Desmond (the 2.2) - narrowed HiLux cage crawler

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So along with refurbishing and refreshing a few of my existing models over the past few months, I've also embarked on a more 'technical' project in an effort to keep the kitchen table permanently cluttered...

You may recall a while back I built a pretty capable budget crawler using a RTR chassis, and a chopped Midnight Pumpkin body (well, the cab and bonnet at least), and christened it 'Willy's Rocker' in my showroom. Subsequently I removed the body, and used a Vaterra SlickRock cage in an effort to make a cage crawler that didn't compromise the awesome wheel articulation at all, but was never 100% happy with the way it actually looked, even though it worked exceptionally well - particularly with the four-wheel steering I'd also incorporated (built thread here).

So while I felt the performance couldn't really be further enhanced (not without spending a disproportionate amount of money at least), my attention turned to making it look slightly more realistic - and with a nod at least to my affection for Tamiya models in general.

This was the result (up until last summer at least):


photo. The body is a combination of a narrowed Tamiya Hilux cab, plus a shortened Midnight Pumpkin bonnet (taken from the original Rocker)...



photo. the body was dramatically narrowed so that the front and rear wheels (remember it's 4WS too) didn't touch the body at all, even at full articulation...



photo. and you can see there was a nod to detailing with a chrome roll-bar (from the Low Ride Pumpkin kit I used for Tam'Mater) and a solitary rear spot light... I'd also replaced the original coil-over shocks with 100mm long scale dampers that feature soft internal springs.


photo. front and rear axles are the same, and spare front steering components are available to make the rear axle steer too. note. the forward horizontal battery mount - keeps the weight low and forward, but did compromise the skinny body.


photo. Ultimately, while Willy really liked his revamped Rocker, the torque twist on the chassis and general slack in the suspension (probably what gave it such excellent articulation mind you) meant we needed to hatch a plan...


photo. before we started, Jack Willy measured the original chassis wheelbase - a sniff under 13 inches (330mm) or thereabouts - which gave good articulation, stability and ground clearance on the 130mm diameter tyres.


Part 1 - new chassis and revised running gear



photo. What's that you've bought Willy? from China you say? via eBay? solid aluminium? - nice!



photo. despite being armed only with a LEGO spanner, Jack Willy soon had the rear axle off...



photo. the plan was to try and utilise as many of the original Mad-Gear Cliff suspension components as possible - the axles of course (the most expensive part typically), steering gear, plus the radius arms and prop-shafts, together with the 100mm scale shocks I'd already fitted.

note. those are the original Mad-Gear Cliff tyres (super cheap if you can find them on eBay) on Axial 2.2 diameter bead-lock rims - again a cheap way (compared to solid alloy wheels) to get something that looks pretty scale and realistic.


photo. as part of the dismantling and reassembly, Wanda suggested that we swap the drag link and steering arms over to above the knuckles - significantly improving the clearance in front of each axle... you can see the silver (front) arms have been lifted, while the blue (rear) links are in their original position still for comparison.



photo. original location of the steering gear...



photo. revised position.


photo. "See, I told you that would be better!"



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The chassis itself is basically a replacement - billed for the Axial SCX-10, although it is essentially a copy of the RC4WD Gelande/Trailfinder chassis - and is meant to mate-up perfectly with the Land Rover D90 body-sets you can buy (again from China) via eBay.

Either way, the multitude of fixing points for the suspension meant I was confident we'd be able to replicate the original location of the radius arms (and therefore wheelbase) of the donor vehicle.



photo. despite the almost infinite number of suspension component location points, the main issue we found was the width of the axles and their respective lower mounts for the radius arms and shocks - and that typically on full travel the axle moved through a sideways arc a few mm left and right, and therefore the shock-bodies could end up binding on the chassis rails.


photo. you can see here I experimented with mounting the shock towers on both the outside and the inside of the chassis rails (with spacers at the top) to maximise clearance. note: the chassis also offers a dedicated location to chassis-mount the steering servo if desired, although I preferred the on-axle location to maximise articulation, and not least to match the rear axle which also steers (with an axle-mounted servo) of course.


photo. A moment of contemplation... still messing around with different suspension mounting positions.


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What was rapidly becoming clear, was that if we wanted to retain [close to] the original wheelbase, then the existing suspension arms would need to mount to the chassis, while the central gearbox mount/skid-plate (again, a pattern SCX0-10 part in aluminium, from eBay) would have to be mounted separately:


However, there turned out to be another issue:


photo. The SCX-10 alloy gearbox mount is meant to be a direct replacement for the OEM plastic part - and it is... it's only that the Axial kit uses C-channel chassis rails (which the skid-plate fits inside) rather than the solid rails of this particular chassis - and the skid plate is essentially 5-6mm too wide to fit between the solid rails. As I say, although they list this chassis as accepting the SCX-10 components, this is really more of a Trailfinder chassis - which uses a [presumably slightly narrower] separate transfer case mounted in the centre, and an engine/gearbox combination up front.



photo. while I continued to experiment with wheelbase lengths in an effort to retain as many of the original parts I had (and had just bought), mounting the skid-plate on brackets below the chassis rails (as pictured above) threw up yet another issue:



photo. ...primarily that there would not be enough room next to the chassis to mount the motor, unless the skid-plate was mounted higher and directly between the chassis rails after all.


