24 June 2018

[Customs] 1/24 Mazda RX-7 Shiki-Inspired Livery

I've always wanted to try at modding an RX-7 with with lesser popular cosmetic parts. I could've settled with the Matchbox version or even the Motormax of the 1:64 variant, but lucky for me I stumbled on this during a visit to a flea market. This one is a 1:24 Motormax. Awesome. I get to explore what it's like to modify parts of other brands than Hot Wheels. There's a lot of content to cover over a course of 3 to 4 years which includes a huge "hiatus" (or completely forgot about it), and there was no organized way of completing this, so it'll look like I've gone back in time if you're assuming a chronological order of photos. It's gone through so many overhauls with critical mistakes made. The original plan was to do a plain-body metallic grey body with a duckbill wing and custom body kit. I don't remember where I changed my mind to switching to white as a base colour, but I do know that after screwing up pearlescent coat, I ended up re-visiting the idea of making something like an Itasha livery, that's what I ended up sticking with.


Stripped Paint
Rear Wing
License Plate Delete
Front Bumper
Rear Bumper, Diffuser & Exhaust
Ground Clearance + Skirt
Fender Fix
Painting, Decals, Windows
Final Photos


Here's a fun one. Modifying Hot Wheels has been a breeze when we can simply worked with standardized parts. But what about when we work with scale models that don't take such shortcuts in production? I definitely can't take the wheels off a 1:18 Fiat 500 and put it on a Dodge Challenger like you can with Hot Wheels, so what does that mean for this RX-7? That I should acquire another 1:24 car and gut it for its wheels? Not a sound solution to me. These aren't $1 toys. So I dug around for solutions. Thankfully there is still a market for plastic model kit cars at this scale. I learned Fujimi sold accessories for their model kits for folks who want to personalize their kits. I grabbed these Sportec Mono wheels right away. The challenge of fitting mixed brands together approaches.

This is how the wheels are constructed. The wheels pop on the joint like a cap.
The cap on the new wheels have a different the same size. Finding a way to make mixed brands compatible with each other is a new challenge.
The cap sizes had differing depths, making the offset length different. Another obstacle to work around.
This is one idea I had to address the offset; cutting out pieces of plastic to work as spacers. The thickness is the same, so that's one variable eliminated in the process of crafting precise parts.
Basically, I'd stick that in between the joint and the wheel. Simple enough, right? Wrong. I later found out how the rotating piece is assembled on the joint. I did something else instead.
Irreversible decision #1: Cut out the cap on the stock wheel since I later learned its inner diameter was exactly the same as the new wheel's outside diameter.
The idea here is to use that cap as as adapter to join the wheel with the hub. This also eliminates the chance of misaligning the joint's axis with the wheels.

The whole thing assembled would look like this. Don't mind the incorrect widths. I later learned the wheels supplied had staggered sizes, with wider rear wheels.

This is how the wheels in the back will sit.

That offset is rather large for my liking. I could fabricate new fenders and go for a widebody kit, but there is also the option to shave down that tube to reduce the offset.

Because the front wheels weren't as wide as the back, there wasn't any need to do major adjustments. But I still want a flush look. Photos of the changes were not documented, but I shaved down the spacer to bring the wheels inward.


In the past, I made an unusual decision of sculpting the putty before stripping paint. While that matters little to me, I would imagine I'd lose some separation lines if I put new paint over existing paint.


The primary motive behind this project. Getting the chance to experience what the FD looks like without a blade-less wing. It's not a new idea. I've seen an FD in the real world blow past me on the road and I was impressed by its refreshing appeal. I've also seen a plentiful amount of duckbill wings on this car through a simple search on Google.

With the stock wing removed, I loosely plot out how much real estate this new wing will take up, while also deciding if the wing should extend past the trunk line, and if so, how do I accommodate for a moving part.
Slapped down a ton of Tamiya epoxy putty to later sculpt via subtractive method.
Decided to cut it off at the trunk line, but a square edge didn't sit well with me (at the time). To me, the silhouette of the wing shouldn't have an abrupt angle. It should gradually curve its way up from the body edge. Unfortunately this would result in a tiny lip which looks scrawny and pointless (when picturing this in my head), so I've done something more convex.
While it looks good with a sufficient "flick" from the side...
...the shape looks odd from the back. In hindsight, maybe a rectangular wing with curved edges would look a bit less outstanding.
This was sanded down so much I've never felt something so smooth in my life.


The plate wasn't a huge bother. This project just gave me freedom to completely mutilate a car body of its original form, and this was one opportunity I went after.
Also cut off the bottom edge while I was at it.


