No, really, it’s fine. It’s under control mostly; my wife hasn’t threatened to leave me and there’s no need to call for help.
And you may ask: How did I get here? Like many obsessions, it started innocently enough, some 20 plus years ago, with a 1/43 Alfa Romeo 155 DTM, and it has progressed and expanded in phases. Following that initial purchase, I thought it would be fun to celebrate all the odd (by American standards) automotive conveyances my dad brought home, which propelled my searches on eBay 1.0 and every specialist retailer near, by, or in any city I happened to be in.
[Note from The Bishop: Everyone, please meet Carlos Ferreira; a professional designer, Alfaholic wrencher, and professor at Art Center College. Don’t worry, he won’t bite, but if you have a something like a 1/24 scale Peugeot 504 sedan he might pester you to buy it constantly. Ask me how I know.]
As in any epic quest, I encountered the unexpected many times. In looking for a model of say, a ’74 Renault 12 wagon so I could repaint it in the same cinnamon metallic and rainbow rocker stripes scheme as our own, I found scale models of charming small delivery vans and three-wheelers and micro cars and obscure sports cars, in the process expanding my already nearly encyclopedic knowledge of nearly useless automotive esoterica. One quirky and totes adorbs kei car seemed lonely without another 1 or 12 to keep it company, so I found myself running several searches simultaneously, setting up alerts on eBay and other sites.
As you would expect, I also put out BOLOs on models of the cars in my personal fleet, past and present, registered or not. (If you’re starting to suspect that I don’t have a ton of exotics and run-of-the-mill 911 variants in my collection, you’d be correct. I have no time for the beige Corollas of the model car world when there are Tatras and Daihatsus to be acquired). After amassing a collection of 1/43s, it was easy to gateway into 1/18s and other bigger scales, and so it continues to this day.
I Blame My Shrink For This
There was a time when the stress and long hours of being a Design Director on a skeleton crew starting up a west coast design office was affecting my sleep, made me anxious and generally unhappy. My shrink at the time, who appropriately enough, looked like Santa Claus, suggested doing something just for myself, like a hobby, perhaps something I used to do as kid to reconnect with my childhood, etc, to which I resisted fully, because I am proud and always know what’s best for me.
Santa threatened to put coal in my stockings so I gave in and bought my first model kit in many years — since I was 14. It was, predictably, an Alfa — a mid 90’s GTV, to be precise. He demanded proof of my commitment to the therapy so with a glass of two buck chuck in hand, and some Zero 7 in the background I set about sanding, painting and gluing, and something wondrous happened: I could literally feel the pressure and anxiety draining away, like the result of a powerful mental health enema. I had my first fix in many many years and it bit hard. Realizing the cost savings over psychoanalysis (umm, sure) I said “see ya sucka!,” cancelled all my sessions and started amassing kits, which is another tale to be told.
The Accelerant Impulse Item
I was a weird kid, which explains why I’m a weird adult, although I hide it well, I think. I’ve been obsessed with realism and accuracy of my toys since the middle of my single digit years. I outgrew Matchboxes early and scoffed at Hot Wheels with engines sticking out of the hood or stupid graphics (I’m looking at you, flames!). I even got into sand box fights over the mixing of scales during group playtime.
My derisive perception of cheap 1/64 scale toy cars was upended whilst in the checkout line at a Target in the yearly 00’s; I noticed how nicely detailed, proportioned and well-made $1 Hot Wheels had become! The paint was smooth, shiny and even, the wheels were more realistically scaled, the interiors and visible mechanical components finely detailed, and egad, many were in a single, tasteful color! So, I bought one…and then rinsed and repeated, and so on and so on. More on that at a later time.
Managing It All
Collections are pointless if not managed and curated, I say, so as mine continued to expand in every direction like the universe after the Big Bang, I knew I needed to develop a system that would be easy to use. There was some software kicking around but none suited my needs, so I created a system of templates involving Quicken, DropbBox, Photoshop and file tags. Every new collectible I buy is entered into a Quicken file so I know when I bought it, for how much and where.
