A Model Retirement

By bellmannews / April 9, 2023
beautiful line up of model cars

by Martin Sim

I’d always liked building plastic models when I was younger (and my hormones hadn’t arrived). Creative? I’m not sure, but I enjoyed the construction process and the painting, applying transfers and the detailing after the build was finished. There was always the possibility of ‘adjusting’ the appearance of the model afterwards to create something more individual.

The problem was that after the model was finished what did you do with it? You could hang aircraft from the ceiling but cars, boats and figures ended up on a shelf gathering dust. Ultimately they could be used as ‘targets’ (for air guns, catapults etc.) if they became damaged or were seen as less attractive. A few became favourites – ’must keeps’ which got stored safely. 


As hormones became more numerous model building became less attractive. Marriage, home ownership, babies and work became more important. The models were left in the boxes.

As the boys grew older then an interest in models returned in the form of actual flying aircraft. Initially it was a rubber band powered, balsa wood and doped tissue paper covered Cessna that just wanted to dive into the ground. We went through wire line controlled aircraft and eventually ended up with a radio controlled one. But aircraft have an unfortunate tendency – to not fly. Or – to put it another way – crash. Especially if you wire the battery pack the wrong way round so that you run out of power. The resident in the Glebe wasn’t happy when it dived into her hydrangea!

So I moved onto radio controlled boats – at least they just stopped moving when things went wrong. They were good to build and easy to paint. But boats need water, and quite large stretches of not too deep water (in case of power loss!). Rivers have currents, rocks, weeds etc. that can cause problems. The same applies to harbours – and salt water is very corrosive.

Locally the best place is the boating pond at the Duthie Park in Aberdeen, but when it was Model Boat Day it could get busy and you just had to ‘wait your turn’ to get into the water. Eventually, standing around getting cold every Sunday morning lost its fun element. So the boats got put away.

After the boats came a camera – or a few cameras and thousands of slides and prints. Eventually leading to selling hundreds of prints, framed and unframed. Thousands of Christmas cards and hundreds of calenders.

On retirement I didn’t have the shop window to display my photographs for sale so all that got boxed up and put away.

As retirement became closer (I didn’t have even 6 months to think about it) I knew what I wanted to do – sort out those boxes! They were recovered from the depths of the basement and examined. As I looked at all the ‘must keeps’ that I’d salted away years ago, I realised that I didn’t want to hang on to them any more – they were of my past and I had moved on. I found a local plastic modelling group and they took them all. It was good that I didn’t have to bin them.

Beside the plastic models was a small box which contained a small selection of ‘Matchbox’ toys – cars and vans etc. most in relatively good condition. ‘They’ll be worth something. You see them on eBay for a lot’ said a friend. So I thought I’d look on eBay and see. What I found was that I could buy model examples of most of the cars our family had had. Amazing! And not too expensive either ( if you didn’t mind a few chips). The only down side was the models weren’t in the colours our cars had been. ‘I could paint them the correct colours’  I thought, but then I remembered how difficult it was to get a nice even finish when doing my plastic ones.

As I looked for the models of the various cars that we’d had I came across videos of guys doing restorations of these types of models and it looked reliantly easy – something I could do as a project in retirement – once I’d sorted the shed!

After I’d sorted the shed – cleaned it out, added insulation and a floor covering, put in a work bench, added an spray painting booth with an extractor fan and some work lights – I bought an airbrush and compressor and was ready to give it a go.

I bought a few examples of cars we’d had in the past from eBay and found that I could deconstruct them and strip off the paint and repaint them in the colours of our cars. Occasionally I’d have to buy two or three cars to get the one I really wanted so I ‘renovated’ the other ones put them back up on eBay to sell.

Initially it took a long time to sell the first one but you don’t climb a mountain without taking the first step. I’m now into my fifth year of buying, renovating and selling Dinky and Corgi cars and have just sold my 400th car. They have been sent all over Great Britain, North America, Australia, New Zealand and various countries in Europe. I am now also getting requests to renovate and refurbish cars that are in people’s collections but that could do with some attention.

I’m not making a huge amount of money from the whole thing but it seems to pay for itself and the problem solving that goes with turning the wrecked toys that sometimes arrive is good brain work.

photo of Martin
Martin Sim – a man with many hobbies and talents