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alan barton

Mission Impossible - American Graffiti cop car from a wreck

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I've always been a huge fan of American Graffiti since I went into the city to watch it with my fellow hot rod club members - i was just 15!  I have built a replica of the coupe and have a couple of passable 20 footer custom Mercury and 55 Chevy.  Each year our club produces an epic diorama for our model show and hot rod show.  This year's display, had all the shows not been cancelled, was to have been an enormous American Graffiti street scene featuring a variety of scenes from the movie.

When my good mate Dave decided to shift gears from building truly stunning 1/25th scale plastic customs to building eye wateringly detailed Hot Wheels diecast customs, he passed on the relic you see here.  Best I can tell it started life as an AMT 63 Galaxie, possibly a convertible.  Every single piece of trim and moulding had been brutally filed off the body sanded a bit and then sprayed yellow. It came with an equally stripped hood with a honking great blower scoop and a flat black interior tub with tastefully picked out details in yellow enamel - yikes!

I had already built my 63 Galaxie as a full detail slot car but still had a stock chassis sitting untouched in the box.  Hmmmm....  could I backdate this sorry 63 convert into a 61 cop car all ready to have its rear axle wrenched out?

My intention is not to build a 100 point concours model of a 61. If people walk past the display and go - hey, there's the cop car from American Graffiti, my work will be done.  I now have until next July  to get it finished so this will be an intermittent build until it is done.

After all, at this point I either save it or it becomes landfill so I really have nothing to lose!

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After asking Dr Google for some help I sketched out and scribed in some door lines in a four door configuration.  Probably my least favourite modelling chore, I am in awe of people who can produce razor sharp, straight or curved panel lines.  I know how it is meant to work but I am often disappointed with my results.

Next step was to sketch up the shape of the door and window frames including A,B and C pillars.  I had a straight on side view of a real car on my computer and basically held it up against the picture until the proportions and angles seemed to match. I used a razor saw to cut the door lines into the B pillar as I figured it would be way easier to do it now rather than later!  When one side looked OK I traced it onto another piece of styrene and produced its twin. 

I then cut out a large rectangle of 1mm styrene and eyeballed it until I seemed to have the right amount of inward slope on the door frames.  Using finger pressure I rolled and tweaked the styrene to put a bit of a compound curve in it as well as bending down the back two corners to match Ford's design.When everything looked right I glued it up with Testors glue in the orange tube - it gives me a heap of working time for this type of work.

It's looking OK at this stage but the biggest challenge I foresee will be getting the front and rear windshield openings to the correct shape.

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Actually  your roof and side pillars look very good to me. You have the general shape. I was ones faced with the door line issues you mentioned and a fellow builder told me to use a very strong plastic type tape as a guide for the general shape of the door openings and that seemed to help a lot. I can't draw a straight line on a piece of paper let alone using an Xacto knife in plastic. 

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Rich, you're probably right.  In fact, you are right.  But for me here, out in Australia, I have a problem - I will be unlikely to find one in my local hobby shop.  I'm sure they are a dime a dozen on eBay but someone in eBay has decided that everyone in Australia is rich and can afford to pay twice the value of the item in shipping charges or worse ( I saw a $2 Tootsietoy on there a while back with shipping of $29.95!)  And the thing is, I have this piece of junk, for free, in my model room.  If this technique works, which I read about on the old Fred's Resin forum years ago, I would like to use it to simplify top chops on my favourite rods. I'm also a fa of wagons so the technique could work there as well.

 If it doesn't, well, no one else was going to build this blind, lame, three legged dog anyway so no harm done.

But yes, it would definitely be easier!

 

Cheers

Alan

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Got a little bit more done since my last post.  First, I wanted to see if I could put 61 style fins on the 63 body.  Turned out to be easier than I expected.  In my cabinet I have a brush painted 61 convertible that I bought and built in 1973 - the one that came with a Nascar style racecar artwork on the box. It will be a valuable aid in getting this model looking "close enough".

