Sunday, April 26, 2015

Renault 40 Record: opening up the left-side door

As noted previously, the Record came with the left side door molded with the body, but is also supplied with a separate door. Using the new door means cutting out and discarding the old one. With the narrow windows and the tall slab body sides, this is really the only way to show off the interior. (Pictures here; the text is in French but the picture portfolio speaks for itself).

Given the thickness of the mold, this was not going to be a case of gently carving out the seam with the back of a No. 11 blade, as the blade would eventually get jammed in the cut. So I got brave (given the price of the kit) and used the cut-off tool on my Dremel to carve off the old door.

The result is not at all bad, even if the window frame in the old door had to be sacrificed.

Next will be to build hinges as in the article by Ken Hamilton in the April 2015 issue of Scale Auto. Most of that article focuses on hidden hinges (the case study is AMT's 1962 Thunderbird convertible), but he provides a quick overview of 'barn-door' hinges with a 1934 Ford as the example, and this is the approach I'll take with the three hinges used on the Renault.

That being said, an initial attempt using 1/32" brass rod and 0.003" shim stock has only been moderately successful. The 0.005" stock seemed excessively stiff at first look, but it is possible that this is a good thing; experimentation continues. Hamilton recommends 'shim stock' but doesn't specify thickness. (The picture also shows clearly the cleanup needed around the door and opening).

2015 Nissan GT-R Le Mans

Unlike F1, Le Mans has a very liberal policy around race car engineering.

They're not quite there yet, but I think the model where you run what you want as long as you can finish the race on a set number of BTUs is the way to go. We’d see Pratt & Whitney helicopter gas turbines fueled with Jet A, 27 litre Allison V12 aircraft motors redlined at 1500 RPM and running on 105 octane avgas, 1 litre H16s screaming along at 30,000 RPM on a mix of methanol, nitrous oxide and toluene, 7 litre 2-stroke V-twin turbo Diesels running on home heating oil, whatever. You run out of BTUs, you’re out. Energy recovery suddenly becomes very important; photos of ceramic disc brakes glowing a dull orange as the driver desperately tries to dump precious BTUs heading into a corner are a thing of the past.

The bicycle racing arena is at least as rigid as F1. The rules for the Tour de France are extremely restrictive; I recently bought a road bike with hydraulic disc brakes which will outperform a TdF bike, but which the TdF riders can’t have because they stop too well. The argument is that if the guy in front of the peloton has hydraulic discs, and gets on them hard, he’ll be crushed by the pack behind him relying on Victorian-era cable-operated rim brakes that haven’t been improved since Tullio Campagnolo patented the quick-release hub in 1930. The string of Jaguar wins at Le Mans in the '50s were due entirely to two factors: Jaguar's adoption of disc brakes, and the refusal of some Italian guy named Enzo to do the same. Ferrari's high-revving, short stroke motors were decades ahead of the long-stroke Jaguar motor that were inspired by pre-war GP engines, but being able to brake later and harder was the trump card for wins by a string of C- and D-Types.

I once drove a car with cable brakes. It was a ~1950 Dellow trials car, and probably weighed about 600 kg. With a Ford Prefect 1172 cc (yes, that's 71.5 cubic inches) flathead motor augmented with a custom high compression head (I am going to guess 6.8:1 versus the standard 6.3:1) from one of those British ‘hot rod’ shops whose name escapes me now (Speedwell?), it probably made about 31 hp, and the three speed non-synchro box was geared for a top speed of well under 40 mph. Even in these circumstances the brakes were well and truly frightening, the inadequacies only matched by the thermo-siphon cooling system that could not handle repeated 0-30 mph sprints away from lights without boiling, which prevented me from further stressing the brakes as I had to pull over for a rest on my way back to the shop. A good thing too as I was probably additionally stressing the splash lubrication system, said splash lubrication system probably being the inspiration for the Briggs & Stratton 8 hp lawn mower engine, which is where it belongs. I would not have wanted to run the big ends on a customer car.
But I digress. Getting back to Le Mans: Porsche is running a V4 Diesel, everyone in LMP1 has hybrid systems, it’s getting very weird. But wait, it's about to get a lot weirder, to wit: Nissan is preparing a 3.0 litre turbo V6 making 625 hp for this year’s race. Pretty conventional so far; however it will be front engined (!) and FWD (!!) which is wild and crazy indeed. The advantage, they hope, is massively improved aero: air gets pulled in from underneath the front splitter, is routed through the forward engine compartment for heat management, and flows through large tunnels either side of the cockpit to the rear of the car, where it exits through what looks like an HVAC hot air vent off a downtown high-rise. The car has none of the usual vents, ducts, scoops, tabs and other drag-inducing stuff you find on the surface of the usual rear-engine cars; skinny little rear tires complete the picture, and the lack of an engine and transaxle  in the rear means the airflow is not constrained by mere mechanical bits. It will be interesting to see how many aero add-ons get pop-riveted onto it as they get the car ready for Le Mans, it’s all pretty sleek now.

