Sunday, March 15, 2015

69 Chevy Chevelle Convertible--Body Work Part I

From last time, I am building a recently reissued 69 Chevelle Convertible in 1:25 scale.  Also from last time: the original tooling ain't much by today's standards, and at the very least, the body needs a lot of work.

Diving in! The first question: I bought 2 kits, which one should I use?  I chose the one with more flash because the hood fit better, and a whacked out hood looks bad no matter how good the rest of the build is!

The front flares look all wrong; on one side of the body they are too small; on the other non-existent.  I have never tried to add flares to a stock kit but I also know from other builds: just go for it.  I am using styrene glue (Testor's stinky-red) to glue some plastic stock to boldy go where no AMT has gone before.

I glue down a bit and let it dry, then I glue some more. The driver's side rear is cinched down but still needs quite a bit of shaping.  I plan to sand and file and maybe shape with some Eurosoft, but I don't want to remove too much. This will be tricky!

The side trim looks like a 68; AMT must have not "fixed" this in 69 to save money.  The area where the front of the body meets the front grille needs some reshaping as well. Generally in 69 the body lines became more "abrupt" so my focus is giving the body some of the sharp lines of the 1:1 69.

I shaved off some of the old mold lines with a Dremel tool and glued more styrene flat stock over.  It's going to take a lot of sanding to get this to look right.

Overall: as I thought this will be a whole lot of work and I was right! I am going to run along now and order some putty online; I am going to need it.  

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

69 Chevelle Convertible--Vintage Build, Sort of!

If you've followed this blog at all: I get nostalgic about making models.  For me this hobby is all about simpler times, in my Central Valley basement, with my brothers, the AM radio playing Top 40.
There were bullies on every corner, sure, there was endless racism and Nixon and the Vietnam war, which as a sheltered 7 year old didn't mean much. The principal of my grade school was probably a fascist but I guess I'll never know that either.  Time tends to heal all wounds.

For me model making is about going back there, to the good times.  And not just to the good times, but to the cool kits.  Those old kits made my brothers and me happy, and as soon as we had some lawn mowing money we rode our bikes to the 5 and dime and we got the latest AMT or MPC thing.

OK fast forward 45 years. With the Internet, you can still get pretty much any kit, but for rare vintage ones, you will have to pay. In the spirit of time travel back to the early Seventies,  I have purchased and even built a few vintage kits like an MPC Toyota GT2000. It can be frustrating: expensive to buy, lacking in detail compared to modern kits that are designed and tooled with computers. And no spares if I screw something up!

OK about this next build, an AMT 1:25 1969 Chevelle convertible.  It's a vintage kit, gone for decades, but recently reissued by Round 2.  (About Round 2: These guys must be going through endless cellars in corporate Michigan and Indiana and finding old injection molding tooling from the Sixties, polishing the molds, sending them off to China, getting a bunch of cheapo styrene molded parts back, and lovingly packing them in cool vintage cardboard artwork and plastic baggies.  The global economy at work! )

The AMT 69 Chevelle Convertible lists in Coulter and Shelton's Directory of Model Car Kits as last issued in 1977 and having a street value of $95.  The original issue date isn't mentioned, but perhaps it coincided with the promo kits' boost to the Chevelle's release, around 1969-70, and a 60's issue vintage AMT Chevelle kit, convertible or otherwise, if they are even out there on Ebay, are probably worth two or three times that.

Due to the hard work from these Round 2 guys, this rare bird isn't rare any longer, and I got the convertible 1:25 kit for $20 on Ebay.  Go Round 2!  You guys rule!

(Actually from lessons learned on the Toyota vintage build, I bought 2!)

OK that's where the good news about the AMT 69 Chevelle convertible ends.

The bad news is that back in the 70's plastic model kits had serious issues and they still have serious issues.  I don't imagine the Round 2 folks have $750K (? some big number here?) to tool up a new version of an old kit, and that's not what they are about regardless, so it seems.  To understand why old AMT is really, well, old AMT, it's time for the way back machine.  This was the "golden age of model building".  Back then we didn't play video games, or watch Netflix streaming, or text our friends. We saved our lunch money, we built models, we painted bodies with 20 cent brushes, and if something didn't fit, well, it was good enough to show your parents and maybe get a 2nd place at the local hobby shop model contest.  It was good enough for us, and therefore it was good enough for AMT.  AMT and MPC were boss!

Now, as an adult with an obsessive need to get every damn thing right, vintage tooling issues present an endless list of problems to solve. Let's start with the interior!  Modern kits have interiors that come in pieces, making them easier to mask and paint, but for these oldies, the interior is almost always a tub.  The 69 Chevelle tub is a disaster! It has huge ejector pin marks in plain sight (remember this is a convertible!) and inner door panel detail that is almost non-existent and too 2-dimensional.

