Formula one

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Scratch building a Lotus 79

1/20 scale

by  Akiyoshi Kishino 


Even now, the 1978 Lotus 79 is one of the most popular Formula 1 machines.
The Lotus 79 was the first real ground effect car, and determined the design concept of the Formula 1 machine for the next five years, the wing car era. With its slick and smooth style, chic JPS color and brilliant race records, the Lotus 79 could be the car which epitomized the beauty of Formula 1. So, it was natural that people called it the "Black beauty" with admiration.

This model is my 3rd scratch model of Lotus 79 in 1/20 scale. I built the first two models based on Tamiya's Williams FW07, but I could not get enough references in those days in Japan. After that, I had the chance to gather some information and detailing from books about this Lotus car. Especially after Tameo released a fully detailed Lotus 79 in their 1/43 lineup, I wasn't satisfied with my models, so I decided to give myself a return match at scratch building this beautiful car.


I fully covered the model with polyester putty, and started to give it a more accurate shape, I puttied the body and sanded it again and again. Finally, I got satisfied with the body and the pontoons, I plugged the cockpit with clay and made a copy of the body cowl and upper surface of pontoon, with cast resin. The pontoons were cut off from the body cowl and given a shape with the base parts of the side pontoons, the monocoque, the cockpit and the fuel tank were taken from the FW07.

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 The engine, exhausts, suspension arms, etc. were converted from the FW07 or the Lotus 78 kits. I made a resin cast for the body cowl was vacu-formed the cowling with 0.5mm plastic plate, that way I got a thin body cowl part that could be divided as the real car. I think this vacuum form method is very reasonable for building replicas of the '70 and '80,s Formula 1 cars (with full cowling).


The tires were converted from Brabham BT50, because the 78's and '79,s had different diameters. I used thin wire, mesh hose and small parts converted from other kits, to make a lot of detailing around the engine and the suspension, as well as in the cockpit. I didn't use the Tamiya 78 decals, because the JPS logos were printed in yellow though, while the real color was a little more creamy. To make things worse, the decal was too thin and not bright against the black base color.


I used a special technique to make decals specially for the JPS color. I put the 78 decals over a black sheet of paper and made black-white copies with the proper size.

The decal logos were yellow, so I made white logos over a black base, after a little adjustment of copy contrast, and then copied them on clear decal sheet in the same condition. I put the copied decals over the cream colored decal sheets and I applied them on the body, after trimming. I retouched the edges of decals with black paint, so, I had bright cream JPS logos over the black body.

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After many complications, my "Black beauty" was finished. I am always fascinated with its beautiful shape, and I strongly feel like "I need to build another one, although this time in 1/12 scale!"


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