Thursday, June 18, 2015

1953 Redex Trial diorama, pt 6 - update

Bit of a milestone for the diorama build this week. The cars are basically finished. All they need now is several fine coats of mud and dirt and dust, plus road grime and maybe a bit of light bush-bashing damage here and there. Seems a shame to do it to three nice model cars, so I thought I'd stop now and photograph them as they might have been at the start of the rally: clean and ready to roll.

Lots of extra spotlights for all cars (the Cinesound car has
five extra spots, the Holden three and the 203 sedan has two).
The Cinesound car also has a fairly suspect looking, scratch-
built winch mounted on the front bumper).

The Cinesound's roof rack is from a Peugeot 203 'Postes'
Fourgonnette model. I made up some luggage for the roof
racks to match the photos, and I swapped the original
Solido model's rear vision mirror from the left side to the
right front fender. I also swapped over the steering wheel
to right-hand drive, and re-did the dashboard just for fun,
but nobody will ever see that detail!
One good thing about making this modded model was that
the Cinesound film crew made their own home movies of the
Redex Trial, so their own car features in their film several
times, and I was able to get the decals just right.
Possum Kipling's Holden needed a new sun visor and quite a
few decals, including several on white backgrounds.
The 1/43 scale Heller plastic kit isn't that nice. The front
windscreen is too small, and the castings for the body,
especially around the bonnet area, are rough. I added the
radio aerial and the bonnet-mounted wind deflector, plus
a bare minimum of decals, and two spotlights.
I've toyed with a couple of different layouts for the diorama, and this afternoon I mocked up the one which I think I will use. To represent slightly higher ground, I used some ceramic dishes on the right and packing foam on the left. The real high ground won't be so high and the slopes will be much gentler. 

However, the basic idea is that the Tubman 203 crossing
the creek will be in the foreground, and it will place the viewer
right at the centre of the action.
I've already made the trees, shrubs and low scrub for the
diorama. The cameraman is from a Fiat model, and while he
is a bit modern for the era (he looks 60s to me), I am happy
to use him as he looks the part. He isn't painted yet, and his
plastic base will either be removed or hidden (haven't  decided on
that detail yet). I want about half a dozen spectators, and there will
be an old Aboriginal couple among them. The Cinesound film
crew's home movies feature quite a few Aborigines watching the
the action and waving, so they're welcome in my diorama too.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

1953 Redex Trial diorama, pt 5 - update

Progress report. Progress has been made!

I'm working on all three cars simultaneously, so while paint dries or glue sets on one, I then work on another. So far, all three cars are partly done, but none is complete.

From the left: the plastic model of the winning 203A sedan has been assembled, but I still need to finish off the decals, fill one or two minor gaps and touch up with paint, and also create the wind-deflector on the bonnet.

The 203 Commerciale wagon has a long way to go yet. I need to scratch-build the winch mounted on the front bumper, add the extra spotlights, more decals, correct number plates and make various bags and other gear for the roof rack.

The Holden FX also needs more decals and its extra headlights. I've finished the sun visor over the front windshield, which looks the part here, but if you examine it close up it's not perfect. However, it will be in the background in the diorama, so my sun visor (made from an aluminium can) does the job well enough.

Once I finish each car I'll do a separate blog posting about the build and the mods.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

1953 Redex Trial diorama, pt 4 – the Holden FX

The third car in the diorama might only be playing second fiddle to the Peugeots, but it has been a real pleasure to learn the story of its driver, Mr A.L. 'Possum' Kipling. More on him later in this posting, but first let's look at the car.

Click on this photo and it will come up bigger, and mods to be done are all explained there in the image. The original 1/43 diecast model I am modding is by Trax, of the car with two model names. Formally known as the "48/215" it's the famous first Holden that established that brand's excellent reputation as a tough, simple and reliable car beautifully suited to Australian conditions. The Holdens following this all had model designations such as FJ, FE, FC, FB etc, and so retrospectively the 48/215 became known as the "FX" just to give it a more familiar name.

