Federal and State, and Transportation.


The complete exhibit map

In Transportation, the buildings from Ford and GM dominated. Everything else (Chrysler Corporation, rental car companies, oil companies, and suppliers) was small potatoes compared to these behemoths. (Notably absent was Rambler/American Motors; even back then their budget was so tight that they had to sit this one out.) If the full map is done to scale, and it likely is, then it appears that the Ford Motor Company exhibit may have been the single largest building at the Fair. (In an earlier blog post, I had shown a postcard image of the GM building from this Fair.)


The Transportation exhibits

Look at the index which is part of the map. The ‘time’ next to each exhibit name indicates the approximate amount of time needed to tour the exhibit. This was intended as a way for attendees plan their day, and (as the fair organizers hoped) realize that a return visit would be necessary to see it all. GM, Ford, AND Chrysler each have a recommended visit length of one hour.


The index of Transportation exhibits

When the Fair closed, most of it was torn down with the notable exceptions of the Unisphere and the NY State Pavilion. Flushing Meadow Park, where the Fair was located, still exists, and I visited it in 1984 and took these two photos.

The Unisphere in 1984. Made of stainless steel, it shows no signs of aging.


The New York State Pavilion in 1984


Then, in 2004, the local Mustang Club invited a select few of us back to the Park for the unveiling of the new 2005 Mustang, replicating the launch of the new 1964 ½ Mustang at the NY World’s Fair in April ’64. A photo of my 1968 California Special at that event, with the Unisphere in the background, made its way into the Mustang GT/CS Recognition Guide & Owner’s Manual (3rd Edition) by Paul M. Newitt.

My GT/CS is in the upper right corner

If you visited the Fair, I hope that some of this brings back pleasant memories. If you were not able to visit, I hope that you can marvel at what seemed so futuristic to us in the mid-‘60s.


All photographs copyright © 2020 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

Old postcards Part 2: Travelalls, Datsuns, and Saabs

Old Postcards Part 1 covered postcards of the two New York World’s Fairs. These three postcards below found in my dad’s collection are a potpourri: two are from Cape Cod MA, one of the places my father liked to visit when he traveled (which was infrequent), and the third is an advert for the Datsun 210. I can hear the youngin’s from here: “What’s a Datsun?”



So reads the back of this postcard. Beach buggies? The ‘buggy’ in question is an International Harvester Travelall, a forerunner to today’s ubiquitous SUV. Looking at that soft sand, I’m not sure I’d trust ANY 4WD vehicle to return to pavement, but obviously, the folks who ran these tours found these trucks to be up to the job. Carrying capacity was another advantage. Presuming the vehicle had 3 rows of bench seats, it could likely accommodate a driver plus 8 passengers, adding to the tour company’s revenue per outing.

Relying as I do on Wikipedia, it appears that the pictured Travelall is a model year 1968, the last year for this body style. That conclusion is based on the rear quarter panel trim, which seems to have been a 1968-only treatment. In 1969, the Travelall was redesigned and bore an appearance very similar to the smaller IH Scout.




I can’t say that I recognize either the museum or the monument, but I do recognize all the cars in the parking lot. Was GM having a convention that weekend? Did the Saab owner know that someday the brand would be owned by GM? I kid. Among the GM cars are two ’61 Chevrolets, a ’62 Chevrolet, ’55 and ’62 Pontiacs, and behind the ’62 Chevy, perhaps an early ‘60s Ford Falcon.

At first I had a difficult time determining if the Saab was a late-50s 93, or an early-60s 96, as their front ends are nearly identical. However, the 93s had ‘suicide’ doors while the 96’s doors were hinged conventionally, as appears here. The front grille was substantially redesigned in 1965, putting the postcard car into the 1960-1964 model year range. So except for the ’55 Pontiac, all the cars pictured here are of very similar vintage.


“DATSUN 210: Five models to pick from, with one kind of gas mileage…. It’s economy that makes you feel rich.”

The Datsun 210 had a short run in the U.S.: the model was sold here only from 1979 through 1982. There were indeed 5 body styles: a two-door sedan, four-door sedan, five-door wagon, three-door hatchback coupe, and a special 210MPG two-door sedan.

