Friday, 13 February 2015

Volkswagen beetle conversion

This is another one of my impulse buys from the internet. I purchased this from Jadar model in Poland purely because of the price it was advertised. (very cheaply). Its made by RPM who in all honesty I have been less than kind when I have reviewed their kits in the past regarding the quality and the detail of the models. I will be a little kinder to the company on this occasion as the cost of the kit as well as the fact that I have only found two other makers of this vehicle but couldn't find anywhere that sold them! So this forgives a lot of the problems that I know I will face with it.

The one problem that I have had with this kit is imagining it in a military setting. Purely because of the beetle's popularity in the UK as a classic family car. Recently the older Volkswagen's, particularly the camper vans and beetle have been associated with the surfer scene in UK. For these reasons I decided upon a more modern scene for this model. I intend on depicting it as a civilian version used for surfing and will probably have it parked on a coast road ready to take its passengers for a day of surfing.

The conversion

RPM have quite accurately produced a rendition of the "bug" for military use. Unfortunately for me I have decided upon depicting a civilian version. One of the first details I will be removing is the duck boards on the cab floor; this was removed using a small dental burr on a hobby drill. For carpet I stippled Mr Surfacer onto the plastic and allowed to dry. The chairs lacked quite a lot of detail especially the rear bench which had none at all. The other problem with the seating was the rear bench was moulded at a 90 degree angle, meaning that in reality it would break a passengers back after 10 minutes of travelling! The rear seat was cut and re attached at a more realistic angle, then all of the seats were re-scribed in the same pattern that resembles a civilian version:

The  detail for the door cards are completely missing from the kit. normally something like this would annoy me tremendously, however as this is a conversion the chances are that if they were present they would be a military spec depiction and would have to be changed anyway, The cards were made as a one piece addition from some plastic card and stretched sprue which was then cut to fit onto the internal body shell of the model:

Another problem that I was faced with was the wheels and tyres. Basically RPM have taken wheels from a Kubelwagen and used them for this kit. While it is probably accurate for the model, its not really accurate for the vehicle that I am building. Unfortunately after quite an extensive web search I cannot find a set of civilian type wheels that would suit this vehicle. I have therefore opted to remove the tread pattern from the existing wheels, cut the centre hub nut from them and cover this with Squadron putty to resemble a hub cap. While this is not perfect I am hoping that they will pass muster once painted and suitably weathered.

The dashboard is really the worse part of this kit in my opinion. The moulded dials are awful and don't contain much detail at all. RPM would have been better served leaving the dash blank and providing a decal sheet rather than what they provide. I decided that being as the dash needed to be re-worked and "civilianised", I would also make this a right hand drive vehicle that is commonly seen on the UK roads. The details are again made from plastic card and sprue and I think will provide a reasonable representation of a beetle dash:

The Bodywork

I have decided on a two tone paint job for the beetle. The colour choice will be a cherry red and white with chrome trim. This in itself provided me with some problems as one of the details that is omitted from the RPM model is the rain gutter that should be present on both types of vehicle and the other detail is the chrome trim strips. Again I used some stretched sprue which was glued in place and once set, rubbed down to represent these details. the chrome trim also provided me with a great demarcation line for the paint job:

The painting itself of the major bodywork has gone really well to date with no real mistakes. I have also had a little bit of a brain wave that I hope will take this conversion to new heights. Whilst taking a break from my models I was watching my wife and daughter doing each others nails, it was then I recalled a 120mm figure that the modeller had used nail art transfers on the arms to replicate tattoo's. The effect was stunning and I realised that I could do something like this for the beetle. After a quick search on my favourite auction site I settled on a flower design that will hopefully look fantastic set on top of the white bodywork on the sides of the beetle. There was something about the flower design that just said "surfing". A quick 99p later and I am faced with a 3 - 4 week wait while they make their way to me from Hong Kong. I am not really worried about the wait as I probably won't be in a position to apply them to the car for about that time whilst I work on other parts of the diorama. The work done to date is shown in the pictures below:

The interior build up following the modifications was quite easy and I opted for a plain brown interior knowing that I would be placing a floral design on the outside of the vehicle. I also placed the silver ware on the external parts of the car and scratch built a new open fabric sunroof as the one provided with the kit was shameful!

With the sunroof now painted and fitted I decided upon manufacturing a roof rack to hold at least one of the surfboards that I had made. This was a simple affair of some copper wire soldered together and painted black. I also used some of the insulation stropped off the wire as pads for the surfboards on the rack. This was then attached to the roof with a little superglue.

At this point in the build the nail art transfers that I had ordered turned up in the post. I was pleasantly surprised at the size of the sheet and opted to put the matching pattern onto one of the surfboards as well as the sides of car

Setting the Scene

being as this is going to be a surfing themed diorama I thought I would start with some surf boards. I used some scrap balsa wood I had laying around and laminated them to a scale appearance that resembled that of a real board. I then roughly cut out the shape of a board for each of them and proceeded to file and sand out the final shape of each board:

Once sanded to shape they were painted in a clear varnish to seal them and then painted in two different designs. The base would be as always compact and simplistic. A plaster base was separated into two sections; one road the other a sandy embankment. The road section was made from Javis scenics tarmac and some double yellow lines painted onto the edge of the road. A small kerb was made from some sheet plastic card and the embankment made from some florists foam onto which some textured model paste was applied. Once dry the paste was painted in washes of brown enamel until I was happy with colour, The car was test fitted to the base to ensure that everything fitted as I wanted it.

I realised after placing the beetle in its intended position and arranging the figures that I would be using, that there would be a large amount of space with not a lot on it. To add a little more interest I decided to make a Gorse bush which is common place in coastal areas in Britain. The bush was made by glueing some roughly shaped florist foam to the base, coating it in PVA and then applying some ground scatter which happened to be a fantastic match to Gorse bushes. I also painted sections of the ground scatter in bright yellow to represent the small flowers that are formed by these bushes during the summer time. For a bit of fun I also added a road sign that infers what my characters will be doing on the side of the road. I wanted this dio to resemble more of "Benny Hill" scene rather than an extract out of a "50 shades of grey" novel!

The Characters 

The next stage was the characters for the base. You will have probably noticed from some of the base shots above that there are two characters for this particular base. They are figures taken from two different Master box kits. The female figure has not been altered in anyway save for placing her in a lying down position instead of an upright one as she was originally intended, The male figure was originally depicted as playing football and has been heavily modified including changing the hands, feet and position of the limbs. The pose of the figures a little bit risque for my usual diorama scenes but I figured that if was going to outside of my normal diorama themes, I may as well go the whole way outside of them! As always the Masterbox figures are excellent in quality and fit and after a little rubbing down they were primed, painted in enamels and shaded using oils. I dont have any photos of the figures separate from the base as they were essentially painted and fixed to the base in one session. I will however make sure that I get some close up shots of them in the final photo shoot.

Finished Photos

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