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A Land Rover model kit painted and ready to assemble
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Model Building Is Key To Connecting Generations

Christmas was already a couple weeks ago. The tree is down, the cookies are gone, and all of the returns have been made (well, almost all). And now it’s time to enjoy the gifts we received.

On a whim, I cracked open a model kit that I’ve had sitting on my shelf for several years. This was before Christmas, but I hadn’t planned to build it myself. Instead, I decided to pre-paint the entire kit and present it to my 18-year-old daughter as a gift.

Sounds cheap, I know. But she’s expressed on several occasions that once she graduates college, she’d like to have a vintage Land Rover. Specifically, a Defender in Arles Blue with a white top. The kit happens to be a Series III, not a Defender, but close enough for inspiration.

A Land Rover model kit painted and ready to assemble
The painted model kit, ready for Christmas wrap

So in the weeks leading up to the holiday, I snuck away to the actual Eastwood garage to paint parts. Fortunately, there are always open cans of Aluma Blast, Detail Gray, Underhood Black, Stainless Steel, and other material-correct paints to make everything look perfect. I also ordered a small sample of Arles Blue for the body. I was impressed with the results and convinced my effort would be appreciated as I reassembled the box and wrapped it.

This would have been a gamble for some parents – a cop-out that might land with a thud on Christmas Day. But I know my kid, and throughout her childhood we’ve bonded over a variety of car toys, including models. My gut said this would work.

When she was five years old, I gave her a VW Beetle kit to play with. I turned her loose with the (water clean-up) acrylic paints and we talked about what colors the different parts might be. There were no wrong answers, just pure creativity from her young mind. But she also had questions, and so we had conversations.

A young girl with a painted model kit
The author’s 5-year-old daughter proudly showing off her work

She did the paint and I did the assembly. It was a team effort. The results of that first build were entertaining, but she swelled with pride at what she had created. As I write this, I realize now that I repeated a pattern my father started with me. The first model we built was the Flintmobile from The Flintstone’s cartoon TV series. Many, many others would follow.

It was a pattern my daughter and I would repeat countless times in various formats. There was the custom painted R/C truck that I taught her how to drift on our hardwood floors. And countless Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars that we’d spread out on the floor and have “car shows” with. The 1/32-scale slot car track was a huge hit, though not a long-lived amusement in a house with three Jack Russell terriers.

While all of this sounds like it was a lot of fun for me (and it was), it was also a learning experience for my daughter. She learned not only about different types of cars, but how they work and how they’re built. Cars have never been foreign objects to her; they don’t intimidate her at all. In fact, I recently came home to find the dashboard apart in her car as she was attempting to install a new radio.

A young boy with model kits
The author’s 10th birthday was an avalanche of model kits

I truly believe that if you want to ensure there’s a next generation of car enthusiasts, you have to nurture them. You have to start on their level and let them be kids. Building models is that gateway. As my friend George, a former Franklin Mint model designer, often says, “You have to get down on the floor and play cars with them.”

As for the gift, my daughter said it was her favorite present under the tree. Now we just need to make time to put it together.


  1. Great article and I agree. That being said I made models with my son . But if they don’t have the interest . They don’t have it . Nothing you can do . Only introduce them to it . My son and me are opposite s . Not a bad thing . Just the way it is. Author is lucky . I’m not complaining. Just saying

  2. Love this Place! I visited last year and was impressed with all the different models.
    I almost purchased a Plymouth and a Buick ,couldn’t decide so ill come back later.
    Anyway it’s a nice place to take the Family and look at older cars.

  3. When I was building models in my young age, I was excited of seeing the final result of the Killer street machine I was put together with my imaginaition of being the new Milner driving it. On the other side of being hooked by those classic cars , hot rods and so on, I realised many years later how was simple to talk about ”carburator”, ”Intake manifold”, ”rear end” and all those mécanical words just because I read them on these car models notices for so long that I was educate early to know and recognise all the engine parts names. I realised that building models is not just to assemble plastic parts together! It is also that ”educational” aspect wich is as much as important in that hobby too. When I restored a 1972 CAMARO, I was used to use those mecanical words when was the time to order parts from Classic Industries back in the day . And when you’re from a foreign country when english is not your language , building these models helped me somehow to be easy looking for the right stuff for my 1:1 scale …model!! KIKI from Paris France 😉