Make Your Own Model Cars and Save a Bundle!




About: Retired, doing art work now. Great. Have the time and the money to spend doing what I want to do.

Here's a way to make model cars quickly, cheaply and effectively! I wanted some models to use in dioramas, so instead of buying model cars, I decided to make them. Various sizes can be made, depending on what you want. This is what I did:

Step 1: Print the Photos

First, I needed some photos of the models I wanted to make. You can take your own picture(s), or download them from the net. I've done both. A good photo will be taken in full sunlight, enclose the entire side view of the car and be a straight-on shot. Little hood, trunk or roof surface should be showing. You just want a good sillouette. I had my photos printed on 4x6 paper and the size can be varied, obviously, depending on what size of model you want.

I made a mirror image of the photo and using my photo manipulating software, put both images on one 4x6 picture. The need for this will become apparent in the next steps.

Step 2: Cut Wood to Size

I decided to use 3/4in. pine as my wood backing, so ripped a piece of lumber to 4 inches wide, then cut that piece into 6 inch lenghts.

Step 3: Glue Prints to the Wood Pieces

Next, the prints are glued to the wood pieces as shown. I've found that I prefer spray adhesive to water based PVA glue (elmers) as it is easier to control. Once the picture is placed, however, it is unremovable so a little care is called for.

Step 4: Cut Out Models

Now, the cars can be cut out on a band saw or scroll saw. I was using a 1/4 in. blade in the band saw and, while it was satisfactory, a 1/8 inch blade would allow for more precision. A rough cutout is all that is needed, though, since we will be sanding the final shape on the belt sander.

Step 5: Sand Off Any Shreds Produced

This step just shows how the band saw left some shreds of wood around the perimeter of the shape, but this is easily removed with a sanding block. You just don't want material interfering with the glue-up process.

Step 6: Glue Two Halves Together

Here Elmer's glue is used to join the two parts of the car. Try to not get too much glue involved as it doesn't take much and you don't want a lot of leakage around the parts. I just used some hand clamps as shown, making sure the parts didn't move before clamping. Let sit for an hour or so, at least, go have lunch!

Step 7: Use Belt Sander to Form and Smooth Shapes

OK, time for final shaping. I love the 1 inch belt sander for jobs like this and it really makes easy work of it. I tried to leave a little excess on both parts to ensure that both sides would match in the end. A little lee way is ok, but you don't want too much. A Dremel can be used as well, if there are indentations (as in the front and rear) to smooth out.

Step 8: Paint Cars With Matching Colors

Aha! The final step is painting the cars to match the colors of the photos. I used acrylic paint as that's what I have and it comes in many colors so color matching is not a problem. A fine line paint brush is used to out line windows, headlights, grills, bumpers, etc. You don't have to be exact here, as most views of the models will be side views. After paint has dried thoroughly, I apply poly urethane acrylic. Again, it dries very fast, and after a light sanding, more coats can be added.

Step 9: Finalize And/or Display Your Models

And that's it! Fun to make, and really inexpensive to do, if you like models and/or want to do this, give it a shot. You'll be glad you did! Thanks for viewing my instructable.

Wood Contest

Participated in the
Wood Contest



    • Backyard Contest

      Backyard Contest
    • Growing Beyond Earth Maker Contest

      Growing Beyond Earth Maker Contest
    • Barbecue Challenge

      Barbecue Challenge

    16 Discussions


    Reply 2 years ago

    hey webbrowan: funny this came up as I am printing out some new models to make as we speak. You are right, it is fun and I like to go back and redo some projects for that reason! Keeps me young! Thanks for you comment!


    3 years ago on Introduction

    Great idea.Painting the cars require a lot of skill and patience.The final outcome will depend on this only.


    4 years ago on Step 9

    So very cool!! I've been looking for a simple, quick project to use with my bandsaw! I just found it!!


    4 years ago on Introduction

    I Like it i may have to make one of those ...I used to make airplanes, out of scrap lumber and paneling. I would carve the propeller and attach it to the nose with a nail. add some weight, tie a string to the wing and sling it around in a circle. I started getting fancy and tried to make the planes look like WW1 Bi-planes and WW2 fighters.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    I think it would be easy to put so real wheels on it, so it would be funnier. Great idea man!

    1 reply

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks, fromeira! As a matter of fact, I had thought the same thing and used dowels to make wheels after cutting out the wheel wells with the band saw. The next progression, naturally, would be to make wheels on axles, that turn and could be rolled!


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Those are soooo cool! Definitely got to give that a try.


    4 years ago

    This is just genius.. I opened this thinking "this is going to be nonsense or brilliance..." good thinking!

    1 reply