To cut a long story short (and a skid-plate shorter still), the solution was to chop the alloy gearbox mount in half, and join it back together at the correct width using bolts and some quick-steel:



The other thing I realised was that if I wanted to mount the chassis ends of the radius arms in the skid-plate itself (the neatest solution, and how it's done on the SCX-10), then unless I wanted a stumpy wheelbase - which would compromise articulation - then there was no option but to buy some longer radius arms and associated rod-ends, and 'Do a proper job' as they say...

I won't bore you with the tech specs (as to be honest I've forgotten what I bought), but essentially the desired result was achieved with a combination of longer threaded rods, and a series of ball-joints/rod-ends, both angled and cranked.

The ultimate articulation is not quite what it was with the original Mad-Gear box chassis, but fundamentally the whole suspension is now super smooth, with no play/slack, and no torque twist to speak of either... a result!


photo. Willy was particularly pleased when the motor was finally installed!


photo. Although he was less than impressed after the initial test run, where it turned out the eBay special gearbox was missing one essential bearing! (yes, you do tend to get what you pay for I know...)


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So with the chassis rollin' it was time to consider a more scale body for the beast...


Part 2 - new bodywork: mounting & modifications



photo. the Brat shell was dug out of storage, but ultimately put to better [scale] use on my old TL-01 chassis (see here for that dedicated build thread).



photo. Similarly, my old F150 shell (that used to reside on the TL-01 chassis) was offered up - but (a) it looked too much like a Rock Socker, and (b) I really don't like lexan bodies, even if they do help to keep the centre of gravity low on a crawler. Oh, and (c), it would compromise the axle articulation in any case...


The answer of course, was almost inevitable in the world of scale crawlers...


photo. Yes, the ubiquitous Toyota Hilux cab - this being the Trailfinder II version, which is effectively a copy of the Tamiya one, other than a few holes and minor details like door handles...

Now I know you may think this is not a particularly inspired choice, but it actually works very well on this sort of vehicle, and is a lot cheaper than even the Chinese copy Land Rover Defender or Jeep Wrangler body-sets - although you only get your basic cab section for £15.99 of course.

But no matter, as it was unlikely I'd be able to fit a full width grille anyway - especially if I wanted to retain the excellent front axle articulation with those 2.2 tyres fitted, while any lights and the interior would be minimalist at best on this build, not least in keeping with a typical 'home built' style 1:1 rock buggy that had once been a HiLux. 



photo. So initially Jack Willy fabbed up some mounting brackets - cut from thin aluminium sheet (thin enough to cut with tin-snips for ease), and then folded to provide rigidity.



photo. 3mm hex hardware used throughout...



photo. Nice work Willy!



photo. Inside - plenty of room for one or even two battery packs along each side - a second one to drive a winch perhaps? ;o)


Initially I'd hoped to retain the full width of the body-shell (for maximum scale appearance), but one thing for certain, there would need to be some wheel-arch surgery if those huge tyres were not going to graunch at every axle-twist...





So that works... and a bit of filler and paint and it's going to look pretty realistic (in the same way as a 1:1 vehicle might be modified for extreme rock crawling)?



photo. Once the wings had been cut, glued and filled - it was obvious something would need to be done to stop the bonnet looking like it was floating in mid air - and that were this to ever be mistaken for a real vehicle, then the engine would have to go somewhere!



photo. Initial mock-up using the trusty cereal packet method, and yes, the eagle-eyed among you may notice that this build has at least one genuine Tamiya part on it... that's a Wild Willy 2 radiator!



photo. cardboard template used to make plasti-card 'engine bay' which doubles as a radio/speed-controller box too - keeping things forward, and high up out of the way, and hidden too of course.


No compromises!

Ultimately though, even with the arches cut so dramatically away, on full travel the tyres did still touch the wings more than I would like ('at all' was too much to be honest, I'm a stickler for things like that), so it was out with the hacksaw... 


photo. 40mm was cut from the middle of the shell - narrowing the body to just over the width of a NimH battery pack (so a touch wider than the previous Toyota shell at the beginning of this thread) keeping the battery hidden from view - now being located forward and horizontal against the front suspension towers, as effectively a bulkhead.



photo. New and more simple body mounts were fabricated from plasti-card and 10mm tubular spacers. note: you can also see I fabricated a simple rear bulkhead for the cab out of plasti-card too.