I took a few attempts to get the procedure well organised but basically it went like this.  I used a ruler and pencil to measure and mark out a a piece of flat styrene a slightly oversized plan of the fin on the 61.  I then heavily scribed the cut line, but not all the way through.  While the fin was still attached to the parent sheet, I used a file to produce a taper along the length of the fin.  This made it a lot easier to handle.  I then sanded it smooth before cutting it free. I used Revell Professional glue with the long needle to really weld that fin to the body - I don't want it cracking free while doing bodywork.    it took a bit of manipulating but eventually I was satisfied.

From photos I could see that the very square roof had a quite round cornered rear window.  For this, i took a length of Evergreen rectangular strip and checked it against the opening - looked like it would work.  I cut a small angle off the end of the strip to match the angle of the roof pillar.  I then manoeuvred it in place added some glue along the edge of the pillar and clamped it tight.  After about a half hour I gently bent the strip to run along the underside of the roof opening, glued and clamped.  After another half hour, I turned the strip down towards the truck, snipped it to size and glued and clamped.  I am very happy with ow this worked out - by gluing in three separate stages, I was able to get the strip to conform to the sharp I was after.

While I was constantly checking my reference photos I realised that the roof needs a little more crown to it so I cut out an undersized rectangle of styrene. filed all the edges back at an angle and then glued it to the centre of the roof. 

I'll finish off with once last photo I took as I headed off for work. It's sitting on my clean 63 Galaxie frame and although there is a lot of Bondo work ahead, I think I will be able to reach my destination from here.

 

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The frame took a heck of a smash in the movie as it dropped to the floor, kinking up the back end. Are you going to do something to the rear to recreate it? Not something I'd do, I'd be too worried of messing it up, lol!

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I like the idea and this would be the ideal model to try it on, but I intend to have it displayed at the full stretch of the cable with the rear axle tearing out from underneath, so the body wouldn't have hit the ground yet.

Cheers

Alan

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Very interesting to see you work your way through this Alan.

I don't think I have the skill or guts to take on something quite so comprehensive, but your methodical, step-by-step explanation of how you're going about it makes it seem just a little more feasible....

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Not much guts involved here, Nigel - I mean, where's the risk?  This thing is as close to dead as any model ever got.  It was just good luck that I had a mint chassis left over from a slot car project and tonight I surprised myself by finding an original motor in my stash.  Just makes it easier to fill the hole under the hood when you know it came from there.

Further to Rich's suggestion of starting with a 61 Hardtop kit.  Not only had I forgotten that the kit was around, as I don't build a lot of sixties cars, but sticker shock has really hit home in Australia.  I went into my friendly local hobby shop last week and an AMT Coca Cola 53 F100 is  ..... wait for it..... $78.50 AUS.  Not sure how it converts into pounds sterling but I know it is around $54 US at the current exchange rate that is still a lot for a fifty something year old kit with some cool stickers!  It's not that I want a 61 Galaxie in my collection, it is that I want to have the iconic cop car scene happening on our club diorama.   

i will have some more photos tomorrow - got a lot done tonight but have things set up drying at the moment so wont get them til the morning.

 

Thanks everyone for your interest in this project.

Cheers

Alan

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Started work on the wheel arches last night.  A previous owner ( not my mate!) had removed all evidence of them.  On the right hand rear he ahd actually broken through the body!  I glued on some lengths of Evergreen rod to begin the reconstruction.  This weekend I will get the bondo out and start bogging things up.  The front wheel arch should have a sharper lower corner as seen on my survivor 61 convertible, bought and built by me back in 1973! 

I needed to install some spears along the top of the front fenders and my research shows the spear actually disappears and blends into a squared off window sill towards the rear of the car.  I glued two lengths of Evergreen rod in the appropriate positions and will be blending this in with putty soon.

I also got the hood knocked into shape.  I patched the hole from the obligatory blower invasion and then added a strip of styrene to create the spear down the hood.  It came up a treat and will hardly need any putty at all.

