The 10 Best Engine Model Kits

Updated March 12, 2018 by Brett Dvoretz

Best High-End
Best Mid-Range
Best Inexpensive
We spent 46 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. Building a working scale model of an engine is both challenging and rewarding, and is one of those few activities that truly can be called fun for all ages. These kits offer step-by-step instructions that help you construct a miniature motor that will look great as a curio on your desk and that can serve as a valuable teaching tool for a budding mechanic or engineer. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best engine model kit on Amazon.

10. Airfix Engineer

Make sure to block out a solid chunk of time before you build the Airfix Engineer, because this real, working motor requires laborious construction due to its many tiny pieces. When running, you can watch the pistons rise and fall and the crankshaft spin.
  • useful as instructional model
  • directions are vague at times
  • screws are difficult to get in
Brand Airfix
Model A42509
Weight 2.8 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

9. Smithsonian Institution Motor-Works

The Smithsonian Institution Motor-Works is a great project for a child and parent (or other older friend or relative) to work on together. Assembly requires nothing more than a screwdriver, a pair of scissors, and an hour or two of free time.
  • includes a large poster
  • produces lights and sounds
  • many components are fragile
Brand Smithsonian
Model 49013
Weight 2.4 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

8. Porsche 911 Boxer Kit

With the Porsche 911 Boxer Kit you can create your very own one-quarter scale model of the motor that powers one of the world's most recognizable sports cars. The comprehensive set includes more than 280 individual components.
  • great gift for automotive enthusiast
  • text and diagrammatical instructions
  • too complicated for most youngsters
Brand Haynes
Model 911
Weight 5.3 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

7. Liberty Classics Chevy Street Rod

The Liberty Classics Chevy Street Rod features a removable air filter, just like the real thing, and makes use of a flex plate to turn the starter motor gears. It has polished chrome-plated valve covers that give it a premium look.
  • arrives fully assembled
  • makes a great display piece
  • must be run by hand
Brand Liberty
Model 84026
Weight 1.7 pounds
Rating 3.6 / 5.0

6. Hawk Dodge SRT-8

The Hawk Dodge SRT-8 is a 1/6 scale of this powerhouse engine. It is built to demanding specifications, ensuring that every component matches its real-life counterpart, making it the ideal gift for the Dodge truck owners in your life.
  • all components are pre-painted
  • durable die-cast parts
  • doesn't actually run
Brand Hawk
Model 11071
Weight 1.2 pounds
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

5. Haynes Build Your Own

The Haynes Build Your Own is a diminutive four-cylinder internal combustion engine. Its see-through plastic housing allows the observer to watch all the inner workings of a motor, offering an easy understanding of the same type of engine that powers so much of our world.
  • lubricated with common vegetable oil
  • easy for most kids to build alone
  • makes realistic ignition sounds
Brand Perisphere And Trylon G
Model HM01U
Weight 2.6 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

4. Revell 85-8883 Visible V-8

This Revell 85-8883 Visible V-8 helps you create and then operate a working eight valve engine, much like you might find under the hood of a powerful truck or sports car. The set uses a sturdy rubber fan belt and vinyl ignition wires.
  • fully illustrated instructions
  • see-through housing
  • comes with a display stand
Brand Revell
Model 85-8883
Weight 3.4 pounds
Rating 5.0 / 5.0

3. Wilesco D5

Steam engines may not be that common today, but they were a revolutionary technology when first invented. The Wilesco D5 takes you back to their glory days and illustrates the principles by which this amazing invention worked.
  • doesn't require any soldering
  • starts running in just a few minutes
  • works with a variety of fuel types
Brand Wilesco
Model 00005
Weight 1.6 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

2. Elenker Mini Hot Air Stirling

This handsome Elenker Mini Hot Air Stirling is not only amusing and rather easy to build and operate, but it looks great as a decoration for your desk or shelf once it's completed. Its basic design makes it a good introduction to mechanical engineering.
  • works as a cool paperweight
  • powered by heat
  • nonskid foot pads on base
Model pending
Weight 8.8 ounces
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

A Brief History Of Scale Models

Building scale models is one of the oldest hobbies known to man, as humans have been constructing miniature versions of the world around them ever since they created the tools to do so. Of course, when the practice started, it was purely for its functionality, as very few ancient kings saw the value in hanging a scaled-down version of the Death Star over their desks.

