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FAB 1 Scratchbuild

Fun Pod

Alphans
This thread is not a current build project, but a step-by-step photographic record of my very first Gerry Anderson scratchbuild, completed back in 2006.

In the interests of creating a more useful document to any members who may wish to archive any of the following material as research for their own similar project, I’ve included further, more recent pictures, taken purely to illustrate steps that weren’t recorded at the time, to provide a more comprehensive summary of the project. These additions are labelled with an * to identify mere subject illustration from actual archival material. I’ve also inserted some tutorials for techniques which may also be of use.

The finished project will not feature in this forums usual gallery, Dragons Domain, but instead is showcased exclusively in this Thunderbirds sub-forum.



Introduction
When I started this project, I had never before attempted to make a known vehicle, albeit a fictional one, from absolute scratch. For some time, I had been clipping and collecting articles by celebrated modelmakers – some of them members of this very forum – who patiently demystified many of the methods and techniques used to make stunning replicas of the original studio models used in our favourite film and television shows.

What I especially appreciated about these articles was that the author-modelmakers made it seem possible that I could achieve the same result, if I fully applied myself to each phase of the task.

Eventually, the desire to scratchbuild a favourite vehicle and the belief that I was ready to undertake such a project went critical-mass, coinciding with other important prerequisites – available time, greater resources, better tools and the explosion of information available courtesy of the internet.

But although I felt able to make my way through the scratchbuilding process in a deliberate and logical manner, ultimately I wasn’t confident of producing a showroom quality model - such as many of the creations which regularly feature in this forum - that might stand up to serious scrutiny by like-minded, and often, far more informed modelmakers.

Additionally, I was unable to determine an obvious ‘master’ model or source an indisputable blueprint for my chosen subject, FAB 1. While compiling reference material, I was struck by the many variations between the original studio models, let alone the differing commercial reproductions. When I compared the specific details of these variants, I found my preferences ranged across all of the individual interpretations.

As a compromise, I opted to design and build a generic version which, while as true to my reference material and spirit of the vehicle as possible, also appealed to my own sense of aesthetics. Essentially, I was recreating a subject for me, never certain that anyone else would ever see the result.

And so, during the design stage, I tweaked some FAB 1 features: in my opinion, the car has a crummy approach angle, so I raised the front bumper, but which also has the attendant visual effect of foreshortening the grill when seen from the front; I’ve always thought the car looks a tad tail-heavy, so I raised the height of the rear wheel arches, for a more balanced profile; I reduced the height of the bubble canopy, for a lower streamline; and the trailing edge of the bonnet (hood) was faired up over the leading edge of the canopy, the theory being that ducted heat from the motor bay would demist the canopy during inclement weather (FAB 1 has only one window wiper – Aloysius :)).

Of course, with the benefit of hindsight, it was at this juncture that the die was cast which ensured my FAB 1 would never be ‘canon’: at this growth stage of my modelmaking, I hadn’t yet developed the critical facilities necessary to produce an accurate copy of a studio production model – quite simply I was still designing as a car enthusiast, not a replica maker. C’est la vie.


^ My prime reference was a 1964 sketch by Mike Trim, which AP Films had supplied to one of Thunderbirds principle model contractors.


^ The illustration was enlarged until the wheels matched an aftermarket 1/24 scale vinyl truck tyre, which made an ideal 1/16 scale car tyre. FAB 1 is recorded as twenty-one feet long by eight feet wide, so I drafted a blueprint for a model approximately sixteen inches long by six inches wide (40x15cm). I then broke the vehicle down on paper into prospective sub-assemblies, which in turn suggested the individual components required to be made.




^ I began by gluing two sets of standard 4x½ inch balsa stock in five layers, then the two blocks were glued together laterally, with the resulting join forming a centreline. Cut-out copies of my hand-drawn blueprint were attached to aid marking out the vehicle contours.