I have a couple of ideas for the grille, or lack of.  I still have a custom grille from my 63 and with the addition of a second pair of headlights, it would be passable.  Failing that,  I could just "borrow" the grille from my survivor 61, and use it for the weekend of the displays. 

Tonights job will be to get the front window frame sorted and then it will be bog time! I just hope it goes as well as the rear window surround went!!

Here's where I'm at so far.

 

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Looking great so far. I love builds based on something out of the box.. well, not the actual box, I mean figuratively speaking! Lol

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Your body work is really coming together here. 

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Thanks espo, it seems this thing really wants to get built.  I am actually getting quite excited about a model that I wouldn't normally look twice at.  It wants to get built!

No big progress overnight because I indulged in a bit of parts hunting.  As I was working on the body this week, it occurred to me that once the bogging and sanding begins it was going to have to cope with a lot of manhandling and I thought gluing a firewall in place might help strengthen the body.  I dug through my firewall box and couldn''t believe when I found exactly what I needed!  It looks almost identical to the one in my 61 survivor convertible, but it is not the same one.  I have only ever owned two Galaxie models so i was at a loss as to where it had come from.  Digging back nearly fifty years through my memory bank, I think my younger brother had a 63 Mercury once, the issue with the Adonis style custom parts. That must be where it came from and probably explains the engine I found the night before.

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Bonus on the Firewall. Wise idea to reinforce the upper body parts for future work. The other thing is that if the roof moves around to much any glued joints and areas of body filler could crack or even break out. 

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A most appealing modeling endeavour!

I applaud Your tenacity, skill and fortitude with this build as well!

Thank You for sharing with Us here

I will be watching Your efforts

Thank You again

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This build ix coming along just fine Alan. Very cool! Keep up the good work.

 

Jerry

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Give me a day to ck.

But. I might have extra ft and rear chome for a 1961 Ford Galaxie if you need it

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Bill, that would be absolutely amazing if you did!  When I started this project I was basically working on near enough is good enough - it was going to have one day in the sun and then retire to the back of the cabinet.  Problem is, I never expected it to go so well or be so much fun.  Since I last posted photos I have done a lot of Bondo work but still have more to do, especially around the front of the car. I will post some more photos tonight.

I did drop the lip a little last weekend, however.  I found the correct smooth rocker covers of the FE motor, painted them gold and left them to dry.  I then took them into the garage and plonked them on the bench while I did a few jobs before heading into the model room.  

And suddenly, one was missing!

I figured I had travelled less than ten feet, how hard could it be to spot?

You already know the answer to that one!

So I carefully cleaned off the top of the bench.

Nothing.

Then I swept out the floor under the bench and went through the dirt in the dustpan.

Nothing.

There were two trays of scrap metal under the bench, you know, those odd pieces with cool shapes that will come in handy one day?  

Nothing.

There is a shelf about six inches below the bench top with two old wooden drawers on it.  One drawer has g-clamps and vice grips in it, the other has off-cuts of tubing in.  I emptied them out one at a time, sorted them, rechecked the dustpan.....

Nothing.

I was starting to get desperate, no, cranky!  These two parts had survived nearly sixty years and now on their big day, I had lost one of them.  Not on my watch!

So I turned on the flashlight on my phone to look across this shelf to see if the part had dropped down between the wall and the bench top and landed on the shelf.

Nada.

And then something sparkled.  And I chuckled.

My bench is approximately 1/4 inch steel plate.  The mortar course in a brick wall is approximately a 1/4 inch wide by 1/4 inch deep.  When the rocker cover had been accidentally swept over the back edge of the bench, instead of dropping straight down, it lodged in the mortar course.  The mortar course exactly level with the benchtop.  The top edge of the gold plastic part was hidden by the overhanging brick and literally the flange of the valve cover was the only thing protruding under the shelf.  The light from the phone had caught the sparkle on that tiny visible sliver.

After fishing it out ( another story but not as good as this one!) I went straight inside and glued it on before anything else happened!

Thanks everyone for all your support, I will get more photos up shortly.

Cheers

Alan

 

 

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