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Car modelers prepare for annual contest and swap meet

Merced is hosting another car show Saturday but the vehicles in this one can fit into the palm of one's hand. Despite their miniature nature, these vehicles exhibit all the realism and craftsmanship of their full-size counterparts.

The third annual Model Car Contest and Swap Meet will be held Saturday at the Merced County Fairgrounds Commerce Building. Promoter Al Cummings of Merced expects about 450 models to compete for cash prizes and more than three-dozen vendors to sell built and unassembled versions and supplies. Several hundred spectators and more than 100 modelers are expected to attend.

While Cummings, a lifelong modeler who has lived in Merced 14 years and has several thousand models, is hoping high gas prices won't keep spectators, buyers and vendors away, he said a number of people are planning to carpool to the event from Northern, Central and Southern California locations.

The predominant scale for many of the models is 1/24th or 1/25th scale. Most are plastic but some are diecast.

Other than a swap meet-show in Marysville/Yuba City, Merced's event is one of only two annually in Northern California. Several shows are held each year in Southern California.

Just like a "real" car show, models of low riders, hot rods, customized cars, muscle cars, pickup trucks and big rigs, showroom stock, drag racing and circle-track racers will be exhibited. A junior class also is planned for younger modelers.

Cummings said he has had good support in promoting the event. The editor of Model Cars magazine, Gregg Hutchings of Hawaii, is expected to attend and provide coverage of the event.

With the late Ron Baldwin, Cummings promoted model car shows for 10 years in the San Mateo area before he moved here.

Since plastic car models are no longer carried in most retail stores and some major hobby shops and online vendors have closed up shop recently, model kits are becoming harder to find, Cummings said. Visitors to Merced's show should be able to pick up bargains on items not readily available or long out of production.

Thirteen sponsors will provide plaques and trophies for the winners of contest categories. Sponsors include A&S Hobbies, Heart & Soul Graphics, Matt Glass Race Cars and Parts, Smith Truck Repair, Ed Parker Construction, Edward and Sherry Back, Billie Baker with Mighty Muffler, Chelsea's Ink, Harris Electric, Jack Mounts Racing, B&D Hobbies, Porter Racing and Bob's Paint.

Dave Tucker of Sacramento said his interest in models started in the early 1950s just as plastic kits started to appear in the stores.

"I built anything and everything, but finally settled down into a primary interest in model cars," Tucker said. "I have never lost my interest in models over the years and I enjoy seeing new kits to find out just how the companies are doing them. Although I am not currently building, I have hopes of getting back into it shortly."

Like many modelers, Tucker's area of interest covers many different periods and types of cars, but he has a special love for 1/32nd scale brass-era cars.

"I have had the pleasure of attending all of the A&S shows at the Merced Fairgrounds," Tucker said, "and I look forward to this one coming up. Al and Susan have a lot of people who appreciate their efforts to provide a show of this nature and the turnout, both of models for display and vendors for the swap meet, has been very good for the past shows and should continue with this show."

Last year's event featured 42 vendors and about 450 models on exhibit, Cummings said.

The show opens to spectators at 9 a.m. Saturday and runs through midafternoon. Admission is $5 per person with children 12 and under admitted free.

Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2485 or