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July 17, 2023
Model Kit Buying Guide

If you’re a nostalgia lover looking for a hobby, the chances are you’ve considered building model kits, and why not? There is something undeniably satisfying about purchasing a new model kit, whether you’re a collector or plan to build something spectacular. You can immerse yourself in building or displaying your pieces of the past. 


If you’re new to building model kits, you have many options for materials, types and model kit difficulty levels. Understanding the basics will get you started on a positive note, so you can enjoy the nostalgia and adventure of displaying your own model.




What Are Model Kits and Why Are They Special?

Model kits are a connection to the past and a way to connect to the next generation. You can find scale models of almost anything, from cars and aircraft to motorcycles and figures. Manufacturers often have license agreements to get the original scale plans of model kit items. They use computer software to reduce the scale until they create a collectible model you can build or display. 

There are so many reasons to collect and build model kits. It’s a rewarding, hands-on activity that lets you spend time with the people you love with something to show for it. Most importantly, you have a connection to your past, to the cars and aircraft you remember vividly from childhood.


Types of Model Kits

One of the best things about model kits is that you have a choice of many detailed collections. If your passion is motorcycles, you’ll find something. You’ll also find what you want if you love Star Trek or trucks. The possibilities are almost endless. 

Often, you can choose the scale you would like to build. Scale refers to how much smaller a model is than the original. For example, a 1:25 AMT 1966 Ford Galaxie is 25 times smaller than the actual model. Many scales are available, and many manufacturers often create starter kits perfect for beginners to find their feet. You can find model kits to suit many passions, but some of the most popular include the following:


Model Car Kits

Model cars are one of the most popular kits you can buy. They take many people back to the days of classic muscle car power like the 1967 Chevy Impala. For others, they make your heart pump as you remember classic films with “Christine,” the 1958 Plymouth Fury, in all her glory. The key is to collect or build what interests you the most, and there are almost countless model car kits to choose from. 


Model Motorcycle Kits

If the speed and power of motorcycles are more your thing, you can choose from several detailed model motorcycle kits. Assembling or displaying your favorite bike in a scale model is a kick, and you can almost hear the engine’s roar inside the model box. For example, bring your dream bike to life with an L.A. Street chopper


Revell LA Street Chopper

Model Truck Kits

Building a big rig or displaying vintage packaging is an epic addition to your collection. There are many trucks to choose from, including more conventional classic models, logging trailers and snow plows. Model truck kits are the perfect option if you like a traditional truck’s pure muscle and impressive details. 


Model Aircraft Kits

Aircraft model kits can transport you back in history, giving you the guts and glory of war or the beginnings of humanity’s journey in the air. The standard sizes for model aircraft include 1:32, 1:48 and 1:72, although the size allows for a 1:144 scale. They’re an ideal choice for the aviation hobbyist, whether you’re an avid collector or want to honor the history of flight. 


Model Ship Kits

Whether you have dreams of being out on the water or want a fleet of model ships that reflect maritime history, you can explore the world of sailing with anything from pirate ships to naval warships and historically accurate galleys. Think about how much time you want to spend on your project. If you’re a beginner, consider starting with a ship with two decks or fewer and progress from there. 


Model Figure Kits

Model figures are one of the best ways to relive your childhood. Whether you’re an avid Star Wars fan or dreamed of sailing the seas with Blackbeard as a child, they make an excellent addition to your model kit collection. You can choose an army of 1:72 scale model kit figures to bring your wartime history to life. Larger, more detailed figures often come in 1:8 and 1:16 scales. 


Model Kit Difficulty Level

Understanding the difficulty levels and time you’ll need is essential to get the most joy from your model kit. You want something challenging, but not so much that you lose steam before the finish line. Many manufacturers assign difficulty levels for model kits, so you know what you’re getting into when you build. There are five skill levels to help you gauge how involved your build will be:

Model Kit Difficulty Level
  • Level 1: These small model kits are perfect for beginners and children. They have between 10 and 30 pieces and snap-fit options, so you don’t need glue. 
  • Level 2: This kit has more parts but is still relatively quick to assemble. Most starter kits are at level two to provide more challenge than the previous level and still let you get used to the process. They often have between 30 and 80 pieces. 
  • Level 3: Level three kits are intermediate and give you more building challenges than the previous two. They take a little longer to complete, often having between 80 and 100 pieces. 
  • Level 4: If you can build a level three, you can manage levels four and five, and the last two levels are more an indication of the time and detail of the kit. Level four kits can contain between 100 and 200 pieces. 
  • Level 5: Consider a level five kit if you’re looking for a real challenge. They can have over 1,000 pieces and take time, dedication, and attention to detail to complete. 

