The Mini-Z body shells come in two general flavors. The regular Autoscale (ASC) shells are detailed, beautifully assembled and painted things that cost anywhere from $50 to $80. Limited editions will of course cost a lot more. On the other hand, so-called white bodies can be purchased for cheap, maybe between $20-25. These are frequently gaudily painted for use on tracks. The rationale for that is that they are more easily recognizable in this way. Also, since they are cheaper, it hurts a lot less when one inevitably crashes.
I bought a Mazda RX-7 FD3S body, which you may recognize as the car driven by Keisuke Takahashi in Initial D. I had intended to put it on the AWD chassis. Much to my chagrin, it won’t fit! Thankfully it did fit on the MR-03N RM chassis, though the frustration I experienced with being unable to find such simple and essential information is a huge motivation for starting this blog.
Painting Mini-Z White Bodies
Checking with the local Mini-Z shop, I was told that priming was not necessary for these bodies. Simply rinse in soapy water, and use the Tamiya spray paints, followed by glossy clear spray (2-3 coats of each). At the hobby shop, I purchased a Mr. Hobby Glossy Top Coat instead, at the recommendation of the owner. I wanted to ensure that the paint would stick, so proceeded to prime it anyway with the Tamiya fine surface primer. After leaving to dry overnight, I sprayed the paint and clear coat on, with 15 minute intervals between coats. Checking the forums, it was suggested that the clear coat be applied either at the same interval as the paint, or after the paint has been left to dry (estimates ranged from overnight to 7 days). I left them on overnight. As an aside, opinions were divided as to whether the parts should be cemented before or after painting. Worrying that the paint coverage will not be adequate, I opted to paint first, bond later.
After spraying on the various layers, the shell was left to dry for 24 hours. At this point, the finish of the model was excellent. The metallic blue showed up nicely, and the finish, though not quite mirror finish, was adequate for a spray can, without any polishing.
Next up, I wanted to paint the details, like the engine air intake mesh, window frames, wipers, etc. I had some masking tape cut around these features. Unfortunately, this was where it all went to hell. Turns out despite my best effort, the masking tape was not properly sealing off the areas. In particular, when one strip of tape crossed another, a small channel is formed where the edges met. Coupled with my less than careful painting, this meant that I was actually painting multiple lines all over the body!! While some parts were faint enough to paint over, the top, front and back of the car had huge paint smudges that I could do nothing about. Furthermore, instead of waiting for the paint to dry completely, in my haste I painted over these areas, causing them to run a little, and making the tones visibly different. Lesson learnt, for sure. To cement the parts together, paint was removed from the attachment points by sanding. A small amount of plastic cement is applied, and the parts were held together using rubber bands. Parts like the mounting point and windscreen were further reinforced with epoxy.
Given that this was my first attempt, I thought it wasn’t a terrible effort. I was particularly proud of the rear lights, since this was my first time working on a model like this. The plastic was completely clear, but I had to replicate the dark glass of the actual car (see above). Furthermore, I needed the rear lights to ‘pop’, while keeping one of the lights clear red so that the light kit can shine through. To achieve all these, I painted the lights with clear paint (two red, one amber). Next, I backed two of the lights with flat aluminum paint. The last one was left clear. Lastly, I painted the entire internal surface (minus the clear red portion) with black paint. The external surface was completely unpainted. This gave the glossy, dark glass result that I thought neatly captures the look of the original.
What I would do differently
What would I do differently if were given the chance? Firstly, I will bond all the parts that are the same color as the main chassis together before painting. Trying to remove paint and primer without scuffing other parts is incredibly difficult. Secondly, I’d definitely do a much better job with the masking. Thirdly, if there are spots and smudges, I’d wait a long while before applying new paint. I’d also buy both the spray can and the equivalent bottle, for touch-up purposes. Patience is a real virtue in this endeavor! Lastly, I’ll experiment with the Tamiya Clear Coat instead of the Mr. Hobby one, since the final product seemed to chip quite easily. Some users have commented that Tamiya’s clear paint seems to give a very hard finish. That should come in handy for Mini-Z racing!
White bodies are a whole other level of fun for Mini-Z. Sure, it’s a lot of work. But when you’re done, you end up with a car that’s really your own. That’s invaluable! I’m really looking forward to the Ferrari 360 MZN121 white body that should arrive in a day. I’ll also be updating this post when the light kit arrives. Watch this space!