Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Custom Dodge Rampage

Back in 2006 or 2007, before I got back into model railroading, or had started blogging, I was into building model cars. This is a build that I posted in a series at a now long retired website called Brian's Model Cars. That site doesn't even appear to be online anymore.
Of all my model car projects this was my favourite. It took about 5 or 6 months of on-and-off work - more off than on I must admit - but even though it isn't the best thing ever done, I was happy with the result and it taught me a lot of things.
I never posted this build to retroDynamics, so in the spirit of summertime nostalgia, here are the construction photos from 8 or so years ago.
These are 3 of the 4 donor kits that were used. The 4th one, which isn't shown here, was a 1993 Honda Civic kit from Revell. I used the interior bucket parts from that one.
These are more or less all the parts that went into this build. Missing are the ones for the interior bucket and the back wall of the cab.
I started by cutting the Omni body in half and gluing on the sides from the Ram cargo box.
Here's the right side.
And here's the left. It's pretty rough at this point. When I posted these pictures, comments suggested in no uncertain terms that I could never pull off this build. Frankly, I wasn't so sure I could either, but I was then very determined to finish this thing :-) Duly motivated I pushed on.
The back wall came from the Ram pickup. I used a razor saw to cut it off.
In this picture the back wall has been installed along with the bed for the cargo box. Some putty was applied to begin the long and tedious task of trying to make it look like all these parts were one, smooth, continuous unit.
This is the Omni chassis straight from the box. I had to grind out the back part so it would fit properly with the box.
Everything was removed from the aft portion except for the main frame. This was a test fit to see if things lined up and connected properly.
I took a break from work on the body and focused my attention on the engine. It has a 2.2 litre, 4 cylinder engine. Even though it was fairly big displacement-wise, I think it only produced around 90 hp. My old Civic is something like 1.7 litres and produces around 120 hp, so those old Dodges don't seem that powerful. I probably should have also put in the Civic engine as well as the interior :-)
I didn't bother wiring or plumbing the engine. It's just loosely painted.
With the engine taken care of, I thought I'd move on to the front suspension and the exhaust system in preparation for installing the engine in the chassis.
Here is the engine inserted in the bay, and the front suspension pieces are painted and installed. A little detail painting was done on the gas tank. 
A side view of the front struts. A thin wash of flat black was slopped on the springs to make them look a little more three-dimensional.
The engine fits quite snuggly.
With the engine installed, it was time to move on to finishing the engine bay.
And here it is. Again, no wiring or plumbing, just painted components.
Flipping it upside down, this is the finished chassis - finished except for the rear suspension which had to wait until the chassis was attached to the body.
The body was lots of trial and error of sanding, priming and filling to get an approximation of smoothness and uniformity. I didn't take many pictures at this stage, just a few to sort of mark the before and after stages.
Here's the right side at some intermediate point. It's starting to look better, but there's still considerable work to be done.
Here it is after a few more rounds of smoothing. I decided to paint the whole thing flat black to simulate one of those matte finish custom cars. I did this for two reasons: one, I like those sorts of finishes if done right and it's on a car  body that can pull it off, and two, I was lazy :-) I didn't want to get into another session of sanding and polishing to create a shiny finish. In the end, upon close inspection, it turned out that the body appeared to be shrink wrapped with naugahyde! Oh well, one could think of it as some sort of anti-radar reflective coating :-)
And here's the driver's side. The starting point was more or less the same as the other side.
It didn't turn out too badly after all was said and done. I used Krylon flat black spray paint.
And that was that for major body work. On to the interior.
This is the Omni's stock interior bucket. The surface detailing is very flat and uninteresting, and the trunk part would need to be cut off. I decided to replace the entire interior with the one in Revell's 1993 Honda Civic kit.
The Civic dashboard is on the left, and the Omni's on the right. The Omni's dash is very crude in comparison.
Same goes for the seats. I like the strange headrest attachment on the Civic's seats. 
The Civic's steering wheel is chunky and even has an airbag. The Omni's wheel is one of those old thin ones that would likely be very bad in a collision.
The Civic's interior bucket was something you had to assemble unlike the Omni's which was an old-school one piece thing. The detailing is nice and three-dimensional. In this project I sawed off the portion behind the door to make the sides for the Rampage's interior bucket.
To get started I did a trial fitting of the major interior pieces to make sure everything went together properly. Some filing and sanding was needed to get a snug fit.
Once the main components had the right size, I built up the interior bucket with some sheet styrene.
Then checked the fit again.
The fit was good so I painted up all the components and assembled the interior. The paint scheme more-or-less matches the one on my old '93 Civic sedan. These earth-tone schemes are completely out-of-fashion today, but a modern black-and-gray variation I think would be too monotonous on this car where the body is flat black. 
The interior bucket was then installed on the chassis ready for final assembly with the body.
But, before I could attach the chassis unit to the body, I had to install the windshield and the cab's back window. The stock Omni windshield had the rearview mirror moulded into the glass - that didn't look right at all. I figured I'd have to make a new windshield.
I cut a new windshield from a flexible piece of clear plastic - it's on the left with it's anti-scratch film still attached. The rear cab window is on the right and it's a stock piece from the Ram kit.
Getting the windshield installed was a tricky operation that involved various types of glues, clamps and copious amounts of cursing.
But in the end everything worked out ok.
It was then just a matter of slipping the chassis into the body unit. All went well and things fit fine.
The interior bucket edges fit well against the doors. That rearview mirror was also from the Civic kit and was installed before chassis installation.
At this point the rear suspension could be installed.
This is the built-up rear suspension from the Omni kit. I added some cylindrical styrene pieces to the ends of the springs to boost the back-end a little to get the tires to fit into the wheel wells.
Here it is installed. The tailpipe on the muffler is too stubby so I eventually added a tube to extend it a bit beyond that back bumper.
The bumper parts are shown on the right. They came from the Ram, and unfortunately I don't seem to have any photos of how I modified a bit of the stock Ram chassis to make the bumper attachments for the Rampage.
So, I'll jump straight to the photo of the installed bumper. You can also see I've jumped ahead a bit since this view as the wheels and tires installed.
These are the stock wheels from both the Omni kits. One of them had only three rubber tires. None of these choices were acceptable, so I rummaged around in my spares box for some replacements.
I decided on these 'wire' wheels and some tires that fit them. Before installation I washed some flat black paint to help highlight the wires.
Here it is finally up on its wheels. This is always a big moment in model car assembly. All that was needed was the tailgate.
All the tailgate parts came from the Ram kit. The Ontario license plate was an aftermarket item.
One last thing was need: the radio antenna. I used one from a Moonscope kit as a donor.
I sliced out one of the 'spring' sections at its base.
Then drilled a hole through the section that would fit a very thin wire.
Then glued the wire into the wedge with some super-glue.
And then checked the fit on the car. I made the antenna much earlier in the build process so that when I drilled a hole for it in the fender I wouldn't run the risk of marring a finished paint job.
And that was that. The car in the background is a 1983 Plymouth Turismo, the Plymouth version of Dodge's Omni and Charger lines from the 1980s. For me this was a challenging project and it taught me a lot of things, and I think it gave me confidence to try my hand at a lot of different projects when I eventually got to building a model railroad.
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