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Building and Detailing Scale Model Cars – Is This Hobby for You?

Building and Detailing Scale Model Cars

Building and Detailing Scale Model Cars – Is This Hobby for You?

Is it time you discovered a new hobby, such as building and detailing scale model cars? Taking up a creative pursuit like this is not only fun but also good for your health! Research shows that creative activities boost brain function, improve mental health and can help to lower blood pressure. Building and detailing scale model cars is a hugely popular activity among car enthusiasts. This hobby is also a hit with those who love the creative world of arts and crafts.

Scale model car kits have been around in stores since the early 1930s. This hobby has steadily grown in popularity over the years and is now loved by millions. For example, the Model Car Hall of Fame website has a 5.4 million-strong community of scale model car enthusiasts. According to news reports, this hobby enjoyed resurgence during the global pandemic lockdown period.  People love a creative challenge. It is also a great way to get your hands on a McLaren F1, or some Detroit Muscle. Maybe you like the idea of working on a vintage Cadillac or a classic Duesenberg? The choice is yours.

Building and Detailing Scale Model Cars as a Hobby

This hobby is all about building model cars that are accurate, scaled-down versions of the real thing. These miniature replicas are meticulously recreated and available in different scales. For example, you can build a car on a 1:12 scale, 1:18 scale or 1:24 scale and so on. This creative pursuit involves piecing together the many intricate parts made from plastic or metal. You will be gluing and painting bodywork, working on wheels and tires, assembling engines and transmissions, putting together braking systems, multi-piece bodywork and decals. Some models also have elaborate interiors, which can be a fun introduction to car interior detailing.

Different Types of Model Cars

Take your pick! There are so many different types of model cars that have been faithfully reproduced from different decades. For example:

  • 1886 Benz Patent-Motorwagen
  • 1910 London Taxi
  • 1942 Chrysler T & C Woody Wagon
  • 1966 Volkswagen Beetle
  • 1977 Ford Pinto
  • 1993 Toyota Celica Turbo 4WD
  • 2008 Lamborghini Reventon Rosso
  • 2014 Corvette Stingray

There is an exciting choice that includes cool antique cars, racing cars, rally cars and iconic sports cars. Whatever your interests, you will be able to find models that appeal to you.

No Scale Car Modeling Experience Required

You don’t need to know your chassis from your exhaust pipe to take up this hobby. No prior auto detailing experience or qualifications are necessary either. However, building and detailing scale model cars involves tiny, fiddly parts. Therefore, you do need patience, dedication, good hand-to-eye coordination, and strong attention to detail. You will be working with your hands and using your head to figure out the construction process. It is a learned skill. However, the more practice you get, the more skillful you will become.

Sourcing Model Car Material and Kits

Where do you find the materials needed to build a scale model car? You should be able to source everything you need at specialty retail stores that sell arts and crafts supplies. If you are a beginner, there is a vast range of scale model car kits available to buy online or in store. These kits include all the intricate parts and pieces needed to construct the car. Each kit will come with an instruction manual. It will tell you which paints you need and how to assemble complex parts. However, whichever scale model you select, you will need:

  • Glue for bonding clear parts and plastics
  • Cutting pliers
  • Modeling paints
  • Different-size paint brushes
  • Hobby knife
  • Masking tape

Some kits do include glue and paint, so always check first before you buy. You might find some other tools helpful too, see below.

Additional Modeling Tools and Accessories

Don’t spend too much money on extra tools or accessories until you’ve had a couple of goes at building and detailing scale model cars. If you do decide to pursue this as a hobby, then it’s worth buying a few extra items. Some of these you may already have at home, such as masking tape, tweezers and toothpicks to help you position intricate parts in the correct place. You can also look out for precision craft tools, such as the following:

  • Magnifier lamp
  • Miniature saws and blades
  • Micro hammer
  • Mini spray gun for car paintwork
  • Hobby knife

A cutting mat will also come in handy, especially if you are cutting out plastic shapes for scratch-building projects, see below.

Scratch-Building Scale Model Cars

You don’t necessarily need to purchase a car model kit where all the parts and pieces are supplied. If you are confident in your modeling skills and abilities, why not have a go at scratch-building a miniature car? If you are building and detailing scale model cars from scratch, you will need plastic sheets, such as Styrene, and cutting tools to enable you to create your own parts for the car. Styrene is available at most hobby stores.

Choose the Ideal Work Space for Building and Detailing Scale Model Cars

Plan out where you can work on building and detailing scale model cars without interruption. Do you have a spare room or empty garage space that is suitable? Pick somewhere with good lighting and a good-sized flat surface to work on.

Online Tutorials, Tips and Techniques

It is natural to feel daunted when faced with the task of assembling multiple miniature car parts and pieces. To get started, simply search online to find step-by-step tutorials. For example, YouTube has beginner tutorials for building and detailing scale model cars. As you gain more experience, you can build more complex kits. If you love picking up useful tips, check out car interior cleaning tips for the car you drive.

Scale Engine Detailing

If you are serious about recreating the make and model of your dreams, have a go at scale model car engine detailing. Thin brass wire that bends easily is perfect when you want to simulate spark plug leads in the engine bay. Floral wire is good for creating oil and fuel lines. Artistic wire, commonly used for crafting jewelry, is ideal for creating electrical wiring. If you can master this task on a small scale, how about engine detailing a full-sized vehicle?

Enter Model Cars into National Competitions

How would you like to enter your model car into a competition? Hobbyists can enter into large or small competitions, depending on their skills and experience. If you start practicing now, you could be ready for the GSL Model Car Championship and Convention series. Scheduled for May 5-8, 2022.

Buy and Sell Scale Model Cars

There is money to be made if you are serious about building and detailing scale model cars. If you work on a rare collectible scale model car, there could be a potential buyer out there willing to snap it up for the right price. For example, a 1978 Mercury Marquis Station Wagon model car is available online for over $200. Auction house Barnebys accepted bids for over $500 for a Pocher 1932 Rolls Royce scale model car.

Online Community and Forums for Enthusiasts

There is a large online community of enthusiasts who love building and detailing scale model cars. FineScale Modeler online magazine offers lots of support for those building and detailing scale model cars. The Fine Scale Modeler forum also covers many discussion topics, such as painting, airbrushing and finishing techniques when detailing scale model cars.

Building and Detailing Scale Model Cars Is a Great Learning Tool

From a Nissan Bluebird Sedan to an Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 roadster, you can learn a great deal about cars from modeling them. It can also be a bonding session in more ways than one! You can enjoy gluing and bonding model parts together whilst also sharing your hobby with a family member or a friend. It is also a good introduction to a career in car detailing. Take your passion for building and detailing scale model cars to the next level and open a mobile car wash or an auto detail shop.


As people increasingly spend more time on their phones and tablets, it is refreshing to have a hobby like building and detailing scale model cars. It takes you away from online activities. The beginner kits are not too expensive and are widely available. It gives you a chance to work with your hands while also strengthening your problem-solving skills. There is a great deal of satisfaction that comes with creating and building something. Who knows? Discovering a passion for scale model cars may even open up a career for you in the car wash industry.

If you take pride in your car on a small scale, why not take it to the next level and schedule an appointment with DetailXPerts to have your full-size vehicle professionally detailed.

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