Model Info – Customs – My Very First!
By: David Palmeter
The Search and Find Mission
December 26, 2005 – Well over 50 years ago, when I was 11 or 12 years old, the supply of model car kits on the hobby shop or department store shelves was very limited. Plastic models were rare but some manufacturers, like Hudson, Berkeley and Ace, were making kits that were mostly balsa wood with some metal or plastic detail parts . I had been building model airplanes from wood kits, so a wood kit car seemed like a natural. This was my first:
Above – In late 2005, I got interested in tracking down an original kit like the one I had built many years ago, so I turned to eBay.
Above two pix – I found the above kit on eBay and won it on November 29, 2005 for $22.45 plus $4.00 shipping. Since it was partly glued together and was missing the instructions, I continued to watch eBay for another kit.
Above – I was surprised that another of the Ace "Club Coupe" kits came up very quickly on eBay and I won it on December 11, 2005 for $22.50 plus $3.50 shipping. I appeared very complete and unmolested.
Above – When I received the second kit, it turned out to be very complete with one exception, it was missing the balsa piece for the roof. Fortunately, that was one piece included in the first kit and untouched, so the best of both kits were combined and a near perfect kit resulted. I was back to my childhood of the late '40's!
Even more incredible and rewarding is the fact that I still have the original wood car that I built in 1949. This was my first custom car and among my very first of any kind. It turned out to be a bigger job that I assumed, and required a LOT more sanding sealer than I had ever used before. It started as a box of balsa blocks, some detail pieces and a picture of a 1949 Ford. It ended up as a custom predecessor to the 2-seat T-Bird (sorta).
Above – Photo Taken About 1950 – This is a Brownie Hawkeye camera photo taken on our front sidewalk. Note the the windshield has not yet collapsed, the front bumper is still there and that the white sidewalls have not yet been painted on.
Above – Photo Taken December 29, 2001 – I chucked the grille decal and the sucker stick bumper suggestions and substituted some of Mom's aluminum clothes line wire (tough to bend!) for the grille and missing front bumper. Yes, I did paint part of the chassis orange.
Above – Photo Taken October 29, 2005 – The gap in the grille surround WAS covered by the missing front bumper (see black and white picture above).
Above – Photo Taken December 29, 2001 – The interior is a tribute to straight pins as customizing tools – dash knobs and windshield retention. The "3-on-the-tree" shifter is brass rod and a blob of glue.
Above – Photo Taken October 29, 2005 – The steering wheel was the only plastic piece in the kit. The steering column is one of three larger diameter cardboard sucker sticks that came in the kit. They were supposed to be curved into shape as front and rear bumpers (see below):
Above – Photo Taken December 23, 2005 – Parts from the second Ace kit I bought – note the "bumpers" at the bottom of the picture. The steering column is above the steering wheel. The tires have a military style tread and are made of a composite material.
Above – Photo Taken October 29, 2005 – The tires on my model have a more "civilian" type tread and do not match the type from the kit above. They are rubber.
Above – Photo Taken December 23, 2005 – Just to add to the confusion, this is the wheel and tire type that was included in the first eBay kit that I bought. Veco is a model airplane brand, so I assume these are not original to the Ace kit.
Above – Photo Taken December 29, 2001 – I didn't need Bare Metal Foil cause it didn't have any trim. The missing front bumper looked exactly like the still intact rear bumper.
Above – Photo Taken October 29, 2005 – The bumpers were a press fit into the balsa for many years but after the front one was lost, I neatly (?) glued the rear one on. The right side tail light has been gone for a decade or two also.
Above – Photo Taken October 29, 2005 – I didn't waste any valuable time or orange paint when I did the front wheel wells.
Above – Photo Taken October 29, 2005 – Detail of the quality wood working skills of an 11 year old.
Above – Actually, I am kinda proud that I had the patience to sit down and do it, particularly considering what I started with. I am even more proud that I still have it!