Wednesday, May 27, 2009

How fast can I ???

One of the great things about building car models (or any models) is that it is an activity that can be done while doing something else. For example, what goes together better with watching a race on TV than building a model of your favorite race car ??? (well, other than beer and pretzels because they go pretty well with watching a race too :) That theme (building a model, not drinking beer) has been done by various model clubs, although never by any of the ones that I am a member of. Still, it got me to thinking, could I build an entire kit, from start to finish, and have it look presentable, within the time constraints of a televised race??? Most of the competitions that I have read or heard about occured during a 12 or 24 hour race. Given that amount of time, I think that to be challenging they would need to build full kits, wire the engines, polish the paint and basically have a near-show quality model when done.
There are no 12 or 24 hour races that occur over the Memorial Day weekend. Instead, we have the Indianapolis 500, which I have watched or listened to almost every year since 1968, and the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR race. For the last several years, these two races have been on Sunday, one after the other with about a 2 hour gap between them. I figured roughly 3 hours for Indy, the two hour gap and 4 hours for the 600... Nine hours to build a kit from start to finish... Not much time at all really. I decided that given that amount of time, I would build a curb-side kit (one with no engine), do a basic paint job without polishing it and no super detailing... To make things more challenging, I would do the work in the living room working on a TV tray rather than at my work bench. Plus that way, I could spend time with my lovely wife, and have the challenge of kittens jumping on my lap and playing dogs trying to tip the TV tray over :) Choosing the kit was a no-brainer. I would build a Challenger, which is my absolute favorite car, new or old. I am pretty sure that my wife gets tired of hearing about them :) Anyway, model manufacturer AMT recently came out with two kits of the new Dodge Challenger, both are curbside kits, and, most important, I have them both already. I chose the 2008 Challenger SRT.
I brought the basic supplies (some files, super glue (styrene cement would take too long to dry), assorted tools and some bottle paints) out to the living room and started shortly after the drop of the green flag for the Indy 500. Even with no engine, there are still a lot of things that need to be done. I performed the basic clean up on the body parts, interior pan, dash board and chassis. During commercials, I spray painted them on the patio (my wife loves me, but not sure she would be too thrilled if I spray painted in the house :). Actually, she was still less than thrilled as I let the parts dry between coats in the kitchen, so there was a bit of a paint aroma. I decided that since the schedule was going to be so compressed I would need to use lacquer paint rather than enamel paint because it dries so much faster (minutes instead of hours). I would also limit the number of coats that I would use since I would not be polishing it out. For a normal project, I usually spray 3 color coats and 3 to 5 clear coats and then polish everything smooth as glass. For this project, I only sprayed on 2 color coats and 2 clear coats, used a little liquid polishing compound to knock down anything rough and finished with Meguire's carnuba automotive wax. The other thing I needed to control as much as possible was "orange peel". Orange peel is that bumpy texture that can occur in a paint job as it dries, kind of like the peel on an orange (hence the name). One of the things that can cause orange peel is that the paint is too cold when it is sprayed. In order to combat that, I usually warm my paint cans in a deep bowl of hot water for about ten minutes. That usually makes the paint flow on much smoother so then all I have to watch out for is runs. The real Challenger comes in 3 colors, black, silver and a reddish-orange. I decided that I wanted the orange, but with metal flake instead of just a solid color. I used Dupuli-color brand metalflake orange and then followed that with Dupli-color brand acrylic clear which has a high gloss when it dries.
Once the various parts were dry, it was then time to start detail painting and assembling. I worked slowly and steadily through Indy (yay! Danica finished 3rd !) Then into the Coke 600 (uh oh rain delays )... They finally postponed the 600 until the following day which actually helped me as some of the parts I brush painted needed time to dry as my bottle paints are mostly enamels.
Then once again on Monday, I set everything back up and got started when the 600 started. Once again there were a couple of rain delays and they finally called the race during the 3rd rain delay after a little over 300 miles. Was I done??? No, unfortunately, I was not finished. I had the completed interior sitting on the conpleted chassis, but the body was still in several pieces, head and tail lights were not done and windows were not installed... Things that did me in - detail painting - there were some things, such as the chassis which needed multiple colors and waiting for the enamel paint to dry between colors was long. The other thing that got me was decals. This kit included LOTS of little decals for just about everything. All of the dash gauges and displays, seats and other interior places, and all of the body badging were decals. They had to be put on one at a time and then straightened and aligned before they dried into place. I underestimated the time it would take to do them by a lot.
Well, phooey, I took everything back to my workbench and decided I would go ahead and finish it there. I was still trying to rush things and got a drop of silver paint on my orange metalflake body. I got it cleaned off in time with a Q-Tip and thinner before it set, and then used a little carnuba wax to re-shine that area, but I decided I would do it right rather than rush and goof everything up right at the end. I think it was another 3 hours of so to get it finished, which puts the hour total at probably 14-ish hours or so...
I am pleased with the results !!! It is sitting on my desk at work right now, and has received quite a few comments and compliments. So without further ado, here are a couple of shots (click to bigify) taken on my bench with not so good lighting - sorry...

