How to build custom Hot Wheels BRE Datsuns, Part 01

As part of a new series on JNC, guest writer Mark “ScaleMaster” Jones will show you how to make your own custom Hot Wheels. Enjoy his step-by-step guide to creating a set of diecast BRE Datsuns. — Ricky

When the Hot Wheels Datsun 510 and 240Z came out I knew there was one livery they each had to wear. Nothing to me is more iconic than the red, white and blue Pete Brock/John Morton BRE race cars of the early 1970s. In addition to those two famous machines, I’ll be making a street car inspired by Pete’s own BrockBuster 510

Here are the castings as they are found in stores. The first step is to liberate the chassis from the body. Most castings have one or two upset rivets holding the chassis to the body. Whether the chassis is plastic (as in this case) or metal, the procedure is the same.

I prefer to use two drill bits and a variable speed cordless drill. While it can be done with just one bit, drilling a pilot hole first makes for a cleaner (and sometimes safer) job. Any drill can be used, but variable speed is a definite plus. The sizes are not that critical.

I used 1/16-inch bit for the pilot, and a 3/16 for the larger one that cuts through, but I’ve used as large as 5/16 depending on the specific rivet I’m drilling out. The trick is to take your time and drill at a slow speed and try to stay centered in the dimple of the rivet.

The pilot hole only needs to be about 1/8 of an inch deep; a little deeper is good too. Sometimes the drill grabs or slips, especially if you did not make a pilot hole. (I’ve had my share of off-center drilling mishaps.) If that happens, just remember it is on the bottom of the car and for many people, it doesn’t matter that much. Or spring for another 99 cent toy and try again.

Then use the larger drill to take off just enough of the rivet and maybe kiss the chassis.

If it doesn’t want to come apart easily, don’t fight it too hard, just slowly drill and remove a little more material and repeat as necessary. This is how it should look when it goes as planned.

Here are all the parts, pretty much indicative of what is in any Hot Wheels mainline car.

The next step is to strip the paint. Trying to paint over existing factory paint will usually result in a clunky looking model with obscured details due to the paint thickness.

I use my old stock of Berryman carburetor parts dip to strip mine. It’s no longer sold in Southern California, but might be available in other states. The stuff they do sell in my area now won’t even take the tampos off when soaked for 24 hours.

Jasco brand stripper works very well too. I think it’s available at most hardware stores. In fact any good (read: burns your skin) aircraft paint stripper works well. The gel type works as well as the liquid; it’s more about personal preference as to which you should use. Due to fumes, this is usually best treated as an outdoor job. Be sure to observe to safety precautions — it’s nasty stuff to get on any part of your body.

I prefer using the gel in a zip-lock freezer bag. Let it soak for an hour to start. Some colors or paints take longer to strip. About 30 minutes in the solvent will melt the majority of the paint away.

A thorough rinsing with water and a little detergent using a small scrub brush takes all the paint off in some cases. Sometimes little stubborn particles can remain, and I’ll deal with those a little later. Be sure to rinse clean all the loose paint and especially chemicals off before proceeding to the cleaning up of the casting.

Here are the freshly stripped castings that will be built into the three BRE cars.

Sometimes once the casting is stripped, imperfections become quite visible. The smaller ones will disappear again under primer and paint; others are bit too obvious to let slide depending on the level you want to take your work to. This 510 has a wonky lower windshield trim area.

A quick clean up and truing with a couple files makes it much easier on the eyes. A relatively large flat bastard and a small jeweler’s rat-tail file are my choices for this type of work.

Here’s the same 510, but with the lower edge of the windshield opening smoothed out. One of the 510 shells had the side marker lights filed and sanded off to make it more like the the BRE car.

As you can see on the 240Z, a little bit of paint remained after the chemical stripping. A scribe or dental pick works great to clean these little issues up. An old X-acto knife works well too. A brass bristle brush is another great tool for getting all the debris off the casting. Old toothbrushes also work, but the brass ones are a little more aggressive.

Now is the time to address any mold or casting lines and any other imperfections that you may want to clean up. I usually don’t do a lot of clean-up unless the casting is really bad. The files shown earlier and some 400 grit sandpaper are the tools I use.

Once you are satisfied with the prep, it is time to prime. Hardware store primers work fine. Duplicolor, Plasticote, Rustoleum and Krylon are commonly used by customizers.

Higher end modeling primers are also great to use. Tamiya and Gunze Sangyo make great primers. Sometimes they can be difficult to find, are significantly more expensive, and in many cases are not always worth the added expense on diecasts. If you have an airbrush there are even more options available to you, but for this article I’ll just discuss spray can primers.

I predominantly use Krylon and sometimes (when warranted) Tamiya. Tamiya goes on smoother and finer, so if there are fine details you want to preserve, it is a good choice.

Both the gray and the white primers are handy, but either can be used as a stand-alone most of the time. The Krylon gray covers by far the best and adheres well to the metal, but can adversely affect the shade of some bright or light colors. The white primer requires more coats for full coverage if it’s the only primer being used and tends to run during the application of the first couple of coats.

