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Painting whitewalls

Q: I love cars from the 1960s - my junior high and high school years - and I'd like to build some of these fine autos from my youth. Back then, wide whitewalls were the thing, but most kits now don't give you whites. How can I make them?

- David Stukel
New Lenox, Illinois

Ken: Early 1:1 scale customs are reaching new heights in popularity, David, and the trend has already made its way into model car circles.

You can paint wide whites on model tires; just be sure not to use any solvent-based paint. It will never dry on a rubber tire. You'll need to use a water-based paint, and spray it on through an airbrush for a smooth, even surface.

Get a circle template from a good art- supply store, determine which circle size best fits the width of whitewall you're trying to achieve, place it over the tire (be sure to make out the other circles) and spray on your whitewall.

You can also brush-paint the wide whites, but you'll need a supersteady hand and a light touch so you won't leave brush strokes behind.

If you don't feel your hand is steady enough, mount the tire onto a suitable chuck and put it in an electric drill with a variable speed control. Turn the drill to the "real slow" setting, and touch a paint brush to the spinning tire at the outer edge of the whitewall. The rotation will create a sharp outer line, and you can then fill in the rest with or without the aid of the drill.

One modeler we know makes whitewalls using brush-on correction liquid. This technique also requires a steady hand, and you have to apply the correction fluid in one uninterrupted, smooth stroke, but it is doable.

Probably the best alternative, though, is to look into buying aftermarket resin tires with white inserts. It will save you the trouble and the mess of painting your own and they come in a wide range of tire sizes and whitewall widths.

Check The Modelhaus and Replicas & Miniatures Co. of Maryland in the ad sections of this magazine for contact information.

David, be sure to stop by the Tips & Tech Workshop again, so you can show us some of those taildraggers when you get them done.


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