The working model car engine that I built as a kid (at about eight years old) is still available today. The recommended age group has been moved up to age 12 and above. I put this model together 40 years ago and it really started me down the career path that I'm on today.
After assembling the big V8 motor I was hooked on all things automotive. Now at the ripe old age of 48 I am a Certified Master Technician that still assembles engines. When my Father bought me these plastic automotive model engines I am sure he had no idea how it would impact my life in such a major way. Back then this 1:4 scale model was built by the Revell Company.
The same company makes it today. The difference between now and then is
like many things it's built in China. This means it ships with metric screws and nuts that don't fit very well into the holes drilled for American standard hardware that came with the model years ago.
This makes it a little harder to assemble. Also the quality of the casting doesn't seem to be what it used to. I purchased this for my Nephew and a neighbor’s kid and both of them said it needed some extra filing to get the parts to fit perfectly. This will require some extra patients on the part of the builder.
You can buy the standard screws that the model came with years ago at local hardware stores. You will need 34 2-56 nuts, 14 2-56 1/4 inch screws, 20 2-56 1/2 inch screws to replace the supplied metric nuts and screws. This only cost a few dollars and will save you a lot of aggravation when it's time to assemble the model car engine kit.
Note that Revell is not the only company that makes a scaled automotive motor model kit. Although I have never assembled it there is one available from the Smithsonian Company. The big difference is the Smithsonian model car engine is an in-line six where as the Revell model is the highly desirable V8 motor.
Although my model lasted several years it eventually seized up. When I tried to force it, the plastic block cracked and basically my model car engine was completely destroyed. An interesting difference between the modern models and the ones that I had was mine came with an electric motor and you pushed a button to turn the engine over.
The modern car engine kit has a hand crank on the flywheel that you use to manually turn the engine over. This could save the model from destruction down the road. I saw a note from someone else who put the newer model together and they stated not to use vegetable oil as recommended by the instructions.
I believe this is what went wrong with my V8 motor model. The vegetable oil eventually acted on the plastic and turns it milky making it harder to see inside but also distorts the plastic and caused the engine to seize or get stuck. When you try to force it the plastic will not endure much force. The note stated that there is plastic safe lubricant available from a company called Labelle (I never heard of them).
I'm not saying that if you buy your kid this plastic model engine kit that he or she will become a certified master technician and work on cars for the rest of their life like me.
But even if this child becomes a lawyer they will always know how the engine in their BMW operates and know exactly what happens when the key is turned. This can be a valuable life lesson for any age group but again the model is recommended for ages 12 and up.
One of the most impressive things to me is the physical size of the model which is 1:4 scale. The exact physical size is 22.2 inches in length x 16.6" Width x 4.6" Height and it weighs an impressive 3.6 lbs which is quite a bit for plastic.
This thing won the 2008 Parents Choice Award but keep in mind that it is hard to put together and some children may not think that the award is deserved. I don't know of a better way for kids or adults to learn how an internal combustion engine works.
The clear plastic lets you see all of the parts
move like the real thing. This model car engine gets the brain going
because not only can you see, you can touch. The kit that I put together
needed several repairs over the couple of years that I owned it. This
meant just like a real mechanic I had to fix this plastic model engine.
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If you don't want to buy a model kit and would like the opportunity to learn more about this subject this next link will take you to my automotive engine section from this page about model car engines.
If you would like to learn more about what that you fix cars website is all about this next link will take you to the homepage where you can also find out how to get some one-on-one car repair help.