MPC 1/25 “Gold Rush” Custom Show/Street Van

If you see this van a rockin... well, you CAN'T HELP but see that, now can you? Gold Rush takes Vannin' to new extremes; this is not for the faint of heart, my friends!

If you see this van a rockin’… well, you CAN’T HELP but see that, now can you? Gold Rush takes Vannin’ to new extremes; this is not for the faint of heart, my friends!

Vannin’ is a matter of perspective. Sure, it might be a frightfully funhouse mirror-like perspective, but it’s a perspective nonetheless. When it comes to something as wild as Gold Rush, making sure that you keep that perspective is not as easy as it may seem.  There’s so much potential in the kit that it is easy to become paralyzed by choice. With the interior colour pallet chosen to match the “sunset stripes” on the side, though, a lot of the work is done.

However, it’s not the interior that people are going to see first when they see Gold Rush. Remember how big (even in 1/25) this thing is. Unless you put it beside 1/20 scale vehicles or jacked-up off roaders, it is very easy to see how Gold Rush can dominate a model display, or even a table at a model show. The key here is to make sure that this size and presence don’t go to waste. Thus, the colour of the final paint job is a very important consideration.

The box, of course, shows Gold Rush in a yellowish-gold-kinda-gross-not-quite-harvest-gold paint. Sure, it goes with the name, but you could easily see how another colour would work just as well. Black, or even metallic brown would work, as would metallic orange or a burnt orange. Good old Carousel Red would be an option, a bit gaudy to be sure, but that’s not really an issue for Gold Rush. These were the considerations running through my head. I already had a gold van (Sundance Express), and I didn’t want to duplicate that. (Mind you that would have been a good colour for Gold Rush…)

Gold Rush's box colour = lame. This is math we can all do.

Gold Rush’s box colour = lame. This is math we can all do.

In the end, I decided to take what the box had done, and just like I had on the interior, amp it up a bit.

For a quick review of the other parts of the build, check out these links:

Out of Box Review

Update 1: Body and Chassis

Update 2: Interior

And now, without further ado, the final stages! Painting, decalling and assembly!

Yellow Gold:

I wasn’t really impressed with the hue of yellow chosen by the customizing crew at MPC. You can probably tell that from my description of it above. It seemed flat, lifeless and not at all in keeping with the outlandish asylum of questionable taste that is Gold Rush. Gold Rush should “POP”. I know that’s a much-overused verb of late, but it’s still what I wanted it to do. I reasoned that the yellow of Gold Rush better be able to draw your attention from across a room, and so I approached it from the yellow, not the gold, side of the equation.

I started with Model Master Acrylic (MMA) Blue Angels Yellow. This is a very bright yellow, perfect as a starting point. However, just being bright isn’t enough for Gold Rush. If you’re going to roll a Show Van like this, you need metallic, and I mean HIGH METALLIC, paint. This is where the great Jacquard Pigments come into play.

It's hard to see in photos, but the vibrant yellow of Gold Rush is highly metallic. However, the metallic flakes are very small, thanks to Jacquard pigments!

It’s hard to see in photos, but the vibrant yellow of Gold Rush is highly metallic. However, the metallic flakes are very small, thanks to Jacquard pigments!

The Jacquard pigments can be found at Michael’s arts and craft stores (at least in Canada) and are actually for stamping and embossing. Of course, they have a billion-and-one other uses, too, and making great metallic car paints is probably their most important. These pigments are fine, very fine. The particles are tiny, and highly metallic to boot. They come in a wide variety of colours including pure metallic shades (Silvers, coppers, etc.) as well as “interference” colours that change when you look at them differently. I use the interference colours on Gundam beam sabres, where the prismatic effect is subtle but desired. For Gold Rush, though, I didn’t want that. The “colour change” paint is a newer trend, and not applicable to a true “back in the day” Show Van.

