Polishing up the Rolls Royce Hudson from Gerry Anderson & Christopher Burr's Terrahawks

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The Terrahawk organisation had an impressive range of imaginative Sci-Fi vehicles, but for general transport needs the characters would often use a rather normal looking Rolls Royce called HUDSON.

This car had the unusual ability of being able to change colour at will. This was supposed to allow the vehicle to camouflage itself in dangerous situations - but was usually simply used to match the colour of the outfit worn by singer Kate Kestrel.

The name Hudson stands for the technical gobbledegook Heuristic Universal Driver with Sensory and Orbital Navigation, which means that it's a robot car able to drive itself, and also speaks with a posh voice!
Due to it's unexciting design I wasn't in any sort of a hurry to build a replica of this motorcar, in fact I don't think it was even on my list to build!
This was also partly due to the fact that a friend of mine owns one of the original body shells, and so we always have an example to show at model displays. As a result the urge to create one was rather diminished even though I did rather like the idea of adding an example to my growing Terrahawk collection.
Then out of the blue I got a casting of the vehicle courtesy of Canadian model maker Darren Peters, who generated it from his own original studio model. Past readers of Sci-Fi and Fantasy Models may remember Darren's article in issue 26 (Feb/March 1998) where he showed the process of making moulds of the car to create multiple castings, the idea being to create all the different coloured versions.

So this 'How-to' article is going to be rather short as basically the one-piece model was provided to me complete and it was just a 5-minute job to clean it up and do a repaint............. well that's what I thought when I started.

Above: The model as provided in a rather nice blue finish. There is talk in the magazine article about using fibreglass cloth to form the multiple castings, but this one seems to be only slush-moulded in resin as the rear boot section had shattered just above the bumper.
Also Darren talked about deliberately copying the parts (like hubcaps) as originally made, but they don't really match my behind the scene photographs. As the bottom of his example match's the model that is thrown off the cliff in the episode 'My Kingdom for a Zeaf' it is possible that he may have a slightly rougher stunt version. Also its possible that there was only one or two complete Hudson originals and that things like working headlights and chassis were moved to different coloured shells for each episode. (See photos in original Hudson)
The first job was to strip off the chassis plate and all the trim, like foil detailing strips and number plates. The rear plate was moulded into the body so it had to be sanded off. The boot interior was sanded clean, and the surface roughed up, allowing me to add filler and reform the backend and bumper. With the cracks now fixed I could proceed to remove all the paint and get down to the bare casting. I thought I could do this with simple wet & dry paper but the paint was tougher than I thought, so a friend suggested using motorcar brake fluid. I had never used that before for removing paint but I knew that it worked as it had removed the paint from my nice new tools when I was working on my Datsun repairs!
So I put the model in a plastic tray and started to soak it in the liquid. This is pretty powerful and unpleasant stuff so has to be handled with care, and thick rubber gloves, but it did work. Some of the paint came off easily but other parts didn't want to move at all, so I had to help the liquid along by rubbing it into the model's surface with the aid of wire wool. This did finally shift it all and after a good rinse I had a naked resin casting.
My simple plan had been to add lights and just repaint the casting, however several faults had made themselves apparent to me. Firstly the bonnet was clearly deformed and was bowing inwards, so this had to be straightened. I started by adding small bits of filler but ended up reshaping the entire area and sharpening up the edges. Then I noticed that the roof at the front was also deforming inwards, especially on the left side and into the top of the windscreen area. So all of that needed to be re-sculpted again in filler. The car filler I use these days is called U-Pol Easy 1, which is a lot smoother than the old P38 stuff I used years ago.
I had to be very careful as I sanded the model with wet & dry paper, as I obviously didn't want to loose the original contours of this casting. But I did need to keep working on the finish as I had spotted a number of deformed areas, especially on the side windows. These all needed fixing as the windows were to be finished with a high gloss black and would be reflecting light, so any blemish would be clearly visible.

The casting had come to me with all the various light-units simply painted on, or suggested with reflective tapes. However I wanted to follow the original look by using clear parts, so the next step was heat up some small pieces of transparent Plasticard and pull them over the corner sections to create my light covers. These mouldings could then be safely put to one side and I could proceed to drill out the head and tail light areas. The resin was very nice and easy to work with and could be filed smoothly. To give the areas more depth I placed pieces of Plasticard into the openings and added small amounts of filler to the inside. When the filler had set I could remove the plastic and trim off any excess material.

