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Re-shell Almost Anything

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Old 03-13-2011, 10:35 PM   #1
Semi-retired customizer
Wikkid's Avatar
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 1,588
Location: Saskatchewan, Canada
Collection Count: 120
Re-shell Almost Anything

Not every kitbasher is comfortable with doing a reshell. Some may not know where to begin; others know the problems that arise make the effort more than they're willing to invest in a project. This tutorial is a quick reference on how I deal with issues as they come up. I've never done a build that just "fell in place". So, let's fit something ridiculously large into something relatively small. Here, we plot out reshelling a Lamborghini Countach over the Alternators Dodge Ram mold.

*PLEASE NOTE* The basic principles of re-shelling are the same, this guide is a reference on how to gauge a project and not necessarily intended for only building what you see pictured here.

First step is to remove any panels that are clipped on and screwed on that have nothing to do with the basic robot form:

Re-shell Almost Anything-shellht.jpg

Set the shell beside/on the mold and view it from several angles over and over and go through a plan in your head (or on paper). This may need to be stretched out over several days if need be. You'd be amazed at how often a bigger better idea comes along:

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Now that we're committed, cut off all the plastic that is not a part of the core figure:

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Test fit the car body on the figure over and over. You don't want to remove more than you have too:

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Be sure to view from several angles. As you can see, the Dodge Ram is too long for the Lambo. Oh well, we tried. Throw it away and blame Wikkid for encouraging you to trash your Alternator Prime:

Re-shell Almost Anything-shell4.jpg

. . . . or we can move on by altering the legs length. To do this, reverse the famous "Alt Prime leg mod". By cutting off the truck box ahead of the thigh stop notch, we gain the same leg articulation. To force a deeper compression, hollow out the area below the alt mode notch. Be sure it's relatively smooth so it doesn't grab at the knee notches when transforming:

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This is what the new leg mod looks like when extended:

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. . . . and here it is compressed:

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The Dodge Ram mold has a backbone type setup. This gets a 180 rotation from the legs as its new standard transformation. Now unless you're going to make this Lambo a 4x4, we're going to need to get this thing lowered:

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The Dodge Ram mold has the dash held to the center console with a screw. By drilling a new hole in the middle of the panel and dremeling out some plastic:

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The shoulder mounts now sit lower on the chassis:
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Seen here is the basic form ready for the shell. The Dodge Ram shoulder/dash panel has been filed down until the screws are exposed. This is as far as needed to cut so the original screws keep this panel in place:

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Now fit that bad boy on there:

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Being that this is a continuation of the "plotting" thread, I'll assume you read it and continue from there.

The first thing we do is cut the vehicle into three primary parts: the hood/fenders, the doors/roof, and the quarters/deck. Rocker panels are extra:

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Begin by gluing the quarter panels/deck lid into place. They need to be cut down the middle to form legs prior to be bonded in place. You'll find doing these in several pieces align far better than cutting after the fact:

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Glue the rocker panels to the quarter panels. Get them straight and the right distance apart or nothing else will line up from here on out:

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Lay the doors and roof in place. They do not get bonded yet but give a reference point to align the hood and fenders to:

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This is the step where you need to decide on whether you want to make Breakdown or one of the Autobot Lambo chest bots. The Ram's hood hinge determines where the hood ends up in robot mode. If you glue it closer to the front end, it will swing to the robots back to be Breakdown. For Sideswipe and that other less than awesome guy, glue the hinge to the cowl section to flip towards the front of the robot form:

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After you've made your decision and fastened down the hood, you can bond the doors to the arms:

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I didn't detail this step it seems but you'll need to glue the windshield to the roof and make a way to attach it to the backbone of the figure:

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Woo hoo! Lambo doors:

Re-shell Almost Anything-shell23.jpg

Now we need to do something with those rocker panels. The rear halves of these stay attached to the quarter panels. The rest will need to tuck away into the abdomen. To do this, we hollow out a section in the figures backbone:

Use some styrene tubing like so:

Then glue the rocker panels to the ends. Be sure there's enough room for them to collapse. I also added the kits oil pan for structure as well as detail:


Depending on which version you chose, you can plot out your figures details. Being that the underside will be the robots chest, I went and used several parts from the Lambo kits underside, y'know, for legitimacy and what-not:

At this point, it's time to add the rear tail panel and valance:

[This is] pretty much a done deal. Just mount your wheel assemblies. In this instance, the wheels have a hard time fitting within the fender wells due to the width of the robots shoulders. Whether this is something you like is personal preference. I love this look as it beefs up the whole vehicle stance in a more "Cartoonish" way. The rear tires easily fit in place but I opted for some extra wide tires to sit in line with the front wheels:

Breakdown from the back:

. . . . and from the front. Now it's time for detailing the legs and other parts, but that's up to you:

A multi chassis re-shell is different from a standard re-shell in that it uses components from two or more donor figures. A great example of a multi chassis re-shell is Jaf's Masterpiece Mirage (Which I'm duplicating) which use components from Alternators Prime, Sideswipe, and Skids:

Don't forget about the new body style. It also doesn't hurt to have the original G1 figure handy for reference (optional):

Reshelling a figure always follows many basic root principles which I'll try to highlight as I go. I don't want this to be a "How to build your own Mirage" tutorial but rather show how combining various components and covering them in a new skin can make an entirely new figure.

