Car and truck enthusiasts bring pocket-size vehicles to regional show

Take a look at the pint-size vehicles on display, at this outer East Portland cruise-in that took place in Gateway …

At the SABA Cruise-in, all of the cars and trucks on display are really souped up – and really small. They’re scale models!

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Judging by the turnout we see at many of the cruise-in events we cover each year, many folks enjoy seeing fancy cars and trucks on display.

The first cruise-in of the season we covered, not long ago, was in the activity room at the Gateway Elks – it was a meeting of Scale Auto Builders Association (SABA).

“Welcome to our annual Northwest Scale Auto Fest,” greeted Michael Pearsall, one of the organizers of the show and sale. “This is a meeting of modelers from all over the Pacific Northwest. We have people from as far away as Canada and Northern California attending here today.”

This “gathering of the faithful” is important, Pearsall told us, because “it brings together people who love model cars; and, it helps people become aware of this hobby. A lot of us grew up building scale models as kids. We grew up, moved on to full-size cars, had kids and families and careers. But some of us still love building models”.

Car-show organizer Michael Pearsall, with some of his favorite vehicles.

Pint-size stress relief
Working for “one of the largest beverage companies in the world”, Pearsall said he has a high-stress, challenging job. “This allows me to escape. I enjoy cars; this hobby allows me to own, in miniature, cars I would not otherwise be able to own and full-size.”

SABA provides a sense of community for modelers, he added. “Some guys felt they were doing this all by themselves. Coming to an event like this, or to a club meeting, they get to feel ‘at home’ with others who have the same interest.”

Video games replaced modeling
The club has about 40 members, Pearsall reported. “We are trying to get more kids involved in it. It could give them a creative alternative to being on the Internet all day, or playing video games.”

Club President Ron Martinolich agreed, looking sad as he said, “This hobby has had its ups and downs. If we could get some kids under the age of 15 to get more into modeling – using their hands – I’d sure be happy.”

But Martinolich’s face brightened, as he showed us a couple of his favorite models.

SABA president Ron Martinolich shows us two of his treasures – a 1956 Chevrolet; it’s been modified from a Nomad into a two-door station wagon – and a 1962 Ford Fairlane, a work-in-progress.

“This 1962 Ford Fairlane is extremely rare. One like this would probably sell for $300 on eBay,” Martinolich said. “I’ve got 25 hours in it so far, and probably [it will take] another 10 hours to finish it.”

The best part of this hobby, he said, is meeting the people involved, who “are as nutty about it as I am.”

Models, models, and more models! Edward January brought 1,500 kits to this event held in Gateway.

Dealer brings 1,500 vehicles to show
In addition to showing their completed model vehicles, many club members also offered un-built parts kits for sale.

The largest sale display was a “wall of models” – still in their original cellophane-covered boxes – brought in by “Mr. Models”, Edward January of Springfield, Oregon. “We brought about 1,500 model kits. At home, I have four times as many.”

We asked January why he decided to go into this business. He replied, “This is a full-time hobby. It’s all fun and games. If it were a business, it would take all the fun out of it.”

January said he brought mostly standard model kits for sale. “Today, my ‘parts cars’ have been the best sellers. People use them for customizing their models. Other than that, we sell a lot of Mopar, GM, and Ford Motor models.”

Meet other modelers
If you enjoy making models, the SABA might be the place for you. The club doesn’t have a web site, Pearsall said. “There are flyers available at most hobby shops around the area. They know how to get hold of us. Or, e-mail me at, to find out more.”

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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