Models, Chapter 1: Who Knew

October 15, 2014 Comments (0)

By Marshall Buck

Who knew…? I certainly didn’t have a clue where my hobby would eventually take me. When I first started building model cars on the side (in the 1970s) I was doing so just to supplement some of the money I was spending on my model addiction; I had no intention of doing this as full time work, nor of honing my skills to the level they are at today. It just happened over time - many years, which were fraught with blood, sweat and tears. It’s a long story, but suffice to say, I do realize that I am very fortunate to have been able to turn my hobby into a full time business, though this road, which I partially chose, has at times been equivalent to everything from a rough goat path to the autobahn. I am truly passionate about automobiles, and my work, which is the only reason I am still at it. There are certainly easier ways to earn a living, and at times the position of Assistant French-Fry Manager at the local McDonald’s has looked pretty damn good.

Several years ago in California, at Automobilia Monterey, I was displaying my wares including my partially completed scratch-built model of the one-off Ferrari 375 MM “Rossellini” (yes the same car that won Pebble Beach Best of Show this year). During Automobilia, I was approached about making a scratch built model of a Ferrari 250 SWB by the owner of one. His steed happened to be a spectacular alloy bodied SWB S/N 1905GT, which he also happened to have driven over to the show! We went outside and I briefly looked at the car. We discussed how I work, what he wanted, and agreed on this commission. Later in the week my wife and I went over to his home, well… one of his homes, where this car and a few others were, which was a necessary trip in order to gather more detailed information, photos, and notes.

When I take on a commission for a scratch built model I always have to see the real car in person. But since this commission came about suddenly I did my preliminary work a little differently than usual. Normally, prior to seeing the car in person, I always gather some photos and information to help me prepare, so that I can make many of my own drawings before I travel to see the car which is when I will later fill in my drawings with numerous dimensions, and take many photos… anywhere from several hundred to a couple of thousand. The information required all depends on what I may already have, the level of detail required for the build, and the car itself. This also directly applies to the making of the “patterns” or “master models” for all of my CMA Models limited edition production runs. The patterns are made from scratch, but the engineering and some processes vary since we obviously make more than one of each for the limited editions. I put an extensive amount of my time and money into thorough research for my editions just the same as I do for my scratch built models.

Challenges, best laid plans, nothing goes exactly according to plan, it looked good in theory, blah, blah, blah… I’m sure most of you are familiar with the saying “Jack of all trades, master of none.” That is sometimes how I feel with my automotive knowledge. I know of an extensive amount of automobiles from obscure to common, their various manufacturers, and countless bits of minutia that I probably can’t trade for a cup of coffee. I know a lot about Ferrari, and so many of its one-offs and production variants made since the beginning; HOWEVER, that amount of knowledge occasionally backfires. It sometimes makes me a little too complacent. Sooo, in the department of “nothing goes according to plan” … I can report that all the Gremlins there are still gainfully employed. Stay with me here.

I’ve had access to quite a few SWBs over many years, and in the early 1990s, my biz produced a 1:24th scale limited edition production run of a Ferrari 250 SWB, which was a great model for the time, and now, maybe just a very good model. Made two versions, race and road. We produced models of a late series SWB, specifically S/N 2735GT. Much to my chagrin, and in addition to all the countless known detail differences listed by the many experts; I came to find that there is also quite a difference in body work between what I refer to as early and late series cars, which is NOT written about. Much more so than I have found listed in any books. There is a substantial difference in the arc/top sweep of front and rear fenders, as well as grill shape and opening size. Roof line varies as well and not just in regard to the early “cut corners” a top, the backs of the door windows. The SWB I was commissioned to make in 1:12 scale is an early series car.

I used to make all of my bodies completely by hand cutting, milling, carving, shaping a material called RenShape. This was arduous to say the least, and always nerve-racking. These days, my work is a mixture of old world craftsmanship with some modern technology thrown in, but still heavy on making the vast majority of parts by hand, one at a time, piece by piece, and on and on. Now, in the case of the bodies, I create most of them by working with a brilliant CAD modeler where we use my drawings, measurements, and photos to create a virtual 3D body, which is far less stressful than my traditional method, but still takes a huge amount of time and hands on. We go back and forth for a few months with renderings sent to me, which I adjust until we get something that is about 95% to where I need it to be. This type of work with a computer can only take you so far. The rest is done by hand. However, I did not work with my CAD modeler on this model, nor did I carve the body from RenShape. Please read on.

Regardless of which way one chooses to work, you must still have a good eye for the shapes, details, and so on, which I do have; otherwise you will still get garbage, which is close to what you get when using another process such as 3D scanning and increasing the size of the part from what was scanned. Any flaws in the original get amplified in whatever is made larger. I had a small body 3D scanned to make a big one. Don’t ask me why; it just seemed like a good idea at the time.

My on the job training continues. It looked good in theory. You really can’t do it all with a computer and it is always best to fully study something before jumping in. In my rush to get going on this SWB, and in order to save myself some time, and make things a bit easier for myself (Ha!!), and also justify my adding a full chassis/frame which I normally don’t do, I decided to have a 1:18 body 3D scanned and enlarged to 1:12 scale. Long story short, 3D scanning is best left to reducing an item in size, not enlarging it. Prepping the smaller body and correcting some of its flaws took more time than expected, as did the scanning, which also cost more money than expected, and then aside from time needed to correct various amplified imperfections, I discovered how very, very different the bodies are of early vs. late series cars. After I grabbed the closest case of Pinot Noir I could find, I sat down, made my list, and arranged to see another early series SWB near to me, from which I could gather the missing needed dimensions and information. Then I reshaped, by hand, the entire body from nose to tail.

Early stage of adding material to tops of fenders. Strips in place on front tops are guides for material to be added. And you thought I was joking about the wine?

Early stage of adding material to tops of fenders. Strips in place on front tops are guides for material to be added. And you thought I was joking about the wine?

Material added to tops of front fenders.

Material added to tops of front fenders.

Rear fender tops to be reshaped, and you'll see that wheel opening has also been revised, which I had to do to all four wheel openings.

Rear fender tops to be reshaped, and you'll see that wheel opening has also been revised, which I had to do to all four wheel openings.

I had my master body molded and cast for strength and back up. On the left is the revised grill opening, and on the right is what I started with. Still more work to do.

I had my master body molded and cast for strength and back up. On the left is the revised grill opening, and on the right is what I started with. Still more work to do.

Signal light bulges from later style are now removed and filled in, and front duct vents penciled in ready to be cut out.

Signal light bulges from later style are now removed and filled in, and front duct vents penciled in ready to be cut out.

The reshaped body ready for primer to check overall shape, and any areas needing more adjustment.

The reshaped body ready for primer to check overall shape, and any areas needing more adjustment.

Of course there is always more shaping to do that shows up after priming the body; mostly the fender tops. All the little dots are primer spotted in to fill numerous dimples/air holes in the body filler. The body gets primed again for a final check, then polished, then sent out for a mold and a few castings to be made.

Of course there is always more shaping to do that shows up after priming the body; mostly the fender tops. All the little dots are primer spotted in to fill numerous dimples/air holes in the body filler. The body gets primed again for a final check, then polished, then sent out for a mold and a few castings to be made.

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