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    Thought this would be interesting to share an article I wrote on prepping and painting up a vacuum-formed GT40.

    Recently a client of mine ordered a Gulf version of the GT40, and so began working on the car. When finished masking the windows of the body, I realized that I had been working on a car from my reject pile.

    I didn't have any fresh bodies, so was going to have to make a new one for the client. Unfortunately, the mold was in poor shape, so I had to re-work the mold. On previous cars, the headlights had the lense cover molded in. This time, I decided to remove the material from the headlight area and see how the car would look with the light bucket in place.

    So here's some tutorial pictures of the GT40 I made for the client. Recall from the previous paragraph that I started work on a "reject" body? Well... decided that since I had already started on it, sometimes it's best to build up two cars at once. That way I can test my technique on the reject, and use my "honed" skills on the clients car.

    So... here we go. This is a picture looking into my paint room. It's a very small... cozy little room located beneath our front steps. The walls are insulated to cut down the noise, and keeps it warm in the winter. I also have a nice bright halogen lamp and exhaust fan mounted where a window used to be. Works very nice when I'm spraying. Sorry for the yellow/orange cast (halogen's cast a warm hue to everything).

    All images are now here :

    Image 1

    Here's a picture showing the beginings of the prep work. What's not seen is all the cleaning of the boby prior to the application of the liquid mask on the windows.

    Image 2

    I like to use Parma's #701 product. I've had excellent results with it, 100% of the time.

    Image 3

    This is going to be a Gulf version of the GT40, so this one is going to have the orange stripe down the spine, and that really cool spread across the nose. I created templates on the computer that I cut out and apply on the exterior of the shell. This guides me so I don't goof up too badly when painting on the interior of the shell.

    Image 4

    I use Testors Orange acrylic paint for the stripe. It's proven to adhere extremely well to this kind of thermal plastic, not to mention it's very flexible. It usually takes two or three coats to take away the transparency.

    Image 5

    Now, something I've noticed is that even with three coats of paint, you place a dark color behind the orange and you will still see brush strokes. But if you back-coat with paint white over the orange, it brightens up the surface color and hides the brush strokes.

    Image 6

    Just finishing the first coat of white. I'll add a second coat when it dries.

    Image 7

    Here we're starting on the black outline on the orange stripe. I free-hand all my brush painting. It takes a steady hand to apply thin stripes... plus it helps if the paint doesn't blot and run (you might see some of that happening in the pictures). To cool and wonderful thing about painting from the interior of the car, it's easy to correct mistakes like this if it happens over the clear part. But if it happens over the orange stripe, don't worry about it--no one will see the underside!

    Image 8

    Here's the finished stripes. Believe it or not, this process took all week. This kind of detail cannot be rushed. All the paint has to dry for at least 4 hours before starting the next coat of paint.

    Image 9

    Next installment I'll add more pictures as we paint the interior, add panel lines, and paint the exterior details.


    Tim Johnson
    Last edited by Scaleracing; 11-17-2008, 11:49 AM.

  • #2
    Session #2

    I'm going to divide this portion of working on the GT40 into a few parts, even though the work was completed in the same day.

    First, let me take a few steps back. Some time ago I worked out a process for cleaning the bodies after they were molded. First, the body is washed with warm water and dishwashing soap. The body is then rinsed in a mixture of warm water and white vinegar. White vinegar? Some of you may ask; why this stuff? Well... the least expensive method for cleaning windows on your house or car is using vinegar and water. It removes residue that leaves spots on glass.

    The principle is the same. To remove residue spots on clear plastic, using water and vinegar is the best and cheapest route. Plus... there's one additional benefit that comes with using vinegar... it etches plastic.

    Image 10

    Thermal plastic, by it's nature is not a pourous material--it is very slippery. Paint won't stick to it unless the surface is etched, or scratched.

    Vinegar contains a mild acid that etches the surface of the plastic. You know it's working when rubbing the plastic between your fingers. Instead of feeling slippery, your finger prints grip.