Next problem: flash and a general lack of crispness in the molding process.  Flash is when the plastic runs between the 2 halves of the mold during the injection process.  General lack of crispness, well I am not sure why that happens, and perhaps this was an issue back in 1971 and I never noticed.  Some more modern kits have flash issues; the Ford F1 pickup speed build  had a lot of it, but on these old AMT kits, it's just ridiculous!  All the molding here is pretty bad.  Everything, and I mean everything, will have to be carefully sanded, filed, and cleaned up.

And--the dreaded "chrome headlights".  Yuck! Changing this out for "real" scale lenses (yes I know that's an oxymoron) will be a real challenge.

How about:"it just plain don't fit!" This is the interior tub test fitted into the 69 Chevelle's body. That looks like a one foot scale gap to me.  On these old AMT kits, I have found the hood, the trim, and exhaust system, valances (front and rear), and interior tub, just don't, well, line up, ever!  If this test fit is any indication, it will be a lot of work to correct fit issues.

Finally: "It just ain't right".  On these old kits, the craftsmen making the tooling got some things way wrong, and the kit doesn't correspond to the 1:1 subject.  EG! The flares on the wheel wells on the AMT 69 Chevelle are completely out to lunch! Correcting this, along with whatever other oddities I find, and I will find lots of them, I am sure, is going to be hours of work!

Now the balance sheet. There is still a cool factor about old AMT and MPC that can't be ignored. I have always felt their craftsmen loved cars, and loved this hobby, and you can tell by their work, even when they got things wrong, there is still something really fun about it.  And, as far as fixing the above mentioned issues,  I have a bit more lawn money now, as an employed adult, versus when I was 12.  So I can buy a couple modern tooled kits--the two Camaros you see here, and rob parts out of them to try to correct the issues with the Chevelle without taking months scratchbuilding replacement parts or making endless trips to the parts box.

So overall, why did I do this?  The challenge for sure.  The fact that I made a chevelle model when I was 10 and it came out pretty well and my dad, the car fiend, said he liked it. I have seen youtubes and forum entires of other modelers reviewing this kit and being disappointed with the poor quality in general and complaining about some of the issues I touch on here.  Some of these Internet authors even say Round 2 is ripping us off.  Not true! I will never complain that Round 2 (or AMT) makes a substandard product; Round 2 is faithfully reproducing kits that were flawed to begin with, but still super fun, and we are lucky to have this reissue at all!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

50 Ford Pickup Speed Build--Finished!

The Revell 50 Ford F1, glad to say: finished! I didn't quite get it done in a weekend, but if you add it all up it, this build probably wasn't more more than 2 days and one evening. I had to take a little break in there to work, but overall, this was one fast build!

So is it ready for NNL, GSL, NHL, NBA, or whatever they call all the serious model car contests? Nope.  There are little dings here and there, the gap on the front facade is way too big.... But if I look back to how I was building 3 years ago, versus now, I think I've improved!

There was no way I could churn something out this fast three years and have it end up this clean. 

 It's a rare time in my model making experience, in spite of the dings and gaps and other gremlins  here and there, I am happy with how this came out, especially in light of how fast I built it.  Imagine that!
Next up?  I am thinking of building a 69 Chevelle convertible that was re-released recently.  I thought it was gone for good!  This is a kit I remember building (and really liking!) as a kid.  Which is what this is all about right?
Compared to this kit, the AMT old school tooling is going to be a pain!  This Revell kit was easy, easy, EASY to build.  And if you screw up a part, the nice guys at Revell will send you a new one!  I didn't have to this time, but it's good to know that those guys have your back. OK til next time, signing off.  Don't get high off the fumes!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Speed Build--Ford F1 Pickup--Day Two!

Back again!  This might be the first time I've done two posts in two days!  So from last time: it took me over a year to build a Revell Audi R8, so I built a 58 AMT Chevy as fast as I could, but I am still not satisfied!  After a trip to the LHS I'm seeing what else I can build fast!
The "winner" is an old Revell Pickup; from last time, I mostly picked this because the trim looked relatively easy to deal with.  Going to build it 100% (!!) box stock.   

OK so at 3PM of day 2, where am I? I am hardly an expert at any of this, much less "speed builds". So as always, I have to fix the plane while it's in the air. I have read for these "quick as you can" builds CA with accelerator is your best friend.  Sadly, I have never had much luck with CA.  To me it's brittle, runny, ruins plastic glass, and the only thing it sticks to every time is my skin.  So my speed builds are all about scraping away paint and chrome really well, using the dreaded Testors "stinky red" polystyrene glue, the same glue I used when I was like 10 years old, and then clamping the dickens out of it and letting it all dry. Touching up whatever is needed if the scraping was too beaucoup.  For chassis and interior paint, I used the usual combo of Krylon fabric, Duplicolor metals, and Tamiya washes, along with Tamiya Matt Black. And don't forget: lots of Sharpies. No airbrushing; I figured thinning, cleaning, etc. etc. would take too much time. So: I prepped everything, "Ponzi stick'd" each part on an alligator clip and shish-kabob stick and poked the stick into some styrofoam, and painted everything in bunches.  That was last night at about 8PM.