I would not be ashamed to put this car on a model table in a competition. Would it win?? No, probably not - the paint is not quite totally smooth and there are no really super detailed areas, so it probably would not place. However, it DOES look really nice displayed with my other models and here on my desk. Next time I will have to work faster, but other that that, in the words of Dub - Mission Accomplished :)


Monday, May 11, 2009


On Sunday, May 11th, the Puget Sound Auto Modelers Association (PSAMA) held their 20th annual model car show at the Elks Lodge in Puyallup. The weather was perfect and it was Mother's Day, two strikes against holding an indoor show :) This was the show that I attended one year ago that made me decide to join the club and get back more into model building. And since I had so much fun at the IPMS Show last month, I decided that I would finish up a new model and debut it at this show. Let me tell you, that just about killed me :) I was up working on it until 1:30 AM on Sunday morning, and only went to bed for 4 hours because I could go no further as everything was waiting on something else to dry. I got up again at 5:30 and finished gluing the last part, the rear bumper, on at 6:15 AM. I have photos for an "Off the Bench" blog, but will wait and do that in a day or two. Anyway, I was supposed to meet the guys at the Lodge at 6:30 to start setting up, but after stopping at Starbucks and such I managed to get there about 7:10 AM -just in time to avoid most of the heavy work in the morning :) Check-in was supposed to start at 9 AM, but we started checking folks in around 8:30 as they were already lining up. A couple of us club members checked in first, set our stuff up on the tables and then came out to check-in everyone else. I did a little checking in, but mostly ran the spectator's admission table. Check-in went until noon, and actually, we had folks checking in for most of the morning. I think that final tally was that we had 165 exhibitors, which was down from last year, due mostly, I suspect, to the Mother's Day snafu. Our show was actually supposed to be the weekend before, but it was mis-booked by the Elks Lodge and they were unable to give us our normal weekend as they had already booked it with someone else. So, that should not happen next year as we already booked the hall for the correct weekend. Anyway, back to the show. The IPMS Show last month was a judged show, in that the models were judged. The PSAMA Show is not judged per se, instead everything, except in a few instances, is a popular vote of your peers. Balloting began at 11:45 and ran until 2:45 PM. Counting ballots began at 3:00 PM and awards presentation was about 3:30 or so. And to those of you who have made it this far, I will go ahead now and tell the REST of the story - How I did and what my new model is... Like I said earlier, I will do an OTB blog as well, so I won't focus too exclusive on it, that will come later... I took three models with me, my little silver Mercedes tuner, my green '67 Impala and my new creation - a pearl blue '61 Ford Falcon Sedan Delivery. The Impala and the Falcon were in the same class and after they were set up on the bench, this is what they looked like: As usual, all of my photos will biggify for those of you who are interested and click on them. I also took a couple of photos of the Mercedes, but they were blurry, so no photos of it will be included here. Hmmm, actually, I do have a shot of it sitting behind this gorgeous 66 Ford Galaxy that won that class...

At the awards presentation, the Impala was again the bridesmaid, garnering it's second second place in as many shows. The Falcon did not fair as well and did not place, but I know that it did finish just outside the top three, so there is nothing wrong with that... I did get the opportunity to chat with quite a variety of folks - one guy who was just starting back into modeling after a 30 year absence all the way up to one of the premier model builders on the West Coast, Shannon Diamaulo, from Vancouver, BC. She brought a wide variety of models with her, including one or two that I have seen in magazines, and several more that should have been. It was very cool being able to talk to someone of her calibre and I have several new tips that I cannot wait to ty out on future projects. She won Best of Show with a 60 or 61 (I forget which) Chevy Ice Cream Truck that was mostly scratch built. It was VERY well done. Probably the coolest part of the entire day for me was that there were were TWO photographers there, one of our club members taking photos for possible magazine submission (he like the Falcon and photographed it :) and a photographic team from Model Cars Magazine taking event photos for an upcoming issue that will cover this show who photographed BOTH of my cars (Falcon and Impala) for possible inclusion in that issue :) :) :) No guarantees that either of them will actually end up in a magazine, but you have no idea how cool it was to even be asked. And finally here is a photo of the Challenger Street Machine that won first place in my class... In addition to having the Street look nailed just about perfectly (I voted for it on my ballot :), the headlights and running lights also worked as well. In fact that was the case of all three of his cars in this photo. Pretty stiff competition in this class, I am already thinking about new projects to up the ante for next year - and branching into a few more classes as well... I am also wondering about more shows this year. One of the guys from my club is organizing a model show to coincide with the Good Guys Car Show this summer and there is talk of a new fall model show that will be in October / November of this year. Guess I have one more schedule I'll have to sort through and figure out what we have time to attend... :)


Monday, April 20, 2009

Ace goes to the Model Show...