Note: A real problem with scale metallic paints is the actual size of the metallic particles. A normal rattle can of car paint can have particles that are far too large for the scale car being painted. However, since the Jacquards are so fine, they actually produce SCALE metallic effects! I

Thus, to my Blue Angels Yellow I added a bit of Flat White and then some Bright Yellow (from Set 2) and Brilliant Gold (from Set 1). (The pigments can be bought in 12-jar sets. Since it doesn’t take a tonne to do the job, one of each set will last a long time. I’m still on my first one, and it’s been 7 years already!) The Bright Yellow made up for the white I added (I had to tone down the paint so the pigment would bring it back up) as well as adding a metallic yellow component. The Brilliant Gold just added a slight tint and lots of metallic particles.

At this point I had a pretty thick paint/metallic mixture. I added a lot of straight Future to this to create a much thinner version of the paint. This sprays easier through my Badger 155 and the Future also dries shiny and adds “body” but not colour to the paint. Because Future dries to an incredible toughness, it also helps to armour the paint against handling. However, there’s a downside. Paint mixed like this is really only effective over a similarly coloured base. It will not cover primer effectively on its own.  Still, it’s easy to take some more Blue Angels Yellow and make a quick base coat, and having a highly metallic and Future-laced top coat works great.

The yellow i chose is very bright, and it makes a huge visual impact from any angle. Note how the tones of the interior pick up the hood stripe? That's how Vannin' is done!

The yellow i chose is very bright, and it makes a huge visual impact from any angle. Note how the tones of the interior pick up the hood stripe? That’s how Vannin’ is done!

Colour Your World:

The entirety of Gold Rush was primered in Colorplace Grey Primer. Normally, for yellow, red or orange, I’d use a white base, but I figured that the Blue Angels Yellow would work well enough over grey, and it would tone it down just a tad. Just before primering, I applied two strips of Tamiya tape to the inside of the van where the shingles would attach. The plan was to keep the plastic bare so that model glue had pure plastic onto which to bite. Turns out, a better plan would come to me once everything was done. More on that later.

With the primer dry, I applied the same orange primer and paint I used on the non-carpeted parts of the interior. I wanted this “orange metal” colour all around, so that whatever showed would not look out of place. We all know MPC, and we all know that the final fit will be dodgy, so something that you don’t think will show probably will… Thus, with the orange everywhere, I was ready for any “gaps”. However, not ALL of the interior walls were orange. The remainder of the roof (which was largely cut away for the skylight) was actually textured like vinyl (of course…), so it got a coat of the same “Naugahyde brown” as the couches and dashboard, and a wash to bring out the texture. Once this paint was dry, the entire interior was masked and any overruns of orange were primered over.

This view, which as the shingles installed as well, shows the Naugahyde on the roof. Who does that? GOLD RUSH, that's who!

This view, which has the shingles installed as well, shows the Naugahyde on the roof. Who does that? GOLD RUSH, that’s who!

The Blue Angels Yellow worked very well over the grey, and two coats had Gold Rush looking mighty yellow. It also had my spray booth looking like a miniature sun! I dried the MMA base coat in my dehydrator at about 42 Celsius for about 2 days, to make sure it was good and dry. Because I use Future in my homemade thinner, the basecoat was fairly shiny. This is when a lot of people look at me with a raised eyebrow, believing that a matte base coat will allow the final coat more “grip”. That’s true, generally. However, because the basecoat has Future in it, as does the top coat, the top coat will bond to the basecoat. Future is odd this way; it bonds to itself even when one surface is ‘dry’. I guess that’s because it’s a floor polish. Whatever the reason, it’s a great property to exploit for paint jobs.

