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Scale accuracy: how much is enough, and why do you care (or not).


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#1 Ace-Garageguy

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Posted 31 August 2012 - 10:57 AM

This may seem like beating a dead horse, but the other thread about the relative merits of 1/25 versus 1/24 misses the mark as to what's important in a model to me. I've tried to get some responses to this question over there, but I decided to spin it off and start fresh.

I build in many scales, a variety of subjects, and all scales have equal attractions, depending on several variables.

BUT, the SINGLE most important aspect of a particular model, to me, is how accurately it portrays its subject. I'm well versed in the technicalities of CAD, machining, pattern-making and tool-making, and industrial production. I know what's possible with current and 'obsolete' technology.

What I don't understand is how 3 manufacturers can produce models of the same car (the 1934 Ford is my example), and though in 1:1 the hoods on ALL common production '34 Ford body styles are the same length, NO TWO models in the same scale are the same, and NONE ARE CORRECT.

How can this be?

To a guy who spends every day looking at 1:1 hot rods, the wonky proportions of these models really spoil the presence of a finished build that the 1:1 has. I first started to notice the 'scale drift' while doing a chopped '34 drag car, and though I had measurements of the actual chop on the 1:1. nothing I did could get the right look. I finally figured it out while looking at photos of my model, and realized the kit proportions I'd started with were wrong....by enough to spoil the look.

That's when I set about measuring a real 1:1 '34 Ford 5-window we had in the shop, dividing by 25 and comparing the results.

So answer me this : How can 3 teams of supposed 'professionals' measure the same car and get 3 different numbers? And nobody catches it before it goes to production? And do you give a damm if your '34 actually looks like a '34, or is 'sorta' close enough?

#2 bbowser

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Posted 31 August 2012 - 11:20 AM

"BUT, the SINGLE most important aspect of a particular model, to me, is how accurately it portrays its subject".

This is the deciding factor (for me anyway). The portrayal is more important than the actual scale, whether 'as-advertised' or accurate. I build a lot of NASCARs, and they are not to scale. But they do portray the car. When you put a 1996 Lumina next to a '68 Torino (both supposedly 1/25) and they're the same size?

#3 Harry P.

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Posted 31 August 2012 - 11:28 AM

What I don't understand is how 3 manufacturers can produce models of the same car (the 1934 Ford is my example), and though in 1:1 the hoods on ALL common production '34 Ford body styles are the same length, NO TWO models in the same scale are the same, and NONE ARE CORRECT.

How can this be?


That is an excellent question!

And no doubt you'll be hearing from the "We're model builders, we can fix it" crowd and the "We should just be glad we have a model of XXXXX at all" crowd. I think that the "A scale model is supposed to be an accurate miniature of the original" crowd is outnumbered.

#4 Tony T

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Posted 31 August 2012 - 11:36 AM

Excellent question indeed...I don't have an answer for you!!
Personally, it has to look right overall to my eye. Sometimes "close enough" is good enough for me if it is for my enjoyment. An example would be a particular kit that I built as a kid and wanted to build again. I don't care if it's right...it's nostalgia. Whole different ballgame if I'm building a replica of a specific 1:1 and want it to be right. I don't build many of those!

#5 Ace-Garageguy

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Posted 31 August 2012 - 11:39 AM

I agree about the 'look' aspect. I'm still building AMT's vintage '32s, in spite of all the bad press about the proportions, because I like the general 'look' and have good memories of the kit in simpler times, but it IS on my list to measure a real 1:1 '32 roadster. I'm still not convinced the Revell version is right either.

When the measuring and/or scaling is off by enough, it's impossible to get the desired 'look'.

Edited by Ace-Garageguy, 31 August 2012 - 11:41 AM.


#6 sjordan2

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Posted 31 August 2012 - 11:41 AM

This may be an extreme exception, but I have a metal 1:18 model kit of a Bugatti T59 Grand Prix car - the same as issued by Bburago in a built diecast form. The Bugatti fanatics at bugattibuilder.com know this model well. The consensus is (and my measurements confirm it, based on original blueprints) that the model is actually somewhere between 1/15 and 1/16 scale. Apparently this is because they had a basic set of wire wheels for their classics line, and simply scaled the cars so they could use the same wheels on each model. I wonder how much of this sort of thing goes on in other scales to permit parts interchangeability.

