A: For the Spectraflame paint I use Candy or Transparent colors.
Boyds does a transparent blue and a candy purple pearl that look great.
I mix the
color with clear (about 50/50) and spray a coat at a time until I get the
depth of color I want. Interiors I paint with primer and then spray with
the color I want. I am not sure how dye would work but you might try it
on light colors.
small long-nose pliers, side-cutters: the pliers are needed to
axles to shorten them... actually two pair is a good idea. Side cutters
come in handy now and again too.
small screwdrivers: you'll need these for pickin' and prying at stuff.
hacksaw with fine-tooth blade: you'll need this if you plan on cutting
Atlas Snap Saw: not really necessary but a great tool and not expensive.
Cuts zamac like butter and is a lot less cumbersome than a hacksaw...
also makes a thinner cut. Ask at your hobby store. - it will be in the model
JB Weld, Cyanoacrylate ("Krazy glue"), white glue, styrene cement:
You will find all these glues handy for dealing with the various materials
that these cars are made from.
X-Acto knife: a very handy thing for all kinds of trimming, scraping, and
cutting... normally you want a #11 blade. The #17 chisel blade comes in
handy now and again too.
Band-Aids: keep these handy for when you slip with the X-Acto. BE
coat hangers: cut these up and bend up a set of holders for when you
paint the car. Very cheap. If you make a loop in the middle (like on a
safety pin) they will be "springy"...
Deluxe stuff - caution, some of these items are a bit pricey:
Dremel moto-tool: this can save a lot of time when you need to grind
away at the metal... a lot faster than using files!
Airbrush: you'll wonder how you ever painted without one of these. The
only way to do nice "fade" jobs.
Compressor: Uh-oh, and you though airbrushes were cheap... but in the
long run those compressed air cans will put you in the poorhouse. An
alternative is to take a spare tire and pump it up to 60 pounds or so; you
can get adapters to connect your airbrush to the filler valve. Hope you
have a gas station nearby.
Band saw: okay, this one is expensive but nothing beats it for when you
need to chop up five or six Limozeen bodies for that ultimate stretch job.
Tap handle , #49 drill and #2-56 tap: If, like me, you think that epoxying
the cars back together is kinda oofy-goofy then this tool will let you thread
the posts for tiny little screws... very elegant and shows you mean
business with this customizing thing.
pin vise: this is a tiny handle for holding small drills (1/8" and smaller);
when you need more precision than you will get with the big handgun. I
use this to drill out headlights so I can glue in little crystals; I use a drill
that has had the tip specially sharpened to a more acute angle.
drill press: hey, if you have access to one, use it... more precise and
also safer for drilling out rivets.
bench vise: good for holding stuff while you work on it, and makes it less
probable that you are going to slip and drill a hole through your hand.
Q.: Can I get lead poisoning from working on Hot Wheels cars?
A.: No. The metal used to make Hot Wheels is not lead but rather a Zinc
alloy, referred to as "Zamac", which is typical for the die casting industry. Zamac alloys used in toys (there are different types for different applications) consist of Zinc plus roughly 4% Aluminum, 0.1% to 3% Copper, up to .06%Magnesium, with Iron, Cadmium, Tin and Lead impurities. However none of these alloys contain more than .003% Lead. Nevertheless you probably want to avoid eating too much of it; if you feel that you are suffering from low Zinc levels I would recommend that you get some vitamin and mineral pills instead.
Q.: Should I wear safety glasses when working on custom cars?
A.: By all means. I have to wear glasses all the time so I don't worry
about this, but remember that you will be drilling and cutting and grinding
away at small metal parts, so expect a certain amount of flak that is not
going to be the best thing to have in your eyes.
Q.: How do I take the car apart?
A.: The best way to remove the rivets is by drilling them out. I use a 9/64"
drill. If you are lucky, the rivet will separate and start spinning on the drill
and car will literally fall apart. Sometimes, however, you may have to pick
away some rivet debris before this happens. Try not to drill too deep so
that you have as much post left as possible for when the time comes to
re-attach the body. Also, take extra care when drilling out cars with a
plastic chassis; the drill will try to wander into the plastic. Some people have recommended using a Dremel tool to grind off the rivet head, but IMHO this is doing it the hard way.
Q.: Is there any other way to remove the rivets?
A.: No. Not unless you have VERY strong teeth and a nasty overbite.
Q.: How do I remove the old paint?
A.: Here I have found that your basic paint and varnish remover works
well. This is the goopy stuff; the primary ingredient is methylene chloride.
Nasty stuff this, it will burn your skin so take care and maybe consider
wearing rubber gloves. Try and keep this stuff out of your eyes. It usually
takes up to fifteen minutes for the paint to loosen up, then you can
remove it with a toothbrush. If you are not married, then you will want to
get an old toothbrush to do this, otherwise use your wife's, not your own.
Seriously though, I have also found that a brush with cut bristles works
well since the bristles are a bit stiffer and can get into the cracks and
crannies. Sometimes it may be necessary to strip twice, depending on
the paint... some enamels are harder to remove than others. Any
remaining stubborn bits can be scraped out with a pin or the tip of an
Q.: What if I only want to take the tampos off?
