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alan barton

38 Ford Coupe Hardtop racer

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Years ago I was given a box full of models that had been built with more enthusiasm than skill.  They took the term "glue bomb" to a new level because they had been assembled with various forms of contact cement ( gorilla snot") and silicone adhesive.  I have saved a coupe but wow, they were a mess.

One was an AMT 40 Ford coupe so I figured it would be perfect for a dirt track stock car from the early fifties.  A popular choice was the 1938 Ford coupe so i decided to have a go at backdating the 40 to a 38.  My hope was that if it came out OK, I could do a street rod version as the only thing close to a 38 was the AMT snap kit, the Black Force.  Very cool but a long way from factory proportions.

Here is what I started with.

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First order of business was to attempt the '38 body mods.  I started with the worst hood in my stash and with some cutting, filing and filling it came out pretty close to a '38 hood, sans the side panels, as they were usually raced.  There is enough plastic in the nose of the AMT hood to be able to file it back quite ruthlessly.  I had taken research photos of a local 38 sedan to help get the contours right.

 

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I originally thought that Monogram 37 Ford fenders would be a good start but it turns out they have little in common with a 38, other than the shape of the headlight buckets.  At the front, I started by gluing layers of plastic over the '40 headlight opening s and sanding them to the bulbous shape of the '38.  I then used masking tape to transfer the shape of the 37 headlights to flat styrene and cut them to shape.

I then used trial and error to make a spine to run back form the headlight plate some way down the fender towards the rear.  I applied body putty over this spine and then spent a few quiet hours sanding, reputtying, sanding again until the shape of the headlight bullets were as close as I could make it to make photos.

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The rear of the '38 fenders are more vertical than a '40 and then swoop out to meet the running boards.  The hood opening is a straight, deeper curve than the little S bend that is on a '40 so I grabbed a sharp X acto and did a bit of whittlin".

By far the hardest part, and in my opinion the least successful part of this conversion, was trying to create the fine bars of the '38 grille.  I started by carving out the centre of the filler piece that comes in the sedan of the 40.  I then used thin Evergreen rod to try and form up the grille bars.  It was not easy and took quite a few nights to get this far.  I guess it is this sort of detail that separates the masters from the run of the mill modellers and I don't think I am there just yet!  It worked out fine for a stockcar that would have had more hits than Elvis but if I want to do a street rod with an exact grille I am going to need a plan B! 

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The easy part was the frame.  It is essentially the stock kit part.  I added channel bumpers front and rear and glued the front and rear ends in cock-eyed to give the old girl a bit of body English as she roared through the turns. The stock fuel tank was cut from the rear of the frame as these cars usually ran a jerry can inside the cabin for safety.

My research photos showed cars like this leaning into the turns rather than massively over-steering like later styles of dirt track racer. I then sprayed the whole lot flat black and brush painted the engine in a factory like dark green.

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We only need a floor to work with for a racecar so I cut all the sides off the tub and installed the rollbar from the kit.  I added extra support braces later. A seat was grabbed from the parts box and I then began surgery on a Monogram sprint car driver. His torso was shortened, his leg position changed and after the steering wheel was installed, I reworked his arms to give an action packed pose.  Although i didn't get a photo, I sued the hi tech custom dash from a later version of the coupe to make a 38 dash.  You carefully use a razor saw to slice away all the modern junk and then drill some holes where the gauges and switches should have been.

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Very kool! I’ll be watching this one come together!! Always wanted to do a 38 Kustom but got hung up on the front end mods to do it.. Still have the project somewhere though...

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Thanks Dr Kerry, I remember you from over at Fred's!  Yeah, I just don't have a solution for the grille right now.  I will be posting the finished car in Under Glass today and you will see that it is close but not nearly good enough. Even photoetch would be of limited value because the grille is a compound curve.  I cant think of a kit grille that could be modified but I am definitely open to suggestions if any one has seen one in their travels that think might work. 

I can certainly see either a 38 coupe or convertible looking very slick as a custom!

Cheers

Alan

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Posted (edited)

Definitely some interesting work on this conversion.  I love the 40, but the 38 is a close second.  I remember many of them running at Bowman Gray Stadium back in the early 60's.  For the grille, have you considered using thin brass rod?  I think it may be easier to make those curves.

Edited by TarheelRick

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Posted (edited)

Can't say I have Rick, but now that you mention it, keeping the curve in the plastic was a drama - coiling up a length of brass wire and snipping off lengths could go a long way to fixing this.  Might have to try it on the street version - thanks for the inspiration!

Cheers

Alan

Edited by alan barton

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This is the kind of model car building I enjoy - creating a car that is not available as a kit. Very creative. You're well on your way. You do not see many '38's even in 1:1. Another potential way to build a custom 38 might be to start with a Revell 1/24 '37 Coupe and graft on the nose from a Testors Coupster.

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Looking great so far. I don't think I ever saw so much glue on the bottom of an interior ever !

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Somebody years ago told me to use the Black Force snap kit grille as a starting point and go from there. It is close to a 38 Grille and is fairly close. I just never pulled the trigger and started the project...

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I must be getting old or something but I dragged that car out when I first started this project a few years ago, realised that it was wildly different in proportions to the 40 front end and put it back on the shelf.  Thanks Dr Kerry, now need to go back and have another look.  How did I miss that?

Cheers

Alan

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It happens Alan!! Lol

I just remember what a friend told me years ago as a good starting point.. I also used the AMT Sedan body as that’s what my friend had. I started using the Revell 40 chassis under it too..

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I like the '38 Fords. I have no idea why there hasn't been a kit of one. I had a resin kit of one years ago. Forgot who cast it. (Chucky 151)? I want to make a '38 woody from an old Art Anderson '40 woody resin kit. My skill level is nowhere yours tho. May I suggest using an AMT '40 Ford grille, and filing/sanding the grill bars off till you get the general '38 shape? Then scribe the heart-shaped bars for your street rod?

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You have a great start so far. Don't give up. Your work inspires me of lesser abilities ( maybe lots of others too)!

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Thanks Thomas, that's nice of you to say - I have certainly been inspired by many others on here.  The coupe is finished now and in the Under Glass section, if you haven't seen it.

Cheers

Alan

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