OK, interiors and the undercarriage are easy enough I guess, and besides you, my faithful reader, no one will even see any of it!  OK, about the body, how will I paint this without waiting 2 weeks for everything to dry? A candy coat with Polyurethane clear and primer and undercoat and polish and wax and bare metal foil and...and...and...well again if you follow this blog at all, you know the drill! These steps take weeks especially for me!!!  I have one weekend! To the rescue: Testors One Coat Lacquer.  Una capa laca, baby!

So como esta una capa laca? Damn bueno! the folks at Testors ought to win a nobel prize! It is truly amazing how quick it dries, good it looks, and how sloppy I can be with prep (for this, like, none!) and still have it look pretty darn good. Contest ready?  Well, probably not.  But good for no prep at all?  You bet! Attention Joe Testors or whoever is in charge over there: Find the chemist who thought this up, and give that guy a raise!

 First time I've tried the "wet look clear", and it looks, um....wet!

OK enough of that! On to the motor! Bad news: the engine for this kit is a real lemon. Revell gives us a flathead with an Ardun conversion, but they should have just stuck to whatever flatty they had lying around. The valve covers, so important for the cool Ardun look, look more to me like 2 blimps moored on each side of the block. To make things worse, things didn't fit, and the overall feel is a bit bloated.  I'd kit bash the motor if I had more time, but hey this is a speed build!  So what happened? I figure Revell took a flathead master they had lying around and transformed it into an Ardun without the necessary changes (like, get rid of the exhaust ports on the block!)  Their own speed build!

The exhaust system had to be wrestled into place, but unlike some of the older AMT kits I have built, at least I could get the thing to fit, albeit with some cursing and kludging.  Fast, fast, fast!!!

What next? Going forward, I was hoping I could avoid polish, but like every other lacquer I've used there's a bit of wavy gravy and some orange peel.  Oh well, I can't have everything.  I'll have to polish it out after at least 12 hours dry time, which makes me think finishing it tomorrow may not happen (especially because I am expecting a guest).  So much for a one weekend build?

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Revell Ford F1 Pickup--Son of Speed Build!

I have a 3 day weekend and thought it might be relaxing to try to build another kit FAST.  So I went to the LHS (that's "local Hobby Shop" in hobby-mag speak) and picked out the Revell 50 Ford pickup, #7203.

I realize that a lot of my model building is retracing my hobby life when I was 10 or 11 years old. I stopped building when I was 13 I think, and started again maybe 5 years ago?  that all said, I never remember my brothers or me building a model of a pickup.  Which means: I didn't pick this kit out of nostalgia; I picked it because to me it looks like I could build it fast.  Nice round body panels are easy to prep and paint; no need for bare metal foil (not much anyway) and not many logos or other body details to worry about.

The multi-piece body had some nasty mold lines and needed various clean up touches but it's drying now. I hope to be able to paint it tomorrow.

Chassis and engine block had flash galore but went together easily enough, at least so far. To save time, I will paint each of these subassemblies as a unit.  I am going to work on masking glue points again; that's something I started doing for the 58 Chevy and seemed to speed things up--just put a bit of scotch tape over where the parts go together; no endless paint scraping!  After removing the masks and gluing, touch up the paint. It's fast, and makes for a sturdier and maybe even cleaner build than scrape-scrape-scaping all the painted surfaces to be joined.

Here's a trick for cleaning up seams and mold lines: over-apply Plastruct Weld.  When used with gusto, Plastruct weld melts mold lines away and even fills minor seams.  I found this out accidentally when I used to much for an engine assembly--all the details got wiped out--but now I use this trick all the time; on the 50 F1 for instance I used a boatload of weld to clean up the very noticeable mold lines on the exhaust pipes.

No way I am using metalizers on this build, all that airbrushing and drying takes way too much time! Rattle can hardware store metal finishes will have to do.  Left to right: Kryon Stainless; Tamiya something or other; Duplicolor chrome which looks to me more like aluminum than chrome, and Krylon gold, the latter is the most "metallic" non-metalizer I know.  If you like the red label on the krylon gold, please be aware that it's that way because my dad used it for a paint stand.  Nice!!!!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

58 Chevy Impala--Speed Build, Built for Speed?--Finished!!!

So as I said last time: it took me a year to build a scale Audi R8. So I have to ask: what can I build in a weekend?  I started this AMT 58 Chevy a long time ago, got as far as the body and Bare Metal Foil and put it aside.  I wanted to finish it fast and I did!

