Monday, March 18, 2013

No Petty Feat

Recently I decided to revisit a part of my youth. Specifically, I revisited two hundred fifty-five of them.


When I was thirteen I got a Christmas present which was a bit beyond my comprehension abilities. Peeling, nay shredding, what seemed like fourteen linear feet of bright red wrapping paper unearthed a one-sixteenth scale of what was my favorite thing in the world at that time: Richard Petty's Dodge Charger. Ten minutes after my Boxer dog and I dropped from exhaustion following our "Ode To Richard Petty" dance (plus an admonishment from dad to settle down), I removed the box top to adore the magnificent car in all its splendid glory.

To put the size of the model in perspective, it was one sixteenth as long, wide, and tall as the real thing. Considering that my prepubescent hands were probably one-third smaller than they are now, this model kit was honkin' HUGE. Were I to attempt a build that large these days the model kit I'd have to build to keep the experience proportional would completely cover my coffee table. Manipulating hobby knives on something that big was probably akin to performing gastrointestinal surgery on a rhinoceros with a pocket knife. I had almost zero manual dexterity skills at the time. And, for a thirteen year old kid who excelled at late-blooming, the instructions appeared to have been written by an MIT freshman cramming for a midterm while coming off of a drinking jag. "Where on the chassis do the axle oil lines go?!", I shouted in absolute frustration while the dog sneaked upstairs to the safety of the sofa.

Model Products Corporation, in its infinite wisdom, saw fit to mold the entire body in clear plastic. I think they went through that additional trouble just to have fun with the consumer. "Note: If you desire to paint your car the color scheme of Richard Petty's car, mask off the body as shown (in step thirty of the instructions). Now, wait a sec. The reason for molding the body in clear plastic was so everyone could gawk enviously at the engineering masterpiece which you had lovingly assembled while watching Bob Newhart on Saturday nights. The black seat contrasted magnificently next to the red fire extinguisher. And how about that roll bar padding? Now these schmoes wanted me to paint over the plastic, thereby ensuring that the Smithsonian would never ask me to donate the object of my affection. Heck with it, I reasoned, affixing the iconic number 43 and STP decals along the hood, roof, and flanks. Turns out that keeping the Charger body Au natural revealed several hideously squiggly glue joints from Testor's finest. The effect was that of a robotic welding arm suffering from tennis elbow. I think the model ended up in my closet for a couple of months before I lost it to the landfill.

Now, at age fifty-one, I have another of these kits. This time, the body was molded, mercifully enough, in blue plastic. I bought this one because over the decades I felt that I had failed myself by not being patient and following through. I've all but completed the project. (When I was thirteen it was a model. Now that I'm an alleged grownup it's a project.) Even though I thought I might have to call a fabricator at Richard Petty Motorsports for advice over some tubing placement in step twenty-nine, it all worked out. I'll have whipped some of my self doubt as soon as I finish pinstriping this beast.

I need more closure. My coffee table is big enough for two.  

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