Having a Hot Rod Crazy life without a hot rod of my own.
Hi, I’m Gram Spina. I’m 21 years old, I live on Long Island, NY, and I am crazy about hot rods. Hence, my Instagram name is hotrod_crazy. However, I currently do not own a hot rod, but that doesn’t bother me because in every other way, my life is surrounded by hot rods and automotive history.
Following my passion with my higher education
In 2021, I graduated from Pennsylvania College of Technology with an associate’s degree in Vintage Automotive Restoration. I am currently pursuing a BA in Photography and Related Media from FIT’s School of Art and Design. My college education has involved everything from learning restoration techniques while working on a 1929 Duesenberg to improving my photography skills as I challenge myself to go above and beyond photographing hot rods and junkyards. Both of these stories deserve to be told and I plan to do just that on the Iron and Steele website and podcast very soon. So sign up for Jakes’s email blast and subscribe to the Iron and Steele podcast so you don’t miss a thing.
The dream job
My job never feels like “work” because I truly love what I do. I can’t believe how lucky I am to be archiving such a unique and treasured collection of automobile history. I’ve known my boss Howard since I was eight years old. When I first met him at a car show, he gave me a ride in his historic 1909 Alco Black Beast race car. I’ve been interested in cars since the day I was born, but the day Howard gave me a ride in the Black Beast set my path in life. I knew my life’s career would always involve historic cars. Today, I organize auto history within our archives room, including a vast collection of historic automotive photography, literature, and artwork. My boss also owns a curated collection of truly historic cars, including a 1948 Tucker and a 1963 Ford Mustang “Shorty” prototype. Again, I will write an article or two for Iron and Steele about my job eventually. For now, if you want to learn more, check out the VCR website ( https://www.
The main story: Plastic Model Kits
I started my deep dive into building plastic model car kits during the pandemic. I used to customize hot wheel-scaled cars, but I changed to model kits since my options for what I can build are greater than they were with the small-scale cars. Here are examples of why I no longer build Hot Wheel customs: first, there was little variety of years hot rods available, and there were zero accurate-looking castings of a 1934 Ford 3-window coupe (my favorite year for a hot rod). And second, the lack of fine details, like spark plug wires and gauge cluster details, were nearly non-existent because of how small hot-wheel toy cars are in size.
Since starting my new hobby of plastic model car kits, I have built at least 12 1:24th/1:25th scaled hot rods, and I have more than enough model kits to build 50 more. However, I will harvest parts to build a more accurate model. For example, I took the drop axel from the Revell ’32 Ford kit and the Hopped-Up Mercury Flathead engine from another kit. All of these parts are going onto my AMT release of the 1929 Ford Model A roadster I am currently working on. Imagine going to the LA Roadster Show like I was lucky enough to do this past summer. The parts that I have collected for my scale models are much like the Roadster Show’s massive hot rod swap meet. But instead of walking around for hours in the hot SoCal sun, all of the parts I need are in my basement. In fact, I regularly buy more 3D-printed parts to keep my Scaled Kustom and speed parts on hand, so I don’t have to wait for that special part to arrive when I need it the most. I also completed my scale build of the Mooneyes dragster in model kit form after seeing the real thing in person while on vacation in California.
It takes me about 3 to 5 months to build each model. I take my time, and I LOVE doing the bodywork; no, seriously, I enjoy it. I find bodywork therapeutic since I have no deadline for my builds. Additionally, I get to use the same skills I learned at Penn College, but instead of a hammer and dolly to repair the dented metal of a 1932 Buick 4-door, I am doing the same thing but with styrene plastic. Truth be told, there is no hammer and dollying on model car kits. Instead, if a plastic part is warped, I use warm water and slowly bend the part back into shape. Then, for the low spots, I sparingly use model car filler to get the surface of my model arrow straight. For primer and paint, 95 percent of the time I use rattle cans, and 5 percent of the time I use my airbrush. It’s all the same techniques as painting a real car. But it’s a lot less stressful. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed painting car parts at a restoration shop I worked at before I started my current job, but there’s nothing like a stress-free environment when it is just myself and the art of laying down a smooth base coat on a 1934 chop top 3-window coupe Ford scale model kit.
Recently, I took home a 3rd place ribbon in the “custom class” at a scale model car hosted by the Long Island Scale Model Society with my 1932 Ford 5-window coupe. It was my first time attending and competing, and I was up against builders who have been doing this since before I was born. I wasn’t expecting to take home a ribbon (but I knew I would buy model kits from the swap meet, and I did). I made some lifelong friends at the model show, and when my name got called for 3rd place, I was shocked, but my new friends were not shocked at all.
I enjoy building model kits, and I see no reason to stop any time soon. I get to build the hot rods and various old cars I've always dreamed of having in my garage. And I’m sure one day I will have the real deal, but for now, having the built model kit of the cars I yearn for sitting inside the display cases in my room satisfies me. So go to your local hobby shop, get yourself a hot rod model kit and some model glue, spend 2 hours a night on your model build, and HAVE FUN!!!