^ Following the plan and elevation outlines, excess balsa was trimmed off and then considerable time was spent shaping the body with sandpaper and hobby knife, repeatedly checking symmetry with a profile gauge until the basic shape conformed to the blueprint.

The tapering bonnet and the raised area which outlines the cabin were shaped in balsa separately and glued to the body to form blanks for the fibreglass moulding process. These three components were blended with balsa filler, sanded smooth and the entire mould was given two brush coats of polyurethane sealer to fill in the balsa grain. This tougher surface was then sprayed with three coats of primer filler for added smoothness.


^ As opposed to the vertical, slab-sided depictions of FAB 1, I elected to angle the sides of the car inward from the waistline, echoing the original Mike Trim illustration. But for fibreglass moulding purposes, the decision effectively created an undercut, which in turn demanded a split mould to allow the castings to be removed easily.


^ The process was repeated for the opposing side of the mould. Having reached full cure, the castings were separated from the mould by inserting plastic wedges between the laminate and mould edges and lightly tapping with a mallet until release.


^ The resulting castings effectively changed status and became my new duplication moulds. The entire moulding sequence was repeated to form the final male castings. I now had two hard, smooth, glossy white castings which duplicated the profile of the original balsa mould exactly.


^ And wouldn’t you know it, I don’t have any usable photos of the pristine castings on their own(!), although it does appear in this shot (scanned from a film print) to summarise the process.

The castings were belt-sanded to their original centrelines until they formed a close fitting seam and were superglued together. Now a single body-shell, it was flipped over and a 50mm strip of fibreglass woven roving was laminated along the length of the interior seam for added strength. The lower edges of the shell were sanded until the body sat level and then all other flat edges were sanded to conform, except the wheel arches, which were shaped out with grinding wheels on a motor tool.




^ Some of the first additions to the body werethe waistline trim, formed with Evergreen 2mm half-round strip, with 3mm quarter-round used to make the sills and wheel arch flares. Instead of using heat, the strip stock was softened in boiled water to prevent stretching or thinning and simply shaped by hand to match the curves of the wheel arches. The trimmed lengths were mitred to match the sills and retained just enough flexibility to be positioned precisely for gluing to the body with a clamp.


^ Using a blueprint cut-out of the wings, two thin plasticard profiles were shaped with the lower edge conforming to the compound curve of the boot (trunk) and glued to the body equidistant between the cabin rim and waistline. Liberal amounts of car filler were built up against the profiles and then sanded to shape – a process which would continue on and off throughout the build as I kept updating symmetry. Short lengths of 2mm half-round were mitre-cut and glued ‘picture frame’ style to form all light cluster trim.


^ Next, the cabin moulding blank was chain drilled and removed, the edges filed smooth and lined with thin plasticard strips to form the upper interior trim capping.


^ FAB 1 features a very distinctive dashboard with six scallops which not only reduce in height toward each side of the cabin, but also taper inward to the trailing edge of the bonnet. A plasticard mantle was book-ended with front and rear scallop profiles, each scallop bisected by a tapering rib to indicate the centreline and the remaining cavities were filled with car filler. The dash was shaped using the profiles as a sanding pattern and the ribs to aid with symmetry and then the sub-assembly was glued to the body, with the forward profile overhanging the leading edge of the cabin to align with the trim capping already in place.


^ To form the radiator housing, the nose blank was drilled out to expose a box-like aperture and then shallow channels were carefully filed off the outer surfaces of the nose to allow short lengths of plasticard to lie flush with each plane of the bonnet. The join was sanded until seamless, to be delineated again in chrome at the painting stage.

The grill itself was a find from the parts box – the radiator of a Revell 1/8 scale E-Type Jaguar. This was trimmed and inserted into the nose aperture, framed with plasticard and car filler and then sanded flush.


^ One addition to the body may seem an odd one – the bench seat headrest. I had noticed many representations of FAB 1 depict the rear bench seat almost hard up against the back of the central driving seat – not very commodious for “Er Ladyship’s” super-coupe!

