Paper-Car Mechanic

Akira Mizorogi mixes his love of cars with his love of paper

Ok, kids: Stop playing that computer game. Turn off the TV. Let's go visit Akira Mizorogi and find out how he turns a sheet of paper into a Ferrari 250 GTO. Or a Porsche 906 - even a Ford GT40.

"I've always loved classic cars very much," says Mr. Mizorogi as we step into his crowded bedroom at his parents' house in a Tokyo suburb. He points to two big cabinets. They are filled with hundreds of model cars from France, Germany, Italy, and the United States. He's collected them since junior high school. A wet suit hangs on the wall. Sketchbooks and porcelain dolls litter the floor. Paper cars are scattered everywhere: on the small desk where he works, the bed, the floor.

Mizorogi created two books of paper-car designs like the one reprinted below. The books are titled simply "Kami-no-Kuruma" ("Paper Cars") and "Kami-no-Kuruma 2." They are available only in Japan and Italy. Three CD-ROM disks (Digital Kami-no-Kuruma, Vols. 1-3) are available in the United States from Imagica. And more samples of the cars are on the World Wide Web.

A long time to perfect

Mizorogi doesn't remember exactly when he first became interested in cars. He was probably in kindergarten. Now, 25 years later, he gets to spend most of his time looking "for something fun to do."

Other days, he'll have an assignment from one of his clients: designing wristwatches for Seiko, perhaps (he worked there for three years after college), or a calendar, or a paper toy to include in a Japanese children's magazine.

The idea of making paper models of cars just hit him one day, he says. It took him days and nights of drawing, cutting, and pasting before he had a good design. That was six years ago.

"I was so happy when I was done," he says of that first success. "I can't remember how many times I had to smash and reassemble it." He laughs.

His friends loved the paper cars. So did the Nigensha Publishing Co. They wanted to publish a book of his paper cars. Mizorogi was thrilled! "Paper Cars" was published in 1994, the year after he graduated from Musashino Art University. It features 24 car models, ranging from a Citron 2CV to an Alfa Romeo Giulia TZ.

"I did my best to simplify each diagram," Mizorogi says, "so that people would have fun instead of becoming irritated when they put them together." The hardest part is figuring out where the glue flaps should go, he says. His second book came out last year. It has 20 Japanese cars from the 1960s.

Word of the paper cars has spread. Last spring, the Japan division of the Saturn automobile company put three of Mizorogi's designs on a Web site.

How does he do that?

Mizorogi does not use a computer in his work. He sits at his desk with a plain piece of paper in front of him. He examines photographs of the car he wants to draw. Using a ruler and pen, he begins. If the car doesn't fit together well, he tries again.

Libraries and department stores in Japan have hosted craft fairs featuring Mizorogi's cars. Hundreds of children gather to cut out the cars and glue them together.

Paper-car fan Masahiro Kokado was 9 when he made his first one.

"It was a bit difficult at the beginning," he says, "but I was so proud of myself when I could finally do it." He's 11, now.

"Instead of feeding me with toys and games," Mizorogi says, his parents gave him a pen and paper to play with when he was 5. That's when he began to cultivate the "joy and adventure" of playing with paper, he says.

He urges everyone to join him in this adventure. Paper is so available, he points out. It's so lightweight and easy to play with. "Paper can be the greatest toy," he says.

How to make this paper car, and where to go for more

Option 1: You could cut out this car the way it is and assemble it. A newsprint Porsche is very flimsy, though.

Option 2: A better idea is to cut out the rough outline of the car and glue it to a piece of heavier paper. Then cut it out more precisely. Use rubber cement and sharp scissors.

Option 3: Photocopy this page, onto thicker paper if you can. Enlarge it, even. Standard copier paper will work, but you may want to glue another layer of paper to the wheels to stiffen them. Color the car with markers before assembling, if you like.


1. Gently bend the car into shape after you cut it out but before you glue it. Make sure you've made all the cuts (along the windshield, by the tail lights).

2. Working in stages, apply rubber cement to the flaps marked with asterisks. Let the cemented pieces dry before continuing. Note the (tricky) assembly detail.

3. Apply cement to either of the large square flaps on the bottom of the car, and overlap them.

More Cars: Two sites on the World Wide Web contain more of Akira Mizorogi's paper-car designs:

You need Adobe Acrobat to download three sample files (including a Ferrari 250 GTO) from the Imagica CD-ROM on this Imagica site.

The Saturn Japan Web site has three models of Saturn automobiles. You can print from this site; no additional software is needed. A color printer is best.

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