Taking Tamiya bodies to the next level.

The compromises made to ensure a balance between scale looks and something that can be driven without bits falling off means there's plenty of scope for enhanced details. What interests me the most about RC is taking something that needs the practicality of being a robust toy and fixing all the little things that stop it looking like a proper model.


adrian 01


Although I don't run any of these cars I have set myself one rule - the model must be a fully functional radio controlled car. For some of these that means just a basic TT-01 chassis with a silver can and friction shocks, for others it's a race spec double carbon deck with big bore shocks and a brushless setup. Each one has full electrics and radio gear when photographed, although I usually end up transferring some parts to the next car afterwards.



I cut the body using the score and snap method then scan the window and headlight masks and redraw them in Adobe illustrator. This means that a) I can use my cutting machine to produce pre cut masks from Tamiya masking sheet, and it also gives me the facility that if I mess one up I can just discard it and cut another. Wherever possible I try to obtain a body without pre-drilled post holes so that I can stealth mount it for better scale looks.


adrian 02


When painting the body I always back with silver then the body colour again or black, depending on the look I'm going for. Older cars such as the Porsche 934 will have black interiors but newer ones will be body coloured. I use Tamiya PS spray cans.

For plastic parts which are moulded in the correct colour I just clearcoat. This is important for UV stability to stop white parts yellowing. I use Tamiya TS sprays and Tamiya and Revell acrylics.

For the cockpit sets I'll either mask off the drivers and spray it black if the drivers need to be white, or for dark colour driver suits I'll paint the whole thing black then the suit colour afterwards. I'm very average at painting the driver faces so the only tip I can really give here is don't make the eyes too big.


adrian 03


I'll usually paint exhausts and intercoolers too. The chrome finish is fine for a drifter but looks too flashy for a race or rally car.

I also paint wheels, sometimes if I can't get them in the proper colour (the white 306 Maxi wheels were grey) or just to look nicer - paint always looks better than coloured plastic, even if it's just clear. TS spray again. Some of the mesh type wheels like the M3 and 911 GT2 have solid sections for strength, I paint these matt black.


adrian 04


Chassis prep - offset

The most important thing here is wheel fitment. With the exception of the 911 GT2, the wheels always sit too far inside the arches. I correct this with a combination of 1mm plastic washers or the metal TRF wheel spacers. Spacing this way reduces the available thread on the axles so I use M4 half nuts which have the nice bonus of looking like the centre lock nuts some race cars have.

The basic TT-01 and TT-02 chassis have no rear toe-in, but anything higher spec has 2-3 degrees of toe in, which is great for handling but looks unrealistic. I always remove this, usually by swapping the rear outer suspension block for the same as the inner one, then moving the lower arm spacers to reposition the wheel back to where it should be.



I aim to replace as many stickers that are used for details with actual parts as possible. With the surge in popularity of drifting and the ultra realistic bodies used there, the market for scale accessories has grown enormously and a lot of these parts are very useful when building a race or rally car. This usually means I can get wipers, exhausts and intercooler or radiators off the shelf. The Tamiya 54139 Touring Car Accessory set is great for this - it contains an intercooler, brake discs, exhaust and several windscreen wipers. Other times I use parts from different cars - the wiper on the GT2 Porsches and BMWs is from the Alfa 155, and the roof scoops on the Impreza and Golf are from the Suzuki SX4 WRC.


adrian 05


Where the car has vents or open sections I like to cut these out, which I do before painting. For the grilles I fit mesh which is either aluminium or steel sourced from eBay. I paint this whole sheet (20cm x 20cm) black then cut bits off as I need it.

To stick the mesh and other parts to the shell I find the best option is hot glue. This dries in seconds and can be removed or things repositioned by heating it up again with a heat gun. It's cheaper than Shoe Goo, dries faster and doesn't have the solvent smell. The mesh is, I think, one of the things that makes the biggest difference. You can see how much better the grille looks on the green 911 compared to the earlier build orange one:


adrian 06


For brakes I initially used the Tamiya discs, but sprayed matte silver and with the bells detailed in black. I've since began to use sets of metal discs with callipers. These require cutting out the supporting plastic from the back of most Tamiya wheels though. On the 306 I've used them as they came, the Impreza brakes callipers have been sprayed matt gunmetal then fitted with AP logos.


adrian 07


Other parts I make myself. The exhausts on the Escort and 306 are styrene tube, squashed to an oval shape. The splitters on the M3s are black styrene sheet and the aerials are styrene tubes and rods. It's very basic stuff but it looks good.


adrian 08


The roll cages are made from styrene tubing. I use 4mm, 5mm and 6mm and vary the diameter - 6mm for the main hoop and 5mm and 4mm for the rest. Cars from the 70s have thinner tubing, it got thicker in the 90s (Escort and 306) then thin again recently (Impreza). Building the cages is quite fiddly and time consuming. I bend the tubing after heating with a heat gun then stick it together with hot glue. If you're careful a spot of glue between two tubes will squeeze out slightly and look like a scale weld once the cage is painted.

The red towing eyes are electrical ring connectors painted red and poked through a slot cut into the shell.


adrian 09


Stickers and vinyl

This is my advantage when building these cars. I'm not the best at painting or styrene fabrication but I'm a graphic designer by trade so I know the software inside out and all the technicalities of cutting my own stickers. In addition to the obvious uses - sponsor logos and lettering, I also use it for the sidewall writing on tyres and window trims.


adrian 10


Making window trims has two benefits - firstly you get a neater cut than is possible trying to cut out the supplied ones from the sticker sheet, but the main reason is they can be cut from matt black vinyl which looks more realistic for older cars with rubber trims. You can see here on the 306 the door windows have matt trims but the rear quarter windows are gloss, exactly like the real car.


adrian 11


One recent use is the rear window heater elements on the 306. This a a row of 0.5mm strips held in alignment with masking tape then stuck to the inside of the window.


adrian 12


There's a whole article on cutting vinyl here: tamiyabase.com/blog/how-to/167-making-decals-part-2a.html

For the body lines I use Kyosho 0.4mm tape.



Not part of the build but something I want to touch on is photography. I've seen plenty of amazing cars that have just been snapped on a table full of junk in poor lighting. It's a subject that could fill another article but I've been doing photography longer than I have been building these cars so I had all the gear already including lighting. I'll end with a few basic tips:

  • Choose a clean background - I use white paper or a black cloth.
  • Get down low, recreate the same viewing angle as you'd see a real car from.
  • Ensure the whole car is in focus - if the back is blurred this is a real giveaway that it's a model.
  • Pose the car - wheels turned is the car equivalent of the muscle flex and shows off the wheel.
  • Avoid bright sunshine - you'll just get hotspots and reflections. Soft light is more flattering.


Written by TB member Kuhfarben (Adrian)

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