According to Road and Track, Nissan will store power in a pair of flywheels under the drivers’ seat. Initial planning was for an added 1375 hp from the flywheels in 3-second bursts for a total of 2000 hp (!!) on tap at the exit of a corner. For reasons of reliability, they now have settled on only 625 hp from the flywheels, so a mere 1250 hp at peak (!). Yoiks. Let’s hope it all holds together.

Meanwhile F1 is back to 2.4 litre V6 turbos limited to 15,000 RPM, and NASCAR requires a pushrod (pushrod!) 368 cu. in. Chevy small block derivative with a restrictor plate under the carburetor (carburetor!). Seems to me the Chevy small block, while an excellent design, dates to about 1957, while the carburetor is a 19th century invention. Where's the innovations, guys?
So anyway Profil 24 has wasted no time in preparing a 1:24 model (possibly curbside) of the Nissan. I'm not sure how they do it but they do seem to have figured out what I need in my collection ... They are also preparing a model of the Aston Martin DB2 that ran in 1951 which I will tackle just as soon as I complete the DBR1 that Shelby used to win in 1959.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Miller 91

One last back-ordered item turned up earlier this week: the lovely little Miller 91 from Historic Racing Miniatures. It's tiny next to the leviathan Renault from the same period; more on the scale of the little Honda RA272E of 1965.

It illustrates that there is nothing new under the sun: the Miller 91 had a 1500 cc, DOHC supercharged motor making up to 250 hp, in a front-wheel-drive chassis. Honda Civic hot-rods, anyone? The name relates to the displacement; 91 cubic inches is just about 1500 cc. I'll build it up to mimic the Packard Cable Special as found in the Smithsonian collection; this is the car Ralph Hepburn ran in the 1929 Indianapolis 500, and which later set speed records of 143 mph (230 k/h) in Europe. Contrast this with the Renault's 9 litres and 130 hp, which was the last gasp of the Edwardian automobile era.

Unlike today’s blown motors, it only had two valves per cylinder, probably at least partly due to the fact it was an inline 8 cylinder with a bore of only 55.5 mm, limiting valve area. (It was a typical long stroke prewar motor, with a stroke of 76.2 mm). Also it had a centrifugal blower as the metallurgy for turbos wasn’t there yet, even though GE put a turbo on an airplane engine in 1919 in a bid for a new record of 28,500 feet. Nonetheless over 200 hp from a 1.5 litre motor, in 1928, is incredible.
The kit is gorgeous, with lovely pre-wired wheels and very high-quality resin bits. The instruction 'manual' is a little thin on pictorial detail but this is what you get from a one-man operation. The box has the handwritten notice 47/100, so I am assuming the current run is at least half sold by now; I ordered it in late December (from and was told it would ship as kits got made. Get your order in now! 
With this delivery, there is nothing left on backorder. The count now stands at about 53 kits complete, 55 unstarted, and as many as 10 in progress. Time to start building and stop buying.
OK, OK, who am I kidding. I'll continue buying as oddball stuff crops up. I just added a Lancia Delta S4 from the 1986 Monte Carlo, recently reissued by Profil 24; I've got 9 or 10 of their kits with only two (DBR1 and Renault 40) even remotely started.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Renault 40 Record: cleanup

Summer is coming and I will be out on the bicycle a lot more frequently, not hanging around the workshop. As a last modeling gasp, I cleaned up the Renault resin bits with the required isopropanol bath, and spent some time filing and sanding to get the upper and lower halves of the body to fit together as intended.

The kit includes an extra left-hand door which requires cutting out the existing one. This will be time consuming given the thickness of the mold. What a long, thin vehicle ... part of the issue is the typical Renault approach at the time, of mounting the radiator behind the motor. I am not sure where the heat got dumped -- into the cockpit? -- but it sure does make for a long, narrow hood, along with the tall, narrow, low-revving, long-stroke motor. Period photos show the rear of the streamlined body was filled mainly by the gas tank, illustrating what the fuel consumption of a 9-litre engine making only 130 hp must have been.

Primer and paint followed. Tamiya AS19, Intermediate US Navy Blue, seems to be a good approximation of the matte fabric panels aft of the cowl, especially with a coat of dullcote. The hood and chassis will be the same colour but with a coat of gloss. This went over a coat of DupliColor primer and another of Tamiya primer.

All this prior to heading out this morning to visit The Granddaughter on my bike, an 80 km loop. What a cutie, even if she is in full Two-Year-Old Tantrum Mode. Work beckons Monday so progress will be slow.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Shelf improvement

IKEA Canada has these cabinets: With 3 shelves, roughly 27" wide by 7" deep by 9" high, there should be room for the Mitsubishi car carrier and up to 4 shorter trucks. Of course I've got 6 shorter trucks, plus the Freightliner which doesn't have a trailer yet, so clearly I was going to need two.

