Wednesday, February 25, 2015

More bits: R4L

While on a business trip to The Big City (a.k.a. Toronto, they think they are The Centre Of The Universe down there), I had some spare time to drop by Wheels & Wings Hobbies, a well-known Canadian hobby shop. It was my first visit; for the Canadians out there, the website is not too friendly, but if you e-mail them with specific requests (Model Car Garage, Parts by Parks, Jimmy Flintstone bodies, Tamiya upgrade packs, etc.), you can avoid the extortionate shipping prices demanded by US suppliers, not to mention the current excruciating exchange rate with the US dollar.

So I loaded up on as many aftermarket bits as would fit in my carry-on bag, as well as a 1/24 kit of a Renault 4L from a previously unknown outfit (to me anyway) called Ebbro. The kit, clearly of Japanese origin judging by the instruction sheet ("Please paint the main part of an body a free colour"), has lots of detail of this less well-known competitor to the (in)famous Citroen 2CV. Some of you will remember its successor, the Renault 5, which had some success Over Here, especially among the Gauloise-smoking, beret-wearing, Chardonnay-swilling, Jean-Paul Sartre-quoting intelligentsia in French Canada.

Back in the day when I worked in the import repair shop, I once had to tune a Renault 5. So I did all the usual stuff: replace plugs, points & condensor, cap & rotor, wires, air & fuel filters; adjust valve clearances, ignition timing, idle speed & mixture. Then I went for a test drive up our favourite hill where I was passed by a packed city bus. Back at the shop, I figured I had screwed up big time, because everything else I'd ever worked on could easily out-drag an empty city bus (never mind a full one) up that hill, so I studied the under-hood tag for the tune-up specs, which pronounced the engine to displace exactly 45.4 cubic inches. Now this did not compute -- I understood 454 cubic inches but not 45.4 cubic inches. After much mental arithmetic, I finally converted this to 747 cc which explained two things:
  • Why I couldn't pass an overloaded city bus up a hill, and
  • Why Renault failed miserably in North America. Twice.
Really, 747 cc? Come on, guys, at least the base Mini was a full 850 cc; the base R4 was 600 cc, and the biggest was 1108 cc to the Mini's 1275.

So why do I want a kit of this tiddly little tin box? Well, it's sufficiently obscure, and, at over 8 million copies made, is apparently the 3rd largest selling car, ever, after the VW Beetle and Ford Model T.  There, my friends, is your factoid of the week. But be safe, check it on the InterWeb before trotting it out at the pub on the weekend.

Plus my manhood is not at risk, given I also have a 1000+ hp, 28-litre Allison V12 on the shelf. Boo-yah.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

DBR1: Chassis, engine, body

The engine now has alternator, oil filter, carbs and a dipstick. The brass colour used for the carbs is a bit eye popping and I will probably put on a coat of dullcote to tone it down. I'll put on the exhaust manifolds once the engine is permanently in place, as they have to aim through the chassis tubes to an oval hole in the floor just right. One item that shows in the instructions, but that I can't find in the kit, is the cooling system standpipe and filler cap that seems to be attached to the front of the cylinder head, between the cams and above the water pump. There is another bit, with no obvious mounting point and with no mention in the instructions, that looks a bit like a starter motor, but which could, with a bit of squinting, be the missing cooling system filler. 

The chassis has acquired more little tubes, gussets and various other bits such as the steering column and pedals. The lack of mounting brackets for a range of things makes a lot of this guesswork, and hopefully I haven't glued something in that will interfere with some future installation. Particularly challenging will be the front suspension, which, in the absence of locating pins, leads to the possibility that wheels won't line up right with the fender openings.

Brownie points if you can spot the error in the chassis.

As I will be away for a few days on business, I also got brave and painted the body so that it would have time to dry before I get back late in the week. In the end, I picked Tamiya's TS-9 British Green, much darker than the pictures on the Profil 24 website but closer to what I've seen in online pictures. Of course digital pictures on a computer screen can be deceiving, and these pictures look darker than the car appears to the eye; this close approximation of BRG suits the car well and I won't worry about authenticity too much.

