Auto Union and Bugatti Conversions


At one of our Club meetings, I saw a 1/32 scale Porsche 917 model kit made by Matchbox that a couple of the club members were looking at. I knew Matchbox made models, but not of cars, and not in our favourite scale. Upon talking to them, they advised that these were not made anymore, but that they had some I could purchase.

At our next meeting I acquired an Auto Union D type, and a Bugatti 59.
In the NSCC magazine earlier in the year, there was an article regarding conversions where the author stated that conversions were quite often a case of making it up as you go along, and this has certainly been my approach over the years, and I know this holds true for some of the other Club Members as well.



So the boxes were opened and I stared at the contents for a week or so. Due to the small width of the models, it was clear that I couldnít use a donor chassis, which also meant that I had to find some way of holding the back axles in the correct position for the motors. On the drive to the NSCC Bishops Stortford Swap meet, I discussed this with one of the Club Members and his thoughts on the subject confirmed mine on attaching axle holders onto the motor sides in the style of the old 1960ís Formula Juniors. A couple of square sided motors were purchased, similar to those used in the Fiestas and Turtle Skateboards.Now came the thoughts on the chassis. I took all the main body parts of the models and sellotaped them into position. This greatly improved my visionary skills, in understanding how the conversion was to be performed, and whilst sitting in the garden, I found myself staring at the PVC cladding on the underside of my house roof.


Later down the pub I mentioned to a friend who installs windows and cladding that I needed an off cut about six inches square. The following morning a six foot plank was left propped up in my front garden.

I had decided to start with the Auto Union as this seemed the easiest, and cut off a small section of the PVC that was as wide as the motor. After reducing the thickness at one end I then glued the motor on.

From some scrap brass fixings that had come with a curtain pole set, I fashioned two axle holders, and drilled through for the axle to run, but purposely drilled the hole bigger than required, so that the axle didnít catch. I then took a couple of standard axle bearings, and glued these over the hole. This ensures that the axle is held in the right place without any flexibility. The axle holders were then glued to the sides of the motor.
I could now tell where the back axle would be, and so it was a case of working forward to decide where the front wheels and guide would fit. A drill hole was placed for the guide, and then the area around was shaped to allow the guide to turn. I would point out here that I scrapped the first two chassis, even though the PVC was very easy to work.
I then glued the main body parts of the model together. Knowing that I was going to remove most of the floor plan, I identified from the model plans any parts that would provide internal strength across the width of the model (such as the dash board) and that wouldnít interfere with the chassis, and added these.

The Model had holes through which the fixings for the wheels would fit, and so I knew the alignment, and the height for the wheels would be correct. I placed the chassis against the floor of the model, and drew around it and cut out the unwanted floor, and cut slots up from the floor pan to the holes through which the axles would fit. Then it was a case of gradually filing away the edges until the chassis fitted.


The tool I used most on the conversion was a one of the rotary, multi function hobby tools. To cut out the floor pan, I used a circular mini saw blade that was brilliant. For the filing down, I have various shaped attachments, and just used whichever shape best fitted the area I was working on. These tools can also be used as drills, and I have found so many uses for it on the cars, that I wouldnít now be without it. These are now becoming cheaper each year, and although the attachments are not generally interchangeable between makes, you can "adapt" attachments to fit with some thought. One point though, is when filing, use a lower speed, as otherwise the plastic on the car melts rather than files.

Back to the model. To hold the chassis in, I just used one screw attached to a body post, and allowed the axle holders to lean against a small amount of Milliput placed at the inside top of the rear wheel arches. For body posts I use raw plug strips, which come in lengths of about a foot, and in different colours to indicate different screw sizes. The white ones fit our screw sizes.

The body of the model was now painted, and I added some of the exterior details from the kit, and a Cartrix driver figure. For the wheels, I used the ones supplied with the kit, as these had rubber tyres. The wheel width was increased using Milliput, otherwise there was very little for the axles to hold onto.

For the Bugatti, I followed a similar approach, with a couple of exceptions. The axle holders had to be bent inwards, and then bent back outwards parallel to the motor, due to the small width at the rear of the model.


The main issue was that the Bugattiís front wheels hung from underneath the model rather than came out of the bodywork. This meant that I couldnít utilise a normal front axle, the guide had to be placed behind the wheels, and I had to ensure that the front wheels did not touch the track, as the model fixings would not stand up to the strain of running.

Just to show that things donít always work correctly, and proving that it is not always best to make it up as you go along, I carefully cut away at the underside of the Bugattiís front radiator grill so that the guide blade could turn, only to find that I hadnít left any room for the wires. I ended up cutting more away, which has spoilt the front of the car. I should have fitted the guide behind rather than under the grill.

A week after finishing these, I visited our local model shop, and saw brass strips that they sold. I think in hindsight, that I should have produced brass chassis, however, my next plan is to create a PVC chassis for one of my Modifieds, to see if there is any benefit, or future in the rest of the five and a half foot plank.




So there we are, these are never going to break any club lap records, but itís two more cars for the collection.

Derek Baker