Garage Shop Gas Station Scale Model Diorama Display

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scale gas station models

How to Make a Scale Gas Station


Scale Model Car Race Shop Diorama


I've been wanting to build a model garage for years. I was never sure if I should scratch build one or try and use some sort of kit. My initial line of thinking was to use it as a background for taking pictures of car models.

Along the way, I purchased one of the MRC / Academy Gas Station models. It's not a bad kit, but is a bit small for what I wanted (as most 1950's gas stations were in real life). Over the years I've purchased various parts and diorama acessories, even though I wasn't sure when I would actually get to building this shop I was dreaming of.

I built a small shop diorama once before (unfortunately, I never took any pictures of it, and sold it). That was back in the 1990s.

I wanted this new one to be larger, and have more details.

Recently, we've had some rainy weather that just won't give up. It's great for the grass in my yard, but painting models is out of the question. The humidity is way to high, and that can ruin a paint job instantly.

I still wanted to work on a model on a saturday and just enjoy the day. So I brought out the MRC garage and started thinking about what I could do with it. I had purchased some wood months earlier, thinking it could make a good base (eventually).

I'd received some free plastic panels that were about 1/8 thick. I was thinking these would be good to make the walls with. Unfortunately, the plastic was very brittle, and no matter how I cut it, it would crack and break. I couldn't get a straght edge out of it.

When I bought the wood for the base, I bought two of them (I do that a lot, buy 2 of something, because you will always need another one later or if something goes wrong with the first one, you have a spare). I measured out the wood and cut the pieces for the walls. Initally, I thought this worked out prety well. Below the walls are just mocked up for now.


model car shop diorama


While thinking about this, I took a break and looked around online for some other 1/24 garages. Many of them were two story. I wasn't sure I wanted to go that far, but I did have a Plastruct 1/24 (G scale actually) stair case that I had bought some time ago, so I thought this would be good to work into the project somehow.

I re-cut some wood, and altered the shop so it could have a small uppder deck. A place to maybe store car parts, or maybe a leisure area.

Below I've measured out on the wood the size and dimensions, and marked them with a pencil. This is so I can make sure the building's sides are square, and are placed where I need them on the wood base.


building a scale model shop


I marked the walls which end is up, and what side is the inside / outside. That way I can make sure they all line up and fit correctly once I'm ready to glue them in place. You can see in this image the pilot holes for the small nails I used (along with wood glue).


scale model shop layout


The Beware of Dog plastic sign makes for an easy and cheap piece of plastic. I used it to cut out sidewalks for the outside of the shop.I glued down the sidewalks first using the pencil guidelines. This way, the plastic walls fit inside them, and are held in place by the sidewallk, which made sure the walls were properly square.


car shop diorama


It's coming along. The walls are up, and the basic platform is started. I use a Testors 1/24 Mustang model as a reference when judging the size of things and the spaces. I used plastic trim to hide the seams and joints, much like you do in a real house. Trim made from Platruct and Evergreen plastics I had.


scratch built car shop


I ended up with what's below. I used white plastic sheets to cover up the wood (cheap for sale signs work well for that) on the inside. The side brown wall is a sheet of Plastruct brick. I used a lot of Evergreen styrene and plastruct shapes that I already had (to save money), and basically used them all. I had just bought a new bottle of Zap-A-Gap glue and used half of the bottol on this project so far. It holds very well. Later I needed to remove a small plastic piece I'd glued down to the wood base. I had to chisel that off with a hammer, and it still took some of the wood with it. This glue seriously makes a bond!

The wood walls were attached with small nails (I predrilled the holes) and wood glue. They're very sturdy. Everything else I used the super glue (CA glue). I used styrene to make the deck and railings, along with some extra model parts. The one side of the building won't get a wall since this is for photography and taking pictues of car models in a garage setting.


mode car shop interior


Just below, you can see it can get quite messy once you get to building. I built all this in one day and had a lot of fun doing it. Once you get in the groove, you don't want to stop, and I was really enjoying scratch building various aspects of the diorama set.

This project was far too big for my model desk, so I used a table to give me the room I needed. There are some things I would have done differently if I had more Plastruct and Evergreem materials on hand, but I didn't want to wait, and I didn't want to spend too much money on the project, so I used what I had.

There's room inside for maybe 3 cars, and room outside to park maybe 6 more.


building scale model gas station


Here below I'm just mocking up some garage accessories to get some ideas. I've collected many accessories over the years for such a project as this. I made a hand rail for the steps and the upper deck.


scale model shop diorama interior


Once I thought I had done all I could do at this point, I shot it all with primer. It probably would have be easier to paint the parts all separately, but since I was building this on the fly, with the materials I had on hand, I wasn't really sure what I would end up with at the end.

Note that I added an extra second story wall section to the left, with a curve. Without that section, to take a photograph would show the room's background area. With the piece in place, it blocked the scene better for pictures. I curved it since making it square brought to much attention to it, and it blends in better with the front this way. I didn't want to construct a two story wall all the way across the front. The curve is more subtle to the eye.

The railing is a divider between the front door and the garage area. The primer prepares the model for paint, but also shows me any areas that need more attention, and probabky some putter filler or modifications.


model car garage shot with primer


There's room on the side to park a few cars, so I added a few minor details. Electrical box, vent, and plumbing box..These are made from odds and ends shapes that came from my spare parts bin, I just modified them to fit my purposes visually.


side wall of car shop diorama


The front of the shop.


front of scale model car shop


I caught a break in the weather, so I painted more primer and the black for the asphalt. Note that these are just base layers, and don't show what the final look , colors or textures will be.


front of scale model car shop


It's really starting to take shape and resemble a building.


scale model car shop for diorama


I began paintng some of the assemblies on the inside. In real life, the stairs and upper deck would be steel probably, so I painted them black with red accents.

