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My Studio Scale Firefly

badsimmonds

Alphans
I decided my next project would be a ss 'Firefly' as its a great little vehicle which always looks good on screen.
Sometime ago I bought from SMT two sets of vigor tractor wheels and tracks with the intention of one day building either the Firefly and/or the Gray & Houseman tractor.
I chose the Firefly as I thought it might be easier to construct. However at the stage I've reached with this model I'm not sure if I made a mistake as the budget for this project is sixpence which as you can imagine limits your choices of construction etc.
I first roughly assembled one side of four wheels and a set of tracks to get an idea of size. I then cut appropiate pieces of 4mm acrylic and glued them together into what I thought was the basic shape of an original vigor toy. On hindsight I should have just built a simple retangular box which would have done just as well. I intended to use as much of the vigor castings as I could like the suspension arms etc. I kept on changing my mind on how to build this which isn't really the way to do things but in the end I ended up with something that might just do.
As usual I took some screen grabs and blew them up to studio scale size or in reality till the wheels in the picture where the same size as the resin wheels I had. Using these blow ups I marked out the positions of the axles, drilled the holes and dried fitted some of the wheels.
 

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badsimmonds

Alphans
I'm still working on the wheels and tracks as you can see. I decided in the end not to have any working suspension, partly lazyness but mostly the finished model will sit on a shelf all its life. I know thats terrible but I always reduce the amount of work I have to do to a minimum. I have used as much of the supplied suspension parts as I can even though you will hardly see them. The rear wheels are just metal tubes going through the chassis while the front two are kept in place with strips of brass bent over the axles. To keep the right gaps between the chassis and the wheels I've used bits of aluminium tubing and washers which fit over the actual axle so all wheels are able to rotate.
Once I had sanded and cleaned the parts I gave them their first coat of primer which always shows up faults etc.
Each track comes in 3 separate mouldings which have to be fitted together, at each track end there is a fixing which should fit into each other, unfortunately while cleaning the excess from these areas I weakened the fixings which meant they broke.
The only option left to me was an old Blue Peter kind of fix which I picked up from some one who was making tracks for a shado mobile and that was to use strips of black card.
It sounds dodgy but it actually works and will do for me, I sanded down any rough areas within each end of track using a dremel, cut thin strips of thick card and superglued them in place. The card is flexible and stong enough to do the job and you don't see it.
Strips of thin plastic are not as good as they have a tendancy to snap after a while.
I will have a lot of work to do on the tracks later but meantime I've dried fitted everything in place to see how it looks.
 

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SteveDix

Alphans
I'm still working on the wheels and tracks as you can see. I decided in the end not to have any working suspension, partly lazyness but mostly the finished model will sit on a shelf all its life.

You could do a limited form of suspension : cut the tubes, then glue a rubber (ahem : rubber = eraser for our colonial friends ) in the middle and poke the tubes into it. This would give enough "bounce" to make it convincing.

I believe a similar method was used in "Terrahawks". - David?
 

badsimmonds

Alphans
You've got me thinking now, should I have suspension mmm!
Next time I'm out I'll have a look for some 'erasers' I'll try an experiment first and see how it goes.
thanks
 

badsimmonds

Alphans
I've been working on the tracks which has been a nightmare, the more I've handled them the more they break. The tracks are ok its just in one or two places the moulding is a bit thin which eventually breaks. I've repaired them using the strips of card I mentioned above but this means although the wheels can rotate I would'nt dare actually push the model along as the tracks will not take it. At one point I was even thinking of using some Heng Long tracks I had from an earlier model though they are great tracks and easily shortened etc they do not look right. I have actually sprayed the chassis the final colour (Ford Daytona Yellow) and fitted the wheels and tracks for the final time. To keep the wheels from falling off I used mirror screws which have the dome you screw over the screw head as I thought they looked pretty good. They are still a bit shiny but they will be toned down during the dirtying down later.
I've also completed the tow hook which is on the original model sometimes as it comes and goes. I'm not sure if I will use it, we'll see.
 