When the Great Wall was being considered in China, it was first conceived as a wooden miniature. Likewise, Greek warriors used models to design fortifications before starting the arduous process of constructing them. However, it would be an Italian who would truly perfect the art form.

Leonardo da Vinci built models of most of his inventions before realizing them in their final forms. He even created dummy versions of ideas he could never get off the ground — quite literally, in the case of his flying machines. Considered by many to be the most gifted modeler of all time, da Vinci proved that miniatures could be as useful as they are interesting.

It wasn't until the mid-20th century that the art form would begin to be seen as a hobby, however. In the 1930s, the British company Frog began manufacturing plastic flying models. Frog would put their skills to use for the Allies in WWII, building models for targeting purposes, but they got right back into the toy business after the war's conclusion.

On the American side of the Atlantic, companies who designed miniatures for car manufacturers discovered a rabid audience of hobbyists who wanted to build their own versions of the Chevy Bel Air or Ford Gasser. Businesses like Revell, Aurora, and AMT soon sprang up to fill this demand, and a new pastime was born.

While modeling has never been a mainstream pursuit, interest in the hobby has held steady over the years. There have been technological advances within the pastime as well, with a variety of high-tech tools and fillers replacing the old-fashioned tweezers and putty of yore. The subjects have also become varied, with figures from pop culture proving to be as in-demand as the traditional cars, planes, and military vessels.

It remains to be seen where the hobby will go from here, but one thing's for certain: buying one of these kits is the only way I'll ever be able to take a model home with me.

Benefits Of Building Scale Models

If you're looking to get the most bang for your buck, few other hobbies can compete with scale modeling. Assuming you're the type who enjoys really digging into the details of your favorite subject, you can get months of enjoyment out of assembling one of these plastic collectibles. If you boil that down to the cost-per-hour, it gives you the kind of value that most other entertainments can't possibly match.

Constructing these miniatures can also teach you valuable skills that will translate to your other endeavors. If you're the impatient type, you'll quickly learn to curb those impulses, as models do not respond well to being rushed. It takes a tremendous amount of discipline to finish a kit, as well, and exercising your willpower muscles will pay dividends in all areas of your life.

Beyond that, it's a tremendous stress reliever. Allowing yourself to really focus on the intricacies of the model takes your attention away from any other problems in your life, giving you the chance to set your worries aside for a few hours at a time.

While building the miniatures is fun and relaxing, the benefits don't stop there. Once you're finished, you'll have an attractive conversation starter that you can display in your home or office. It can offer a creative rush similar to showing off your own artwork — and some models truly are works of art.

You'll also learn about the subject as you build it. Many of the model engines on this list actually run, giving you first-hand experience in the inner workings of a motor. That's something that could potentially pay off big down the road, especially if it spurs interest in doing your own auto work.

Tips For Getting The Most Out Of Your Model-Building Experience

While putting a model together can be extremely rewarding, it can also be frustrating — which is why you need to take every precaution to ensure that your experience is a fulfilling one.

First off, designate an area in which to work and protect it with your life. If you're sharing space with someone else's stuff, or if you're constantly being interrupted, you'll find it hard to focus, and that's when you break something (and that's when the cursing starts!). Keep the area quiet and serene, and maybe even set the mood with peaceful music and aromatherapy.

Make sure you get the right tools for the job, as well. Using old, clunky tweezers or the wrong kind of glue will set you up for failure before you even begin. As noted above, building models can be a very inexpensive hobby, so don't be afraid to splurge a little on your equipment. You'll be using it for many hours, so make sure you're comfortable with it.

Ultimately, though, just remember to have fun. Don't allow yourself to rush, and if it stops being enjoyable, walk away for the day. The whole point of the hobby is to eliminate stress and take your mind off of your job, so don't let this replace one tension with another.

Oh, and if you have kids, look into soundproofing, because trust me: there will be cursing.

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Last updated on March 12, 2018 by Brett Dvoretz

A wandering writer who spends as much time on the road as behind the computer screen, Brett can either be found hacking furiously away at the keyboard or perhaps enjoying a whiskey and coke on some exotic beach, sometimes both simultaneously, usually with a four-legged companion by his side. He hopes to one day become a modern day renaissance man.

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