    Now... vinegar works great for the bulk of the body... paint holds relatively well. However, on areas of the body that may receive impacts, you need to etch the plastic a little more.

    There's a couple of favored ways to do this. One is to use ultra-fine Steel Wool. Yes... steel wool. Sounds crazy, but it's true. I was a skeptic until I tried it. However, Steel Wool is treated with oil, and it leaves oil all over the place. Since we're already started on painting, steel wool isn't a good option. So the next best material is ultra-fine sand paper.

    Image 11

    You want to rub the interior areas around the wheel wells, fenders, and rocker panels (area below the side doors). Avoid rubbing the sand paper on the mask over the windows.

    Afterwards, remove the plastic dust using a mixture of vinegar and water, applied with a clean cotton ball.

    Image 13

    Now the next important thing to know about before you paint, is how to clean your equipment. I use Automotive paints and thinners, so I use an inexpensive grade of automotive paint thinner for cleaning bottles and my air brush. The critical thing to remember is that it is illegal, and unhealthy to dump automotive paint thinner into the sink. So I keep old jars with sealed caps to store my used thinner until I can take them to the chemical recycling center.

    Image 14

    The next thing I do is clean up the paint room before I spray. I replace the paper on the wall and on the table. I use freezer paper that comes on a roll. Then I get all the equipment out that I'm going to need; Respirator, air brush, air brush hose, paint bottle(s), paint, thinner, mixing stick, and pipettes.

    Image 15

    First, we open the paint and mix it thoroughly. I'm using a popcicle stick (it's a little short for this job). Want to mix this stuff really...really well.

    Image 16

    I use automotive paints because I have much better results than I do with modeling paints. I can also have the colors mixed to an exact color match to whatever I need. The guys at the paint store are AWESOME. They will mix any amount of paint you desire. From a small little bottle, pint, quart, or gallon. And in the long run (if you paint as often as I do) it is less expensive. Another tip on automotive paints... there is a huge number of different colors to choose from, and you might find one shade of color by one company is MORE expensive than that for another company. So it pays to shop their paint color catalogs for awhile and ask the guys each time how much it will cost to mix. You'd be surprised, some colors are 2 and 4 times more expensive than others.

    Now the next step is to add some paint thinner. I usually mix 1:1 or just 1.5 :1 (thinner : paint). The reason is, sometimes 1:1 is to "dry" and the paint tends to get a "powdery" texture when sprayed. The "wetter" mixture goes on smoother, and adheres better to plastic.

    Image 17

    Well... this is all for the moment. Next we'll mix the paint and prep for spraying.

    Last edited by Scaleracing; 11-17-2008, 11:50 AM.


    • #3
      Session #3

      Now that our thinner is in the bottle (I use a pipette to get the exact amount needed... 3 fills) it's time to add the paint. I can use the same pipette that I used for the thinner, this way I don't waste a pipette. I add 2 fills of paint to the thinner, then rinse out the pipette by pulling up thinner from the bottle and squeezing it back out to mix the paint. I do this a few times.

      Image 18

      Now... the seal on my bottle covers is pretty much toast, so I use Wax Paper to re-seal the bottle. Then I shake the bottle thoroughly to mix the paint and thinner. Now... shelf life of mixed paint and thinner is pretty short... maybe one or two weeks... then it's best to start over with a clean batch.

      Image 19

      We're almost ready to begin painting. I clear off the bench of the unecsentials.

      Image 20

      And one of the last things to do before painting is to put on the respirator. Safety is always first with me, especially when it comes to breathing. I also fire up the exhaust fan and close the paint room door so all the fumes stay in the paint room and are exausted outside.

      1mage 21

      It's pretty darn difficult to show me painting a body when I'm the only one awake at 5:30 in the morning, so the camera goes out to the other room while I paint. One thing that isn't shown is the air compressor. I use a vapor separator/filter on the airline to feed the paint tools clean air. The air pressure aproximately 15 psi.

