Friday, October 24, 2008

Sixties Era Gasser--55 Chevy--Getting Started

I'm pretty jazzed about Sixties era gassers--I think of them as funny cars before there really were funny cars. After seeing a few at Billet Proof I decided to read more about them and see if I could build something in scale, with the eventual goal being to build this 1:1 (if I ever have the money or the space).

it's a heck of a lot cheaper to buy a few kits then the 1:1 parts....I got two Chevy kits from ModelRoundup, Revell/Monogram's '55 Chevy Bel Air Hardtop 2n1 #85-2069 and AMT/Ertl's 1955 Chevy BelAir Street Machine #31931. The AMT appears to be a reissue of a 55 Chevy kit originally tooled decades ago; the Revell kit has what the hobby mags call "modern tooling". The difference between the two is profound--the Revell kit has significantly better detail, a higher parts count, and generally (to my eyes anyway) shows how model kit manufacturing has improved over the years.

This isn't going to be a "box stock" build (nothing I do ever is) so I got some additional kits out of which I will steal gasser parts: Revell's 51 Henry J #85-2036; Revell's Big John Mazmanian 41 Willys Gasser #85-2350; and Revell's Thames Panel Truck #7609. All three kits have some really great parts; the Olds engine with Hillborn Injection in the Revell Panel Truck is especially nifty.

So which body to use of the 2 donor chevy kits? That's an easy choice. The roofline of the AMT Bel Air doesn't look right to me--it looks more like a 57 Sport Coupe's, but it's not a hardtop--I am told it's a 55 "Club Coupe" which had on the 1:1 car a different roof then the hardtop. Bottom line, to me it just doesn't look right, so I am going with the Revell body.

The Revell Bel Air kit has one of those "all in one" chassis/frames, which is beautifully detailed and molded but not what I want for a Sixties era gasser. On the right is the frame from the Henry J kit. Its wheelbase is way too short for the Chevy, and it has a lot of ejection pins and whatnot that will need cleaning up, but I figure it's easier to use the Henry J frame as a base, and extend its wheelbase, then build the whole frame from stylene tube.

I modified the interior floor from the 51 Henry J by marrying the front section of the 55 interior to it. I saw gussets on one the floorboards of a gasser at the Billet Proof show so I added them here; in general the gassers there were more about lightness and strength then looking completely clean.

On the web there are a few builders who complain loudly about what a crappy kit the 51 Henry J is. I won't know, because I will never build it, it's just a donor kit for the project. Whatever assembly issues may exist with it, it has some great parts! For instance a very cool quick change rear end and a gnarly representation of (what I think is) a big block Chevy motor. I am not sure why, but I want a Chevy motor in this and not Mopar/Hemi. Not sure if this is going to be a "GS" (supercharged) gasser or a "G" (non-supercharged) gasser yet.

Next time: I'm just out of the starting blocks on this build. Lots of work down the road!!!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

What to Build Next--Report from Billetproof

I don't know what's happened to me, but I find myself dreaming of cars at night. Mind you this only started 2 years ago....what happened? What's wrong with me? I am beginning to feel like Richard Dreyfus in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" where he makes a scale model "Alien Mountain" or whatever they call it in movie out of potatoes.

To get my latest custom car fix my brother took me to a local hot rod show called "Billetproof". I had never heard of Billetproof--apparently the folks who put the show on don't advertise a lot. But I was assured it's a great hot rod/rat-rod show; the idea being that no "billet wheels" (ie, super expensive customizing bling a la Chip Foose or Boyd Coddington) are allowed, and all cars have to arrive under their own power.

Just standing at the entrance waiting for friends to show up was a treat! Billetproof is a really BIG show--with hundreds of hot rods on display--there were tons and tons of great cars--everywhere you looked was something unusual and interesting....

The show does indeed focus on rat rods--you know, sometimes beat up, sometimes not, old looking, highboys, low riders, drivers, big motors, 4 bangers, steelies, a lot of primer, and some flames over primer (which means it will need to stay primer, right?). I have always had mixed feelings about the "permanent primer" thing, since one of the best things about customs, I think, is the cool paint and all the creativity that goes along with it. But underneath all that there was a lot more going on.

A bevy of car journalists were standing around this pickup. They told me this pickup had it "all there"--all period correct--the right motor, the right suspension, everything on this custom worked and was perfect. They thought it was one of the finest customs they had ever seen.

But this wasn't the only really-cool-car-that-impressed-the-car-nuts at Billetproof. There were serious attempts by many of the show's participants to "get everything right"--not just make it look cool, but also make it historically accurate and capture the spirit of "old school" hot rodding.

There are great fabricators everywhere at Billetproof. We had a nice talk with the kid who built this rat rod pickup; the car has all the hydralics hidden in clever places--an incredible feat, considering how seamless it all looks. He must have spent hundreds of hours on this build.

A lot of rat rod pickups had the radiator in the pickup bed, or what's left of it. Before the show I didn't know this, but now I do. This radiator trick will probably make its way into my own builds. At Billetproof inspiration is everywhere.....

And of course I was interested in getting some detail photos to help with my own builds, and got lots, such as the pictures above. If I have any complaints about Billetproof, it's that the mottled shade everywhere made it hard to get good pictures on a bright day. But that's not much of a complaint!

I went to Billetproof looking for ideas for my next build...but there was almost too much to see, and I often felt like a kid in a candy store. By the end of the day I began thinking my next project will probably be some kind of C/G or D/G 60's era gasser that's street legal. There were a few of them at the show and they were pretty darned cool.

The final takeaway I got from Billetproof is that the "art car" you'd see at something like Burning Man and the rat rod craze are starting find some common ground. Check out the crazy frame and tie rod treatment on the rod above--wild stuff. The builder was sitting behind the car with his girlfriend, mellow as ever, answering questions about his incredible one-of-a-kind custom. The girlfriend dug it. Case closed!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Old Skool Texas Hot Rod--Finished!!!!

I started the project with pictures like this....

...and ended up with this. It's been a couple of months in the making but the old Skool Texas hot rod is finally done....

I didn't get all the details right--the windshield isn't high enough for instance, and the front lights (mostly scratchbuilt) aren't quite the right shape. But the stance is pretty close, and the overall "feel" of the build matches the spirit of the 1:1 car, I think.

There are lots more little details I could do, but it's time to move on--I find myself rushing on the old skool rod build since I want to move onto other things, so it's a good time to stop.

The license plates were scratch built (like many other things on this model). I used photoshop, since I couldn't find the "State O' Texas": 50's era 1:25 scale license plates anywhere.) I used the "reduce image" feature in Photoshop, which took the 3" original artwork to .375", and worked great. Another important thing I came away with from this project: enamel paints are really good for certain things, like painting metal scratchbuilt parts. I had gotten rid of almost all enamel paints, since they take a long time to dry and have other issues, but a few of them are back now.

When I think of all the work that went into this--the resin body prep, the Z'd stock frame, the kitbashed motor, the scratchbuilt seat, the plaid decal upholstry, and so on--I'm a bit surprised that I finished at all, but here it is.

This project was a challenge to my modest skills, but it taught me a lot about the early history of hot rodding and was a fun project to work on with my dad. And it got me away from work for a few hours every now and then. Overall, time well spent.

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