I sprayed the overcoat on in 3 thin layers and the power dried it for another 2 days. Because of the pigment and metallic components, the paint wasn’t especially smooth. However, that’s not a problem. The coverage was great and the colour was perfect!  To seal the paint, and prepare for sanding, I applied a thin layer of Future, which I dried at about 45-47 Celsius (about as hot as I’ll take a plastic kit) for an hour or so. I then applied a second and third coat, each slightly heavier than the previous one, with a power drying session of the same duration and temperature between them. The following day, I applied a HEAVY coat of Future. Not so heavy that it ran, but almost. It was heavy enough to be turning white on the kit; that’s how you know you’re doing it right. The goal was to have enough Future on there that I could sand off the rough spots without hitting paint. It worked.

Gold Rush spent the next 5 days at 40 degrees in the dehydrator for at least 12 hours a day. Why so long? Well, Future has to be good and dry for sanding, and I’ve found the hard way that if you don’t have the first layers of Future dry, then in a few years it will expand and crack, creating an alligator finish on your cars. This is no desirable, so to avoid it, a good heat soak is required. It used to be that I’d have to leave a body like Gold Rush’s to air dry for at least a month; with the dehydrator, it can be done in a week. Pretty good investment, then, that dehydrator, eh?

Dehydrators are a Godsend for doing car kits. Gold Rush barely fits in my Salton dehydrator, as you can see here.

Dehydrators are a Godsend for doing car kits. Gold Rush barely fits in my Salton dehydrator, as you can see here.

With the Future dry, I was able to begin sanding. I used 4000 and 6000 to take off the rough spots and get the paint levelled out. One more VERY THIN coat of Future and I was ready for decalling!

Tatted Up:

Clearly, a big part of Gold Rush is the decals. Yes, they’re a bit out of register, but you know what, that’s part of the charm of the kit. I didn’t build Gold Rush to be perfect, or to win a national award. I built it because it’s a fun subject that will look cool, and hopefully make people remember the good old days when Vannin’ was the bomb. So, if the decals aren’t quite perfect, I wasn’t going to worry too much.

That being said, the decals gave me PLENTY to worry about!

On the decal sheet, the decals looked fine. There were no obvious cracks or bends, not a lot of discolouration or visible water damage or dehydration. I figured that if 35 year old Matchbox decals can work, so can MPCs. So, I put the first decal, the long, complex and not-so-in-register chin spoiler one, in my water and crossed my fingers. It didn’t disintegrate or come off the backing paper in the water, so I thought I was on a winner. Silly me. As soon as I went to apply it, all hell broke loose. The decal had split, but only in a few places. However, they were enough that I had to spend a while patching it back together. Oddly, the decal conformed to the curves of the chin spoiler well, thank goodness. I then tried the right-side, lower body sunset stripe. Same thing. Grrr…

This is where the trouble was. You can see there's a bit of the brown border missing. that's all I couldn't recover when this decal began to come apart. Decal Bonder is the answer!

This is where the trouble was. You can see there’s a bit of the brown border missing. that’s all I couldn’t recover when this decal began to come apart. Decal Bonder is the answer!

I wanted to have fun decalling Gold Rush, but so far, that wasn’t in the cards. With only two decals on, I’d spent hours fiddling and fidgeting to reconnect broken stripes. I was largely successful, although a careful eye will show a bit of decal was lost. Rather than risk more damage that would be more visible, I shut down the process and stepped back. I thought a bit, and then remembered that there are tricks for old decals. The best one I’ve found is to apply a couple of LIGHT sprays of Testors Decal Bonder over them. This will sink in and make the decals resistant to cracking/splitting. You can do the same with Future, I’ve heard, but I wanted to stick with something I knew.

The Decal Bonder dried for a day or so, and then I tried it again. BAM!!! PERFECT! The decal bonder had done exactly as advertised, and the oversprayed decals worked gorgeously. They were tough but thin, able to conform to curves and sunk beautifully where required. They responded wonderfully to Future, as well, eagerly drinking it in to bond with the paint below. Thus, the rest of the decalling went much better, faster and with more fun involved than the first two decals would have indicated.

