07 July 2011
Robert Gunn offers his ‘Top 10 Tips’ to help you restore your favourite diecast models. ...
DIY made easy...
Restoring old diecast models has become popular lately, thanks in part to the prices of mint models shooting up and also the ease with which missing or broken parts can be replaced. Sometimes people say they enjoy collecting but don’t have the skill to do up their own models. In fact, basic repairs and restorations are fairly easy to tackle, and should be within the abilities of most collectors. What’s more, the restoration process is great fun, and very satisfying.
To provide a subject for this article, I bought a Dinky Toys 955 Fire Engine, complete but play worn, for a reasonable £8. Its lack of windows show it must be at least 50 years old, as glazing was added to this model in 1961. I have offered my ‘top tips’ in tackling a restoration and hope this feature gives you some ideas and confidence to do-it-yourself!
Prepare for paint stripping by careful masking – I decided not to dismantle the model at all, which made some of the restoration a bit more difficult. Liquid ‘Maskol’ was brushed thickly over the bells, and the ladder completely masked over. The baseplate was covered with masking tape to preserve the Dinky black finish. The tyres, which didn’t match, were discarded.
The red paint was stripped using Nitromors jelly-type stripper. Be sure to follow the safety instructions as this is powerful stuff. Carefully wash off the residue and remove any remaining paint with small implements like cocktail sticks or jeweller’s screwdrivers.
The model was washed in warm water with a little liquid hand soap, then carefully dried. Grey primer was applied by aerosol can but first I filled the inside of the model with a carrier bag, pushed in through a cab window. This prevents the spray-paint getting everywhere inside, and leaves the interior red. Push the bag in through the biggest window opening – remember which one as the bag will need to come back out the same way!
After ‘hoiking out’ the bag, I lightly smoothed the primer with very fine wet-and-dry paper.
A rung was missing on the ladder – to replace this rung, I used hollow square-section brass tubing. Just gluing this into place might have worked, but I didn’t want it to fall out later. The solution was to cut the heads off two pins and drill two small holes in the ladder sides at the correct places. The pins go into the rung-ends making a much stronger repair while the pinheads hardly show on the outside of the ladder.
This was the hard bit! I decided to brush paint this relatively large model which might have been better spray painted. Using real sable brushes, two thin coats were applied to the whole main body and the wheels. The raised lines on the sides kept showing through where the paint drained off them. This problem was solved by laying the model on its side and painting the side as a horizontal surface. After a couple of days’ drying, the process was repeated the other side.
Adding the painted details – Dinky did this by spraying through metal shields but masking tape is perfectly satisfactory if, like me, you can’t freehand paint straight lines. The grey inset hose-reels each side were masked and painted as was the silver radiator grille at the front. Even the top and ends of the front bumper were kept neat by masking.
All the complex shapes and colours at the rear took a while. In the end, I used 20 pieces of masking, 17 bits of tape and three areas of Maskol liquid! This greatly simplified the job, bringing it into the realms of what I could manage myself, painting being the modelling skill I’m least good at.
The ladder was given two coats of Humbrol silver, and its base bracket was repainted in satin black. The same shade was used on the tow hook.
This was to make good all the little bits missed during the work and to neaten up edges. For example, at the rear I had to repaint the grey hoses, but this left grey on some of the red. Re-doing the red bits, some went on to the grey, but eventually all the paint was the right colour and more or less in the right place. After all this is a simple re-paint, and nobody is trying to pass it off as a mint model.
Four new tyres were bought and fitted, looking very smart in grey vinyl of the correct pattern. At this point, the model began to look almost new again.
The final stage was to carefully polish the red paint after leaving it over a week to harden. Auto-Glym resin polish works well on models, leaving very little white powdery deposits. The very last operation was to use Auto Glym Extra Gloss Protection juice on the paint. This produces a superb shine, really making the paint glow (I have no connection with Auto Glym, honestly!). One thing to note – the Extra Gloss removed some of the silver aluminium paint which I had to redo, so care is needed using it. To get the final shine, use cotton wool balls – these are softer than any cloth and will bring up a great shine.
A final thought...
A word about the value of repaints. My Dinky price guide says a play worn, unboxed but complete model is worth 10-20% of the full, mint, boxed value. But, it claims a repaint is only worth 10%. In other words, at best it’s the same as the old play worn one, or at worst its value has been halved by the repainting! No disrespect to the author, but this seems not to reflect the reality. Take Dinky single-seat racing cars, for instance. These can be found worn for £10 or less even now, yet neat repaints, perfectly suitable for display, cost anything from £15 to £25. What do readers think about this?
I hope this article has inspired you to have a go at some restoration work. If you do, please send in photographs of the result to the Editor, who may publish your efforts.
PICTURED TOP Dinky Toys 955 Fire Engine as bought: heavily play worn but complete.
PICTURED MIDDLE (Left) Stripped of paint and masked for primer coat, the purple on the bells is Maskol liquid rubber masking. (Right) After spray-painting with primer.
PICTURED BOTTOM Before and after: The Dinky Toys 955 Fire Engine looks great.