Northern Utah: Scale-model cars cruise into Pleasant Valley Library

Friday , March 03, 2017 - 5:00 AM

JANAE FRANCIS, Standard-Examiner Staff

Most artists want their work to look fresh and new.

Not Chris Chapman.

The Roy resident is famous in the model-car world for building replicas of old, weathered relics and newer cars with realistic wear. He also is known for successfully using acrylic paints that are much less expensive than coatings typically used on competition models.

“People were spending $150 on paints,” he said. “I found I could do an entire model with $1.50.” He was inspired to try acrylics after watching a face painter on 25th Street, he said.

Chapman’s reputation for making his hobby affordable has led to a YouTube Channel with 4,300 subscribers. One of his videos has had nearly 50,000 views.

The craftsman is among a dozen model-car builders whose handiwork is on display until April 20 at the Pleasant Valley Library, 5568 S. Adams Ave., Washington Terrace. The Scale Model Car Exhibition last week moved from the library’s Roy branch.

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One of Chapman’s model cars featured in the exhibition is an aged 1956 Ford Victoria. The car’s details include a blue door on a green body, representing what happens when replacing parts available only in junkyards.

Chapman said he is proud of the look he achieved on that vehicle.

“I want to make it look as realistic as I can,” he said. He worked to capture the details of how a vehicle actually rusts.

Becoming an expert at aging model vehicles and cheaply painting all car models was a function of Chapman’s many interests and economic limitations.

“If i had to spend $300 on paint, with all my motorcycles and concerts I go to, I wouldn’t be able to do it,” he said.

His interests in model cars grew naturally out of his hobbies growing up. He said he started out with Hot Wheels and then built pinewood derby cars and raced them.

“You go into the hobby shops to buy stuff for pinewood derbies and you see the model cars,” he said. At the time, he just glued the models together and painted them with spray paint.

As an adult, he had back surgery and was sitting at home with nothing to do when he rediscovered the hobby, he said.

“I realized there was more to do with model cars than just painting it and gluing it together,” he said. “I almost gave it up because I didn’t have the money. That’s when I found an alternate way to do it. Now, I’ve got a lot of people doing it because of my videos.”

Chapman said his grandfather introduced him to cars, and Chapman liked muscle cars as a teenager.

“The kind of cars I like to build are the old ones,” he said.

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The need for relaxation keeps him going in his hobby. “I don’t like to be home all day with my dog, doing nothing,” he said.

And there is joy in creation. “I look at it and think ‘I created it. This is awesome.’ ”

A collection of items from five model-car organizations, the library exhibition offers a look into the many ways model-car enthusiasts have built collectibles.

The exhibition offers detailed descriptions of the history and significance of each replica and information about how the craft is done.

“We are trying to get it so we can start getting kids back into modeling,” said Ken Brewca, of Clinton, about the reason behind the display. “We are a dying breed. … If the kids don’t pick it up, we will be in trouble.”

Although hobby shops that catered to model-car building used to be found throughout the area, said Russ Hanson of Sandy, they were mostly replaced big-box hobby stores. He said enthusiasm for model cars is most prevalent along the East Coast.

Still, these model-car builders are finding success. Some have even made their designs into a second income stream.

Brewca and Michael Hill, also of Clinton, each have sold model-car molds they built to manufacturers.

Modeler Ken Faletta, of Willard, said hobbyists are free to use their imagination.

“A lot of people like to do cars that never existed,” he said, noting he has combined manufacturer’s kits and added his own designs.

Lynn Koberna, of Roy, who organized the exhibition, said there is much to discover about model cars and their builders.

“I have come to realize every model car and every modeler has a unique, wonderful story to tell,” he said.

Among the other finds in the display: A rat rod with a scale rat sitting on a seat, a car with scale keys in the ignition, a model built and spray-painted by a 7-year-old boy, and a street machine painted with purple nail polish.

Those who want to interact with model-car builders are invited to “meet the modelers” events from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. March 11 and 25 at the Pleasant Valley Library. The events will include modeler's swap meets, modeling skills demonstrations and introductions to model-car clubs. Organizers are inviting all ages and skill levels.

You may reach reporter JaNae Francis at or 801-625-4228. Follow her on Twitter at @JaNaeFrancisSE or like her on Facebook at 



From 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, March 11, and Saturday, March 25, model-car builders will be on hand at the Pleasant Valley Library, 5568 S. Adams Ave., Washington Terrace, to demonstrate and talk about the hobby. A swap meet will also be set up.

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