Wednesday, 30 January 2013

A new girl in town

When I started this blog I had intended to only feature 1/32 Japanese cars from the '50s to '80s, but since Airfix started to reissue their classic British cars and the availability of American and European cars in this scale I decided to expand the remit to any 1/32 car that tickles my fancy, although the heart of the blog is still the Japanese cars.

Saying that, when I bought the new Airfix BMW MINI kit I knew immediately that I wanted this to be a Japanese-owned car, and have it with a figure.  That's where Aurora Models of Japan came to the rescue.  I ordered SK-002 "Tokyo Girl", which depicts a young lady in a sleeveless top, shorts and heels.
She arrived from Japan within a week - much quicker than some UK retailers can manage!

The model comes in 5 parts: head/upper torso, left leg/lower torso, right leg and separate arms.  The metal castings are clean and only need the odd pouring stub removed and seam-lines buffed off.  The detail on her shorts is lovely and the face is nicely shaped... but, and this is common with all of the Aurora figures I've bought, the eyes are hardly defined at all, which will make painting her a bit of a challenge.  That aside, I think she's beautiful.

Here are a selection of photos of her and the Airfix MINI Cooper S, a lovely model let down by treadless, featureless tyres.  I will have to get Scalextric wheels and tyres for it.  I have drilled a hole in her instep to allow me to pin her to the scenic base since she doesn't have as much contact with the ground as, say, a British Para... and she's quite a heavy girl.

Back to the Showa diorama next time.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Nearly there!

Much to my own surprise I find that I'm heading towards the completion of this diorama... Once I had laid down the base colours I knew that the end was approaching.

I have painted and weathered the groundwork and fence, then added MiG weathering powders to blend everything in together.  The plants were next and these came from Orion Models, a little model shop near the Hotel Villa Fontaine Ueno in Tokyo (run by pro-modeller Hiroyuki Nakada and his Russian wife and daughter).  The plants, being real, add a lot to the diorama, something that twigs with sponge on couldn't.

This is the diorama as it stands just now.

I still need to finish off the telephone pole, ladder and small bucket.  Paint the bicycle and finish off the Mazda's interior (seats and door panels).  I also need to add some fine sand in between the paving slabs in the garden on the reverse of the fence, add the  character to the letter box, add door handles to the gate and add rust to the hinges. The base itself needs a black edging.

Here the pole and ladder are just 'resting' on the base.

Here is the bike resting for effect...

This shows the name-plate above the letter box.  It is the name 'KOJIMA', a name I know well.

This is a 1950s poster.

This is to show the scale of the base with a human being...

Finally, with the car just plonked onto the road for scale... the camera darkened the photo when the flash bounced from the off-white body of the Mazda.

Next photos should be of the completed base... then I can finish off the car!

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Diorama update

Well, with the main parts of the diorama in place I thought it was about time for me to add the groundwork.
Looking at the film "Always Sunset on Third Street" the road appears to be compacted earth rather than concrete, asphalt or tarmac, so that's what I'm going with for this old road which survived the American bombs and hasn't been modernised yet.

I mixed up Dark Mud and European Dirt MiG pigment powders with fine sand, PVA glue and indoor Polyfilla.  This gave me a good dirt-coloured material which I could lay down and not worry about any white showing through.  The sand in the mix also avoided the beach look some dioramas have where the sand makes the surface look like fine gravel.

I made the road surface relatively smooth with some signs of traffic in it, and the area behind the fence was rougher.  To the rear section I added some model railway ballast for stones and some cork chunks for large rocks.  I also sprinkled on some static grass for texture variety.  The whole surface now needs to be painted and then weathered with washes and drybrushing to bring out the texture.

Here is the diorama so far (the fence and gate have been undercoated to allow a thinner dark brown which can be weathered without the white poking through):

Thanks to the flash from the camera it looks a lot lighter than it does in reality.

I also checked to see how some other elements now fitted in with this, and I think it's coming together nicely.  The car won't be a permanent resident on the base as I have a good number of smaller cars which will look good on this... and I'm not building around 30 diorama bases for all of these cars!