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captain_Ed

Alphans
Just a thought and a little late but wouldn't a strip of black ribbon do better than a strip of card to stick the tracks to. Would be more flexible and hard wearing. Ribbon comes in quite a few widths.
 

badsimmonds

Alphans
Hi Capt
Yes it probably would do as well if not better than the card. At the moment the tracks are fitted but perhaps later on I will revisit them. At one time I was thinking of cutting the tracks up and refix each individual piece to a rubber drive belt or something similiar.
I've been looking at drive belts but not sure of size and I can't afford to buy anything on spec at the moment as i have no money.
 

badsimmonds

Alphans
Now that the chassis and tracks are finished sort of its time for the body, though to be truthful I've been working on it at the same time.
I was originally going to use jelutong wood but time and money said other things and I've ended up using balsa wood. I haven't used this since I started scratchbuilding in the 60's, it has advantages but mostly has disadvantages. I had one piece 3" square and 3' long plus another 2" square by 3' long. I enlarged some screen grabs I'd taken up to studio scale size and cut out the side bit which covers the tracks. I used this to mark out the shape which is quite curved and soon had the balsa carved to the approximate shape. This is the main advantage of balsa is its so easy to shape but murder to get a good paintable surface. I fine tuned it using sand paper and sometimes a power sander, I also cut a recess underneath on the tracks side to give them more room, you can't really see it as its hidden behind a lip.
Next is the main body using the 3" square block with an added section glued on top for the drivers cabin. Again it didn't take too long though getting the shape of the nose correct took sometime, I've heard it can be almost as difficult as shaping a TB2 nose. I also cut out a section so the body would fit over the chassis. After lots of sanding and reshaping I glued the three blocks together, after even more sanding I mixed up some fibreglass resin and painted the entire body to help seal and strengthen the balsa.
 

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badsimmonds

Alphans
I didn't glue the three body sections together like I said, I've started building two other projects at the same time as working on Firefly so I do get a bit mixed up at times, same with the photos so please bear with me.
The body has been sanded and filled and sprayed within an inch of its life and I still don't seem to get anywhere, just when I think its getting there I find another mark or blemish and on it goes.
The Firefly has headlights on either side of its body and for those I bought two cheap led torches from maplins and cut them up to a better size.
The holes for them were created by using my trusty dremel which is so easy to work with on balsa so it didn't take long for them to be done, then its the usual sanding and filling till satisfied.
There is also a cowling with a grill under the front of the vehicle and I used a scrap of 'real' wood to shape it, even more sanding, filling spraying, will it ever end.
I eventually glued the body sections together and once dry I made sure the chassis would fit into the allotted space. The body and chassis will not be fixed together but just fit together for ease of use.
The last photo is out of sequence but shows the model getting there.
 

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badsimmonds

Alphans
Once the two headlight holes had been completed it was the turn of the mounting for the front canon. I drilled a hole and glued an aluminium tube in place which would serve as the holder of the actual canon plus create a lip which curves into the body.
I spent sometime drilling out a space for the window but after endless trouble with it I decided to fill it in with P38 and sand, fill, spray until it was back where it started. Because of all the hassle I had I've decided just to paint the window on, shock horror, I know but there's not much to the window so I might get away with it.
I also started on the detail which covers the firefly so I used a 3" metal pudding mould for the turret, it was cut down to size and drilled with holes for the three tubes that stick out. At the moment it looks more like the 'Big Gun' from Stingray.
The hydralic rams are yet more aluminium tubing ( obtained from B&Q ) I carved a piece of hard wood and glued a threaded rod into place, once dry I covered it in filler and sanded etc etc until the correct shape was achieved. The other rams were fitted into slightly larger tubes which in turn will have another threaded rod glued in and these will fit through the body and kept tight using a nut and spring washer so the dozer blade will be able to move.
 

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badsimmonds

Alphans
Does anyone out there know where I can get the ''Fog/Sirens' on top of the Firefly roof as seen on the enclosed pic.
I've looked just about everywhere with no luck.
Any help would be most grateful
Thanks BS
 

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badsimmonds

Alphans
I found a source for the roof horns on Firefly, the company is cornwallmodelboats.co.uk
They have sirens/fog horns made out of aluminium which are about the correct size and very reasonably priced.
 

badsimmonds

Alphans
While working on the main body I've also been continuing on the masses of detail which Firefly requires. The turret has been cut to size and is the first part to have its final colour painted. The 'roll bar' thingy that covers it was made out of plastistruct girder shapes. I heated the strips with a hair dryer and then carefully bent the parts into shape. It took two attempts to get it right as its the most fragile part on the model, once sprayed it looks ok.
The six drums at the rear I decided to make out of 22mm copper end caps with a washer fixed on top. There is an amazing difference of detail on various photos of Firefly and though my model is based on the version seen in the 'City of Fire' episode I also mixed it with other versions. My version has a 'little fence' by the side of the drums, other versions use a part from the girder bridge. In fact my 'little fence' was made from a girder bridge base, you know the parts that covers tb1's launch pad, I cut out what looks exactly like the screen used part. The hydraulic rams are made from tubing which is cut to size. As you can see from the photo there are quite a few detail parts needed.
I also shaped a couple of pieces of wood for the rear 'exhausts' and used p38 and parcel tape to get the correct shape for fixing on the curved rear.
As i was not buying any kits for parts I had to create some detail as close as I could. By the time I had finished most of the details were ready for fitting once the body is painted.
 

