Thursday, December 21, 2017

2017 Year in review Part 2

Part 1 of this post covered Le Mans and GP cars, as well as a 3D-printed motor. The remaining multi-media kit completed in 2017 was of a 1986 Audi S1 from Profil 24. This is a decidedly modern car, with turbocharged 5-cylinder and an early iteration of the Audi quattro 4WD system. A brutal little package, the wing is full of radiators and rear vision is essentially non-existant as a result. It was driven by people like Walter Rörhl, and had a successful career at places like Pike's Peak after Group B rally cars were banned. The kit was challenging because it was one of my first resin kits, and in retrospect I could have done better. The pictures are carefully chosen to hide the flaws!


Moving on to styrene, the Chevy Belair wagon, a so-called Tin Woody because the wood trim was painted on, is an AMT kit with a complete resin body from Best Model Car Parts. The resin transkit works well, and the injected six out of the AMT kit is a refreshing change from the usual blown V8s found in hot rods. The primary flaw is the fogging of the windows which arose from the cyanoacrylate glue used to attach body to chassis; otherwise the lightly rodded engine and lowered chassis look good. Now I just need a surf board...


Speaking of hotrods, the Suzuki Jimney has a blower, but the engine is the 4-cylinder from AMT's Opel GT. The blower came from the parts bin and the manifold was scratch built. I think it looks good next to the Suzuki Samurai I built many years ago, with a twin-turbo V6 from the Dodge Stealth in the back seat. Hot but not exaggerated.


Two Mopars round out the year. The Chrysler 300 is a lovely big brute; you can find nice ones for $25,000 on the Hemmings News site. The main modifications are ride height and steel wheels, as well as two small air filters for the pair of four-barrels atop the 440. Can you hear the slurping sounds of fuel being sucked out of the tank? No need for a blower here, there should be plenty of torque to move this along quite nicely.


Finally a truck: I built the Dodge L700 as a kid and fought with the doors which are a challenge. The rest of the kit has some problems as well; vague locating tabs and poor instructions mean you need to be patient and trial fit everything. But once complete it's a nice one and next will be to identify a trailer to go with it.


So that's it. Although the BRM was a lovely little kit, the highlight has to be the 917K; plug wiring is unfortunately not visible once the motor is in but I know it's there, and now so do you! The chassis with the flat 8 motor in the foreground is from the 908/03. The picture provides an interesting comparison between the two; both were run at the same time, with the 908/03 used in twisty circuits (Nurburgring, Targa Florio) and the 917K on high-speed tracks (Daytona, Le Mans). The location of the final drive is interesting, between the engine and gearbox on the 917K and at the back of the gearbox on the 908/03; presumably this allows for a similar wheelbase with four fewer cylinders on the 908/03. Otherwise the chassis are pretty similar.

So what have you been up to? Please write. Meanwhile allow me to wish all of my readers a very merry holiday season and a healthy, happy and profitable 2018. Keep on building!

2017 Year in Review Part 1

With the home renovations dragging, I am missing my modeling fix and am making up for it by scrolling, dewey-eyed, through photos of past builds. So here is a quick update on where I've been in 2017.

Eleven complete kits and a 3D-printed motor got finished. Apart from the 3D-printed motor, five involved resin or other multi-media materials such as spun-cast white metal, while six were exclusively styrene.

Five kits represented Le Mans cars from the late '50s to early '70s. The Jaguar D-Type from Profil 24 is a well-done multi-media kit of the Le Mans winning car entered by Ecurie Ecosse in 1957. I used this as an opportunity to play around with hinges from Detail Master, for the fuel filler cap in the head rest fin and the hood. Even though Jaguar made well over 50 of them, D-Types still tend to go for tens of millions of dollars at auction, so the cost of this kit is minuscule in comparison.


The Aston Martin DBR1, also from Profil 24, is a multi-media kit of the 1959 winner. One of the drivers was some guy named Shelby who apparently became famous later. Here I made distributors from bits of brass tube, and even got the firing order (almost) right. Note that one of the other two DBR1s sold recently for a record $22.5 million at auction, so I continue to save big bucks.