Since two of these cars will have white panels and one will be yellow, I want a white primer base. A light coat of gray primer is sprayed on first, followed by a second light coat about 15 minutes later. I use hemostats to hold the parts. Also strong cross action tweezers work.

The Krylon white primer is applied next in two very light coats about 15 minutes apart. You can wait even longer between coats. Notice that there is not full coverage of the white, but all the metal is primed.

When using darker or more opaque paint colors this mottled surface coverage is perfectly acceptable as the primer base. In fact I wouldn’t have used any white primer, just gray, if it were going to be covered by a darker color. As long as the metal is covered the primer will do its job of promoting adhesion and hiding superficial surface imperfections.

I let the primer dry fully overnight and then lightly brushed the entire surface of each body with the fine brass brush. A toothbrush will also work. This knocked off most of the orange peel texture, (as well as some of the primer on a few of the high spots). The final coat of primer was sprayed over that. In this case I did use the Tamiya product. I applied two very thin coats about 10 minutes apart (it was a warm day).

If you don’t have the finer Tamiya white primer you can continue with one or two light coats of the hardware store brand primers to make the surface uniform and cover any bald spots. The hardware store brands could have been used with very little difference in the long run on these projects. The Tamiya does dry with more of a satin sheen than a true flat as most other primers.

While spray cans may be used instead of airbrush, they often disperse more paint than is wanted for such a small scale project, especially the hardware store general purpose types and brands. However, Tamiya TS lacquers are made for modelers and are my first choice for spray can paints, and can easily yield excellent results by applying in light coats.

Remember, the goal here is for just enough primer to cover uniformly. The small scale and inherent paint thickness will stack up quickly even when you are being conservative with your application.

The primer was allowed to dry for a few hours in the sun before the application of the white base paint on the sides of the BRE 240Z and 510. I used Mazda automotive touch up paint code UK White and airbrushed it.

This concludes the prepping and Part 01. In the next installment, we paint!

— Mark “ScaleMaster” Jones

For more of Mark’s customs, please check The Lamley Group

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15 Responses to How to build custom Hot Wheels BRE Datsuns, Part 01

  1. Nigel said:

    Cool, a 1/64 Devil Z is a very cool idea.
    Just need to find another 240.
    (Nice article guys).

  2. Marcelo said:

    very nice!!! i want to build one of those!

  3. Jerry said:

    Absolutely awesome guide! One quick safety note for anyone working on a custom Hot Wheels car: make sure that you are working in a very well ventilated area when working with carb cleaner.

  4. Pete240z said:

    I love it. My wife would crack up if she saw me doing all this….LOL.

  5. Andrew walker said:

    That…………………………………….is awsome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Bill said:

    I’m sure you’ll get to it but I’m getting antsy. What size screw do you use to reassemble the car when you are done?

  7. JamesE said:

    Thanks for this! I always wanted to know how to do it. I look forward to trying it.

  8. PackerGreg said:

    Ha! That’s my BrockBuster on Scale Auto Mag. Nine months later it’s still dressed in body putty. I’d better get moving.

    • Nigel said:

      That’s ok, still have a 720 I bought that has been on the bench for 2 Years.
      (Now 96% finished).

      Nigel aka jzx81 !!

  9. dickie said:

    I started the same thing a while back:

    http://sexyhammer.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/side-project/

    I’m in for his description on making new axles so you can swap wheels. I just haven’t found a set of wheels good enough for this project yet.

  10. Steve said:

    This is great.

    Also, just calling on Mr. Jun Imai to convince the powers that be at Mattel to package and sell replacement parts kits with the “high-end” rubber tires, axles, body parts, and stickers for these kinds of projects.

    Those “donk” rear wheels on the 240Z aren’t period correct and look funny as well…

  11. Nathaniel said:

    So this is going to be an awful question… I love JDM cars, always have, always will. But where is the best to place find these Japanese cars hotwheels? For some reason I feel like these would be rare? I’m new to the collecting scene here and want to get some good ones to start! Help is appreciated!

    • Ben said:

      You should be able to find them in any Walmart, Target, Toys R Us, etc…

      The trick is that the cars come in waves. Basically they’ll make a run of, say, Datsun 510s, and those will appear in stores for a couple months, then vanish for good. Then the next batch might include an RX-7 or whatever. Each year there’s a bunch of different models and color variations. Some are limited editions and harder to find than others, or limited to specific stores.

      We at JNC will update you on the vintage Japanese releases, and there are other sites for other types of cars.

      Good luck!

      • Nathaniel said:

        Ben,

        Thank you! Today I bought the silver #32 Datsun Bluebird 510 at Kroger. Not only is the Datsun 510 my favorite car of all time (right next to my DD ’06 350Z), but it is also the start of my collection!

        Now I just need to start finding those RX-7s and 240s…

    • Jeff Koch said:

      Are you going to JCCS next week, Nathaniel? My booth will have a full selection of Japan-car Hot Wheels, including some old-school ’70s stuff like the original Z Whiz. I’ll have a bunch of other more esoteric brands as well. Hope to see you there!

      jk