Lesson: If you have old decals, don’t assume they’re okay. Just hit ‘em with the Bonder first, regardless. You won’t do them any harm, and you’ll save time, trouble and a lot of grey hair and swearing! 🙂

Once decalled, another think coat of Future was applied and baked for a day. Then, a HEAVY coat of Future was applied, and power dried for another 5 days. This was sanded down with 6000 grit and the exposed Future was left to power dry for another 5 days. The rule I use is this; if you can smell Future strongly, it isn’t dry. If it seems dry and you sand it and can then smell Future, you got lucky. Dry it again.

The “exposed” Future dried fully, albeit looking a bit rougher than I’d like.

The expansive decals make or break the final product on something like Gold Rush. Getting them right and preventing them from breaking up is key.

The expansive decals make or break the final product on something like Gold Rush. Getting them right and preventing them from breaking up is key.

Shine on… Shine on…

I used Novus Plastic Polish 1 with a piece of flannel to clean off the surface of Gold Rush. I then applied Tamiya Fine rubbing compound (always going in one direction, that of “airflow”) with a wet flannel “raglet” (a piece of rag about 4” square). I use old flannel pyjamas for this, since they’re nice and soft. The use of a wet rag makes a big difference too, I’ve found. I buffed the “Fine” off when it was dry, using a damp raglet, and polished with a dry one. I repeated this twice more, and then used a very soft child’s toothbrush and water to get the remaining compound out of cracks and crannies. I then applied another wash of Novus 1, to wash off any grease from handling.

I applied Tamiya Finish in the same manner as the Tamiya Fine, again only going in one direction. Once this was buffed off, I could see a nice high shine being born. It was very rewarding. I did two applications of the Finish compound, cleaning out the crannies when done with the same toothbrush. The entire van got one more wash/polish with Novus 1, and was pretty much done, at least paint-wise. I unmasked the interior and did a tiny bit of touch up work, but overall, things looked good.

Chrome, Tires and a big “F’ Your Hat” to MPC:

Like all car kits of its day, Gold Rush had a rack of chrome parts. I promptly cut all the parts off the rack and sanded down the attachment nubs. Of course, this ruins the (often overly thick) finish. Thus, I had stripped the chrome off all the chrome pieces using Easy Off oven cleaner so I could rechrome them with Alclad Chrome.

Note: While it may smell awful and is a very dangerous material, the original “yellow” Easy Off is the one you need to use. The blue “non-toxic” one doesn’t work with a pinch. Who’d have thought, eh?

I also cut two supports for the skylight from some styrene rod, and chromed them as well. They responded very well to the treatment. I applied some Citadel Nuln Oil to the recesses on the fin mag wheels, as well as to the grille, to give some depth. I have found that the wash won’t stick well to the chrome plating, but it will to the Alclad: another great reason to strip off the plating!

Thus, it was with nicely finished rims that I went to build up the tires. I love the tires on Gold Rush. They are lettered and have a nice tread pattern. They are also bigger at the back than the front, in classic ‘70’s custom tradition. However, one thing I thought was weird in the instructions was that the front and back tires use the same rims and backing plates. It seemed odd, since one set of tires was thicker than the other. I trusted MPC knew what was best.

That was, as Megatron tells Starscream, “Mistake Number One…”

I put the rims, tires and backing plates together and… WTF? The tires floated on the front set of rims, and the rims disappeared inside the rear tires! ARGHHHH! So, MPC didn’t know best, they just threw in inappropriately sized tires for the rims they gave me. Thinking about it, that does seem right, in some bizarrely twisted way. The only solution was to modify the rims.

Thus, I ground down the backs of the front rims and backing plates, and I added thin styrene shims to the rear rims and plates. After some fiddling around, I had the widths where I wanted them. The problem was that I had had to heavily handle the rims, and the Alclad suffered badly. Thus, I had to strip and repaint them completely. Thanks a lot, MPC. Seriously…

On left is the rear backing plate wtih styrene shim (orange). At the right is the ground down front backing plate. Look at the difference in overall thickness!

