Friday, December 26, 2008

55 Chevy Gasser--We Have a Roller

It's the day after Christmas and I'm off work so it means a little more time to work on the 55 Chevy Gasser build. I have been told in the 1:1 world when the custom builder gets the frame/wheels/tires/axles all in order the project becomes a "roller".

Since the last post I've pretty much finished the chassis' basics. The front "skinny" tires came from Revell/Model King's 51 Henry J #85-2036 while the rears came from Revell Thames Panel truck #7609. The wheels are from a Revell Parts pack C1142 that I got off Ebay--expensive, but worth it--these are really cool wheels!

As I said last time, the radiator was from the junk box, I think originally from a Monogram 1:24 pickup. I scratch built the radiator plumbing by bending styrene rod and "pinning" the end of it (by "pinning" I mean drilling a small hole and putting a smaller diameter rod in, then drilling a mating hole where the hose needs to attach; sort of made it like a snap-together). I ended up having to further modify the exhaust headers as the way I had it before didn't allow the front wheels to be posed. Good thing to test fit! The hose clamps were simulated with some chrome 3M tape I got from Walmart.

Speaking of test fitting here's how things are looking with the body in place. I am leaning toward not using the hood at all--since enough work has been done on the engine that I want it displayed all the time.

So the question is: what color to paint this? I was thinking about some sort of radical candy thing, but, in the end I am going to experiment with an all-Tamiya finish, which I know some other modelers swear by, and it's something I've never tried.

Over the holiday break I went with my family to the local train store and stocked up on some more Floquil paints. The more I use these the more I like them! Using a flat Floquil color and then adding more Floquil flat clear on top is a good way to get realistic finishes; the gun metal and graphite paints are a good complement to the Tamiya colors with the same name. It goes on smooth and evenly, and doesn't stink too much. It's a bit pricey but worth it. Overall Floquil paints are highly recommended.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

55 Chevy--"Engineering" for a Cleaner Build

We're approaching the holidays and what better way to mentally prepare for the in-law onslaught then to get some quiet bench time. This month I'm trying to wrap up a highly customized 1:25 '55 Chevy Gasser I started a few weeks ago; I feel if I make a good push I'll be ready for final paint and assembly before too long.

I've found in the year or so since I returned to this hobby that I need to "engineer" my custom parts before paint and assembly and have a working plan to get everything to fit together before I do a lot of gluing. Once my plan is in place, only then should I do a final prep of the parts, paint, and assemble.

The fit of the exhaust headers is something I have struggled with on past builds. It's easy to mess up a good engine compartment build with headers that don't fit quite right. The 55 Chevy Gasser build is tricky in this regard because there is very little room to pass the "drag ready" headers out of the engine compartment without being blocked by a body panel, a frame rail, the front wheels, or whatever. The headers I ended up using are from the AMT/Ertl 55 Chevy kit #31931 (after many attempts to use others from different kits and my parts box). After a lot of test fitting and trial and error I decided to cut in two the headers I was going to use and reglue them to point the exhaust downward rather than out the side of the body. Looking at pictures of 60's era gassers, this look was pretty common so I am happy with this decision.

I have had serious fit issues in past customs with the radiator--this is something I don't think about until the end of the build, and then I usually make a mess trying to get something into an already-painted engine compartment. In this case, the radiators from the two primary kits I am "marrying together" for the build, Revell's 55 Chevy # 85-2069 and Revell/Model King's 51 Henry J Gasser # 85-2036, didn't give me the right look. I ended up going to the parts box and finding a radiator from a 1:24 pickup; then, I scratchbuilt the radiator tank using styrene strip. To get this to easily mount to the frame I "pinned" the part--drilled small holes in the radiator and frame and then glued in small-diameter styrene rods so the part could be installed as if it were from a snap kit.

I continue to find lots of uses for the "Samestuff" or "Tenax7R" or "Pro Weld" type glue, but I am finding limitations: you can't use it as a replacement for regular styrene glue--it works best when the glue is applied on the outside of the finished part and allowed to flow in and fill the joint you're trying to glue. Some of the rear suspension work I glued up with Tenax popped off during this photo shoot. It's back to Devcon Epoxy for this sort of thing.

