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The Model Citizen: Just Walk Away

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk


The Model Citizen: Just Walk Away

"The vehicles on the bench are not losers by any stretch. I've just lost that spark to forge onward with them right now."

Tom Geiger
March 1999

It was one of those Sundays. You know, a bleak December day, cold enough to be uncomfortable, but not enough to freeze the drizzle that had dampened everything, including my spirits. A perfect day to stay indoors.

We have so far evaded our good intentions of catching up on some paperwork. Ditto for paying bills or starting a house project. My computer is currently under the control of a ten-year-old, who is frantically searching the Internet in quest of Furby.

What else is there to do? Head up to the Model Room!

As I sit down in my workbench command seat, I'm immediately confronted with two unfinished projects that I have been avoiding for some time. Awhile back, say September, I promised myself that I'd finish them prior to touching any new projects. The result: I haven't done anything since! I can see that I have developed a severe case of "Modeler's Block".

The vehicles on the bench are not losers by any stretch. I've just lost that spark to forge onward with them right now. My Cavalier Security Patrol Car is actually pretty neat. Most of the car is bright blue, but the four fenders are painted a deep blue in an official law enforcement style scheme. Add my handmade "Big Bass Lake Security" decals and a blue light bar, and the car really comes alive. Big Bass Lake is a vacation community in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania. My family has vacationed there and I like to make these small personal connections with my models whenever I can.

This puppy is about at the 90% mark, but total frustration came over the kit's inherit flaw… the wheels stick way outside the fenders and the chassis utterly refuses to fit and stay put under the body. With every adjustment, another suspension part broke off. You know the story. In a rare instance of maturity, I got up and walked away rather than throw the whole thing at that big paint spot on my wall. But I'm still not ready to face this one again, but that day will come.

The other sad case on the bench is a '64 Chevy pickup. I really don't remember why I'm avoiding this one, but I'm sure it would come back to me real quick if I started to work with it. The truck has been sufficiently dented, Ala Tom, but I purposely didn't rust it since it will be from some warm climate area. The truck so far has an elaborate ladder rack, a huge scratchbuilt toolbox and a red-yellow-green paint scheme that just yells, "Salsa!". This one is the start of my "Beaters Around The World" collection… IF I just sat down to finish it. Not today though.

I start rummaging around the room in a vain attempt to locate something to work on. I briefly think of the elusive Falcons. Of course they are still deep in hiding, but I start opening unmarked or marginally marked boxes. This, of course, yields no Falcons, but starts me off in a totally new direction.

Box number one contains the remains of at least two Johan 1960 Plymouth wagons. Keeping with my overall light commercial theme, the unfinished project is an airport limousine, whose body represents the longest model I own. The two bodies were mated to form one long eight-door wagon.

There is still a lot of conversion work to be done, especially to make the center four doors appear convincing. The interior should sit something like sixteen pre-seatbelt era passengers and a canvas-covered roof rack should hold all their luggage. This would be a bold stretch on the first year uni-body Plymouth, but what the heck. I start to see some possibilities and find some new enthusiasm for this ancient project. The box stays on the workbench.

I crawl through numerous shoeboxes. I find my seat box and take the time to label it boldly this time. Another box is loaded with dead Mustangs. I let them rest in peace.

A marked box contains an unfinished club project. One year (I forget which one!), the Jersey Shore Model Car Club used the Snap-Fast '74 Barracuda as our Christmas project. Wanting to put a little of the earlier era 'cudas into this one, I turned it into an interesting fastback. The primered body appears like a Chrysler Design Studio car, so the plan was to finish it absolutely stock.

I remember getting derailed from my original "keep it simple" intent, searching out the old glue kit chassis and going whole hog on the project, since the roof came out so well. The meeting deadline came and went, so here's the model! Now, looking at it after some time, I'd be happy to add the curbside model to my shelf. I place the body on my paint stand, just so I can sit and admire the conversion.

The bottom box in the pile was a rare find. I hadn't even thought about this Jimmy Flintstone resin cast Dodge A100 van in a long while. The minute I got this body, I immediately started converting it into a van that I remembered from my pizza delivery days. Don, a follower of the Grateful Dead, had modified it into transportation suitable for one with such musical tastes. It had jalousie type windows on the side doors, a porthole window on both side and, very typical for the era, wood bumpers. We all took turns, between deliveries, applying a very bad black and silver brush paint job that would have made Earl Sheib cringe.

Don had painted a small mural on the drivers side of what I remember as the "Let's Boogie!" guy asking "Que Pasa?". I somehow felt the need to immortalize this vehicle in plastic. I modified and painted the body and was very pleased to see this memory start to come alive. The project stalled when I couldn't remember exactly what the mural looked like. I ran into Don a while back and he couldn't remember either, so I guess it really doesn't matter after all. I think we have found our project! Imagine, three possibilities and we haven't even gotten past the Mopar pile!

I immediately dive into rudimentary tasks like sanding imperfections off chassis parts with new enthusiasm. Once the pieces are sprayed their first coat of flat, I turn to the airport limo while waiting for the paint to dry. Right away I see the answer to the previous design problem… aha! I can make new window frames and drip rails from Evergreen plastic! Much easier than trying to restore the existing mess! I mix a little putty and apply it sparingly where I can still see the splice seams. We're working on models!

The van parts should be dry by now, but I've been admiring the Barracuda body out of the corner of my eye as I worked. I pull it down from it's perch and start to figure out how the interior will need to be fitted to include a new luggage area beneath the huge back window. I instantly remember that this was the stop point the last time I worked with this kit. I just happen to have a junk Mustang fastback, so I mate the rear of this interior to that of the 'cuda and start playing with the fit and finish. The juices are flowing again!

I'm off and running! I don't dare stop and ruin roll that I'm on.. We're gonna ride this wave and maybe, just maybe, finish something this time.

I'm not kidding myself either. I set the goal of finishing just one of these "rotating projects" this time around. I may not get there either, but hey, at least they all are a few steps closer to completion for the next time.

I'm pleased that I've developed the modeling skill of "just walking away". Sometimes a project gets too involved, requires skills that you have yet to learn or you are just too close to the project to see that easy solution.

Take a deep breath, pack the box, and maybe the next time you open the lid, you will immediately see the solution to a once perplexing situation.

I like coming back to a project that is beyond that "twist the parts off the tree" phase, reacquainting yourself with an old friend. Unlike 1:1 cars, your unfinished projects never deteriorate into rusty hulks while you ignore them, but are always just the way your left them! And yes, just sometimes one of them makes its way to my display case! Notable graduates of this program include my Dodge Ramcharger and 1960 Falcon Ranchero.

Instituting your own "Rotating Projects Program" can spawn new interest and enthusiasm to your workbench. No longer are you destined to just sit and stare at some unfinished hulk, nor are your incomplete projects packed away and forgotten. It takes the frustration out of what is supposed to be a relaxing experience and oh, every so often, you actually finish something!!!

Copyright 1999 by Tom Geiger, All Rights Reserved, Used with permission.

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