Saturday, April 18th was the date for the International Plastic Modelers Society-Seattle chapter spring model show... As many of you know, I have been building models for over half of my life. However, other that entering one at the Puyallup Fair last year, I have never entered any of my models in any show or contest - ever. Some of the guys in my model car club (Puget Sound Auto Modelers Association - PSAMA) convinced me that it is fun and that my models are at a level to be somewhat competitive. So I decided that I would take a few down and see what happened. I didn't have any expectations of anything since it was my first time and I would be "learning the ropes" so to speak. The show was held at the Renton Community Center just off I-405 and Hwy 169. Registration started at 9 AM and the show opened to the public at 10. Judging started at noon and awards at 4 PM. I got there about 9:30, signed in and went and set up my cars on the table. ". There were not a lot of car categories as this was not just a model car show, it was a show for all sorts of models as you will see in a bit, so I entered all my models in the same category, class 503 - Custom Automotive. I took three cars with me, my 67 Impala and Mercedes SLK Tuner, both of which you have seen in earlier blogs here, and also the little PT Cruiser Sedan Delivery that I made for our "farm vehicle". Once I got them all set up and on the bench, it was time to look at all the models. The IPMS-Seattle Show is touted as the largest model show in the PNW, and after seening how many were here, I could believe it. The variety of things to see was amazing!!! I filled up the memory chip on our camera in about an hour :) Here are just a few of my favorites in no particular order:

The next thing to do was to cruise all of the vendor booths :) There were models and supplies of all kinds. It was hard to control myself, but I limited myself to two purchases, both of which you will probably see in future blogs, so I'll keep them secret for the time being :) Then outside for a while to enjoy the great sunshine and shoot the breeze. Once we made it back in, judging was underway so I stayed away from the car section to give them time to do their thing. I know from my own judging, I don't like it when folks joggle my elbow, so I try not to do it to others.
Once the judging was over, we mostly hung out around our models and did a bit of bench racing and more breeze shooting :) You guys all know what it is like hanging around with folks when you share a common interest with them. Same thing here. I guess that it was about 3:30 or so when the judges came around and started placing the ribbons on the table. So, one more look at the Impala on the table because...:

IT TOOK SECOND PLACE IN IT'S CATEGORY !!!!! Talk about knock me over with a feather :) There were some really nice cars in that class and I still can't really believe that happened. I was already out of space on the camera and it was back out in the truck so I didn't get any photos of it on the table with the ribbon... And just for your information, here is the first place winner in the custom class... He had several cars entered in the class and they were all as nice as this one in my opinion. I am looking forward to the next show now, the PSAMA Show on May 10th in Puyallup. It is only a model car show, so it should bring out more cars that didn't attend the IPMS show... Heh, now one MORE thing to occupy my time :)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Like we don't already have enough to do....

Looks like our ewes are running long on their pregnancies this year, we are trying to get our garden spots cleared off and tilled, I am working way too many hours at my day job, my back has been all screwed up for the last three weeks and now this... We needed to make a trip up to Whidbey Island to get some more hay for all our hungry sheep. Franna made a run to Del's a week or two ago to get some straw as we have the Barn and the Hilton full of pregnant ewes now. While clearing the remaining straw bales out of the horse trailer, guess what she found...