Overall the build isn't looking too bad; I still have to figure out how to join the wheels/tires to the axles and what I am going to do about the front grille. The interior is going to be simple and the seats and roll bars are fitting OK. I am still not sure how to get the steering column in there, as the dash is scratchbuilt.

Painting of course is a lot of work but I look forward to it--it's one of the most relaxing parts of the hobby. Beyond that the final assembly should be fairly straightforward.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

55 Chevy Gasser--Bodywork and Putty

Back in the day there was only one putty to use--Testors. I remember it came in a grey tube, and sadly would not work as a substitute for glue (although my brother and I tried this when we ran out of Testors "Stinky Red" glue a couple of times).

Thirty years later there are more choices, and over the past year or so I've been trying to improve my ability to use putties to fill and customize model kits, just as I did as a youngster. I had forgotten how hard getting a good, smooth finish with plastic fillers can be....but after some reading and trial and error I'm improving....and can do things faster now which is always good.

For this week's build I need to fill some 1/16" deep cavities on the back of the body (Revell 55 Chevy #85-2069) of a 55 Chevy Gasser. On the stock kit the Revell tooling guys had dug out channels to accommodate the side molding strips. It's cool that Revell did this; it's easier to use premade chrome strips off the parts tree than try to use bare metal foil to get that "brightwork" look. But no C/GS drag racer in his right mind would have left trim in place on a 1:1 gasser; it's extra weight that's not needed, and looks a bit "pristine". So off they go.

Well, not so fast. Filling in 3.5" long and 1/16" deep channels that run the length of the rear of the body, are curved and oddly contoured, isn't that easy.

So here is my current thinking. First, always fill in as empty space as possible with plastic before doing anything else, so I used some Evergreen strips.

Next I laid in the first round of putty--Tamiya Basic Putty is what I've been using lately. This is straightforward; I just apply some where needed, right out of the tube, mold it with a toothpick, and let it dry for a couple of days.

When it comes time to sand out the dried putty things get a bit more interesting. As far as I can tell you MUST use something between your hand and the sandpaper to have your putty work sand out OK. I read this in two hobby books (so it must be true, right?) and first tried little blocks of balsa as my "scale sanding block", which was better than nothing, but not much. Not believing what I had read I went back to using wet sand paper applied directly to the custom body work....but it took forever to sand out and never seemed to get things completely smooth.

After trying different things I ended up changing materials for my "sanding block". That did the trick. The best block I found so far is a tiny hunk of foam rubber. What you see here was cut off a big hunk that came with a computer part I got at work. I wrap the sandpaper around the foam rubber, and then dip the whole thing in water with a bit of dish soap. I am not sure why this makes as big a difference as it does, but it's a HUGE advantage to sand this way--you gain about 100x the "sanding power". What might have an hour of sanding takes maybe 10-15 minutes. And the resulting body work comes out much smoother than if you don't use the foam rubber "buffer".

I have found that the first batch of puttying always leaves tiny holes and imperfections, no matter how carefully I try to sand it. So the "finishing" step is to prime the body (I use Duplicolor Primer/Sealer, straight out of the rattle can, but I imagine any sort of primer that isn't enamel based will work fine) then use dabs of Model Masters red putty mixed with Testors liquid cement brushed over. The liquid cement thins the putty out and makes it easier to spread around. The touch up putty dries quickly and is ready to sand in a couple of hours. I sand it again (usually using 400 to 600 grit wet and dry) using the "foam block" method.

The result is this cool patchwork sort of look. What you see here is almost ready to go--I will prime it again to see what else I have to do, but it's looking like it's getting close.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

55 Chevy Gasser--DecoArt Dazzling Metallics and the Frame

Since being reintroduced to this odd hobby about a year ago my basic techniques are changing--for the better I think.

I have turned my attention to try to build "cleaner" this week and have found that some of the things I keep reading in the hobby mags are true:

First: clean all non-chrome parts with soap and water and a toothbrush before doing anything with them. I have read that this removes a "mold release agent" on the parts, and makes paint stick better. I ignored this after reading it about a hundred times but finally saw it (again) in the "tips for advanced modelers" on some AMT instructions--I figured if those AMT ERTL guys thought it was important I'd better do it. I didn't believe it until I tried it, but: it's true. I can't see the release agent, and I can't smell it, but either washing parts helped make the paint go on a lot smoother or it's a placebo. Don't know which....

