Forget puzzles: Model-car building should be your next shutdown activity

(Ross May / Los Angeles Times; Getty Images)

Add model cars, boats and planes to the hobbies making a comeback, another old-school activity, like baking and sewing, that has received a lightning bolt of life because of the coronavirus lockdown.

“We are definitely seeing an unbelievable increase in business across all segments but certainly in plastic modeling,” Alan Bass, an executive with Hobby Enterprises and MegaHobby, said last week by phone.

Jack Hodgkins, owner of Model Roundup, said in an email, “I talked to a man today ... [who] is retired, lives in Central California and is returning to modeling after a 50-year hiatus due to the stay-at-home mandates.”


For many, it’s a throwback to their youth, when building GTOs and other muscle cars was a popular hobby. For others, it’s a chance to introduce sons and daughters to a craft that requires patience and persistence but offers a handsome payoff.

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Hobby stores are closed, but glues, brushes, masking tape and paints are available online.

For first-timers 8 and younger, snap-together kits may provide the best entry-level experience, Bates said.

Another tip for those starting out: Check out the number of pieces (many manufacturers list that number) in the kit you’re considering. Like jigsaw puzzles, the greater the pieces in a model, the more time and skill the build requires.

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Vintage cars tend to be the go-to kits, but planes, trains, rockets and even snowplows are generating significant interest.


Among Bates’ bestsellers is the Cheyenne U.S. Army Helicopter, which costs less than $20. (Prices vary but usually start in the low $20 range.)

“It’s an old kit that hasn’t been around for quite some time that was recently remade, so there’s a big nostalgia factor for those that build model kits in their childhood but haven’t for a while,” he said.

Those spending the lockdown in, say, a mountain cabin might check out the Ford LNT-8000 snowplow, about $50, another popular item the past few months.