Accurate Miniatures 1/24 scale McLaren
By Tony Goetz, Juniors Editor
click on thumbnails for full image
In 1964 the world changed and many of us didn't even realize it. A titan took his first fateful step. A man built a racecar and put his name on it. The man was Bruce McLaren and the car was the McLaren Elva M1A.
Over the next five years his design was improved until the M8B model which won great fame during the 1969 series of Can-Am races. That season, either Denny Hulme or Bruce McLaren won the pole position for every single race. They put both cars on the front row for 10 of the 11 races and only Mario Andretti, in a McLaren M6B with a 494 cubic inch engine, was able to qualify faster than Bruce McLaren, with his 430 cubic inch engine, and then only in the last race of the year. In 1969 the phrase "The Bruce and Denny Show!" came into being and it was an apt description: out of 11 races, Team McLaren won every single one, and in only three of the races did the team not score a 1-2 finish.
The 1969 season was probably the most important year for the McLaren team as their greatest success came then. The following year Bruce McLaren was killed testing the next version of the McLaren
The kit depicted here is the 1970 McLaren M8B that was originally an M8A spare car that was updated to M8B specs before it was sold to Lothar Motschenbacher in 1970. The rule changes in 1970 mandated that the wing supports be shortened and relocated, that windscreen be symetrical (in 1969 and earlier it wasn't, and that the openings in the rear of the car be covered with louvers. The 1970 and 1971 cars were similar, but not exact duplicates of the 1969 works cars. *
This was my first car kit, and I had my work cut out for me! Having only built planes and ships before, the model seemed intimidating at first. Once I got started, though, it began to seem possible that might actually successfully finish it; here's a review by a novice to car building.
This engine is nearly a kit in itself! It probably uses 50 to 60 percent of the pieces. Difficult (for me), but the results are spectacular! After going through the instructions a few times, I started cleaning up these parts with a new X-Acto. Less than a minute of this paid off, as just about all the pieces went together seamlessly. All painting on the engine was done with the new formula Testor's Model Master acrylics, hand brushed. I found that the black paint, if applied fairly heavily (not enough to flood the detail, though), dried to a near-airbrushed semi-gloss finish. Even the aluminum was hand brushed; this is great paint!
In addition to this being my first car, it was also my first experience with flexible vinyl parts. Following some advice, I put them in the freezer the night before I started the kit. I'm not sure if this made much of a difference, as they were still tough to deal with when cleaning the seams. However, they did attach well with Zap-A-Gap, were easy to position, and look good in the completed engine.
Once the engine was glued to the rear bulkhead, I attached the mounts and proceeded to mount the exhaust headers. This is the hardest part of the kit. The instructions describe how to do it, telling you to weave the headers in and out of the engine supports, but don't tell you exactly where they're supposed to attach to the engine itself. My solution? I positioned them as accurately as I could, lined them up, and told myself that they wouldn't really be seen when the car was closed up. That seems to have worked!
I ran into another problem while mounting the rear suspension and anti-sway bar. The plans tell you that this is a critical area to line up, and they're right. I saw that it wasn't going to click into place, but managed to slightly bend the anti-sway bar. Again, when closed up it looks fine, and the wheels aren't out of alignment - at least not horribly!
Eventually, you hold what is probably the most detailed engine ever produced in styrene/vinyl! It's spectacular and a shame that it has to be hidden behind the fenders. More on that later...
Following the instructions just about exactly, I assembled the beginnings of the tub and airbrushed it with the same TMM water based silver used on the engine. The engine assembly was then glued in, going together perfectly and without any problems.
More small parts were glued into the tub, eventually getting to the cockpit. This is another wonderful area of the kit. The seat is a beautifully molded vinyl part with a seperate strip of seat belt material. It is very easy to handle and when given the buckles looks incredible. You will want to probably scratchbuild the buckles out of sheet styrene as the molded ones look too thick to me.
The instrument panel is also a point of great detail. Crisply molded screws and instrument faceplates look great when painted, and even better when the instruments have been glued in behind them. The kit just keeps getting better!
I'm not a master car builder or painter, since when building aircraft and ships I don't have to worry about the high-gloss flawless paint jobs I see at contests. Just the opposite, actually, but I tried my hardest here.
Once the body panels (which had been left in the bag until now to keep dust and spills off them) had whatever assembly they required done, the insides were all painted flat black with the outside painted TMM acrylic "Guards Red". The instructions called for Testors #94 "McDonalds Red" or Tru-Match #27 Red, but I could only find #94 in a spray can. Comparing them, the Guards Red matched closely. The paint was applied in thin coats with the airbrush's air valve open all the way, then it was all given a few good coats of Future Floor Wax.
I wanted the option of being able to take the body panels off, but it just proved to be too loose - and tight - of a fit. Corners of the panels would come up while others stayed down, then the other way around. So I came up with a system of pins and tabs that hold them in place. Holes were drilled through bulkheads in not-often-seen places, then a small (1/8") length of guitar wire was inserted into the holes to hold the panel in place. Where I couldn't drill a hole through two parts, I glued a small styrene tab with a hole near a piece that I could drill.
The tires were assembled and glued carefully to the brake rotors. The wheels go into the tires tightly, but without probems. Getting them to stay on the rotors without getting glue on the axle is another matter. Maybe it was the paint on the rotors, but I found more than once that the wheels would fall off, taking the glue with them and leaving a clean area. There is a problem with the great tires: after about 3-4 months in the box, one of the tires developed a large split. The other 3 look like they will be splitting soon. It's really a shame; these are some of the finest molded tires I've ever seen.
Finally, the decals were applied. These, too, are a definite strong point! They're the best decals I've ever seen and were the easiest I've had to apply. There's a 3/16" circle with a tiny picture of a spoked wheel and FULLY legible writing saying "Sports Car Club of America", not to mention the 1/8" square with two flags: one red and white one with what's obviously a maple leaf and one white flag with a blue rectangle in the upper-left corner and 7 red stripes. Underneath that is a silver/white checkerboard and the writing "Canadian American Challenge Cup". They're nothing short of incredible.
As a first car model, I'd say that it turned out well! My recommendations: If you're new to car models, save your money and find an easier, cheaper kit. I've been building model airplanes for at least 8 years, since I was just old enough to see above the table, and had some trouble with this kit. I would build a few other cars first. But if you're a serious car modeler, by all means get two! This will be one of the best kits you'll build! I think it's worth any price.
* Thanks to Norm Cabana for his history lesson on the McLaren's place in racing lore
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