So after too long humming and hawing I have at last started something which will be finished and ready for display.  Only took 2 years, haha.

In addition to this diorama there will be one with a country shrine, one with a more urban setting with tram lines, a European setting for the Airfix cars, a generic country setting for assorted cars, and a scene purely for the Mini, a camp site.  There will also be one or two modern settings for those cars like the BMW MINI which are sold in Japan.  I'm getting ahead of myself though, and these are all long term projects.

The next update should show progress on the groundwork and the painting of the fence.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Another update

I've been feeling a bit run down after work this week, so I haven't done as much as I wanted to... however, I did add some kerb stones to the diorama, about a metre out from the fence.  I saw this while watching "Always Sunset on Third Street" and seemed to be an effort to separate the compacted dirt road from the compacted pedestrian section... I wouldn't call it a pavement... as it doesn't look wide enough for someone to walk comfortably along.
Anyway, these were made from PVA coated card to make them less likely to warp under the paint and washes to be applied.

I also found some interesting period advertising posters to allow me to create a better feeling for the time: late '50s/early '60s.

While surfing the web I also came across this little 'beauty':

It's a UAZ 452 made by the Czech company Bilek to 1/35 scale.  It's a plastic model kit with a fret of etched metal detail parts.  From what I've seen of review builds it's a lovely model to build, well moulded and pretty detailed.
Further investigation showed that the van is also sold in a civilian guise as the UAZ 3909.  Apparently it dates from 1958 and has remained practically unchanged since then.  So why is it here on this blog?  Some are imported into Japan!  I don't know how long they've been imported, but I think it's in very small numbers.  This is one importer's site:, while this site seems to be another importer: can you have more than one importer?
There is also an online review of the imported van, with a whole heap of photos, many of them showing details which are ideal for modellers:
Both are Japanese language sites, but those of you with Google Chrome should be able to set auto translate.

In these photos from the site, you can see the Japanese number plate and the fact that it is imported as a Left Hand Drive vehicle, which must be awkward for Japanese drivers...  They also come in TWO colours - greyish white, or Army Green, but I think the specs are improved for the Japanese buyers.

It's not the prettiest of vehicles, but it's certainly different.  I'm thinking of finishing it as a rural hotel's runabout, maybe an onsen resort in Hakone or something along those lines.  Either way, it's not your average van.  Most of the ones I've seen built have been as Afghanistan or Iraq diorama props... lots of imagination there.
So this is on order from the Czech Republic for 25 Euros plus 8 Euros postage.  Not that cheap, but what is these days?

Saturday, 19 January 2013

A Diorama Grows

Well, I thought that with the Mazda nearing completion it was time to start work on a display base.  Rummaging in my Arii Showa spares box I came up with a fence and street lamp, coupled with a modified Tamiya bicycle, an Italeri telegraph pole and one or two Aoshima parts from Samurai era diorama kits.

Here is the basic layout of the small diorama base, using an old picture frame and a hardboard panel.

The gate and cover are from a Model Art diorama accessory set.  You might also see the Arii letter box on the fence next to the gate.  Behind the gate is a path leading up to a house... this is made from PVA coated card.  There will also be a tree and a shrub, although the ground won't be a grass lawn, although there will be grass tufts around the base of the tree and along the length of the fence.

Some of the other models added to the scene:

The bike looks right at home, even without a lick of paint anywhere:

The Italeri telegraph pole with the Arii lamp and shade added:

Next job to do is mix up some Polyfilla and texture the diorama base.  Not 100% sure what the road surface should be.. tarmac?  Concrete?  Dirt??  Must do some research into that.

As far as the Mini goes I have completed the wheels... I know, hardly a logical work method, but it suits me.
I painted the wheels themselves with Radome Tan from Humbrol and Life Color satin black for the tyres.  For the chrome hubs I used good old Bare Metal Foil.  Nothing gives a chrome effect than chrome foil.

I've also reduced the depth of the headlight rims.  Looking at 1959/1960 Minis also shows that the grille was sometimes an off-white colour.  I may need to research this a bit more.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Minor update

I didn't do as much at the weekend as I hoped I would.
I painted the basic interior colour for the R360.  Now I need to add the dark red to the seats, carpet, ceiling and door panels.  The body was a snap compared to this.

