Thursday, August 25, 2016

Cheetah! and other brutal, sexy little monstrosities

Historic Racing Miniatures (HRM)  is a one-man show that makes some spectacular resin kits, mainly upgrades for other kits, but also full-detail kits. Being a one-man-show, delivery can be slow. A stack of bits ordered as far back as April from Strada Sports (here) turned up in the mail today.

The cream of the crop has to be the Cheetah. Chevrolet gave Bill Thomas, famous for his work on Corvette injection systems, some money to build a Cobra-beater; the result was the Cheetah, which was brutally fast in a straight line, and was also an exceptionally striking road racer in a period when there were a lot of striking road racers being made.

What a stunning, brutal little design! The various small block Corvette engines were exactly mid-chassis, with the driver jammed up against the back axle, and essentially no rear deck: the bodywork was stretched over the mechanicals like Lycra over an athlete, the epitome of the long hood, short deck design concept.

It had its flaws, however. Headers curved up, over the top and down the outside of the footwells, making them suitable for broiling frozen turkeys as well as driver's feet. And the chassis, although state of the art on paper, wasn't really able to take advantage of Thomas's fuel injection mods, as going around corners proved to be a significant challenge. Some drivers were spooked and refused to drive it ... in the end, Chevy didn't give Thomas anywhere near as much money as Ford gave Shelby, so there was no real competition and Thomas struggled to build a dozen cars while Shelby went off to beat Ferrari on his own.

Which leads me to the HRM kit for an upgraded motor for the Ferrari 250 GTO by Fujimi. It is a gorgeous little package of resin bits, and doing it justice will require getting plug wires, fuel lines, carburettor linkages and fan belts just right. Not that the Fujimi kit is poorly detailed to start with; in fact there are lots of highly-detailed Japanese kits that never really made it over here but that are available on eBay or Hobby 1999 (here).

Finally I got some upgraded bits (headers that fit around the frame tubes, for one) for the Accurate Miniatures model of the Corvette Grand Sport. The '60s road race stuff is coming together: Corvette GS, 250 GTO, Cheetah, plus I recently splurged on a 427 Cobra roadster (Fujimi) to go with the Daytona Coupe (Model Factory Hiro).

These are all 'mid-engine' cars, in the sense that the centre of the engine block sits well behind the front axle, but the Cheetah takes it to the extreme, with the entire engine block, and then some, entirely between the axles.

It is all high quality stuff and I will need to loosen up with some basic Tamiya kits, like the Honda S800, in preparation. In fact I should probably bite the bullet and just finish the dozen or so kits that are sitting on the shelf, incomplete.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Honda S800 drivetrain and chassis

I usually have no problems getting the mechanical bits to go together well and the S800 was no different.

The little four-cylinder sits in a simple ladder frame, with a well-located rear axle and convoluted exhaust manifolding leading into a pair of straight pipes. All very neat. Separately the saga of Tamiya TS 16 Yellow remains unresolved; I'll have to make up my mind whether to fix it or press on regardless at the point where the inner fenders need to go into the body.

I am glad I decided to get back into things with something fairly straightforward as I am stiff and made a few mistakes, among them tipping over a new bottle of flat aluminum paint. Fortunately nothing got soaked ... but this is an indication it is time to sit back and regroup. The Zen feeling is not there and there is no sense pushing, because I'll just make a mistake that can't easily be fixed, and bodywork usually makes me more tense than usual.

So on to eBay where the temptation to buy obscure stuff is almost irresistible ... there is material here for an entire post on its own. Stay tuned.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Icelandic trucks

Some of you may remember my post on off-road trucks commonly found in Iceland, here. These are mounted on huge high-flotation tires suitable for taking groups of people on treks over soft snow, fording glacial rivers with soft mucky riverbanks, and crossing crevasses in glaciers. Besides being exceedingly utilitarian, these look very cool indeed. I immediately thought how nice it would be to build something like this.

Seven people in the go-anywhere Expedition, or 21 in the on-road mini bus?
Note these are both 1:1 scale, no fooling around here.
Anyway I think I know which I'd want.
So the bits are now pretty much in place: I've had an AMT 1/25 Chevy Cameo and the appropriate 1953 Chevy Suburban body from Jimmy Flintstone for some time now; all that was missing was the jacked up 4X4 chassis. I recently acquired Aoshima's 1/24 Toyota Hilux club cab with so-called 'Lift-Up' suspension which appears to have the same wheelbase as the Cameo, even though the scale is not quite the same, and the tires probably have more tread than the typical Icelandic truck. However I'd say it's close enough, and not having to scratch build the suspension is a bonus. Plus it comes with fender lips I can use to carve out the Suburban body fender wells. A Pontiac 421 Tri-Power from the  bin will provide the forward motion (the Aoshima kit is curbside, and anyway the motor is probably a 4-cylinder Diesel).

If all goes well, the only bit I'll need from the Cameo is the windshield, leaving lots of bits for future kitbashing activities. For that matter there is a lot of curvature in the windshield, but it isn't a compound curve, so I ought to be able to make it from a sheet of thin clear stock.

Meanwhile back to the Honda S800 -- I do after all have to start completing stuff.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Honda S800

With retirement less than two weeks away, I thought I should warm up with something relatively easy. I was going to tackle the Datsun 510, which is almost finished, but I seem to have misplaced the instruction sheet ... maybe I am getting slower, intellectually, at a faster rate than I had anticipated. Old Age Looms Large...

Anyway I had been looking at the Lancia 037 rallye car (Hasegawa) and the Honda S800 (Tamiya). I decided to tackle the S800, which is one of those iconic little things: 800 cc motorcycle unit making 70 hp at some ridiculous RPM level, lots of aluminum bits, the original Japanese sports car. The size of a Mini of the same vintage, it must have been a real hoot -- the 850 cc Mini, which as we all know was as much fun as a barrel of monkeys, never made much more than 45 hp and probably weighed a few hundred pounds more. The issue for westerners, of course, was actually getting into the car, and managing to push the clutch in without catching our size 9 sneakers on the brake pedal. I am guessing it is a size or two smaller than the Europa which was well suited to Colin Chapman's 5' 6" frame, and which I never managed to drive well when I was in the auto repair business back in paleolithic times.

So some painting got done, and a bit of gluing. The kit is the usual Tamiya quality, which is to say everything fits well, except that some items that need to be black or grey or silver (exhaust, carburetors, front suspension bits) are molded in yellow, while others that need to be yellow (inner fenders) are molded in black. This is not the usual Tamiya approach... so anyway I am once again up against Tamiya's yellow paint (TS-16) and its tendency to pool in cracks and sharp corners, regardless of how much Tamiya primer might reside underneath. (See earlier problems, not yet solved, here, and see the photo below of the inner fenders inserted in the body.) There is a problem here with surface tension and viscosity... it is not good and any advice would be most welcome.

Meanwhile I am planning to not paint the body which is well molded in yellow. The goal is a quick build that takes advantage of the strengths of the kit before moving on to more complex unbuilt stuff, of which I have more than a few examples on the shelf.

Speaking of unbuilt stuff, I figure I have about 2 years' worth of work on the shelf, at a steady 40 hours per week, 50 weeks per year. So it's going to be a slog ...  stay tuned!