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!"
OK, just a quick update for now...
As you may recall, earlier this year we left Louis Willy trying to work out if he (or any other driver) might be able to climb into the cab - so in that regard, I thought I might have a go at something that I'd seen on other chassis-cab crawlers and truggies, and cut the doors down to reveal more of the interior.
Although I was aware that the centre mounted gearbox and motor really precludes including a proper scale interior like I'd managed with Lisa's Defender, I hoped the extra exterior detail coupled with him effectively sitting on top of the bare transmission assembly would ultimately add to the overall industrial/mechanical look of this vehicle?
photo. I decided to retain the lower panel of each door, to give structural rigidity - not least for the shell mounting holes - and [for now at least] retain some of the weathered paintwork.
Since I'd already narrowed the cab by 40mm, I'd concluded that an 'extreme' vehicle like this would most likely have a central driving position anyway (and being 4WS on ultra heavy-duty axles, factored if it were a real 1:1 vehicle the steering would almost certainly have to be hydraulic too - so that's my excuse for the axle mounted servos... ;o), which in turn meant that Willy would actually be able to grab onto the internal roll-cage in a realistic pose:
photo. modified bucket seat from a Wild Willy 2 shell.
photo. from this angle you can't tell he ain't got no legs below the knees!
As you can see it's been quite the squeeze to get the Wild Willy 2 seat and driver in the space between the gearbox and the forward bulkhead/battery, and it has meant he's had to lose his boots (for now at least) - but I think the overall effect is still pretty realistic?
note. ultimately having him hanging onto the roll-cage means the driver figure will remain attached to the shell even when it's removed for access/servicing - making things very easy in that regard, especially as currently the shell is only attached with four screws (two along each sill).
You may also notice I've incorporated a dashboard too (to help hide the top of the battery) - using a cut-down Wild Willy 2 part and some styrene:
...and fabricated some deep/wide door sills using styrene which mate up inside with the inner wheel-arches - and will ultimately be covered in [genuine] aluminium tread-plate to keep things even more scale and authentic.
The other thing I did which is not really obvious in these pictures is to remount the body a couple of mm lower, using some commercially available body mounts from eBay (designed to mate a Trailfinder shell to an SCX10 chassis) which turned out to be a very similar shape to my 2nd generation styrene mock-ups I'd been using previously. Fortunately I can confirm that the tyres still clear the front arches and rear cage rails, even on full articulation and lock - Result!
I had also decided to modify the rear cage (sorry, I forgot to take photos of the actual process - but basically, using a Stanley knife, heat-gun and Dr. Dremel) so that there is less overhang at the rear - while retaining the full length of the alloy deck panels that come as part of the Vaterra rear cage kit.
Obviously there is still a lot of finishing to do - fabricating some door jams, plus I have some padded roll-cage tubes I want to incorporate as horizontal bars halfway up the door apertures... Then I need to properly secure Willy in the cab and touch in all the paintwork; and also finalise my plan for a rear fuel tank to fill in the space between the cage deck and the chassis rails. Ultimately, I also intend to add a few scale accessories to the interior and rear deck of the vehicle, although keeping in mind that it's primary function is as an actual crawler, everything will need to remain well tucked in and properly secured in the event of a roll-over.
However, for the next few weeks I'm actually going to be busy moving house - so for the time being, Desmond has been boxed up for transit - turns out he's now exactly 12x18 inches!
All these latest mods have re-inspired me to get going on this particular project again, so stand-by for more just as soon as I can...