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Guest editorial article by Mike Lane (

Building a partwork model is a labour of love. Whether you’re working on a classic car, battleship or a time machine, constructing a replica step-by-step is an immersive adventure in recreating the magic of the original. And before long, you might find yourself toying with the idea of introducing a modification here and there to elevate your model to the next level.Mods can take a multitude of forms. Some focus on boosting the realism of a model by providing even more detail to imitate the original. Others might be upgrades to add a more luxurious finish to a particular feature. There are also customisations designed simply to add a playful extra dimension, like a personalised registration plate for instance.

Varying visions 

Of course, modding a big-scale model is by no means an essential part of the journey. If you’ve committed to building a model, it’s presumably for a quality product you’re already passionate about. For many, the initial goal is to follow the plan, taking care over each step to progress towards the finished result using only official components. It’s a perfectly valid approach to partwork building, as many models are already packed with beautifully detailed features.

And then, there are also those of us who can’t resist enhancing that process by making modifications and enhancements along the way. It might only be a case of tinkering with the design – upgrading select details which particularly matter to you, and which are relatively easy to achieve without permanently or drastically changing the standard model.

Dashboard upgrading
Instrument cluster modifications

But you can go further. Some modellers have even more ambitious visions, and are confident in wielding a can of spray paint or a bottle of weathering agent in the quest for ultimate accuracy and added realism. Many of these more advanced modifications can of course be irreversible and often fall outside of the comfort zone of most partwork hobbyists.Neither approach is right or wrong. Even if you start out with a straightforward build, the highly personal process of partwork building can develop a heightened appreciation for the finer details of a model. And this brings the ever-present temptation to add that little something extra. And a growing ambition for what your model could become might even inspire you eventually to take on a more extreme transformation.

Is modding worth the effort?

What can be achieved by even light modifications is impressive – for those of us who value the smaller details, the chance to boost a model’s realism and authenticity can only bring more pleasure from a project. On the other hand, unless you’re modifying your model with your own creations, it can of course increase the cost of your build. Plus, it will demand more time and effort than doing things entirely by the book. But this can also be seen as a plus. Let’s face it, we wouldn’t build models unless we loved doing it. The opportunity to spend more time in pursuit of perfecting our models is one that most of us grab with both hands. It can be an irresistible way to extend the experience and gain even more enjoyment from the pastime. 

Building up a model part by part is an intimate and at times intense process, but a rewarding one. What’s more, modding can help you fall even more in love with your project. There may be moments where you’d like to delve a little deeper into replicating the original than the standard model allows. Introducing an upgrade can take you into territory that satisfies your more perfectionist inclinations.

Plus, researching the original item can itself be a fascinating and enlightening pursuit. The partwork process can mean delving into the inner workings of a model and interacting with parts that you wouldn’t ordinarily see in an off-the-shelf model – and using this knowledge to add additional detail only enhances the journey.

What’s more, modding allows you to tap into an enthusiastic community of like-minded model builders. For many of us, showcasing our upgrades and seeing what others have achieved is a big part of what makes partwork model building fun and sociable. 

The practice of modifying your model isn’t for everyone and is certainly not necessary for enjoying the magical world of big-scale model building. But for those of us who do like to dabble, whether it’s the odd tweak or more comprehensive transformations, the rewards are great. There’s a thriving network of people out there ready to help and guide you if you want to give it a go yourself. Or you can choose products from the excellent modders out there who have already developed upgrades for your model. But a word of warning: if you thought partwork model building was fun, modding can make the pastime positively addictive.

Mike Lane creates a selection of hand-made mods and accessories for a range of part-work models, which are available to buy at He is currently building Agora’s Shelby Cobra and Shelby Super Snake, and will have some modifications available for these models in the not-too-distant future.

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