Second: Prime everything. I have now done a lot of a/b's with primed parts vs. non primed, and primer does seem to help the finished part look more real.

Third: Spray or airbrush everything you can. Brush strokes, no matter how small, give away that you're doing something at scale.

Fourth: Respect drying and recovering times for enamels. Although I use acrylics and lacquers most all the time, enamels have a place in our hobby--I have become a fan of Engine Black Floquil, and Model Masters FS1038 Gloss black as an undercoat for Alclad II, for instance. But don't forget: enamels take a really long time to dry and gas out! And if you need a second coat, put it on right away or wait a week. If you don't the paint you cover the enamel with (Alclad 2 for instance) will mottle and look bad.

This week I tried to follow these tips for the construction of the 55 Gasser frame. ....I think it helped. The frame is looking (for the first time) like some of the pictures that "serious" modelers put in the hobby magazines--maybe? Good for what I do anyway. So will I do this every time? I don't know--I am usually impatient and in a rush so maybe and maybe not. But if I want things to come out looking good I will.

Decoart: In a back issue of Scale Auto Magazine the author recommended checking out the "Dazzling Metalic Elegant Finish" acrylics by Decoart as a substitute for other metallic paints like Alclad.

Always anxious to try new things, I went online and bought a few bottles of the Decoart paint--it was inexpensive, about $2 for a 59ml bottle. Right out of the bottle it's really thick, like white glue almost. So the question is, to airbrush it, what do you use as thinner? The paint is water soluable, but I haven't had a lot of luck using water or soap and water to thin acrylics. Again I turned to Scale Auto Mag, this time their website's forum, where an experienced painter said to try windshield wiper fluid.

Hello? This seems counter intuitive to me: wiper fluid is a disgusting blue color, not good for mixing with paints, right? However, my wife was going to Kragen and I told her to pick me up some windshield wiper washer fluid, and to my surprise she did....the bottom line is: it works great! I mixed up some Decoart metallic gold, copper, and green, added about 50% wiper fluid, and airbrushed it on the springs and shocks for this build, and it looks really good! I wiped off a bit of the paint here and there to make it look "used" as I can't think of a gasser that would ever have pristine leaf springs. I'm pleased with the results. Add this one to the toolbox! It really works!

As I said last time a lot of the parts for this build come from the 51 Henry J, by Revell/Model King, #85-2036. It's a nifty kit, with a lot of (to my eyes) retro looking gasser parts. But it's also a dickens to build--definitely not for 10 year olds. The rear suspension/leaf spring/tie bar setup is 100% how it was done in the 60's from my research, but building it was tricky--you're fighting gravity all the time, and the back end is held up exclusively by the shocks. I ended up using Tenax7R to bind everything together, which is a first for me outside of scratchbuilding. It worked--it cut through the paint so I didn't have to do a lot of scraping and dried quickly but not so quickly that I couldn't position things first.

Another first for me is using Alclad stainless steel on the frame instead of chrome. It looks GREAT--it really does look like stainless! The "normal" Alclad steel is pretty good looking too. In general I tried to use different metallics here and there to give things a more "show" sort of look.

And here's the frame BTW. Looking good, I think anyway. It was lengthened a few scale inches to accommodate the Chevy wheelbase (longer than a Henry J) then finished with Alclad, Decoart, and Floquil paints. I'm not ready for the big time, but at the moment I feel that I'm improving.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

55 Chevy Gasser--Week Three, Building the Engine

Hard to believe that's it's been 35 plus years since I the last supercharged scale engine came off my workbench. But here it is.

Three plus decades have gone by; my techniques and tools have changed but I don't think the results have gotten any better. There were no acrylic paints back then, no photoetched add ons, no CA superglue or epoxy. Armed with only an Xacto knife, some Testors enamels, and Testors glue, I was waltzing away with trophies from the local hobby shop and loving every minute. Looking back I don't really know why I stopped building--I found it the hobby quite relaxing then much as I do now--I was getting interested in girls I guess, and the two don't go together that well.

