Small Talk Issue 20

with Mike Renaut

I’ve just dropped my third unsuccessful attempt at customising the 1953 Studebaker Starliner back in its box; the stock lines just can’t be improved upon. Unless you know better…?

Project ’55

Time to introduce a Small Talk project car, based on AMT’s 1955 Chevy sedan. This isn’t a step-by-step monthly guide since, chances are, you won’t want to build yours exactly like mine anyway. Instead, this is a look at some techniques I use, so every time I do something I think is of interest I’ll photograph it (assuming I remember…).

It’ll be a mild pro-streeter with a strong Sixties gasser vibe. I found a set of Mickey Thompson Sportsman tyres I’d been saving, so the first step was tubbing the Chevy’s floorpan to squeeze them in. The easiest method is to drop in another chassis – the pro street 1966 Nova’s is about the right size – but I decided to narrow the existing one. I made a razor saw cut across the inside of the chassis rails and the floor, removed the fuel tank, then carefully reattached the pieces about 6mm further inboard. This way it retains the original suspension mounts (1).

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I also chopped out the moulded-in exhaust, then used 2mm thick plasticard sheet to fill the gaps (2). Fortunately the stock wheelarch diameter is large enough to fit the MT tyres since they’re only a scale 28 inches tall by 16 wide. You may need to cut out more for your tyres. The new tubs are simply 0.5mm plasticard bent into a semi-circle – if you run a piece of flat card between your thumb and forefinger applying gentle downward pressure it will start to curve, just like using an English wheel. Alternatively, cut the plastic cap from a small aerosol in half.

I connected the chassis rails back together with some plastic box section, then chopped off and remounted the stock leaf springs closer together on the rear axle (3). Now might be the time to find a stronger rear end if you’re planning on fitting a massive engine. I’ll add thin plastic strip to beef up the appearance of the springs. I’ve also cut out the transmission tunnel in anticipation of the next step, but you might want to leave yours in place for now…

Reader’s Models

If you watch Vegas Rat Rods, you’ll immediately recognise these two WelderUp vehicles from the show. Lee Cherone of One20five Scale Automotive Art (find and join the group on Facebook) built both in 1:25 scale, going to great lengths to capture details of the full-size example’s torn metal and extreme patina.

“The D Rod is mostly scratchbuilt from Revell 1931 Ford Model A Tudor kits,” explains Lee. “It was pretty hard cutting them into an accurate 1928 Dodge four-door – I killed four complete kits to do it. The engine block is from an Austin Healey, with the rest scratchbuilt to look like a diesel. I originally made the D Rod as a commission for the WelderUp guys, but they never collected it. So I thought I’d make the iconic Swamp A Peterbilt hauler too, to make more of a display.

“That was a Revell Peterbilt 359 kit and I extended the chassis, removed a rear axle and scratchbuilt the welding gear at the back. Paint is a Halfords green, matched as close as I could. I made my own custom paint mix for the copper corrosion effect, and used a series of browns for the rust on the cab. The grille is mesh and cardboard weathered to match the real one. I enjoyed it; it was fun to research. It’s not exact but, you know, pretty close.”