About Skill Levels
Text & Photos by the Webmaster

  In the early years of the model car hobby, figuring out how easy or hard a particular kit was to build was pretty much a guessing game. Unless a cooperative hobby shop owner was willing to allow you to take a peek inside, it wasn’t until you got a kit home and opened it, that you knew what kind of challenge you faced.

  Those early kits could be as easy to assemble as AMT’s early 3-in-1 kits, which were pretty much unassembled promos with a few custom parts thrown in.  
  Or they could be as complex as Revell’s early multi-piece body kits which were much more challenging.  

  Back in those days, it made little difference to me…I wanted to build them all! But inexperienced modelers (and parents) usually just had to roll the dice and hope for the best.

In the 70s and 80s it got just a little easier, when kit manufacturers showed photos of the kit’s contents, or at least detailed descriptions of the parts that were included. But in the 90s, manufacturers began to classify their kits according to skill levels, which are still in use today. These not only give younger modelers and their folks an idea of how challenging a particular kit is, but also gives more experienced modelers a bit of a guideline to judge the level of detail they may expect to find when they open the box. Skill levels from various manufacturers may differ somewhat, but in general here’s what you can expect:

Skill Level 1

This is the easiest level of kit and is an excellent choice for beginning modelers. They are generally recommended for age eight and older. In many ways Level 1 kits closely resemble the early kits from AMT and JoHan in that they usually don’t have engines or separate chassis components. They are also usually a bit more ruggedly engineered and lend themselves to use as toys as well as display models. Most Level 1 kits are of the snap-together variety. They require minimal skill and experience, are usually molded in one or more colors, need no painting or cementing, and few if any tools for their assembly. A fledgling modeler can knock together a Level 1 kit in a minimum amount of time and produce a very nice finished piece. This is particularly important for younger modelers. The positive reinforcement they get from assembling their first few models with a minimal effort and time encourages them to get more involved in the hobby, to pursue their model making skills, and generally learn by doing.


  Some examples of Level 1 kits include Revell's PT Cruiser and AMT/Ertl's Black Force. Notice the relatively small number of parts in these kits.  

  This is not to say that more experienced modelers will want to ignore Level 1 kits. In many cases a particular model may not be otherwise available, and even though they may not have the degree of detail present in more advanced kits, a great looking finished piece can still be the result. Of course a more advanced builder who tackles a Level 1 kit will most likely use some more advanced techniques. For me, building a Level 1 kit is a lot of fun and takes me back to the old days when the ‘50s and early ‘60s 3-in-1 kits would have probably been classed as Level 1.

  2000 Thunderbird concept vehicle built from Revell's Level 1 Wheels
of Fire snap kit.

  Skill Level 2

Level 2 kits represent the vast majority of kits on the market today. These kits have many more parts than Level 1 kits, with the resulting increase in detail. Generally they have fairly detailed engines with operable hoods, and some separate chassis components, and require a bit more experience and ability to successfully assemble. These kits are usually recommended for age 10 or older and require both painting and cement. They also require significantly more time to properly assemble.


  AMT/Ertl's '73 Mustang and Lindberg's '64 Dodge Ramcharger are just two examples Level 2 kits. Notice the significant increase in the number of parts over Level 1.  


  1957 Chrysler 300-C built from AMT/Ertl's Level 2 kit.  
As a modeler’s skills improve, so does the quality of the finished product, and more advanced builders come up with some truly remarkable models using Level 2 kits as the basic foundation.  

  Skill Level 3

Level 3 kits are the most complicated and are recommended for experienced model builders, age 12 or over. These kits are usually very highly detailed with many small parts. They almost always feature a number of complex sub-assemblies made up of numerous parts, and frequently have operating doors, trunks, poseable/steerable front wheels, etc., in addition to the operating hoods found in Level 2. Consequently they take much longer to complete. The sky’s pretty much the limit for what a finished model can become with a Level 3 kit as a basis.


  Level 3 kits are the most advanced. Notice the increase in the number of parts in these two examples. On the left is Lindberg's Cougar II concept vehicle. This kit was originally tooled and released by IMC around 1964 and represented a quantum leap in model car kits at the time. On the right is the '58 Corvette from Revell-Monogram's Pro Modeler series.  

  Highly skilled modelers will usually add engine wiring, chassis detailing such as brake lines, and take great pains with minute interior details. Aftermarket companies produce special photoetched detailing accessory kits for many Level 3 kits which allow the builder to add even finer detail, and some newer Level 3 kits include photoetched parts, wiring materials, and other such goodies.

So there you have a basic rundown of what to expect the next time you’re shopping for a kit for a younger modeler, or have an urge to tackle something really challenging.

Model Cars Online also uses a variation of these Skill Levels when publishing a particular article. The run pretty much along the same lines; here's a breakdown:

Skill Level 1 articles are written with the beginning modeler in mind, and minimal skill is required. However some of the information may be useful to more advanced modelers. Skill Level 2 articles are for modelers with intermediate levels of experience and skills. They also will require more tools and supplies. Level 3 articles are for the advanced modeler and will require a high level of experience and skill. Complex techniques are used and advanced tools are required. Articles that carry the "ALL" designation will contain information that is useful to all modelers, regardless of experience and skill.

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