How to Create a Model Car From Scratch

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The model car, more than any other miniature, is often cited as the model that brings people into the hobby. Whether they wanted to build a model 1968 Mustang or a Miami Vice-style Ferrari Testarossa, there is a model car for everyone. Some hobbyists, however, love taking the hobby a step further by creating their own models from scratch. Anyone can create a model car from scratch with the right materials and a little time and effort.

Things You'll Need

  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Modeling clay
  • Wire
  • CAD software (optional but very helpful)
  • Green Stuff (a modeling putty)
  • Decide the size and shape the model will generally take. Obviously if you're going to create a model truck from scratch you're going to need more materials. Conversely, a sub-compact is going to turn out smaller. This is a more important step if you're going to create the model from scratch using traditional materials (wood and clay, for example).

  • Make your initial measurements for the model. The length, width and height are important, but remember that additional dimensions are also going to be key, particularly if you want the model to look realistic or more whimsical. For example, you could measure a larger, rounder hood for a futuristic car with a retro feel.

  • Build the undercarriage and the chassis. Clay, Green Stuff and wood usually work well to make the chassis. Use modeling knives to shape it. Also, consider using metal dowels and rods to give structural support to the model in spots where you know it will carry the majority of the weight.

  • Shape the model's body in the same way. It's a good idea to build it in sections so it doesn't become unwieldy while you sculpt. Building it in sections also makes it easier to keep the design from becoming warped from continuous handling.

  • Add embellishments after you've completed the basic framework. Adding embellishments later makes it easy to remove them and tweak them when they don't quite work.

  • Design your model car using a CAD (computer assisted design) program. They have a very steep learning curve in most cases, but they also make it possible to edit your designs without having to worry about ruining an actual physical mock-up.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you want to create a model car from scratch but plan to base it off of an existing design, then use a model of the inspiration as you work. In other words, if you want to create a Mustang variant then there's no reason why you couldn't build a design directly on the parts of a Mustang model.
  • If you build a model from scratch based on a preexisting design, then be sure you don't include any of the original parts. This isn't a tremendous concern if you plan to keep the model for yourself, but using copyrighted materials in a car design you want to sell might become an issue.
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