      Here's a picture of the painted bodies. You'll note that I didn't mask off the bodies with tape or anything. When using an airbrush it isn't necessary. The spray is very focused, and the spread is narrow, maybe 1 inch diameter. It's a very clean process, and only takes about 15 -20 minutes to lay down a couple of coats. Automotive paint dries rapidly, and usually is dry to the touch in about 25 minutes.

      Image 22

      The light blue sets off the orange stripe, doesn't it?

      That's all for this lesson. Next, we start etching panel lines.

      Last edited by Scaleracing; 11-17-2008, 11:52 AM.


      • #4
        Session #4

        Now we're ready to start etching panel lines. Here's the tools we'll need; one ex-acto knife (partially dulled blade) and a bottle of India ink.

        Image 23

        I first saw this process in the 1967 Car Model Technical Journal. It's a time-tested method that's still good today.

        What I do is "drag" the dull blade on the body where I want the panel lines to appear. Sometimes I drag the blade in reverse instead of the sharp edge forward... works better around curved lines.

        Here's a fairly decent picture showing the etched lines. Hard to take a good picture when there's no shadows to show the lines.

        Image 24

        Now the next step is to dispense some of the ink into a paint well.

        Image 25

        Using a paint brush, medium round, soft bristle, apply the ink onto the etched lines. If you look closely, you will see some of the ink flowing by itself into the lines. This is called "Capillary action". It's how plants draw water up their stems. Just like the pours in trees.

        Image 26

        We finish the whole body by filling all the etched lines with ink. Looks pretty messy doesn't it? Not to fear! Alcohol bottle and rag are on the job!

        Image 27

        Whew! Here's the cleaned car! Nice panel lines.

        Image 28

        Our next step is to paint BLACK on the car. Flat Black is the base coat for any paints that are applied to the surface of the car. The reason is, black sets off the shadow lines, gasgets, and provides an excellent background for any silver paints.

        I always start with the window trim first. Using my thinnest brush, I apply paint to make only one edge clean and straight. When the paint is almost dry, I start a second line next to the first with it's outside edge straight. This way the lines look nearly perfectly straight and clean. Any blots or spills are easily cleaned with Alcohol and rag or with the edge of my dull ex-acto knife.

        Image 29

        After the window trim, then we paint all the remaining basecoat details.

        Image 30

        Image 31

        Image 32

        Well, that about cover's this session. Next, we'll "Kick it up another notch!" as Emril would say on his cooking show. and add our silver paint and other color details.

        Last edited by Scaleracing; 11-17-2008, 11:53 AM.


        • #5
          Re: Session #4

          Thanks for doing the write up! This should be saved and turned into a full article here on SCI.


          • #6
            Re: Session #4

            I 2nd the motion! Alan please move this to the articles page. Great stuff! Well done!

            Good day, eh!:drivin


            • #7
              Re: Session #4

              Hi Guys!
              Thanks! There's more of the article to come. Just needed to take a break for dinner.

              Last edited by Scaleracing; 11-17-2008, 11:54 AM.


              • #8
                Session #5


                I've been building models most of my life... starting when I was about 4 years old. My modeling & detailing skills blossomed in the late 1970's, and I continue to grow and learn new things as I grow older. Building and detailing scratch-builds is so enjoyable for me. I love finding cool and inventive ways of adding detail elements to all my builds. With all the new technologies we have available, Vac-formed bodies offer so many new and unexpected ways to explore detailing.

                Well... here we are in our Fifth session. We began our first "layer" of detailing with panel lines, did our second layer with black lines... and now we're kicking it up another notch with silver & red signal light paint.

                The lighting in the paint room is plenty bright for working...however, when taking pictures, the halogen light casts a warm yellow hue to everything. So for these next sessions, I'm taking the body out of the paint room and taking pictures in my "photo booth" (simply a florescent shop light, suspended over a TV tray with white freezer paper over it).