The Porsche 917K, in Gulf Oil colours, is an icon of the late '60s. Seen posed next to an equally-iconic 956 from Tamiya, this styrene Fujimi kit was augmented by a highly detailed motor, in resin, from Historic Racing Miniatures. Porsche made at least the minimum of 25 cars needed to meet homologation rules, and one sold recently for $14 million. So these three kits alone reproduce 1:1 cars that are worth close to $50 million. The savings continue!


Moving on to less well-known road racing cars, we find the Porsche 907. This kit, marketed variously by Union, Heller and others over the years, has a moderately well-defined 2.2 litre flat 8, to which I added plug wires. (I decided not to bother with injection plumbing, even though the pump is driven off the left-side inlet cam and is thus nice and accessible). The 907 was one of the last Porsches in the giant-killer phase of Porsche's history, when these small, light cars with small-block motors would always take the class win and maybe even finish well up in the overall standings among the big boys. It was a predecessor to the marvelous 908/03, with a raucous 3-litre flat 8. Watch Brian Redman, who co-drove to a win at the Targa Florio in a 908/03, at Laguna Seca recently by clicking here. The noise from the raucous little air-cooled motor as he runs it up through the gears is a joy for any real gearhead. I don't know what these go for at auction but I am guessing a couple of million dollars, easy.


Finally among the Le Mans cars, the Matra MS640 ran once, in testing, and almost killed its driver. The car was destroyed in the accident and Matra quickly moved on to the MS 650, which was a winner. Enthusiasts built a second MS 640 recently. Who knows what it's worth -- it's one of a kind, but fatally flawed. The kit is a resin curb-side from Profil 24; I gather they are about to release an MS 670, with full engine detail, in 1/43 scale. It would have been nice to build up the Matra V12 in 1/24 as it is a fairly unique bit of engineering.


Moving on to the 3D printed motor, this 9-litre V12 (basically one and a half Chevy small blocks) came from Ron Olson at Shapeways, and was intended to get a feel for the material. (You can order a real one here, starting at $35,000 for a long block). Very high levels of detail are possible, but you can still see the tracks of the printer head, and the material is brittle. Finally it seems that actually printing something takes some significant amount of time when compared to injection molding. Still in its infancy, this is a technology that promises big things.


Finally the BRM P83 (known as the H16 for its engine layout) from Model Factory Hiro, in 1/43 scale, was an eye-opener, literally, as I had to build the whole thing under the 4X desk magnifier. The 3-litre H16, consisting of a pair of flat-8 motors stacked one on top of the other and geared together, was infernally complex, and the width had an impact on what the rear suspension designers could do. It wasn't very successful, even with people like Jackie Stewart or Graham Hill at the wheel, but it was a fan favourite. The company name, British Racing Machines, reeks of Empire, and Hill, with his perfectly trimmed mustache and military bearing, would have been a perfect fit for monarchists of a certain age. This one reproduces the car that Jackie Stewart drove to second place at the Belgian GP in 1967.


What a staggering amount of detail! The finished motor is smaller than the pictures of it in the printed instruction sheet. I've got three more MFH kits at this scale on the shelf, including the two other podium finishers for the 1967 Belgian GP, and who knows when I will get around to them.

I'll cover other kits completed in 2017 in Part 2. Ongoing work in progress includes the multi-media Porsche 908/03 which has been ongoing for a couple of years now; styrene BRE Datsun 240Z and multi-media Ferrari 250 GT Lusso; a kitbashed Mitsubishi Delica 4WD van from Aoshima; and the enormous Mosquito fighter bomber in 1/24 scale. Can't wait to get back to the bench!

3D printing update

One additional new bit of info on this: the time to print something can be large. I saw a lovely 3D-printed model of a cut-away jet engine online, with a mention in passing that it took 100 hours in the printer! So before we get large quantities of these available, that may be something that needs to be improved.

By way of comparison, let's assume that making the "master" (whether a styrene mold, silicone mold for resin, or computer file for 3D printing) takes some significant amount of time, then the time to crank out a kit ranges from a few seconds or minutes (injection molded styrene) to a few hours (resin) to a few days (3D printing). Just another point of comparison.