To compensate, the headrest was made with a short length of Evergreen 11mm tubing, sliced down its length, then simply prised open and slipped over the leading edge of the parcel shelf until flush. This tiny deceit allows the bench seat to sit precious millimetres further back so the cabin seems a little more spacious.

However, the deception wasn’t without consequence, as it threw out measurements which had allowed the headrest to clear the internal compound curve of the canopy and I later had to remove 5mm from both ends of the headrest to allow the canopy to sit flush.


^ A deliberate omission from the body were the boxy wing mirrors: not unlike the famous Dinky reproduction or the more recent 1/64 Bandai die-cast, I elected to depict the wing mirrors fully retracted as if the vehicle was parked.




^ For the wheels, the 1/24 scale aftermarket truck hubs were assembled as normal, but fitted to some R/C auto steering heads in reverse, exposing a now hollow hub. The tyres were also reversed to hide the moulded lettering.


^ Conveniently, the interior of the hubs had a moulded lip which the custom hub-caps could rest on. Trouble was, I only had one hub-cap, made with a one-of-a-kind found part …




^ The master hubcap was glued to a simple base, with enough room on all sides to ..


^ .. make a moulding box made of Lego. Not pictured here is the final outer wall of masking tape – Lego blocks are tight fitting, but not enough to prevent leakage.


^ Silicon rubber was poured into the moulding box and left to cure.


^ Later, the Lego moulding box was removed to expose the new master silicon rubber mould ..


^ .. and resin was poured into the mould to cast the hubcaps.


^ The first castings next to the master hubcap.


Of course, FAB 1 requires six of the darn things!



Of all the stages of construction, the build-up of the chassis was least recorded, simply because it was whipped up so quickly – just one of the benefits of a blueprint.


^ The chassis was fabricated with plasticard as two sub-assemblies, as it couldn’t be fitted to the body as one piece due to the angle of the lower body. The forward motor bay is basically an open box to allow access for fitting the steering mechanisms, with wings forming the linings of the wheel wells.

For the twin steering,R/C aircraft tie-rods were earlier fitted to the steering arms and this sub-assembly was then retrofitted into the motor bay by some careful drilling and filing, with apertures cut to allow the tie-rods to slide in and out freely with its opposite arm via a threaded connector rod.

Exacting measurements were taken to ensure that all of the steering heads were level and that when the hubs swivelled, the tyres didn’t scrub each other, the well linings or the body wheel arches. Again, being FAB 1, the whole procedure had to be performed four times! Each set of wheels can be posed but remain independent. This aspect of the model remains my only major disappointment, as I simply couldn’t source enough information to engineer it correctly.


^ The rear chassis consists of the floor pan and wheel wells – simple plasticard boxes framing linings which are curved to match the tyre profile, with the adjoining cavity occupied by car filler for extra strength.

The rear hubs were glued in place on stub axles and the final additions were formers across the floor pan to support the false floor of the cabin.

The entire chassis was painted in flat black auto enamel - including the motor bay, to reduce unwanted reflections, but excluding edges or planes which were required for adhesion to the body.



With the dimensions of the cabin and floor now a given, I turned my attention to the cabin furniture, which consists of:


^ two sidewall panels with real walnut veneer,


^ two control consoles,


^ Parker’s driving seat and Lady Penelope’s bench seat, all of which were made with 1.5mm plasticard sheet and 2mm half-round strip for both seat piping and panel trim.


^ An early mock-up to check the cabin interior dimensions.


^ To keep the weight of the model down, most components were made as hollow forms, which often required more work than if solid forms had been used, but Parker’s driving seat was hollow by necessity – to house a recessed videophone monitor. This also features the walnut veneer, as does the central dash panel.


^ The unusual FAB 1 steering wheel (displayed here on my wife’s palm) was made using rubber o-rings and found kit parts, but proved far too fragile to work with ..


^ .. so it was suspended over a shallow dish of silicon rubber, lowered in half way and the rubber allowed to cure.


