Monday, January 26, 2015

Gasser Madness!!

 Gassers are really popular right now, they look cool and they have a lot of room for creative building.  I really enjoy seeing gasser style builds on the table because they are fun cars that border on silly looking.  Even though they can have an element of fun to them, you have to remember, everything was done for a reason.  Racers don’t do anything to their cars just for fun, they came to win and if it doesn’t make the car go faster, they are really not interested.  The idea of racecars looking like show cars is really a modern phenomenon.  Even though you can point out the exception from back in the day, most racecars were built to race and no one cared whether they looked like show cars.  Measure it with a yardstick, mark it with chalk and cut it with a torch was the rule of the day.  So I decided to write a little primer on what is a gasser and what ain’t, er, isn’t.  Here’s a list of 20 things you should know when building a gasser.  I chose the 1965 NHRA rulebook as a guide and then went a couple of years either way to explain changes.
1.  Classes – Those letters on the window mean something, they ain’t there for decoration!  Not every car ran A/G (A gas), that was the top of the heap, a light car with lots of horsepower.  The class designations are based on the car’s weight divided by cubic inches. The reason guys ran Willys, Austins, and other assorted old coupes, is because they were lighter than the current production cars.  That’s why A/G cars are usually old classic coupes with big motors in them.  The behemoths of the 50’s are not light and no matter what you do to them short of cutting off all the body panels, they will never be as light is a car from the 30’s or early 40’s. So, if you took the same motor from “Ohio” George’s 33 and put it in a heavier car, it drops a class or so.  Superchargers moved you up a class at first, so if you ran your car in B/G and then threw a supercharger on it, you are now in A/G.  Then in 1965, they added an “S” to denote a supercharger and you ran in a separate class, such as B/GS.  To make things worse, in 66, the doubled the class letter, in this case the “B” to BB/GS, and in 67 they dropped the “S” to BB/G.  Classes went from A to H.  One of the most famous gassers was the “Flintstone Flyer”, it ran a 292 and weighted 4600 lbs and ran in E/G.   
    2.  Nose Height – Get the nose down!  The rules require that the crankshaft centerline be no more than 24 inches from the ground.  In 1/24 scale that’s about an inch, not 5 inches.  You need to understand the idea behind the high front end, it’s about weight transfer to the rear for traction.  The prevalent thinking of the day was to have the car sitting like it would while accelerating, i.e., the back end squatting. 
 3.  Rear Height – Get your butt up!  As the 60’s wore on tires got better and taller and the cars began to sit closer to level.  The rear was still a little lower than the front, but there was no “cowboy” rake to gassers by 65, and it was never all that prevalent outside the stock classes anyway. 
 4. Street Legal – These cars fall under the “Street” section of the rules, they must have all the equipment required to drive them on the street and they must be able to start on their own, which means batteries and starters, radiators, lights, and all of that cool stuff.  No body modifications unless approved, so watch the chopped tops and no altered wheelbases.
 5. Driver – must be in the stock location
 6 Roll bars – required
 7Frames – cannot be raised to gain weight transfer (channeling)
 8. Bodies – Full fenders required
 9.  Engines – only one and in the stock location
10.  Suspension – Must have one shock per wheel on a functional factory type suspension
11.  Interior – NO gutted interiors!  Rear seat is optional, buckets can replace front bench, full upholstery required.  Cars must have a passenger seat, remember, it’s a street car!
12.  Anglias – Anglias can only run a small block Chevys without a supercharger
13.  Windows – Can be replaced with plexiglass
O.K., enough of just the rules, now for the stuff that most guys did or didn’t do.  These are the things that most people think cars had on them like they were rules, but they are just common practice or not. 
