Exactly, and the only way to do it during the time-period we're discussing was to carve away the entire surface of the mold, everything except the panel-line, to a level slightly below the panel line (which would yield a raised panel-line in the mold that would become a recessed line on the part). Obviously a vast amount of work, compared to sculpting a nice negative surface and simply scribing the lines into it. Think about how difficult it would be to carve the Auburn body as it is from a block of wood, with NO panel lines. (I'm talking a positive image, just as the kit parts look, but with no panel lines.) You could file and sand the carved shape to get nice smoothly-flowing shapes, right? Now think about carving the exact same shape, but having to LEAVE the raised panel-lines on the surface, perfectly formed, and you had to sculpt and shape BETWEEN them. A LOT harder, right? Now think about doing it as a negative image, in steel.
I spend a fair amount of time obsessing over stance, and this build will be no exception. The front axle I'll be using is the old dropped unit from the "fiddly" 1/25 Revell model-A kits of 50 years back. It comes with pose-able steering, but the brakes are mechanical A. A car like this with a big OHV V8 would certainly have been converted to the newer Ford hydraulics, and drilling the axle ends to .030" allows the '40 Ford juice-brake backing plates from the 1/24 Revellogram model-A woody, which have molded-in spindles, to be installed on wire kingpins.
It's important to get the stance and wheelbase established exactly before committing to gluing the front crossmember I removed earlier, back in. The height and fore-aft placement have to be dead-on to keep the 'look' I want. The crossmember gets narrowed considerably to fit the pinched rails too. The underside of the crossmember has to be in line with the tops of the frame rails, to allow the front spring to go high enough in the chassis to get the nose down where I want it. One thing I like a lot about this new chassis is the rear-axle locating tabs. Though I'll cut them off in the end, they allow fairly easy adjustment during mockup of the rear ride-height, and also allow the rear crossmember and suspension to be built in-place so everything stays the same. Measure a lot of times, fit carefully, glue once. I moved the rad shell and hood forward about a scale 1", so the rear of the hood will have to be extended to fill the gap. The wheelbase is now also about 111", or 5 scale inches longer than the '32 106" measurement. This creates some crowding of the bottom of the grille shell (which has to get notched) by the front axle and spring, but it's worth the hassle to me...for the longer look. You can see from this shot, again, how the narrowed Revell chassis (this is the '32 chassis from the new Revell '29 kit) sits under the 'AMT '29 body nicer, with not so much of the rails sticking out from the sides.
I'm quite happy with the stance at this point, though the nose MAY come down another scale 1/2 inch. She's not quite as aggressively nose-down as the first mockup, but this is about as far as I can go with the axle I have without putting a kink in the frame rails. A sharp eye will note that the brake backing plates are not centered vertically in the wheels, but I'm aware of this, and compensating measurements to locate the crossmember exactly from what's here have already been made. This shot also shows the effect of lengthening the wheelbase...longer, leaner, more graceful.
A front-3/4 shot from a scale-human perspective to check the lines again...
I would suggest you look for period color shots of the parts in question. For example, the August 1954 cover of Hot Rod shows a natural-aluminum GMC blower that's been bead-blasted (in '54, GMC blowers on hot-rods would have been taken from the original Detroit Diesel applications most likely, and would have been painted with the original engine as a unit; bead-blasting would make them look less like junkyard parts). I've found light gray primer to make a very believable simulation of this finish...and handling it doesn't hurt either. Finger oils can make the part look more used.
For polished aluminum or magnesium, I prefer to strip the chrome and use Testors buffing metalizers. Properly applied and buffed, they give a very realistic appearance as well... like the front wheel and canopy on my Challenger backdate.
Old aluminum and magnesium castings tend to get powdery oxide deposits on the surface. Again, different colors of gray primers or metalizers can get the color right, or a solid coat of primer with a light dusting of metalizer, buffed. Experiment. Maybe even an uneven dusting of flat-white to simulate the oxide.
Drew, all the AMT '32 wires I could find have an outer-rim OD of about .660". I'm sure I had one set of slightly larger diameter AMT wires that look like your pics, but I think I may have given them away a couple of years back. If you can use two of the .660" diameter wheels, I'll be glad to send them to you.
Drilling small, pin-vise size holes, around .015"-.045" holes is indeed very easy in thin material. Drilling 1/4 inch holes in material that thin is next to impossible, as the flutes of the drill bit catch and tear the material. This even occurs when drilling soft, thin metals (and even thin steel sheet)... ...which is why, in the third post from the top, I recommended to use some type of punch tool to make holes of the necessary diameter in thin styrene or acetate sheet.
There IS a method that will work with a Dremel, but it's not for the faint-of-heart. I've successfully 'melt-bored' large-scale-diameter holes in clear styrene by using a tapered grinder bit in my Dremel, and a fairly high speed. A tapered bit allows you to bore the hole slightly undersize, remove the melted flash with a sharp X-acto, and bring it up to final diameter with files worked at 90deg to the surface, NOT rotated in the hole. A tapered file that's a close fit in the hole, if rotated, can also dig in and crack the material. Finish-polish the final edge with sandpaper rolls, wet. And as SfanGoch and Art Anderson both caution, do NOT try to power-drill a hole in clear styrene.
An important thing to remember when using conventional bits as per Tom's method...or even the special bits for plastics...go slow. Normal drill bits are designed to 'bite' into the material, while the special bits for plastic have a differently-angled tip that "shaves" material out of the hole, far less aggressively than standard bits do. When a bit bites too deep, it will force itself farther into the hole than there's room for, and the material, much weaker than metal and unable to stretch, will crack. Whatever bit you use, if the bit is pushed too fast or too hard, and it digs into the material, it WILL crack. Cracking also occurs frequently when the bit breaks through the back side of the hole, as it can easily become wedged and split the material at this time. Tom's suggestion of supporting the backside of the material with tape, AND making sure the drilling location is flat on the backing surface, are both VERY important to avoid cracking...especially if you elect to try to use conventional bits. I learned about the special plastic bits back in the early '70s, working for a Datsun dealership installing clear headlight covers on the then-new 240Z. The cover kits came with special bits, but the other mechanics didn't bother to use them or read the instructions. They also ate a bunch of headlight covers they'd ruined. Over the years, I've installed many, many very expensive aircraft and race-car screens and windows, and have come to rely on the special bits for cheap insurance.