Thursday, July 5, 2018

A hiatus from The Hiatus: Building Model Power’s Mercedes Car Agency

It’s hot here. In the mid-30s over the Canada Day long weekend with humidexes in the mid-40s. That’s over my limit and I decided to hide out in the basement until the temperature broke. According to Environment Canada, I might be here for awhile :-) While I'm down here, I decided to build the Model Power Mercedes dealership kit I picked up from George’s Trains a few weeks ago. It looked easy, and easy was what I was looking for. 

I’m always on the lookout for building kits that might be considered modern for the ‘50s, ‘60s or '70s. They’re part of the vibe I’m looking to build into the Alta Vista TC. Whenever I see one, if it’s not too expensive, I’ll buy it even if it’s not something obvious I need. Just because ‘Mercedes Car Agency’ was the name on the box doesn’t mean that’s what it’ll be. What I liked about this kit is that huge showroom and picture window. And along with the modern styling, it’s my kind of kit.
Believe it or not, I think kits like these primed me for being attracted to E. L. Moore’s works. One of my earliest memories from when I was probably 5, 6, or 7 years old was of a blue box with ‘Kibri’ written in big bold letters on the side. There was a plastic modern building kit in there. I don’t know what kind of building, but that memory of ‘Kibri’ and a modern building is strong even though I may have mis-remembered the details. I don’t know what happened to that kit. I speculate that my parents didn’t know it was a plastic model until it was opened and then it was discarded once it was realized gluing was required. But, like I say, that’s just speculation from the 21st century. I also had a Kenner Girder and Panel set that I loved. Many a fine building was made with that toy. But, the Kibri is a mystery, and one that’s not likely to be solved any time soon.
Speaking of mysteries, stamped on the model's base is Pola along with Model Power, so I'm assuming this was at one time a kit marketed by Pola. But when? I don't know. There's almost nothing online about either this kit or Pola. At the Faller website I read that Pola was taken over by Faller in 1997, and today only G-scale kits are marketed under the Pola brand. Over at the Model Power site I don't see this kit in their current catalog, only farmhouse variants that look very similar to E. L. Moore's W. E. Snatchem kit. And on the dealership kit itself, I just find photos of some rather poorly assembled examples that don't do it justice.
Ok, enough with the history. I started easy and the first thing I did was glue-up the second floor components into a box.
Next, I worked on removing the sidewalk that was surrounding the foundation. Without it, the model will be easier to integrate into the Alta Vista TC's streets.
Once the base was ready, I cut the ground floor walls from the sprue and prepared them for gluing into a unit. The moldings are rather clean and only required some light sanding.
Everything fit together quite well. However, later I found that I didn't glue that top corner over the main window frame together very accurately and had to carefully pry it apart and re-glue it. 
There's an interior partition between the office and showroom. To help keep things square I used the bar clamp to hold the pieces together while the glued dried.
Time for a little test fitting.
Not bad.
All the parts were washed with dish soap in the kitchen sink and left to dry in the rack before painting. Luckily I have a tolerant wife :-)
The parts were taken out to the backyard for spraying. All were base coated with Krylon white. The ground floor was painted over a couple of days with mists of Krylon black and silver. Prior to final assembly all the exterior surfaces were given a light wash of thinned reefer grey to knock back the new paint shine just a bit.
On Canada Day, in between painting sessions, we set up the meat smoker and put it to work.
After a ten hour stint, this is what emerged: a beautifully cooked organic turkey. No basting, nothing fancy, just some veg in the cavity with water and wood chips in the smoking pan. Tender and juicy and a great way to end Canada Day.
Ok. Suitably stuffed, let's get back to work. 
All the ground floor window frames were brush painted black. Tamiya masking tape was applied to help me make a clean job of painting
The second floor window frames had to be installed once they were sprayed with Krylon black paint.
The foundation was painted with some Poly Scale aged concrete colour. Prior to window installation I test fit everything again to see how things were looking. Not too bad. I figured I wasn't going to glue the two floors together so that I could change showroom scenes as the mood struck.
The kit's instructions say, hey, don't worry if you break a piece because you can always glue it back together. I broke the main window and you can't glue it back together :-( The window is attached to the sprue by a length-spanning slice of plastic that I carefully - but not carefully enough - tried to cut through. I applied too much pressure. It didn't work.
With that piece broken I didn't even try to free its mate for the side wall.
After a cursing free-for-all, I settled down and cut two new windows from some clear sheet plastic from my scrap bin. Up there is the result. It's posed on the kitchen counter as there's no fridge with cold beverages in the basement.
I love the lights that came with the kit. Screw-in bulbs!
The fixtures are inserted into holes in the showroom's ceiling.
I think the leads are meant to run to the outside, but I decided to solder a 9v battery holder to them so I could easily move the lit model anywhere on the layout for photos.
Yeah! They work!

