Friday, December 30, 2016

Hot rodding a Suzuki Jimney

The Hasegawa kit of the Suzuki Jimney is a curbside model of a cute little 4X4. Powered by a 660 cc motor (probably a triple), it is likely frugal if not overly quick, and the whole package probably fits within the definition of the Japanese kei class. The chassis is well detailed in this kit, but the lack of underhood detail is frustrating. Finally the hood is easily cut off using a jeweler's saw, so I went ahead and performed the amputation to open up the underhood area.

The obvious approach, of shoving in a V8, is, well, a little too obvious. I decided to build up a blown 4-cylinder, which will likely be a lot more realistic in terms of fit.

So next was to locate a 4-cylinder. The only one I could find in the stash, apart from the 1.8 in the AMT Scirocco, is the standard 1.9 OHC unit from the Opel GT. As a bonus, the Opel can still be built with the optional V6.

The blower, which was originally going to go on the left side where it would fit through a pre-existing hole in the hood, is enormous and came from a bag full of remnants of the old Revell parts packs, probably the Ford 427. The blower was eventually relocated to the right side and the exhaust to the left, in order to avoid interference between the exhaust and the driveshaft from the transfer case to the forward axle. The right side is busy enough, with alternator and starter motor already in place.

The exhaust will be a modified left-side exhaust manifold taken from the 390 in the AMT Ford Starliner kit. As I have three of these, of which only one is built, losing a manifold should not be a major issue, although I admit I can't find the third engine. (The manifold is not installed in the picture below, but the holes drilled to take it can be seen).

Note the stock Opel unit has inlet and exhaust on the right, so this installation assumes a new cross-flow head.

So it all mocks up reasonably well at this point. There may even be room for a radiator. Next: finalise the exhaust manifold, drill plug holes and wire up the distributor.

Building stuff strictly box-stock is fun but creating specialised stuff is also fun. This will sit nicely next to my Suzuki Samurai with the twin-turbo V6 and AWD drivetrain from the Dodge Stealth shoe-horned into the back seat. I probably cut up half a dozen copies of the Stealth ... it was a great donor kit and is sadly missed -- I have previously posted pictures of a couple of Ford 3-window coupes with mid-engine V6 power taken from the Stealth.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Audi R10 TDi: completed

So this one is out of the way, but not one of my better efforts. The kit is relatively low resolution, with some challenges.

For instance, getting the upper body to mate with the chassis was challenging, in part because the chassis is made up of two pieces: a floor pan, and a front splitter which is part of the interior tub. A better approach would be to attach the splitter to the chassis or body, keeping the floor pan separate.

The tires are big and a very tight fit in the fenders -- you need to put them on after mating the body to the chassis. Perhaps I mounted the suspension bits wrong, but the tires don't all lie flush with the body panels, either, requiring a struggle to get them to fit properly. They appear to me to perhaps be slightly out of scale. And getting the engine cover in place is a struggle, meaning it will likely stay on -- as the engine detail is only fair, this isn't a big loss because displaying it is not necessarily a priority.

Finally the carbon fibre decals were a challenge, and many got left off: they are all too big and need to be trimmed afterwards, and the fact these were 10 years old meant they didn't stick very well.

So the kit is important if, as I do, you want to document the range of drivetrains used at Le Mans; it can be frustrating and a more level-headed approach to it might have led to better results. For instance, scratch-building the missing induction piping from the turbo compressors, to the intercoolers, and to the intake plenums, would have made a better model. And trimming carbon fibre decals to the right size with a hobby knife prior to wetting them would have meant a lower risk of loss.

So this brings 2016 to an end in terms of completed kits. Looking back, there were some successes, including my first resin kit (Abarth Periscopio), the Citroen van with scratch-built door hinges, the Freightliner with the crane, etc. In fact most turned out relatively well, with minor flaws that serve as learning experiences for improving future builds. And all of it completed since August, when I retired. Clearly my career was having a major impact on my hobbies!

So here is wishing my faithful readers, if any, a happy, healthy and hobby-filled 2017. Keep sniffin' the glue, man!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Audi R10 TDi

Prior to completing the Lancia, I decided to tackle the most recent LM car for which I have a model in the stash, the 2006 Audi R10 TDi. I decided to tackle this, rather than the DBR1, not because I am still nervous about resin (although I am), but because it represents one extreme in the Le Mans file: Diesel motor, and the first glimpse of the new generation of aerodynamics. Once that is out of the way, we can get back to classic twin-cam sixes and eights with full racks of Weber carbs.