PS if you were looking for the error in the plug wiring in the last post about the DBR1, here it is: online photographs of restored DBR1's show that the left-hand distributor connects to the forward plug in any given cylinder, but I cut one of my wires too short, so the left-hand distributor connects to the rearward plug on cylinder #3 - the wire wouldn't reach the forward plug, and couldn't be lengthened as it was already embedded in the distributor. Essentially the leads for the plugs for #3 are reversed. No one got it, so the Brownie points go back in the pot for someone else to earn.

PPS Brownie points are rather unique as they are occasionally allocated by Members of the Browne family, a notorious bunch of know-it-alls, in recognition of Browne-class levels of nit-picking. It takes one to know one ... given the rather large burden of proof required, they are very rarely awarded and are thus much prized by the infrequent grantees. You've got another crack at it as the chassis photo above shows another screwup.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Bits from the web: A210, Allison V12

Ah, the Internet. A source of fascination and endless, curious little dead ends. Also a great opportunity to rack up credit card bills if you are not careful.

In this context, a package arrived today, ordered quite a few weeks ago from Model Roundup in a fit of weakness. (Canadian customs had a hand in the delay this time, soaking me for additional duties). Two kits stand out, both out-of-production items that must have come from collections; both disappeared from the online listing the minute my credit card had cleared.

The first is a kit, from the French company Heller, of the Alpine A210 that ran at Le Mans in 1966. Scroll back through my posts and you will find a description of the Monte Carlo version of the A110, which had a Renault R8 engine modified by the French wizard Amédée Gordini hanging out the back. The largest version displaced 1.6 litres and probably made 100 horsepower. The A210, with a smaller motor mounted mid-ships, and with a streamlined body, won the Index of Performance, a fuel efficiency prize devised by the French to ensure that a French car would win something, anything, at Le Mans. (I seem to recall a Lotus Eleven with the 997 cc Coventry Climax motor won this at one time). With a 1.0 or 1.3 litre motor (Internet records are spotty and contradictory), the thing managed something like 200 km/h which must have been pretty scary if you are bearing down on one of these little tiddlers in the rain in the middle of the night on the Mulsanne in, say, a Ford GT or Ferrari 250 LM at 200 miles per hour. However it is an obscure kit, long unavailable, and will look good with some of the other Le Mans obscurities like the Alfa Giulietta SZ which I have also not started.

At the complete other end of the spectrum is a 1968 Thunderbird with a WWII-surplus Allison V12 motor shoehorned into it. Taken from the fighter plane program and displacing 1700 cubic inches (that's 28 litres, and no, I didn't slip a decimal), we are looking at 1000+ horsepower before the hot rod guys got their paws on it. The mechanical engineering labs at my alma mater had a cutaway Rolls-Royce Merlin of similar displacement on a stand, and boy what a monster, featuring pistons the size of dinner plates. This one will definitely not get built with the Thunderbird body; I am thinking of something like a monster replica of the Auto-Union C-Type, the rear-engine V16 Grand Prix car built by a guy named F. Porsche in about 1938, but on, say, a lowered Kenworth chassis with wheel tops above the driver's head. Scratch building the chassis should be fun; a suitably Art Deco fuselage may require some thinking. Maybe a 1/32 WWII warplane model could serve as donor? Something to think about. Now I just need to find a Kenworth chassis donor.

OK, so the unbuilt stash has increased by 5 (I also picked up an Aston Martin DB4, a Ford Mark IV and a very detailed Aoshima kit of the McLaren F1 GTR). I guess I'll just have to retire sooner, right?

On second thought, don't encourage me.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

DBR1: Spark plugs, part II

Family and career commitments have kept me away from the bench lately, but the spark plugs are now all in and wired; I just need to tidy up the wires once the CA glue has set properly. The glue applicator tool was priceless here. I don't know how I managed without it all these years.

