Sunday, January 30, 2011

Hot Wheels Custom 62 Chev Pickup - Code 3 - Part 1

According to the Hot Wheels Wiki:
The Custom '62 Chevy was designed by Hot Wheels Designer Rob Matthes for the 2008 New Models Series. This great casting features a chrome pick-up bed with a small slot in it to hold a surf board steady. Hot Wheels Collectors were blown away by Robs' design. The Custom '62 Chevy has become one of the most collected and sought after castings in 2008 and it's easy to see why.
I quite like the shape of this casting, and while not a big fan of pickups or utes, I do like flatbed towtrucks. I looked at the 62 Chev, looked at the Back Slider and a metaphorical incandescent light globe went off above my head. I would build a flatbed towtruck! 
The donor casting, a Custom 62 Chev from the 2009 Rebel Rides series. 
Here is the clean and tidy work area. Since this, I have built a dedicated workbench. I used a small saw to cut the bed off, in fact I had two attempts as I wasn't satisfied with attempt 1. Fortunately this proved to be beneficial as once I measured the flatbed - and the car the completed towtruck would carry (which shall remain a surprise for now) I realised this baby would need to be a 6 wheeler, lest it look foolish and just weird. 
 This helps to get cuts straight. I know I should use a dremel tool, but sometimes Im old school. 
 This is attempt 1, note the roof and cabin cuts aren't quite straight. To the wreckers yard!
Attempt 2 - much better. Reassembled with interior and partial base. In the upper right hand corner you can see the two rear wheel sets, carefully trimmed and glued together. The cabin and wheels are resting on a piece of paper I sketched the flatbed wraparound on, several times. I will cut it out and then transfer it to 0.5 mm plastic card when I am satisfied with the design, but thats a bit premature.
The flatbed towtruck tray, donated from a Hot Wheels Back Slider. It has been shortened slightly, to suit the car it will be moving around, and also so that the 62 Chev didn't look too ridiculous. Its going to be slammed low, so it doesn't need any more help. 
Getting the wheelbase right took several attempts. I have carved a temporary chassis section in balsa wood. When I'm happy I will transfer the dimensions to plastic square tubing and make a pair of chassis rails to support the flatbed. 
At the end of the first session I had separated the cab from the bed, cut down the Back Slider tray, figured out a wheelbase, joined the two rear wheel assemblies together and sketched up some rear wraparound designs. 

Now I need to buy some paint and plastic sheet. Come back for Part Two soon.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Interview with Tony Hanna - Model Maker

Last year I published an article on the history of the Leyland P76 in diecast, for the National P76 Magazine which is issued every two years to coincide with the P76 Nationals. The article was well received, and one of the most interesting aspects of preparing it was talking to Tony Hanna, the model maker who designed the model for Trax. With his permission, I am placing the interview on my blog for all people interested in diecast to get a feel of the process involved in delivering a car from concept to market, from the model makers perspective. 

Tony Hanna Interview 

How long have you been involved with diecast models ?

I’ve been a freelance model builder since the 1960’s. I've spent about 15 years with Trax. The first model I did for them was the 1:24 scale FJ Holden. My trade is as a hand letterer, so I suppose I am pretty good at making exact copys of things.

Recently I have been working with John Pisani (of Models 56) and if you saw the GTR-X, the FC Holden, the McCormack Charger and the Bartlett Camaro, those were mine. I’ve got my own company ‘Modelcraft Miniatures’ and I will be producing the ‘Captain Nitrous’ FJ Holden drag car, the Broadspeed Mini and the Holden Hurricane in the near future.

How did you become involved with the Trax Leyland P76 ?

Rob Hill (owner of Trax) said we would do the P76. We went over to Joe Greens house and measured his cars and took photos. I think Rob knew of Joe Green through their wives who both had an interest in art. Anyway we ended up over at Joe Greens one afternoon and used his cars as the reference for the P76.

(Joe Green is a major figure in the Leyland movement, and also owns the Force 7 that Trax based their 2010 resin release on)
P76 Super in Bold as Brass yellow

What is the process involved in creating a diecast model ?

Well you start by doing the research. Locating a car, or several taking lots of photos and making measurements. Then you rough it out by scaling the photos onto clear film. The three measurements I work from are 1:1, 1:21.5 and 1:43. 

You make a rough body shape mould in1:21.5 scale out of Styrofoam and plastibond, as close as possible to the car you are working from. You go over and over and over, sanding it down and looking at it from every angle. I use typically 80-100 photos of the car from every angle. Slowly you work the rough mould down until you are happy.

The body shape mould then, in the case of the P76, went back and forth between Robert, Joe and myself until everyone was happy. Sometimes measurements aren’t perfect and a little bit of artistic licence is required. 