Mold quality for a Revell DE model is surprisingly poor, with most components having more or less rounded edges where the Tamiya counterpart would have nice crisp edges. This means some assemblies have gaps in them, which could be filled if you were really detail-focused. The oldest LM car for which I have a kit is also from Revell DE (1930 Blower Bentley), so it will be interesting to see if this is a problem there as well.

Paint is Tamiya AS12 Bare Metal Silver, which I am recording here so I won't forget -- I used the last of my stash and will need to find more for the Auto Union, among other things. The kit also asks for matte steel (90%) mixed with flat black (10%) for some body components. Not having an airbrush, I substituted Tamiya TS 42, Light Gun Metal, which seems to reproduce the colors seen in online photos reasonably well. That being said, the color callouts are pretty vague where a part needs different colors.

The level of detail in the engine compartment is rather poor. The turbochargers and exhaust manifolds are well modeled but the connections from the compressor side of the turbocharger to the intercoolers, and from there on to the intake manifold, are missing. The Tamiya 956 detail is still weak but is better than the R10. Next: clean up the paint, add decals, and move to final assembly.

The story behind my getting my hands on the kit bears telling. I came across the Revell kit of the 2009 Audi A4 DTM in a local hobby shop some years ago, and noticed the side of the box mentioned the R10 among other Revell kits available. (I bought the A4, which is still on the shelf, unstarted). Unfortunately, by then the R10 was sold out in local shops, which was a disappointment as few Le Mans cars are being modeled in styrene any more. A handful of specialist resin companies are still producing curbside versions of newer Le Mans cars, but Tamiya and others seem to have moved on.

A while later I was going through Frankfurt on business, with a bit of a layover. My good friend Mr Google identified a couple of stores selling model kits in Frankfurt, and I eventually found the kit of the R10 in the toy section of a large downtown department store, possibly the Galleria Kaufhof. (The hobby store to the east of downtown didn't have it). They only had one R10 kit left, and the box was pretty beaten up, which justified a discount at the cash.

Next step was getting the kit into my carry-on luggage. Those of you who have seen the movie Up In The Air, with George Clooney, will recognize the business traveler who manages to go weeks on the road with only a roll-on bag and a laptop. That was me before retiring ... anyway there was no way I was checking a bag on a European trip with multiple stops, because one screw-up by baggage handlers along the way meant the bag would spend the rest of the trip trying to catch up with me. So needless to say there was no room in my bags for a model kit, especially one in a Revell DE box, which tend to be big. I opened the box and managed to fit all the sprues in my roll-on, jammed in between layers of dirty laundry. The instructions and decal sheet went into my laptop bag. The box itself had to be ditched in a garbage can at the airport. Once I got home, it all went into a large Zip-Loc bag before going on the shelf.

Worth it? Yes, in order to have the Diesel motor and typical aerodynamics of the mid-2000's, even with the vague level of detail. Unlike F1, Le Mans is wonderful in welcoming a wide range of different drivetrains, and recording as many as possible is an ongoing target.

Workbench: setting up a homemade paint booth.

A number of years ago, I wandered over to the local electronics wholesaler and picked up a 6" fan and some cabling and switches. This went into a piece of 1/4" plywood designed to just fit in the window in the back room when the lower sash is raised. Cost was probably about $30.

This eliminated the smell of VOCs when I painted but did nothing for dust. So I cleaned up the area, which I should have been doing regularly anyway, and assembled an improvised booth as follows:

One 89 litre Rubbermaid storage box, made of 0.080" flexible semi-clear plastic, $19.97
One 4" dryer vent connector, $9.42
Two 4" hose clamps, $3.94
One package, 4' dryer hose, 20' long (anybody want 17' of dryer hose?), $15.55
One package, LED strip lighting, $39.98 (I am sure there are cheaper options)
One package of 4 plastic shoe boxes to hold paint cans, $3.97

Now I just need a transition piece to go from the 4" dryer hose to the 6" fan. I sense some duct tape in my future ...