And if you think this site is loaded with dilettante scale bigots and rivet counters, you should go to bugattibuilder.com to see how millionaire Bugatti restorers and aficionados get into flame wars.

PS: The wire wheels shown below aren't even correct. This car had piano wire wheels, which are available on the scale aftermarket for about $65.

[By the way, the website name bugattibuilder.com does not refer to building Bugatti models. It refers to rebuilding and restoring 1:1 Bugattis.]

Posted Image

Edited by sjordan2, 31 August 2012 - 12:41 PM.


#7 Ace-Garageguy

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Posted 31 August 2012 - 11:53 AM

Skip, here's the flip side of that coin.....The '41 Ford is mechanically pretty much identical with the '48, chassis-wise at least. For some odd reason, the Revell '41 woody shares no tooling with Revell's '48 Woody. With all the endless carping about how expensive tooling is, who was driving the bus when it was decided to double the necessary tooling expenditure to get these two kits out?

Every tree from the '41 could have been used in the '48 (or vice-versa), except for the main bodyshell.

Edited by Ace-Garageguy, 31 August 2012 - 12:03 PM.


#8 Fat Brian

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Posted 31 August 2012 - 11:58 AM

For some reason most car modelers aren't as concerned with scale fidelity as other groups. Armour and aircraft guys will scream bloody murder if this part or that part is a millimeter too long or too short, but somewhere along the line we learned to accept flawed kits. I wonder if it is because car modelers mostly build custom vehicles and modify the kits greatly and are thus more acommodating of incorrect kits. I mean, there are only so many ways to build a Sherman or Spitfire but a car kit has endless possibilities.

#9 midnightprowler

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Posted 31 August 2012 - 12:02 PM

Here's the flip side of that coin.....The '41 Ford is mechanically pretty much identical with the '48, chassis-wise at least. For some odd reason, the Revell '41 woody shares no tooling with Revell's '48 Woody. With all the endless carping about how expensive tooling is, who was driving the bus when it was decided to double the necessary tooling expenditure to get these two kits out?

Every tree from the '41 could have been used in the '48 (or vice-versa), except for the main bodyshell.

Umm, Revell did not do a 41, AMT did. Revell has done a couple of 40's, neither a woodie, and a few 48's, the reagtop, the woodie, and the chopped one. AMT only did the woodie in stock and rodded form.

#10 crazyjim

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Posted 31 August 2012 - 12:10 PM

That's really weird. You would think the measurements would be the same. Maybe the manufacturers change dimensions so the numbers work better when making their molds? I have no idea and have no access to old Fords to measure. Besides that, what could I do? Refuse to purchase a kit because a hood is too long or too short? I'm thankful that people are still making model car kits.

#11 Ace-Garageguy

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Posted 31 August 2012 - 12:12 PM

midnightprowler said: "Umm, Revell did not do a 41, AMT did. Revell has done a couple of 40's, neither a woodie, and a few 48's, the reagtop, the woodie, and the chopped one. AMT only did the woodie in stock and rodded form." end quote.



Hey, you know what? I'm an IDIOT. I was so busy comparing the parts, I was too stupidly pre-occupied to look at the boxes and who made the damm things. Duh, duh, duh duh duh.

And that's how mistakes get made. You caught me. Sure didn't take long to find that one. So, how do you suppose the approximately 1/32 scale engine ended up in AMT's last 1/25 issue of the Ala Kart? Wonder why nobody caught that.

And I'm curious....does the chopped '48 use the same chassis tooling as the woody?

Edited by Ace-Garageguy, 31 August 2012 - 12:16 PM.


#12 midnightprowler

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Posted 31 August 2012 - 12:18 PM

Actually the Ala Kart engine has been a big topic of discussion! Not sure if the chopped one does, both the others do. I was not saying you were a idiot, nowhere in my response did I attack you, I was just clarifying things.

Edited by midnightprowler, 31 August 2012 - 12:19 PM.


#13 Jantrix

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Posted 31 August 2012 - 12:19 PM

As a puchaser I don't want "close enough" on anything. Simple as that.

#14 Ace-Garageguy

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Posted 31 August 2012 - 12:20 PM

For some reason most car modelers aren't as concerned with scale fidelity as other groups. Armour and aircraft guys will scream bloody murder if this part or that part is a millimeter too long or too short, but somewhere along the line we learned to accept flawed kits. I wonder if it is because car modelers mostly build custom vehicles and modify the kits greatly and are thus more acommodating of incorrect kits. I mean, there are only so many ways to build a Sherman or Spitfire but a car kit has endless possibilities.