On left is the rear backing plate wtih styrene shim (orange). At the right is the ground down front backing plate. Look at the difference in overall thickness!

In the meantime, as the Alclad dried, I sanded the seams off the tires and applied the white letters. For tire shine, I’ve found that some of the old Turtle Wax Ice Wax Liquid Polish works great. It doesn’t bug the paint and it sinks into the vinyl giving it a nice, “real tire” shine. The problem is, of course, that this great product is no longer made. Thus, I jealously hoard my 1/10 of a bottle. Thankfully, 1/24 and 1/25 tires don’t require much to get the job done!

I assembled the dried rims and tires, and the result was what I had hoped. At this point I also painted the “skylight” with an airbrushed coat of Tamiya Clear Yellow. It was just gaudy enough to make sense. It gives me a clear roof but keeps it thematically on the same bent as the rest of Gold Rush. Since it will be open all the time anyway, it really shows up without distorting the interior.

Now, all that was left was the final assembly!

This view emphasizes a.) the clear yellow roof and b.) the lack of doors on this side of the van. All that filling was worthwhile after all!

This view emphasizes a.) the clear yellow roof and b.) the lack of doors on this side of the van. All that filling was worthwhile after all!

Get it together – Final Assembly:

The first things to get installed were the shingles. I positioned them according to the contours inside the van, and then applied some Ambroid ProWeld along the seams so it would run into the bare plastic I’d left earlier. This worked well, and the shingles stuck beautifully. I then installed the windows with Tacky Glue and the rear curtains went on with the same. I glued in the carriage lamps as well, and basically the interior was ready for fitting. This is when I found out that it, well… didn’t.

Here you can see the drapes, rear window and both carriage lights. Tasteful, eh?

Here you can see the drapes, rear window and both carriage lights. Tasteful, eh?

The matching of the shingles to the interior bucket on the driver’s side is amazing. It all fits together perfectly. Not quite the same case, though, as it turns out, on the passenger’s side. For some reason, there’s a sizeable gap between the top of the interior bucket and the bottom of the shingle. Why? How did this happen? Well, the answer is deceptively simple. I trusted MPC to make it so the shingles would align the same on each side. That wasn’t right. I know, I know… do I ever learn? Not readily, it seems.

So, because they were ProWelded in place, I couldn’t adjust the shingles without making a big mess. This is when I had an idea, far too late to be of use this time, but plenty good for the next, when I build Bad Company. The idea was this: I should have used Tacky Glue (TG) to put in the shingles. I know my brother will read this. I know he will laugh, and I know that he’ll also think: “I told you so!” He’ll be right. My brother believes strongly in the power of Tacky Glue, and uses it for far more than I do. I used it for glass only; he uses it for nearly everything. In this case, it would have been the right call. Breaking or adjusting TG is easy. I should have just glued in the shingle bits with TG, and then mounted the rest. As the TG dries, it can still allow parts to be adjusted, and if it’s totally dry, then a bit of water will soften it up. It dries strong and clear, too, and reacts well to heating in the dehydrator. If I’d TG’ed the shingles, I could have added a bit of water and reoriented them.

I didn’t, so I’m stuck with my mistake. Normally, this might have made me pretty mad. However, I decided that I just want to make the model as well as I can, and if it’s not perfect, okay, maybe next time. It still looks plenty ‘70s in there and it was a fun challenge to get almost everything matching. I did better than most; I’ve yet to find a built Gold Rush on the net, which means I assume that most people haven’t bothered or gave up long ago.

It's hard to see the shingling mistake, even with the roof fully open! Look how wide that rear end is... that's 1970's customization at its finest!

It’s hard to see the shingling mistake, even with the roof fully open! Look how wide that rear end is… that’s 1970’s customization at its finest!