The entry includes a standardized description of the item that begins with scale, manufacturer, vehicle year, then make, model and specific information about any series, colors, liveries, etc. This description is used as the file name for photos of the collectibles added to a visual database, which also adheres to a standardized format. The naming system not only makes it easy to plug in info, it also looks very tidy when viewing files in list mode. Uh, yeah, I have a slight OCD streak.
My system allows me to easily find any collectible I own, searching by file name content or tags on my desktop computer. The standardized image format also allows for a quick and neat visual of any items in the collection, so I can view any subset instantly without physically digging through the vault, curating virtual group displays if you will, on a whim. Having my database on DropBox also gives me access to it anywhere to compare bought and unbought items, to make sure I’m not buying duplicates or just impress strangers at parties.
Storing And Displaying My ‘Investments’
I’ve seen some crazy blokes on the web that let their collections overwhelm their homes and I’m not one of them, because, well, I’m not an animal. I can also stop anytime I want. Nope, you see, I’m a mildly obsessive compulsive spatial designer so I could never have an entire wall of say, GI Joe vehicles in their boxes stacked like bricks against the wall. Due to my home’s compact dimensions which already require a Tetris mindset to storage solutions, I vowed to establish approved model car display zones and rotate displays, like a mini museum, with the majority in dust proof cabinets.
I’ve tried to curate as much as possible; below you can see cases reserved for things like commercial vehicles, Citroens, and Saab.
Dioramas appear to be the next logical step to my madness:
At any given time only a sixth of the collection is featured, with the rest obsessively organized and catalogued in my loft, which looks like a miniature version of the end scene of Raiders of The Lost Ark.
It is imperative that I can find any item via my database and physically retrieve it easily, in several minutes at most, so I strive for consistency of box sizes and type, into which cars are sorted by scale, then type, than alphabetized marque. Of course I’ve designed graphically cohesive and consistent color-coded labels with silhouettes illustrating the contents.
Ah, but what about the unassembled model kits I mentioned earlier? I still have space remaining in my home for The Pleasure Room (or Room of Shame, depending on who you ask) to attempt to build these things, but when you insist on Photoshopping gauge clusters that are about three millimeters tall and paint the radio station selection buttons on dashboards the size of postage stamps the process is pretty slow. At the current pace, if I don’t purchase any more kits (HA!) I should be finished with constructing them all by the time I’m 286 years old. No problem!
You Too Can Do This!
I’ll never be able to own all the real fantastic transportation machines I want, especially since I keep discovering more and new ones are unveiled every year. Hell, the Peterson Museum’s expansive collection has 6642 fewer full-sized cars than I have scale vehicles. Managing my own six-1:1-scale-car household fleet is already challenging enough, psychically and financially, so I buy miniatures that I can create my very own Cars & Coffee meets with.
The plus side is whenever I throw them back into the pond, I rarely lose money, and in most cases earn a profit, sometimes considerable, at least percentage-wise. And there isn’t a downside I can think of, really, not at all! Just think, for a few lease payments on a boring gray-scale crossover you too can be a Jay Leno of model cars! If you live with a spouse or partner, a cooperative one is essential, however. I’m very fortunate to say mine not only tolerates my affectation but is an enabler, eagerly diving into bins and proposing additions to the horde. She’s also a designer and it turns out has excellent taste in cars, full size and miniature. So join the club! None of the cool kids are doing it, but that’s because they’re not really as cool as they think they are. Pfftt, I bet none even know what a Renault 12 wagon looks like.
Alas, I feel I’ve already revealed too much, but yet… there are still so many more layers to uncover in a journey into the deep rabbit hole that is the mind and domicile of an organized hoarder, but I’ll leave that for the next confession.
Carlos Ferreira is creative director and environmental designer with a BFA from the College for Creative Studies. A professor of Spatial Experience Design at Art Center College, Carlos lives in Pasadena with his wife, six cars (four of them Italian, four of them running) and four cats (none Italian, all of them running).