Ah, that is much better - and now nothing touches front or rear at all during full articulation.


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So with the body mounted securely (the shell is essentially bolted in place, and the battery pack charged in situ through the cab window), and the chassis working well, it was time to make the whole thing a look a little more like the real thing...


photo. I did consider covering the engine bay/inner wheel-arches with aluminium foil (to replicate basic bare metal panels beaten into shape), but felt that ultimately blacking everything out below the bonnet would be less fussy.

Choosing the primary colour for the body was going to be more of a challenge... the obvious choice (for a scaler) is to go for an authentic Toyota shade of the period - typically a pastel beige, pale blue or yellow - or else matt black everything in the home-built red-neck crawler style... Red is a traditional HiLux colour too of course - the most famous perhaps being the one Top Gear comprehensively wrecked, but failed to kill, in that particularly memorable episode!

for info. I've actually seen that truck in person (it was on display at the Beaulieu Motor Museum for a number of years as part of the Top Gear stand), and along with being barely recognisable, it was covered with rust - which as you know, has become my signature style when it comes to painting RC models these days...

So red it would be then!


photo. Although metallic red is a classic retro 80's colour, it is not ideal to contrast the flaking paint and rust underneath (this technique tends to be most effective with a pale body colour on top) - however, I was confident it would be subtile enough, especially with some orange dry powder added to the deterioration sections...


photo. Body weathered and remounted, plus the shut-lines and windscreen rubber blacked-in.


photo. Door window frames cut away (as per a typical 1:1 cut-and-shut crawler).



photo. It's tempting to add a few sponsor stickers etc. and even to aluminium panel (foil) the lower sections of the doors perhaps... after all, this is no pristine show-crawler, but a hard-working rig, which I'm sure will suffer more and more damage in real life as well as Willy world!


photo. This is about the limit of the new suspension's travel - not as extreme as the original box chassis version, but surprisingly capable - I'm amazed what it will actually climb up and over with minimal contact with the ground, and it very rarely gets hung up.


photo. That is a full 6 inches of articulation, or 5 feet in 1:1 old money. No wonder Willy is pretty pleased with himself!


So that is where we're up to currently with this build. Next job is to get to work on the interior (and a dedicated driver too of course), and rather fortunately, narrowing the Hilux cab to the width of a battery pack also makes it the perfect size for a Holiday Buggy interior plate too (Yes, I know I've used that trick before with the STUMPscorcher, and this was a total fluke too!)

coming up...



More soon!

Jenny x



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Just a quick update: I've still not mounted a driver yet, as I'm currently working out how I might incorporate a roll bar/cage to help protect the roof and pillars of the body.

One option is the traditional roll hoop (inside the cab) with rear stays helping to support a short tray-back, useful for a few scale accessories while not getting in the way of the rear wheel articulation:


photo. the roll-bar is actually a Subaru Brat part - it's the perfect width for the narrowed Hilux cab!

The alternative is to actually flip the roll bar round, and use the rear stays as supports inside the windscreen pillars - again I was surprised how well the Brat bar fits in that role too!

note. you may notice I also blacked in the wheel-arch lips - to replicate a rubber extension for example... However, ultimately I felt the body would actually look better with no arches at all:


photo. so it was out with Doctor Dremel and the sanding block!

Having run the truck a few times now (including in some pretty deep water - I'm amazed at how this thing drives!), I found the clutch was starting to slip a little, so drilled an access hole in the rear bulkhead so I can adjust the clutch nut [tension] on the back of the flywheel with a Tamiya wrench, without taking the body off:


photo. The rubber bung helps keep things neat.


With the front arches repainted and weathered/rusted again, the front end looks a lot sharper I feel:



And I love this wheel and tyre combo!


photo. These are Axial 2.2 'Trail-Ready' bead-lock wheels (plastic) with the original Mad-Gear Cliff tyres and foams, plus two strips of weights in each front wheel and a single strip in each rear... the traction is excellent, and you can really see the tyres flex and compress over sharp edges.


You may also notice I've added a chrome strip to the body moulding along each side - so very early '80s!



And finally (for now) another twist shot... with three tyres still on the ground, the fourth is 140mm/5.5 inches higher!


Time to add this one to my showroom too I think!

Jenny x

ps. I also put it on the scales this evening, and complete with the six-cell battery pack [permanently] fitted, it already weighs in at an impressive 3.498Kg - that poor motor!


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OK then... I was all set to start on the SRB Cage Racer again (and have, although I've hit a stumbling block - so will also need to machine the centre of the RC4WD wheels slightly to fit the SLW hubs too -grrrrr), so in the meantime I thought I'd turn my attention to the Crawler....