^ The wheel was then removed from the mould, flipped over and lowered again into a new mould.


^ Each half of the wheel was then cast in resin, flash was removed, the bottoms sanded flat ..


^ .. and simply sandwiched together to form a more rigid reproduction.


^ However, the knobs on the end of the steering grips were slightly ovular due to over-sanding, so I simply cannibalised the master, now no longer required.


^ A later mock-up to test-fit the cabin upon the chassis. Of note are the false floor, and the registration slot visible at the front of the chassis, which receives a lip secreted on the body-shell for fitting purposes.

Continued
 
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Fun Pod

Alphans
Continued




With the outline of the cabin a given, I could proceed to make a balsa press mould for the canopy.


^ The mould was build up and sanded down in the same fashion as the body, paying particular attention to the polyurethane sealing – several brush coats in opposing directions to reduce the chance of the balsa grain reproducing in the final pressing.


^ Two MDF templates were cut to match a standard sheet of Plastruct clear stock. The outline of the mould base was traced onto each template, with extra allowance around the circumference for the plastic sheet thickness. The outlines were jig-sawed out and the edges of the resulting apertures were sanded smooth until the templates matched exactly.
One template was then bonded to a simple MDF frame to form a moulding box, which was made slightly higher than the full depth of the mould, so that a plastic pressing remained suspended above any other surface.


^ The clear sheet was heated over a stove element until droopy, quickly transferred to the moulding box and sandwiched between the templates. The canopy mould was then pressed down through the template aperture into the hot plastic as far as it would go without warping.


^ After cooling for a minute or so, the mould was withdrawn from the box and the pressed canopy simply popped off.


^ The pressing could be easily replaced over the mould to aid transferring the canopy spar guidelines.


^ Excess plastic was trimmed, each side of the three canopy spars were delineated in masking tape and sanded coarse.


^ The rest of the canopy was then completely reverse-masked for successive coats of auto enamel grey primer, white undercoat and pink topcoat, both inside and out. Once dry and all masking removed, thin strips of Xmas chrome adhesive tape were applied to form the canopy trim.




^ Just prior to priming, the bumpers were permanently fitted to the body-shell. A hollow, box-like subassembly, the front bumper was made with two plasticard profiles set apart with transverse formers, carefully measured to allow four short lengths of 11mm tubing to sit flush with the profiles, with the adjoining cavity occupied by car filler to complete the final shape.

As the corners of the front bumper are compound curves, the mitred joins were filed off during shaping and the resulting corner cavities filled and sanded. The inset which frames the licence plate was lined with plasticard and the tube apertures either side filled.

Naturally, the rear-side bumpers required a different approach. For each bumper, two lengths of the tubing – one measured from the rear wheel arch, the other from the trailing face of the boot, were glued together at a shallow angle using an extended mitre cut, so as to taper toward a rough point. This point was cut off, a profile of the required tip was fashioned in plasticard, glued in place to indicate a centre line and then the actual tip of the bumper fashioned out of car filler and sanded smooth.


^ At about this time, I abandoned the idea of working lighting (who was ever going to see it?), despite having prepared reflector boxes for to be fitted behind the light clusters and secreting a battery compartment in the boot. I simply panelled in the cluster with a thin sheet of plasticard with bonded washers and sanded filler.


^ Thin plasticard strips were inserted into the grill cavities to form the grill vanes, which are typically set at opposing angles from the centreline and would normally direct airflow into the motor bay.


^ Found objects, these little electrical fuse end-caps were pressed into service as aerial mounts, with small holes drilled to accept short lengths of 1/32 music wire to form the twin aerials.


^ The parcel shelf air-conditioning vent was mitre-cut ¼-round strip stock to form a frame around an insert of corrugated box-car panelling.


^ Thin lengths of masking tape were applied to the body to indicate the wing mirror bays, door panels and boot.




^ As the side panels and bench seat were designed to integrate directly with parts of the body-shell, these were installed at the same time the body was permanently super-glued to the chassis.