The grille went in perfectly on the support flap I’d put in. I glued it in place, and then proceeded to paint the lower 1/3 of the inside of the van black. These parts are the ones that will show once the Gold Rush is totally assembled. I also painted inside the engine compartment and up the sides of the interior bucket.  I applied Bare Metal Foil (BMF) to the front window frame and wiper arms, as well as the running board faces and the front air dam lights and the tail lights. I overpainted the tail lights using Tamiya Clear Red, and the air dam lights were done in Clear Yellow.

Here you can get a peek of the interior through the skylight. The chrome support bar is made of styrene rod. The roof is self-supporting; it is not glued in place.

Here you can get a peek of the interior through the skylight. The chrome support bar is made of styrene rod. The roof is self-supporting; it is not glued in place.

You might now be thinking that something’s missing: it is! There is no engine! Why, well, there are two reasons. The first and most important one is that you can’t really see it, so you won’t miss it. I didn’t want to put a lot of work into an engine just to have it eternally buried. The second reason is that my brother wanted the engine for the new Starsky and Hutch Torino. Our dad had a silver ’76 Torino, but it wasn’t as souped up as the S’n’H one. The engine from Gold Rush is apparently a lot closer in appearance to the plain-Jane 302 that ours had. Thus, I gave the engine to my brother’s Torino, where it will serve a much better cause and be far more visible.

Dude! You dropped something! There's no engine in Gold Rush because it literally had better things to do. No one misses it, and we wish it well at it's new job.

Dude! You dropped something! There’s no engine in Gold Rush because it literally had better things to do. No one misses it, and we wish it well at its new job.

The chassis slid into position surprisingly easily; there was a lot of front/back wiggle room thanks to the “Hoover Deluxe” air dam treatment. With everything in place, I attached the wheels and then flipped Gold Rush onto her feet. I sat the transparent roof in place, and VOILA! A Show Van for the ages!

Conclusions:

I have to admit, the finished Gold Rush looks pretty good to me! I love Vannin’ and vans of all types, but Gold Rush is awesome because it is so over the top and so perfectly a product of it times. The good folks at MPC threw good taste and caution to the wind with Gold Rush, and it really pays back in spades. Sure, it’s not an easy kit to build, but no old MPC is.  There was a lot of work and a lot of elbow grease that had to go into Gold Rush, and I now know why an internet search for “MPC Gold Rush Van” doesn’t come up with any built examples.

This is not a kit that I can recommend to novices or even moderately experienced modellers. This one is more suitable for those with a lot of experience under their belt. There’s a lot of engineering that can and needs to be done on this (the air dam and grille supports, the wheel adjustments, the roof cutting) and it requires skill and a good set of tools and stock of styrene! The fit is dodgy on some parts, and there is a bundle of opportunities to have something go deadly wrong. Without patience and confidence, Gold Rush is a menace to a builder.

If you have a Gold Rush, and you want to practice, go get Bad Company, and work out the bugs. It’s largely the same and you’ll see what I mean by it being a tough customer.

Taking that into consideration, Gold Rush is one of my favourite Vans. It has a great interior, awesome body kit and the decals are fantastic. It allows for a real scale Vannin’ experience, and that is nothing to sneeze at! I worked hard to make this kit the best that I could, and I have a real sense of accomplishment having finished it successfully.

It seems like the good old days of full-sized vans and Vannin’ are gone, but little gems like this allow those of us who want to keep them going to do so in a size- and cost-friendly manner.  Gold Rush is a loud and proud example of the imagination you can use on a kit, and the fun you can have when skills and creativity collide.

Grab one, grab some Twinkies and fire this mother up!

Details, it's all about details. The silver mesh on the IMSA flare intake screens were done with Prismacolour pencil crayons.

Details, it’s all about details. The silver mesh on the IMSA flare intake screens were done with Prismacolour pencil crayons. Look at the reflection- that’s shiny!

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