Kittens !!!! And I mean LITTLE kittens... They appeared to be healthy and in good shape. They are young enough that their eyes are not yet open, but their ears are up. We guestimated that they are about a week or so old. Anyway, she brought them in the house and made some calls to get ideas on raising kittens. Thanks to all the websites and real folks who gave us ideas and to Julia who came over in person and showed us what to do... So now, in addition to everything else we are doing, we are also feeding and taking care of kittens every 4 to 6 hours all day. Thankfully, Franna is staying up for the late shift and I take the early shift before I go to work. I made a run to PetCo (I needed to get Winnie food anyway) and so I picked up several cans of kitten formula and a few odds and ends for when they get a bit larger. Mom cat was still around the day that we found them so Franna put them in a box and back outside to see what would happen. But then she got to thinking that they would probably have about a zero percent chance of survival as we lose lots of cats and small critters in our neighborhood to coyotes so she brought them back in... As you can tell from the photo, there are two of them, a small calico female (my personal favorite when it comes to cats) and a tabby male. Franna named the calico "Miley" and I named the tabby "Toby". We are discovering that one of the tricks for raising kittens by hand is getting them to go to the bathroom. They are not able to do so by themselves and it is something that the mom does via stimulation when she bathes them... We have been doing it ourselves with cottonballs, but Franna had this great idea, - we have three female Labradors, maybe one of them will take on a little of the mothering role. First we tried using our yearling lab, Villa. She really didn't want anything much to do with the kittens and never got with the program at all. Next, we tried it using our older chocolate lab, Kiss (well actually Bryan's lab). It was pretty funny watching Franna put drops of formula on the rears of the kittens and Kiss would clean up the kittens, but only till the formula was gone. Of course, the kittens were less than thrilled :) Hmmm, still better than nothing so we left it at that last night. Today Franna called me at work and told me that she tried using Winnie and that she did such a good job that she is now the "surrogate" mom for two little kittens. And that is at 4 months old herself :) So, we'll see how things go. Franna lost her old housecat, Griz, last fall and I have not had a housecat for 20 years or more. We'll see how things work out having two kittens rip-raring around a house full of Labradors (and Clifford). Should be a lot of fun...

Monday, March 30, 2009

Off the Bench #3 - 67 Impala

Here is my 67 Impala that I just finished a few days ago... This is a special kit as it is the first kit that I bought after Franna and I got together... I have been working on this kit off and on for over eight years. It has been built in a couple of different configurations and this is the third color that it has been. Hard to tell in the photos, but it has nearly every hose and wire on the engine. This is also the first time I have ever scratch-built the linkage for the carburetor including the tiny little return spring that I hand wrapped. I'll try and get a better photo of it. All of these photos will "biggify" if you click on them. This might turn into part of a diorama in the future as I have future plans to make a 67 Impala drag car with a trailer... Need something to pull the trailer :)
Enjoy !!!
So, without further ado, here are the photos:

Monday, March 23, 2009

OTB Teaser...

Hmmm, I have been so busy working on the Impala that it is mostly done and I haven't even posted any teaser photos of it yet... I started yesterday on the next one in my stash - a 90-ish S-10 Blazer... That one will also be a mild custom as I am going to replicate my own little white truck that is waiting patiently for me to put a new engine in it... Maybe winter will go away at some point in time and I can start planning to get that done. I have decided that I am too old and too fat to be laying out in the snow and the rain putting a new engine in ANYTHING... :) I helped Jennifer work on the wiring for the lights on her car a few weeks ago and it reminded me of how much I don't miss bending and twisting to get up under the dash while trying to keep my knees out of the gravel and rain from running into everywhere... Anyway, here is the teaser photo for the Impala (it does biggify if you are interested) and I will make you wait a day or two before I get the rest of them posted and write it all up :) Franna has already told me that my background sucks, and I need to figure out a better way to do lighting... Open to suggestions :) Enjoy !!!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Off the Bench #2 - Mercedes SLK 230