Ah yes. The place where the cosmetic changes have the biggest presence. No idea was set in stone at the time. The A-Spec bumper was one influence, but I feel the most influencing factor was whatever was easy to sculpt while maintaining symmetry!

The bottom edge has been added in. I was hoping this would help me gauge the symmetry of the angles a lot better. I pressed the putty flat to make my life easier on that end, but didn't realize how painstaking it was going to be filing the other side of the surface flat.
After screwing up the symmetry and applying more putty many times, I've arrived at the point where I shaved off too much of the bottom lip and at awkward angles too. I did my best coping with the results and settled on have the lip slope up towards the side of the fender. The acrylic displayed is to gauge how much putty is still needed before attaching the splitter.
Working with the epoxy putty is tough because of how sticky it is. I want it to fill the entire depth of the front vents, but that's a lot more challenging than I expected. So I pulled out the polyestor putty once again and tried to fill up as much as I could. I also took this opportunity to stick on my acrylic piece that would eliminate the need to straightening the putty's bottom edge. I have a second piece going underneath that will help create the splitter. This car might have to sport a flashier look than I originally intended.
This should settle things between putty and me.
Hey! I got a modern Mazda grill going on there, but that's not what I want. Here is more photos of later retries.
The second piece has been attached, and I've filled the gap with more putty.
What it looks like underneath should be enough to tell it all.
After getting a good glimpse at a photo a friend shared of a Mazdaspeed A Spec Type I bumper, it got my gears going again and I got back on track by making further changes to the design to match that because the previous look was visually heavy on body surface and it felt like I lost direction.
What I do like about aiming at this particular bumper design is that I can still make it work without the two acrylic sheets being in the way.
The bumper needed a bit more detailing, so I've stuck on triangular strips of styrene along the perimeter and filled in the gap with putty.
Now it looks less plain!
This was completely overlooked throughout the entire project; front mesh! Who could forget.
Not happy with how these turned out, but I wasn't going to redo everything like I re-puttied the bumper.
Didn't want this project to run forever. Will live with it.


That lip wasn't going to stay if I were to reposition the exhaust pipe.
And off it went. It had been shaved off entirely with a cutting disk.
Here I've laid down the foundation of the diffuser. This is only the first layer of styrene. There will be a second.
The second layer of styrene helps gives a gap between bumper and diffuser panel. It does extrude beyond the bumper's contours for added presence.

Now comes the next challenge: How can I put together the rest of the unit without fixing them to the bumper? Doing such means I'll never be able to put the under-carriage piece back on. Here I'm trying to instead fasten the center piece of the diffuser to the fuel tank instead of the bumper.
Having to account for the undercarriage piece not always sitting perfectly parallel to the floor, getting those wedge pieces to angle correctly was tedious. If the undercarriage was installed at a slant, the diffuser would then be slanted too. Basically, too many variables come into play that will influence how I've been gauging the accuracy of these wedges' slopes.

The only real way of testing was to assemble the undercarriage to the body like a completed car along with the wheels, and then comparing ground clearance.
I didn't want to copy Rocket Bunny's kit straight up, so I made up this bulky looking piece that conveniently glues onto the bumper.

Here I put the rear lid on just to see how these two flaps interact with the wing.
Had a wooden dowel as a pipe earlier. Guess that won't be needed now!
Forgot that tube was complimented by another tube the next size up during purchase. All this means is that I can get that extra thickness easily.

Can't waste any more time on this. On with the Carbon Fiber. This is 1:24 Carbon Fiber weave by Scale Motorsport; the most flexible and thinnest waterslide decal I've ever worked it. Tamiya Decal Adhesive proved to be very helpful in getting this stuff to stick around the edges.
This diffuser style is inspired by Rocket Bunny's design. It makes absolutely no sense to have an exhaust pipe be placed between the bumper and diffuser, but that's what I had thought of doing last year, and in the interest of wrapping this project up before the end of June 2018, I'm sticking with it. This of course meant installing the exhaust before the two side panels that essentially seal up that and access to the car in the future.


Like the front bumper, there's a bit more clearance than I like.
On goes the putty.
Checking for symmetry.
I believe I went and added a different putty as the epoxy putty was posing a challenge at getting a flat surface.
Tape's there to provide a backing.
Much better!
This is the first step of getting the exact amount of putty needed. It will help with the next step.
Styrene! Why didn't I think of this earlier! This makes it so much easier to create the straight edge, not to mention it also adds the sill I've been looking for.
A flat side skirt wasn't looking good after looking at it for months. The styrene was taken off temporarily and off to the internet I go searching for some much needed inspiration. Thankfully, I found something decent I should be able to sculpt without too much difficulty.
Lines are kept geometrical to make it easier to measure.
I transfer those measurements to paper, draw and cut out the shape of the skirt.
Afterwards, I trace it out onto styrene, cut, and fit them in place with super glue.