14. Batteries – Big honkin’ truck batteries over the right rear wheel for ballast and to aid in traction.  The battery in the trunk puts more weight on the rear tires which improves traction on the launch, it was put over the right (passenger) side because the torque from the driveshaft causes that side of the body to “raise”, the weight helps to keep it down.  This torsional motion is what causes drag cars to lift the front left wheel first when they pull a wheelie.
15. Ladder bars – Long “ladder bars” were common in the 60’s to help keep the rear axle from “winding up” on launch and when shifting.  In short wheelbase gassers they often connected to the transmission cross member.  Until the later 60’s they were made from 1 piece of  large square tube and had a pivot on both ends to facilitate rear axle movement in an arc but limit axle twist.  The idea comes from the “wishbone” design of 30’s cars and the later habit of hot rodders to put “split ‘bones” on their cars.  The “ladder bars” most people think of are a much later design, the long triangle shape with the zig-zag reinforcing that looks like a ladder.  These became popularized on “Street Freaks” in the 70’s. 
16. Straight Axles – Straight axles on a sky high “gasser” just looks cool!  But not as common as you think.  By the time the straight axle craze was taking off, the Funny cars were taking over.  Early gassers ran stock suspensions and it just so happens that the old 30’s cars had straight axles on them stock.  There are light, strong, easy and work really great in a straight line.  By the time later body styles were getting in to the gasser act, the class was dying.  “Ohio” George modified his Willys chassis to accept a 67 Mustang body, so it had a straight axle.  Later gassers looked like little funny cars.  The “Street Freaks” movement in the 70’s made people think that all gassers were jacked up to the sky with a straight axle under them, it’s not how it was.
 17. Tunnel Ram Intakes – Nope.  These are a Pro Stock item, they belong in the 70’s.  The first commercially available tunnel ram intake was in ’68, there were some around before then, but they were rare.  These were more common on “Street Freaks” than real gassers. 
 18. White Wall Slicks – White Walls were done by 1962, if your car has anything post 1962 do not put white walls on it, it just looks wrong.  I know you can find exceptions out there, but it’s wrong.  In 1959 tire makers started making “pinwalls” which are the narrow white wall tires from the 70’s you remember.  Everybody had to have them and the “gangster walls” quickly fell out of fashion, then the raised white letter tires took over from there.  Another thing to remember, slicks back in the day were recaps, nobody spent the bucks on white walls except the top teams. 
19. Modern Stuff – AHHHHH! I hate this!  Even factory funny cars didn’t run AN fittings and braided line at this time.  Billet fuel pressure regulators came around much later than the gasser era.  Big tube welded pro mod headers don’t fit either.  Billet valve covers are out, finned covers were the coolest thing ever back then and chrome was king! Billet wheels are out too. Most guys ran steelies, especially on the rear.  Real magnesium slotted wheels were common for those that could afford them and Cragar S/S’s came out about 65. 
20. Scrub Line – The scrub line is an imaginary line from the bottom of each wheel rim to all of the other wheel rims.  Nothing can be below this line and be legal for competition.  As a matter of fact, if it’s too close you can’t run.  The idea is if you blow a tire the only thing that should make contact with the track is the wheels, anything else is dangerous.  No header tubes, no ladder bars, no steering arms, no body panels. Nothing.
Last thing I want to mention, rear bumpers were often hollow tubes that could be filled with water or cement to add weight to “make the minimum”.  This way you added weight where it did the most good, water could also “accidently” leak out in the pits after a weigh in.  Barbell weights were also common in the trunk of gassers for the same reason. 