The reason for choosing this car was a simple one, at first. Number 5 was the first car to officially cross the line at the finish. It was always one of the leading cars, but when all the hubbub at the finish died down it turned out that Number 5 came 10th overall, a very creditable result. And so I thought if was to include an Aussie car in this Aussie diorama, the first one home was as good a choice as any.

Here's Possum Kipling easing the 48/215 through a creek
crossing, watched on by curious locals.
And here he is in much more relaxed mode, first across the
finish line of the Redex Trial, back in Sydney. Of all the mods
I am planning for all the cars, the sun visor on the Holden
will probably be the most difficult thing to make...
There's precious little colour film of the Redex, and its quality
is variable, so trying to find out the real colour of the cars for
my diorama has proven difficult. However, this calm scene of
the cars parked at one of the rest stops shows that's it's blue.
As Possum Kipling was the first to finish, he was also the first
to be interviewed, and thanks to this he achieved a small
measure of local fame, especially with the folks back home
in South Australia.

Here's my favourite shot of Possum Kipling at the finish, happy but tired, and hopefully very pleased. Possum's navigator was John Hughes, from Quorn in South Australia. Possum himself was from a bit further north and inland, Leigh Creek, where a local history I found online mentions that he was "the fastest ambulance driver in the north". (I immediately thought of one of my greatest motor-racing heroes, the Italian great of the 20s and 30s, Tazio Nuvolari, who was also an ambulance driver. This was during in the First World War, and legend has it that he was relieved of that duty for driving his ambulance too fast!)

Possum married and sort of settled down to run the roadhouse (petrol/service station) at Port Wakefield, South Australia, for many years. I say "sort of" settled down because the 53 Redex must have given Possum the long-distance endurance rally bug.

In following years, he entered the 1954 Redex Around Australia Trail, and the 1955 Redex Trial, finishing both events in the top 25 each time. Then he did the double in 1956, competing in the 1956 Mobilgas Rally and the 1956 Ampol Trial. After that I couldn't find his name in the entries or results for the later rallies of the 50s, but perhaps by then the married man had to settle down. 

Whatever the story, Possum Kipling lived the life of a local hero with real achievements no one doubted. There's still a plaque in his honour in the town where he lived, and I hope by including him in my diorama I have helped his name live on just a little bit longer.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

1953 Redex Trial Diorama, pt 3 – The Cinesound Peugeot 203 'Van'

The Cinesound Peugeot 203 "Van" has been my real discovery of researching the Redex. I didn't know about its existence until recently, but to me it's as much a wonderful story as the winning 203 sedan driven by Ken Tubman. Imagine the winning car of a 6500 mile rally being basically the same vehicle which the news crew drove through all the same 6500 miles while covering the event? Probably has never happened before or since!

I know from watching the small number of videos available on You Tube that this photo, above, was taken somewhere near Alice Springs, in Central Australia. The crowd on the hill are local Aborigines, who obligingly waved for the cameras in some cheesy shots used during the newsreels. 

The 203 'van' itself is a bit of a one-off, as far as I can tell. Yes, it has windows down the side like the Peugeot 203 breaks (station wagons) of the time, but that last side window is smaller than on the breaks (see the model below). The various "Commerciale" and "Fourgonnette" Peugeot 203s came either with no windows down the side, or just the first one, after the driver/passenger windows of the main cab. My guess (and it's only a guess) is that the extra windows down the back were added locally. I might be wrong, but Googling Peugeot 203 vans doesn't show many other vehicles with windows quite the same as this one.

So, for my diorama, I was faced with the task of coming up with a "perfect" replica of the 203 Van with the homemade extra windows, or just using the more familiar "break", pictured below. Mostly for reasons of cost, I have decided to go with my Altaya model of the break, as it's already painted in the right mid-grey colour as the Cinesound car – and besides, it's going to need a lot of modifications to look the part.

As I did with the Tubman 203 sedan, I have mocked up in Photoshop what the diecast 1/43 model of the Peugeot 203 break needs, in order to be turned into a reasonably good replica of the Cinesound car. 