Monday, December 11, 2017

1966 Cadillac Coupe de Ville

My house is being renovated and I have moved to rented accommodations where I suspect paint fumes would be most unwelcome. (The photo shows my house as of Friday, not the rented accommodation...)

It will likely be February before I get back in, and probably March before my workspace is set up again. So no building for a while. However the mailman, for some reason, keeps bringing me boxes, so I am daydreaming. For example, this very nice vintage Jo-Han kit of the 1966 Coupe de Ville turned up today.

It's a long, low, barge from the post-fin era; it will sit nicely next to the Lincoln Continental and Chrysler 300. The obvious thing to do with something like this is to get it into the weeds as with the 300, also from Jo-Han, that I built a while back. There are lots of pictures of tail-dragging baggers on line, but only a few with chopped tops. In fact I could only find one after a brief online search (click here). Which makes a chop an interesting option.

The picture at the top is the model as it came out of the box. Next are a couple of options for a chop of about 3" at scale. The middle picture shows tilting the C-pillar forward and extending the rear deck; in the bottom picture the C-pillar has not only been tilted but also moved forward to the point where there won't be a rear seat and it becomes a Club Coupe de Ville. A third option, not shown, is to tilt the C-pillar but keep the rear deck intact, which would require extending the roof. (The online version would appear to follow this method).

What do you think? Comments welcome!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017


My home has been taken over by a wrecking crew, which will hopefully be replaced by a construction crew in the not too distant future ... so no modeling for the foreseeable future if only because of the dust.

Meanwhile I am vicariously modeling by means of a number of FaceBook groups which provide lots of interesting tips. The New Modelers Club is run by a great admin named Randall 'Krazee Wheelz' Wheeler; the Model Car How-To's and Model Car Aftermarket are run by an equally great admin named John Papp. And for fans of airplane models, there is a Finnish group called Oldie & Goldie Scale Models. Posts are sometimes in Finnish, and FB's translation app is horrible, but the membership appears to be worldwide. All highly recommended.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

3D printed LS3 V12 motor Part 3

Here are two more pictures comparing the roughness of two 3D printed parts, 10 years apart. The blue wrench looks like 0.5 mm between passes with the printer head (two furrows per millimetre) while the valve cover from Shapeways is more like 0.12 to 0.20 mm between passes (5 to 8 furrows per millimetre).

Painting with Testor's enamels and a brush leaves a relatively thick paint layer that obscures the ridges, especially when a light sanding has taken off the high points as identified by a coat of primer.

I completed the engine with starter motor, oil filter and a water pump from the parts bin. One important point: drilling out a hole, even carefully with a pin vise, will be challenging because the material is quite brittle and will split and crack if you are not careful. In the photos you can see where I was trying to hog out the hole for the crank in order to fit a pulley and belt assembly from the parts bin.

I filled in the hole around the crank pulley once it was all glued up, but the rigid, brittle nature of the material is worth keeping in mind. Of course it is possible to select different materials in the ordering process; I picked the Frosted Ultra Detail option, but the White Nylon option may be more forgiving as well as cheaper.

Overall, a mean looking engine. Now I just need a mid-engine chassis suitable for a 9-litre V12 ...

(PS it has been pointed out to me that the Chevy logo on the valve cover is backwards ... I have flagged this for the people making the parts, and presumably this is a minor software edit. I hadn't actually noticed, given that most of my past work is on imports ...)

So are we there yet? Not for bodies, unfortunately, until the resolution can be improved significantly beyond the current level of about 0.15 mm (about 0.006"). That being said, the possible level of detail is also 0.006", or about an eighth of an inch at 1:24 or 1:25 scale. This is minuscule -- bolt heads on a water pump are going to be 3/8" or 9/16", for example. Just be careful what material you select because this can have an impact on what you can do with it. To summarise:
Selection of subjects
Mainly high-volume, high demand markets
Mainly specialised markets for low-demand niche products
Potentially very extensive once the necessary computer files exist
Excellent, smooth surface
Poor today, visible ridges due to tracking of printer head
Depends on molds
Potentially very high level of detail at the scale of the printer head resolution
Variable, can be brittle
Depends on material selected – can be brittle
Prep needed
Dish soap, dry, primer
Alcohol or acetone to remove mold release agents. Putty for pinholes and bubbles. Heavier filler-primer needed for more porous castings. 
Dish soap, dry, primer

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

3D printed LS3 V12 motor Part 2

I wrote about this back in early October (click here). I have since received the correct intake manifold, so it is time to move forward. 

