Selecting the perfect model car

Selecting your next model car project:

The good news is there are literally hundreds and likely thousands of car models you could choose from. The bad news is there are a lot of model kits to choose from. Don't worry, we are going to walk you through the major decisions and help you narrow down the choices. When selecting a model car kit, you will be evaluating a number of factors that we will detail below:

1. Skill Level - Are you capable of building this kit, and is it a challenge for you?

Most model car kits feature a skill level designation on the box or package that will help give you an idea of the skill or model building experience required to do a fair job or better of assembling and finishing the car.  Here is an overview of the skill levels:

Skill Level 1 -No painting or gluing required, snaps together-Generally for ages 8+

Skill Level 1 kits are manufactured in the end color, so you don't have to paint the model when finished to get something resembling the model on the box. This level kit is also made so that the parts snap together to avoid the use of cement or glue. Skill Level 1 kits are aimed at younger model builders and generally contain fewer parts, peelable decals instead of water-slide, and fewer steps to complete. Many of the parts are in chrome and the wheels are rubber, so the end result is still a decent looking product, but level 1 models lack many of the details of more advanced kits.

If this is your first model, and particularly if you are a young person, we recommend starting with a skill level 1 kit before trying a more advanced one. Just because it doesn't "require" painting and gluing doesn'tmean you can't try your hand at that after you complete the model to get a better look and some experience.

Skill Level 2 -Painting and Gluing required to complete-Generally for ages 10+

You will find that the majority of kits produced fall into this skill level and are the most popular among model builders. There is a wide range of the number of parts from kit to kit, with the most detailed being the ones with the most pieces obviously. The basic parts are usually manufactured in a light neutral color for ease of painting - that color is usually noted on the box.  Model glue or model cement is needed to assemble the model parts. Skill Level 2 kits also use waterslide decals. Waterslide decals are a lot thinner and if done properly with your paint, can end with a seamless finish.

Skill level 2 kits is where most people will generally begin in model building. We recommend sticking with a less detailed version (i.e. less parts) if you don't have a lot of experience yet.

Skill Level 3 - Advanced Kits requiring paint, glue and extra details -Generally for ages 12+

Skill Level 3 model car kits are considered "advanced" and provide an enormous amount of detail and options. Many level 3 model kits include alternate version assemblies and parts to create different looks from the same kit. We recommend you have some previous model building experience before tackling a Skill Level 3 kit due to the complexity of some of the assemblies, the difficult color painting schemes needed, and delicate waterslide decals.


2. Scale - Do you care about scale and what is your preferred scale to work in?

A model's scale refers to the size as compared to the original version. It is expressed as a ratio, so 1:100 is the same as 1/100th. This simply means that the original is exactly 100 times as large as the scaled down model. To put it in some numbers that are a little more relevant, a model that was 1:12 would mean that the model would be 1 inch long for every foot in real life.

The most common scale for model cars is 1:24 (you will see a lot of 1:25, but we consider those the same). At 1:24, a car would be half an inch long for every foot of length for the original. Most model cars in the 1:24 scale will be between 7 and 9 inches long.

There are certainly other scales, and they can be quite interesting or challenging, but your largest selection of model car kits will be in the 1:24 scale. Military vehicles, planes and figures are typically done in 1/35 or 1/32 scale because of the large size of the originals.

If you are planning on doing a lot of models, you would likely want to stay in the same scale, so they can be displayed together. As a general rule, the larger the scale (i.e. closer to 1:1 you get) the more expensive the kit. The smaller scale kits have very small parts and can be very challenging to work with.

In the end, it is completely up to you on which scale you build in and will depend on your personality, skill level, and cash on hand.


3. Material - Standard plastic kit or are you looking for a metal kit?

Plastic kits are the standard material used for model cars, but there are some kits that are available in metal. Both Testors and Lindberg make metal kits that more closely resemble diecast cars when finished. There are usually far fewer pieces to a metal kit and less to no painting involved.


4. Details - How many pieces are in this model and what is the level of detail in the kit?

 As a rule, the more pieces included in the model, the more detailed it is. Experienced model builders really like the kits with large numbers of pieces, because it gives them the opportunity to make a really detailed finished model car. For the beginner, a lot of parts can be overwhelming, especially when the model has alternate versions to choose from with special parts for each.

Choosing comes down to experience level and preferences, but the details and number of parts are something you will want to consider in your model car selection.

5. Make, Model and Year - Do you have a specific type of car, era, or other interest that you want to stay in?

Some model car builders build any and every kind of model they can get their hands on. Other model builders stay in a specific niche or genre. Some build models from a certain time period like the 50's, 60's, muscle cars of the 60's and 70's, etc. Others may build only models from a particular car maker like Ford, Chevy, Dodge. And still others only build a certain car model like Mustang, Chevelle, Camaro.

Just remember that the more narrow your preferences, the less models will be available - particularly if you choose a car Make/Model that is scarcely done in model kits. Overall, you should have no problem finding lots of models to build. The problem is usually too much to choose from.

6. As Pictured/Provided or Custom - Do you like to "color outside the lines" and make hybrid models or change color schemes?

Some of the more advanced kits, particularly the skill level 3 models, include alternate parts and assemblies to make different versions of the model from the same model kit. Some model car builders go even further and add aftermarket parts, switch parts between kits, use different rims and tires. There are as many different variations as there is imagination.

Some kits are made to do multiple model versions, and some just lend themselves to it better. Some of the best models we have seen have had custom mods done to them.

We hope we gave you some information that will help you select the model car you want to build.

Next chapter - 2. Supplies or back to the table of contents