And that's more-or-less that.

How about some beauty shots to wrap-up?
Yikes! There's a giant hand in the window. It's tough making sure unwanted external reflections don't show up when I'm taking pictures - note to self when this thing's on the layout. I haven't decided on what sort of business this building will house, so the circle where the Mercedes logo is to go is still blank.
This is the end wall on the office side.
And the back wall. I like that row of window blinds. They're paper cut-outs that come with the kit.
The corner joint on the window is not too bad. It took a bit of cutting and fitting to get the two 'glass' pieces to join up without a noticeable gap.
The rooftop air conditioner is a Walther's item. The kit supplied a brick chimney for that location, but it seemed out of place on this building. Also, since the roof is removable in order to access the light's battery, it acts as a handle to help remove the roof. The a/c is attached with super-glue and a self-tapping screw for extra strength.

Speaking of a/c, the heat-wave is supposed to break tomorrow, so my self-imposed exile will come to an end and I'll rejoin the world of above ground-level dwellers. 


  1. Nice. Google images of Mercedes dealerships give some ideas on how to scenic inside and out. The interior shots show hardly any sales posters, maybe a color poster on the back wall and a couple of potted plants. Either customer parking or new cars out front. Pretty open, actually. I thought they'd be plastered with more signs and details.

    1. Given Mercedes is way out-of-my league, I have no idea what the inside of one looks like :-) Well, I exaggerate a little, a few years back we thought about buying a smart car (hence the HO version parked in the lead photo) and went to a local dealer to see what's what. I guess we weren't dressed right, or gave off a downscale vibe, things didn't click so there was no further interest on our part.

      That aside, the kit has some paper cut-outs for the walls that include some sales posters and other car-related decorations - I should post them. There's also a paper cut-out for a deep, green carpet for gluing to the showroom floor. I was thinking of making the building some sort of home electronics store that displayed large tvs inside - I'm not sure if little LED screens that could stand-in for HO tvs exist.

  2. Great summer project, Jim. Having lived in the Pacific Northwest, I understand better what folks mean by 'modeling season', when the weather is so nice that you just can't stay inside. But now that I'm back in a hot-summer climate, I think there's an exception to the rule, when the heat is just too oppressive to make the outdoors bearable and the siren song of the AC calls us indoors. This is the time to return to the workbench. I'm glad you returned to yours - that structure is a beauty.

    How about a piano store?

    1. Thanks Galen! A piano store sounds great. I should look around shapeways to see what there is in HO scale. Awhile back I scratchbuilt a grand piano for the Elgin night club - which as I think about it was also a conversion of an auto dealership to something else - but it was a like wonky, however when placed at the back of the club behind a pianist and a singer it didn't look too bad. Pianos, and maybe a Hammond B3 or two, would give me an excuse for time-travelling guest appearances from Bill Evans or Jimmy Smith :-)

      I'm told that so far Ottawa has had 7 days above 33C, which is more than 5x the average of 1.3 days. Environment Canada predicts there's lots more of those days on the horizon, so I might decide to live in the basement and building my way through the kit stash :-)