Saturday, March 28, 2015

Mitsubishi Fuso car carrier: carrier assembly

In trying to make more room in the display cabinets, and also as a way of avoiding the finicky finishing touches on the Mazda 787B (funny how a lot of my new projects begin as a way of avoiding finicky finishing touches on something else ...), I ordered the Fujimi model of the Mutsibishi Fuso car carrier from a Japanese provider here. The idea was to use it as a display platform for the growing contingent of Japanese sedans in the collection, so that 5 or 6 cars might take the place of three, plus there would be a neat (and obscure) truck to add to the collection.

The package arrived quickly and in good shape. It wasn't exactly cheap, at 12,000 yen (of which 4,000 was shipping); but the strength of the US dollar versus the Canadian dollar makes it painful to order anything from the US these days. The site actually shows images of assembly drawings, so you can find out pretty quickly whether the model is curbside or not, a real problem with some of the more obscure Aoshima, Fujimi or other Japanese kits that are available in North America. (The Fuso has a well-detailed drivetrain and a tilt cab).

Meanwhile I also discovered a Japanese hobby shop in Vancouver (here) which may be able to order this obscure stuff; while the stock they carry is mostly R/C and military, there were some out-of-production Japanese kits on the shelf and I came home with Tamiya's Honda S800.

The trailer sides and lower deck went together quickly, with a very nice socketed design to ensure components going together at right angles actually do all stay straight. Instructions are almost entirely in Japanese but it's all pretty obvious to anyone who has built a few styrene kits. The upper deck will be assembled once some other components, such as hydraulic struts, have been painted separately. It will go to painting next. I think a light blue, with yellow accents, will look good.

Of course, now that the trailer is assembled, I realize it doesn't fit in any of my cabinets -- too long for some, too tall for others. As I have a few other trucks sitting in the wings, it would appear that I'll need a new display cabinet anyway ...

Mazda 787B: Body

One of the most painful parts of the Tamiya kits, especially older ones, is the windshield surrounds that need to be painted directly on the glass. You need a real steady hand with the older kits; if you screw up, it's forever. The newer ones have a mask of the right shape and so are much easier.

So without a mask, and given the success of Microscale products in other applications (Micro Set for setting decals, Micro Kristal Klear glue for glass), I decided to give Micro Mask a try.

It is supposed to be a liquid mask that you paint on and let dry; then you paint your colour and peel off the mask after the paint has started to set.

It goes on in a thin, transparent blue layer. Trimming is a challenge as you need to drag the knife exactly where you want it, almost as challenging as dragging a brush exactly where you want it. I let the Micro Mask dry for a few days while my career got in the way, then slathered on some paint. After about 20 minutes I used a knife and tweezer to lift the mask off. The good news is you can really slather on the paint; the bad news is that it still looks sloppy, possibly because I didn't put on the Micro Mask thick enough or trim it properly. I'll have to go around it again with the brush one day when I am feeling particularly relaxed. So is there a benefit? I'm not sure -- either you need a steady hand with the Micro Mask, or a steady hand with the paint brush. Skip a step and go right to the paint would be my conclusion at this point.

Otherwise I decided to apply a couple of key decals but to forego the entire slate of green triangles and tacky sponsor's logos. Yes, it is not exactly as it ran in 1991, but it's not as ugly, either. Paint consists of clear over the bare orange plastic, a basic approach that works well with my typical level of finish. The decals for the tires appear to be missing (the kit has been open for quite a few years), so I'll have to see about digging something suitable out of the parts box or off the InterWeb. With the US dollar where it is, ordering from US suppliers in Canadian dollars is becoming painful even before the extortionate shipping costs, so I'll have to see what I can get from Wheels and Wings Hobbies in Toronto.

Once complete it will join my growing collection of Le Mans cars, which will soon require fabrication of some more shelving from Plexiglass sheet to make more room in the display cabinet. No pictures yet, it's not quite done -- I still need to clean up the paint on the glass.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Mazda 787B: Chassis

Boy, do these Tamiya kits go together fast, especially compared to the resin world. A couple of evenings and a solid weekend has gotten the 787B chassis essentially complete. The big question will be whether to apply the (ugly) decals of the period car, or to leave it orange. 