A.: Although I have seen many people recommend using nail polish
remover (NPR) for this, I really think brake fluid is a much better solvent.
The NPR (which is basically acetone) will have an adverse effect on the
underlying paint and you will then have to find a way to bring back the
shine. Brake fluid takes a little longer but generally leaves the paint
untouched. This is also a good solvent to remove tampos and paint from
Q.: How can I cut the metal parts for modification?
A.: If you only need to remove metal, a Dremel with a grinding burr works
well; use this to do the major meat removal and then finish off with small
files. A cutting wheel works fairly well for sectioning cars but the metal
gets very hot from the friction. A bandsaw is a great tool for quickly
shortening bodies but may be a bit expensive to buy. A really great tool
that I have found is called an Atlas Snap Saw, and is sold at hobby stores
for the purpose of cutting model railroad track to length. These only cost a
couple of bucks and chew through zinc alloy very quickly and make a very
thin, precise cut. Your basic hacksaw is also usable if all else fails, but
makes a rather thick cut; try to use the finest-toothed blade you can find.
Q.: How do I re-paint the car? Can I use a brush?
A.: Not really. It is very hard to get a good finish with a brush. Regular
enamel spray paint can be used, but this tends to be thick and may take a
while to dry properly. For best results, an airbrush is a good tool to have.
A decent airbrush can be had for $30 or so... stay away from the Badger
model 350 and similar "spray guns", these are no good for fine work. The
neat thing about an airbrush is that you can use almost any paint in it. I
use nail polish, which comes in a veritable rainbow of colours, with lots of
metallics and pearls and even metal flakes. Also, since it is a lacquer, it
dries very hard and also extremely quickly. When using an airbrush, you
need to thin the paint approximately 50:50 with an appropriate thinner,
although be prepared to experiment a bit in the beginning to find the best
proportion for a particular type of paint. Tamiya acrylics can be thinned
with rubbing alcohol, preferably the 90% variety, and here a 70:30 ratio is
about right since the paint is pretty thin out of the bottle.
Q.: Do I need to prime the car first?
A.: It depends. If you have done some putty work then a primer coat is a
good idea in order to provide a uniform surface. I have had good results
without primer, as in the case where I polish the body to a mirror finish
before applying a transparent paint; obviously in this case a primer would
not work. However, if you are using enamels a primer coat is probably a
good idea since the enamels do not stick to metal very well.
Q.: What kind of primer should I use?
A.: I use a white lacquer-based primer, and I would think that gray
automotive primer would also be a good choice.
Q.: Do I need to do anything to the body before priming?
A.: It depends on how nice a final finish you want, and also on the
condition of the casting. Sometimes a vigorous buffing with steel wool
will be sufficient; other times you may want to use some small files and
sandpaper to remove any surface irregularities and casting lines before
you start painting. Sometimes Mattel hides a lot of sins under a thick coat
of paint, and the more time you spend cleaning up this mess the better
your finished custom will look.
Q.: How do I change the wheels?
A.: Firstly, the wheels are best treated as a complete assembly, including the axles. Hot Wheels cars usually have the axles secured by three prongs on the base that are bent over the center part of the axle. You will need to bend these up to get the axle off. Don't worry about breaking them off, this is not a problem. Sometimes they bend up nicely using a small screwdriver, or else you can bend them up using a small pin punch. If all else fails, grab the Dremel and grind them off.
Q.: What do I do if the axles on my replacement wheels are too short?
A.: Find different wheels.
Q.: What do I do if the axles on my replacement wheels are too long?
A.: I have found that the easiest method of shortening an axle is to bend
a "V" into the axle, either in the center or on one or both sides,
depending on how the axle has to fit into the chassis. These can be
easily adjusted to get the exact width desired, and you should end up
with something that looks like this:
O----^----O (or) O-^------^-O
Q.: How do I attach the new wheels?
A.: Here, a metal epoxy like "JB Weld" works best. Just put a small blob
on the chassis where the original retaining lugs were and press the new
axle into it, then add a little more on top. You don't need very much.
Q.: How do I put the car back together?
A.: Assuming that the paint is nice and dry, there are a number of
methods that can be used to reattach the body to the chassis. Probably
the simplest is to epoxy the body on with JB Weld, although personally I
have never used this method. Some people have found very tiny pop
rivets that look very much like the original rivet, however you won't find
rivets this size at WalMart. A more elegant method is to drill a small hole
in the post and use a self-tapping screw, but personally I prefer to go all
the way and tap the post for a small (3/16" long) #2-56 screw. You can
get a #2-56 tap at any hobby store, although the drill they give you with it
is pretty useless; you'll want to try and find a better quality drill. The
recommended size for this drill is #49, or 1.85mm. You may have to hunt
down an industrial supply store to find these, and you are also going to
need a small tap handle. The advantage to using screws is that you can
always take the car apart again if the need arises, and you can "test
assemble" the car as you go along to check various fits.
Well... that should cover the basics. Feel free to e-mail any other
inquiries; we'll be glad to post your question and a suitable answer here
so that everyone can benefit. Happy customizing, and above all, safety