Part 3 - scale details


Hot on the heels of my 'scale' D90 build for Lisa, I thought I'd have a go at making Desmond look a little more realistic too (rather than just a cab on a chassis)...


photo. "What's that you have there then Willy? - the rear cage from a Vaterra K10 Ascender you say? Interesting...." 



photo. that looks very promising! (particularly the way the bulkhead section of the cage follows the profile of the Hilux cab!) - although it's currently about 40-50mm too wide for the narrowed [by 40mm] body-shell on Desmond of course...



photo. "Cut it you say? with a Stanley knife? - ok then!"



photo. no going back now...



photo. joining the two halves with a metal screw for strength...



photo. similarly cutting 45mm from the centre section, and rejoining everything (using screws as pins and super-glue so far), and we can retain the original wing profiles, so those lovely alloy decking panels will still fit!



photo. narrowed rear U hoop helps to tie the two halves together.



photo. I think this might actually work!



photo. body will need to be repositioned 15mm forward - 10mm on the mounts, plus the whole transmission and front axle moved forward by one hole (5mm) so that the longer 'body' will fit. Rear suspension links will then need to be 5mm longer to put the rear axle back in the original location - giving enough room for the cage side panels... (more eBay shopping!)



photo. new body-mounts made, meaning the bonnet and the new ProLine lights are now level with the front of the chassis. It's tight, but everything fits - even on full travel and steering!


More soon!

Jenny x


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Your build threads themselves are as fantastic and thoughtfully-prepared as the builds! You and Willy are one excellent team :D

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Just a few more photos now the cage has been fitted...



With the body [cab] moved forward 15mm on the chassis, I feel the proportions are now much more realistic - while there is still enough room for the front wheels to clear on full lock and articulation.



photo. The gap between the rear bulkhead and flywheel has been reduced, but in turn that has got me thinking about fabricating a proper scale interior - with the gearbox assembly essentially under the seat back and a transmission tunnel...



photo. ...although this would still be the easiest option of course - the narrowed cab turned out to be exactly the same width as a Holiday Buggy interior plate!

Decisions decisions!


One decision I have already made - once I'd mocked up the new body mounting plates using styrene - is to ultimately lower the body 5mm onto the chassis (before getting some proper alloy brackets cut*) - this will mean the rear U hoop of the cage sits flush with the top of the chassis, and the headlight frame will sit closer to the chassis at the front - and the centre of gravity will be that little bit lower too of course - I just hope the tyres don't touch after all that!

*This will be necessary to do a 'proper job' - as with the body now mounted 10mm forward, the allen bolt heads now interfere with the curve of the chassis rails. To resolve this (you can see in the photo above of the gearbox that I Dremel'd out a chunk of the chassis rails initially, Barbarian that I am!), I will be getting a pair of alloy brackets 4mm thick laser-cut, that way I'll be able to use countersunk screws so the final brackets sit flush against the chassis...


So for now, this is what it looks like, with the alloy rear decking and side panels in place:


photo. Willy says those screws holding the alloy panels really ought to be stainless rather than black... ok Willy, eBay has been duly informed ;o)

More soon,

Jenny x



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Slow progress this week, but I'm trying to take my time and make sure I only have to do things once with this build...

First up, the driver:


photo. my original painted 'Dirty' Wild Willy, who usually spends most of his time sitting in a spare tyre on the shelf.


Turns out Willy will fit very nicely in the cab of the Toyota, and if seated centrally (which he might well be in a pukka 1:1 competition rock-crawler anyway, especially one where the body has been narrowed by over a foot) - with his hollow back fitting neatly over the SCX10 pattern gearbox, while placing his head at the correct height. The only thing I'll have to do is scratch build a seat around him that is effectively hollow underneath too, otherwise his head will hit the roof.

With that decision essentially made, in turn I felt I could now incorporate another detail in the cab I wanted - an internal roll cage:


photo. this is actually the roll-bar from a Tamiya Brat, slightly narrowed - and fits neatly inside the roof and A pillars of the narrowed Toyota cab.



photo. More cuts to the metal rod/s (inside the plastic roll-bar) and it butts up very neatly with the rear roof bulkhead - note. I left a couple of mm rod sticking out on each end that locate in a pair of 4mm holes I drilled in the back of the cab - although once painted the cage will also be glued in for extra strength.



photo. the final requirement was somewhere to connect the front of the cage - two 5mm sections of cut down length of Tamiya L shaped brackets (TL-01 servo mounts?) Araldit'd in place, and bingo - rock solid!

The idea of using this oversize roll-bar as an internal cage was prompted by the Wild Willy roll-bar, which is effectively clad with padded 'foam'. In that regard I will probably also paint this 'padding' primer grey to replicate typical foam pipe lagging, and add a few strips of electrical tape as I did with the Nailer - although whether I have the patience or dexterity to also ream out a series of indents for the tape to sit in (as the Wild Willy moulded part has) I'm not sure...


photo. yep, Willy is happy with that!



photo. once the seat is fabricated, I will endeavour to have him actually holding onto this bar of the cage.