^ The cavity between the bench seat and headrest was blended with car filler and match painted.


^ The cabin and wheel wells were completely masked off and the body given a final coat of grey primer followed by two undercoats of white enamel. The panel line masks were then removed, leaving shallow impressions to delineate ‘opening’ features.


^ The undercarriage remained featureless (who was going to see it?) until the late addition of the twin, dual exhaust pipes. For display purposes, small holes were earlier drilled through the undercarriage and machine hex nuts were glued within the motor bay, allowing machine screws to be inserted from the exterior to lock the steering in one of three set poses (locked left, straight, locked right) and thwart anybody who may be tempted by the twin steering to ‘see if it works’ (it doesn’t!).




^ The cabin paint scheme was intentionally limited to a three colour palette: all panels and furniture in gloss black lacquer ..


^ .. seat piping and steering wheel in gloss white lacquer and some trim highlighted with thin strips of Xmas chrome adhesive tape. As many TV episodes featured script-driven changes to the instrumentation, I kept the detailing fairly restrained using kits parts, deliberately making the controls slightly oversize – large stalk knobs and D-handle sliders, typical of those handled by the series puppets.


^ The walnut fascia was given two brush coats of polyurethane clear sealer and given a light buff. All of the monitor and cabin knobs are self adhesive, disposable body jewellery. The final touch was a square of red self adhesive felt to simulate the interior carpet.





^ The cabin and wheel wells were completely masked off and the body given two topcoats of a generic gloss pink enamel. By now, I had a publishing deadline to meet and I simply didn’t have the time-frame required for a rigorous colour comparison test regime.


^ Possibly the most controversial aspect of any representation of FAB 1, it seems everybody has an opinion on the correct shade of pink, and I think it’s fair to say my selection is on the ‘hot’ side of the spectrum, whereasmost representations tend toward ‘baby’ or ‘bubblegum’ hues. In any event, my final scheme is guaranteed to smoke out any true Thunderbirds fan!


^ Once the topcoat was thoroughly dry, the body was reverse masked, exposing only those features requiring a chrome finish – the grill and bumpers, light cluster trim, waistline, door handles, aerial mounts and hubcaps. These were all airbrushed using Alclad II chrome, a metallic finish that involves a two stage process: application of a special gloss black enamel basecoat, followed by several mist coats of the chrome. The resultant chemical reaction and curing produces a robust metallic finish. Unfortunately, I ran out of chrome when it came time to paint the hub-caps, so these were finished in Tamiya Mica Silver gloss lacquer.




^ With the paint scheme fully cured, it was time to add the final details. Short lengths of 1/8 aluminium tubing were mitre cut and glued to the chassis to form the twin, dual exhaust pipes.

Because cars with six headlights are rather rare, lenses were cannibalised from a rally car kit (which are typically stacked with forward spotlights), while the rear reflectors were likewise cannibalised from an old Plymouth Police Car kit.

To attach the canopy, a thin bead of white-to-clear aircraft canopy glue was applied to the rim base, pressed home and taped down until cured.

The outer walls of the vinyl tyres were given a coat of real tyre blackener and then sprayed with real tyre sheen, before being attached to the wheels.


^ The front and rear number plates were made using railway accessory transfer lettering on black art paper and attached to the bumpers with double-sided tape.


^ In the same fashion, a tiny magazine cut out of the Rolls-Royce badge was applied to the header tank.


^ Finally, a pair of tiny wings were fashioned out of plasticard and glued to an ‘N’ scale railway figure (seen here resting on my wife’s fingernail), specially chosen for her posture to approximate the kneeling Rolls-Royce ‘Spirit of Ecstasy’ mascot.


^ I say approximate because, in actuality, the real mascot is very different, however, at the scale I was working (mere millimetres), a more accurate fabrication would look too, well, blobby.


