Formula one

Superdetailing the McLaren M23 Ford

Tamiya ref #20002, 1/20 scale

by Guy Golsteyn © 2007 Modeler Site

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I have been collecting all the 1:20 Tamiya F1 kits since Tamiya started producing them back in 1978, but the McLaren M23 was missing from my collection because I had the clever idea to trade the finished model for a bow and arrows once I finished it. So I have been looking for it since ages, until I discovered Ebay some 25 years later. I paid quite a high price to complete my collection with the one missing kit, but it was the very last that I needed, so what the heck.


Then I hesitated to start building it. I am aware of the fact that a built model is a lot less valuable than a mint and boxed kit, but then again what is the point of collecting kits without building them? So after a year or so I decided to build it anyway.


Building a model like this always demands a study of the main bodyparts. I noticed that the body consists mainly of 2 parts, an upper part and a lower part. So far so good, but Tamiya made a big mistake: the separation is totally wrong since the seam simply isn’t there at the real car. The main body consist of a single monocoque, as does the nosecone, which can be detached from the body to be able to work at the parts that are hidden by this nosecone (brake-oil fluid containers, battery, and so on). That has its consequences for the buildup and the spraying of the model. Either you spray the 2 halves first and glue them together afterwards, which would mean that you will always notice the ugly seam that you can't hide anymore, or you glue the 2 halves together to sand away the seam and spray it afterwards, but that makes it nearly impossible to build up the interior parts of the cockpit and the front suspension. I decided to make a compromise: the nosecone would be cut off to be assembled first and sprayed afterwards in order to hide the seam, but the main body would be left like it was because I just didn’t see how I could fix the parts at the inside of the body once it was glued together. So I started carving out a panel line (which was missing as well) between the nosecone and the main body, and I kept on carving until I went through the plastic. Because such an operation always goes with a loss of material I glued some plastic strip to the front of the main body to correct the total length of the car. I also closed the gaps at the bottom of the car where a battery and a switch are to be built in. Since I'm not planning on letting my model drive around the living room steeringless, I closed them completely.

Next I glued both nosecone halves together and brought them in shape. That wasn't as easy as it sounds, because Tamiya took a shortcut when designing the nose: the front wings and the nose are joined by some sort of rectangular connection which simply isn't there at the real car. So I took a sharp modelling knife and I cut it away, joining the front wing directly to the nosecone. I also thinned the wing-end plates because they were at least 1mm thick and I sanded them down to 0.2mm, which looks more to scale to me.

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