Weekends are all about customs, so here is Part 2 from our good friend Tim Phelps. The customs are great, but be sure to read his great articles on the history of the models and cars they represent. If you missed Part 1, be sure to check it out as well…
Beaters Back to Life: Renewed Fire from the Wreckage
I love to visit area toy show beater boxes—you never know what little treasure you can
find and bring back to life. My favorite finds include Hot Wheels redline Ferrari 312p’s,
Porsche 917’s and Matchbox Porsche 910’s; neither seem to be very common. With
excited anticipation I bring them home and begin the dismantling ritual. Dremel tool in
hand, I burr down the rivets and take each car apart, placing their components into clear
plastic boxes. Hanging on a strip of picture hanging wire, their metal diecast bodies are
dutifully dunked into a glass jar of Aircraft® paint remover for about 15 minutes, then
washed and dried. Jeweler’s files smooth and refine all seams and slag and the renewed
shiny bodies are next painted in primer. A base coat color is next sprayed and the fun
begins! Hmmmm, flames or stripes? We’ll go with stripes for now and flames later, or
The proposed measured stripe areas are taped off with strips of masking tape or frisket
film. The approach can either be one of airbrushing colored stripes onto the car body or it
can be a “subtractive approach” by covering parts of the body with measured tape strips
and cut out shapes and re-spraying the car body with a different color making the original
color the “new” racing stripe color.
Anyone involved in the graphic art field will remember dry transfer lettering- PressType
and Letraset – pre-computer technology. Numbers, letters, and circles (both open and
closed) come in a variety of sizes and styles in black and white, ready to rub off onto
the surface of your choice. While pressing a cut-out strip of circles against the car body,
carefully rub a #2 pencil over one circle. The circle, as it is being burnished, will appear
to turn a lighter shade of gray. This indicates that it is now moving from the carrier sheet
to your car panel. Once the circle is clearly on the panel, slowly remove the sheet and rub
over it lightly with a piece of tracing paper and the pencil. The circle is now adherent to
the panel, ready to accept a number. Follow the same procedure as above for all circles
and numbers to follow. As an alternative to PressType circles, using a plastic drafting
circle template as a guide, cut a perfect circle opening into a strip of frisket film or a strip
of masking tape with an X-acto knife to create masks to paint solid color circles.
An alternative to spray painting stripes is applying adhesive backed colored vinyl tapes
used in detailing model airplanes. No doubt making your own decals: numbers, circles
and sponsors/manufacturers will enhance your newly revived retro racers too!
1968 Ferrari 312p
This sleek and low slung, open cockpit, aerodynamic racer was unveiled in ’68 and
made its Sebring 12-hour endurance race debut in 1969 as heads up competition for the
enclosed shell Porsche 907/8s and 917s and Ford GT ’40s. In the many races it would
compete, the Ferrari was raced as an open roadster or enclosed coupe. High hopes were
dashed with poor performance mishaps at Sebring, LeMans, Nurburgring, Daytona and
Brands Hatch, driven by such names as Mario Andretti and Chris Amon. The two were
paired at the Sebring event and dominated the field, leading at one time by three laps.
Amon’s fastest lap time that day was 115.640 mph, the fastest recorded time up to 1969
at Sebring! The little horse stalled, however, and brought them to the finish line in second
place behind whom else but Phil Hill. After 1969, Sebring would no longer begin races
with the “LeMans Start:” Drivers no longer ran to their cars to start the race.
With a year and a half of performance possibilities poisoned, the 312p is replaced in the
race circuit by the Ferrari 512s in 1970. The rear engine V-12 formula-1 engine of the
312p would be retired for 20 years and revisited again in the late ’80s. The most recent
incarnation of the 312 is the very successful Ferrari 333SP, pitted again against rival low
slung racing Jaguars, Porsches and BMW’s.
These 312’s were “beaters” and were made by Hot Wheels as redlines beginning in
1969. I have taken painting cues from a number of striping and body color choices from
both back-in-the-day and current vintage runnings. See my description above for my
painting, numbering and striping approaches.
The grandson of Ferdinand Porsche, Ferdinand Piech, automotive visionary and
future controversial figure, was the main force in the development of the 906
Carrera before becoming the head of Porsche racing in 1965. In doing so, he
spearheading the design and building of the 910, the “reversed numbered” 907
and 908 and subsequently the 917 in 1969. He later became the chief engineer
at Audi in 1972 before becoming its CEO in 1988. He is known to have owned
two Bugatti Veyrons first introduced in 1999. These are the 1:1 big ones-and not
the rare 1:64 varieties so talked about lately in Hot Wheels circles—lol.