The U.S. was hit with its 2nd gas crisis of the decade in 1979, so Datsun’s timing was, shall we say, fortunate. The wording on the postcard talks about little other than fuel economy, because that’s what Americans were shopping. The 210MPG model, with a reduced horsepower 1.4L engine and a five-speed manual gearbox, was rated at 47 mpg on the highway. Perhaps most surprising to me is that this vehicle, like almost all Asian imports at this time, was still RWD.

Datsun was still a few years away from switching over its brand name to Nissan, but do note the corporate Nissan symbol in the bottom left-hand corner.

My dad bought a new Datsun 200SX in the early ‘80s, so no doubt he picked up this free postcard at that time. Was he considering the flashy 210 three-door hatchback coupe in the photo? Didn’t the image of the young man serenading his date with a flute influence his decision?


All images are from my personal collection of postcards.



Old postcards Part 1: The GM Exhibits at the NY World’s Fair

While rummaging through a box of my parents’ stuff the other day, I rediscovered a trove of postcards that my father had collected. “Collected” might be too formal of a word; I never witnessed my father actually purchase a postcard. In the mid-20th century, many places gladly gave them away for the free publicity they’d garner. To my dad, a depression-era baby, if it was free, it was for him.


Two cards in particular caught my attention: both postcards featured the General Motors exhibit at the New York World’s Fair, with one from 1939-1940, and the other from 1964-1965. My dad went to both. (He was born in Germany, immigrated to the U.S. at the age of 6, and lived in NYC from 1925 to 1981.)


As little as he talked about anything from the past, he enjoyed sharing the story of how, at the age of 21, he won a brand new 1940 Chevrolet at the World’s Fair. I believe he kept that car right up until the time he married my mom in 1950 and bought a Willys station wagon. I’m 100% certain about the ’64-’65 Fair, because he took the entire family six times! We have photos and video from those trips. I was 10, and it was my first time riding the NY Subway. We took the 7 line, and I have strong memory of numerous exhibits, especially the Ford Motor Company rides, the Sinclair dinosaurs, and the NY State Pavilion. I also saw a real baseball stadium for the first time when I got a glimpse of the new Shea Stadium from a vantage point within the Fair.


Back to 1939: the GM exhibit was huge. Named “Futurama”, it was GM’s attempt to predict a vision of life in the U.S. by 1960. This Futurama correctly predicted the interstate highway system, including multiple traffic lanes and higher roads speeds than existed in the late ‘30s.


The GM Futurama exhibit at the ’39-’40 NY World’s Fair

As this Wikipedia entry details, the theme of the 1939-1940 World’s Fair was “The World of Tomorrow”, and the GM exhibit meshed nicely with that theme. Note the image on the postcard: this was a full-scale exhibit. The people walking along the elevated sidewalks and crosswalks were looking down at full-size vehicles positioned on the roadways below. Also note the rooftop parks, signifying a recognition that if the ground space is consumed by roadways, the greenery and outdoor entertainment needs to go somewhere else.


The obverse of the postcard doesn’t miss an opportunity for GM to pitch its “General Motors Installment Plan”, which “makes it easy to own a new car. Besides it saves him money and provides valuable insurance protection which he needs…” So the ladies of the house weren’t making the vehicular purchase decisions yet? Perhaps they were driving down to the Post Office to buy the one-cent stamps needed to mail a postcard.

The back of that postcard; note that it calls for a one-cent stamp


The 1964 postcard displays what passed for futuristic architecture at that time. Whether coincidence or not, the GM pavilion was right along the highway (Grand Central Parkway? The exit sign in the photo reads “495 – Midtown Tun(nel) – Long Island”. Route 495 is the Long Island Expressway). The obverse of the card reads in part: “General Motors ‘Futurama’ presents the world of tomorrow. The popular Futurama Ride, with stereo sound, predicts the conversion of wastelands to benefit mankind;….” Note the thematic repetition from 25 years earlier. This website details the exhibits within the GM building, and some of the themes are tragically predictive: autonomous cars (highway only!), atomic-powered submarines, large-scale deforestation, and “plazas of urban living (rising) over freeways”.