The casting was now sprayed with several coats of filler primer and sanded smooth, then sprayed with standard primer and again sanded with very fine wet & dry paper. At this stage I ran into a problem of my own making when I decided to use Gold paint! Hudson is a car that can change colour so in effect you can paint it any colour that you like, and as I was using profile photographs of a nice gold version I had decided to make mine that colour too. The first paint that I used was the wrong shade so I had to trawl around several shops looking for what I thought was the correct gold. Then I proceeded to paint the bodyshell again only to realise that the model looked ......... boring!

The fact is that Hudson is not exactly a stunningly imaginative Sci-Fi design, apparently Rolls Royce had the final say on the styling and didn't want something that looked silly in their eyes. As I applied the gold I realised that it simply made it look like a rather plain motorcar, and not something that was 'unusual'. The only colour that did make the vehicle look a bit different was Hudson's original greyish non-colour, so back to the shop to hunt for another can of paint.
Of course when I was standing there looking for a gloss grey spray paint I realised that standard greys look completely wrong too, so I wanted a grey that wasn't actually grey, which meant that I finally ended up with something called Ford Ceramic Blue.

This colour went on just fine, and after it had set I could gently T-cut it to a slightly glossier finish. During this painting process very thin lines of masking tape were temporarily applied to the sides to create the outlines of the doors (pic 13), and removed after the final coat was applied. Next the cabin area was masked off and painted with black primer and gloss coats. Unfortunately more defects in the surface now appeared, especially on the rear window section, so these had to be fixed and repainted. Then the process repeated again when more little bits showed up, and again when more flaws appeared. It was a very frustrating time - As with Stingray I'm not a fan of smooth clean models as they are a right pain to build, with every minor mark and blemish needing to be fixed!

At this stage I was thinking about the lights and did put some thought into making them actually work, but I decided against it, as it would not really be worth the effort. So I began adding the rear light units; and carefully trimmed the previously moulded transparent parts to fit the openings I had made. However as I was about to glue them into place I finally listened to that little voice in my head that had been subconsciously telling me that something was wrong, and after a few calculations I realised that the lights were too small. Flaming Thunderbolts!!!
I had been carefully following the previous faint mould lines believing them to be true indicators of the original parts, but they couldn't have been as the spacing between the rear lights was too large, so I had to rework these areas without damaging the paint finish. This seemed to be a bit of a disaster as my moulded parts were now too small, however as the changed sections were the large flat red lamp areas I could make them as separate parts, and just use my mouldings for the corners.

To colour the clear parts I sprayed the big lights with red paint on the inside. The white sidelights were also sprayed internally with a light coat of white primer, while all the small orange and red sections were done using adhesive Lens repair films bought from the auto repair shop.

With the black paint now fully dry I T-Cut it for a glossier finish, then again the next day to buff it to a high gloss reflective finish. This paint would now represent my windows, so the next job was to carefully mask off all the various window sections and spray over with several coats of matt black paint to represent the roof covering. To aid in creating the masking I cut the window shapes out in thin Plasticard, trimmed them to get the perfect shapes and then used them as templates to cut out the masking tape.
Afterwards the sunroof panel was sprayed over with a clear lacquer and T-Cut slightly, to just dull it down a little as I didn't want it to be as clear as the windows.

The front lights and radiator grill were the next problems to sort, with the radiator being the biggest puzzle. The front of the radiator on this casting was just a plain smooth piece, although it had distorted and lost its true shape so I sanded it completely flat and then added some thin plastic sheeting to reform the front facing. When I got the casting the radiator grill had just been simulated with various strips of reflective tape, a simple technique that seemed to have been used on some of the original models, but the hero version had featured a properly formed grill.
My first thought was that perhaps I could also use the reflective strips method, but then I decided that it looked a bit rubbish for a display model. So I decided to just build one, which involved drilling out a space for a grill to fit. The grill itself was just done in Plasticard, its design has a central vertical bar and then eight louvered grills on either side, which angle outwards.