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badsimmonds

Alphans
Now its the turn of the dozer blade. I first tried a piece of aluminium but couldn't even bend it then I used plasticard and tried heating it with a hair dryer but it didn't work, next I tried another piece of plasticard but this time put it in the oven when the wife was out but even though it was only a few seconds it warped. By this time I'd had enough so I went out and got a round plastic bin with verticle sides so it was just a matter of cutting to size and there you have an instant dozer blade. I cut out the clear window area and the hole for the cannon, next was the window frames again using thin plasticard. This time I actually decided to have rivet effects so I used a notice board pin to create them, in the end I used the other side of the frames as the pin had created little bumps which look like rivets. Both the blade and frames were primed then sprayed their final colour, the frames were Audi Brilliant Red and the blade was ford Moondust silver metallic both colours because they were lying around. Before painting I dried fitted the blade to a couple of rams just to see what they looked like. I had bent some metal strips to create the 'hinge' and used some old meccano nuts & bolts to actually fix the hinges to the blade.
Meanwhile the body had more sanding and priming ready for its final coat.
 

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badsimmonds

Alphans
Thanks for that. Stuck away by yourself building models you always wonder what other people think of your efforts.
BS
 

badsimmonds

Alphans
After working on the various bits of detail its now time for the final coat of paint. I always get a bit worried at this stage as usually something goes wrong - the paint runs or a bit of dirt suddenly appears from nowhere.
After endless sanding and priming and after giving it a going over with a tack cloth I screwed the body to a support so I can spray top and bottom in one go.
The paint is Ford Daytona Yellow which is the colour for most yellow vehicles in Thunderbirds. After one coat I left it for a while then gave it a second coat to give it a good finish. After leaving it for a day or two I then masked off the area for the red strip. I used thin car masking tape as it is very flexible, this was followed by low tack masking tape and then the rest of the body was covered in a bin liner. The red paint I used was Audi Brilliant red as I happen to have it lying around. Once that had dried I used some 3mm self adhesive tape to create the black outlines on the red stripe. It was the same method for the red areas round the front headlights and the cabin window.
I fixed the intake grill under the cabin plus the mudflaps which were just plasticard shaped and painted in one single piece which was then glued just behind the grill.
Its almost there, just the detailing left to do.
 

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badsimmonds

Alphans
The painting is now complete and time for detailing.
During the course of this build I worked on the details so they would be ready to apply once the body was completed.
The turret which was the first thing that was finished is bolted onto the body so I can remove it for any reason, next the roll bar thingy was screwed onto the top. The rest of the detail is made up of bits and bobs, I used what info I could get from screen grabs plus from Martin Bower's Firefly model. Although my model is based on the 'City of Fire' episode it's actually a bit of all versions.
The six barrels at the rear were copper pipe end caps with a washer glued on top, the fence at the side of the barrels were cut from sections of girder bridge. The 'portholes' on either side of the body were chrome screw cap washers glued onto a slightly larger diameter washer to give a lip effect.
The two foghorns on the roof were purchased from cornwall model boats and were very cheap considering they were made from aluminium.
The only items that needed cut were the four rams connected to the dozer blade as I left that to the end. I had a piece of 2mm thick perspex which I cut to fit the window in the blade, this was finished off with the red surrounds made from plasticard.
I decided to fit the tow bar onto the chassis as I had made it so on it goes even though in some scenes there isn't one.
Finally the Firefly letters were created by my friendly no questions asked graphics shop who do all my letters etc, they are self adhesive vinyl which are ready to fix and takes only seconds.
The three ariels were made from brass rod glued into a cut down co-axial cable connector, the little flags were just insulating tape.
Thats it I think, its finally finished. I enjoyed making this model as it stretched my very limited skills and tools to the limit. I can now spend more time on my next project - a studio scale ufo interceptor.
 

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