The brick has it's first coat of brown paint as well. The upper deck has a floor made from Pastruct diamond plate. Below the deck on the floor is also diamond plate. That area will be where most of the mechanical work wll be done (in this shop).


speedshop for diorama


At first I thought I might paint the floor, but decided that would probably look unrealistic with paint. I used a sheet of posterboard paper from Michael's that looked like modern concrete. In the service area I used a sheet of paper that has small dots on it, like a commercial rubber floor material would have.

Both look good in this scale and quite real. I begain assembling and painting various tools and shop furniture. The upper deck has a set of lockers, a sit down bench, and a refridgerator (for now).

Below are the tool boxes, and the service area gets a desk, cabinet unit, and a book shelf for shop manuals. The tool boxes were painted to match the outside colors of the shop building. I still have a lot to do as far as detailing all these, and adding a lot of small extra items to set the scene.


speedshop diorama for scale model cars


Here is the ouside. The colors are a Tamiya yellow and orange. It was still a bit humid outside, and it played with the paint some, so there are some areas I'll have to redo. But overall, it's not bad. I like it. The side section to the left will stay in primer, to resemble concrete. The very back of the shop was painted black on the outside and I won't be adding any detail there.


speedshop diorama for scale model cars


Almost ready for cruising night.


model car dioramas in 1/24 scale


I painted some more of the outside walls, and touched up on a few areas. The outside drive was painted flat black. The sidewalks are a light grey (though they look white in the images).


scale garage layout and base


I still have a ways to go. The garage door needs to be painted. The windows need to be installed. I 'm also waiting on some supplies to arrive to make a few more things.


scale garage layout and base


I think I might add the gas pumps and island. There's just enough room for them.




scale model gas pumps


I had originally bought some hot rod stickers, that I thought would be fun to use on a garage project. When building this shop, my intention was to use them. But as I assembled it, it seemed like there wouldn't be anywhere to put them because of their large size.

But after adding the one upper wall on the side, suddenly, now there was room. And the sticker actually worked out well. The shop's colors of yellow and orange were originally based off this sticker, even though it looked like at the beginning, I wouldn't end up using them.


high octane fuel for models and station


As I worked on the shop more and more, I began thinking about adding something to imply a wall on the one side. Something that woudln't be permanent, since I still wanted to be able to take photographs.

At first I thought I might use a wall only about 2 inches high. Something I could line shop equipment up against. But after using the sticker on the one wall, if I made this wall the same size, I could add a sticker to this side. So I traced around the first wall and cut out this one based on that. I also added another garage door opening. This wall is only set in place and can be removed for photos.


side wall and upper deck model


The inside of the new wall was covered and sheet plastic and painted white. I added some minor detail around the garage opening. I curved the front of it like the first side, just because it looked better that way rather than straingt up.



front opening of archetectural model


The outside was painted the shop colors. I left it as raw wood, but sanded and primed it before painting. The garage door opening has some minor detail added around it.

At the bottom, the sidewalks more or less 'locks it in place'. But I have a piece of masking tape at the top holding it for now. This is only a tempoary side for display and can easily be removed.

It's interesting how this shop keeps changing and evolving, far from my original plans.


mockup of gas station


I've been making some headway on the various diorama parts. I wanted a shop counter to divide the customer area from the shop, so I made this one by cutting the previous bookshelf unit (from Fujimi) in half. I then modified it and added a counter top, and used diamond plate on the front of it. Note the green Chilton shop manuals.


shop counters and furniture


Since around the beginning I wanted to tint the windows a bit. It just seemed that a light blue would give it more realistic look, especially to resemble a night shot.

I ordered some tint that's made for headlights. It wasn't quite as light as I wanted color wise, but it will work. This is heavy duty stuff, it's made for car headlights and such, and it's automotive grade. It sticks extremely well, so make sure you get it where you want it on the first try. My biggest problem with it was putting it on small pieces of plastic. It's easy to get small bubbles, and it sticks so well, it's hard to pull off to work them out on a second try.

I broke the main front window in half pulling the tint off on one try.


colored plastic for models


It's always a good idea to save scraps of plastic or materials you come across. They can save the day. I had a flat piece of clear plastic I saved from a product package from a store. I traced around the original window, put the tint on, and then cut it out.


scale model plastics


With the glass all glued in place, I began working on the furniture and such. I added some random performance parts to the upper deck shelves. Also a ceiling fan, bench and some tools.


street rod shop repairs


With the temporary wall in place, it looks quite nice. I plan on adding some car posters and signs eventually. I put a small metal bracket to hold the top of the extra wall, so now once I slide it in place it will stand by itself.

I was waiting on the window tint, but since it arrived, that's done. I'm also waiting on some small parts to add more detail, they should be here in a couple of weeks.

There's still more I plan on doing. And I have more ideas, so I'm not done just yet!


upper view interior hot rod shop


I took the shop outside to try and get some images in the sun and for better lighting. It's getting some dust on it already, so I need to keep it covered in the future. I store in in the garage becuase of it's size.


daylight view of garage



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