A Christmas gift for a youngster

I was browsing the educational toys at Barnes & Noble Bookstore today. Smithsonian has a visible inline four cylinder engine model/kit, all the internals driven by a battery operated electric motor where the starter would be. Only $19.99!

When I was a kid I built both the Visible V8 and Slant Six models, and learned a lot from them… but they go for about $60 now.

That does seem like a very good deal!
I have fond memories of building my Visible V-8 when I was 13 or so, and I’m confident that most kids with at least an average mechanical aptitude would get a storehouse of new knowledge from building that Visible Four.

I think we had this discussion last year if I remember right. Nothing against educational toys and wish I would have had one of those when I was a kid but I mostly took apart my go cart engines. The bank had a tree with kids needing items for Christmas for donating. Looking through the tags on the trees, most of what kids were asking for were DVDs and gift cards and Star Wars stuff this year. For my grandkids its been Legos and loaders and dump trucks mostly.

Hey, I don’t even get $60 gifts!

Me neither. But I had my time. It’s my granddaughter’s time now. And cost is no object.

I have photos of when my kids were little. I had a 14 foot cathedral ceiling and we’d get a 14 ft tree and bury its bottom in gifts for the kids. Now, my granddaughter is 3,000 miles away… and were she not I’d go broke. As it is, I spend way too much on her.

I have a nephew that likes taking apart mechanical gadgets. One year as one of his birthday presents I gave him my non-functional VCR to take apart. He was ecstatic! His mom told me he had it completely taken apart the next day, with all the parts arranged in order of extraction, on a big sheet of paper, which he promptly photographed for posterity. So now on every birthday as one of his gifts I give him something to take apart. Last year I gave him a mechanical kitchen timer. That was a winner, he really liked taking that apart. That one worked, so he’d take it apart and put it back together to see if it still worked.

If I was a kid a gift I’d like that they have at B&N in the “Science” section is a “Maker” book on how to make your own home science laboratory. Shows how to make an alcohol burner for bending glass tubing, how to use ni-chrome wire to cut a glass bottle, how to make a microscope and telescope, stuff like that. The only problem is that some of what they suggest could be pretty dangerous if unsupervised.

Your nephew sounds like the kind of kid who would love the visible I-4.

Twenty bucks is cheap for a model anything; much less one that operates. When I was a kid I used to put together model airplanes, ships, and cars all the time. Now and then when I go into a hobby shop I often glance over model airplanes and ouch; considerably higher than when I was a kid.

One of my vacant grown kid’s bedrooms has had a large B-52D hanging from the ceiling for years and I think that model kit now retails for about 125 bucks.

When I was in aircraft school we had a P & W Wasp Major 28 cylinder display engine and that thing is an engineering marvel. It was full of painted cutouts and used an electric motor to power it with a light flashing in the top of each cylinder as they reached their compression strokes.
One could near run a herd of wildebeests through the carburetor on that engine.

Anyway, I digress…again. :smiley:

Go for it. Hopefully you can be with her to play with it together.
I’m a big believer in getting kids excited in different subject areas (like this). You never know what will stick.

Amazon wants $40 for that kit it’s a great price. Just know the kid you’re buying for. I would have loved it but my brother wouldn’t have had any interest. (Engineer vs scientist)

Smithsonian also makes a jet turbine kit. I looked at getting the jet kit for my cubical (I design jet engine controls). Of course there aren’t as many moving parts in the jet kit.

Joe, if she shows any similar interest when she gets a bit older (she’s still a baby) it’ll be in the back of my mind. As to playing with it together… did I mention that she’s 3,000 miles away?

Hank, that’s an excellent point. The reason I got to build both engines when I was young is that my brother and I each got one, me the slant 6 and he the visible V-8. He couldn’t have cared less for it, so I built both of them.

Re: the aircraft engines: the aviation program at the college I retired from had a 28 cylinder (four stacked 7-cylinder radial) from a WWII bomber… can’t remember which bomber. Weighed about 4,000 pounds and I think they said it was rated when new at 3,500 HP.

I was one of those kids that built models all the time. Not only do they teach how things work, but the names of parts.
Even though I’ve never flown I at least know the difference between ailerons and flaps, which makes it a little easier to understand when on TV they say to “lower the flaps” on landing.

To think that most car models only were $4 - $6 at the time. I want to get the 9 year old grandson into models this year. I must have handed over $700- $1000 for all the ones I payed for as a kid.

I wish that I would have kept some of my best, but as I got into my early 20s I tossed them all feeling that they were just “kids stuff”.


I have only 4 models on my office desk. A 1938 Cord model L, a 1955 Chevy Impala cast in ceramics made by a CUBAN artist, a1960s DAF (the first CVT with rubber bands) from Holland and a London double decker bus.