Total with tax, including the fan but excluding the strip lighting, about $100. The plastic can easily be wiped down with a damp rag, and the size is about right. It even has a lid that can be used to control airflow into the box. The dryer hose and lighting can be quickly disconnected so the box can be moved. And the strip lighting comes with a remote control allowing you to pick different colour lighting: red, blue, green, etc. Mood lighting in the paint booth ... the only issue might be that the white is not really yellow enough to mimic daylight, and it may be difficult to judge colours in there. Stay tuned.

Update: The hardware store had a 6" to 4" reducer, three little angle brackets, and a box of #8 x 3/4" machine screws. Now I just need to paint something ...

Lancia 037: Completion

Another one done! Completion ratio is now 34.2%, and yes, if it seems the ratio is flat or even declining, it is because I have been unable to resist some 'deals' online ... details to follow in another post.

This Lancia 037 models the 1983 Monte Carlo winner, with Walter Röhrl at the wheel, and complements a series of other rally cars in my collection: 1967 Mini Cooper S, 1971 Alpine A110, 1976 Lancia Stratos and 1985 Peugeot 205 Turbo, not to mention a whole shelf full of incomplete or unstarted resin kits.

The car is a proper little tube-framed hot rod, and is unusual with its supercharger -- the competition was largely moving to turbos by then.

This one turned out well, all things considered. A few dust specks wound up in the clear coat after the decals went on, and a couple of the bigger decals have wrinkles in them, but you really have to look for the flaws. I am considering building a better paint booth, as the current set up with a fan stuck in the window seems to promote dust.

All in all, a very pleasant kit, all the bits go together well, and there are minimal flaws such as flash. I decided not to cut off the rear engine lid, as the glass hatch allows plenty of visibility, and the level of engine detail does not require more visibility. 

Some additional detail would be nice, for instance around the engine compartment, but the added bits on the photo-etched sheet in the dress-up kit from Hasegawa are well done, even if the sheet is a bit thin. I mangled one of the wipers from the PE sheet and decided to use the styrene ones, but apart from that, all the grille work is much nicer in PE than in styrene.

With practice, I am getting quicker and better at the styrene stuff. There is an Audi R10 TDi on bench which got started recently, and which just requires fixing the paint (some sloppy taping here) before going to the decals-and-clearcoat stage; maybe I will finish that up. But at some point I need to put the styrene aside and get back to the resin. There are 24 resin kits on the shelf, another 4 on the bench, and only one complete. I need to overcome the curse of the 908/03 and get back into it; a couple of successful builds will help. Stay tuned!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Lancia 037: Rolling chassis

Progress on the Lancia 037 continues with the chassis, interior and drivetrain essentially complete. The Lancia contingent is growing, with a Beta Monte Carlo Group 5 and two Stratoses (Strati?) completed, and a Group B Delta Integrale in resin still in the box.

This Hasegawa kit is quite well detailed and goes together well. The detail-up kit, also from Hasegawa, includes discs, grilles, a fan guard and other small bits in a photo-etched sheet which is very thin -- you have to be careful not to bend it accidentally. The main beef so far is the decal paper that takes forever to soften enough that the decals can slide off. I am also unhappy with the way the tire decals are tending to lift off.

Photos of 1:1 cars show a spare tire in the front compartment, but the kit doesn't have one. I'll have to scrounge in the parts bin for something similar to the rally tires.

Next: the body, which means I have to decide whether to cut the rear deck off to show the rear of the chassis and the engine compartment. The photo above shows it is a nice straight cut from the roof diagonally down to the wheel opening, so it should be relatively easy to do. The photo below shows the view through the rear hatch.

I am guessing that the space ahead of the rear wheels, just behind the cockpit, is filled with gas and oil tanks on 1:1 vehicles; as these are not modeled, opening it all up may be somewhat counterproductive, plus the window in the rear deck is nice and large. Decisions, decisions ...

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Lancia 037

Good intentions and all that ... I was going to tackle the DBR1, but looking at the Le Mans stash, I was intrigued by the Audi R10 TDi. I started on it, and will report separately, but the arrival in the mail of the detail kit for Hasegawa's Lancia 037 got me distracted.

This was a short-lived Group B car, successor to the Stratos; it seems it was also the last 2WD Group B car to have any success. Abarth was brought on board to add a supercharger to the basic Fiat twin-cam four, a mid-engine chassis was whipped up, and Walter Röhrl won the Monte Carlo in it in 1983. (He subsequently moved to Audi and did very well with the S1 quattro).

