1) I choose a car not already produced commercially in 1/12 scale. In this way my effort will be unique I hope, providing surprise and delight to those of you already familiar with Tamiya, Revell, Bandai, MG Model Plus and Protar 1/12 scale offerings. Sometimes a car I have already built, is coincidentally offered by such as MG Model Plus at a later date (eg Matra MS10, Ferrari 312B3), however whether any/many of these were ever purchased and built, is the question to ask.
2) I have to express the same view as my friends in Formula One modelling ‘….now, I’d really like to see that in 1/12 scale’.
3) My choice would be further based on respect and admiration for a particular driver and their achievements in a particular car, or the sheer beauty of design or mechanical expression of a particular car.
At this point, the head must rule the heart and be sure it is practical to achieve these high ambitions; for instance, I must be able to find a suitable set of wheels, tyres, a gearbox perhaps and an engine block. I don’t worry anymore about managing to produce all the mechanical components or the variety of 3-D shape variations of bodywork, but I do have to concern myself with how I might acquire decals and this is often the hardest part. Finally, I have to be confident in the quality and quantity of research.
Update – In more recent years since this website was originally written (2010), model kits in 1/12 scale have also been offered by the Japanese firm Model Factory Hiro, in much greater quality and detail than those previously by MG model Plus for example. These are supplemented by those in 1/20 and 1/43 scale too and I did acquire one 1/20 kit, the Lotus 56B for example as a research subject to my own prototype in 1/12 scale whilst studying the real car at Classic Team Lotus. I have noticed many of my once one-off 1/12 scale models appearing in similar detail eg Lotus 49, Tyrrell 006 (with the 1975 007 in upgrade form from the Tamiya P34 model), McLaren M19A and most recently the Honda RA300. My own versions while not sparing effort etc, often remain more precise and detailed in certain areas, however where justified it is very interesting and enjoyable to receive and examine some of these for the sake of retrospective comparison. I very much look forward to building examples of MFH in 1/12 scale that I have purchased, when future opportunity allows. For us in the UK, suppliers such as Hiroboy are invaluable and are also a source of the Joe Honda series of phonebooks on specific years and even the cars themselves. It is with sadness I note that founder Mr Misao Hiro, passed away on Tuesday, June 20th, 2023 due to illness. We thank him most sincerely, for translating his passion for the subject into a commercial operation to make such wonderful model kits available for us to purchase over the years.
Research: This is derived in a variety of ways, but…
1) The foundation for me is to be able to see the car for myself and be able to measure and photograph it. Otherwise, photographs in reference books, the Internet, or from collections such as LAT are invaluable for providing period information. Contacting a willing and generous member of an associated historic team, or one of several very helpful providers of race-preparation services to historic entrants in the various Historic Racing series, is all part of the chase and a very rewarding aspect of the hobby. Contacts made at the Goodwood Festival of Speed for instance have proved especially kind and helpful.
2) Next, it is a question of spending as much time with the car as possible, preferably in a state of total rebuild so that measurements and drawings and photographs can be amassed to provide me with my own ‘instruction manual’ for each car.
3) From this data, (for some of the more recent subjects and those in planning) I have produced a set of detailed drawings in 1/12 scale of the whole monocoque (two or three projections) and the general arrangement in order to derive appropriate ‘fit’ for all the parts and especially the drivetrain at the rear and the front/rear suspension geometry. From these, larger than 1/12 scale drawings are needed of each model part to be made, rationalised from the more complex full size part; this is especially needed if the item is to be made on the lathe.
Materials: A range of thicknesses of plasticard, plastic square-section stock and other profiles, aluminium tube and brass rod with a whole range of adhesives (polystyrene glues eg Plastic Weld, cyanoacrylates, Araldytes, contact adhesives, also PVA, J-B Weld etc) formed the basis of most of my work along with Milliput as a mouldable two-part resin for the 3-D surface shapes of the bodywork; some leather has been used too.
This ‘multi-media’ approach was boosted by a gift of ‘no longer required’ steel wire and tube in a wide range of diameters from an oro-facial reconstructive surgeon that I knew as a client, a few years ago, – thank you.
This acquisition acted as a catalyst in the production of replacement parts that look so much more realistic than the plastic originals within a Tamiya kit for instance. In more recent months, this has extended to the production of parts from mainly aluminium/brass bar on a lathe (thanks Andy W), very satisfying.