            There’s my little primer on gassers for you, it’s not complete and the rules changed from year to year.  I picked 65 because it’s right in the middle of the era.  If you have any questions, let me know!

“Rat Fink” Ron

Saturday, January 17, 2015

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things

After stealing a line from an old song I thought I'd share a few things I really like concerning the modeling hobby.  First up is snow, I love it when it snows so much (or not so much) that you can't or won't go out and do anything.  I love to be snowed in with all day to build models.  There's nothing quite like a cold day when you can spend all day hibernating at the workbench building.  Another favorite is reading model magazines, especially ones that show techniques that I have never tried.  I love reading about how others accomplished the really cool effects and excellent build quality.  Even though I'm a car and figure modeler, I love to read military modeling magazines because those guys really strive for realism in their builds.  They try to build exact replicas of a specific vehicle at a specific time and place, car modelers rarely do that.  Car guys either build something they just made up, or they build it "close enough" to a vague idea of a race car during a year's time.  If car guys do any weathering, they build a junker: as if cars are either sparkling show cars or complete pieces of crap, there is no in between.
I like having quality tools to do the job right.  I think this comes from my 1:1 car.  One of the things I learned pretty early on is that the proper tool makes any job quicker and easier, the same goes for modeling.  Quality tools with adequate storage and work space is a recipe for success.  I recently bought a jeweler's drill press and it has made my work more accurate and much faster than the old hand held pin vice.  I also like my model display room a lot.  I think it's because not everyone has that luxury to have a room where they can have all of their built models on display and have all of their modeling awards hanging on the wall.  Technically, it's my "office", but hey, my models are on the walls.  I think our cat spends more time in there than anyone, so I like to think she is admiring my builds, or sleeping.  Probably just sleeping.
The last thing on my list is contests.  I really enjoy hanging out with other modelers and checking out their work.  I like discussing new techniques and new ideas for builds.  I like IPMS shows because I get to see other types of models, not just cars.  I also get to talk to guys with other interests that build things differently.  I like model car shows because I get to see other guys cool stuff and sit around and talk cars.  The shopping doesn't hurt either.
Well, I'm off to my workbench to do some more work on my '62 T-Bird.
"Rat Fink" Ron

Monday, January 12, 2015

In Retrospect

I just finished up a long term project (one of several) that I started last year and I was pretty happy to get it done.  I reveled in the joy that comes with a completed project, I worked very hard to get it just right.  During the build I made sure that every detail was as perfect as I could get them. I labored over scratchbuilding parts and correcting flaws in bodywork, this would be the one, the most perfect I could build with the coolest details.  I took it to our local club meeting where it was met with approval and got lots of recognition, I was pretty proud.  What more could a modeler ask than the approval of his peers, life was good; until.
Until what? What happened to turn this moment of bliss into tortured regret? Did said model fall from some height and become damaged? Was there a liquid glue spill that damaged the model beyond repair? Did a spray can of fuchsia paint explode nearby? Nope, none of those things happened. What did happen was that I looked at it and began critiquing it.  The headers are wrong, the front axle assembly could be better, the roll bar doesn't connect to the frame properly, and I should have scratchbuilt the rear springs out of brass.  Coulda, woulda, shoulda. I tend to do this all the time with my models, I always think that they are not that good.  I tend to focus on the negatives of the build instead of the positives and it comes across when I talk about my builds.  I rarely can just point out the positives, just the negatives.
The upside to this self-critiquing is that it helps me build better models the next time.  It challenges me to try new techniques and push the limits of my building, which leads to improved builds over time.  It can also lead to projects getting mired in a state of very slow progress which can lead to a loss of interest in the project.  The other problem is without progress it is very easy to get distracted with other things, especially in the summertime.  My big red Ford is too much fun to leave sit all summer, so stalled projects come to a complete standstill in the summer usually.  Well, back to the bench!
"Rat Fink" Ron