The 787B is a critical part of my goal of modeling as many different Le Mans engines as possible. A 4-chamber rotary motor, this engine powered the Le Mans winner in 1991. In spite of a lot of effort by Toyota since then, this remains the only Japanese car to win Le Mans.

Next will be the interior and exterior. A couple of older shots (below) show it next to a 956 (also incomplete) and a Lancia Beta Monte Carlo.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

New arrivals

It is well known that the ideal number of model kits on the shelf is n + 1, where n is the current number of kits on the shelf. (It turns out that this is also true of guitars, motorcycles, bicycles, or any other object worth collecting; however model kits have an advantage as they do not take up so much space). That being the case, I have acquired three more resin kits from the French supplier Profil 24.

Two are curbside kits of pre-war racers. The 1926 Renault 40 NM Record was a streamlined land speed record car, maintaining a record 173 km/h average speed over 24 hours. The shape is a lovely Art Deco affair that reminds me of the cars in early Tintin comic books; the skinny wheels and lack of front brakes mean this 9-litre monster was probably a real handful, even with only 130 horsepower. Bodywork from the cowl back was built by Weymann and consisted of fabric (leather, in this case) stretched over a light framework of tubes. Both creaky and leaky, I would imagine; other Weymann bodies of the period used fabric impregnated with airplane dope as a sealant.

The 1938 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 B that ran at Le Mans is a lovely, curvaceous Italian affair, with a 2.9 litre, supercharged straight 8 making 220 horsepower in road trim; racing output was probably substantially higher. Technology sure was progressing in leaps and bounds at that time, with almost double the power from three times less displacement in just 12 years. Too bad neither kit includes any engine detail.

I took the attached picture of an 8C 2900A in road trim at the Schlumpf museum in Mulhouse, Alsace; the car dates to that fascinating period, style-wise, when designers were exploring the concept of molding front fenders into the body instead of having them standing clear as in, say, a Model A. The museum, which is vast, has a strong focus on the Bugatti collection amassed by the Schlumpf brothers, as well as a wide range of other interesting stuff, and is a must-see if you are ever in southern Alsace.

The third one is the Talbot Sunbeam Lotus that ran at Monte Carlo in 1981; this one has lots of detail around the lovely little Lotus twincam motor. An obscure little car, although one of the drivers was Jean Todt who went on to fame as race team manager with Ferrari.

So at a quick glance,  n is now approximately 50 kits, including stuff that is started, give or take a few. At my current rate of a few cars per year, this will keep me busy for quite some time.

To compound the problem, soon it'll be time to get the bicycles out again. At last count n = 4½ bikes, one each in steel, aluminum, titanium and carbon fibre; the ½ bike is a second aluminum bike shared with my son. So modeling progress may slow somewhat if the snow ever melts.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Alpine A210 final assembly Part II

So it's done. The glass went in OK with the Micro Krystal Klear, and the body is a fair fit to the chassis. Wheels tend to catch in the inner fenders, especially in the rear, and it probably wouldn't roll even if I had gotten the axles right. Looking in through the glass, there are big gaps visible where the inner fenders are missing, and a lot of the fiddly little bits were a challenge. Nonetheless, it's a nice addition to the growing collection of obscure little French racers.

Combined displacement of the two Alpines: 2.9 litres.

I've always thought the A110 was a good-looking little car, with a lot of neat period cues. Of course there are other shapes from the same era that have aged much better, such as the first-generation 911, but this is still an interesting shape with the little lips on the fenders, the scalloped sides and the slim roof pillars. It manages to look muscular even though it is small, because the proportions are all just about right. The road version is probably better-looking because it doesn't have all the tacked-on lamps needed for the Monte Carlo. The Matra Djet was another iconoclastic French design from the same period, which was replaced by the phenomenally ugly 530. But I digress.  

The A210 was designed with minimal wind resistance in mind and it shows. It was succeeded by the A220, with a small V8, and with a similar focus on aerodynamics.

