Tuesday, April 25, 2017

FJ Holden at the Half-Way House

Like most people, Australians like to believe in their legends about themselves, and part of that legend is the Australian-made Holden car. The first of these to roll off the production line in 1948 were modified Buicks, and they were wonderful cars, immediate best-sellers with customers patiently waiting months for delivery. Simple, reliable and very strong, with a straight-six engine, they were a perfect choice for our rough roads, many of which were dirt.

This diorama is just a fantasy based on what one happy family did as soon as they got their FJ Holden — they took it for a long drive in the country. Here, they're a long way from the city, stopping at "The Half-Way House" to fill up on petrol and buy some petrol, food and drink. A few of the locals are quite happy to just look at the shiny new car, something they don't often see out the back of beyond.


The 1/43 scale model car used for this diorama is by AutoArt, and it's one of my favourite models, really nicely made with attention to detail including "steerable" front wheels which can be moved from side to side, to suit the pose you want for it. It even feels like a good quality item in your hands.

Now, for whatever reason the "FJ" name has come to be the one that general folk who aren't car enthusiasts give to this early series of Holdens. The first one was the 48/215, a forgettable name that most people now call the "FX". It was produced from 1948 to 1953. Then came the FJ, produced from 1953 to 1956. 

Finally, to give you some idea of how much the original background photo changes in one of these Photoshopped dioramas, here's the starting point. I've renovated the shed, fixed the windows, added a nicer door frame, lots of ads, a petrol pump, people and more. All in all by the time I had finished altering the original image, I had 28 layers open (each representing an alteration or addition) in Photoshop. 

The one thing I didn't alter was that fantastic roof. It's an Australian classic, just like the FJ Holden itself.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

A lot of local colour in Italy

It's been quite a long while since I have created one of my dioramas in Photoshop, but lately I've been inspired to break all the traditional diorama-making rules once more.

It's called "Local Colour in Italy" and it was inspired by spotting a photo of some very colourful houses in Venice. For the diorama I have done the unthinkable and have removed the canal, some gondolas and other boats, and replaced them with a road. Sacrilege!

Then I decided that two-toned cars would look perfect in this street, so the one up front is this Alfa Romeo 1900, a fairly OK model by M4. The paint job isn't that great, but I like the overall look of the car despite that. 

And the one behind it is a Wartburg 311 Coupe, a much nicer diecast model by Altaya. For a cheap model, this looks great on the shelves.

I always like to include some movie stars in my dioramas, even if they are so small you can barely recognise them. This one has Saorise Ronan, Brigette Bardot, David Niven and Jean Seberg. The other cast members are humble extras roped in for the day.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Hello, Instagram

Well, I've joined Instagram, and you can find me at


and I'll be concentrating on posting my dioramas ...

... including the ones I create in Photoshop (above), using my little model cars ...

... and the more traditional 3D ones I build the old-fashioned way.

So if you're already following other diorama makers, or diecast collectors, on Instagram, pop on over to my feed when you get a chance and say hi.

Monday, April 3, 2017

1930s Art Deco street scene diorama

It's been a while (six months!) since my last post here at "The Die is Cast", so it's time for an update on what I've been up to. I've been building a model of a bus and a car, both from the Art Deco era, both from Europe in the 1930s. They're all part of an Art Deco themed diorama I am slowly putting together.

This is a little built plastic model of an Opel Blitzbus, the Strassenzepp Essen, or road Zeppelin. This actual bus was built in the 1930s, and was used notably to ferry around competitors at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, as a showcase of the modernity of those Neanderthal Nazis.

The plastic kit itself is by a Ukrainian company, Roden, and it's moderately OK (main components fitted together) and moderately crappy (dreadful decals), too. But it's the only Art Deco bus kit I can find. Love those fins! The people in the bus aren't part of the kit. I added some 1/72 Airfix plastic soldiers as "passengers" in my Blitzbus. 

To give you an idea of its size, the bus is about as big as a 1/43 scale car, maybe a bit smaller.

The other vehicle in my diorama will be this 1/72 scale Tatra T87, from a plastic kit made by Attack Models. Attack is a Czech company, but for my money I group them with the Ukrainian and Russian companies for quality of everything from castings to decals. The good thing about these people is that they make models of cars, planes etc that suit my quirky tastes. 

The model kit was for a WWII military Tatra T87, but it was close enough for me to make it into a nice, silver, civilian one.

The bus was first produced in 1936, and the Tatra T-87 first appeared in 1936, so both are nice and new and shiny, and I love those fins on both of them.

And this is an Art Deco theatre that's in Tasmania. I am planning to build this in 3D using foam board, so this photo is simply my reference guide. I figure that for a beginner, three holes and lots of straight lines should be all I should attempt ...

I've made some progress since this posting, but I will save all that for an update next time I get a chance to do it.