Playtime at the Library

Playtime at the Library
Written by Mike Reilly

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During the first weekend in April, the library received a large amount of sales literature, film strips, and other great materials from Maryland when my wife and I met up with Rob Burchill and his family to help organize their personal collection of automotive literature.  His father had been collecting for many years and Rob thought it would be best to have the materials he didn’t need be available for public use rather than sitting in boxes.  Some of the collection goes as far back as the 1920’s and as it is added to our collection it will be a great resource for our visitors.  As we started sorting and putting an order to things, more and more pieces in the collection started to jump out.  When Rob pulled out a big retro graphic-laden envelope my eyes perked up a bit.

Inside this envelope was a 1953 paper model kit of a Nash showroom and service department.  The envelope stated that the kit came complete with 8 model cars, gas pumps, and string laced objects with moving parts.  The kid in me wanted to drop everything and start putting it together right then and there, but my adult realist side figured that it would most likely stay in its current state to be put on display in the library.    So after gushing a little bit and looking at all the cardboard sheets and parts, I put it onto the pile to be transported back to Hershey.
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As we unpacked the materials in the library the Nash model set was still in the back of my mind.  After some discussion we decided it would make a better display if the model were to be set up than to keep it in its unaltered state.  While the value of the kit would go down with it being put together, we figured it would be worth the expense for having a fun display piece for viewers to look at.  I was very excited about this, especially since it meant that I would get to do the bulk of the building.

I am not sure who this model kit was designed for, but if they had children in mind, there would have been many destroyed kits spread out across the worlds landfill’s in the 50’s.  The only benefit to a child putting this together is the size of their hands.  There are many small pieces and since paper is not very durable a delicate touch is of necessity. The cover of the packaging envelope states “no cutting – no pasting – easy to assemble” and after putting the model together, Matt Hocker and I would beg to differ on that last part.  Matt is a bona fide Lego constructor and I have a BFA with a sculpture/ceramics emphasis, which makes us two grown men that have a decent understanding of putting things together, and trying to get some of these pieces to fit accordingly was equal parts frustrating and fun all at once.

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String powered Grease Rack

After meddling around a bit trying to put the model together, I quickly learned that I would need to grab some tools.  The tool kit was made up of desk objects and a couple of pairs of pliers.  The model kit came supplied with the original string from 1953 which was surprisingly in decent shape.  A paper clip was used to help punch out small objects.  A ruler and staple remover aided in the folding department to gain a nice straight line when needed and the scissors and utility knife were used to clean up any tabs that didn’t quite fit.

Originally, I had thought this little project would take maybe an hour or two, but after enlisting Matt to help with some of the cars it still stretched out to a little more than a work day.  The reason for the time trap is the many little details that were put into the model that are just fantastic once you see them.  From 1/8” long hood ornaments to string powered pulleys that raise and lower car lifts, garage doors, elevators, and even a showroom turnstile.  The designers spared no expense to creating a marvelous model replica.  The joy of rigging up a paper elevator with string and actually getting it to a functional state is second to none.

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Working with all of the rudimentary moving parts was quite a thrill providing simple string and paper to make a garage come to life.  While these moving parts are quite the spectacle the real details shine with the paper cars.  The model cars come complete with little steering wheels that require toothpicks (or in our case, paperclips) to hold them in place.  Other details include small 1/8” hood ornaments that slide into place on 1953 Nash Rambler, Ambassador, and Statesman models.  The 1908 Rambler has a small steering wheel, a piece for the brake lever, fenders, and a small rumble seat on the back of which all of these pieces came separate and needed to be popped into place on the paper chassis.  Among other models included in the set are the 1904 Rambler, 1902 Rambler, 1912 Rambler, and the 1918 Nash.  All of the paper car models are quite impressive in both design and construction.

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Upon completion of the model came an impressive joy and while annoying at times, the frustration was easily dismayed by the amount of details that were put into the design of the model kit to begin with.  The designer of this model kit made an incredible display piece that surely took many stages of planning and labor in its conception.  We will be on the lookout for other model kits just like this one to keep it company, but for now our Nash Showroom and Service Department model kit will be on display among our many other interesting artifacts and pieces here at the AACA Library & Research Center, so be sure to come visit next time you are in the area.

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