The Mini has had the wing mirrors removed.  The more I looked at it the more they looked... wrong.  I'll have to check the photos again, but there was something which looked strange about the whole thing.  I also sanded down the light bezels a little more.  They look right now.

I was also roughing out the layouts for the first two mini-dioramas - for the Mazda and the Mini.  I can keep them small, yet also keep some interesting stuff in there.  The Mazda will feature a back street in the mid '60s, while the Mini will feature a couple of girls at a camp site some time in the '60s... the girls being repainted Preiser figure in 1/32 scale.  The tent will be a Tamiya or Italeri one, while the clothing on a makeshift washing line will be from a CMK Russian set of female soldiers (bras, panties, etc...).
The Mazda's base will be decorated with the post box and wooden fence from Arii, while an Arii street lamp and shade are fitted to a better Italeri telegraph pole.
The bases for these two cars will be A5 size (21cm x 16cm).  They are small models so this is a decent size.

Hope to have a more visible update soon.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Some musings...

I added the headlights to the Mazda last night and it's looking much nicer.  Need to paint the details on the case and add chrome foil to the edge.  Hopefully I can do this without any mishap... made a few mistakes in the past and pulled paint off with the foil... so fingers crossed.
I also painted the concrete base to the post box, and that's now finished.

I will do some more work on the car at the weekend and also start to rough out a display base for the smaller Showa cars... a back street with a fence, post box and street lamp.  Nothing complex as it's really a base for a car rather than a full-blown diorama.

I have decided to expand the scope of the blog and to include cars seen in Japan today, but still in 1/32 scale.  This will allow me to feature Airfix's BMW Mini Cooper S (displayed in a street setting with an Aurora Models Japanese girl leaning back on it casually.  Yes, I have this one all worked out in my head haha.
There aren't many other models I can use like this, and I don't intend to buy die-cast models and feature them... I'll save that for 1/43 scale.  (I already have a Tokyo taxi in the form of a Toyota Crown Comfort in that scale, and what a lovely model it is.)  There are some battery-powered Wagon R kits available, but they have opaque black windows, no interior detail and feature quite soft surface detail... more like unbuilt toys really.  Quite a shame... although they would make decent background props in photo-shoots where they wouildn't be in such sharp focus.
I'm still surprised that only Arii and Airfix are still in the 1/32 game.  Most of the Airfix range are old, with just a handful being modern kits (inspired by the Scalextric range, which are owned by Airfix's parent company Hornby)... likewise the Arii kits are old LS and Otaki models.
Gunze Sangyo did a range of beautifully produced American cars of the 50s and 60s, but they're pretty hard to find now, while Lindberg have some of the ancient Pyro kits in their range such as the lovely 1952 Chevrolet Fleetline Deluxe 'Fastback' and 1949 Ford Tudor.
Monogram had some, but I don't know how many of them are still available, likewise Revell (both US and German arms).

In 1/35 we have the Honda Super Cub scooter from Diopark and the Toyota Hilux (in various armed guises) from Chinese company Meng.  This WILL make its way into the blog, but will be finished as a hard-working Japanese vehicle (hopefully you get the option of right hand drive).  I know they are 1/35, but on their own that slight difference in scale will not be an issue.

So, 2013 should see the first finished model on this blog... a long time coming, I know, but I have a few modelling genres I enjoy working in and I get easily sidetracked... ooh, nice Martian War Machine, hahaha.

Another photo update on Sunday.  Thanks for looking in ^_^

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Photo update

Here is the way the Mazda R360 looks so far...

As I mentioned, I still have to paint the interior, some of the underside details and add the chrome to the hubcaps... oh, and the headlights, windscreen wipers and wing mirror still need to be attached.

This is how the Mini looks with the new headlight bezels.  I think I need to make them even thinner, but at least they are the correct diameter and will work well with spare Publica headlights.

The more I work on the Mini the more I like it... and may get one of the Tamiya 1/24 scale ones.