Another thing I wanted to do as part of this [re]build was to address the original mountings for the radius arms. If you've read this thread from the beginning then you'll know I had to cut-and-shut the original SCX10 gearbox mount, as it was a little too wide to fit between the Trailfinder pattern chassis rails... This worked well enough, however, since I had joined the two halves with a short set-screw, there wasn't much thread for the bolts that hold each rod-end to the chassis to grip, and one particularly would always come loose, despite using thread-lock.

The solution was to drill out the gearbox mount all the way through, and use a pair of 45mm M3 socket-head bolts that would join everything together, and keep all four ball-joints securely attached:


photo. note some Dremel work required to fit the M3 nyloc nuts in the opposite side.



photo. Once bolted back together, JB Weld was used to fill in the joint, and the 45mm bolts rotated every so often while it dried so they didn't bond themselves.


photo. sanded back a little with the Dremel, and now the gearbox can be refitted.


I also used a dab of JB Weld to fill in the butchering I'd done to the chassis rails as part of re-locating the body more forward on the chassis:



The reason for this was not only have I moved the body mounts forward by 10mm (from their previous location), but subsequently also dropped them 5mm - so that the body is now as low as possible to the chassis, while still retaining tyre clearance on full articulation and steering:


photo. brackets mocked-up with plasti-card. I'm getting the final design (top) cut in 4mm alloy, with countersunk screws that will sit flush agains the chassis rails.


And finally for now, I've started to mock up a few additional body panels to improve the scale looks even further - using the trusted cereal-packet method of course! There will be inner wheel arches (and probably radiators as per Lisa's D90 TC), while here at the rear, I think a pair of lights and a number plate (although it is also an ideal spot for a rear winch of course ;o) will help to tidy up the back end and hopefully make it look a little more like a 1:1 vehicle:



More soon!

Jenny x

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ps. One thing I am currently debating is just how many (and where exactly) batteries I can fit in this beast!

The original build had a single six-cell battery mounted across the chassis where the cabin foot bulkhead would be - keeping the weight nice and low and forward (for added traction when climbing) and is still my preferred choice for this build - even though the rear bulkhead location on the D90 TC also seems to work well enough*

*mind you, that vehicle also has a heavy motor and planetary gearbox assembly right over the front axle of course.


However, there is actually enough room in the cab along each door to mount a pair of batteries lengthways, one either side of the centrally mounted driver - which would in effect double the range of the vehicle if I wired them in parallel, and still allow a suitably 'scale' interior to be incorporated, with just a couple of fabricated checker-plate tool-boxes/chests for example, on either side to hide the batteries.

The third option is to mount a single (or even a pair should actually squeeze in there) under the rear deck, widthways against the back of the cab - which would certainly maximise the space inside the cab from a scale build point of view.

Of course options 2 and 3 could also be combined to give a total of four NiMh six-packs in there - meaning the thing would run indefinitely I imagine! - although I'm not sure how the springs would cope with all that extra weight mind you!

Decisions decisions...




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This is such a rad build! Great engineering and eye to detail! I can't believe I haven't tuned into this sooner!

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So while I'd become utterly obsessed with the SRB Cage Racer recently, I hadn't forgotten to order a few parts for Desmond from the USA too:



photo. Axial to the rescue again - a string of four 5mm white LEDs for the headlights, plus a set of Hex adaptors for the IFD wheels (the same as I fitted to Lisa's Defender 90).



photo. original Axial pin-drive hubs (which meant the pins dropped out every time you removed the wheels)...



photo. Latest 12mm hex drive design, neater and more solid too. (note. the set actually comes with 4 x aluminium locking 12mm hexes for the axles too - very nice!)



photo. However, new workshop recruit Louis Willy was happy with refitting the original Mad Gear hexes - and who was I to argue?



photo. He also cut down the Defender chassis rear cross-member/bumper (so that the rear wheels clear, particularly when they steer), and is currently working out how to secure the rear of the cage to the chassis...


More soon!

Jenny x


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I can report that Louis Willy also worked out a neat way to secure the rear of the cage (pictures of that later), so now it was time to fabricate some inner wheel-arches, then get some fresh primer on to see what I'm working with... I have an idea for a more elaborate colour scheme you see ;o)


photo. Inner arches cut from 1mm plasticard and bonded with Araldite... 




Before repainting, I also wanted to distress some of the bodywork a little futher - the left hand door is dented at the bottom (using a Stanley knife to cut through the shut-line, so that the heat gun didn't bend the sill as well); while the right hand door has a dent in the middle (again using a heat gun and my thumb). I also used the Dremel with a pointed bit to rough up some of the rusted areas a little more along the edges of both doors.



photo. a splash of primer to even everything out first...

Ultimately my plan is to paint this vehicle as if it were a 'work-in'progress' - much as I did with the Rat-Brat last year...

