When I reviewed the AM kit for Scale Auto way back when, I used scraps of plastic sheeting to fill the frame. Once glued in, I then used putty to mold them over, and sanded everything smooth. To this day there has been no shrinkage at all. Using putty only to fill the slots in will eventually come back to haunt you.
My first kit was a Hawk Mercedes 190SL. That was about 50 years ago. The second kit was a Monogram 2.5 Ton army truck. I couldn't read the words on the instruction sheets, so I got help from my mom. By the time I could read, the instructions only had numbers. Now they've got so many different languages they take half a tree to make!
Its not that the kit manufacturers are being cheap, its that the real tire manufacturers are being greedy. They are demanding more and more money for licensing fees. The kits are already expensive enough, adding more on in order to pay Goodyear and the others would make the kits that much more expensive. I agree that it is sad that we are now stuck with the generic tires we have in the newer kits, its better than paying $30 for the same kits we paid $15 for just a few years back.
I've used a CO2 bottle for over 20 years now. Generally I seem to get a year to 18 months out of mine, but a lot will depend on how much painting you do. I think you will really like using CO2 - it's quiet, and you don't have to worry about moisture in the paint.
Ikea has some really nice glass cases. They run about $60, and you can buy a lighting kit for another $11. The only drawback to them is the fact that there are only 3 shelves, but there is a fix for that. I went to a glass shop and had some extra shelves cut and then to the plastic supply place and had 3/4" acrylic dowels cut to act as standoffs for the new glass. My cases now have seven shelves and hold a lot more models. If you've priced glass cases, you know what a bargain that is.
That brings back a lot of memories. My first car was a red w/black vinyl top '67 Coronet. I had the black vinyl interior, which really sucked during the summer months. I can't tell you how many times I burned myself getting into that thing on a hot, sunny afternoon.
Apparently Bernie didn't learn anything when they ran the Grand Prix in Dallas in July of '84. I stood out there all day in 106 degrees just to watch the tops of rollbars go by. Poor Nigel Mansel collapsed in the heat after the race. The heat and humidity in Austin in the summer will make Dubai seem like a chilly spring day. There are so many premier road courses ( Road America, Road Atlanta, Watkins Glen, etc. ) that it seems ridiculous to spend the MILLIONS that will be required to start from scratch. If F1 couldn't draw in Indy, why would they think that the middle of Texas will be any better?