Neither of the Alpines is really painted a proper French blue, with the A110 done in Testor's and the A210 in Tamiya. However the camera, lighting and computer screen play a role here; to illustrate I tried some new artistic photographic techniques. The last picture, which probably reproduces the two shades of blue better than before, is a lot softer with a lot less glare, plus it hides the flaws better. Maybe I'll use this approach more often ...

So what's next, you ask? Hard to say. There are a lot of unfinished projects taking up space. I've built my share of Hemis, small-block Chevys and big-block Fords; I've also built my share of turbocharged, ground-effects Le Mans racers. The obscure stuff is oddly interesting and there are two other French cars sitting on the shelf: the Renault 4 mentioned previously, and Tamiya's Citroen 2CV. Combined displacement 1350 cc from 6 cylinders ... then again there is Tamiya's Mazda 787B Le Mans car with rotary engine. Stay tuned.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Alpine A210 final assembly Part I

The 35+ year-old decals went on OK, although the clear portion of the decal around the number 5 has yellowed. An attempt to Bare Metal Foil the Alpine text on the nose ended in failure, and scraping off the foil meant I needed a local respray and some sanding to hide the extra coat. A final coat of clear will finish this off, then it will be on to the glass and interior.

Chassis-wise, I left the manufacture of the coil springs a little late, and had to wait for the paint on the shocks to dry before assembly. The sheet showed 18 coils of the 0.018" wire wound around a 3 mm (1/8") tube for the rear springs, and 10 coils for the front, but there was only enough wire for the rears. I used some 0.038" copper wire for the fronts, but needed fewer coils as the wire is twice as thick. All this took some fiddling but looks good, maybe I will take this up as a useful trick.

Wheels are meant to slide over a very fine axle, and are retained with a tiny nut glued on to the end of the axle shaft. I figured this was a recipe for disaster and glued it all up, forgoing the rolling wheels. (When did you last roll one of your models across the floor?) A test fit of the body revealed that the left rear wheel hadn't been pushed far enough onto the axle. It got caught on the inside of the wheel fairing, and the axle snapped. I'll have to drill and pin it over the next few days, along with finishing up glass and interior. 

Today, Round 2 and Tamiya have come up with some standardised approaches to things like wheel hubs and uprights; the Tamiya polycap is a great approach which is strong, simple and easy. With this vintage Heller kit, you can see designers starting from scratch. For those interested, the model designer, Philippe de Lespinay, posted some history here, in English, where you can see the instructions (in French). The A210 kit was designed in 1966 and was his first, completed at a very young age if one judges from the photos. The page includes a number of fascinating exploded drawings. It is interesting that this A210, and a Renault Gordini R8 also from Heller, were released as a double kit by AMT in 1971!

Overall a different, quirky kit. Final pics will be posted soon.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Alpine A210 prep work

Given that progress on the DBR1 is continuing at a slow pace, and that sometimes it's nice to see some progress, I decided to start on one of the new styrene kits on the shelf. At least these go together fairly easily with minimal measuring, filing and drilling, and it is possible to see some progress fairly quickly. Or at least that was the plan.

The musty smell of old cardboard on opening the A210 box is proof the kit has not been opened in several decades, if ever. I cleaned up the various part lines on the body, gave it a shot of primer, and filled in a few sinkholes in the nose.

Separately I assembled and painted the various engine components. The little 4 is claimed, in 1300 cc guise, to push the A210 aero body to 250 km/h, quite an achievement if correct, because power was likely in the vicinity of 70 to 80 hp.

 A few oddities: the exhaust manifolds and pipe are rubber, as is the one-piece distributor and wire set. A length of stainless steel wire is provided to wrap around a nail (not supplied) in order to make springs. A different kit of a different car.

If I thought this would be an easy build, it's not. There are lots of fiddly little bits, all of them with lots of flash that makes cleanup a challenge. Along with the sinkholes and part lines on the body, this is an indication of mold quality, although on the other hand the raised Alpine lettering across the nose is very finely done.

The Tamiya TS-10 French Blue paint looks good in real life but, as always, my digital camera, and the computer screen, conspire to make it look pale and washed out.

Final paint touch-ups and assembly to come this week.