I don't remember modeling seeming hard at all back then....I don't remember doing a lot of work to seal the annoying split that runs down the joined halves of the transmission or struggling with getting a blower on straight. But somehow I remember being better at this way back when compared to now. I remember building a rear-engine funny car with a "swirladelic" paint job that was--as I remember anyway--awesome. The paint had to be seen to be believed. It took 1st place at the LHS annual model show getting a 10 out of 10 for the engine build (which was fully plumbed as I remember). I was 12 years old. The model is long gone now, and no picture of it remains. Too bad.

OK fast forward to this week's engine build. It took me the better part of two hours to build and install the distributor. How did it come out? Well, OK. It still doesn't look that realistic to me, but it's better than the big glob of black goo on top of the distributor that I was using a few builds ago.

The tiny photoetched details on the carbs (which came from DetailMaster) took quite a long time to build and didn't come out looking that realistic. It's hard for me to describe how tiny the photoetched carb parts are, and my camera doesn't seem to have a suitable macro lens to catch this either. The instructions said to use a pin vise to drill holes to affix the parts to the carb, and I have a really tiny pin vice, and the holes I drilled were still way too big. And how to find the tiny wire to plumb the linkages and whatnot? The smallest wire I had was solid 30 gauge and it was too big.

Without the correct pin vise and throttle linkage materials, I ended up bending the photoetched pieces best I could with tweazers and gluing them to the sides and fronts of the carbs with Devcon clear epoxy. Next time I might use some sort of plastic or brass backing to have the parts "stand off" from the carbs a bit; that might look more realistic.

After I had started down this path I discovered that MPC's artisans had cut the carb tooling so that some molded-in linkage was present on one side of each of the carbs already (they came out of a "switchers" kit I believe), and IMO, just putting some wash on that would have looked better than what I tried to do.

Another thing I tried out for this motor was "dry brushing" the logos on the valve covers. The idea is to put paint on a flat brush then brush almost all the paint off onto a piece of paper towel or whatever. Then brush the remaining tiny bit of paint over raised letters, over and over and over, until the "dust" left on the brush colors the raised surface.

I have tried this on several occasions with only modest success. I guess I have gotten a bit better as it as time goes on, as this time what I ended up with was pretty good; not a total disaster. I bought a Tamiya brush especially designed for this, and it might be my imagination but it seems to have helped. As you can see from the close up photo of the valve covers the Edelbrock logo is OK, but it's missing some of the paint on the "E". I don't have the courage to try to fix this, and other means (putting paint on a toothpick and then rolling the toothpick over the logo) haven't led to good results so this might be as good as it gets.

I paid $12.50 for the pulleys for the blower and crankcase from Arrowhead Aluminum specialities, making it by far the most expensive aftermarket goodie on this build. Arrowhead has some really cool stuff and their parts are reasonably priced--$12.50 might seem like a lot until you see the detail on the pulleys--it's really, really good. (As a slight aside, I read on the Arrowhead site that the owner and guy who makes all the parts is having horrible health issues and it's delaying order shipments. It is a very sad story--you can read about it on his website....I wish him all the best and a speedy recovery).

I had one heck of a time getting these aluminum parts to stick to the plastic supercharger and crank cover. I tried using five minute epoxy, always my first choice, but it never seemed to stick "fast"--I could bend the affixed part with my hand, which of course meant the belt wasn't going to looked "stretched" when I attached it.

I ended up using a bit of CA glue, applied with some applicators I got from Micromark, quickly followed by CA accelerator. It ended up looking a bit "cloudy" where the CA touched the chrome, which I had to touch up with silver chrome enamel paint.

The fan belt included with the parts was way way too big and didn't look "scale"; I ended up using masking tape cut to size and painted with flat black Floquil paint.

So this was more work than I thought it would be. Overall, scale engines, like scale "glass", are always harder for me to pull off than I think they are going to be. It's funny because as a youngster I never was bothered by either a bit.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

55 Chevy Gasser--Week Two. Still Going.

Hello again, we are continuing to build a 55 Chevy scale model inspired by the street gassers I saw at a recent Billetproof show.

So let's get right to it. As I said last time, the floorboard of the build is a combination of the floorboard of a Henry J Gasser (Revell 85-2036)and a Revell-Monogram 55 Chevy (#85-2069--heck of a nice kit).