The body shape mould is in 1:21.5 which is twice the size of the finished 1:43 model. It is a solid shape with door lines, windows etc. This mould then goes to China where it is copied in plastic in 1:21.5. This then comes back to Trax, where we can make corrections and compared with the body shape mould and photos. It then gets sent back to China when Trax are satisfied.

At the model factory in China it then gets pulled apart again and CAD Cammed using spark eroding equipment (basically measuered by lasers and fed into a computer) into whatever scale you want. For the Leyland it was 1:43. 

These measurements in the computer are then used to make the moulds. One platen is made for the metal components, the body, bonnet, boot and doors and one for the plastic parts – the interior and the glass. Being in the computer, you can make the car in whatever scale you like now. 

With the new moulds, a tooling run is done first, and these turn out a few cars which are assembled and measured. They can airfreight these things back to Trax overnight, and of course everything is email and digital photos these days as well. Once Trax are happy with the patterns, they are case hardened. These are the moulds which will be used in production.

When you are making a car, you have to book your slot in with the Chinese factory a few months in advance. Typically a car will take from 4 to 6 weeks to make, but sometimes it can take longer. Once the moulds are complete and the plastic and metal parts are being made, they are then fettled. This involves taking sprue and casting flash off. The parts are put into big barrels and tumbled to get the rough edges off. They are then painted and assembled in various phases. The Chinese also do all the packaging. 

What happens when there are problems with a car, like an incorrect detail or trim etc?

Once Trax has signed off on a model, the cars that come back are 99% the same as what was signed off on. The Chinese do everything casting, fettling, painting and packaging. I do recall the 1:24 XA Falcon GT in Purple with white interior arrived at Trax with black door trims. They were all sent back to China and replaced with white door trims.  

Have you ever visited the Chinese model factories?

No I had the opportunity to visit one of the factories, Hongwell, where they make the Cararama models a few years ago with Robert, but I didn’t go. 
Is making diecst models a passion or a job ?

A passion! For stuff I like anyway! Sometimes its just a job, when I work on cars I don’t really like. Then again, when I started on the Trux buses they were just a job, but now I love them.

How do you go about making sure the really fine detail is captured when you are working in small scales such as 1:43 ?

I go to my photos and say it’s a badge, I will copy into Adobe Illustrator and blow it up 16 times. Then reduce it to the scale I need, first 1:21.5 and then 1:43. Those sorts of things are largely decals not cast parts. 

When making a model, sometimes there has to be compromises between accuracy and human perspective. Were there any compromises on the P76 model ?

I don’t recall. I know it was a totally new model. When I did the HR and HD models, I did the HD first and got a few things wrong, mainly around the windows. When the HR came out using the same basic pattern, somehow the Chinese had got it wrong and it was slightly warped. The P76 is fine though.

Was it a conscious design decision to make the Trax model with a separate headlight grill part so that Trax could use the P76 pattern to build a Deluxe single headlight version in the future  ?

Not by me, I think it was always going to be a twin headlight model. 

Once the model is accepted by Trax, how much input do you have into colour selection ?

Colour selection is 60% me, 40% Trax. Robert selected the first three colours. I do all the artwork for them though. I know Robert doesn’t like letting the first cars go out with the best colours.

Advertisement in Trax catalogue from 2004 for the release of the first three P76 models from Trax. The same casting has been used as recently as 2010.

Did you work on the Targa Florios ?

I did the artwork for them yes.

What about the mag wheels ?

I don’t do wheels, the Chinese have a wheel guy. When I work on the master body mould, I usually just have four discs where the wheels go.

How did you feel when Trax proclaimed the P76 release a dud and dumped their stock of cars at firesale prices ?

What can I do! Its their stock. I think that the decision to do the Targa, and those were sold out I believe, justifys the decision by Trax to do the P76.

Do you still have any of the Trax P76’s ?

Yes I still have the first three cars and one of the Targas.

Thanks for your time Tony. 

Talking to Tony Hanna was a fascinating experience, and his info helped me in researching the article published in the P76 National Magazine. That article will be published on this blog after a major revision, as some new information on the P76 diecast model history has only just come to light! 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Aldi stocking Welly diecast sets

Last week I wandered into Aldi and while buying some blue cheese, spotted two sets of diecast cars. I snapped a photo on my phone of the sets and emailed them off to a diecast tragic 'Russ' who specialises in the garishly decorated Chinese made end of the diecast collecting pool. He instantly identified them as Welly manufactured cars.
I decided to take a punt and have a look at the cars, and at $14.99 each for 20 cars, it seemed like a low cost bet. I know a few kids who will enjoy getting some new diecast to play with, less the ones I will add to the Capital Diecast Garage.