Welcome to the second installment of my "Off the Bench" series. This time, the model that I am going to talk about is the 1/24th scale Mercedes SLK made by the Japanese company, Tamiya. Last year, when the price of gas got so bad, I started looking for something different to drive as my Suburban, gets something around 12 miles per gallon. I looked at all the typical choices, but decided that if I was going to buy another car, at least I was going to buy something that was fun, while still economical. I eventually narrowed my choices down to two, the Mercedes SLK 230 with a 2.3 liter, four cylinder engine, 5 speed transmission, hardtop convertible, and the Mazda MX 5 Miata with a 1.8 liter, four cylinder engine, 5 speed transmission and a soft top convertible top. Both of these cars looked fun to drive ( I have driven a Miata before, and can tell you that it IS fun to drive), while still getting over 30 miles per gallon. I found multiple examples of both in the under $15K range that I set for myself. I ultimately abandoned getting another vehicle as I was never able to convince my wife that it was economically feasible, so I just suffered through $160+ fill-ups on the 'Burb once or twice a week. And then the price of gas came back down and totally ruined any chance I had to convince her :) During my search, I also bought a model of each car (Man, I love eBay :)) and what started out as a "stock" build ended up becoming something much different. I used the term "Euro-Tuner" when I described it at the March meeting of my model car club.
Tuner is the name given to the modified import cars (usually Japanese) that are so popular with kids today. Once I decided that I was going for the "tuner" look, I knew that I would need to make several modifications to the kit to achieve the look that I was after. The real car has a plastic cladding (covering) down each side that covers the bottom 3 or 4 inches of the door and the rocker panels below. It also goes around the front and rear on the lower portions of the bumper coverings. This cladding is to protect the car from damage from rocks and road hazards. However, I didn't like the look of it on the model (or the real car, for that matter) as it just looks like semi-gloss black plastic pieces added to the car (which is basically what it is...), so I spent quite a bit of time sanding it all off, smoothing the body, re-scribing the door lines and getting rid of mold seams. The next thing that I did was to add the front air dam and the lower wing on the rear. Since I was after a sleek look, both of these modifications were filled with putty and sanded smooth before painting. Once done, they looked like they were part of the car. Once all the body work was done to my satisfaction, I primed the body, and then painted it with Dupli-Color brand paint. They have a series called "Metal Specks" that has larger metalflake pieces in it than their regular metalflake paint. One of the most popular colors that the real car comes in is silver, so I decided to step it up and used the Metal Specks silver. The same kit that had the air dam and a few other parts that I used, also had some cool red body side decals. They were too long for this kit, but I cut them down and put them on each side of the body after modification (I think they turned out pretty nice). I followed this with 5 coats of clear to "bury" the flake and cover the decals so that it could be polished smooth. I then set it aside to let it gas out for several weeks before polishing.
I turned my attention next to building the chassis. Well, actually, the chassis was easy as I built it entirely stock,except for two small changes.
First, since tuners are known for the large exhaust tips (and loud mufflers), I modified the kit muffler by adding a larger diameter piece of polished aluminum tubing. The other thing that I did was add an aftermarket set of wheels and tires from a company called "XS Tuning". They came with the gorgeous aluminum finish just as shown so I didn't have to do anything to them at all. Well, actually, I did have to buy them twice. When I was working with the first set, I dropped one of them on the floor and Thomas, in his haste to help me out, picked it up and broke two of the spokes with his teeth :)...
Once the chassis was done and set aside, that left only the interior to do. Since this is a convertible, the interior becomes much more important to do neatly as it is more visible than it would be if one was looking in through small scale window openings. I was looking for something else one day at the hobby shop I go to and found an aftermarket tuner kit from Aoshima that had a whole bunch of neat stuff in it. The thing that sold me the most was that it had some VERY nice scale Recaro seats. It also had the top wing, extra gauges, two NOS bottles, two steering wheels and a few other little odds and ends. After finding that kit, I decided that I would give the Mercedes a race car-inspired interior. I started with the seats and added racing harnesses. The straps are made from 8 millimeter (6 or 7 mm would simulate a normal seat belt, racing belts are wider) strips of the same surgical tape that I made the window net for the Mustang from. The buckles and assorted parts are actually photo-etched aluminum pieces from Arrowhead Aluminum Accessories (AAA). I bent them as needed to replicate real hardware and installed them on the tape belts, after I had painted them flat red. The blue bottle between the seats is a NOS bottle. NOS stands for Nitrous Oxide Systems, a company that markets these systems for cars. In a real car, nitrous oxide (laughing gas) is injected into the engine just after the carburetor or fuel injectors and gives a serious horsepower boost. It can be tempermental at times, although when it is tempermental it is usually obvious by all the pieces and parts falling out the bottom of the engine :) It is possible to get systems that provide upwards of 250 horsepower at the touch of a button. These systems are very popular with drag racers and street racers, including tuners. Typically, this system would be in the trunk or backseat, but I put it where it is to add a little more detail to help tell the story of this model. Early on, I named the car "Bottle Baby" so it became important to have the bottle in plain sight to help with figuring out why it was named that. And just a quick FYI, the model is not quite done yet as I am going to make custom license plate decals for it (BOTL BABY) as well. I carried the racing theme to the dash as well. I added several extra gauges and switches to give it that racy look. If you look close, you will see two small red bumps on the steering wheel. Those simulate the switches that one would press to fire off the solenoids in the nitrous oxide system. It is very important to have the car under control when you add an instant horsepower boost, so many folks put the NOS switches right on the steering wheel so they can have both hands on the wheel when the system is activated. I also made a roll bar across the entire car instead of the little roll-over hoops that the real car has. That added to the race look, but it also gave me a place that I could attach the shoulder harnesses to :) Final assembly was simply a matter of gluing the major assemblies together and sitting back to enjoy the result. Well, I know that I do :) I'll post another photo or two once I get the license plates installed, but other than that I am calling this one done.
No teaser this time as my next model is not to the point of ready to divulge anything more than to tell you that it will be a 1967 Impala street machine. Sorry, I seem to have trouble building stuff stock...