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lets build a TiBird concept


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Welcome to the 1955 T-Bird design study build.

I am going to take you through the entire process of scratch building a car from the plans stage to the final display. This will be done is small increments that can be done in less than an hour or two. Each stage will cover completely the materials used, the tools required, and the process to get to the next step. Anyone with a few models under his belt and some small scratch building experience will be able to complete this project.

I encourage those following along to post pictures of their progress, to ask questions, and to offer up alternative methods. I would like to have an exchange of ideas, and ways of doing things. What I am offering up is by no means the only way to do this, but rather the way I am doing things at this time. During the build if you see better ways or different ways of doing something I encourage you to post this.

Feel free to modify the plans to create other variations of this car, Can it become a pickup, convertible or something that is rusted out and falling apart. Maybe it could be used as a platform for something entirely different from what is presented. I am hoping to accomplish at least to things here. First to show others that scratch building is not as hard as it looks, and second to have fun with it and exchange ideas.

The drawing is of a concept for the Thunderbird done in 1955. I have a few photos of a quick design study taken from this drawing. It is by no means a finished model but rather an assembly to find out the problems that we will run into and to try to make the process easier. It is rough and is not intended to be the quality I hope to have when we get done.

The first installment will be in a few days and cover creating plans from renderings or other drawings that you may have to create layout patterns to make your model. I will have a set of plans in PDF format that you can download that will print out in scale.


This is very rough and not detailed out. The windows are held in place with masking tape.


There are some obvious problems, it is too naoorw and the front end is too clunky. All this will be fixed for the build. This is the reason for the concpet build, to find problems and fix them. Note that I have lest than 10 hours in this build at this point.


You will need to order a sheet of plastic from


Item number 43332. This is .40 thick and is what I will be using. If you don’t want to order an entire sheet I can sell the required amount of plastic for a small fee plus shipping. Let me know via message for details.

I would like to have some idea of how many are interested in this project so let me know. You don’t have to do the entire car and can just work on some areas. I will cover the body, interior, frame, wheels, and motor. Even if you don’t follow you may find some interesting ways of doing things.


More photos:


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Getting a drawing to a scale drawing is not as hard as it may appear at first glance. It is a matter of getting the drawing to scale and then to a line drawing to work from. You can do this with any side drawing and front or rear views. You will need two programs to do this. Word and some photo program. I use Photoscape, it is easy to use and FREE. The link to get this is as follows.


You will need to get the wheelbase and tread specs for your car. In this case it is 102” wheel base. (1955 Thunderbird). Then divide this by .25 for 1/25th scale or .24 for 1/24th scale. This comes out to a hair over 4”

Now go to photoscape(or your program) and open this in the edit option and find the filter option in the main column to line drawing and choose edge. And save as JPEG. Reverse the drawing and save again as reverse.

Now open word and set the sheet to horizontal. Insert you’re drawing and set the margins to 0” along to top is a scale that you can use to size the drawing. You can adjust the drawing until you get a tad over 4” center to center of the wheel covers. It will be close enough. Save this drawing as a JPEG and PDF.

The drawings are shown here for reference.


In this caes the roof sections are 2 1/4" apart.


If you have questions please post them. I will send PDF file for those that need it. It will print in scale. To make this model you show make about 4 to 5 copies since you will be using them as a pattern to cut.


Edited by kennb
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Layout and first cuts:

Tools required for this step. Tape, Exacto with sharp blade, small needle nose pliers, needle nose files, and a ruler. Plastic to be 40th from U.S. Plastics or 30th from others. Note: if you don't have a pattern I will email it to you. It is PDF format

If you don’t have a cutting mat you can use some thick matt board.

Starting out in the first step. I am not going to present too much at one time. It can look like a daunting task if I try to go to fast or with too much material at a time. Besides, you probably have 6 other projects going at a time.