The first step is to start piecing together the new components in a way that will work. Not only can you create an entirely new base platform but you also mix the aesthetics to create a unique figure:

[This is] the component layout. Notice the knees are sanded right smooth and all the old car kibble is gone. An Indy car is quite flat so the entire chassis needs to be as narrow as possible and as close to the ground as it can get:

Here, I built a sliding mechanism. [This is] copied directly from Jaf’s work in progress shots in his galleries (hell, the images were even sized to exact specs. All I had to do was put the parts up to the screen to measure them):

Sideswipes arms already have pins in place so they were utilized in the grand scheme. The cross bar had holes drilled in the inner and outer ends and all the way through to the other side. I then sliced a smaller groove between them. This causes the arms to "snap" into place and won't push in unless they are actually intended to.

If you’re familiar with these arms, you'll notice they get wider towards the outer edge. This caused the arms to bind so the appropriate amount of plastic was removed to allow them to collapse.

Shown here is the assembled body of the robot and the entire base for which the shell shall cover:

Now we begin trimming away at the body to fit it to the chassis. In this event, I had to cut out the seating area to allow the body to drop flush with the robot. You can also start test fitting accessories to make sure they won't interfere (side vents):

Now it's time to start slicing up that model kit. I begin by running a strip of tape from one side to the other and line each end up with the end of the vents to insure everything’s even. I then run a secondary strip of 1/8 inch tape ‘because I want the cut further back. Now it's time to score the plastic:

Once scored, you can snap the components inward to break everything free. Sometimes you'll have the inner structure break away. This isn't a big deal as you won't see any damage on the outer surface. That's why you cut your topside rather than back (you can go in and trim this excess plastic away with your razor knife):

Measuring is very important in trying to keep you gaps tight. Using a ruler can be clumsy when working in areas so an easy way to make accurate measurements is with tape. Being that I don't have a tape with a thickness to my liking to measure out this cut, I use some 1/8 tape and apply it to the upper panel by following the body line:

I then use my 7/8 inch tape and follow the upper edge of the 1/8 inch tape. This gives me my first cut line on the lower body. Do the same for both ends:

Now it's time to start installing parts. With all re-shells, it's a good idea to start at one section of the car and work your way to the other. In this case, we're going to start at the legs and work towards the front. First thing you're gonna want to do is take that section where the fuel cell goes and re-attach it to the cabin section using tape:

Now we put the forward section in place and square it up to the body and waist. This is a VERY important step. If you're not true to the body, everything will be offset later on. Now tape this component in place as it serves as a guideline for what you do next:

Sand the underside of what’s about to be installed. We then apply a coat of epoxy to it. (The stuff I use has 1.5 minutes working time so it's great for getting things done quick but not so great for taking pictures as I go):

With the part in place, make your final alignments with the forward section and while it's still wet:

Get that second part in place and line everything up as perfect as you can:

For all you Classics scale builders:

This Speed Racer kit is actually 1/25 scale and I was amazed at how small it was. It does fit the Classics scale really well though so let's give her a go.

As always, you need to view the vehicle and shell from several angles and run through a plan in your head:

The wheelbase is a very close fit. We can deal with lengthening the rear wheels later on:

Classic figures are nothing like Alternator figures in that there is no interior to worry about. So, let’s make a Classics scale figure that does have interior by shelling a convertible over it. We begin by sanding down the high points on the figure. (Notice unlike the alternator re-shell, nothing is actually removed and discarded this time):

This figure will have the hood panels form his legs and that will be our starting point. Cut the shell at the front door gap to separate the front clip from the rest of the body:

Now we plot out our cuts. The hood section will be the legs and the nose/bumper will form the feet:

Make the easier of the cuts first:

Now we separate the doors from the quarter panel (notice the rocker panels are still attached. Being that Classics almost never have opening doors, neither will this one):

Sand the inside of the hood. The coarser the grit, the better the bite:

Mix up a two part epoxy to bond the panels. I suggest something like an epoxy be used as it's very strong and is thick enough to fill voids thus creating more surface contact when parts are pressed into place:

Apply it as seen above with or without beer goggles:

In this case, I needed to install both hood panels at the same time so I taped them together. They needed to both go on so I could determine the space needed for the feet to be attached:

Now we glue the doors into place and check the alignment by putting the quarter panels against them:

Now it's time to lengthen the rear axle so the wheelbase fits dead on. This can either be done with a lighter or heat gun:

A problem that came up is the feet don't pull out and under the car. The pegs need to be lengthened. So I cut the ball joints off half way up the rod:

Find some metal rod and a drill bit of the same size:

Drill out both ends and insert the steel rod into one end. Then cut a length of styrene tubing to go over the size of the figures ball jointed rod. This offers more support to the steel rod:

Drill out the ball joints and glue them onto the steel rods:

Now, bond those feet into place as close to the bottom of the bumper as possible. The rest is pretty straight forward. (Things like installing your seats, center console, LEDs, and other stuff are up to you):

Paint 'er up, stick all the accessories on, and you're done:

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Last edited by Superquad7; 04-02-2011 at 03:06 AM..
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