Saturday, January 24, 2015

Tidying up the display cabinet II: Past kitbashes

In trying to make room for new stuff, such as the recently completed 1972 Skyline 2000 GT-R, I've been looking through the cabinet and I've cleared out a bunch of junk, some of it dating back 30 years. However, while most of it is clearly at the rat rod end of the spectrum in terms of quality of execution, I came across some interesting engineering studies in the vault, and I thought it might be nice to get pictures and text out there, in case it provides some ideas for others. So over the last few months I've spent some time assembling this post, and a second one to come, as I've sorted through the collection and moved the real junk to the parts bins for reuse. So if you like something here and wind up building something better-looking on a similar theme, please let me know. So let's get to it!

First is a design study showing what a Honda version of a Toyota MR-S might look like. The engine is a 1.8 four with carbs taken from a Japanese kit of the Prelude, with the entire drivetrain transplanted to the rear. (The Prelude came to a bad end as a result of trying to shoe-horn a GMC Jimmy V6 into the back seat. I'll spare you the gory details; suffice it to say that it doesn't fit).

The front suspension is the former Prelude's rear, and thus lacks steering; at 1:1 you would get a second front subframe and steering assembly from a scrapyard. The chassis is scratch-built, and the body, which was painted by brush (can you tell?), is a significantly carved-up Dodge Stealth (a.k.a. Mitsubishi 3000 VR4). I cut up several of these AMT Dodge kits and both bodies and engines from this kit (which doesn't appear to be available any more) will reappear later. This is, I think, entirely feasible at full-scale from an engineering perspective, although arguably there are plenty of GM FWD V6 chassis out there to pilfer from, providing plenty of torque for a sports car weighing a tonne or so. The body just requires some inventive fiberglass, much as the Brits were doing starting in the 1950's. The compact drivetrain allows for a very long hood which might fool you into thinking the engine is up front, and at 1:1 it may be that the cowl should be moved forward to improve the cockpit.

Next is one of the Dodge Stealth drivetrains, turned around and inserted into the back seat of a Japanese kit of the Suzuki Samurai. The Suzuki has had a horizontal body section, and the cockpit has been moved forward to make room for the twin-turbo V6 in the rear seat/parcel shelf area. The chassis retains the AWD system from the Dodge, except the front subframe is now in the rear and vice versa. It is assumed that there is a gearset somewhere that can be inverted, otherwise it will have one forward gear and 5 reverse gears ... a minor engineering detail to be worked out by the builder, and one that is easy in some cases, such as with old Beetle drivetrains converted for mid-engine use. This is a little harder to do properly at full-scale; given the small amount of space available in the back seat of the Samurai, it would work better with one of the longer-wheelbase variants.

With all those leftover Stealth bodies lying around, what better than to shove in a big block and some drag slicks. The Stealth was sold as a high-tech device, and this is the brute-force conversion: cubic inches and solid axles. The mechanical bits all came from the parts bin. The top chop involved tilting the roof forward on the C-pillar, which was not cut; the cut came from the A-pillar. Yes, yes, the engine is not straight in the chassis. Crude but effective. Probably not worth trying at full-scale.

In the same vein (big-block brute force inserted into a high-tech Japanese GT), the Acura NSX acquires a Ford 427 motor and blower, again from the parts bin. The transmission is modeled with a quick-change Halibrand diff from the parts bin; it should really have a proper transaxle in this location, but these are hard to come by in conventional kits. All the chassis bits are from the NSX which would probably be turned to pretzels by the torque of the blown motor, so don't try this at home! The purpose built scoops for radiators and air intake are particularly nice. Having to move the cockpit forward by about a foot at 1:1 means this would probably not work at full-scale, unless you were prepared to stretch the wheelbase, as normal people would not likely fit.

The Fiero below has a Blazer V6 drivetrain turned around and inserted in the back. (This is the same trick which failed with the Prelude). The transfer case intrudes into the passenger seat area, which probably means a pretty thin seat cushion on that side. This is probably not completely unrealistic at 1:1. (Apologies for the lurid colour scheme).

So that's a first pass at the topic; like I said, it tilts towards the rat rod end of the spectrum when it comes to fit and finish, but from an engineering perspective much of it makes sense. Stay tuned for more as I get around to posting, there's probably another half-dozen of these in the pipeline.

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