In making the patterns up I try to get both sides and some roof to hold it together. This just makes the assembly go better and keeps things lined up. Starting out straight in the beginning makes things go faster down the road. The added parts will reinforce the body shell, not using them to try to force the body into shape,

On this project layout the paper pattern and tape to the plastic sheet. I don’t get things right up to the edge but leave at least 1/8” clear around the drawing. It just makes it easier cutting things out. I save all the scraps until I am done since they will be useful later. It needs at least a 6” by 8” piece of plastic. I started out with a 12” x 18” piece for this. This should take care of most of the needs for this car.

Very slowly and carefully score the plastic around the pattern with a sharp exacto knife. You may want to add tape parts as you go to keep the pattern straight. Some places may be easier if you use a straight edge. I do everything freehand. You don’t have to cut all the way through, just a sharp scoring of the plastic. It snaps apart very easily. Use the needle nose pliers to help snap at the scoring and take your time. You will need 2 of the formers. Later down the road these will be removed and be reused for other parts. :)

Take some time to clean up the edges of this part. You don’t need to get critical but rather a few minutes to smooth them out a little.



This should take less than 2 hours to finish. Don't rush through any of the steps, take your time.

We will get into some forming of this piece next time and gluing this up next time. :)

Have fun :D

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Forming the main body: :)

Tools required: Exacto knife without a blade, wood ruler, exacto knife with blade, liquid glue. (I use Plastruct Plastic Weld).

First we are going to cut two more pieces. They are the added side panels that will be glued on at this time also. The pattern outlined in red shows the cut, two are needed. Again take your time cutting these and cleaning the edges up. You will want to ease the upper edges some. The will be finished off more later.

Now to forming, this will take some time. With the plastic on the ruler and table move the end of the exacto knife the full length of the piece. Repeat this procedure a number of times to get the sides to form a curve from the top to bottom. (See photo). You will want the sides to conform closely to the formers. To curve the top bar that connects the sides you may want to use the needle nose pliers to slowly curve them. Take your time with this and work the sides to curve as smoothly as you can. There are going to be lines on the outside but those will be taken care of later when we start to finish the body.

After the sides are curve set the formers in place with tape over the top to each side. One former is to be near the firewall location and the other will be about where the rear axle is going to be located. (See photo). After they are taped up use the liquid glue on the formers to side locations. I tend to over glue. The formers will be removed later. Note that the bottom of the formers will line up with the bottom of the body.

Let these set up for a good hour. The lining up the side panels with the wheel wells and top arch glue them in place. I draw a pencil line at each side at the top location of these panels and check from side to side that they are close to the same location. Clamp in place with the small spring clamps and run a bead of liquid glue at all the edges. This will hold them in place. The glue will suck into the joints sufficiently that you don’t need to glue the middle. This glue does set up fast at first but takes a little time to fully cure. Leave the clamps in place for about an hour.





Actual working time is about two hours for this section. This does not include the time letting glue dry. You may want to take two sessions to accomplish this part.

If you have any questions at this point be sure to ask. If anyone wants to post photos with questions or as progress feel free to do so. :rolleyes:

I hope that I am making sense to those following this. Sometimes when one is so close to something they may not be able to translate it properly.

Speed is not the key to doing scratch building but rather taking your time and enjoy the process. As I build more cars I get new ays of doing things, get more detailed and make more parts functioning. I also pick up speed in doing what I set out to do. It is getting familiar with the process and gaining the skills needed. It is like your first model, it took a long time and maybe to not match your expectations but after you gained skill they become easier and you get more detailed with what you do.

Many of the models I have done start outwith one method and then I trash that in preference to another way of doing it. This model is build differently from the one in the pictures at the start of this. The front and rear are different and easier to do. I am changing things to make them easier and repeatable. :P

I am about read for primer on this build so am far in advance of the posts. There are two reasons for this.

1. I can work out the details to make them easier to do by making several variations of putting them together and getting the easiest to do.

2. To make sure that what I am putting together will work out for you as you put it together and to make a sensable and reliable sequence.

Thank you for your comments, and hope there are a few that are building along with me.

If you want more photos let me know. I have over 100 to date of the build. I have also posted the link to the photobucket photos that I am adding to with each post.

