Bob Letterman

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(09) Modeling Civilian Vehicles

August 30th, 2012 by admin

These are civilian vehicles I built in the late 70s to mid 80s. All were National competition winners, but some have suffered from the years of dust, decal weathering and yellowing.

The first one is a police garage. The California Highway Patrol has just received their first pursuit traffic cruiser. The title is, “What if Chips had a Lamborghini Countach”?

I actually went to a Chips station in San Diego to photograph some reference for this. The idea for the Ford being covered with newspaper in order to repaint the recently repaired rear fenders was a result of the visit. It was published in one of the Verlinden magazines and a couple of model car mags.

Click on images to enlarge.

All the figures are the 1/25th Verlinden, some modified and posed to fit the look! I really can’t remember where all the accessories came from, but the Lamborghini was Fujimi and the Taurus was an AMT.

Here is a shot of the interior and engine after detailing and painting. Click on images to enlarge.

The Honda 750 was an ancient kit that I bought off somebody, don’t remember the brand, but it was hell to build and make to look like something.

This one is a traffic stop. This time the citizen has a Ferrari. The State patrol has a Camaro pursuit car. The scale is 1/16th. It was photographed on the parking lot of VLS when it was in O’Fallon, Missouri in 1991. I called it “Gas Pedal Stuck”. I only worked in uniform for a very short time in my police career, the majority as a detective, but this was the most common excuse I remember getting.

Click on images to enlarge.

As this is a large scale, I took two 120mm figures of a Marine D.I. from Verlinden. Converted one to a state trooper, I sculpted a new hat, police equipment, gun, etc. Then the other one I converted into a “Cool Dude”. If you look at the break in the trousers of both figures at the shoes, you can see they began as the same figure. Click on images to enlarge.

The stop sign and street signs are from scratch. Note the name of the street. Gravois is a main drag in St. Louis.

Ok, here is what is left of my model car collection from the museum. Back in 1983, I sold 4 large boxes of model cars I had built during the 60s and 70s to a guy that said they had all become collectibles. I thought they were junk. He paid me a large sum of money and that was some of the start up money for what would become VLS. I understand he made a killing reselling them. Good for him! At that time I was competing. I only competed for two years and the models following are close to 30 years old and all were both built and had won at two IPMS nationals during that same period.

I will start with a Jaguar XKE from Monogram in 1/8th scale. I built this in 1982. I went all out for that time. There wasn’t much available to trick it out but, I managed. I had been working for both Pocher Italy and The Sharper Image in the States. Both sold custom Pocher models built to custom specs for customers with big bucks. I never knew how much, I just got $200 a paint job. That was cool with me, I was still a cop and that money really helped our budget back in those days! I averaged about one a day, five days a week. Several hundred dollars a week was a sweet second income in those days! I did that from 1979 to 1983!

I had never knew another modeler back in those days. I became involved in competition seriously when I entered the Winds of War in the 1982 IPMS national in St. Louis. After that, I competed for 2 years and then VLS began to grow. I knew instinctively not to compete with my customers so I retired from competition in 1984.

This model won best civilian vehicle in Phoenix, 1983. I took the old monogram kit, totally tricked it out with full electrical, Headlights, tail lights, dash lights, a circuit to work the turn signals, front and rear, and have the indicators or the dash work as well. The horn button worked, I went all out! It had brake lights that operated off the brake pedal and a horn button that I installed in the steering column.

Click on images to enlarge.

The interior was upholstered with maroon glove leather and the seats were button tufted. Maroon velvet served as the carpeting. All the gauges lit up and all the warning lights as well on the dash. The engine was fully wired, weathered, and that was very unique back then. I used everything I had learned in Aircraft, armor and ships to add to the realism of cars.

Click on images to enlarge.

I mounted the car on a base which held the circuits and 14 D cell batteries. The switches that operated the electronics were at the side front.

Some additional shots. Click on images to enlarge.

Next, This Heller 1/24th scale Paris Bus won a lot of trophies back in the day, including a first place in the Phoenix IPMS Nationals. I really detailed out both inside and outside.

Click on images to enlarge.

When I was stationed in France in the army from 1959 to 1962, they were still using these in Paris. They are so ugly, they are cool!

Click on images to enlarge.

Click on images to enlarge.

Next up is a Ford Cobra. I used a lot of brass and gave the fuel injected engine a lot of detail. I remember it won it’s share of awards back then as well.

Click on images to enlarge.

There is a story with this one. I had built the diorama, “Gas Pedal Stuck” to completion. I had my first Doberman and he was still a puppy. I had the dio sitting on a trash can waiting to be attached to the base. He came in, stood underneath the dio. I yelled for him to leave and he raised his head, toppled the dio and cars to the floor, and this engine was the only salvageable part left! I was pissed, but he had those great big sad puppy eyes, so….. what the hell!

