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The Model Citizen: A Chance Encounter

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The Model Citizen: A Chance Encounter

Tom Geiger
TSSMCC News/JSMCC News
June 1994

"...suddenly my model has a face and a story. Better than the trophies and magazine photos, my model had come alive."

Most of my model friends are familiar with my 1953 Ford pickup with the canoe on top known as the "Pyrite's Paddler". After all, I have nearly worn the paint off it's corners from dragging it to club meetings and shows over the last year, so everyone should be tired of looking at it by now.

I built the Paddler in the winter of 1992 as a replica of a real truck I had come across in the parking lot of the Englishtown Car Show several years ago. I took three quick photos, not even seeing a model project at the time.

The Paddler is my favorite model in my collection. It was built for the Tristate Scale Model Car Club's annual December contest for the 1992 theme of pickup trucks. It took first place there and did well in the 1993 show season. First Place Light Commercial Class in the Northeast Challenge and the Staten Island Model Car Show, and Best Truck at Plastic East. It appeared in Scale Auto, Car Modeler, Plastic Fanatic, Model Car Journal and Scale Wheels, as part of the year's contest coverage photo spreads. I'm very proud of these achievements, as this is more than I had ever dreamed of accomplishing with a model.

Some interesting statistical information... the Paddler started out as an AMT 1953 Ford pickup kit I bought at a $3.00 closeout sale. It was built on a pink board that protected my kitchen table. It was finished during the hurricane of 1992 for the contest to be held the next day. When we lost power, I pushed the table against the windows for light, while horizontal rain leaked in on wet towels at my feet. So much for the theory of expensive projects built under ideal conditions in a model "clean room".

I'm a firm believer in fate, and something drove me to attend the New Jersey IPMS "Mosquitocon" Model Show on March 18, 1993. Yes, the show as not exactly my interest. The "Civilian Vehicle" class of "Trucks and Motorcycles" makes as much sense as judging "Lawn Tractors and Oranges" as a category. The show space was 24" by 36" total for the class, or half a six foot table.

It was just about the time when I was wondering why I was spending a sunny Saturday amid all these military miniatures when I heard someone looking for me. "Where's Tom Geiger? Who is Tom Geiger?" The show promoter pointed at me and a rather excited gentleman introduced himself as Rory Rooney, the owner of the real "Pyrites Paddler".

As irony would have it, Mr. Rooney is a modeler. A marine mechanic by trade, he builds boat models. He also is into cars, confessing to being a VW nut. He has built a model of every car he ever owned and is currently building a ferry boat to hold them all.

He is a Scale Auto subscriber and was happy to see the Paddler pictured. He said that he was trying to meet me for a year. He ran into lots of people who knew of me, but no one who could connect us. He was led to believe that I lived in New York, so he didn't try the local phone book.

Rory bought the Paddler back in 1961, and it has been his daily driver ever since. In it's early days, the doors were painted white and lettered for his marine service business. It was minus the cap in a photo he showed me.

Later on, he fashioned the cap, shortened down to fit onto the work box, explaining the homemade rear door, overhang and back bumper. The wood accents "Pass Side" and "Suicide" are teak wood from the boat business. The hitch balls, front and rear, are for moving trailers around the boat yard.

The dark blue and gold paint job, applied in the backyard, was done about ten years ago and he suspects never washed since. The grill guard came on the truck when he bought it, but the plastic wind splitter was handmade after an incident with a cinder block took out the windshield. The replacement glass is cut down and reshaped 1980's Buick.

Aside from being the daily workhorse, the Paddler is a camper. Rory said that the pickup interior is pretty close, having a bench seat, but his homemade one has a portapotty under the cushion. The camper area is wall to wall mattress and has running water too.

Rory races a boat known as "Fool's Gold", so the name "Pyrite's Paddler" comes from this, since the element 'pyrite' is often called fools gold. An interesting bit of trivia to know.

The canoe is a year round accessory up top. Rory explains that he enjoys the water, but as a boat mechanic, he doesn't want to look at an engine on the weekends, thus the canoe. He had it lettered "Pyrites Paddler" in large letters because the canoe rental people kept rounding it up as a stray since they rented out the same model. He said that the name clearly identifies it's ownership.

The current mechanics of the Paddler have been updated. The pickup has logged over 450,000 miles, so Rory pulled the tired flathead V8 and transplanted a 300CI 6 cylinder. The rear was updated to a late model 10" one with modern brakes. He plans to put pickup disk brakes up front this spring.

Rory loves his pickup and constant companion for over 30 years. He joked that he'll be buried in it. He said the truck is pretty well known in both Central New Jersey and up north where he camps regularly. People wave at the truck where ever he goes, which is just fine with Rory.

He's quite pleased with my model and let everyone at the show know he was the proud owner of the real truck. He was amazed that I got all the details correct from the three photos that I had. He has enjoyed the "national exposure" as he called it and is happy that someone else saw something special in his ride.

With this chance encounter, at a show I hadn't planned on attending, my model has come full circle. I've met a new friend and suddenly my model has a face and a story. Better than trophies and magazine photos, my model had come alive.

To see an article on "Pyrite's Paddler" please see CAR MODELER Magazine, Nov 1995, issue 43, Page 24

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

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



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