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By Rob. Horton (Wessex Transfers)
|Me with the actual car||The finished model|
I own a small model railway and diecast shop in Southbourne, Bournemouth (Railway Mart) and apart from stocking Hornby, Bachmann, Llima, Corgi, Lledo etc. I also offer a custom transfer manufacturing service. My business is called "Wessex Transfers" and has become quite well known amongst various white metal model manufacturers, model railway manufacturers and old tin-plate toy restorers. I have been making transfers for some 8 or 9 years now, but the business was originally started by my late father some 30 years ago. He started by producing replica transfers for restorers of pre-war Hornby Trains (which I also still do). The majority of my work is commissioned by other model makers, but occasionally I am asked to do transfers for larger organisations and business. This article is about one such organisation and the challenge they presented me which resulted in one of the most memorable days in my life, and possibly a set of the finest transfers I have ever produced.
It all began last July when I had been contacted by the promotions manager at a company called "Adams Associates". I was told they had bought 100 Burago 1/18 scale Ferrari F40's with the intention of converting them into models of their own Maranello Ferrari Challenge championship winning car. I was subsequently sent photographs of the car for me to use to produce the artwork. Due to the perspectives they had been taken from, they turned out to be unsuitable for any accurate artwork to be produced from. To my delight, they invited me to a special promotions day they were holding at Castle Coombe racing circuit in a couple of weeks time so as I could take the necessary photos myself. The car would be there, along with the driver who drove it in the championship and I was promised a few lapse around the circuit with him. What a day it turned out to be.
On the day I pulled up and parked next to a new shaped Rolls Royce to my right and, upon inspection of the parking area, I noticed the mass of luxury cars I had unwittingly parked amongst. There was a beautiful E-type Jag, a Porsche Boxter, a Bentley, Jaguar XK8 and an array of various Ferraris scattered all around. I drive a G reg. Volvo 460, with a bit of rust on the bottom of the doors and a few knocks and scrapes on the front wings and rear bumper. Apart from the constant emission of steam from the exhaust and subsequent by-weekly top up of water to compensate, it runs quite well and, generally, I had always felt it was reliable and totally capable of getting me to wherever I was going. But today of all days, I’d had to cover the rear bumper with lengthy strips of selotape to stop it flapping about after a recent disagreement with a high curb stone. To say I felt "underdressed" is an understatement. Still, I was there to do a job and couldn't let little humiliations like this be seen to be embarrassing me.
My first sight of the car was when I timidly emerged from my beloved Volvo. There it was, up near the club house, some 100 yards or so away. There was no mistaking it, bright red and covered in various sponsor decals. Immediately I took my first photo. What a sight! All of a sudden this had become the most beautiful car in the world and I was going to have a go in it! Even more to the point, I was going to be responsible for the transfers on the finished models of it. I felt so privileged. Instantly I had grown an affinity to the car, and realised the subsequent models would be a showcase for me and my transfers.
The next couple of hours were spent taking photographs from every perceivable angle. Each decal was painstakingly photographed individually from the "Italia Autosport" sticker on the bonnet to the small "OPEN" signs above the door handles. Nothing was missed. In total approximately 70 photos were taken. The car was busy taking Adams Associates' clients around the track, so I had to take most of my shots when it was in the pit lane taking on board its next cargo of excitedly quivering thrill seekers.
Next it was my turn. I was handed the helmet and hastily put it on. Then I had to get in the car. I got my legs in OK, and my bottom, but I had to bend nearly double to get my head in. My helmet was squashed against the roof and I had to slide right down in the bucket seat to ease the pressure. Not particularly comfortable, but when you realise the F-40 is so named because it stands just 40" high you begin to understand that this car was not designed for comfort.
The engine was started and the roar of it was not so much heard as felt rumbling through my body. Reving wildly we then crawled to the start line. After a few seconds of waiting for the marshal to give us the go ahead we were off!!! First, second, third gear. It felt like like an elephant was sat on my chest as we accelerated like a scud missile along the first straight. Then there was a loud bang and as quickly as we had accelerated we decelerated and the elephant flew off my chest and tried to pull me out of my seat and through the windscreen. Next a series of bends and twists that squeezed me into every orifice of the seat possible. Oh no! Not a chicane, I thought as it approached at 3 zillion miles an hour. We didn't seem to slow for it, just a couple of wiggles and we were through, clipping each apex and mounting the stripy paving on each side. Then a long sweeping right hand bend which I think we took at full speed until we reached the start line once more. 2 more laps ensued in the same fashion and before I knew it we were heading off down the pit lane again. The driver looked at me, obviously keen to see my reaction. I tried to express my thrill at what I had experienced but only two words would come out. "#****** #***!!" I said.
