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1957 Ford - Survivor Resto

Tom Geiger

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Many folks know that I collect old survivors, especially interesting customs, that people built back in the heyday of modeling.  I find that these are historical time capsules of where the hobby was at the time, both in imagination and in level of skill put into these works.  I cringe when I see people take one of these neat old models that has somehow survived intact 50-60 years and strip them down for a new build.   Here's some work I've done recently...


Once upon a time I found this beat to death 1957 Ford custom in a dealers junk box at the MidAtlantic NNL in Maryland. It had the roof smashed off, and was missing all the suspension, as those parts are pretty delicate on that kit.   As I held it up to look at it, the dealer told me to either take it for free for parts, or he was going to throw it away.  Of course I took it.  

The roof you see here is from a much used '57 Ford body.  The hood went to my blue '57 custom, the wheel wells to someone on the board here to better the ones on the newer Revell body.  So it was sacrificed for three projects. Nothing went to waste!


57 ford original box

I was able to date this one back to the original kit release, as a first issue.  I found the original instructions and decal sheet on the Drastic Plastic site on Fotki. 

57ford decals

Now on to the restoration:


Here's the original interior. Nothing needed changing here.  There was a glue mark where the rear view mirror was on the dash so we replaced it.  The horn trim ring was missing so we replaced it as well.  The back shelf was a glue mess so I added a piece of fabric that I had in my junk box for years.  I thought it fit into the intent of the build and was something someone would do back in the day.    I like the pet mascots that came in these early kits so I painted up and added the doggie.  He actually sits on a tire burn.

IMG 1068

I never did pull this one apart so it was an "on frame" restoration.  I knew I'd never match the paint on the roof so I found I had a crusty 69 cent can of Testors gold that still sprayed.. sorta.. and gave it a squirt.  That led me to thinking it looked plain and the original builder would've used a kit decal there.  So I picked out the largest decal on the sheet, which also was one not already on the car, and sized it up to fit the roof in Irfanview.  Then I saw the decal had a yellowish background you can see in the large image, so I cleaned it up in Word, as you see in the top photo.  There is a command to eliminate background that I used to get the clean image.

57 ford decals 1

Once cleaned up, I set it up to print 3 images on decal paper.  Always print multiple copies.  I screwed up my first one so the one on the car is image two. I still have the third one. 


And here we are with the finished roof decal.  I did a tutorial on making decals for a Facebook group that requested it, so I have more on the process if anyone is interested.


Front view-  I blacked in the grill area and added the Meteor one from the kit.  The car had glue marks where there were mirrors and antennas, so I added period pieces.  I drilled holes and pinned them in for future strength.  The mirrors came from the '61 Ranchero kit, while the antennas were in the '60 Plymouth wagon.


I bought a '57 Ford parts box at the Liars Show that had an unfinished project and extra parts in it. These tires and wheels were in it. They fit perfectly so I used them. The exhaust held on from the original build. The car had a flattish finish, no doubt the characteristic of the paint rather than the builders intent. The decals were all flaking off, so I masked off much of the car and painted everything green with Tamiya gloss clear.  I generally leave classics as they were, but wanted to preserve those decals. 


Curse those old AMT doors.  The right side one opens, but the left one came off in my hand.  I glued it shut. Interior was brush painted to match and used the piston shifter from the kit. 


I didn't touch the engine compartment, it's all original from the early 1960s.


Rear views, didn't change anything here at all. Note that I usually add one of the old AutoWorld 1962 license plates to the classic builds.  In honor of the Meteor grill, I used the Alberta, Canada plate.  


And here's both my '57 Ford custom restorations.  They are cool together since the each use a different set of parts.


And the complete set for full effect!  On the right is the '58 Chevy custom I just finished up.

Hope you enjoy the old classics as much as I do.  If only these cars could talk!  



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Nice work done on those models. Almost at the level of what is done in museums to restore and preserve artifacts. 

For some, those are just old ugly customs, but I think they are artifacts of historic value. It's like opening a window to the dining table covered in newspapers, or the garage bench way back in 196* when a young man, or a young man and his dad were into painting one of those little car kits. 

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7 hours ago, Russell C said:

That's fun! What would be really wild is if some guy showed up with ancient photos of it and said, "that's my old model!"

I think about what the original builder would say if he saw his model now!   And I often wonder about the history of these models. Was it a hobby store contest winner?  And I live for the day I find one that was in a magazine back in the day!   If these models could only talk!

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