No room in your garage (or wallet) for that Porsche 356 speedster? Wife won't let you convert your old Dodge Charger into General Lee from "The Dukes of Hazard"?
Motor City Kansas is for people who would rather own miniature versions of their favorite cars than nothing at all. The shop on West Central carries thousands of model cars, planes and other vehicles.
Manager Sheldon Birmingham said customers "will buy what's cool or what reminds them of their youth."
Birmingham runs the shop for his father, Ron, who bought it from original owner Gene Baskerville about three years ago.
"My wife used to buy me cars from here for Christmas," Ron Birmingham, a retired machinist, said. "She made the fatal mistake of saying (to Baskerville), 'If you ever want to sell it, let me know.' "
While many people think of models as do-it-yourself assembly projects involving glue and decals, the majority of those sold at Motor City Kansas are already assembled. They come in a range of sizes, from 1/64th scale to 1/18th scale, with price tags that depend mostly on the degree to which their features have been duplicated.
A 1/18th-scale model of "Rat Trap," a famed dragster, has more than a hundred parts, such as seat belts, a front-end suspension, carburetor linkage and a wired motor. It retails for $129, while most of the 1/18th-scale models cost $35 to $75.
Some enthusiasts further customize the models with components such as tires and engines that the shop sells.
"They'll take them apart, sand them down and repaint them just like a car," Sheldon said.
"Some guys have that hot rod spirit and won't leave anything alone," Ron said.
Others maintain the models in pristine condition, appreciating the skill that goes into their manufacturing.
The shop also has a section of model kits that require assembly. Ron said many large retailers that used to carry model kits no longer do so.
With its aviation background, Wichita is a good market for anything mechanically related, Ron said. Nevertheless, the Birminghams are looking for a location with more visibility, as the shop sits far back from Central. They've also tried car shows in good weather and occasional classes on topics like airbrushing to generate traffic for the store.
One type of collector is more interested in model trains than cars but uses miniature vehicles as part of displays for trains and tracks. In addition to cars, there are shelves devoted to model fire trucks, 18-wheelers, military vehicles and more.
Customers are overwhelmingly male and older, although some women visit to buy gift certificates for their men or pick out a centerpiece for a birthday cake. A few teens still prefer models to video games.
Some collectors have as many as a thousand models, Sheldon said. The 1/64th-scale cars — the size of Hot Wheels (although that brand isn't sold there) —are popular because of their lower cost.
"A lot of guys collect them because they're cheaper and they don't take up as much space," Sheldon said.
"But when you talk to them, you find out they have a lot more cars and it takes up just as much space," Ron said.