This was a national winner, but the years have taken their toll. The decals have yellowed and silvered, but I don’t have the heart to pitch it! Click on images to enlarge.

Here’s another little street rod.

I have always liked motorcycles, and had one the vast majority of my life. I liked to build them and here is a model of one I owned. A 1976 Kawasaki Z-1, at the time, the fastest production motorcycle in the world! Click on images to enlarge.

Click on images to enlarge.

Next, I built a lot of the old Mercedes cars from the 30s and 40s. I always wished they made these in 1/35th. The maroon and Ivory one depicts the most used staff cars in the Third Reich, they were all painted black!

Click on images to enlarge.

Click on images to enlarge.

Here is a 1/24th Mercedes 540K, a real classic!

Click on images to enlarge.

Click on images to enlarge.

When I met Susan in 1965, she was a room mate with a girl I was dating. While at their apartment, I passed her bedroom where I saw a bookcase bed, the top covered with model cars. I ask the girl who built them and she said Susan. I was in love before I met her! :-) Way back then, Susan entered the competition one year at an IPMS regional. She always liked model cars and could never get into military models. Here is a 1/32nd MGTC she built in the 80s and won first place! I coached her a bit, but if you know Susan, believe me, not very much! Click on images to enlarge.

Here is a little Willys gasser from way back when.

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This Tamiya 1/12th Porsche 911 Turbo won a lot of trophies back in the day!

Click on images to enlarge.

Click on images to enlarge.

I had almost forgotten about this. It was only published in one Tamiya magazine in Japan back in ‘82 I think. I loved those old Mack Bulldog kits and I built this diorama around one. The figures were all I could find close to the scale back then. Believe me in those days the accessory market was a wasteland. I found these in the model railroad 1/22nd scale. They sucked but that was all there was!

Click on images to enlarge.

I found whatever I could use to build this dio. I scratched the gas pumps and tried to imagine what I would use to top them off. Then I remembered the Sorry game playing pieces. They worked!

I had just discovered PE. Nothing in our market, but it had been introduced in England in the model railroad market. I built my first PE tree here and thought It was sooooo cutting edge!!

Click on images to enlarge.

I hadn’t yet got into electric circuits, so I made a skylight so you could see the garage interior and the car being worked on.

More of those awesome PE leaves and grass! I was in heaven! Click on images to enlarge.

And finally, a shot of the Mack truck!

Some were interested enough in the Jaguar to email me, I pulled all of the old batteries out, 10 of ‘em, all 9 volt! The last time I put new batteries in this was when VLS was in Ofallon in ‘99. The headlights still worked! Everything worked perfectly, dash lights, head and tail lights, brake lights and turn signals. The horn worked too but sounded a little weird, probably because I had used a miniature speaker and the nine volt battery made it beep. Probably the speaker is about gone. I can’t even remember where I hid it.

Time lapse photography catches the turn signals and flashing lights on the dash, but, of course, you can’t see them blinking! Click on images to enlarge.

Here they are;

Click on images to enlarge.

If I was building this today, I would use a transformer and a wire with a plug. Back then I was taking it to shows where finding an outlet was difficult if your category was in the middle of the model room!

This next build is a Testerossa that has been on my shelf for at least ten years. It comes with a stamped steel body that is pre-painted. The paint job on this one sucks, so I will sand it down and paint it a Ferrari Yellow. Everybody does red, I like red, but I also like to be different. At the moment, I have no drastic detailing plans. If possible, I will make working features but as I have yet to really look at it, so I’m not sure!

Here are some photos.

Click on images to enlarge.

Click on images to enlarge.

My only plan so far is to sand it all down to a nice surface, give it some undercoat, then a high gloss coat of yellow and let it harden for a few months! Yeah, they are mostly red, but I wanna do a yellow one! Here is a pic of the one I want to build.

The weather was fantastic, so I did some painting outside. Whenever possible, I always like to paint outdoors as the sun is brighter than any light setup and you can see every tiny flaw. The Kit I am using has a pre painted black body with a cream colored interior. I didn’t like either, so, I went in search of a real car, yellow exterior, natural leather interior with the gunmetal dash and trim. Found it!

Here is the kit body before I started on it. Click on images to enlarge.

Then, here is the car I want to simulate. Click on images to enlarge.

So, I sanded the body completely to prepare for the base coat. Since this was a kit that’s selling on the web for almost a thousand dollars, The thought of messing it up was a consideration. I closed my eyes and went for it!

Click on images to enlarge.

Once that is behind you, the rest is just routine!

Here is a shot of the interior I wanted to replicate.

