So I built my share of models as a kid, but I hadn't touched one for many years when I started hanging out with several professional modelmakers about 15 years back. These guys worked at a shop that made architectural models, courtroom exhibits, product prototypes, etc, and when they weren't on the clock they'd crank up the Melvins and ruin their eyesight scratchbuilding dioramas of bombed-out German factories all night long. It was actually pretty pleasant drinking beer, listening to loud/good music, and obsessing over tiny paint details a few inches from my aching eyes, so I picked up an AMT 1/25 scale '70 Impala model (I was driving a hideous '65 4-door Impala at the time and this was the closest I could get to it) and joined the fun, spending many evenings huffing Testors with the model geeks and trying to build a true beater car like the ones I saw all the time in the junkyard...

Now of course I was always trying to get the other guys to stop building the same HO scale trainyards and war-obsessed dioramas- you know, apply their mighty skills to something different, like maybe a diorama of the manager's office in a New Jersey Buick dealership in 1961, only with marmosets closing the deal instead of humans. "Building the same goddamn World War II shit as all the other model geeks is like the really skilled guitar player who plays the same tedious goddamn Yngwie riffs over and fucking over until you're ready to stuff his fucking guitar up the ol' tailpipe!" Blank stares.

But still, we got along fine, and progress on the Impala went pretty well. I got a lot of help and advice on it- you know, the modelbuilding n00b who chose a $6.99 crapola kit and so on.

As time went by, I developed a story to go with the model. The owner would be a wife-beater-shirt-wearing Hayward white dude with a Fu Manchu mustache and self-applied jail tatts made using ink from checker pieces rubbed into powder on the cell floor and mixed with toothpaste. He worked installing bathroom partitions and supplemented his income dealing a little crank. Because he lived in the Happyland neighborhood (which is anything but happy), his car was always getting broken into by other neighborhood tweakers (hence the punched-out trunk lock). The car came with Oklahoma plates and it was just too much hassle to change the reg, so he never bothered. Cops just give you a fix-it ticket for that, dude.

One night, the car's owner (let's call him Max Tork) had a few too many shots of well bourbon at the local tweaker bar and got a little heavy on the gas with his big-block Impala, sideswiping a whole block of parked cars and fleeing the scene. The door and fender were pretty banged up, so he went to Pick Your Part and grabbed a green door and gold fender, intending to Bondo-ize the rear quarter and spring for an Earl Scheib spray job. He did get around to Bondo-ing the rust on the pillar, but never sanded it down.

But that mishap didn't stop him from leaving open containers in the car; after all, a man needs to pop a brew while cruising Hesperian in his hot rod Impala, don't he?

Naturally, the car would be equipped with dual turbo mufflers and no tailpipes, the better to complement the sound of the all-treble cassette deck blasting Y&T.

Running out of gas or getting a flat sucks, dude! Keep a 5-gallon can and a spare tire in the back seat!

Nothing wrong with the upholstery a little duct tape won't fix. The "furry" look of the upholstery is dust buildup. Not sure how to clean it.

As the nights of obsessive Impala building went on, I got more into the details. For example, the windshield only gets cleaned by the wipers (for some reason, the crappier the car, the more likely the windshield washer will work perfectly).

The engine was difficult, because the AMT kit really had crappy underhood detail. I was able to do an OK job on the underside, but I wasn't willing to buy a better kit with a big block and use that engine; by this point the challenge was to do the best I could with the low-quality kit.

Yeah, baby, it's a goddamn big block!

Naturally, the driver's-side door has no handle mechanism- you have to stick your finger in and work the linkage, just like Cheech's Impala in Up In Smoke!

The mags-in-back/hubcaps-in-front look is sort of a Hayward signature theme, much like the donk look is an Oakland theme these days.

Finally, it was done. It's not gonna win any model contests, but it captured the spirit of Max Tork's Impala as well as I felt was necessary. Since then, it's mostly lived in a shoebox, with a few years here and there sitting on my desk with other office flair at various workplaces. Haven't built a model since.


Deal of the Day: Weathered Camaro Model [internal]