From diecast metal cars to plastic models, the love that automotive enthusiasts show for their cars doesn’t stop at the garage door. Most bring the hobby inside to their bookshelves, dresser tops, and cabinets. In fact, the dream of owning a collector car often begins with small-scale models.
Among the newer and more intricate automotive collectibles out there are wooden model kits that mimic the intricate technology of the actual vehicles.
UGears Mechanical Models offers a variety of wooden model kits, including clocks, perpetual calendars, music boxes, and other gizmos. But, of course, we’re most attracted to the vehicles.
The U in UGears stands for Ukrainian; the company was established in Kyiv, Ukraine, in 2014. It sells more than 20 kits through its own U.S. website and other American distributors. UGears says it has customers in 80 countries.
“Although the kits come with clear step-by-step instruction, they can also be called puzzles as the challenge is always present,” UGears’ website says. “Inspired by steam-punk fantasy, the clear view of all the moving components—including gears and pendulums—creates a unique, unforgettable, and fascinating look at everyday (and not so everyday) machinery.”
UGears’ self-propelled mechanical model kits are made of high-grade wooden material and require no glue to assemble.
“UGears are great,” says Hagerty writer Brandan Gillogly, who owns two of the models. “The instructions are detailed, and they include extra pieces for the difficult-to-install parts in case they break. The moving parts, like gears and racks, can be a bit sticky, but they break in pretty easily.”
Among the vehicles that UGears offers is a U-9 Grand Prix vintage speedster, which is about 14 inches long, 5 inches tall, and 3.5 inches wide, and is considered an intermediate-level model. It has 348 pieces and takes an estimated 7–8 hours to assemble. Once completed, its rubber band-powered engine can propel it up to 10 meters.
Less time consuming—and also less expensive—is UGears’ VM-02 motorcycle, which has 189 parts and takes about 3–4 hours to put together.
Among the vehicles considered hard to build are a tanker truck (594 pieces, 12–14 hours to assemble), fire truck with ladder (537 parts, 12–14 hours), steam train (548 pieces, 10–12 hours), locomotive (442 parts, 10–12 hours), and a semi-truck (541 pieces, 8–9 hours).
The ultimate wooden model project is the Dream Cabriolet, which has 739 parts and requires about 13 hours of assembly time.
Prices range from $29.90 for the motorcycle to $88.90 for the fire truck and tanker truck.
UGears also sells small, automotive-themed fidgets that have only a handful of pieces and are easier to put together—a truck (18 pieces), sports car (16), tractor (14), and tram (14). They’re $9.90 apiece.
Fuego Cloud, based in Austin, Texas, sells UGears products. It explains that the models are really toys. Intended for ages 14 and up, they are not easy to assemble, but they can provide a great sense of accomplishment. “Building the Grand Prix Car is about more than putting it on display; it’s a labor of love you’ll want everyone to see, touch, and interact with, and it’s a wink and a hat tip back to the drivers of yesteryear. Enjoy the challenge!”
Says UGears: “In our age of electronics, people still want to be creative with their hands and mind, seeking that rewarding feeling of constructing something with their own hands, inviting their kids and grandkids into the awesome (and, admittedly, old-school but yet-so-cool!) world of mechanics.”