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Trying Something New


Last year I tried out some new building techniques on a 1957 Ford Gasser and I found that I really enjoyed them.  I built a front axle, leaf springs and steering linkage out of aluminum, stainless tubing and flat stock.  I had a good time doing it so I built some headers out of copper wire and did some soldering, something I have limited skill with.  Like most things soldering takes practice so I'm confident that I will improve.  On my latest build I'm going to use brass for several suspension parts so soldering has become more important.  It also amazes me how much I like making parts and creating assemblies from scratch.  It's also pretty cool how real they look, much better than kit parts.  To me that has become the fun, seeing how I can "improve" a kit with scratchbuilt parts.
One of the first things I figured out was that I needed tools to work with other materials.  I've noticed how model car guys will spend $100 to buy a bunch of kits and cheap out when it comes to tools.  We all have 100+ kits in the stash that we have thousands of dollars invested in, but heaven forbid we skip a few purchases and buy some quality tools.  I've been guilty of it and I recently decided to spend some cash on tools so I bought a lathe and then a jeweler's mini drill press. The lathe is kind of a luxury item for now until I really develop my building skills, but the drill press became a necessity after spending several hour drilling holes in brass by hand and then working the cramp out of my hand.  Pin vices are not designed to be used for long periods of time.  I'm also thinking a need a better way to cut brass and aluminum other than a miter box and hand saw.  Also on the wish list is a mill, but I'll have to wait at least a year to save up the money.
So my goal is to have a miniature machine shop in my basement and to build some pretty cool stuff.  I'm as concerned about winning contests as I am about really having fun building.  The scratchbuilding bug has bit me and I like where I'm headed with it.  The photos are of my latest project, a 1962 T-Bird AWB Gasser that I'm building a straight axle front suspension and leaf springs.  After looking at how cool it looks I guess I'm going to do the rear suspension too. Until next time.
"Rat Fink" Ron

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Setting Up Shop

I recently moved and along with all of the joy that it brings there is also a ton of work that goes along with it.  Being a modeler brings certain challenges to the game such as the extra 10 or 12 giant boxes of unbuilt models, or the dozens of delicate built models you need to transport, or the set up at the new digs.  My new house has a good sized basement with lots of room for a model workshop and luckily my better half has no issues with what I do with the basement.  Now I know what you're thinking, "how is this even an issue?" sometimes too much choice makes a decision harder.
So I started with my 6 ft workbench I had at the old house in the corner, then I put my spray booth close to the window so it could be vented outside.  I then decided that I needed a small table beside the spray booth to "prep" the paint, so I used the 2 ft section I had cut off my workbench for that.  Of course the compressor has to go near the spray booth and a set of shelves to store paint and other stuff should be close to the painting area so I had to put those up.  I also needed shelves to put all of my kits on so I used the longest empty wall for that.  I put up 3 10 ft shelves thinking that would be enough space for my kits with room for growth, but I barely fit all of the kits I have.  More building and less buying is in the plan.  I also needed wall space for pegboard to hang all of my detail parts up, so I put that on the wall opposite from my kits.  Since I recently bought a lathe I needed someplace for that, and since you can never have too much work space, I built a 15 ft workbench under the pegboard.  There was already some shelves on the wall so I left them there.  So basically, my shop is set up as a giant "U" with a lot of empty space in the middle.
The last thing was electrical.  I needed more light and more plugs so I put a 4 ft. florescent light above every work station and a outlet every 3 ft around the perimeter.  You can never have too many plugs! I think I covered everything, but as I learned at my last house, no matter how well you think you planned it out, your needs will change.  I still have a few things left to do and some painting here and there, but I think I'm ready to be done moving and constructing the shop and start using it to build models.
"Rat Fink" Ron

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Winner, Winner! Chicken Dinner!

