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Hot Rod Chevette Part 2: Elements

For the build log of the Hot Rod Chevette itself, CLICK HERE.

This post will cover the development of that car's engine and the old neon radio station sign.

That folded blue paper thing is the "blueprint" of a subdivision that appears on the back of Rush's Signals record.


I explained the reasons for making a Chevette with a big, noisy engine in my Hot Rod post, so we'll just cut to the chase, here...

Twin-engine power house.

My first idea was to have two engines in the Chevette, so for inspiration I started looking around at actual hot rods to see how things are done at 1:1 scale. We have a couple of books on Big Daddy Roth and his amazing custom vehicles (he's a great pinstriper, too!), and I eventually came across his Mysterion which had two engines. Rather than scrapping my idea ('cause it's been done!) I studied the Mysterion to see how I could make my 1/25 scale model look plausible.

Big Daddy Roth's Mysterion.

The problem with the twin-engine idea was that I would have to open up too much of the engine bay to accommodate them, removing too much of what I felt gave the Chevette its characteristic look. I suppose I could have chopped the front nose off the Chevette (and opened up the engine bay like most hot rods, including the Mysterion) and just attached it on an extended chassis beyond the engines. But I felt there still might be another option...

I subscribe to a lot of great model builders on YouTube and when I saw Dirk Pitt's crazy installation of a huge diesel engine on his Vicky D Rat Rod, I thought that might be the way to go for my build, too. I already had Revell's Kenworth W900 that I was going to use as a donor kit for various future builds and once I did a very early test fit of that engine in the Chevette I knew that was the way to go. Thanks, Dirk!

I bought this just for the engine.

Early test fit.

This shot was taken after I decided to install the Kenworth engine, but you get the basic idea that this is how I came to that decision; the outrageous contrast was irresistible (both of these kits are the same scale: 1/25!).

Revell's Kenworth engine instructions.


I used just about all the engine parts from the kit. I cut off that part on the right to make the engine fit the Chevette's tiny engine bay (let's pretend that part's still there, but underneath the dashboard, somewhere). Of course, I had to make it a little more complicated and a little weirder than this...

Base yellow.

According to my research, these huge engines are painted entirely in yellow, so that's where I started, then I added my own touches as I progressed.

Other side.

Those hoses sticking out on the right side would later be repositioned since there would not be a radiator (or anything else beyond the fan belt and propeller) installed.


I gotta be honest: I don't have a good understanding of how engines work or how they should look, realistically, so all my tweaks and additions are less practical elements and more in the realm of greeblies (details added to models to make them look more complex and believable, if not truly realistic). This works for me, and all kinds of justifications can be made for them. I'm happy with the strange complexity of it all and I think it adds to the bombastic nature of this project.

Details and weathering.

Having said all that above, I still like to have some kind of justification (at least in my own head) for the things I add, like all the weathering –the rest of the car was planned to be clean and shiny, as though recently restored, so why is the engine so gnarly and not equally clean and shiny like the Mysterion pictured earlier? Maybe this engine runs dirty no matter how often you clean it...maybe the body was recently restored, but this engine was installed before clean-up. It just doesn't matter to me; it's a fantasy car! I've built this for a dear friend (and for my own fun) and that's that.

I keep all the decals that I don't use on models for potential future use (I also buy decal sheets from time to time), so I had some interesting ones for this engine. Like the greeblies, they don't necessarily make sense, but they add to the overall verisimilitude.

Proper propeller.

When it came time to add the fan and radiator I decided to go even further into the realm of fantasy and just add a spare propeller from a Messerschmitt kit I was using as donor parts. The visual of this specific airplane part seemed to add even more noise, figuratively, to the whole assembly. Maybe it helps it go faster, too...

Hidden details.

I made this special post about the engine because some of the details would be obscured or very hard to see once it gets installed in the Chevette. Get a good look, right here, right now!


I wanted some kind of context for the car and decided that since the "radio show" my friend, Chris, and I did (call letters: WBUL) was "merged" with the "radio show" Tony and his friends did (call letters: JUNK) a old JUNK Radio sign would look cool and be fun to build.

First sketch.

I like the design of this frame better than the one I eventually built, but I was limited in my materials and abilities. This also contains the first sketch of the Hamster Beer case that I built and placed in the hatchback.

More details.

This is mostly just notes for myself for when I actually got to building this. I wanted to get down all my construction ideas so that the while vignette had some kind of design cohesion. From the get-go I wanted to include the sign inside a standard display case, so built it to fit (this drawing is even 1:1 with the final construct, while the pretend scale for it is 1:25 to match the car).

The best I could do.

Using square rod and I-beam styrene I made this frame as though the radio call letters would have been on the roof of the station.

Raw plastic before painting.

I designed the letters in my computer and printed them out to scale then glued the printout to some styrene sheets I doubled-up to get a good thickness. Then I carved out the letters and filed down the edges to smooth everything out. The extra square and I-beam plastic at the bottom is for bracing the sign onto the base of the display case.

I drilled tiny holes in the letters with my pin vise to simulate where the neon tubes would go into the letters. If my (non-functional, i.e. "broken") fibre optic idea didn't work out, at least there would be holes.

Bracing painted.

To match the intended aging and weathering of the est of the sign, these braces also got the hairspray technique chipping treatment.

First colours.

I wanted the letters to be heavily weathered, so my first layer of colours was a dark grey over grey primer, then chipped.

Second colour.

A coat of white was sprayed over hairspray, allowing me to chip it and get this:

Almost there...

Then I masked off the letters to apply my red layer, which also got chipped...


I painted and weathered the frame and the letters separately for ease of work then attached the letters. The only think missing here are the bits of tiny fibre optic filaments I used to simulate broken neon tubes (seen below).

Outside shots.

Nothing beats outside shots for realistic lighting, especially when it's bright and sunny.

Rust close-up.

One aspect of scale modelling I didn't expect when I got back into it in 2015 was the faux finishing, i.e. painting one material to look like another. Here we have simple styrene plastic and, to me, it looks like rusty metal. It's been a few years (I should have written this as I built it), but I don't think I chipped the girders...I think I just painted the frame black then gave it a wash of rust-coloured acrylic paint, then added some rust-coloured chalk pastel dust for texture.


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