The GM pavilion from the ’64-’65 NY World’s Fair

Part of my daytime gig involves writing and editing articles which attempt to predict the future (autonomous driving has been a very popular topic of late). I’ve made the wry observation that it’s quite difficult to predict the future, and no one is really very good at it. Where are the flying cars? And who predicted the iPhone?

The flip side of that postcard – stereo sound was a big deal!

It’s fun to look at these General Motors postcards, printed 25 years apart. Their World of Tomorrow was all sunshine and flowers. Of course it would be: why try to predict World War II, the imported car invasion, 50,000 traffic deaths a year, the Motor Vehicle Safety Act, two Arab oil embargoes, the Japanese auto revolution, bankruptcies, and bailouts? And to this child of the ‘60s, add the sad news, impossible to imagine as a boy, of the loss of Plymouth, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, and Mercury. Yet we go on, enjoying our cars and trucks, embracing our present while still looking forward to a better tomorrow. It’s the way it should be.



All images are from my personal collection of postcards.

A Tribute to the Late Brock Yates

Brock Yates passed away a few weeks ago. If by chance the name is not familiar, he had a long career as a writer and editor for Car & Driver magazine, and wrote over a dozen books on cars, auto racing, and the automotive industry. His most infamous “accomplishment”, however, may be as the chief instigator of the Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash, a recurring stunt which led him to write the screenplays for the movies Smokey and the Bandit II and The Cannonball Run.


When I was a senior in high school, the March 1972 copy of Car & Driver magazine arrived home. In it was the story of the running of the first Cannonball race, which was held in November 1971. As an impressionable young lad who was car-crazy and had traveled no farther from my Staten Island home than the Catskills of upstate NY, the idea of hopping into a car, any car, and racing from New York to California absolutely infatuated me. I brought the magazine to school, showed it to the few buddies whom I thought might be interested, and read and re-read the story on my bus-subway-and-ferry commute. To this day, it is perhaps my favorite article ever published in a magazine.


Yates, with co-driver Dan Gurney (talk about a ringer), won in a Ferrari Daytona, making the trip in under 36 hours at an average speed of 80 miles per hour. (Favorite quote: “Masterful driving by Gurney negotiates the extremely dangerous stretches of Route 89 through the Prescott National Forest and the Cliffside highway at Yarnell with relative ease. Yates proves ‘Ban don’t wear off’.”) The other entrants were almost as interesting, and included a Cadillac, an AMX, and several full-size vans. Reading the story again reminds one of both Yates’ determination to change the world, and his own naiveté in thinking that this was the way to do it. (In his C&D columns, he frequently argued that driving was a quicker way to cover long distances than flying.)


Five years later, I completed my first coast-to-coast drive, although it was no race, and it was in a Volvo. My fascination with Ferraris reaches back to this story, and a few short years ago, the very Daytona piloted by Yates and Gurney was on display at Carlisle. It was no small thrill to see it in the metal.


race-p1 race-p2 race-p3 race-p4 race-p5 race-p6 race-p7 race-p8


The entire article is scanned from my original copy, and is attached as 8 PDFs. Take a few moments to read it, then lift your glass to the memory of Brock Yates.

A Boyhood Spent Building Scale Model Cars

If you were a boy in the 1950s or 1960s and were infatuated with cars, one of the best ways to get your jollies was building plastic scale models. Companies like AMT, Jo-Han, Revell, Monogram, and MPC were churning out 1/24 and 1/25 scale plastic model kits by the thousands.

As each new model year arrived, these manufacturers were able to quickly get your favorite new car onto your local store’s shelves. For $1.49, a 10-year-old boy didn’t need a driver’s license to bring home the car of his dreams. Once home, you could build the car exactly how you saw fit, whether 100% stock, or customized like your heroes George Barris and Gene Winfield.

There were a number of different model categories: “promos” were pre-assembled, with no opportunity for customization. “Snap-together” kits were for children or those with no patience. Smaller scale models, such as 1/43 scale, did not capture enough details to fulfill the fantasy. For me, it had to be 1/24 or 1/25 scale models, which required glue, paint, and skill to be completed.

