Model Cars for Adults: A Beginner’s Guide [With Tool List]

The back end of a scale model car Impala

If you’re interested in starting up on the model car hobby, there are a few things that will make the process easier. 

The first is mindset: Don’t get overwhelmed!

Pick a beginner-friendly model you like, and understand there will be a bit of a learning curve.  Modern kits are not too tough, so don’t be intimidated!

Model Car Building Beginner Quick Start:

The Kit: Choose a beginner-friendly kit that you can start with. One of my favorites to start with is Revel’s 1970 Dodge Charger.

The Tools: I suggest something like this: Beginner Hobby Tool Kit. You can get more advanced stuff, but don’t overdo it until it’s needed.

The Paints: I suggest the same paints as used in miniature painting. Acrylic-based paint that is water-soluble. I love this base set by Vallejo. You can use the old school Testers enamels as well if you prefer. Just be aware they need harsh thinners and cleaners.

The Ultimate Guide To Building a Model Car for Beginners

Before you get started on your new model car project, it is important to learn about a few tools and techniques to make sure the final model is on point.

This is especially true for beginners who are still new to the fun of building a model car.

Remember, it pays off to start off with the right knowledge and with the right kit as this will add to the overall experience of building a model car and painting it.

Picking the Right Model Car Kit

The first thing you need to do is pick out a model car kit for yourself. Keep in mind that while it is true that the more complex the model, the more fun it is to build.

It is also true that if a model is too complex, it can easily get frustrating. This is why it is essential to choose wisely when it comes to picking a model car kit.

You don’t want to pick a model car that’s so simple that it fails to challenge your skills and stimulate your mind.

On the other hand, steer clear of opting for a model car kit that is too complex or you’ll probably never complete the model.

The trick is to choose the right scale. 1/24 and 1/25 model car kits are popular, especially amongst beginners.

Take the time to do your research and learn about different kits available in the market. Whatever you do, don’t be hasty about this decision as it will shape your entire experience.

Getting Started – Tools for Your First Model Car

From various tools to paints and an air paintbrush, there are a lot of things that you will invest in once you get hooked to building model cars.

However, as a beginner, you can start off a few basics. Here’s a list of tools and equipment that you will need to build a model car as a beginner.

  • A knife
  • A paint set and paintbrush
  • Spray paints
  • Thinner
  • Sanding sticks
  • Sandpaper assortments
  • A needle-file set
  • Masking tape and rubber bands
  • White glue and scissors
  • Model cement as an adhesive
  • Toothpicks and tweezers

With these common items in your arsenal, you are good to start working on your first-ever model car.

Keep in mind that you probably won’t have to buy most of these items as they are common home items, usually already available at home.

This means that if you are a beginner, you can still build model cars on a budget as you will hardly have to spend money apart from investing in the model car kit.

Advanced Tools – Taking It a Step Further

The tools mentioned above are enough to build a simple model car.

However, if you are ready to step things up and build the model car of your dreams, you may have to use some advanced tools and learn a few pro tricks.

There are two things that you can work on – your building or detailing skills and the finishing techniques.

Detailing involves activities like adding wiring to the engine or plumbing.

On the other hand, finishing techniques are all about the aesthetics of the finished model and revolve around factors like the perfect paint job, filling seams, etc.

Building or Detailing

Building or detailing involves modifying parts to ensure they assemble easily and fit perfectly. You will need a lot of tools to brush up on your building skills.

Here’s is a list of advanced tools and supplies that you will require to build the perfect model car.

  • Spruce cutter
  • Razor saw
  • Detail files
  • Hemostat
  • Rechargeable motor tool
  • A drill set
  • A soldering iron
  • Sheet-metal bender
  • Dial caliper
  • Pin vise
  • A magnifier lamp
  • A scalpel
  • A punch-and-die set
  • A pliers set

It may take you some time to get familiar with these tools but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be building beautiful model cars like a pro.

Before you can do that, let’s learn a bit about some advanced building tools.

  • Soldering iron and a sheet-metal bender can help you engineer metal body panels for a model car. This will give your model car a professional look!
  • A dial caliper is used to measure the thickness of metal and plastic. It will help you add the ideal engine wiring to your model car.
  • If you are working on a model scaled 1/43 or less, you will be doing a lot of intricate detailing. A magnifier lamp will enlarge the model pieces for you, making it easier to work on them.
  • A punch-and-die set will allow you to punch perfectly-sized holes in plastic or metal sheets.
  • A scalpel is a step forward from a standard knife. It is used to make more precise and delicate cuts.
  • A rechargeable motor tool is perfect for making major modifications to the kit. It can also help you tackle cast-resin body parts.
  • A fine-tooth razor saw is used for the chopping jobs. You can use it in multiple ways when it comes to fixing the bodywork.
  • Detail flies are used to work in tight and hard-to-reach places. On the other hand, you will use pliers to tackle and fold up small, photoetched metal parts.


Here is a list of advanced tools and supplies that you will require to build a model car with impressive detailing.

  • Single or double-action airbrush
  • Airbrush thinner
  • Chrome foil
  • Superglue accelerator and de-bonder
  • A polishing kit
  • Model wax
  • Filler putty
  • Acrylic paints and water paints
  • Custom mixed lacquer
  • Decal setting solution
  • Liquid masking film
  • An eyedropper
  • Miniature lathe
  • Soldering iron
  • Color balanced work light
  • A weathering set

Take the time to learn about different tools and what they do. Try out different techniques and find the ones that suit you the best.

Let’s take a quick look at some items on the list that may be new to you:

  • A single or double-action airbrush is used for next-level paint job. The kind of finesse you can get with a single-action airbrush is impossible to achieve with spray cans.
    You can also consider buying a vented spray booth. While they are generally expensive, they can protect you and your family from harmful chemical vapors.
  • Model wax is used to bring a high shine to the model, perfecting the finish.
  • A self-adhesive chrome foil will follow almost any curvature. It is used to highlight any fine details or to stimulate the surfaces of the model.
  • Switching to advanced adhesives will also have a drastic effect on the finished model. For instance, superglue not only allows you to build quickly, but it will also help you fill gaps and cover sink marks. However, superglue can is a powerful adhesive so make sure you have a bottle of de-bonder before you start using it.
  • A weathering set is perfect for replica-stock builders. It will help you add small details. From adding a little rust to modeling beaters, it will take care of everything for you.
  • Custom mixed lacquers are perhaps the best and most advanced paints available for model cars. You can use them to boast a really complex, thin, and shiny paint job.

When it comes to building model cars, the list of tools and supplies you can use is extensive.

However, as a beginner, you don’t need to worry about everything at once. You don’t have to buy every item on the list.

Instead, you can always mix and match the tools and supplies and buy new ones based on your individual building style.

It is advisable to take one step at a time and slowly transition from basic supplies to specialized tools and equipment.

And before you know it, you will be building beautiful trophy model cars like a real pro.

Start with the right model, use the right tools, and dive into your new model car project for some quality time!

Don’t miss out on my Ultimate Model Tools and Supplies List! It’s chock full of the basic supplies and fun advanced gear for all of your modeling adventures!

Share on facebook
Share on pinterest
Share on email
Share on print


I'm a hobby enthusiast with a real love for painting miniatures. I also happen to run this site and write the majority of its content!