Despite being around 50 years older than Airfix's current 1/32 Mini model (the Cooper S), I'm enjoying it more than newer model.  Yes it's state of the art, near flawless fit, packed with detail (although the tyres leave a LOT to be desired), but it's a boring assembly job.  Older kits need more work... which gives me the opportunity to exercise my modelling and problem-solving skills.

Finally a couple of diorama models.
Firstly this is the Arii Japanese post box.  I roughed the surface up with a round grinding bit in a hobby power tool to represent concrete for the base and cast steel for the box itself.
I painted it with Humbrol red enamel, added a darker wash, drybrushed with the same red, then added some MiG weathering powders.  The text in the circular panel was scraped with the back of a hobby knife to expose the bare plastic, while the sign on the door was a supplied decal (this coming from one of the Arii car + diorama kits rather than the older diorama-only kits).
I still have to paint the concrete base.

Finally a photographer.  This is a near-stock figure from the Masterbox 1/35 boxing figures set (Friendly boxing match between British and American Paratroopers WW2).  I swapped the head with another figure and added a longer lens to the camera from the Diopark Honda Super Cub.

More updates as work progresses ^_^

MAZDA R360 progress

Well, having completed all of the chrome bits on the shell, I have added the decals and painted the door handles and hinges on the engine cover.  I just need to add the headlight and that's the shell done.
All I need to do now is paint the interior, underside details and chrome foil the hubcaps... then it's done.
At last!

I'll add photos soon, and also photos of the Arii Japanese post box which I was painting last night.  Unpainted it looks quite bland, but painted and weathered slightly it looks the part.  Again, photos soon.

I have also done some more minor work to the Mini...
I added headlight bezels from Kotobukiya Gundam spares (sanded down to a shallower depth) and a new petrol cap, also from mecha parts.  This old Mini kit really does need some work, rather more than I expected.  I think it was a case of looking back at the old Airfix kits with rose-tinted glasses... in the early 1960s things were different, with the kits being aimed at boys rather than adult modellers of today who are more demanding in terms of fit, detail and accuracy.
Saying that, some of the kits are still gems - the Triumph Herald and the Vauxhall Viva HA being prime examples.  They have stood the test of time... just a shame about the thin plastic wheels.  Some nice vinyl ones would make a world of difference.

A photo update will follow very soon.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Small update

This morning I received some more models for my various 1/32 Japanese projects.
Directly related to the cars themselves is this set of 1/32 East Japan number plates for cars and commercial vehicles produced by Fujimi.
The set consists of dark green and white rub-down transfers and a small selection of white and dark green waterslide decal number plate backgrounds.  These will come in very very useful for the car models which don't have appropriate decals (and are sharper than even the best laser printed plate), and for non-Japanese cars I may wish to depict in a Japanese context.

Next up, also from Fujimi are these beer crates... yellow being appropriate for Kirin lager.  I have no idea when the Japanese started using the crates, so I will need to research that a bit more before deciding which vehicle to have them in the back of.  Certainly not the Midgets or the big T-2000, as I'm pretty sure it wasn't the 1950s.
The set also includes some large steel drums, along the lines of the fuel drums produced by the likes of Tamiya and Italeri in the past.
The crates are single part mouldings, while the drums come in two halves with a lid, the bottom being moulded with the sides.

Finally, I couldn't resist starting on the Mini.
The radiator grille on the kit doesn't look right... it sticks out too much.  I checked the internet for the early Minies and sure enough the grille is a lot more recessed.  So, I removed the central strut from the opening and carved away the sides of the opening, following the moulded line indicating the shape of the grille.  After a test-fit I was overjoyed to see that the remedy worked a treat.  I added a new pair of plasticard supports so I could add the grille after painting the body shell.
I also rummaged in my Arii spares and came up with a pair of wing mirrors.

I was also fed up with the way the clear parts looked... too thick and just terrible.  So back to the spares box and to my joy the windscreen and rear window of the Arii Toyota Publica fit!  Now THAT was a stroke of luck.  They will need some trimming away of things like side windows and ceiling excess, but that will take mere minutes.

More updates soon.