After joing them together with a pretty heavy dose of Tenax7R glue there was a pretty big gap between the 55 floorboard and the Henry J. I would have normally used the usual putty/sanding sort of technique to fill it, but I read online about using superglue and baking soda to fill gaps instead.

Since this was going to be the underside of a model that wasn't going to get seen much I figured it'd be a good time to experiment with this new means of filling gaps and seams.

Here is the result. There was a 1/4" or so gap in the floorboard that's gone now. In its place is a fairly rough and not great looking big heap o' CA glue.

To pull this off layed down a fairly generous pool of CA glue then dropped pinches of baking soda. It works! But there are some things to keep in mind. First I found that a small pinch of baking soda goes a (very) long way. The baking soda seems to act as an accelerator and soon as it was dropped into place the glue dried rock solid. If I put in too much I ended up with a small mountain of glue and baking soda that was rock-hard--as if the glue was sucked up into the mound--and ended up with scale ant hills.

Second, the dust that comes off the CA/baking soda when you sand or file it is super nasty. Keep this in mind when you're working with it. I was grinding down my CA glue/baking soda ant hills when I got a bit of CA dust in my eyes and it burned like no one's business. So if you're going to sand the CA/baking soda mix after applying, make sure to wear eye protection and a good respirator.

This week I was working on the 329ish Chevy engine that's going to go into the Chevy. If you've read previous posts you probably know that I am really crappy at building distributors and wiring them--I have made a huge mess out of this many times in the past. I am always looking for ways to improve and this time I bought a distributor/wiring kit from Detail Master. It wasn't cheap--about $6US, and there were are a lot of tiny parts that needed to be assembled and painstakingly epoxied together--the distributor is like a whole build all by itself....

But the results aren't bad, and this is me we're talking about building it. It's still not perfect but this is turning out to be my best distributor effort to date. So I am going to keep working with this distributor kit for awhile.

The fuel lines are next. I should have some pix in the next few days.

For reasons not entirely understood I have decided to try to mimmick the uber-detailed builds I see in hobby mags and on line for this engine. I always am fascinated the "best in the hobby" type guys who are "fierce competitors" when it comes to detailing their builds so they can win best of show at some hobby fair. These guys must have open accounts at places like Detail Master, or get free goodies in exchange for mopping the warehouse floor, or whatever, because all the superstars seem to use tons of these aftermarket parts. They are indeed expensive, and as you can see from the photo, really, really tiny. Unfortunately (?) the only thing fierce about me is my far sightedness.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Sixties Era Gasser--55 Chevy--Getting Started

I'm pretty jazzed about Sixties era gassers--I think of them as funny cars before there really were funny cars. After seeing a few at Billet Proof I decided to read more about them and see if I could build something in scale, with the eventual goal being to build this 1:1 (if I ever have the money or the space).

it's a heck of a lot cheaper to buy a few kits then the 1:1 parts....I got two Chevy kits from ModelRoundup, Revell/Monogram's '55 Chevy Bel Air Hardtop 2n1 #85-2069 and AMT/Ertl's 1955 Chevy BelAir Street Machine #31931. The AMT appears to be a reissue of a 55 Chevy kit originally tooled decades ago; the Revell kit has what the hobby mags call "modern tooling". The difference between the two is profound--the Revell kit has significantly better detail, a higher parts count, and generally (to my eyes anyway) shows how model kit manufacturing has improved over the years.

This isn't going to be a "box stock" build (nothing I do ever is) so I got some additional kits out of which I will steal gasser parts: Revell's 51 Henry J #85-2036; Revell's Big John Mazmanian 41 Willys Gasser #85-2350; and Revell's Thames Panel Truck #7609. All three kits have some really great parts; the Olds engine with Hillborn Injection in the Revell Panel Truck is especially nifty.

So which body to use of the 2 donor chevy kits? That's an easy choice. The roofline of the AMT Bel Air doesn't look right to me--it looks more like a 57 Sport Coupe's, but it's not a hardtop--I am told it's a 55 "Club Coupe" which had on the 1:1 car a different roof then the hardtop. Bottom line, to me it just doesn't look right, so I am going with the Revell body.