This time however, the back-story is the crawler has been built using an old Toyota HiLux cab which has already had the main body-tub narrowed, repaired and strengthened (and painted in primer), while only the original doors remain (for the time being) in their original tatty state...

I've also had another idea for the bonnet - I've always liked [painted] matt black bonnets on trucks like this, but with a handy square of carbon fibre vinyl left over from the Cage Racer build, I have a feeling that Jack will have splashed out on a 'custom hood' for this beast ;o)

More soon... my kitchen stinks of aerosol paint at the moment, so I'm hoping it's warm enough to paint out in the workshop tomorrow!


Jenny x

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Part 4 - painting and weathering


Following on from above, a few photos of the paintwork on the cab - as a sort of step-by-step guide:

Step 1


photo. Once the bodywork had been distressed with a Dremel (to increase the 3D effect of the rust/weathering), a light coat of Red Oxide primer is applied to those areas, as a base colour for the rust.


Step 2


photo. Water applied to the areas where I wanted salt to stick... note the light dusting around the dented panel too - hopefully this will cause the paint to blister as it would if a real panel had been dented.


Step 3


photo. Saxa table salt sprinkled onto the areas where I want the rust to be most concentrated.


Step 4


photo. A light coat of grey primer... note the main body shell is also going to be grey primer, but I want some of the rust/weathering to show primer under the top [colour] coat of paint too.


Step 5


photo. Because only the doors are going to be painted with top coat, the rest of the body is masked off...


Step 6


photo. After adding a little more salt to the edges of the areas already salted (so you'll get a peeling layered effect when the next coat goes on) plus a few random areas where only the primer will show under the flaking top coat, the top coat colour is applied.


Step 7


photo. Masking removed to reveal the primer body-tub with contrasting painted door. note. I suppose to be truly authentic, you could always cut out the doors and just paint them separately - but this way [masking] means the body-shell retains maximum strength, and is ultimately quicker and easier to get basically the same effect...


Step 8


photo. The salt is washed off under a warm tap, and agitated with a soft toothbrush. Once dry, any particularly large/raised blisters are sanded down with fine sand-paper, but not too much - as the textured effect is what you are after for a really snotty, bubbled look...


Step 9


Photo. Finally, in this instance [where the idea is to have the door a completely different colour to the rest of the body], the door was masked so that the edges of the primered door frames could be touched in (re-sprayed lightly) - as if the main body tub had been repaired, but the old doors refitted.


See below for final weathering and detailing...


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As hinted previously, my plan for this refurbishment was to incorporate a 'carbon-fibre' bonnet/hood:


photo. this was achieved by cutting a piece of self-adhesive carbon-fibre effect vinyl, and applying it slowly and carefully to minimise any bubbles or stretching/creasing over the curved bonnet. Ultimately the edges were trimmed with an exacto-knife in the moulded shut lines, and the edges heated with a heat-gun to ensure they stick fast without any bubbles.



photo. Windscreen rubber painted in with Tamiya XF-85 'Rubber Black' paint - note. masking tape applied and cut around raised lip of screen rubber with a sharp knife - to get clean edge against body colour.



photo. weathered effect to the doors was achieved using dry-brushing of watered down black acrylic paint (Tamiya XF-1 Flat Black) to highlight the rust bubble details, then applying dry power (Tamiya Weathering Master kit C - Orange Rust, Gun Metal & Silver) - mainly the orange rust, but also a little gun metal to help contrast where the primer was showing through the paint.



photo. I then used a slightly more concentrated black wash [again Tamiya XF-1) to paint in the shut-lines - making the individual body panels really 'pop'. note. fabricated door handle on this side, and [as an excuse since I smudged the top coat when washing off the salt originally] I see Willy had started to repair and primer the area around the handle too, although he didn't do a very good job to be honest ;o)



photo. rear cage re-attached...



photo. I was particularly pleased how this worked out - that bung is located in-line with the slipper-clutch adjuster on the central mounted gear-box, should it ever need to be tweaked (without having to remove the body).


And finally (for now)...


photo. cab internal roll-cage refitted, and body re-mounted on the chassis (note the internal wheel arches) - now I need to measure and fabricate a new engine bay housing (to mount the electronics) behind the four headlamps, which will also be wired up with a string of Axial LEDs.


More soon!

Jenny x


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"What's that you've got there Louis Willy?


photo. Tamiya 54630 'Sponsor Sticker Set (for off-road car) - some nice logos and stripes, plus lamp detailing for Lexan bodies.


I took a punt on these, primarily for the door/side stripes - thinking the red and orange ones would look good on the beige doors:


... and they sort of do, although perhaps not as nice as I'd hoped - particularly with the rusted weathered look?



photo. At least Louis was happy with his new shirt (You can't wear a Jeep one when building a Toyota Louis!), and his ground anchor!