In 1966, the new and improved 910 was now shorter and faster than its
predecessor due to its light weight tubular chassis construction. Numbers vary
on how many total were built: from 18 to 30 reported. They sported front-hinged
doors unlike the gullwing doors of the 906. They also differed from the 906 by
having center locking wheels instead of a 5-nut arrangement. Developed for hill
climb racing and powered by either 6 and 8 cylinder engines, the 910’s sleek and
aerodynamic rake was tested in wind tunnels and would begin to sweep races in
The newly appointed 910 coupe debuted in the 1967 running of the Daytona
24-hour race with important wins including: 1-2-3 places at Targa Florio,
and two weeks later, 1-2-3-4 wins at Nurburgring 1000 km. Its rivals included
Ferrari Dinos and prototypes and the Carroll Shelby designed Ford GT40’s and
Chevrolet powered Lolas.
Under the branding of Matchbox Superfast, the miniature version of the 910
painted in burnt orange metal flake paint was on the toy shelves in 1971. I always
look for restorable versions to apply my retro-rejuvenated look with stripes and
numbers or perhaps some “fla-maaage.”
Another of Ferdinand Piech’s innovative design’s, the 917 was revealed in
March of 1969 at the Geneva Motorshow. Two dozen 917’s were displayed to
inspectors in front of the Porsche factory in April. Slim and sleek styling led to
slip and slide results with the long tailed version; high speeds led to fishtailing
and rear lift in straight-aways. Initial low placing finishes, racing against rival Ford
GT40’s, Lolas and Ferrari 312’s, would in no time be reversed.
917’s (and Ferrari 312’s and 512’s) were prominent in the “coolest of the cool”
actor Steve McQueen’s 1971 movie “Le Mans” filmed at the 1970 24-hour
endurance race in France. Multi-projection and on-board cameras make this cult
hit a classic for rabid race lovers! Having to keep up at 200 mph, a McQueen
owned 1968 Ford GT40 was used as a primary camera car for shooting and just
sold for $11 million at auction in July of 2012. The featured short-lived models
of the then current 917 and 512 sports cars were replaced in racing venues by
newer prototypes in 1971 making viewing this actual race footage that much
Coincidence or fate? With the numbers ‘1’,’7’, and ‘9’: Porsche would tally back
to back Le Mans and World Sportscar Championship wins in both 1970 and 1971
with the 917!
Hot Wheels’ 917 has always been a favorite of mine; its detail and heft, as a
redline, clearly stand out to me. Restoring “beater” versions has always been
difficult because it seems that the most common missing part is the ribbed back
windshield. I molded a plastic non-clear replacement that was fitted and painted
to match my desired paint color schemes; this was before Mattel came out with
updated versions of this favored model in their revived Hot Ones series in 2012.
Jaguar XK120 -1949-‘54
This open two-seater roadster, putting the British car maker on the map after WWII,
when it showcased at the Earls Court Motor Show in 1948. Jaguar had started out life as
a motorcycle sidecar manufacturer, The Swallow Sidecar Company. The XK’s inspired
shape, with a long hood and short sloping tail, was based on the pre-war BMW 328s
and the experimental 1938 Jaguar 100. Styled by William Lyons, the rolling fenders are
reminiscent of cars of the ’30s, the Classic Era of coach building. The XK was the fastest
standard production car of its day–it really could go 120 mph, outfitted with an inline
straight 6-cylinder 3.4-liter engine. Approximately 12,000 cars were produced and sold
from 1949-’54, and most XK’s were sold in the US market. Jaguar continued to refine
the XK line, leading to “C” and “D” type racing machines. Clark Gable owned an XK
120, so did Von Dutch and early TV host Dave Garroway. George Barris customized
one in 1951; he moved laterally and fender-frenched the headlights, “scooped” the hood,
replaced the vertical grille bars with horizontal ones and had Dean Jeffries paint rust
colored scallops, striped white over a lime green basecoat. My father had a baby blue
convertible ’54, with black leather interior, which I vaguely remember riding in when I
was a 5-year- old. It growled loudly as big cats should.
Who says vintage sports cars can’t be dressed up. George Barris and Von Dutch shocked
the world by customizing an early Jaguar and by flaming a Gullwing Mercedes. Some
sports car body shapes provide an imaginative and unique background for rolling
flames and designs. Good enough for Barris and Dutch and good enough for me–I have
traditionally and tribally toasted my Matchbox Jags with zeal!
1954-‘58 D-Type Jaguar (pictured above)
This mighty little cat with its distinctive headrest fin was an immediate attention grabber
in looks and performance. It was quite obvious that William Lyons had another winner
for Jaguar! The lightweight unibody construction was further defined by streamlined
design with the aid of a wind tunnel. It was almost 13 feet long and weighed 1,900
pounds. Aerodynamically shaped much like the C-Type, by Malcolm Sayer and Bill
Heynes, it could reach a top speed of 180 mph with its “XK” proven 6-cylinder engine.