The original car had the wires from each distributor running through a tube, each wire exiting through an individual hole to its plug; I managed to make such a tube, using a 1.5 mm diameter brass tube and with holes drilled at the right points, but was unable to thread any wires through it except for those for the #1 plug, so I ditched the idea. Brownie points if you can spot the other error. And no, it's not the firing order, which I believe is correct assuming the distributor rotors turn counterclockwise when viewed from the back - as they are driven directly off the cams, which likely turn clockwise when viewed from the front, this is a good guess.

More family and career obligations are looming on the horizon, so I'll get back to this as and when I can.

Monday, February 9, 2015

DBR1: Spark plugs, part I

It is always interesting to see what you can find at the local hobby shop when you have a specific problem in mind, to wit I stumbled across brass thin-wall tube, 1 mm OD, wall thickness 0.225 mm, item #9830 from K&S Precision Metals, package of 4 pieces, 12" long each, for $4.39 plus tax, so there is plenty of material to screw up with and it doesn't require waiting three and a half weeks and paying $20 worth of shipping from the US.

The OD works out to 0.039", which will fit nicely in the 0.047" spark plug holes and mimic a 0.945" diameter spark plug -- a bit big but I am guessing no one will notice because it will be impossible to get a micrometer in there to verify. ID is 0.022", perhaps a slightly sloppy fit for the 0.016" wire but hey, you can't have everything. I'll just need to fill them up with gap-filling CA and slap on some black paint to mimic the plug wire end. And all this with no drilling! The #78 bit is fragile and I wasn't looking forward to have to drill into the ends of 12 pieces of 3/64" rod.

No further activity until the weekend, I am afraid, I was just excited about the find and thought I would pass it along.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

DBR1: Scratch-built distributors

Continuing on with the engine in the DBR1, I discovered that the spark plug holes are enormous, and appear to be 0.045" to 0.050", approximately 3/64" -- this would be a huge 1.125" at 1:1 -- and would be a very poor fit for your typical 0.016" spark plug wire from Detail Master.

Furthermore the two distributors (it's a twin plug head) look to be very difficult to stick wires to. So I went for scratch-built distributors using tricks from a fellow modeler on the Model Car List. Apologies for not remembering the name of the poster; I've misplaced the link. If this is your tip, drop me a line and I will give credit by updating this post. [UPDATE: Thanks to Tim Kriner for the method!]

Basically the trick involves three pieces of brass tube sleeved inside one another. Diameters are 5/32", 1/8" and 3/32", all with 0.014" wall thicknesses; the largest works out to an outside diameter for the distributor cap of 3.75" at 1:1 -- about right. The outer sleeve is 3 mm in length; the 1/8" is also 3 mm but is only inserted 1.5 mm into the outer. The 3/32" tube, which must be flush with the 5/32" tube, was cut down to 5 mm which is the total height of the distributor (4.725" at 1:1); it is closer to 9 mm in the photo above.

Do it right and there is a circular annulus of 0.017" radius, between the 5/32" and 3/32" tubes, into which it is easy to insert Detail Master 0.016" wires. The best approach is to put in two adjacent wires as a single long one with a bend in the middle; the bend can get pushed in with a sharp tool and will stay put, hopefully, until you get all the wires in and can dab in some CA to hold it all in place. The scale works well for an 8-cylinder motor; these look a little big for a six, but it will do. Given the raw materials and a decent set of tools, it took me about 90 minutes to make two, including time to screw up a couple of times before getting it right.

I went a step further and inserted some 1/16" rod for the shaft, as drilling 3/32" into the back of the Aston's cylinder head was looking challenging. The photos shows the finished distributors, needing only paint.

Next will be to build up spark plugs. I am considering a range of options including assemblies of styrene rod and tube. 1/32" hexagonal rod, assuming such a thing exists, would be just a bit small to emulate the 13/16" hex of your typical plug ... I'll have to see what is available in styrene.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Tidying up the display cabinet III: More kitbashes from the vault

A while back I posted some kitbashes from the vault. The theme is engineering mules that might lead to proper prototypes, with an emphasis on function over form. Here is another batch of the more interesting ones.