Brian, I tend to agree with you in principle, as I modify most everything and accept as a starting point pretty much whatever I can get. Still, it would be nice to not HAVE to modify a kit heavily to get back to the stock proportions that it is marketed to offer.

#15 Chuck Most

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Posted 31 August 2012 - 12:21 PM

For me, it really depends. If I like the 1:1 subject well enough, I'll buy and build the kit even if it is noticably flawed. Of course, there are exceptions- for instance, I refuse to buy any Revell or Monogram '69 or '70 Mustang until they fix that freakin' pig-nose grille, even though I love the 1:1 cars. And don't get me started on the MPC/AMT '69 kit, which does have a proper looking grille, but the whole kit is significantly underscale... :angry: Now that I think of it, something about that grille must be tough to duplicate, even the high-end diecast '69/70 Mustangs I've seen have grilles that range from 'almost there' to 'way off' in terms of appearance.

Since I mostly build hot rods and customs inspired by (but not directly based on) 1:1 cars I see, most of the time such inaccuracies don't bother me. They'll be dealt with during the modification process, they'll be offset or mitigated by some other modification, or perhaps the problem is something that would be a minor thing (to me) and not something that would bother me. I've never replicated an existing car in scale, so usually any weird stuff going on with the base kit doesn't matter, so take what I'm saying with a grain of salt.

As to how three different teams get three different sets of measurements, and no system of checks and balances seeming to be in place to compensate? That's a question for the ages.

#16 moparmagiclives

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Posted 31 August 2012 - 12:23 PM

For some reason most car modelers aren't as concerned with scale fidelity as other groups. Armour and aircraft guys will scream bloody murder if this part or that part is a millimeter too long or too short, but somewhere along the line we learned to accept flawed kits. I wonder if it is because car modelers mostly build custom vehicles and modify the kits greatly and are thus more acommodating of incorrect kits. I mean, there are only so many ways to build a Sherman or Spitfire but a car kit has endless possibilities.


I think that's true because it's true to real life. How many cars do you see on the street that just don't look right, or plain goofy ? I've never had a 32 ford, so I really can't tell you how "wrong" the scale model is. But I would in no way expect any of them to be perfect. Have you measured a 2x4 lately ?

#17 Ace-Garageguy

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Posted 31 August 2012 - 12:23 PM

Actually the Ala Kart engine has been a big topic of discussion! Not sure if the chopped one does, both the others do. I was not saying you were a idiot, nowhere in my response did I attack you, I was just clarifying things.


It's okay man. I'M calling me an idiot. I know you're not. And the Ala Kart engine has been a topic of my discussions a well......I've actually measured a 1:1 Red Ram and scaled it to compare to the two offerings. The old one is closest, by far.

#18 midnightprowler

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Posted 31 August 2012 - 12:25 PM

I have both AMT's 41 Woodie and Revell's 48 Convertible. I should kook and see if chassis parts are interchangable, as both are 1/25.

It's okay man. I'M calling me an idiot. I know you're not. And the Ala Kart engine has been a topic of my discussions a well......I've actually measured a 1:1 Red Ram and scaled it to compare to the two offerings. The old one is closest, by far.

Cool, I thought you thought I was, lol.

#19 Ace-Garageguy

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Posted 31 August 2012 - 12:43 PM

I have both AMT's 41 Woodie and Revell's 48 Convertible. I should kook and see if chassis parts are interchangable, as both are 1/25.


I have the AMT '41 and Revell '48 woodies, and the chassis are similar but different.....definitely useable as swap material with a little work, as are the bodies. It looks like THOSE two teams were paying attention....unlike me.

I also just checked the '48 Revell convert against their '48 woody and some of the tooling is identical, and some obviously derived from the earlier kit, so they were doing their jobs too.

#20 Chuck Most

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Posted 31 August 2012 - 12:43 PM

Some parts are 'sort of' interchangable between the AMT '41 and Revell's '48's. I say 'sort of' because a bit of modification is needed, but that is mostly due to the fact that Revell and AMT/Ertl engineered the way that the parts fit together differently on their respective kits. Once in place, though, the Revell parts look good in AMT surroundings, and vice-versa. I'd have to give a slight edge to the Revell kit parts as far as accuracy goes, especially in the engines and chassis.