Most of my kits were purchased at department stores like E.J. Korvette’s. But for spare parts, supplies, and tools, nothing topped the Auto World catalog. Auto World, a mail-order company based in Scranton PA, had us addicted and they knew it. I’d get the catalog several times a year, and I would order my paint, body putty, sandpaper, decals, custom grille sets, and tools (my all-time favorite was the electric knife which could cut through plastic bodies, allowing you to make opening doors, etc.).

While I rarely post links to other sites, this one from Hemmings’ blog is worth sharing:

My prime model-building years were from the ages of 9 to about 15. By the time I reached high school, I didn’t have the spare time to devote to this hobby. But the hobby had also changed: the last time I bought modeler’s glue (probably around 1970), the clerk would not sell it to me unless my mother came into the store with me (she did).

As each model was completed, it was proudly placed on a shelf in my bedroom with the other models. They sat there (undusted) all through high school and college. When I moved out of my parents’ house, they still sat there. Finally, when my folks moved, I packed up the models and stored them in the attic.

I’ve had five addresses between then and my current dwelling, and the models were never unpacked. A few years ago came the realization that it was time to let go. A new selling channel called eBay gave me the perfect opportunity to let other interested parties share in what had been mine.

Today, you can still find model car kits for sale, produced by many of the same brands. Almost all of them are manufactured in China. There’s plenty of online information and purchasing sites (Google “scale model car kits”). My guess is that it’s the older hobbyist who indulges, as it’s hard to imagine today’s youth interested in this when they are surrounded by electronic distraction.

The photos below were taken when I put the models online for sale. My biggest hope in sharing these stories and pictures with you is that they trigger similar memories if you were also a model car builder.


I had at least two models of mid-year Corvettes (remember that these were NEW cars when I built these models, and the world had yet to call them “C2”). The black coupe is a ’64 and was done completely stock. The unpainted ’66 white convertible was done up as a racer.



It was unusual for me to build a car “stock”, but that was how the ’65 Barracuda was done (except for the extreme rake). This too was left unpainted. I believe that the white walls were actually decals, and not molded into the tires themselves.


In what must be one of the most unusual models of all time, Jo-Han offered a ’66 Cadillac hearse, complete with, er, what hearses carry. I was especially proud of the copper paint used for the side curtains.


This 1967 Chevy pickup shows you what happens when you’re 12, it’s the Sixties, and you’ve got about a dozen jars of Testors paint at your disposal. Really: a brown body with a pink roof and blue interior?? Let’s not forget the orange brake drums. Oh well. I must have been looking at the cover of Magical Mystery Tour.


This 1967 Ford Falcon looks stock except for that motor sticking out of the hood. The metallic blue paint and silver trim were hand-painted (I spray painted almost nothing, as all the construction was done in my bedroom). Couldn’t tell you when I last saw a real ’67 Falcon.


This 1965 Dodge Monaco convertible had some of the most active eBay bidding among all my models. The bronze color is not paint – the plastic was molded in that color. The car was stock except for the cut hood and blower.


This 1962 Buick 225 convertible is unusual in that I didn’t build it. It was given to me by an older boy who was the son of my father’s co-worker.


In 1964, when the Mustang was introduced, the public was bombarded with print, TV, and radio ads for this exciting new car. One ad gave you the opportunity to send for a 1/25 scale Mustang model (essentially a promo). I did just that, then proceeded to paint the model (and none too well).



In general, in the used model market, unbuilt models sell for more than completed models. This 1975 Firebird was likely the last model I ever bought, and I never built it. I photographed the body with the model’s box in the background.


Another unbuilt model was this Pontiac Tempest, but this one had been given to me in this state by a co-worker in the late 1970s. It also garnered greater interest ( and a better price) on eBay.


A Revell “Fiat Coupe body”, for only 89 cents! I painted the body brown, and that was it. My recollection is that you needed to source everything else (frame, drivetrain, interior) on your own. Let the Fiat jokes begin.


A word about the dioramas:

In many of the above photos, you see the model cars posed on a gravel driveway, with a blue garage in the background. I took photos of my garage, printed them out on 13×17 paper, glued them to poster board, and set them up as a somewhat realistic background. I thought it was effective. Just remember that the mind can be fooled by proportion, as when your cat wanders into the set and towers over your garage.




All photographs copyright © 2016 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.