Monday, November 24, 2014

Tidying up the display cabinet

In a bid to improve the look of the display cabinets by completing half-finished projects, and incidentally to stretch the break from the 908, I've been tackling incomplete stuff on the shelf. First up: Tamiya's Lotus Europa, which only needed the dashboard and the body completed.

When I worked in the garage, we had a couple of customers with Elans with the same Lotus Twin Cam motor, basically a converted 1600 cc Cortina motor. I could get into an Elan, especially if the top was down, but I once had a chance to sit in an Europa and really could not get into the car. My safety shoes were too big for the foot well, and I had to bend my head sideways to get in under the roof. I guess there is some truth to the old story about Colin designing his cars for short people such as himself. You don't get into an Europa, you put it on, and if you are 6 feet tall like me, it's a couple of sizes too small.

The classic backbone chassis served through the later Elite and Esprit models, and even made it into the DeLorean which Chapman agreed to design. One of our customers picked up a DeLorean at auction at the Port of New York following the bankruptcy, when the American importer was being forced to pay for his unsold stock. On paper, it looked a lot like an early 911: aluminum 2.7 litre 6-cylinder out back, 5 speed transaxle, 4-wheel discs. Surprisingly, it did not drive like a Lotus, or an early 911, but rather like a heavy, ponderous tank. From an engineering perspective, it was a real piece of crap. However, according to the owner, a tall, handsome, muscular young fellow with blond hair and piercing blue eyes, it was quite effective at picking up women. Apparently it was an even better crumpet-attractor than his other car, a burgundy Series 3 E-Type convertible with chrome wire wheels and luscious light brown leather upholstery. I could just see him pulling up on the bar strip on a Friday evening and opening the stainless steel gullwing doors (which were on hydraulic struts so they opened slowly, which was great for dramatic effect as the young Adonis climbed out, but left plenty of time for the rain to get in and soak your good suit). Anyway we made plenty of money fixing the endemic engineering problems over the one or two summers he had it, while the Jag languished in the garage. By then, prices for DeLoreans had gone through the roof and he traded it for a lightly-used 911 Carrera RS, the one with the 2.7 fuel injected engine and the fat rear fenders. Less effective on the bar strip, perhaps, but a much better car.

So anyway the Europa is almost complete. I messed up the gold pinstripe decals which are very thin and easily rolled up into a sticky mess, so I may just go with the plain black paint, complete with (again) some orange peel. On the other hand, I managed the window surrounds with a bottle of Testors silver paint, a very fine 000-scale brush and a steady hand, instead of the bare metal foil I tried on the Alpine. I find that succeeding at this kind of fine work is like playing pool: I need a glass of a good Chardonnay to loosen up, but I start getting sloppy about half-way through the second glass. It's a fine line.

Business travel and family time will limit progress over the next couple of weeks, but once the Europa is complete, I intend to tackle one of the Profil 24 resin kits I have been collecting. I've had the Audi S1 for some time now, perhaps that will be the first.

Originally posted 24 November 2014

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