The 10 Best Engine Model Kits

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This wiki has been updated 30 times since it was first published in December of 2016. Building a realistic scale model of an engine is both challenging and rewarding, and it's one of those few activities that can truly be called "fun for all ages." Get started with one of these kits, which offer step-by-step instructions for constructing a miniature motor. They'll work well as a conversation piece on your desk or serve as a valuable teaching tool for a budding mechanic or engineer. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.

1. Franzis Boxermotor

2. DjuiinoStar Low Temperature

3. Ford 1965 Mustang V8

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Editor's Notes

October 07, 2020:

We gave our selections a bit of an overhaul, removing the Airfix 1876 Four-Stroke and King of Toys Overhaul Set due to availability issues and the Revell Visible V-8 and Hawk Dodge SRT-8 because of numerous complaints regarding faulty parts that make assembly a frustrating process. In their stead, you'll find we added another Stirling model with the DjuiinoStar Low Temperature, which joins the Elenker Mini Hot Air Stirling as an attractive, relatively budget-friendly way to break into this world without taking on too much. Both are powered by heat and display basic principles in a way that makes them excellent teaching tools. The Elenker unit comes with a bottle of alcohol for power, while the DjuiinoStar you simply place over a mug of hot liquid.

Because we had solid options for youngsters like the Trends UK Haynes V8 and Haynes Build Your Own, we wanted to add a few more selections to appeal to adults without totally keeping kids out of the mix. The Atlantis Allison Prop Jet should stir nostalgia in grownups who've been building models for quite some time, as it's an officially licensed reissue of an old school kit, but with some updates. This one is suitable for teens around age 14 and up. Then, we brought on the Ford 1965 Mustang V8 and Franzis Boxermotor, two options great for gearheads who love authenticity. Neither of these requires model glue, so there are less finicky tasks involved, making it easy to wrangle a kid into the assembly process.

May 07, 2019:

Unfortunately, at this time, it's tough to find the Airfix Engineer, so we decided to remove it — along with the Smithsonian Institution Motor-Works, which boasts a cool concept but lacks durability, which can make it just too frustrating. For kids, we instead think either the King of Toys Overhaul Set or Trends UK Haynes V8 are fine options, depending on the age of the builder. The Overhaul Set is a toy, but it has enough working parts to keep a younger kid interested; the Haynes V8 is an actual working model that requires attention and care to put together, making it better for teens and motivated pre-teens. We also still believe that the Hawk Dodge SRT-8 and Elenker Mini Hot Air Stirling are good choices, especially the Elenker model, which runs on actual fuel rather than just simulating a motor's operation via batteries. The Wooden City V8 is another worthy addition; it's more of a 3-D puzzle, but it's modeled after a Formula One V-8 and truly eye-catching when assembled.

Special Honors

CAT Toy Truck Engine KL-3206 If you're here looking to pique a youngster's interest in machinery, this lifesize truck engine from Caterpillar Inc should prove instructive. It introduces children to the under-the-hood basics of heavy equipment maintenance and offers hands-on learning, imaginative role-playing, and confidence-building thanks to fifteen activities. That includes opening the engine cover, removing the motor, replacing the battery, repairing the ignition, and more. This model would make a handy supplement to help reinforce learning alongside model engine kits.

Home Model Engine Machinist For diehard devotees and beginners alike, Home Model Engine Machinist is a rich resource that brings enthusiasts together to talk shop, swap stories, show photos of completed builds, exchange tips and tricks, and much more. This community forum also provides information on 3D printers, CNC machines, and software and programming for ambitious projects.

4. Porsche 911 Flat Six

5. Atlantis Allison Prop Jet

6. Elenker Mini Hot Air Stirling

7. Haynes Build Your Own

8. Wilesco D5

10. Wooden City V8

A Brief History Of Scale Models

Likewise, Greek warriors used models to design fortifications before starting the arduous process of constructing them.

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.

It can offer a creative rush similar to showing off your own artwork — and some models truly are works of art.

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.

Don't allow yourself to rush, and if it stops being enjoyable, walk away for the day.

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.

Gia Vescovi-Chiordi
Last updated by Gia Vescovi-Chiordi

Born in Arizona, Gia is a writer and autodidact who fled the heat of the desert for California, where she enjoys drinking beer, overanalyzing the minutiae of life, and channeling Rick Steves. After arriving in Los Angeles a decade ago, she quickly nabbed a copywriting job at a major clothing company and derived years of editing and proofreading experience from her tenure there, all while sharpening her skills further with myriad freelance projects. In her spare time, she teaches herself French and Italian, has earned an ESL teaching certificate, traveled extensively throughout Europe and the United States, and unashamedly devours television shows and books. The result of these pursuits is expertise in fashion, travel, beauty, literature, textbooks, and pop culture, in addition to whatever obsession consumes her next.

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