Want to Bond with your Kid by Building a Car Together?
No wrenches required; just buy a 3-D printer.
The technology has drifted down from the million-dollar tools that build prototype parts for racing engines into $400 tabletop machines, and Ford forged a deal with digital media company TurboSquid to offer downloadable designs for 1,000 Ford models that can become 1/32nd-scale models through 3-D printing. Just fill your printer with plasticine or ABS plastic (or even carbon fiber), pay your money ($119 for the best example of the Ford GT), download the computerized file (TurboSquid certifies the quality of its formats), and then press the start button.
If you're a traditionalist and prefer conventional scale models, you and your kid might learn a lot by building up an elaborate, highly detailed 1/8th-scale model of Ayrton Senna's McLaren MP4/4 Honda Formula 1 car. The kit comes from De Agostini, and pieces of the car come to you in the mail over the course of a year for a total cost of about $1,250. Want something simpler but just as exotic for less money? Try Lego's Speed Champions line, which offers kits of the LaFerrari, McLaren P1, and Porsche 918 Spyder for $15 a pop.
Or you and your kid can just read the children's book from Martin Sodomka and Saskia Lacey, "How to Build a Car" (B4U Publishing, $14.95). Some 60-plus pages of text and terrific illustrations follow a team of small animals as they build a sports car, and the pictures show how the car's individual components work. Sure, the car is as crude as a Shelby Cobra 289, but since the chief designer is a mouse in Carroll Shelby-style overalls, it seems fitting.