The first is a design study that tries to answer the question: what would a Corvette look like if it were built on the 96" wheelbase of a Cobra, or, why not, a DBR1? 

The answer is that the seats would be wedged between the rear fender wells, with the driver's backside hard up against the halfshafts. This doesn't work as well as it did for the Cobra, which had narrower tires and thus more space for said driver's backside, but it's not impossible given the wider track of the more modern Vette. A narrower transmission tunnel and wider sills are the result of squeezing the seats between those wide rear tires, but I think it all fits, and someone should build this at 1:1. It would be hot, uncomfortable, fast and twitchy. To paraphrase Carroll Shelby: Yeehaw! Sort of like the full-scale Honda S2000 with a Viper motor that turned up at a local hot rod show a while back.

I discovered one day that the Chevy Blazer and Corvette have essentially the same wheelbase ... So the Blazer got the entire Corvette floorpan and drivetrain, along with a horizontal body section and a top chop which involved leaning the entire roof forward pivoted around the rear-most pillar: the biggest cut was out of the A-pillar, a bit less out of the B-pillar, etc., with no cut at the back. The roof didn't need lengthening in this approach, at least not at the level of resolution I was aiming for here. The cockpit is a bit crowded at 1:1 but a less aggressive section would remedy that at 1:1. Apart from the section and chop, this would be a neat project at 1:1 and would probably work better with newer SUVs with a proper unit body rather than the older ones, like this, with a ladder frame. I am sure this sort of hot rod approach to a small SUV has, in fact, been attempted in the real world.

Yes, yes, the paint job is bizarre and really needs an airbrush to do properly, not just a pair of rattle cans.

Meanwhile the 'Vette, sporting a hand-brushed camouflage paint job using Testor's flat paints in military shades, sits well up on its Blazer ladder chassis, with the cow-catcher and trunk-mounted spare tire being high points. The narrow track does makes it look a little tippy, however. Under the hood there is lots of room for the GM V6 and 4WD bits. Over the years, I have seen all sorts of silly 4WD conversions at 1:1 using this sort of approach (Chevette, Austin Allegro, etc., mounted on a 4X4 chassis), and I am sure that someone, somewhere, has already done this at 1:1 with a Corvette body and that rusty old CJ5 that's been sitting at the back of the barn since 1983.

The twin-cam, 6-cyl drivetrain from Tamiya's Toyota Soarer 3.0 has been transplanted into this Lil' Red Wagon. A buddy once had a van version of this with the old slant 6 in it; I remember once driving from Montreal to Quebec City (or maybe vice versa), with me in the passenger seat lifting the engine lid every so often to top up the oil as the piston rings weren't up to the extended periods at highway speeds -- we'd know it was time to pour in a few more quarts from the 12-pack behind the front seats when it stopped smoking, meaning the sump was almost dry. We did this on the fly, at highway speeds, because we didn't want to stop; it was mid-winter and very cold, and the probability of it not starting again was high. Ah, the foolishness of youth ... Don't try this at home! So anyway a nice engine bay for a high-performance 6; trucks with the V8 were a maintenance nightmare.

Finally this extended 4X6 F150 carries a Deuce coupe with a radical, sloping section allowed by the fact that the drivetrain, taken from yet another Dodge Stealth kit, is in the back. The body section consists of rotating the entire body around the rear axle, so that the wedge-shaped section is non-existent above the rear wheels, but severe at the front. There is also a top chop. What's missing is a pair of scoops in the quarter panels just behind the doors to feed the intercoolers. I've done two of these Deuces in this fashion and it looks like an easy conversion at full-scale, especially if you delete the front wheel drive (former rear wheel drive).

Elsewhere I have posted more recent efforts, such as the El Caprice and El Nomad, the sectioned Vandura, Baby!, and, my favourite (below), Project Starliner. All involve decent engineering and better fit and finish than the engineering prototypes shown here, although we are still not looking at show-class stuff.

That's all for now, folks. I've now posted the best of the collection, excluding various WIP that I will continue to describe as progress is made.