I write a lot about contests in my blog because I really enjoy them, mostly because they give me a chance to see other people's models.  I look at them and scrutinize every detail to see what they have done, I mentally (well, sometimes not so mentally) criticize mistakes and poor construction as if I built it.  I do this in the hopes that I will learn from the mistakes of others, although I usually don't.  I can usually pick out the winners in each class but I can rarely see which model will get best of show unless it is blatantly obvious.  I love to see the cool ideas that other folks have for their kits and I enjoy seeing those extra details other guys add to their models.  Some guys are not content with just building a nice model, they have to build the best and good for them.  I can never seem to build them as good as I'd like, something always goes a little wrong. I always try to learn something at a contest.
I know some guys who are great builders, that always seem to build the first place cars and Best of Show winning models. These guys always tell you they build for themselves and some of them truly do, but not all of them.  I have seen several of these guys get a little upset and have "issues" with a show if they don't get a first place and/or a best of show.  They don't want to return to a show if they think they have been slighted or the show was unfair.  They appear completely oblivious to the fact that a lot of other guys entered their models and walked out empty handed.  Not that I'm one of the everybody gets a trophy crowd, but sometimes it ain't your day.  I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out why one car wins and another one loses and I have concluded there is no pattern; it's whatever the judges like.  A well built model that is in the style of whatever is popular will beat out an exceptionally built car that's a little different.  Right now, gassers are hot in the 1:1 world and in the model car world, if you want to win, build a gasser.  That is not to say that is the only thing that wins, hyper-detailed Pro Mods are still winners, but you get the jist of what I'm saying.  Each category has it's own "hot" style of build.  Guys who like to win will shift what they build to what is hot and they will abandon a build if it starts to go a little south.
The part that annoys me about these guys is that the whole time they are building these contest winners they tell you how they only build for themselves.  Really? Because if a car doesn't start winning within a couple of shows, it disappears from the show circuit, never to be seen again.  I have actually know guys to sell them as built ups if they aren't winners, all the while telling me how they just build for themselves.
So all of this leads to the point of this post, why do the guys who rarely or never win enter contests?  Why do I enter contests?  I hung out with the guys who are concerned with winning and developed some of their attitude right up until I hit a dry spell with some cars that I thought were really well built, much better built and with more scratch building than stuff I had previously won with.  This led me to really examine why I enjoy contests and I concluded it was more about seeing other guys cars and talking "shop" with other modelers.  I really think I take my stuff to share with other guys and let them see what I have built.  I went to the Toledo NNL this past year with a new understanding of that show.  I have been several times in the past and I had fun, but I never really understood the draw.  I went to see the really cool over the top builds that show up but I could never get why so many of these builds only show up at NNLs.  I also never understood why my buddies who like to win don't seem interested in going up there even though it's close to home.  Then I got it.  It's not about your build, it's about seeing what others are building and sharing what you've built.  Because I've always liked seeing other guys models, I've always liked the NNLs, my buddies were seeing other guys stuff as rivals for the win, they don't want to just go to check out models.  So this little epiphany has changed how I look at contests and why I'm entering, I'm entering to share not to win.  My weird builds are mine and fun to look at, if they win something cool, but I'm here to hang out and talk models.
"Rat Fink" Ron

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Getting Back To It

I took a long break from modeling this summer; and spring; and fall. My last post was about our club's show and how much I enjoyed it, but then I just sort of stopped modeling.  There was no real reason other than I just wasn't motivated to do any.  I was going gun-ho on some altered wheelbase projects and ran into a paint problem on my 57 AWB Gasser project and it kind of took the wind out of my sails so to speak.  The other issue that comes up during the summer is my 1:1 scale 1959 Ford that I horse around with. In the spring i started building a stroker motor to put in it and then got side tracked with that.  At any rate, I'm back and now I have another issue. We recently moved.
I am amazed by the amount of crap I have because you never realize how much stuff you have acquired until you pack it up and move it. There is a lot of stuff you need to build models besides the 10 or 12 big boxes of model kits you have to move and then figure out where to put once you move.  On the plus side, I now have a much larger space for my work area and model kit storage area.
That brings up another problem, work area layout.  What is the best way to layout a work area?  I decided to put my 6 ft bench in the corner by the window and my spray booth close to that.  My kit storage will be along the opposite wall on shelves so that I can see the kits I'm going to rob for parts from my bench.  I also built a 15 ft bench along the wall beside the 6 footer as a work area for other things like resin casting and machining because I recently bought a lathe to machine parts.  I have a large open space in the middle for anything I might add later.  I think I covered everything and kept plenty of room for growth as my skills improve, in the meantime, I'll be busy building benches and adding wiring for plugs and lights, I hope I end up with the "perfect" shop.  Until next time.
"Rat Fink" Ron