Part 5 - electrics

So leaving the more superficial cosmetic detailing to one side for the time being, I turned my attention to the four headlamps:


photo. ProLine lamps are nicely detailed and include these blanking panel/back covers which are perfect if you don't plan to wire them up with LEDs... otherwise a little Dremel work is required so that the wires can exit - in this case, upwards towards the underside of the bonnet...



photo. All done! I used an Axial Racing 4 lamp string, and was pleased the wires were all the right length without having to bundle up any excess or cut/re-solder them. I have a couple of their LED controllers in my spares stash, and will also include a pair of red rear lamps too.



photo. With the lamps refitted, it was time to fabricate a suitable engine bay to fill the void...


Engine bay


photo. Cereal packet templates of course!



photo. The plan was to make a box - much as I had originally for the earlier incarnation of Desmond - that would contain the ESC and other electronics high up under the hood (I'm still using the original Mad-Gear electronics which are not properly water-proof you see).

note. Yes, you may notice I drilled the holes for the shock mounts wrong initially - I thought I'd used the top holes of the towers, but then realised I'd raised the front end one more hole so that the front axle didn't hit the chassis on compression - doh! (still, that can be fixed with some filler and paint ;o)



photo. Front of the box - shorter than the sides/inner arches, to allow the servo to clear on full compression.



photo. Once primed (to match the rest of the 'refurbished' body), and mounted, it is simply held in place by the two bolts that hold the front shocks.



photo. Electronics installed... ESC and 2.4Ghz receiver from the Mad-Gear donor, plus a Y cable servo reverser (for the rear-wheel steering), and fortunately the receiver also has a 3rd channel, so I'm able to plug the Axial LED light controller straight in.



photo. With the body re-fitted, there is just enough room to angle the headlights as required.



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So with the wiring complete, it was time to fit a charged battery, and make sure everything still worked as it should - and it does!

However, there is now an issue that I hadn't foreseen... the problem with having mounted the body 15mm forward, plus fabricating inner wheel-arches, means the only way to get the battery in and out (and secured using velcro around the 'bulkhead' of the engine bay box) is through one of the side windows or the windscreen aperture.

Now that isn't currently a problem of course - without a driver fitted - but the issue is if I want to include a full-body Willy figure in there, there is no space to get the battery in and out... I can't even assemble the car with the battery first (and charge it in situ) and then secure the driver the way I would like to - ie. with his hand holding the roll-cage - as he really needs to be securely mounted to the shell prior to the battery being fitted. So it's a bit of a square peg in a round hole situation, exacerbated by the fact that this particular square peg is also way too big!!!

So I'm faced with a dilemma... I know this is not a truly scale build anyway (hence why Willy was always going to be driving this one) - but if I want to retain a full driver figure and interior (which I'd really like) then the only real option is to mount the battery horizontally behind the cab bulkhead/under the rear deck instead (and it is very well hidden here I have to say). Unfortunately, that is then going to upset the current forward weight bias of the rolling chassis, which I like to think I've got really dialled in now from a [crawling] performance point of view...

The alternative would be to compromise on the scale looks a little for the sake of retaining that maximum performance - which if I'm honest this build really is all about, otherwise I wouldn't have gone to such drastic measures to narrow the body to ensure complete clearance is achieved at full articulation and steering - and perhaps just use the Holiday Buggy interior after all, especially as it really appears to be made for the application!




Although even that isn't as simple as it appears, as currently I would still need to be able to get underneath the interior plate to fit the battery, but I can't do that until the body is in place on the chassis...

The saving grace is by filling in the interior space with the Holiday Buggy plate just below the window line, I can then mount the stick-pack battery lengthways in the engine-bay instead (ie. poking into the current cab interior above the motor) or even use the square 6-cell pack (that I bought and didn't use for the Cage Racer) mounted within the width of the inner wheelarches - so the body simply lifts straight on and off as required.

Hmmmmmm, this will need some consideration.

Jenny x


ps. While contemplating the interior/battery dilemma, I distracted myself with painting a couple of detail accessories that may well find their way onto this build too:


photo. Three layers of paint - red oxide base coat, then salt, a mid-coat of silver/metal, a little more salt, then a top coat of matt olive drab - before the salt is finally washed off.



photo. The effect is even more realistic once a little dry powder (orange rust & gunmetal) has been applied.



photo. I'm really pleased with how these turned out - I love that Tamiya weathering kit!

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It still looks fantastic!

... Do you think an opening door would solve the battery dilemma, i.e. put a hinge on the driver's side door? It is asking a lot on top of an already-spectacular build, but if the battery is close enough to the door, could it work for access?

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2 hours ago, Grastens said:

It still looks fantastic!

... Do you think an opening door would solve the battery dilemma, i.e. put a hinge on the driver's side door? It is asking a lot on top of an already-spectacular build, but if the battery is close enough to the door, could it work for access?