KennB :)

Edited by kennb
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Hood and roof install:

Tools needed: Exacto knife, wood ruler, needle nose pliers, and liquid glue.

Look at the diagram for details on bending. You will need two small pieces of plastic cut. One 2 3/8th “ x 3” for the hood and one about 2” x 1 3/4th”for the roof. This one may need to be a little wider so that it reaches each rear pillar. Starting with the hood , make the cut for the windshield location. This end will need a gentle overall bend to match the inside former. You can do this by hand or with the pliers. The front part of the hood is a little more complicated with several bends needed with the pliers take your time and look at the photos to see how this will fit in place. Put in place and tape the hood to its location and glue from the inside. You may need to hold it in place tightly with your fingers until the glue sets up a little, maybe one minute.

The roof panel will need to have the bend from side to side to conform with the rear area. You will lay this over that to make two layers. Glue this in place. If you have questions on this let me know so I can provide more details in as this is not shown yet in the model.

You will also want to cut two pieces 3/8th” wide and 7” long (about) for the rocker panel. Bend the length as we did on the sides and glue in place lining up with the space between the wheel wells, the rear will hang lower and the wheel well for the rear will be cut out after this drys.

Do not try to start filing anything at this point, we will do that later.

Next installment will be the rear deck. I will have some drawings to work from since there are a lot of small parts to cut.

Time for this procedure should be less than one hour to 1 and half hours. If you spend more time doing any of the items I have shown do not worry about it. My times are a general guide and may be more or less. I double to triple the time it takes me.





Have fun and thank you for looking and comments.

Remember if you have any questions or need further details or explainations just ask and I will provide more detail.


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Ken, these are my observations . First, you're being to severe on your self . look building a body from scratch isn't something many people here on this forum can do . I have . That was a 1-25th scale model of the G M C L' Universalle van . Even then, I spent a couple of years on the project .

From what I see, you're doing just fine . I think you have chosen a very worthy and historical project . I too look forward to seeing the step by step progress on this car. Ed Shaver

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Rear deck:

Tools required: Exacto knife, ruler, files, pencil, and wood ruler.

We are going to fill in between the rear outside fenders. The lights will be put in after this step.

It should be about 2 ¼” between. Cut a piece of plastic that wide and about 4” long, all the parts will be cut from that. For the upper part cut a piece 7/8” long and 2 ¼” wide. Test fit it and file the edges to have a clean fit.



Look at the pictures and the template to see approximate location. Then tack glue in place. Just a few spots in case you have to adjust it. Look at the model and mark out a gentle curve as shown. You will need two pieces with that curve. One is I/2” long and one is ¼” long, both 2 ¼” wide. Then cut two straight pieces ¼” wide and 2 ¼” wide. That forms the built in bumper and lower valance. You can use the template to guild how they go together. This is tricky since you will have to bend one piece to match the curve. I hope this makes sense.



Glue the whole thing together and to the inside of the fenders. We will take care of the light flares and housing next time along with some more work on the front.

If you have any questions feel free to contact me. You can still get the drawings form me in scale.


Edited by kennb
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Front end

Tools needed are the same as before.

We are going to need a ¼” tube for the lights. A pen barrel would do okay too since they are about the same size. For the grill they are generally oval or some variation of that. For this car I have an oval with two variations. One with lights in the oval and one with lights outside the oval. The shell is 1/8” strips shaped as desired. With small scrapes of plastic fill in around where you are going to have the grill and lights. This is a cut and fit operation and may take two or three tries to get it right.

Then with 3/8” piece about 3” long create the lower valance. Look at the pictures to get further information. I have two ideas shown. The grill opening works best if it is open. I have tried them filled in and they just don’t work out good. The model at the beginning of the tutorial is filled in. I have since redone that car. It is in the photos in this segment.


This is a lot cleaner build than the red one.




I tore the first bird apart, front and rear and redid both parts because they were terrible. I a posted more pictures of the rear to give some more ideas in he next post..


If you need furthe details or information let me know.

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