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Building your first 1/12 scale  motorcycle

by Mario Covalski © 2002

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It has been several months now that I wanted to write an article on 1/12 scale motorcycles for beginners, explaining the basic concepts that are taken for granted in the articles on superdetailing. I built my first 1/12 motorcycle fourteen years ago and if you believe that having worked with 1/12 Formula 1 cars will guarantee success… you are wrong.
Though the scale is the same as a whole, motorcycle parts are much smaller, their design engineering is different and the kit manufacturers' philosophy is different too. Thus, the solutions to the specific problems that these models present need to be adapted, since they are very different from those presented by cars.
And if you are thinking of other scales, it is more or less the same, since the parts have different design engineering. Maybe it is easier to build a 1/6 than a 1/12 scale motorcycle, exception made of course, with the difficulties that handling and painting bigger parts bring about.

The selected kit

Once the decision was made, I had to choose a kit that would be easy enough to build, appealing and attractive to me and much better if it could meet other requirements too. A Tamiya model would have been up to the expectations; however, I wanted to show something different. Thus, I chose an Aoshima kit, of a customized super motorcycle.

Aoshima has been producing motorcycle kits -and injecting them in molds bought from other manufacturers, such as Imai and Bandai- for almost twenty-five years, i.e. more than Tamiya. However, I came across the brand not more than 7 or 8 years ago. Obviously, they have concentrated in the domestic market.
I chose a kit for my collection that would be appealing to me: a Kawasaki GPZ900R Ninja. This was a successful 1984 model and customized by Tsukigi Racing in Japan for their most demanding customers.
Aoshima has an interesting characteristic. They have not produced a huge number of models during the last twenty-five years; however, they have taken good advantage of their molds by offering all the possible variations in the different series for each model. This one corresponds to the "Performance Machine Series", a scale production though customized motorcycle with high performance parts. This is quite common in 1/1 motorcycles.
Though this is a good quality kit, I was amazed at how badly the unions between the parts and the tree were chosen. We all know that these are the places where the melted plastic is injected. There were parts where the marks left were impossible to eliminate in full. In general, this would not have been an issue with a Tamiya model.


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The instructions for these old models come almost all in Japanese. The latest ones have only the names of the colours in English. Aoshima uses as a reference all the Gunze line paints, which are very popular in Japan and are obviously among the best in modeling. The instructions are quite complete. Anyway, I detected some mistakes. The kit decals are excellent and though the ones used for this article are some years old, they worked perfectly well.
For those of you who do not know the Aoshima motorcycles, I offer the instructions' pictures. Since it is a customized model, it offers several parts of the original production that will not be used in the construction. Of course, this will make us and the spare part box very happy!

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Building the model

When I built my last kit in 1988, the techniques and materials I used and my own abilities were so different that I found myself as a beginner with his first kit. This was all right since I would be able to give a fresh view of the common problems and an experienced solution.

Chromed parts… yes or no?

My first important decision was to eliminate the chromed plated with which the parts are offered. This model was customized with many chromed, quite different from the scale production one which was manufactured mostly in black.

Why eliminate the chromed?

It is easy to substitute with the variety of paints we have now, allowing us a variety of contrasts that we would not have if we used the parts directly from the same tree with the same silver colour.
Cleaning the parts is simplified by allowing a deeper sandpapering and polishing.
Probably, the most important matter is that assembly is simplified since putty may be used, the error margin is greater and the final result is better.


So I eliminated the chromed by using a ferric-chloride solution, used to make printed circuits of electronic devices.

The chassis

The chassis is obviously a key part in a motorcycle. In this case it imitated a tubular steel chassis. In general, this kind of chassis is painted in brilliant black and is divided into several substructures. The majority of the parts are small and fragile. If we were to follow the instructions, we should join small parts and substructures once they have already been painted. This does not sound logical. Whoever has built a kit before knows that it is very difficult to work with painted parts in visible areas with absolute tidiness, mainly if we work with brilliant black.
Thus, I decided that the chassis should be built previously, painted and then be finally assembled.

This implies to have the engine and other parts partially built in order to check if it will be possible to assemble them according to a new sequence.

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This seems to be obvious and easy to attain but it is not so. If you are going to perform this task, the final result will be excellent since you will have been able to work with the chassis totally glued together though free from other parts, in order to paint it in one piece. However, this will imply a more complex assembly process and it will possibly be necessary to introduce changes in some parts to put them in their place, for example, the engine supports.
However, it is worth the effort!

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