Ha, that's actually a really cool idea! - although it would still mean that Willy ends up with no legs, or at least no feet - although I fear that is the compromise I'm going to have to make anyway (see below)...


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I think I've found the solution to my battery dilemma, and at the same time utilised an otherwise expensive battery that won't fit any of my other models!


More Power! (as they used to say on Top Gear)


photo. It turns out that if I remove the original footwell bulkhead I'd created, then the 6-cell 'square' pack will actually fit between the suspension uprights, while remaining below the bonnet (the top edge of the engine bay box basically butts up with the underside of the body-shell you see...) in this orientation.



photo. So I managed to remove and re-use the original battery/bulkhead panel horizontally, and cut an additional brace section to help support the weight of the battery which is now directly over the glued joints.



photo. the result is a battery [weight] that is even more forward mounted than before - result!, and in this position the servo only just kisses it on absolutely full compression with both wheels (which is unlikely to ever happen when crawling anyway) - plus the battery could actually be moved back about 10mm on the mounting plate if I wanted so the servo more than completely clears it, although then conversely the battery would then encroach on the interior a little more of course...



photo. the battery will still stick into the cabin a little way, but nowhere near as much as a traditional stick-pack, so with any luck Willy will only have to loose his boots and not his whole legs!

Not only will this new battery allow the body-shell to come on and off easily as required, but mounting the battery in this particular orientation also means that I'll be able to charge it in situ, by simply undoing the connector that will be in the footwell of the cabin - nice!

More soon - the battery will ultimately be held in place with a velcro strap through the base of mounting plate, although it is really very snuggly seated in there already - like it was made for it!



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Part 6 - final assembly


OK then - with the revised battery mount/engine bay painted and refitted, it was time to connect the lights, and get the body back on the chassis...


photo. 3700mAh battery should offer better run-time than the previous 3000 version, or at least compensate for the added weight - it now weighs 3.73Kg with the battery installed (but no driver still).



photo. with the body on, most of the battery is actually hidden under the bonnet and scuttle panel - in fact Willy can just about fit without even losing his toes!


So after a quick test outside on the rockery to make sure everything was working as it should, and nothing came loose - it was time for a few showroom photos, before I make a start on the final stage of fitting a driver:


photo. Louis considers where to fit his growing collection of scale accessories... you'll need to fit a winch before that ground anchor Louis!



photo. Its an imposing beast I have to say!



photo. The tail-lights are a pair of Axial 12mm spot lamps, with the clear lenses painted translucent red with Tamiya paint.



photo. subtile sticker-age so far... but I know what Willy (and Louis!) are like!



photo. Wheelbase is now around 307mm, so a little shorter than the original donor Mad-Gear box-chassis set-up.



photo. Lots of room between the tube alloy deck and the chassis - I have a pair of oil drums that would fit in there nicely as scale fuel-tanks perhaps?



photo. I'm also tempted to fit a [working] rear winch in the U of the rear cage.



photo. Carbon-fibre hood, and padded internal roll-cage - still needs a driver of course!



photo. The four ProLine spot-lamps as headlights are BRIGHT!



photo. Louis is not quite sure if he can actually climb in there!


Hope you like the latest incarnation... I'm going to have some fun driving this again now, while I consider how to finally mount Willy in the cab.

More soon!

Jenny xx

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On 13/03/2018 at 3:26 PM, Grastens said:

It still looks fantastic!

... Do you think an opening door would solve the battery dilemma, i.e. put a hinge on the driver's side door? It is asking a lot on top of an already-spectacular build, but if the battery is close enough to the door, could it work for access?


On 13/03/2018 at 5:43 PM, JennyMo said:

I think I've found the solution to my battery dilemma, and at the same time utilised an otherwise expensive battery that won't fit any of my other models!

It turns out that if I remove the original footwell bulkhead I'd created, then the 6-cell 'square' pack will actually fit between the suspension uprights, while remaining below the bonnet (the top edge of the engine bay box basically butts up with the underside of the body-shell you see...) in this orientation.

So I managed to remove and re-use the original battery/bulkhead panel horizontally, and cut an additional brace section to help support the weight of the battery which is now directly over the glued joints.

The result is a battery [weight] that is even more forward mounted than before - result!, and in this position the servo only just kisses it on absolutely full compression with both wheels (which is unlikely to ever happen when crawling anyway) - plus the battery could actually be moved back about 10mm on the mounting plate if I wanted so the servo more than completely clears it, although then conversely the battery would then encroach on the interior a little more of course...

The battery will still stick into the cabin a little way, but nowhere near as much as a traditional stick-pack, so with any luck Willy will only have to loose his boots and not his whole legs!

Never mind; I find your solution far superior :D And such ingenuity is one of many reasons we all pay attention to a JennyMo build ;)

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