So how is the finished build? To me, it looks like it was built: fast.  There are trim issues here and there, little dinks and dings in the paint, and plenty of fit issues, but there are always fit issues on these old AMT kits.  The question is, how much time do I want to spend fixing all the issues, and for this build, it was pretty much NO TIME.  Boogie on! The front grille from the kit didn't fit.  Not even close! Forget it!! find the front grille and wheels/tires from the parts box!  Ditch the old stuff!  hey it's a "mild kustom!"

Another speed saving trick: masks?  We don't need no stinking masks! I didn't mask the interior, the undercarriage, the frame, anything.It all came out just fine.  Isn't the idea to have fun?

The flat finish gives it a sort of mean look. I have never built a "flat black" model before this one.  There is a first time for everything!

We'll ignore the really noticeable AMT issues, like the hood not quite fitting OK?  If you squint it looks well--good. maybe! But hey, it's a speed build! It was almost done by New Year's.  One thing I can say: a few years ago I would have never been able to build something that looks OK (I think this came out OK, not great) in a few evenings.  It was fun to see how fast I could build this!

So what's next?  I am thinking about another speed build.  Can I build something even faster?

Thursday, December 25, 2014


OK it took me over a year to build the difficult and dangerous Audi R8 Kit from Revell. Most of that was waiting for things to dry, pondering a build issue I didn't know how to deal with, or just being busy with other things, but really, a YEAR?  So--do builds really need to take that long?  Let's hope not! What if I use my skills gained from the past 4 or so years of building to build something fast, fast, fast, so it's done over the course of a weekend? And still try to keep things reasonably clean and OCD friendly?  Is it wishful thinking?

So it's Christmas and I am on call for work but otherwise have a lot of time on my hands.  I started a 58 Impala AMT kit while I was waiting (as was often the case) for things to dry on the R8. The Impala body, BMF, and a few things are already done prior to this weekend, so let's finish the damn thing off! So it's matter of clipping, cleaning, and painting the parts, and doing sub assemblies.
For this build, I tried yet another time saving tip: instead of scraping paint, I'll mask the non visible surfaces so I can just peel off the mask and glue.  For the engine, that saves a lot of time!  It really works! I am probably going to do this going forward for all builds. The engine has been assembled and wired, needs a bit of touch up but that will take seconds.

The chassis/frame got a quick coat of Tamiya Matt Black.  The silver parts are Duplicolor Chrome which to me looks more like aluminum. Faster than Alclad?  Um, yep! Instead of masking the frame, I hand brushed some Future floor polish to offset it from the rest of the undercarriage.  Good enough!

For the interior, masking always takes a lot of time, so why not hand brush?  It's not as clean as masking would have been, but again, I'm doing this fast!  No one will notice the brush strokes anyway right? Carpets are formed with a few sprinkles of Zing embossing powder.  Looks OK and takes about 5 minutes to apply. Good enough!

Ah hah!  If you want to "tell a story" as they say in the retail business, have the brush visible along with the parts.  That way you're ready to have the photo in a hobby magazine.  This isn't the brush I used, but it's good enough.

I have found you can't rush bare metal foil-ing but for the Impala I did anyway.  From a distance it looks pretty good.  If you get right up close or use macro shots, not as much.

Another huge time save--use Sharpies. Not the paint pens, I have never been able to get consistently good results with those.  Just regular Sharpie's. 1001 uses! I am finding in addition to making things go fast, no setup time, no stirring, no mixing, no brushes to clean, in some cases Sharpies actually work better, since they don't add any thickness to the part.  Edges of body panels, for instance, or steering wheel rims, look better with some Sharpie.  You don't want to add a quarter scale inch to those.

All parts were prepped, ponzi stick'd, and painted the usual way.  All silvers at once, all flat blacks at once.  I didn't get a photo but you have seen this before if you follow this bog, er, blog. I used rattle cans everywhere (faster than setting up an airbrush) and for the block I used Testors One Coat lacquer, the only thing bad I can say about that paint is that they need to make it in about 40 more colors!  It's great stuff!

Final time saving tip: Run to your Piggly Wiggly, Safeway, Riskys or whatever, and get some "Glad Press 'n Seal."  First, I like anything that has "'' n " in its name. That alone makes me want to buy it. Second, for masking or protecting a painted surface after it's dry, this stuff is the best.  I saw Chris Chapman, a really low key guy on Youtube, using this to mask a 1:25 body (a 58 impala, oddly enough!), it's sort of like thick Saran Wrap and it really works, it's much faster than putting tape everywhere, and seems to block all the paint I've thrown at it so far.  Boy Howdy!

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