Home » I Share A Small House With 7,042 Model-Cars. Here’s The Obsessive Way I Organize Them

I Share A Small House With 7,042 Model-Cars. Here’s The Obsessive Way I Organize Them

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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.

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[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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Dioramas appear to be the next logical step to my madness:

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9At 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.

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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.

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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!
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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.

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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).

 

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Sarah Lowrey
Sarah Lowrey
6 months ago

What is that big, ten-wheeled orange abomination in the photos?

Carlos Ferreira
Carlos Ferreira
5 months ago
Reply to  Sarah Lowrey

It’s actually an 11-wheeled orange abomination wonder! It’s a one-off vehicle designed and built by Michelin called the ‘Mille Pattes’ which means centipede in French. They built it so they could test several different tire types at once under the same conditions. There’s space for an 11th wheel in the middle of the chassis!

Carlos Ferreira (FR)
Carlos Ferreira (FR)
6 months ago

I never tried to organize mine (cars, trucks, boxes). They’re all made of paper, some hand-drawn, other computer-drawn (the older ones on an Amstrad CPC) and all stored in shoe and puzzle boxes.

(I’m a different Carlos Ferreira).

Carlos Ferreira
Carlos Ferreira
6 months ago

Whaaaaaat !? Portugues ou Brasileiro?

It’s too bad we can’t post pics in the comments. Would love to see everyone’s collections.

Carlos Ferreira (FR)
Carlos Ferreira (FR)
6 months ago

Francês, born to portuguese parents who first emigrated to Brazil. My maternal uncles are still there with their families.

And “cars, trucks, boxes” should be “cars, trucks, buses” plus a handful of motorbikes.

Carlos Ferreira
Carlos Ferreira
6 months ago

Wow! Interesting mix! My parents are Portuguese but I was born in Angola (West Africa). With a name and lineage like that you must be as incredibly handsome as me : D

Zac H
Zac H
6 months ago

Nice get on that MPC Fiero! I’ve been watching eBay for one in good condition for a decent price for a while now. I’m hoping Round2 re-releases it soon so I can get a fresh copy.

Carlos Ferreira
Carlos Ferreira
6 months ago
Reply to  Zac H

I love what Round2 has been doing. I’ve bought added several of their reissues to my stash.

JerryLH3
JerryLH3
6 months ago

I have a pretty expansive collection of die cast cars as well, but nothing to this level. I used to collect a lot of stuff, but almost all of it was motorsports related – NASCAR, F1, sports cars, etc. Now my collection revolves around a few clearly defined genres.

  • Rotary anything. I have every rotary powered car to race at Le Mans from 1970 to 1991 in 1/43 scale. I have 1/18 scale RX-7s, an RX-8, and a Cosmo Sport. I have several other 1/43 Mazda racing cars that are non-rotary, mostly from the 2000s to the recent RT24-P program. And because it was the only way to get certain things, I eventually did what I said I would never do and have started purchasing curbside 1/18s with no opening features. This was the only way to get some GTO RX-7s and the RT24-Ps in a bigger scale.
  • Le Mans winners in 1/43 scale. I have collected almost every Le Mans overall winner since 1923. I need four more to have every one.
  • Sports cars/endurance cars in 1/18. This is where my collection really got pared down recently. I like to be able to display as much as possible, and I have a finite amount of storage room which is basically tapped out (until the kids start moving out?). I’m down to only a few that really mean the most to me – a Chaparral, a Ford GT40, and the Le Mans winning McLaren F1 GTR. I have one F1 car left, the AAR Eagle that won Spa in 1967.

It’s amazing to see the dedication in this collection and the superb organizing techniques.

Carlos Ferreira
Carlos Ferreira
6 months ago
Reply to  JerryLH3

Thanks Jerry!

Austin Vail
Austin Vail
6 months ago

If only I had a loft, then I could try the rotating-out-displays thing… actually it might be a good thing I don’t, since then I’d buy more things and right now I’m pretty happy with what I’ve got.

But I do love seeing collections like this, it makes my inner child happy. I want to vroom vroom all the little things.

This actually reminded me of a dream I had a while back where I had pulled in for gas during a road trip, to find that the gas station store was just a huge model/toy car emporium. Every surface was decorated with posters and advertisements for cars and car-related things, and every wall was covered with shelves and glass cases containing every imaginable variety of miniature vehicle. They even had old/antique model cars and toy vehicles… It was paradise. There was no question I had to buy something there, and I think I had at least 12 picked out before I woke up.

That’s up there on the list of dreams I was really sad to wake up from. I wish that place was real… Maybe if I ever have the cash to open up a niche store just for the heck of it, I’ll have to make my Lane Motor Museum of toy car stores dream a reality.

Last edited 6 months ago by Austin Vail
AverageCupOfTea
AverageCupOfTea
6 months ago

A reader since the start of this website, your article is the reason i made an account, to ask a question: i’m looking for a Mercedes-Benz W123 lang (long) model, in gold color, this is my family old car for 20 years, i would love to have a model of it, can you help?

And thank you for the lovely article, i’ve been thinking about starting a small collection of model-cars

Slirt
Slirt
6 months ago

well thanks for sharing, Carlos; i’m only a fractional version of you, with a collection in the mid-hundreds and more-simply cataloged with Excel/Sheets… but everything you said rings true, and is much my rationale also. Nice to know of others are out there with a similar mindset & affliction!

Miguel Plano
Miguel Plano
6 months ago

Hi Carlos, I’m in the same boat, me and my dad collect models too, the count is to 4898, however ours are all exposed.

Years ago i decided to also show my collection online, which can be see here, which is due an update).

http://www.minipassionmini.com/mini-autos/

CUlater
CUlater
6 months ago
Reply to  Miguel Plano

Outstanding – bookmarked!