Methods: Moulding parts in two part putties (Milliput usually, or the harder material Sylmasta putty) and endless sanding and filling has been the mainstay of producing unique parts. These should be dimensionally correct, but also ‘look right’, having the essential nuances of the original part. The aim is to develop strategies of making these parts as thin as possible so achieving as near scale-thickness as possible. For hollow items, I have developed a system of male (solid buck) and female parts, forming the final piece within the female aspect of the mould – labour intensive maybe, but necessary and worthwhile from my point of view.
The use of a variety of steel wire/tube I was gifted along with the aluminium/brass tube/rod has been a very helpful supplement and was my only means to replace parts, until I acquired a lathe. Now I can ‘surface’ and ‘turn’ shapes including tapered items and I have the beginnings of some extra special additions to improve the models further. This has transformed the possibilities of scratch-building parts that would have formerly been made from modified plastic parts from yet another Tamiya kit. I’m not skilful with the lathe in the true sense of the word and cannot work outside my limited achievements thus far; this aspect of truthful self-assessment characterises the fact I am not a professional model maker who would never make one-off’s and spend so much time getting a desired result, as I do. Acquiring some parts from discarded materials used in my veterinary work has proved very helpful and many a car has a nostalgic veterinary connection. My favourite activity is in strategic planning and problem solving and then making the parts that would have perhaps otherwise, seemed impossible.
Another aspect of the work has involved the production of a single ‘master’ which could be used as a pattern, which a very kind friend (Brian Fawcett) prepared for resin casting. In this way multiple copies of some improved parts were made for incorporation in the models.
Super-detailing an F1 model is one of the key elements and none more so than for the engine and gearbox. In these areas I take great care in achieving an end product that is as realistic and complete as I reasonably can, for this is an area that can bring about a lasting good impression.
The whole car will be made in all its various parts, larger inner and outer monocoque parts, engine block etc, right down the myriad of small parts, many stored in self-seal poly bags and everything at least spray painted in grey primer and having gone through numerous mini to maxi dry-fit procedures. All that is needed after approximately a year of work is the final colour spray and then actually building the model. On one example (Lotus 49/R1), the final colour spraying and building had to happen over a single month in order to meet the deadline and involved what felt like many ‘all-nighters’. The decals and the commissioned gearbox not arriving until eight days before that deadline, final aspects of the decaling and painting being applied early on the morning of the event, at which the model was first shown. All the more recent subjects have been built in such a way they can be taken apart again, eg to release the monocoque from front and rear suspension/engine via appropriately placed pins (replicating the bolts used in the real car), which are not glued in place.
Painting the models has never been my strongest quality, however, I have been diligent and taken much advice from colleagues, some of whom will be reading this – thank you. The results of using mainly canned automotive acrylic sprays, airbrushed enamel paints and Alclad lacquers have been adequate and in some ways avoid doing that aspect of the work so well that the results no longer look ‘period’. I understand the original cars were usually not so well painted as they appear nowadays in restored examples, or as models. There are those who have taught me much (Mike Easter, Richard Hewer, Shane Price and Andy Wright) whose skills include exceptional final presentation in paintwork, which I can’t hope to emulate.
Decals have been produced in a variety of ways, namely on a PC and via jet-printer onto white decal paper. Some of these I then further worked to hand-cut until the final result was satisfactory. I have had one fortunate opportunity (Roger Evans) to have decals produced on an Oki printer (ie capability of printing in white) and have found another willing Oki printing enthusiast (Paul Robson), whilst not being afraid to pay for the privilege. Those decals produced in the latter way were by far the more superior for various reasons.
I have been able to adapt part of my workshop into a photographic studio and take most of the photographs seen here with a digital SLR. It’s important for me to record a step-by-step approach as each model is built in order to later recall a method and because even though some areas of the car are later essentially invisible, I will have modelled each area to represent all the engineering as it can be seen on the real car. This is because, it is that very engineering I wish to seek understanding about and have visually represented, in order to enjoy. The final photographs are taken in such a way, so as to mimic a real race car being photographed in a white studio, with a very small proportion of these being taken by a professional photographer (Tom Farmer) from whom I learnt much.
MRO, August 2010, (updated October 2023)