So I went out and battled the Easter Monday shopping crowd and picked up two. They go together well and they look good in solid pine. Shelf depth inside the doors is 6-1/2", shelf height varies from just under 8-1/2" to almost 9", but the inside length is only 26-3/8", likely almost an inch short if I want to fit the Mitsubishi tractor in there on the same shelf as the carrier. Presumably the Freightliner with the upcoming Revell car carrier will be even worse. However it is better than what I had, and opens up space to buy and build more stuff. Most cabinets, at IKEA or elsewhere, are made for showing off Grandma's serving dishes and are therefore too deep. These are a very nice solution if you've got lots to display; with a bit of handiwork you could add three more shelves and get 13 feet of linear display space suitable for vehicles under 4" high.

As I keep telling the kids, I could be spending their inheritance drinking, gambling, smoking and chasing women in bars, but I'm not, so they shouldn't complain about the occasional kit and associated impedimenta such as cabinets.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Mitsubishi Fuso carrier: Mission Creep

The carrier is now complete. I left off a series of little chain-link guardrails on the upper deck that wouldn't stop you from falling. I also mounted the forward upper deck section much higher than the instructions called for; the way it was set up, there was only room for one car at the front for a total of 5. At this point it will hold 6. (The yellow body on the front upper deck is the diminutive Honda S800).

The lower deck falls between the wheel arches and is pretty narrow; the RX7 body won't fit because its wheel arches are too wide. The orange Skyline 2000 fits up to the rear wheel arches, which are also too wide. The overall width of the trailer works out to 102" at 1:1, so even with the single wheels, there isn't a lot of room. Furthermore, the rearmost lower deck position is such that I am not sure that you could actually get out of the car, even if it did fit.

I see there is an upcoming re-release of the Revell auto transport listed on the Model Roundup page ( Presumably the overall width is similar, but the lower ramp rises above the dual wheel sets so that much wider cars (such as, for instance, 1959 Impalas) might fit on the lower deck.

My existing cabinet will just take the trailer and six cars, plus three more short ones in front of it at 'street' level, if I take out a shelf that used to hold at least 6 cars. Plus the Mitsubishi tractor doesn't fit. So I am replacing space for at least twelve cars with a trailer and at most nine cars. One step forward, two back ... I think I'll need to build or look for a bigger cabinet as there is an incomplete White Freightliner on the shelf, which will need space, especially if I build it with the new Revell auto carrier ... Not to mention the stash which includes a Bedford OLBD 5-ton dropside, a Bussing 8000 S13, a Krupp Titan SWL 80, a Ford LN8000 car carrier and a Dodge A600 cab with Little Red Wagon on a trailer, all waiting to be started. We're looking at a whole lot of mission creep here.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Mitsubishi Fuso car carrier: carrier and engine

Any Easter blossoms in this part of the world are usually imported from somewhere else. Once the snow does melt, which the meteorologists continue to claim will indeed happen sometime before the end of June, modeling progress will grind to a halt as we all rush out to get a few rays of sunshine before winter starts up again. So the long weekend was a good opportunity to make some progress.

The car carrier required an entire rattle can of Tamiya's TS-10 blue, and will need at least another two cans, along with the half-can left over from the Alpine A220, for the second coat and for the truck cab. As expected there are nooks and crannies where the rattle can doesn't reach now that I've assembled the structure, but a second coat should help here. I am also considering where I might add yellow highlights, to both cab and carrier, beyond the wheels.

Speaking of the wheels, the Tamiya TS-16 yellow rattle can did a poor job on the wheels in spite of a coat of primer, with the paint pooling in little puddles and running away from sharp edges rather than sticking properly; most of the small detail such as lug nuts got buried in yellow muck. Probably I laid on the primer too thin, and the first coats of colour too thick ... I tried to strip it off and start over, planning to put on a heavier coat of primer, but discovered that nothing seems to attack dried Tamiya acrylic paint: not Easy-Off, not lacquer thinner (which probably shouldn't have been a surprise), and not Tamiya thinner which, according to the label, consists of n-propanol and butyl alcohol. The InterWeb is full of advice (as always); the consensus seems to be that iso-propanol at high concentrations, combined with long soaking times (days?) and vigorous scrubbing with a toothbrush, will do the trick. I reinforced the Tamiya thinner with some iso-propanol from the pharmacy, and covered my tray to minimize evaporative losses. After letting it all soak for a couple of hours, vigorous scrubbing with a toothbrush began to lift some of the paint off.

Judging by the smell when I opened the little baggie, the tires are real rubber. (Now there is a sentence that could be misinterpreted -- smelling the contents of little baggies as a quality control measure? If the NSA is listening, we are talking about model cars here. Nothing illegal as far as I know ...) They are very soft and flexible and fit nicely over the rims.

Moving onto the truck, the engine is a bit of an oddball. It is assembled from a series of relatively flat sheets, with large gaps in random places between joints, see below. Compared to the lovely interlocking bits in the trailer, it's all pretty sloppy in terms of identifying where exactly a part should be glued, and the detail is only fair. It appears to be a V10 Diesel with no turbocharging. The pictures above show it pre-painting; I stripped the chrome off the cylinder heads and gearbox. In one of the few bits of English, the instructions say the engine should be painted 'burnt iron'; I'm going to look for something a little more colourful even if not entirely accurate.