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The Museum Turns Twenty!

It's amazing: The Museum has been in existence for over twenty years! Twenty years of chronicling the history and high points of the scale vehicle modeling hobby.

Those of us who began building model cars in the late 1950s to mid-1960s (or even earlier) have been involved in this hobby for forty or fifty years . . . a remarkable milestone in itself. We remember the "golden age" of new kits of Detroit's annual offerings, Trophy Series classics from AMT, Revell's models of fifties cars and special subjects like Roth's creations, the offerings from MPC, JoHan, Monogram, Hubley, IMC, Lindberg, Renwall, Aurora, Pyro and Hawk, parts packs, paints, upholstery and Ulrich Mini-Men, slot car racing, Auto World, Model Car Science, Rod & Custom Models and Car Model, model kits available in hobby shops, at five-and-dime stores, pharmacies and grocery stores, clubs in every neighborhood, local and national contests . . . a full and rich heritage of the hobby that was a huge part of millions of boy's (and some girl's) lives back then. To those who are new to the hobby, or began building in the '70s, or '80s or 90's, it's hard to imagine the fantastic array of kits, supports and other items that were available in those days.

Researching, finding, verifying, tracking, preserving. and presenting that history has been the primary focus of the International Model Car Builders' Museum since its inception, and it is now the largest single repository - - anywhere! - - for the history of builders and the artifacts we remember so fondly.

The idea of the Museum was first discussed at GSL-VIII, (1987), when Mark S. Gustavson broached the idea with Tim Boyd. The Museum didn't initially start with any grand plan, but with a low-key decision to begin acquiring (mostly through purchase) whatever artifacts of our hobby were available. Early efforts included Mark Gustavson's purchase of a large collection of models and documents from Jim Keeler (including what was left of his Dodge Fevers, the Car Craft magazine Turbine Tub, and the Model Car Science MCS-XI bubbletop Corvette), obtaining good-but-incomplete sets of Car Model and Model Car Science magazines, and archiving a bunch of Revell and AMT parts packs donated by Mark. To this modest but crucial beginning many builders (initially, mostly from the famed original NNL-Ohio group) contributed additional items and their hard work. For instance, Tom Dillion, who worked with Mark to restore the Dodge Fever models, was part of this group; Tom and Mark's restoration efforts on Keeler's Fevers ultimately led to the rescue and restoration of many more significant historical models, as well as starting the "Clone the Past" program that is dedicated to recreating historically-significant models that have been lost, destroyed or aren't available for display in the Museum. Go here for a great article on the Fever models by John Dino.


Keeler's original Dodge Fever model was the winning entry in the magazine and factory- sponsored contest. It was such a significant model that the magazine asked him to build  another one (Dodge Fever 2) that was covered in many dozens of intricate how-to photos and several articles.  This model, in its restored condition, is on display in the Museum.


Keeler's second Dodge Fever was in poor condition when received at the Museum. It required a lot of chassis work and a fresh paint job and graphics. This Fever, too, is on display in the Museum.

The collection of items outgrew the basement in Mark's home where Museum inventory had been initially stored, so, in 1992, an eighty-square-foot room in a Salt Lake City office building became the first formal home to the Museum, and was the location where the modeling public was first introduced to the Museum at GSL-XII. The Museum's collection then consisted of about 400 items, but as the collection continued to grow, more space was clearly needed. Another, larger office in another downtown Salt Lake locale was found, and following necessary renovations, the Museum moved into its new 380 square foot location in 1994.

By 2000, the collection had literally filled every available corner, nook, and cranny in the second facility, and a new larger space was desperately needed. An 1,100 square foot former motorcycle shop in Sandy, a suburb 15 miles south of Salt Lake City, was found by Trustee Mike Barlow. Following a very substantial clean-up and remodeling by members of the Utah Miniature Automotive Guild to make it useable, the Museum finally had a place where it could display the majority of the collection. In 2005, the opportunity to expand into an adjacent office became available and, again with substantial remodeling (including constructing a wall and added a door, new wiring, the application of 20 gallons of primer and paint, and the removal of decades of grime and dirt to reveal an original tile floor), we now had a place for an expanded library, computer services, a larger area for filing cabinets, a meeting room, and additional display and storage space for the ever-growing collection of hundreds of built up models, vintage magazines, old trophies and contest posters, building supplies and tools, books and club newsletters, related historical artifacts, and other items the Museum is charged with preserving and displaying. At this point, about 7,000 individual items are in the Museum's collection. 


After a lot of wall repair and clean up, Trustee Mike Barlow laid down many gallons of fresh paint in the new library space in this 2005 photos. 


The work to make the 2005 expansion of space usable has been hard. Trustee Mark Brown had to strip the floor in a large room, and then lay down epoxy paint.


When finished, the room looked list this before we moved in the Estlow collection and the quarter-scale Chevy engine display, as well as other items. 

More photos of the renovation and move to the current museum location can be found here.

When the Museum began as a casual conversation between two hobbyists in 1987, no one envisioned the facility and the collections we are now honored to be the caretakers of, nor could anyone have imagined that the Museum would be profiled in Auto Week magazine and Hemmings Motor News, have a substantial web presence, would become the primary sponsor of the GSL Championship series, offer support to clubs and events in dozens of places around the world, would be a source for research, or the publisher of this newsletter.

It's truly amazing what has been accomplished by an incredibly diverse group of people whose common bond is a love and honor of this hobby, and what their unselfish efforts, labor, generosity, and vision have brought about.

And, with your active help and continual generosity, the Museum will celebrate forty years of chronicling the history of our hobby in 2028!

Incredible Experience
By Tim Boyd

Note: Tim Boyd was one of the very earliest supporters of the Museum. In fact, Mark S. Gustavson first brought up his idea of a Museum with Tim Boyd in 1987 (at GSL) following which Tim has expressed his unwavering support to the Museum. What follows is his note about his experience of seeing the Museum for the first time since the Museum's public debut in 1991. 

When I visited the Museum at GSL-XXII (2009), it had been nearly 20 years since I had last been there.  I vaguely recall the early 1990's edition of the Museum being in a small building on a side street in the general vicinity of downtown Salt Lake City. It was clearly a "diamond in the rough" kind of effort, but noteworthy nonetheless.

During my 24-hour "whirlwind" trip out to GSL-XXII and back, I stopped by the Museum on the way back to the airport. I was stunned. Literally speechless! To see what Mark, the Trustees, and the team of volunteers had done to develop this idea over the ensuing years was just about unbelievable.

Here, in two large rooms, lies the entire history of our hobby. If you've participated in our hobby and read the magazines in any decade starting in the 1960's... you'll see many of the models you remember are now housed here. It literally took my breath away to be amongst such talent and achievement. 

I took around 400 pictures during my brief visit this year, and with any luck maybe some of those will eventually see print in one of the model car magazines. But even if they do, they will be not substitute for the real thing.

Ever read those articles about "100 things you must do before you die"?  Time to add another two, and to put it them at the front of your list. First, find a way to get to the International Model Car Builder's Museum and witness it first -hand. Second, try to find a way to send a financial contribution - no matter how small - to help defray the operating costs (mostly, paying the rent) and to assure the ongoing longevity of this undertaking. 


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