The kit is very nice with crisp part lines and clean dowels. The spark plugs and distributor are perfectly set up, with little dimples in them, for drilling out with a #75 drill bit, so I wired it up. I had to scratch build the coil, but other than that it all looks fine.

The supercharger is hidden below what I assume is an air-to-water intercooler, and there is no indication of how it is driven, or how fuel is metered (injection, presumably). The drive is presumably by belt off the front of the crank along with auxiliary bits like the alternator and water pump, but all this would be up against the bulkhead and well hidden once assembled, so no major issues, as you can see in the next picture.

One flaw in the kit is the fact that the front compartment lid is molded separately and can therefore be left open, but the rear engine lid is not. While there is a large window through which one can peer to view the Abarth motor, the cut looks relatively straightforward and I may get brave and open it up.

There is a theme developing here: mid- or rear-engined coupes, four or six cylinders, some with forced induction, ranging from the 1.3 litre Alpine A210 and Abarth Periscopio to the 2.4 litre Lancia Stratos, by way of the Peugeot 205 Turbo. Stay tuned. And yes, Alice, I will get back to the DBR1.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Porsche 956 and the Le Mans stable

Latest completion: the 1985 Porsche 956 in Canon livery that finished second at Le Mans that year. Regular readers (if any -- let me know if you still are out there, and still interested) will recall my (incomplete) 956 pickup truck that made liberal use of the 1984 version in Kenwood livery, but this is the first one I have actually completed -- my previous 956, by an Italian firm named Protar, is quite poorly detailed. (By the way, I am not aware of any decent 962s in styrene -- all are curbside. I am not sure why this is. The MFH version can be found on eBay at outrageous prices.)

This is a typical Tamiya kit. If you have built a Tamiya Le Mans car, you will know what to expect.

The real interesting point is comparing a raft of Le Mans cars from the 1980s and early 1990s. All, except the Porsche GT1 which was designed to meet a quite different set of homologation rules, share a very common aerodynamic layout: narrow cockpit with ducting in the door sills leading to side-mounted heat exchangers of various kinds, gas tank behind and to either side of the cockpit, and a rear-mounted engine bolted to a flat floor with a venturi rear section. The venturi dictates a lot of things: gearbox width and exhaust pipe layouts designed to maximise venturi width and depth, rear suspension links designed to minimise stuff intruding into the airflow in the venturi, etc.

The real story is in the engines, clockwise from lower left: a pair of turbo flat-6 motors (GT1 and 956), a 4-chamber rotary (Mazda 787B), a turbo V8 (Nissan R90V), a 7-litre SOHC V12 (Jaguar XJ9R LM), and a screaming 3.5-litre V10 (Peugeot 905). Still on the shelf: two more turbo V8s (Sauber Mercedes C9 and Toyota TS-One), a V12 turbo-Diesel (Revell's Audi R10), and a recently acquired copy of Fujimi's Dome Zero with a Cosworth DFV motor.

(The 905 is a poorly detailed Airfix kit; the rest are all Tamiya.) There are differences: the 905 stands out with its narrow roofline allowing the mirrors to be mounted inside the windscreen profile out of the airflow, and the wing on the 956 is mounted to the engine cover, not directly to the chassis via the gearbox as the others.

But the biggest difference is between the two Porsches, showing the magnitude of the role played by regulations. The classic Group C cars were theoretically road cars, the proof being the German cottage industry that made a living in the '90s converting obsolete 956 and 962 chassis to road-going trim (for an interesting example, click here), but apart from this exception, no one has really driven a Le Mans car on the street since Ford beat Ferrari until the rules changed in the mid-90s. The GT1, being subject to a newer set of regulations designed to bring "road cars" back to Le Mans, has a street exhaust and minimal venturi floor pan, and sits quite a bit higher due to the more-or-less standard 911 cockpit. (There is also a McLaren F1 GTR sitting on the shelf, which, like the GT1, is essentially a road car in racing trim). The new generation of LMP cars has come up with some very different aero theories, witness the latest Audis and the Ford GT.