Before getting out I asked what sought of speeds we were reaching and he confirmed my doubt in his sanity when he replied "About 150-160 mph. Did you here that loud bang at the end of each straight, just as we were going in to the first bend?" He asked. "Yes" I replied. "There's a bump in the road there and the bang is when all 4 wheels land back on the track again". He was insane. 160 miles an hour going in to a bend with no wheels on the track?. Feeling strange to say the least, I clambered out of the car in a sought of "breach birth" fashion.
Having taken my photos it was time to leave. I said my good-byes and climbed into my car, strapped myself in, turned the ignition key and......nothing. The blasted starter motor was stuck again. It did this occasionally, but why today?. I didn't have the nerve to ask the man leaning against his "Roller" for a push. So I put it in gear and rocked it myself until it started. Hastily I trundled off towards the exit....... that turned out to be a locked gate. I turned around and drove aimlessly around looking for a way out. How humiliating.
The next couple of weeks were spent, in-between printing other jobs, preparing the artwork. There were some 25-30 different decals needed and it was only then that I realised by how much I had underpriced the job. Still, it had now become a labour of love, an obsession, and I was determined to do as best a job as I possibly could. I wanted one of these model Ferraris for myself so only my best efforts would be good enough.
The first job was to sought through the 70 or so photographs I had taken to find the best, most useful ones. Seeing as I had used a digital camera, it was then easy to download the necessary pictures into my PC. Next job was to painstakingly trace them in Corel Draw. I find this the best program for this kind of work as you can fix the photos on a layer, create a new layer on top and literally trace the photo like you would using tracing paper on a traditional drawing board. I had to create one layer for each colour, drawing each colour separately in black on their respective layers.
Another layer was used to show all the colours, in full colour, at the same so as I could see how the finished transfers would look. For those of you thinking of producing your own artwork for transfers, I use Corel Draw 3, as it does everything you could want without confusing you with unnecessary extras, and it's free. Only a couple of years ago I saw it being given away on a computer magazines cover CD, which is annoying because I paid £250.00 for it some 8 or 9 years ago.
After some 10 days or so, the next job was to place the model car on the scanner and scan the sides, front, rear and roof into Corel Draw. Then the artwork could be scaled to fit exactly as it did on the real car. This had to be done by eye to get them to look just right and I then printed out the results, which I sent to Adams Associates to get their approval.
Artwork approved, I then had to print all the individual colours out, on separate sheets of paper, in black. I use an Epson Stylus 1520 for this as it can print on sheets up to A3 in size. Basically, the bigger you can print it out at this stage the better, as I then reduce it down to size photographically on my Agfa Repromaster camera. If you are ever thinking of buying a printer to print artwork out on, don't buy a laser as they tend to "cook" the paper as they use heat to seal the toner which distorts and shrinks the paper making it impossible to line up the colours when printing. Buy a good quality ink jet and always use a good photo quality paper.
Having done the photography (photographing the A3 printouts onto positive clear film) I was then ready to start printing using the screen printing process. I printed the varnish down first using a cellulose transfer varnish and then printed the colours on top in oil-based inks. I like to do transfers this way as the cellulose varnish doesn't yellow with age like oil based varnishes do and the oil based inks are far easier to print and are not so transparent as cellulose inks. The colours have to go on top because you can't put cellulose on top of oil based inks as they react with each other. Because the oil based inks take a day to dry, it took me another ten days to print the transfers.
Upon completion I applied them to one of the models and, boy, did they they look good, if I do say so myself.
At Christmas I received a large parcel from Adams Associates, and upon opening it I discovered a large Marks & Spencer hamper full of wines, cheeses, Xmas cake and pudding etc. by way of thanks. But there was no need. The pleasure was all mine.