DBR1: engine & chassis phase 1

Having survived a bad re-release of the classic movie The Return Of The Slime From The Mold-Release Swamp, I thought I'd do something easy, like assemble the wheels. And a lovely set of wheels they are, too, made up of 10 parts each if you include the tires: two photo-etched wire sets for the outer wires; a third photo-etched wire set for the inner; these three are trapped inside a 2-piece rim consisting of an inner spun cast piece and an outer machined aluminum piece, and are separated by a spun-cast hub; a three-piece photo-etched knock-off spinner or nut finishes it off.

What lovely wheels, they rival anything I've seen at this scale anywhere else. As you can see from the photo above, the knock-offs actually mimic left and right hand thread nuts, meaning you can mount the right-hand thread knock-offs (pictured) on the left side, as they should be, and vice versa ... yes, yes, this is picky, picky, picky, but you have to admire, no, that's not right, you have to expect obsession with detail when you spend this sort of money. (The 5th wheel is the spare and can go on either side, with the appropriate spinner).

You can go to the Profil 24 website and order a set of wheels and knock-offs, highly recommended if you've got a classic European roadster sitting on the workbench. (I didn't check the diameter before assembling, but the tires have the notation 6.00 L-15 molded in the sidewall - recall this is 1/24.). Not cheap but by shipping it out of the EU, you save the VAT, and the US dollar is pretty strong against the euro these days, so you should load up. (Not so much with the Canadian dollar, I am afraid).

Moving on to the chassis: online resources show several of the five full-scale DBR1's with varying colours for the interior and chassis tubes. The floor pan, firewall and transmission hump, which were sheet aluminum, are unpainted in one car, body colour (a dark metallic green somewhat lighter than BRG and which will be hard to match) in another. All photos are agreed that the chassis tubes were a very pale green, so that is going to be my approach. Profil 24 recommends Humbrol #65, but with Humbrol hard to find locally, I am going for Tamiya XF71 Cockpit Green, a flat military colour, for the chassis tubing. I'll probably paint the sheet metal a flat aluminum colour as in the picture below. Of course these are all modern pictures, taken at Pebble Beach or elsewhere after someone restored the cars to within an inch of their lives; most of the period pictures online are B&W and don't tell the story.

The chassis is beginning to come together. Unlike styrene kits, there are no locating pins, so everything has to be trial fitted, including to see how it fits under the body. Also there are little lumps of excess resin here and there, some of them in awkward spots if all you have is a #11 blade. The Dremel with a small diameter milling tool has been brought to bear in a couple of cases, as have the panel scribe and various dentist's picks.

Online underhood shots of 1:1 vehicles didn't appear to show much unexpected, until I noticed that one car had the carbs on the right side. The little Weber label being clearly visible on one of the carbs, this is not a case of a picture being accidentally inverted digitally; the cam covers, furthermore, have only four studs holding them down where all other pictures, including the Profil 24 pictures and model, have a large number of studs running around the periphery of the covers. I can only surmise this is a later production engine, as it corresponds with online underhood shots of the DB4.

So on with the show: Back to Tamiya grey primer, including a coat for the body on top of the automotive primer which was very dark, then aluminum in a can (chassis, engine block), black from a bottle (valve covers, steering rack, etc.) and cockpit green from a bottle (chassis tubes).

Body colour, according to Profil 24's website, looks a lot like Tamiya TS-60 Pearl Green, but the online pictures are all a couple of shades darker. Looking for a guinea pig, I dug out an old Dodge Stealth body from the bin and tried a couple of colours. TS-43 Racing Green (front bumper and fenders) is way too bright; Pearl (rear deck) is too light and yellow; TS-78 Field Gray (roof) is flat but pretty close. Field Gray with a Pearl mist (left-side door) looks good; an alternative would be a coat of gloss over the flat Field Gray. As always with this blog, the photograph, taken with a 7-year old Canon point-and-shoot camera, doesn't really do the colours justice.

All in all, progress is being made, with the only screwup so far being the saga of the mold release agent. Next week is likely to be busy from a career perspective, so progress could be slow. Zen, baby, zen.