There were two sets for sale, each with 20 cars. One had a Yellow box, and the other has a Red box. The cars in each box are a mix of well executed 1:64 scale cars, with good paint and accurate representation of the real car - to bizarre caricatures and oddly presented cars loosely based on the real thing. In this review, I will only assess the diecast cars that look like the real thing, and how many are in each set.
The Yellow set has 13 cars that are well made and accurate representations of the real car. This means that 7 dont meet my high standards, and will be sent off to small children in Queanbeyan to punish.
 Nice VW Kombi, a Ford Crown Victoria in Police livery, and a TV Van.
 Mercedes Wagon, Astra, BMW and Audi TT
The Porsche is oddly out of scale, and after I took this photo I put it in the 'Queanbeyan Toy' pile. Welly have selected castings from different parts of their range to meet the Aldi price point. Some are nice, others a little crude. 
 Citreon convertible, New VW Convertible and a nice Porsche convertible.
 BMW convertible, New Mini, Porsche 356 convertible and the discarded Porsche 935. Look how nice the 356 is, compared to the crude 935. 
 If you dont have these cars in your collection, then these sets are a quick way to add some well made representatives to your tiny car garage.
 I do like this Kombi.
 Apart from the chrome wheels, this is comparable to the Matchbox Kombi, and the Welly roof is one piece without that annoying plastic insert the Matchbox Kombi has.
 The Porsche 356 is nice as well, easily comparable to Siku or Matchbox, apart from those wheels.
 Front of the Red box.
 The rear of each box is identical apart from the colour. 
 The Red box had ten cars I found acceptable. 
Lamborghini Diablo, Mercedes Sedan, Opel Roadster, Renault convertible, Porsche Cayman, Mercedes Convertible, Ford Sedan, VW Golf, New VW Beetle sedan and a Lamborghini Countach. 
 The Lamborghini is out of scale compared to the other cars, but I think Welly are shooting for a total dimension size and all the cars do fit into the 'three inch' family of diecast cars. 
 This Mercedes convertible is beautiful. Even the wheels suit it. This car will not only stay in my collection, but will go on display. 
 I'm a sucker for Countach's so this car is a keeper as well. Not as well executed as the Matchbox version, but nice for its size.

Welly obviously dont need my advice on how to make and market their diecast cars, but I think if they focussed on better wheels that suited each car, instead of those atrocious blingy wheels on nearly everything - then they would become more collectible than they are now. Obviously these sets are marketed at kids and 99% of the sets sold will end up being flogged in sand pits and bedroom floors, but among the toys are a few little diecast gems. To a diecast collector, thats a win.

Overall, do I think I got $30 of value out of these two sets of cars ? Sure. I will keep about a third of the cars, give the rest to kids and sell the others. Welly cars are not always easy to find, even though they specialise in making cars for other brand and are experts in sets such as these - sometimes its hard to find  specific car in a specific colour scheme. It was a pure fluke I saw these cars at Aldi, and knowing Aldi, they may not reappear.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Canberra Diecast Swapmeet 2011 ?

I'm thinking of organising a diecast swapmeet in Canberra.

Any suggestions would be helpful, as i've not organised one before.

As a primarily small scale collector, that is what Im aiming for - and i'd also like genuine 'swapping' instead of just rows of professional stall holders. Im not sure how I arrange or encourage that. I think a mix would be best.

There were quite a few diecast stall holders at the car shows i've been to in the region, so there must be a space for a dedicated diecast swapmeet. I asked at the Canberra Model Vehicles Collector Club about swapmeets and they said that they held them to attract new members, and they weren't getting any new members, so they stopped.

Well, I collected for 20 plus years before I joined any club, and I think i'd like to organise one just so I can shake Canberra diecast collectors out of the tree and see if they want to trade their treasures.

If Canberra based readers read this - please share your thoughts.

Anyone else with swapmeet organising experience - I'm keen on your advice as well.

I'm not imagining i'd need to rent EPIC, but I was impressed by the model railroaders use of the Kaleen high school Gym for their swapmeet last year.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Diecast Wrecking Yard Diorama

I thought I'd drop by the local diecast wreckers in my new matchbox Commodore VE Ute and see if I could find a grille for a 62 Chevy Pickup Ive been wrenching on.
 I've heard these guys have a little bit of everything.
 They just carted away an old van.
 Thats way too much for a 40 year old Dodge.
That Lotus is nice, too bad its doors wont open.
 Enrico is cutting off the front of that car with his gas axe.
Darren the owner, told me to look over there for the grille, and waved his hand in this direction...
 Hey is that the grille on the roof of that Jag ? 

I might ask Enrico to get that 9 inch out of the Galaxie when hes finished on that panel van. 

Hey there's that grille! Looks like I'll be able to finish that Code 3 of the 62 Chev after all! It was on the bonnet of that sad old primered wreck.

Can you name all the cars and diecast manufacturers in this diorama ?