Saturday, November 14, 2009

Beer Wagon

Here's my stab at Monogram's rerelease of the Beer Wagon show rod. I don't know how the picture got to be so fuzzy; perhaps I'm not as good with the new digital camera as I think I am.

I don't build an awful lot of car models, mostly because they're a lot of work. There's a lot of painting, a lot of in-process painting, and a lot of general fiddling. And then there's all that chrome to deal with... Nor am I much of a car expert. I can look at an armored vehicle and tell you if it's a BMP-1 or BMP-2, but I can't tell a 392 Hemi from a 426 Hemi, and I'm really bad at identifying the make and model of any given car - I can usually identify a VW Bug, but past that, I generally assume that all hot rods are Ford Deuces until proven otherwise.

This kit is fun and simpler than most car models. Including the injector stacks, the engine consists of three parts, and the suspension is easy to paint and install after the fact. There is no glass to deal with it, no radiator hoses, no interior bucket. The hardest part, really, is painting the transmission and differential detail on the one-piece frame part. Critics of this kit contend that it is "toy-like", and I suppose it is, but the engraving (what there is of it) is pretty nice and it didn't assault me with a lot of difficulty and complication.

I left off the collectors on the ends of the headers because I thought they were oversized and clunky. I drilled out the tops of the injector stacks. I lost the gearshift lever and hand starter crank and obviously left them out. I stripped off most the chrome with Easy-Off oven cleaner and after cleaning up the parts repainted them with Testors Chrome Silver. I left the wheels chromed and did a lot of sanding on the vinyl tires to try to make them look more like real tires. I also left the steering wheel chromed, though I painted the rim a leathery brown color. The instrument panel is provided as a decal, but it is black with no white backing, so the instruments would get lost on the dark blue dash. Instead of applying the decal in the normal fashion, I cut it out and glued it to the dash with the paper backing in place to provide the white background. The decals, by the way, were thick but sturdy and worked pretty well.

I painted it using the famous Whudigot method. I didn't like the bright yellow of the original model and was going to paint it metallic green, but I couldn't find my can of metallic green. So I browsed my spray paint collection and found two cans of Tamiya dark metallic blue, and decided that that would do. The seats, headrests and bed stakes were painted Testors AMC Big Bad Blue lacquer out of a spray can. The detail paint was mostly craft paint (for the wooden bed floor) and Testors acrylics (mostly silver and semi-gloss white) and Tamiya (mostly NATO black). I painted the beer kegs a dark brown color from a Krylon spray can, and drybrushed them with "antique gold" craft paint. And that was pretty much it.

In general I enjoyed building the kit. The kit doesn't appear to pass muster with experts, and I'm sure my execution of it won't pass muster with experts either, but it was harmless fun and best of all, I didn't have to do any engine wiring. It was a fun break from 1/72nd scale armor, and who can ask for more than that?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Lately I've been reading a lot of model magazines. Between cancer and a particularly unpleasant course of chemotherapy I haven't really had the gumption to build anything. I'm starting to work on things again - a Revell 1/72nd M40 self-propelled gun, say, and a Monogram 1/24th Beer Wagon show rod, for another. But for a long time, my involvement with modeling was largely limited to reading magazines.

Often British magazines, especially SAMI and SMMI. And over time, I've come to note a marked anal-retentiveness about certain things that I can sum up with the following line: "I can't build model X until someone makes a replacement detail part." The kit cannot be built until someone offers a replacement set of exhaust nozzles, or a new drawbar, or an antenna., or whatever. Or they get completely wrapped around the axle about paint colors, to the point that a kit cannot be attempted until someone produces a color photograph and a paint chip showing exactly what color of grey the thing was painted.

This anal-retentiveness doesn't irritate me - everyone enjoys the hobby in their own way, and that's their way. But it does make me shake my head sometimes. Producing an authentic model is nice, but to me it's the building that's the fun; absolute authenticity is not an absolute requirement. Is the sand color I painted my Crusader III absolutely correct? Nah. Do I care? Nah. I had fun building the Crusader and if the sand color is a little too light, well, who cares?

So here's a list of stuff I hardly ever do when building models.

Detail Parts. I almost never buy detail parts. If a kit comes with photo-etched or resin parts, I'll use them, but I almost never buy them separately. In fact, the only detail parts I can remember buying in the last few years were a couple of metal distributors for car models, and even then, after I bought the limited stock at the hobby shop, I went back to my old distributor technique. (Actually, this isn't quite true. I have bought several detail and replacement-part sets for the old 1/96th scale Saturn V booster, but I haven't used them yet so they don't count... Right??)

Panel Lines. I almost never rescribe panel lines. In fact, in 1/72nd scale I never rescribe panel lines at all, and only rarely in larger scales do I bother. I have sanded off raised panel lines and rivets, but I almost never scribed new panel lines afterwards. Nor do I accent panel lines if they exist. I think this produces a harsh, extreme appearance that is highly unrealistic. It demonstrates excellent craftsmanship and skill, but it isn't how real airplanes look at all.

Cockpit Interiors. My airplane models are mostly 1/72nd scale, and I find that I can almost never see cockpit details through the canopies. Unless I'm going to build the model with the canopy open for some reason, or the model is 1/32nd scale, I just don't bother with a lot of cockpit detail. I paint the interior roughly the right colors and I'll do a little paint detailing and throw in some masking tape seat belts, but film-and-photoetch instrument panels? Pfft. Can't see it, so why bother?

Replacement Tank Tracks. I dislike link-and-length tracks immensely, and I find individual-link tracks almost insuperably fiddly. I'll use them if the kit gives me no other option, but by and large I prefer one-piece vinyl tracks. Modern vinyl tracks are about as detailed as any other kind, but ever so much easier to work with.

Plugging Motorization Holes. A lot of armor modelers spend a lot of time plugging up the various motorization holes that infest a lot of older armor models, but I can't remember ever doing so. Sometimes I don't even bother to paint the bottom of the tank. Can't see it, so why bother? If you're going to make a diorama of a tank that rolled over, or is otherwise exposing its belly, then sure, I can see taking the time to do that. But otherwise? It gives me no satisfaction.

Spanish Weathering. Harsh, extreme weathering, sometimes described as "European style" or "Spanish style", is something I never do either. Really extreme Spanish weathering demonstrates excellent craftsmanship and attention to detail, but I don't see that it's any more realistic in armor modeling than accented panel lines are in aircraft modeling. I weather my tank models, sure, and sometimes it's fun to go mad and pack a bunch of mud into the tracks and suspension. But the heavy chipping and weathering done in the Spanish fashion? Not for me.

Preshading. I've never preshaded anything, and I can't say in looking at photographs of finished models that I can even see what good it does. More than once I've read comments like "The preshading produced a very subtle effect that is not apparent in photographs." Well, if a camera can't detect the preshading effect, my eyes aren't likely to either.

Modeling is no more immune to fashion than anything else. Right now, the fashion is for preshading, accented panel lines, heavy Spanish-style weathering, and dot filters. I must be extremely unfashionable because I don't do any of them, but I'll wager that I have about as much fun building models as anyone. I may be an unfashionable troglodyte, but I have fun. And that's the main thing.