Disc brakes, a new innovation on the C-Type in 1953, brought it to a stop and set
the brake standard for all makes of automobiles to come. The low-slung protective
wraparound windshield was dictated for racing at Le Mans. The distinctive up-swinging
wing evolved from a bulging headfairing or cowl, which housed the fuel cap. As rodders
had done, Jaguar cut vents or louvers into the hood to release heat and trapped air. Like
early Ferraris and Porsches, leather straps held down the tilt-forward front hood or
The metallic blue Ecurie Ecosse Jaguar, which won the Le Mans Grand Prix in 1955, was
sold in 1999 for over $2 million, a world record price for the marquee at that time. My
first miniature D-Type was made by Matchbox 50 years ago and cost probably 30 cents;
I am proud to still own that one! The Hot Wheels entries are nice ones, too, at a buck. I
had fun flaming these famous fast and furious finned felines!
The last two flamed racers in this panel are called “Sunburners” (pictured above) by Matchbox. They
have a pre-viper look as well as a slung low sinewy inverted bathtub stance. I believe
they were available in toy stores 15 years ago. Purple is “workable” and gray primer is
1958-’61 Austin Healey Sprite
Measuring in at just over 11 feet, this British “bug-eyed” racer sporting a grinning grille
was considered a husky and spartan little sports car. The very popular British sportscar,
sold about 40,000 at $1,500 apiece, and $1,800 each in the U.S. after Port of Entry (POE)
fees. Round fixed wide headlamps perched on a hinged hood, and tiny taillights and
bumpers rounding out the rear, are a few of its hallmark features. The body is denuded of
chrome; external door handles are absent as well. With no rear access, you stowed your
stuff in the cubby hole along with the spare behind the two spartan front seats.
With a high speed of only 84-mph, the Sprite was still a strong contender in class during
its career at Sebring and LeMans and in Alpine and endurance rallies. The sturdy little
roadster showed what real racing was all about! Even in vintage races today, this little
racer still delivers a great performance! Repro and replica models are being offered and
are loved by all that own them. With those peepers perched up so high, Sprites are still
charming princes to this day!
Little green froggy, he went a’courtin’, red hot flames he was a’sportin’, low, sleek
and fast, slightly chopped up, these sporty rods are all “hopped” up! Made by Johnny
Lightning and 1/64 in scale, long streamers and short chubby flames decorate my four
versions in a spirited and spritely manner!
Ferrari 1948 Barchetta MM and 1955 750 Monza Spyder
Enzo Ferrari, like all hot rodders, dreamed of putting large engines in lightweight bodies.
Resoundingly, it worked! Ferrari won numerous races with his cars at LeMans and the
Grand Prix from the late ’40s onward. As a young man, Ferrari had been a team driver
and team manager in the ’20s for Alfa Romeo. He produced his first car in 1940 but did
not market one until 1946. By 1988, upon his death, Enzo’s dream cars had won over
5,000 races and more than 25 world championships.
The term “Barchetta” is Italian meaning little boat, so named for the way the body turns
under toward the chassis. This favored design found its way to a number of period racing
sports cars including Cunningham’s C4 and the AC Car Company’s “Ace” and the AC
based Carroll Shelby Cobras to come.
Built for street and race use, with its tubular chassis construction and aluminum body, it
debuted at the 1948 Turin Auto Show. Racing highlights include placing first in the 1949
Le Mans and Mille Miglia. With its V-12 4 cylinder engine, revving 140 horsepower,
and weighing in at 1,430 lbs, perhaps its egg crate grill may have had something to do
with “frying” the competition-lol!
The 1955 750 ‘Monza’ is so named for the town in Italy, home to the Italian Grand
Prix since 1922. A popular and fabled car on the race circuits in the mid ‘50s, it was
also a movie star! Stanley Kramer’s post apocalyptic doomsday drama set in 1964 “On
the Beach” starred Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner and was in the theaters in 1959. A
dancer driving this prancer, Fred Astaire’s character enters the world’s last Grand Prix
race where multiple cars including Healeys, an XK 120 Jag and a Corvette become real
wreckage; our lil horse came away unscathed and the winner. It later sold at auction at
Monterey for $2,530,000 in 2011.
Both of these 1:43 scale Ferraris came from the Shell “Classico Collection” available
at gas stations in 1999. The Barchetta was airbrushed and pinstriped in the usual way
(see my previous blog entry). My Molten Monzas were created in the following manner:
my flame design served as BOTH a mask AND a stencil. With the flame mask, white-
yellow-orange flames were airbrushed on the maroon bodied version and pinstriped in
yellow. The leftover flame cutout covered the resident maroon body color and the body
was then painted yellow. The “new” maroon flames were pinstriped in orange.
Questions? Contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s talk fire and vintage racers! Hot rods
and customs are yet to come, watch for another article soon.