Model Kit Materials

Once you’ve decided on the type and difficulty level you want to start with, consider the materials which materials you would like to work with. You can choose from several options, including the following:


Plastic Model Kits

Plastic is a popular material, as it’s relatively cost-effective and easy material to work with. Plastic model kits come in snap-together varieties or may require plastic glue. They suit all types of models at varying difficulty levels.


Resin Model Kits

Resin models are commonly made from polyurethane. They can be tricky to work with and may come with a higher price tag. There are also chemicals in resin that may not be suitable for young children. As the process of molding the resin is intricate, manufacturers often produce smaller numbers of resin model kits, making this material a favorite for collectors. 

Pewter Model Kits

Pewter model kits are relatively rare. This soft metal alloy is durable and doesn’t tarnish quickly, making it an excellent option for several types of kits. However, other materials hold paint for longer. If you love the color and want it to look fresh, a different material may be better suited to your needs. 

Diecast Model Kits

Diecast model kits have a rich and exciting history. Manufacturers pour molten zinc into a mold to cast the parts for the model kit. The strong and durable parts make them fantastic for moving parts such as opening bonnets. It’s stronger, heavier and generally more affordable than resin. 

Supplies You Will Need

Some model starter kits come with basic supplies like glue and even paint. You may also need some extras to complete the experience, especially if you plan to build regularly. If you need help gathering the right tools for your first build, speak to your supplier — they’ll be happy to point you in the right direction. 

Using Sprue Clippers to cut model kit parts

Some of the essential supplies you need to get started include the following:

  • Sprue clippers: Your model kit parts arrive attached to a frame called a sprue. You’ll need a pair of sprue clippers to remove the parts from the sprue without breaking or bending them out of shape. 
  • Hobby knife: Once you’ve removed a piece from the sprue, the removal area may need some tidying up, which is when you get your hobby knife out. You can also use it to remove mold lines along the sides where the two halves of a mold meet. 
  • Glue options: Many starter kits come with the right glue for the material. It's best to have some options, like super glue and white glue, to complete your project. 
  • Superglue debonder and accelerator: These materials will help you achieve your build without long waits and fix any mistakes. The debonder is perfect if you accidentally glued the wrong thing, and the accelerator limits your waiting time so you can push on when you’re in the zone. 
  • Paint and brushes in various sizes: The instructions should recommend the best color and consistency if your model doesn’t come with paint. There are many paint types, each with benefits and drawbacks. Consider acrylic paint a good starting point, as it’s water soluble and dries quickly. However, acrylic works best with certain materials, so consult your supplier for more information. 
  • Putty: Putty is essential to add the finishing touches to your model before you paint it. You can use it to fill gaps in your model, smooth out lines, and fix sprue clipping accidents. 
  • Sandpaper and sanding sticks: Sometimes, you need something other than a hobby knife to smooth out the rough edges. Assorted sandpaper and sanding sticks are perfect for cleaning up subtle details and larger areas. 
  • Cement tube: You must apply your cement in minuscule amounts, as you want heavy-duty adhesive properties. A small cement tube will help with clean and precise application. 
  • Tweezers: Having at least one pair of tweezers can make your build much smoother. You can hold tiny parts that would be challenging to work with your fingers and put your decals into hot water. You can buy specialized decal tweezers and tweezer sets for building model kits. 
  • Paint stand: Having something to stand your model on while you paint helps you achieve the perfect finish and keeps your hands free. 

Putting Your Model Kit Together

Your model kit should come with detailed instructions, including graphics, that explain precisely what pieces to use and in what order to put everything together. Often, manufacturers number your sprue and parts. Number B7 would be sprue B, part number seven, for example. Take your time to work through the different steps, taking breaks to let the glue set before you move to the next step. 

Aside from following the instructions, you can do whatever you like. Although you might want to create a perfect replica, there are no rules that say you have to — you can get creative, change colors and make choices that bring you joy and take you back to happy times. 

How to Display Your Finished Models

After investing time and money in building your model kit, you want to display it to remind yourself why you built it. Your finished model needs special treatment, so display it somewhere safe and clean. You can find display cases for each model or look at a display cabinet if you plan on building more.

Keep your models out of direct sunlight in a cool, dry environment where you can enjoy them as often as you want. 

Bring The Past to Life With Auto World Store

Browse Products at Auto World Store

Buying, collecting and building model kits are fantastic hobbies and a way to relive your childhood, celebrate history and stay entertained on a rainy day. Whether you’re new to the pastime and want your first build or have collected many model kits before, you can choose a subject and difficulty level that speaks to you. 

Since 1958, Auto World Store has grown from a small mail-order hobby business to a hobbyist’s dream. With hundreds of model kits and skilled professionals available to answer any questions, you can relax and enjoy your leisure time, knowing you have the highest quality kits and supplies. Feel free to browse our online store for an incredible selection of collectibles and model kits, or contact us with any questions about choosing the best model kit for you!