Joys in the Attic

February, 2012

Back around Christmastime, I did my semi-annual tour of the Maloney attic. The attic has been a sore spot with me, especially since last year’s raccoon incident. (Back in March, a determined lady procyonid managed an impromptu ingress into the trusses for the purpose of whelping some offspring. I was able to successfully deter the mother-to-be with a combination of loud talk-radio and an industrial stroboscope. It made for a great migraine-inducing combination. I must remember to use it election campaigners start coming by this summer.))

But the Christmas decorations must go up, and I must bring them down from the upper darkness. While rooting around in the rafters, collecting the yuletide splendor, what should I come across but a series of large boxes that I secreted there some 16 years ago — back when I made my own first ingress into the arena of home ownership. I had a dim recollection as to the nature of their contents – but I was wholly unprepared for what was to come.

After dragging down the trappings of both the joyous Buon Natale and the homage to the jolly red pagan, my mind went back to the mystery boxes. Now that the boys were mostly grown up, I could chance a look at their contents without fear of the consequences. So, after assembling the gewgaws and arranging the baubles that permeate the holiday season, I retrieved them.

I was worried. Would the heat of more than a dozen summers and the cold of as many midwestern winters have damaged the contents? What about moisture? Insects? Varmints? Would they melt, fade, craze or become so brittle as to crack apart in my hands? There was only one way to find out.

Gingerly, cautiously, I opened the first box.

I withdrew the first item and unwrapped it.  It was just as beautiful now as the day I had put it away. My heart rose. The next one….. just as perfect – its lines and curves as exciting as I had remembered. The third, fourth and fifth….. impeccable- their colors dazzling my eyes. The sixth, seventh and eighth………also just as I had remembered. My hands began to ache, as if they could recall the hours of labor that I had put into each and every one of them all those years ago. I brought them out one at a time….. number twelve … fifteen …… nineteen ……… twenty-four? Each one came out of the wrapping and dazzled in the light. How many did I have? Thirty-four, thirty-five, thirty-six…….. some I could barely recall finishing …. Thirty-seven…. thirty-eight … where did I get the time to do it? Thirty-nine………. FORTY!

I knew that I had made quite a few of them—- but forty? The evidence was there, sitting in neat rows on my table— forty hand-built 1/25th scale model cars.

Thirty-eight old cars in a new garage


I built them in ones and twos over a period of years  – coupes, convertibles, sedans, station wagons. I made trucks, an ambulance and a hearse– foreign, domestic…. cars dating from the thirties to the nineties.. in all available colors. When I could not sleep at night, I would sit in the kitchen of my apartment and do the detail painting. On the weekends, I would scour the old hobby shops looking for odd or rare car models, and finding things like a model of a Chevy Corvair, or a ’55 Volkswagen. The late evenings were filled with the smell of liquid polystyrene cement and enamel paint thinner.

A 1952 Chevrolet Fastback- your magic carpet on the Road to Romance.


The pressures of being a new dad, the economies of home ownership and the time constraints of my career made my days of model building come to an end. I packed everything up and put it away– eventually in the attic of my new suburban home – where they lay undisturbed for nearly two decades.  

What it all started with-- a 1962 Dodge Dart and Plymouth Fury- both ragtops.


Then they were back… but I wasn’t finished yet. I went back up into the attic … to get the other boxes. Amongst them I found more cars– thirty more car model kits yet to be assembled – just waiting for fresh paint and a sharp X-Acto knife. I wonder if my old airbrush is still good.  I figure that if I were to build one model kit every two months, I won’t have to buy another one for another five years.  Yeah, right.

1965 Pontiac Grand Prix- it's the ONLY way to fly.