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.