                Image 33

                Not easily visible, is the taillights. I apply silver over the black first... let it dry. Then I apply a coat of Testor's # 2374 (think that numbers right) which is "Turn Signal Red". It's a semi-transparent red with pearl mixed in. When it is applied over silver it resembles the red lens cover of a turn signal.

                Image 34

                Here's a closeup of the rear window detail. I used my ultra-fine paint brush and just dipped a small amount of silver paint to create the rivet detail.

                Image 35

                You can see that I've added a few black details here and there... and you can see how the silver over the black really makes the latches and door handle look 3-dimensional...something necessary on flat areas of vac-formed bodies.

                Image 36

                Here's a closeup of the headlight and front signal details.

                Image 37

                Now we add the decals. I print my own decals, this way I can size and detail the decals to my liking. On decals, I also add much of the mechanical details that are too difficult to paint, such as the rear engine vents, wiper blades, air dams (note center above meatball number).

                Image 38

                Image 39

                Image 40

                That covers this session. Stay tuned as we "kick it up another notch!" with clear coats and metal details.
                Last edited by Scaleracing; 11-17-2008, 11:57 AM.


                • #9
                  Session #6

                  We're fast approaching the final result of this Tutorial. In this session I completed the exterior and interior detail & finish of the GT40... and here's our pictures.

                  First... we've finished our decals in our last session and it was time to protect those decals before moving onto adding our metal details. What I use to protect the decals is a product made by Krylon called "Workable Fixatif", or just "Fixatif" for short. It is a clear spray that seals in our artwork and protects it from touch and minor abrasions that can occur while installing the metal details. Also, the Fixatif protects our artwork from the application of our gloss Lacquer finish.

                  Image 41

                  This next group of photo's demonstrates how clear coating is applied to the body. First of course, we start the exhaust fan, and close the paint room door. Shake the can for several minutes to mix the contents. The body is placed on top of a stable, and complex painting device, called a "Big Gulp" cup and a piece of bent aluminum wire. This holds the body and allows me to turn the cup while I'm applying the clear coat.

                  We depress the spray nozzle BEFORE spraying onto the body. We make a long sweep across the body and release the nozzle AFTER the body--NEVER while the spray nozzle is aimed at the body!!! This would leave drip marks and a circular spray impression on the body. I make three to four sweeps across the body in one direction. Then I rotate the body and start again. Doing this process four times... just as you see demonstrated in the photo's:

                  Image 42

                  Now to help the finish set up, I rotate the body beneath the halogen lamp in the paint room. I do this to help the finish to have a smooth surface. The light is warm, and you can see "vapor" from the clear coat releasing into the air as it is sucked out the exhaust fan. I do this for just a few minutes and then set the cup down to let the body dry.

                  The Fixatif requires a minimum of 4 hours to dry properly. How you know it's dry is by sniffing the finish. If it still smells strong, it needs more time to dry.

                  Our next step is to apply the metal details. I use a variety of materials to add the final details to the car. First, I use Aluminum tape and a selection of paper hole punches to make specific shapes, such as ovals, circles, and rectangles. Ovals are for the upper hood latches, the circles are for the bases of the hood pins, and the rectangles are for the mirror bases on the front fenders. (Closeup pictures will follow shortly).

                  Image 43

                  The next layer of metal details are the hood pins, cables, mirrors, tail grille-work, and exhaust pipes. The hood pins are literally the heads of sewing needles. The cables are beading needles, as found in most craft stores. They are a perfect replica in miniature of hood pin cables. The mirrors are cupped earring posts, where I've bent the post at a right angle. The grille work is extruded aluminum grille material, also found in most craft stores. It is used for making plaster sculptures. The exhaust pipes are aluminum tubing cut to size, found in most hobby stores.

                  Image 44

                  Image 45

                  Image 46

                  After the metal details are installed, the final clear coat of Lacquer is applied. It's accomplished in the same manner as the Fixatif.