The Revell Bel Air kit has one of those "all in one" chassis/frames, which is beautifully detailed and molded but not what I want for a Sixties era gasser. On the right is the frame from the Henry J kit. Its wheelbase is way too short for the Chevy, and it has a lot of ejection pins and whatnot that will need cleaning up, but I figure it's easier to use the Henry J frame as a base, and extend its wheelbase, then build the whole frame from stylene tube.

I modified the interior floor from the 51 Henry J by marrying the front section of the 55 interior to it. I saw gussets on one the floorboards of a gasser at the Billet Proof show so I added them here; in general the gassers there were more about lightness and strength then looking completely clean.

On the web there are a few builders who complain loudly about what a crappy kit the 51 Henry J is. I won't know, because I will never build it, it's just a donor kit for the project. Whatever assembly issues may exist with it, it has some great parts! For instance a very cool quick change rear end and a gnarly representation of (what I think is) a big block Chevy motor. I am not sure why, but I want a Chevy motor in this and not Mopar/Hemi. Not sure if this is going to be a "GS" (supercharged) gasser or a "G" (non-supercharged) gasser yet.

Next time: I'm just out of the starting blocks on this build. Lots of work down the road!!!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

What to Build Next--Report from Billetproof

I don't know what's happened to me, but I find myself dreaming of cars at night. Mind you this only started 2 years ago....what happened? What's wrong with me? I am beginning to feel like Richard Dreyfus in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" where he makes a scale model "Alien Mountain" or whatever they call it in movie out of potatoes.

To get my latest custom car fix my brother took me to a local hot rod show called "Billetproof". I had never heard of Billetproof--apparently the folks who put the show on don't advertise a lot. But I was assured it's a great hot rod/rat-rod show; the idea being that no "billet wheels" (ie, super expensive customizing bling a la Chip Foose or Boyd Coddington) are allowed, and all cars have to arrive under their own power.

Just standing at the entrance waiting for friends to show up was a treat! Billetproof is a really BIG show--with hundreds of hot rods on display--there were tons and tons of great cars--everywhere you looked was something unusual and interesting....

The show does indeed focus on rat rods--you know, sometimes beat up, sometimes not, old looking, highboys, low riders, drivers, big motors, 4 bangers, steelies, a lot of primer, and some flames over primer (which means it will need to stay primer, right?). I have always had mixed feelings about the "permanent primer" thing, since one of the best things about customs, I think, is the cool paint and all the creativity that goes along with it. But underneath all that there was a lot more going on.

A bevy of car journalists were standing around this pickup. They told me this pickup had it "all there"--all period correct--the right motor, the right suspension, everything on this custom worked and was perfect. They thought it was one of the finest customs they had ever seen.

But this wasn't the only really-cool-car-that-impressed-the-car-nuts at Billetproof. There were serious attempts by many of the show's participants to "get everything right"--not just make it look cool, but also make it historically accurate and capture the spirit of "old school" hot rodding.

There are great fabricators everywhere at Billetproof. We had a nice talk with the kid who built this rat rod pickup; the car has all the hydralics hidden in clever places--an incredible feat, considering how seamless it all looks. He must have spent hundreds of hours on this build.

A lot of rat rod pickups had the radiator in the pickup bed, or what's left of it. Before the show I didn't know this, but now I do. This radiator trick will probably make its way into my own builds. At Billetproof inspiration is everywhere.....

And of course I was interested in getting some detail photos to help with my own builds, and got lots, such as the pictures above. If I have any complaints about Billetproof, it's that the mottled shade everywhere made it hard to get good pictures on a bright day. But that's not much of a complaint!

I went to Billetproof looking for ideas for my next build...but there was almost too much to see, and I often felt like a kid in a candy store. By the end of the day I began thinking my next project will probably be some kind of C/G or D/G 60's era gasser that's street legal. There were a few of them at the show and they were pretty darned cool.

The final takeaway I got from Billetproof is that the "art car" you'd see at something like Burning Man and the rat rod craze are starting find some common ground. Check out the crazy frame and tie rod treatment on the rod above--wild stuff. The builder was sitting behind the car with his girlfriend, mellow as ever, answering questions about his incredible one-of-a-kind custom. The girlfriend dug it. Case closed!