So, After cleaning the interior parts, I painted the dash and other trim with gunmetal.

Click on images to enlarge.

Then I used this color to replicate the natural leather. It will work after a couple of tricks to come later.

Next comes the undercoat, the primer for the new yellow paint job. Click on images to enlarge.

So far, so good, if the weather is still great tomorrow, I’ll give the exterior several coats of the bright yellow finish coats. This thing is so large, the exterior paint job is somewhat prone to running of the paint. There is a fine line between a good coat of paint that covers and one that will show dark areas due to insufficient paint. The only way to get this right is with lots of very light coats built up one at a time.

I have a little advantage because way back when, I had a part time job with The Sharper Image doing custom paint jobs for the Pocher kits while I was still a cop. I got $200 for each paint job. It came in very handy back in the 80s. Cops weren’t paid anything near what they are today!

OK! Got it painted. I used 3 coats of primer and 5 coats of gloss Ferrari Yellow. Here are some pics.

Click on images to enlarge.

A side view.

Rear window frame/engine cover, Rear panel and front hood cover.

The headlight covers and the rear view mirrors. Click on images to enlarge.

The headlight frames.

Doors. Click on images to enlarge.

Rear shot of body.

Three quarter front. Click on images to enlarge.

Another shot of the front and rear hood and trunk covers.

And finally, a shot from the front. Click on images to enlarge.

I’m pretty happy with the paint, no flaws that I can find. Now, I’ll set it aside to cure for a month or so!

Since getting into the kit, particularly the engine, I noticed something I really dislike. As you can see below, a photo of the real Testerossa engine, note the valve covers. They are finned aluminum and have embossed Ferrari and Testerossa letters in the metal. Click on images to enlarge.

However, the kit parts are smooth and you get a decal to simulate them.

I began working on the engine today. BTW, I found a company who sells these in resin for $180. Just the resin engine!!!!! Well, it is big! Click on images to enlarge.

I decided I couldn’t live with the decal, so I found some tiny plastic letters that have been laying around forever, pulled some Evergreen strips the right size to make the cooling fins, and went to work. Here are the letters and strip and then the completed valve covers.

Then after painting them magnesium, I think they will work. I will paint the rectangle red and after drying, the letters and the cooling fin tops magnesium. Click on images to enlarge.

While at it, I painted the basic block and the heads. Click on images to enlarge.

And the heads.

Well, here’s an update on the Ferrari engine. All the engine parts come in a grey or black plastic color. There are no chrome, copper or brass parts in the kit. Click on images to enlarge.

The metallic appearance was done using buffable polished steel paint, mixed with a tiny bit of gloss Royal blue. Then buffed to a high finish when dry. I added a lot of wiring, (But not nearly all), at this stage I made plastic looms for the brass wiring under the heads of each side, lots of PE brass parts from the scrap box and so on.

Click on images to enlarge.

I added the fan belt stiffener blades with slots in the center from plastic strip.

Click on images to enlarge.

I have started on the frame so I set the engine on the mounts temporarily for a photograph. Believe me, this will be much more busier when finished.

Click on images to enlarge.

I think it will look very convincing in a photograph when completed. That is if my luck holds out and I don’t mess it up! Click on images to enlarge.

OK, I finished up the Ferrari Interior. I was surprised that a kit as expensive as the Pocher kits were, it didn’t have any carpeting in the interior. I got some with the appropriate color from a doll house shop and started carpeting. Most of this is out of the box with some paint, but I added details here and there such as the seat belts and some clear glass, Micro slips, (The micro thin covers for microscope slides), cut with a diamond stereo needle to fit, for the instrument panels. I took styrene rod, painted it the color of the interior and then laid it on the edges of the carpet as real floor covering has carpet edging made of vinyl. It has working steering and suspension, so, as I’m not following the instruction sheets much, I had to keep that in mind when installing the steering wheel.

Here are some pics!

Click on images to enlarge.

Click on images to enlarge.

Well, I had enough time to finish up this monster. BTW, if anybody tells you these Pocher kits are an easy build, forget it. What a pain in the butt! Anyway, it’s complete and I’m calling it finished.

Here is a shot of the side, everything is displayed open.

A different angle. Click on images to enlarge.

Four shots of the engine compartment. I always put a lot of detail in the engines and then most of it gets covered up when they are dropped in.

Click on images to enlarge.

A couple of interior shots., Again a lot of lost detail. Click on images to enlarge.

A shot of the luggage compartment. Click on images to enlarge.

From the Front.

From the rear.

Through the windshield. Click on images to enlarge.

One last shot with a comparison with a 1/32 scale MGTC. The Ferrari weighs about 30 pounds. It is really heavy!

That’s all folks, bedebedebede!