                  Image 47

                  It takes about 1 to 2 hours for the Lacquer to dry. Afterwards, we can remove the paint mask from the windows. But first, use an ex-acto knife to etch a line around the frame of the windows. Then use a tooth pick or other small blunt tool to remove the paint mask.

                  Image 48

                  Our next part of the project is detailing the interior tray. As most of the interior was completed before I decided to make this into a tutorial, you'll only get to see the finished pictures (sorry about that).

                  To create lines in the driver uniform, I use Sharpie ultra-fine tipped markers. The ink is perminant, but errors can be errased with Alcohol.

                  Image 49

                  I made the mold for the interior tray and vacuum-formed it in black plastic. The interior tray includes the torso of the driver. A 1/24 scale head and aluminum steering wheel is added using hot glue to secure them in place.

                  Image 50

                  And here's our finished shell & interior:

                  Image 51

                  Our next part is building the chassis. However, I'll have to bow out on doing this part of the tutorial for now. I was a little behind schedule on finishing this car for the client.

                  I hope you folks enjoyed this little tutorial, and find it useful in your own endeavors.

                  Thanks for your kind attention.

                  Last edited by Scaleracing; 11-17-2008, 11:58 AM.


                  • #10
                    Thanks Tim!

                    Thanks Tim; that is one whole lot of work to put together in very nice detail.

                    Either I or Alan S. will try to save this article for future reference if you have no objection to that. It can be saved in the reviews or the Archives or F.A.Q. area. If that would be okay with you. Very nice piece of work.

                    Thats one of the reasons I have always liked working with vac bodies as I can be the one who does it the way I like it and put as much work into them as I want to. And if done right they can last and take a lot of punishment for a long time racing them.

                    Larry LS


                    • #11
                      Very good! Tim do you mind if I mirror this on my site?
                      Thank You
                      Visit my web site for your track timing options.


                      • #12
                        Re: Session #6

                        Hello Tim,

                        Just read your fine tutorial - it's obvious you've been doing this for a while! I never realized just how involved this process was (your tutorial does a great job of breaking it down) - the detailing tips are worth their weight in gold.

                        Thank you for taking the time to write this up and share with other SCI members.



                        • #13
                          Re: Session #6

                          Hi Guys!
                          Thank you for your kind compliments! I'm glad that you're all enjoying this tutorial.

                          Hey Larry;
                          I'd kinda like to leave this article here for a while, and let the folks read it as part of their regular browse through the forums. Then in a few days or so feel free to move it where you wish.

                          Hey Brent!
                          Sure, feel free to copy the article onto your website. Please include my name and the "Www.SlotCarHeroes.Com" name in the credits. Thanks!

                          Hi Steve!
                          I'm happy to share what I've learned. Been modeling close to 36 years now, and still having a great time. Hoping some of these tips find their way into your "toolbox".

                          Thanks again,

                          Tim Johnson
                          Last edited by Scaleracing; 11-17-2008, 11:54 AM.


                          • #14
                            Wow! I have been waiting for something like this for some time. Thanks, Tim! I would have never thought of some of these techniques, especially the hood pins and other small stuff. Bravo!


                            • #15
                              Masterful work!
                              At the risk of sounding like an art critic that would suggest Devinci use acrylics here are two suggestions that you might find useful.

                              I have painted several gulf cars and use the black Pactra R/C Striping Tape to outline the orange stripes. It comes in a roll with stripes in about 6 different widths. The smallest works great. I tape it on first inside the shell as a guide for the orange paint. It adheres to the body well and and is stretchy enough to make curves as needed. Painting over it with either the orange or gulf blue seals it in place. I have never had any peel away. The main advantage is that you get crisp straight black lines hand painting can't match. I have even cut it narrower and used for door trim with good results.

                              Try double decals for your meatballs. I use thin Pattos decals often and get good results by putting one meatball atop the other after allowing plenty of time for the first to dry. That elliminates the see through look.

                              Believe me, I'll be using some of your suggestions on my next project.

                              Best Regards,


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