If you click on the photo it will come up a bit bigger. I am
planning to build my own roof rack from soldered-together
brass tubing. The decals are easy to do in Photoshop.

As well as bulding the roof racks, I'll have to devise some
canvas-covered "stuff" to fill the racks. The front of the van
needs quite a bit of work. Lots of extra headlights for starters
plus also a replica of the hand-cranked winch at the front.

Here's a still from the Redex movies, of the winch being cranked
by hand by one of the Cinesound team.

For my own amusement, I've also made up a small file on
what I need to think about when making the winch.
I'd hate you to think I'm some kind of model-building or model-modding expert. Far from it, I am somewhat of a newbie with less than two years' experience in model-building, and almost zero, zilch, nil experience at modding. But I'm not going to let that stop me!

For the roof racks for this 203, I'm buying a soldering set and some brass and hope to make my own racks. I have another 1/43 Peugeot 203 Fourgonnette here with roof racks to give me a pattern to follow. And once I have mastered soldering up the roof racks, I am hoping that making the winches from some brass pieces will seem just that little bit easier.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

1953 Redex Trial diorama, pt 2 – the Tubman Peugeot 203

Non-Australian car fans can be easily forgiven for not knowing anything about Ken Tubman, but to older Aussies (like me), and French car fans (like me) this man is a bit of a legend. In his home town of Maitland in the Hunter Valley, the bypass is called "Ken Tubman Drive", and to people in the long-distance car rallying world, Ken Tubman wasn't just a guy who got lucky and won once. He competed for many years and took out several more prizes (including the London-Sahara-Munich World Cup rally in a Citroen in 1970), but all that aside, Ken Tubman will forever be the guy who won the initial Redex Reliability Trial of 1953, and it's the story of the win in the unassuming little Peugeot which is the one that has inspired this diorama.
In my previous posting to launch this diorama build blog, I
featured a photo of Ken and his co-pilot, John Marshall. Now
John was the one who owned the car, but Ken was the guy
who already had established a reputation locally as a driver.
The car itself is a Peugeot 203A, the first in the 203 series.

There are many minor differences between a 203A and its
successor, the 203C, the most obvious of which is the smaller
rear window on the 203A. Up until recently I hadn't seen any
diecast models of 203As at all. Everything I had seen was the
later 203C. An online friend (thanks RT!) showed me a photo
of a diecast 203A, so they do exist as diecast cars, but for
my diorama I wanted to build, then modify a plastic model
of a 203, just for fun, and also because modding plastic is easier.

So it was with real pleasure when I opened the Heller kit box
to spot that small 203A rear window. I've got the correct model!

Hopefully if you click on this image it'll come up a bit bigger.
This is just a diecast 203 with arrows showing the proposed mods
needed to get the Tubman car looking like the original.
Fortunately, it's not much work.

I've already made the very small number of decals needed, the main one being the stencil on the door (in red, the colours of the race's sponsor company, Redex). At the rear passenger window is an ad for Edgell canned goods and on the rear bodywork is a Kellogg's ad. That's it! Minimalist decals. 

Easy changes include switching over the steering wheel so it's right-side driver, and adding a radio aerial. Either side of the radiator, against the front grille, will sit two extra headlamps.

The final mystery object to add is a "thing" on the bonnet (or hood) of the car. See the photos below, and if anyone knows what this is for, I'd love to know. Most cars in the rally seemed to have them. 

You can just see it side-on here as Tubman passes through
the cheering crowds in Kipling, South Australia. It's in the
centre of the bonnet, both lengthways and crossways, and is
only a few inches high.

And here is the "thing" viewed from the front passenger seat.
Its shape and purpose is a mystery to me, but I am going to add
one to the Tubman car simply because it's there!

For my next two blog postings, I'll try to do a similar thing for the Holden FX, and also for the Peugeot 203 van used by the Cinesound film crew. Of the three cars the Tubman car needs the least modification to be brought up to a "replica" standard. The Holden isn't such a tough job, but the real challenge will be to get the Cinesound van looking the part.