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The Model Citizen: New Jersey State of Mind

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk


The Model Citizen: New Jersey State of Mind

"… my definition of scenery. I pace my trip by the landmarks of interesting vehicles I need to build someday."

Tom Geiger
May 1998

My commute to work can either be a taxing grind or fairly enjoyable. Like most things in life, it depends on what you make of it. I travel about an hour and twenty minutes each way. I didn't sign up for this, I was transferred under my company's new "You're Lucky To Have A Job" policy. Life is a Dilbert.

The trip is only 45 miles, but falls into the category of "you can't get there from here", so I travel a criss cross of single lane country roads, where I witness New Jersey's gradual fade from the shore to the deep woods. Thus, I pass a lot of scenery on my way.

Being a builder of light commercial trucks and vehicles that have seen better days, you can guess, and possibly share in, my definition of scenery. I pace my trip by the landmarks of interesting vehicles I need to build someday.

Starting out from my home, with a huge travel mug of coffee, I sip and sightsee, and mentally build these probable models.

I no sooner leave the protection of my suburban neighborhood and I pass the "One Car Used Car Lot". This is the second income of an enterprising shade tree mechanic. A surprising array of beat heaps rotate from this spot on a regular basis. These really look like cars dragged home for free, coaxed to sorta run and then sold to those in the market for marginal transportation.

I often find decent model material here. A memorable unit was a '70 Nova, hot rodded by a kid, complete with three different colors of primer and rusty cragers. I can pull this one right from the "Old Pro" kit box. A number of pickups, beat into submission by commercial endeavors, usually sit here too, They are all buildable from the kits in my model closet.

I savor possible builds in my mind until I pass the "Someday Dirt Track Champion", sitting in a driveway on the main road out of town. This 1980 Malibu has been lightened up and had the roll cage and chassis welding completed. It's that light metallic blue that always peels off in time, dotted with primer spots. The ragged edges left by the torch are both black and rusted. It appears to be waiting for a motor and completion. Sitting there as long as I have driven this route, it makes for an interesting monument to procrastination. It only recently became model fodder as I learned that Perry's Resin produces the body!

The half hour marker is a rather forlorn looking early '60s VW Beetle sitting in a field. Its most recent paint job was silver and even that is thinned to the metal on the upper exposed surfaces, yielding to red primer, then to rust.

It's been there for years. I mark my seasons by this display of car and it's surroundings. Winter, with a flat field and snow covering the car's every panel. Spring rolls around with new growth and vegetation that completely envelopes our subject by early summer. Fall kills off the weeds and our little Volks again reappears.

The doors, trunk and hood are all open in a helter skelter fashion. My sense of order wants to walk out there and shut everything, but the disarray is actually one of the elements that makes it an interesting diorama subject.

I have a certain IMC VW built-up that is up to the mission. It's original builder displayed an overzealous fondness for glue. That will keep it from the replica stock arena. It can still live another life under Tom's formula of rust and dirt. I drive on.

Breaking out on country roads, the scenery is dotted with interesting trucks. You just have to know where to look. I occupy myself scanning the woods and fields for glimpses of metal. I know where the faded green Willys Jeep wagon is stored behind the woodshed. This will be recreated on my shelf courtesy of an All American Models recent resin release.

There's the dull blue 1958 Ford panel van with a yellow drivers door that really needs to be built from the F&F Resin Casting vehicle, complete with it's random dents and very rusty bed. I daydream a bit about the possibilities and building techniques I will employ on each of these model projects.

After 45 minutes, I hit Highway 33, and for 20 minutes I cruise along the only four lane road of my commute. My favorite site of the entire trip is a '41 Ford flatbed truck still pulling duty at a farm stand. This truck has charm, from it's careful red and white brush paint job, it's original 1941 license plate and it's load of seasonal produce. It also is missing one of the wide vertical grill bars, which, in my opinion, gives it character. I do have nearly a roll of film on this puppy, since it is just screaming, "Build me!". Although there is no release of this specific truck, that's not a problem. If you know my building speed, I'm sure that it will be kitted long before I ever get around to building it.

The most dangerous vehicle on my journey is not far from there. A '57 Chevy farm truck with dual wheels and a rotting stakebed. Having several of the Ertl '55 Chevy trucks on my shelf already, I have a soft spot for the vehicle series. It's dullcoat red, like my '55 NNL East truck and exhibits the very same rust patterns and, can it be… yes! The same six cylinder engine as my '55 Christmas tree truck. It's already this wonderful blend of two of my favorite models and as I mentioned, this is dangerous since it's for sale. I do fear daily that an inner force will cause it to grace my driveway.

Anyway, we have stopped and shot a roll of film for this model project. I must have at least a case of '55 Cameo kits tucked away and of course, I own the Modelhaus '57 Chevy pickup conversion kit. Life is good.

My journey continues, passing more vehicles, either long standing as lawn ornaments or, like me, on their way to gainful employment. I scan the oncoming traffic for the handyman in his '64 Chevy pickup with the steel rack and homemade trailer. Little does this unsuspecting fellow know, key elements from his vehicle have been incorporated into one currently on my work bench.

I sit at every red light in anticipation of the cross traffic, often to be treated to a glimpse of some low budget adaptation of a work vehicle. Those close to me know that these are the trucks I live to replicate in plastic.

I score! A mid '70s Ford, primer gray, sporting an interesting box built from pressure treated deck wood shoots by. Damn, I left the camera at home! Still, I have mentally recorded the image for future building ideas.

I blink and find that I'm on the main drive of my company's property. The trip has flashed by and I arrive refreshed and ready to jump into work. Some final building thoughts go through my mind as I walk in the door.

Every time someone tells me that they don't have time to be involved in the hobby, I tell them that time is where you find it. I lead a hectic life of work, travel and family responsibilities. You have to consider that my definition of a hobby is something that takes your mind from the dulldrum, your current crisis or problems and leaves you renewed and ready to face the world.

While I lack an abundance of formal bench time, I submit to you that modeling is not just that. It's the ten minutes you spend on an idea sketch at lunch, the phone call you share with a friend, as well as the day devoted to attending a show or club meeting. For all these activities effect your psyche and leave you both enthused and refreshed.

My involvement has become part of my life, part of my thought processes. It gives me mental pleasure and fills my mind at times when I am very far from plastic of any type. Forget the fact that I haven't finished anything on my bench in months, I model daily, whether it's for an hour on my commute or the minute spent examining some plastic shape I have found in a parking lot. Because for me, modeling is a state of mind.

Copyright 1998 by Tom Geiger, All Rights Reserved, Used with permission.

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