Looking ahead, I am tempted to build up the Le Mans collection. I am sitting on 33 kits of Le Mans cars, of which only 9 are complete. Incomplete or un-started kits range from a 1930 blower Bentley (Revell) to the 1997 McLaren F1 GTR (Aoshima). As a start, I went back and had a look at the magnificent but challenging 908/03. I now have a few other MFH kits, including the successfully completed Abarth Periscopio, and it now seems to me that the 908/03 is extraordinarily complex, even for MFH, and was probably a bad place to start my adventures with multi-media kits. MFH's 917 looks equally challenging with lots of little space frame tubes made of flexible spun-cast white metal (sample instruction sheet below).

On the other hand I am getting better at the resin so maybe I need to push one of the Profil 24 kits through. The 1959 Aston DBR1 is partially complete and maybe this is a good place to start. Stay tuned!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Citroen H van now complete

With the suicide doors successfully hinged, I got carried away and made a functional sliding side door. This required a channel along the bottom of the door, and a second channel to trap the top of the door against the door frame. This involved a few false starts, but in the end it all worked out.

A decent kit, overall. The fiddly little bits are all well doweled and easily fitted without a lot of challenges, although the side view mirrors are frighteningly fragile, sticking out on little struts with no triangulation.

Readers of Tintin in the original French will recognise the Boucherie Sanzot decals, which I made from images I found on a website for Tintin enthusiasts. The original delivery van for Boucherie Sanzot was a VW, and at least one enthusiast has built a 1:1 replica, see here. I am not sure what the equivalent pun was in English.

I also decided that I would not bother with hinging the two rear doors and the tailgate. The doors are now glued in, and the tailgate has not been installed -- I'll decide later whether to pose it open or shut.

Overall, this is a decent curbside kit of an extremely utilitarian vehicle. The corrugated paneling, mostly flat or in single curvature, reminds one of the 2CV van which Ebbro also makes. The only compound curvature panel, which is the roof over the cab, has little dimples in the sides where the excess material had to be folded in. The overall objective, as with the Mini, was to maximise useful internal volume per square metre of roadway occupied, and I would say Citroen managed this challenge quite well. The FWD layout and the twist beam rear axle with integrated torsion bars played a big role in the very low load floor with lots of room between the inner fenders.

The completion ratio is now 34.6%, or 63 kits. Given I haven't ordered anything much lately, this is still heading in the right direction, although that could change ... stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Renault 40 Record: door hinge

The last time I mentioned the Renault 40 Record was April 26, 2015, over 18 months ago. How time flies when you are having fun... The kit, a curbside resin item from Profil 24, comes with both doors molded in, but includes a left-side door for keeners wanting to open it up for display, saving you having to preserve the old door for re-use. So I got brave and cut out the old door, then set it aside as life intruded.

Fresh from successful fabrication of door hinges on the Citroen H van, I decided to have a crack at hinges for the 40. Rather than individual barn door hinges, which are fragile and need to be lined up, I went for the admittedly inauthentic approach of a piano hinge, made from 1 mm brass tubing (0.225 mm wall thickness) with a 0.5 mm brass rod as the hinge.

Long story short: it took about three tries to get it right. In the end I cut two short pieces of tube, glued to the top and bottom of the door, and one longer piece in the middle glued to the jamb. Butting the round stock against a relatively flat surface is not exactly the best way to make a strong joint, and I attached small strips of flat styrene stock to each hinge section to increase the gluing surface area. The hinge rod in the pictures has not been trimmed, so the door can still be taken off for doing the interior and other things; I'll trim it flush only once it is all done.

With the door sorted out, I can now get this oddball LSR car back on track. It will sit next to a handful of other prewar racers of historic interest: Alfa Romeo 2900, Miller 91, Blower Bentley, Auto-Union Type C. Yes, a Type C!

The Auto-Union is from a resin kit maker I had never heard of before: Fernando Pinto is a Spaniard who makes obscure F1 and early '50's road cars. The Porsche-designed supercharged 6-litre V-16, in a mid-engine chassis, was way ahead of its time on paper, although the handling was reputed to be challenging. Lesser drivers were unable to handle the combination of power and oversteer; the cars were driven to wins by greats like Nuvolari and Rosemeyer. I am looking forward to seeing the kit and parking it next to HRM's Miller 91, with its 1.5 litre supercharged 8.

The kit includes some very nice wire wheels, and a couple of metal items (steering column, pushrod tubes) are molded directly into the resin. Otherwise it is the typical resin kit, with lots of flash to be removed.