Beceen
Beceen
6 months ago

Carlos, welcome! This is a great collection and I see many rare items… I know I probably should’t fuel your addiction, eeer, passion, but you should really check new(ish) Hot Wheels and Matchboxes (HW generally offers many modded versions of cool cars, MB tends to stick to stock forms, which complements each other perfectly). then there’s Johnny Lightniing, Autoworld, Inno64 and maaaaaaany others including also these weird Chinese die-cast producers and resin models, and…. yeah, what I wanted to say is 1/64 is also cool. Btw, here’s a photo of my display, look how many 1/64s can you cram in one cabinet! https://www.reddit.com/r/HotWheels/comments/1035c77/i_was_finally_able_to_finish_my_display_after/

Carlos Ferreira
Carlos Ferreira
6 months ago
Reply to  Beceen

Waaaay ahead of you! If you look closely at the images in the article you’ll see some 1/64s on my computer parking structure, some Tomicas and Kyoshos in a garage and the two Tomica Limited Vintage Land Cruisers. Over half of my collection is 1/64, and I detail and modify many of them. Because they’re (usually) cheaper, I find myself picking them up like snacks.

Thanks for sharing pics of your collection! The great thing about 1/64s is their small size which makes it easy to place them in small spaces. Keep it up!

67 Oldsmobile
67 Oldsmobile
6 months ago

This is so great. You’re totally weird,but that is what’s normal around here.

Frederick Tanujaya
Frederick Tanujaya
6 months ago

Ah, 17 now, started to collect tomicas since 5, 12 years, 130ish cars and counting!
A mate went even crazier, started at 11, and 17 too now, plays around in the 1:18 Autoarts scene, collects but also plays the buy low sell high game, around 120-140 1:18 autoarts IIRC

Molly
Molly
6 months ago

Incredible and oddly inspiring. I never knew your collection went this far!

Scott
Scott
6 months ago

I enjoyed this Carlos, and I empathize, since I’ve been afflicted with the collecting/taxonomist bug since I was but a wee tyke. Though there’ve been a few spreadsheets involved over the years, I don’t think I’ve ever been as impressively organized as you though. 😉 Thanks!

Alan Christensen
Alan Christensen
6 months ago

I started building car models when I was nine. I too might’ve ended up with a houseful of them if I hadn’t moved on to other hobbies in my thirties.

Carlos Ferreira
Carlos Ferreira
6 months ago

I moved on after getting my driver’s license and discovering girls, but as they say, Life finds away!

Inthemikelane
Inthemikelane
6 months ago

so do you collect Christmas car ornaments? I ended up with a nice little collection that my current wife won’t let me put on the tree.

Carlos Ferreira
Carlos Ferreira
6 months ago
Reply to  Inthemikelane

I only have one model car that was originally a Hallmark ornament, but I removed the hanging hook because I’m very concerned about realism. Do the same and put them on a shelf, or make your own mobile!

Inthemikelane
Inthemikelane
6 months ago

Good idea, I’ll see if that passes the wife test, which we all know, determines if go forward or not.

Austin Vail
Austin Vail
6 months ago
Reply to  Inthemikelane

Easy, just get a second tree and put it somewhere your wife won’t be bothered by it. If you have an office or man cave, it can have its own tree. If not, you could make an argument for putting a Christmas tree in the bathroom…

Ron888
Ron888
6 months ago

Genuinely curious who has the more expensive car collecting hobby – you or Mercedes

Carlos Ferreira
Carlos Ferreira
6 months ago
Reply to  Ron888

I also have five 1:1 cars, plus the wifey’s, so I may present a good challenge. The thing about having a detailed obsessive database, is that I know exactly how much I paid for everything, so I know how much I’ve sunk into my hobby, and that’s good and bad.

Rich Hobbs
Rich Hobbs
6 months ago

Carlos, I too have this addiction. Every 10 years or so I sell off as much of my collection as I can. Then after a couple months, start looking at the websites…and it starts all over again. Big sale coming up this coming January so will reduce my collection again. I am mostly a builder but like you if I see an interesting diecast….like the 1948 Matchbox Kurtis Roadster. Black well detailed, never gonna get reissued…am I right? This rare car was assembled using a Ford frame and mostly Cadillac V8s. AKA the Muntz Jet!! You’re way better organized than I am. After the sale….??

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
6 months ago

Have you tried scalearts.in for your model?

Carlos Ferreira
Carlos Ferreira
6 months ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

I’ll check it out, thanks!

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
6 months ago

Hey if you find it say something nice about me on the site. A lot of haters here

Cyko9
Cyko9
6 months ago

Thanks for sharing your collection management techniques. I recommend to people to choose a scale, make, or brand and try to stick with it. Diecast/model collecting is a slippery slope, and you’ve got to set some rules to keep from burying yourself.

Carlos Ferreira
Carlos Ferreira
6 months ago
Reply to  Cyko9

That’s my original intent, when I was younger and naive.

V8 Fairmont Longroof
V8 Fairmont Longroof
6 months ago

One of the middle pics, with GT cars on grid… the 3 quasi-futuristic-military vehicles top left – I’ve got them too! Had since I was a kid! Are they rare?

Carlos Ferreira
Carlos Ferreira
6 months ago

They’re Matchbox SuperKings, larger scale than standard Matchboxes, from the Adventure 2000 series, made in the 70’s when we thought we would be exploring the moon and other astral bodies in gull-winged 6-wheelers. They are rare to find in excellent condition as most have been used and abused, and the firing missiles and tracks have been lost. Mint items in the original cool 70’s packaging are rare and worth a few hundred bucks.

V8 Fairmont Longroof
V8 Fairmont Longroof
6 months ago

Thanks – good to know! Mine were played with back in the day, and missiles definitely long gone!

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