The main front lights also posed a bit of a problem, as I needed something to actually represent them. The design has a twin bulb design with the one on the outside being smaller. I considered painting some shallow plastic domes silver, but that would not have looked too convincing. Then I thought of using actual bulbs, but in the end I found some 'self-adhesive eyes' at Hobbycraft that are used for sticking on toys or cards. The eyes come in different sizes and are plastic hemispheres with a loose black disc inside to represent the iris. All I had to do was cut off the seal on the back, remove the disc and then rub the insides with fine wet & dry paper to frost them up. These 'bulbs' were then glued to a silver foil backing and I could then fit the final transparent plastic lens mouldings. These were also rubbed over, on the inside, to frost them up and then had vertical lines scored across them.

The wheels were the next problem, and here I had help from my friend Bob Bailey who came up with some very similar looking plastic versions that had been removed from a Batmobile toy car. The wheels were too deep so I had to remove a section from the back to thin them down, and then also put a plastic ring in the centre to compensate for the hubcap space being fractionally too large. The hubcaps themselves were heat-moulded in Plasticard and trimmed to fit, with a small kit part to form the centres.
However as I was about to fit these wheels I realised that they weren't quite good enough, because the inside edge was square-cut and the backs were hollow. This was not a problem if the car was mounted on a display plinth, as I had originally planned, but as mine was now going to be picked up and photographed from quite low down these faults would be easily spotted, so back to the Hobbycraft store for some silicone rubber. One wheel was quickly moulded in rubber and then I proceeded to cast up four solid wheels using a sloppy carfiller/resin mix. Later the sharp inside edges could be sanded to a rounder shape to match the front. Then they were then painted, drilled, and securely fixed to the axles - so they don't revolve.
At this stage I finally had to decide just how I was going to tackle the problem of the chrome!
Chrome is always a problem with the so-called chrome paints usually having just a useless silver finish. My first idea to tackle this was to buy some Bare-Metal foil, a product that I had never used before but sounded like it could do the job. The foil looked pretty good and worked well on the flat radiator, but then turned into a mess when I applied it to the concave wheel hubcaps.
So my fall back option was to buy a paint that a fellow modeller had talked about called Alcad Chrome. This comes in a small glass container and you apply it, using an airbrush, after first spraying all your parts gloss black. So I prepared all the parts that needed the treatment and began with high hopes... unfortunately the results were not brilliant. I'm not sure if it was just me (probably was) but I struggled to get a perfect finish, and even worse days later when I touched the paint surface parts of it marked up even worse, as if tiny bits of paint had not dried properly?
As I wanted the model on public display in a few days time I needed to make something work, and quickly, so I went back to the foil and tried again. This time I cut a slit in the Bare-Metal foil, and then carefully and slowly applied it in a circular fashion whilst rotating the hubcaps. This time it worked just fine apart from the minor blemish where the cut edges finally overlapped. However with a bit of practice, and by cutting a small wedge-shaped section out of the foil, the overlap could be minimised and almost lost. Then finally setting the hubcaps with this join line in a horizontal position also helps to loose it, thanks to the way the concave shape reflects surrounding light.
A slight problem arose when I tried to glue the finished hubcaps into the wheels, as I pushed the parts in slightly too deep and could not get them out! As a result I had to drill small holes in the back of each wheel so that a metal rod could be inserted to help position the hubcaps.

The radiator itself ended up as a mixture of Alclad paint and Bare-Metal foil. The Silver Lady on the top of the radiator was fashioned from Brass rod, the end being bent and filed, with added solder to create the wings.

The chassis plate was now fitted with several blank sections of Plasticard, which were sprayed matt black, the sole function of these was to prevent anyone from looking past the wheels and right through to the other side of the model.

Final details included the various bits of silver trim, which I cut from self-adhesive metal tape. These tapes are sold in car shops and often used for wrapping rusting exhaust pipes. To cut the tape I used a metal rule and several new knife blades to make sure that the cutting edge was as sharp as possible. To get a clean cut edge its best to hold the blade at the shallowest angle possible.
After applying the first tapes I decided that they were fractionally too wide, so I cut some thinner ones and changed them all. The rear window has tape all around the outside and I did think that it might need to be cut to shape, however I was able to run the tape around the corners without too much trouble, the trick being to not try and stretch it, just push it straight down and work it round.

Finally I added some minor weathering, and drew in the lines for the boot and then highlighted the door edges. However at the end of the day Hudson is a pretty clean car and I couldn't dirty it that much. This does tend to make it look a little toy-like, but that's also down to it's rather small size. At only around 13&1/2 inches long by 5&1/2 wide it's probably the smallest model I've built in years.

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Article and photographs copyright David Sisson 2013