Upon lowering, the fender shapes were in different shapes, so here is an attempt at addressing that as well as tightening up the fitment. Here I used Tamiya's basic putty, and I am loving every minute of using this over the epoxy putty. It takes way less effort to apply and takes about the same amount of time to dry.


Ah yes. One of the final stages of model modding. We're almost there. I was originally going to go with a plain white body, but in the event of screwing up the pearlescent coat- the final step to calling it complete, I decided to cover up the left section that had massive over-spray. Something lead to another, and now here I am coming up with an original itasha livery based off Shiki's kimono.

With the base colour being similar enough to a plain white, the blue sash would be the colour to block in the area to be hidden. I'll be following suit with the floral patterns both on the sash and kimono. Nailing the soft pink won't be easy, but I think using the pearlized paint will suffice.

Drafted a few ideas, but I'll go with this for now. Some changes occurred during the winter pause. The blue will have its patterns, and the floral arrangement will run all the way to the splitter.

It looks like grey, but it is white with that pearlized paint on top. I'm pretty sure I'm not using it properly, but either way, I oversprayed on the left fender, hence the blue coming in later.

Didn't include the picture, but there was a stage where the first attempt at the blue paint resulted in the white paint being ripped off when removing the masking tape. The warm season of 2017 was at its end, and I was too frustrated to work in the cold, so this was put off until May of next year:

With paint stripping no longer being an easy option with all the plastic everywhere, I've puttied up the areas where paint was taken, did a new coat of paint from automotive paint, masked it off and did another round of blue. For this, I mixed Tamiya Blue with Tamiya Metallic Blue, and went an uncountable amount of coats to get something substantially thick. It's dark and contrasts very strongly with the white, maybe too much even.
But thinking on it, the flower patterns may pop even better with the darker blue, so I'm feeling positive of this outcome.
Okay, after struggling with printer settings and using up 2 perfectly good decal sheets, I got the sash decals printed out, but unfortunately due to the printer's limited capabilities in producing a desired colour, I had to respray the body to match the blue on the paper.
Upon a second inspection, the decals appears to be too small based on the arrangement I composed in Photoshop. I'll spare the redo procedure and go to the new decals being applied. Unfortunately the paint does not match the decals....and I lost a bit of the edges despite learning from the Annihilator custom. I'll have to live with this and patch up the white spots. Otherwise the amount of colours is exciting to look at.
Blocked in the red on the right. Leaving out the red stripe on the left bonnet. Didn't understand the purpose of it after a while.
This was a backburner thought, but I had imagined all inside surfaces to be red to represent the second kimono Shiki wears underneath. This would mean the body on the inside as well as the interior cabin would be red... Ironically, I'm going to seal this in entirely. I've done no work in the cabin and I've now misplaced a part that hold the bonnet in place. This means I'll be skipping the engine detailing.
This is when you know you're having a great Sunday afternoon to yourself.
One thing that wasn't tested ahead of time is the ease of cutting decals that have at least 3 layers of clear coats. I managed to cut every other decal with the wide door panel gaps, but it was this one at the bottom corner where I didn't have enough of a gap to get a knife in there.
Laid down the kimono patterns. I am so glad I picked up this Decal Adhesive bottle by Tamiya. I was actually at the shop looking for Micro Sol to make decals more flexible, but this is a freaking glue. This is even better. I'm having little to no trouble dealing with stubborn decals that peel up at the edge.
And finally the icing on the cake, the bouquet on the bonnet! I'm extremely happy with how this turned out. It feels professionally done especially where it wraps around the bonnet edge.
Hurray, decals are all done!
That pearl coat; best appreciated under the sun, but best captured on camera otherwise.
Doing the interior was not planned, but I figured something is better than nothing. Used that leftover metallic red for the heck of it. Decided on red to match the inside kimono she wore.
Because this was bought off an old dude who was only selling models to keep him occupied, the condition of this was not the greatest. Thankfully the worst of it was dust stuck onto fingerprint grease. Ran Tamiya "Fine" Polishing Compound; didn't even go to the Finish level.


Photographed in RAW for the first time.

While it is loaded with mistakes from proportions to sloppy brush work, I am still very much happy with the overall results. I've much I can take away from this for future projects. The VW beetle is next on the list.