^ Because the majority of people have never actually seen a true Rolls-Royce mascot, I deemed it better to fashion a hood ornament of what people think it looks like, but which would also have some discernable detail.

I deliberately withheld its application to the ornament base as the crowning deed, to formally signify the end of my very first Gerry Anderson scratch-build.



The following photographs are from the original 2006 photo-shoot for a magazine article.











Those of you intimately familiar with FAB 1 will note that, with even the most cursory of glances at the above gallery, my take on the vehicle is not canon. For anyone contemplating a scratchbuild of the subject, I highly recommend you visit these two websites as part of your research:

http://homepages.tesco.net/d.sisson/index.htm

http://www.martinbowersmodelworld.com/

Both websites belong to individuals long-considered the best replica-makers in GA fandom. Both detail the construction of their own, more accurate, replicas of FAB 1, using two other very different methods, showcasing two differing levels of detail and finish … and each as unique as their original inspiration.

 
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29390

Alphans
Amazing. If that doesn't deserve post(s) of the day, then I don't know what does! Superbly documented. Thanks for posting.
 

paul gray

Forum Supporter
wow. simply a stunning build , and very informative write up. many thanks for taking the time and effort to post here.:clap::clap::clap:
cheers Paul
 

Transporter

Alphans
Phantastic job, thank you for sharing this step by step scratch build. Building a car model from scratch always seems so difficult to me. :thumbup:
 

Bishop

Alphans
That was one great scratch build my friend. Thanks for putting the details on the board, excellent
 

Eagle

Commander Ret.
Yeesh... you scratch-builders have my mind all a-boggle. Amazing skills. :) Thanks for the exclusive. :thumbup:
 

skiffy

Alphans
Excellent stuff - and a clear record of the vast and varied skillset required for taking on such a project.

To paraphrase Eagle "Consider me a-boggled.."
 

Fun Pod

Alphans
JD, 29390, Paul, Transporter, Bishop, Lazy Eagle, Eagle, Elric and Skiffy:
Thank You for your kind appreciation - it's very encouraging.

I hope that, in some small way, someone here is able to take something away which helps them in their own scratchbuild project, in the same way that I did from those before me. If this site has an unspoken motto, surely it is "Share the wealth!" :)
 

DX-SFX

Alphans
At last. A breath of fresh air. I echo everyone else's sentiments. Very impressive Fun Pod and a well illustrated article. I'm literally just in the middle of doing a similar article on soldering techniques for posting in the next couple of days. You've made a first class job of that FAB1. Very good.
 

DX-SFX

Alphans
Fun Pod's article is well timed. It's good to get the forum back to what it should be about which is also why I'm preparing my article. His presentation is going to be better than mine though. Hey, Fun Pod. I bet you a five quid Sci Fi and Fantasy Models will be after you to do a magazine article.
 
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JD

Alphans
Hey, Fun Pod. I bet you a five quid Sci Fi and Fantasy Models will be after you to do a magazine article.

:rofl: Apologies DX, but after 'suggesting' for so long that Fun Pod post his build here, I have to laugh!

Check out SFFM no.3 from 2006...

You owe Fun Pod five quid! :lol: ;)
 

Fun Pod

Alphans
jockdeboer, Rdrunner, DX-SFX, thanks for the shot in the arm.

DX, indeed any AMC members, who may be prepping articles for the Lounge, I've spoken with Eagle and you are very welcome to 'lift' the AMC Members Lounge Exclusive banner at the head of my article to head your own article - a conscious attempt to 'lift the game' of thread presentation. I for one would be happy to assist with title banners, etc., and can keep "Mum" until you post ... for a fiver ;)
 

DX-SFX

Alphans
Alright, alright, it was late here when I posted! I've been under a lot of stress recently what with my new role of anti-christ to live up to. :lol:

Just did a check with a currency converter and apparently the pound is so weak now, Fun Pod owes me 57 UK pence.

Thanks Fun Pod. Actually I was just going to post in the open forum. There's been so few actual build threads recently...
 
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