Cutlass model car kit
Cutlass model car kit
On the bottom shelf of my printer stand is a 12” neatly stacked pile of what appears to be copy paper. It isn’t. About 20 model kits in my personal collection are close by. Deep in the inner recesses of my garage, surrounded by boxes and boxes of model kits, is an unmarked white box that’s about the size of a box of copy paper. There’s paper inside the box, but its no longer plain copy paper.
What’s in these two locations are nearly 20 years of Fred’s Model World catalogs. Its amazing how so much work is compacted into such a small space. Just as remarkable are what’s been leading off all my lists from the first year to present. These are known as Fred’s Model World News and Notes; about 200 in total, covering about 700 or so pages of editorial content. Its not “War and Peace,” but its not an Archie comic book either.
Most of my life has been spent being in love with two things (three including my wife): the automobile and the written word. Sometimes the two work in concert to make a unique catalog for the past 20 years. Other times, I’ve had to choose one love or the other. At other times, I’ve completely abandoned one love, only to find it again and wonder why I ever left it. I’m now at a point where I love both and see no reason to ever have to choose again.
My mother used to take me to the neighborhood library once a week, starting at about age three. I fell in love with it. The library became a regular habit through my school years, all the way through college and to this day. My wife and I did the same with our sons and they too love reading books. The older son is a recording artist whose written and produced volumes of music. Not a day goes by that I don’t read something, although today much of it is done on my iphone.
I became very interested in cars about the same time as my library habit started. By about age 8 I knew the year, make and model of every vehicle on the road, including semi trucks. Car watching was cool and it helped to pass the time traveling in the car. I discovered model kits at age 11 when my mother’s childhood best friend mailed me an MPC Mack DM800 with gravel trailer. Nearly 50 years later I’m still at it in a serious way.
The writing aspect of my life didn’t kick in until my teen years. I was always a good English student but didn’t put two plus two together that writing could be as rewarding as reading. I wrote my first manuscript in my mid teens, a humor book about baseball cards. This took about a year of writing a draft, correcting and typing the on Mom’s old Royal manual typewriter, then making a few copies of the manuscript for a few select people to read. Sadly, this manuscript was lost on a basement flood here about 20 years ago, along with my Hardy Boys books and other treasures.
As mentioned earlier, there have been times when love of cars and the written word caused a dilemma, which reached a critical mass my senior year of high school. My parents had talked me into giving up my “dream” of becoming an over the road truck driver for a try at college. I wanted to be a car mechanic, but also had thoughts of a journalism career. If there’s such a thing as a double major in auto tech/journalism I’ve never heard of it, so I had to choose one or the other. The decision was made when my attempt to rebuild a carb created a minor shop fire that almost turned the teacher’s head into mummified remains. That was the end of my auto mechanic aspirations. Remarkably, the written word and automobile clashed here also, as I was forced to major in Technology when my efforts to get into AP English were rebuffed by the teaching staff.
Despite this, I still managed to be accepted into Morrisville College as a Journalism major for the fall of 1977. By the end of my first semester, I’d decided that writing was definitely for me. I wish to give a big thanks to my college professors at Morrisville, four fine men who were compassionate and skilled in the art of writing: Jerry Leone, Neal Bandlow, Joe Quinn and Charley Hammond. In my last two years of college, at Utica College, I was schooled in the public relations profession by Ray Simon, often called the dean of public relations teachers for his wisdom and long career in PR.
My four years of college for journalism and public relations education proved rewarding. A career in writing was decidedly better than truck driving. During that time, I lost interest in modeling but couldn’t escape my love of cars entirely. Want another car and word contradiction? Two of my roommates were auto tech majors and drove cool cars; a 66 GTO and 69 GTX. A third roommate drove a 72 Cuda, but it only had the slant 6 motor.
The tug of war between words and cars continued after college. I worked two years in the PR field but found it disappointing. I spent three years in the automotive field as a service manager, at the same time doing writing and marketing projects for my employer. At the same, time, I was free lance writing for local, regional and national publications, not making much money but loving being able to write and see my name in print. In 1987, I returned to the model kit hobby after an eight year absence, and fell in love with my hobby again! At the same, time, I changed my career to office administration, which helped clear my head of dealing with my personal tug of war.
When I lost my office job in1997, I had to sell my model kit collection to pay bills. I spent two years working in a lesser office job and selling kits as a sideline. But there was no Fred’s Model World News and Notes yet. On April 1, 1999 I started Fred’s Model World and began thinking of how I wanted to be different than every other model kit dealer out there. Cheaper than the others? Yes. Personalized service? Yes. More catalogs than anyone else? Yes again. But I needed more. I thought, what else can I do that no one else is doing?
Ding! There was always writing to fall back on and that’s what popped into my head. Write something! I’ve always had plenty to say on any subject I’m passionate about, and craved an audience to share my views and memories with. My first newsletter was somewhere during the year 2000, and I’ve written something with each list since then. I’ve discovered people love reading my words as much as they love buying kits, sometimes more.
Some people visit the website just to read my newsletters, which I find very flattering. I’m not the only modeler who loves to read and write.
As long as there’s a Fred’s Model World catalog there will be a newsletter. Some people ask me how do I find something to write about. The answer is how do I not find something to write about? From all my precious memories of my 40 plus years of model kit building and collecting to my many complaints about the hobby, there’s more than enough material. I was trained as a journalist and public relations writer, so my opinions vary from the stark facts to trying to put things in an optimal view. I can complain about the rising cost of model kits and the greed of internet auctions while still writing about the many decent people in the hobby and how they’ve helped me. Anything goes, whether it’s a sentimental memory or railing against the establishment in the hobby. Funny thing, though; in college, my weakness in writing was editorials. Now, its my strength.
Thanks for reading and supporting my modest newsletter. For model kits and more you’ve come to the “write” place.
FRED’S MODEL WORLD AMT AND ERTL MODEL KIT VALUE GUIDE-yes, my guide is still available. This book lists all AMT and ERTL vehicle kits from the late 50’s to 1999. Values are still current. $10