The parts are semi-transparent as received; this will vary with the type of material you specify. 

Giving them a coat of Tamiya primer shows the detail available, which is otherwise hard to pick out on the translucent surface as received. 

The grainy texture of a cast block is reproduced nicely, but in the right light, you can see the regular step-wise grooves that arise when the printer head scans back and forth, as in the oil pan or valve cover. 

Fixing this could involve light sanding, or one could assume that paint will fill it. I'll try sanding parts where it will show (oil pain, valve covers), and simply apply paint where it won't (bell housing) in order to evaluate the importance of the roughness. 

The level of the roughness is noticeably less than in the adjustable wrench made using a $250,000 prototype machine in a university mechanical engineering lab about 10 years ago, but is still visible on close examination. 

I am guessing that a 3D printed body will not be as smooth as styrene or a good resin body. The advantage over resin is low porosity, high dimensional accuracy and no mold release agents. Styrene remains the best quality if you can get the specific parts you want. 

The area of improvement is now at the level of building ever finer printer jets, and stepper motor drives with smaller step sizes to bring tracks closer together. I suspect this will proceed rapidly; take a magnifying glass to output from a good inkjet printer on decent paper and compare to the late, unlamented 8-pin dot matrix printer. As well I am assuming Shapeways is using commercial-grade printers, i.e. better than the $1500 home hobby unit from Micro-Mark, but substantially cheaper than that $250,000 university prototype of 10 years ago.  

So we are getting closer.

I'll paint and build up the motor and keep you posted. 

Monday, November 13, 2017

Matra MS 640: just the glass missing now

Ooof. Wheels are on and the paint still looks OK even after a couple of coats of clear. (The clear that gave me fits was a dull clear, and is in the garbage).

For a curbside, an awful lot of effort.

There is also a tiny little wing, actually more of a flap that is meant to hang off the back of the rear cowling, that needs paint and assembly. It's a fiddly bit made up of a thin sliver of resin and two photo-etched brackets, and may get dropped. Some photos of the current car (the so-called 640B) show it installed, others not.

An oddball little car next to the cuddly and utilitarian Chevy, the muscular and brutal Audi and the lithe and svelte Jag. My last four builds were all resin kits, and all a challenge, but I am happy with the results. Subsequent builds will be better!

I will be moving out of my place in a week for a couple of months of renovations. As I'll be couch-surfing or renting AirBnB digs, I am guessing that spray paints will be frowned upon. So there might not be much to write about for the next while, unfortunately. Stay tuned.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Matra MS 640: Finally got the paint to stick

I have never had a paint job fight me this much. Although to be fair, most of my painting problems in the past have been either,

  1. self-inflicted due to impatience or sloppiness, or
  2. resulting from the challenges of working with resin, or
  3. both of the above. 
This was probably a case of #3, and the picture below shows a monumental screw-up that arose after putting on the white and taping up for the blue, then shooting a quick coat of clear to seal the tape. The clear, a Tamiya clear, immediately attacked the Tamiya spray paint underneath. Ugh. Back into the alcohol bath for a second time. (The first time was documented recently.)

An extensive conversation on the Model Cars How-To forum on Facebook didn't come up with any clear reason for the problem, except possibly off-gassing from the resin. As there were several coats of primer and two of white on it at this point, I find that a bit of a stretch as I would have expected this to arise earlier. Anyway it looks good at this point and I will let it sit for a day or two before buffing the blue around the base of the fins and putting on the decals. 

There was no bleeding or seeping of the blue onto the white, which is a big relief, although the blue I decanted and brushed on is a bit darker for some reason. 

Will I dare to try clear again? Hard to say. But progress is being made and what is left on this curbside is pretty simple: decals and lights, then the chassis and glass go in. I've also got some photo-etched grilles to put adapt. 

Stay tuned!