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A Cunningham lightweight 1/8 scale E Type build Options
#1 Posted : 01 September 2019 18:54:07

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Building a Cunningham E Type

First, let me say I am an ardent Jaguar fan and have been for many years. (Surprise, surprise...)

Sadly, I didn’t reach the heady heights of the E Type, but I have a 2001 XK8 which I love, and won’t part with. About 2 years ago I had it wrapped in Gulf colours which really is a Marmite thing.
I love Marmite.

Anyway, not owning a real E Type hasn’t stopped me lusting after one for many many years, and accumulating numerous different models of the car. The problem was always the same though. No matter how many models or kits I found or built, they never really quite captured it all for me.
That was when I decided to scratch build my own.

OK, It’s a bit smaller than the real thing but at 1/8 scale it still comes out at getting on for 24” long in old money.

It all really began about 3 years ago when I was talking to the owner of the car 9023 DU, one of the ‘Cunningham three’.
I had previously scratch-built a Jaguar C Type, D Type and an Aston Martin DBR1 for him and during a conversation, I said I might start on an E Type next.
He then proceeded to show me dozens of pictures of a lovely original and unrestored race car in white, with double blue stripes.

I said it was gorgeous and if he had any other pictures showing more detail, I’d have a go at building a replica of it.
Then came the surprise – he owned the car and could let me have all the reference I wanted.

He also mentioned that he would love to have a model of the car but, in its current beautifully patinated condition.
What followed was six months of work to create the model in 1/8 scale complete with ‘tea’ stains in the nooks and crannies, oil, a degree of rust, and even worn leather seats with the wear marks and damage in the right places. It became almost an obsession to get the model to look just like the real car, but smaller.

Now, let me say I am not a pro model maker although I will admit that I have sold a few of my large scale cars to the people who own the real thing. I am a retired teacher of 34 years and building model cars is a hobby. I intend it to stay that way. I build the cars I want to build. If someone decides they want the model, I’ll talk to them about the cost but I won’t build ‘to order’ something that has no real interest for me – hence my tendency to build old Jaguars in the main.

I will also say that I don’t create perfect replicas of the cars although the E Type probably came as close to it as any. They are more a kind of highly detailed (my wife says verging on OCD) ‘Artists impression’. I have built quite a few ‘huge’ cars over the past four years ranging from the Aston DBR1, Ferrari 250 GTO and assorted Jaguars including a ‘Knobbly’ Lister with full approval and help from the factory. More about those maybe another time.

‘Scratch’ building (making everything yourself – not a kit) is quite new to me, in fact the past five years! Before that, everything came out of a kit box.
The E Type began with around 200 incredible photos of the car being emailed to me with a note saying if I needed anything else, let them know. True to their word, there were several instances where I needed close up pictures of areas of wiring, pipework and even rust stains. Within 24 hours a whole batch of pictures was sent – they frequently took numerous photos of various parts of the car especially for me.

The model began using the lower floor pan and bonnet from a large scale model kit. Very little else was taken from the kit other than some parts that were pointless to scratch make when the little kit part was correct. Around 80% of the finished model was scratch made – even down to moulding my own tyres and making my own ‘Dunlop’ wheels.

To begin, the boot rear section was cast in resin from a wooden master and the boot lid cut out using a dental probe. The parts were joined to the lower body adding a thin flange between to replicate the body seam as per the real car. Even the bumper mounting holes had to be drilled although the car has none fitted. The holes are there because they are there on the real car.

Inside the boot, the extra fuel tank, pump, wiring and other components were made from sheet plastic, brass, rubber, in fact, anything that would work. To replicate the fibreglass effect on the fuel tank, tumble dryer sheets were glued to the surface before painting. The result was quite effective.

The interior of the car was similarly built up using anything that was suitable. The real car has had quite a few mods made to the cockpit and these were copied as best as I could manage. There is a small ‘Heath-Robinson’ toilet cistern chain pull on the dashboard that opens a flap for air to the oil cooler at the front of the car. This was made using a piece of cheap jewellery chain and a handle carved from the end of a wooden tooth pick. Extra gauges were added to a ‘standard’ dash and all of the gauges were made by me, using photos of the actual gauges in the car as reference.

The floor pan of the car has seen many years of use, being trodden on by numerous shoes and boots. Needless to say it was somewhat grubby, scuffed, faded and not without a degree of surface rust in the corners and around the edges. All of this was replicated using many different colours of paint and ‘scumbling’ them together with a stiff dry brush to get the desired effect.

All of the interior is trimmed in real 0.5mm leather, also scrubbed and weathered using sand paper and a sharp blade so as to match the actual car seats. Even the small tears in the leather were copied and stained accordingly.

Once I had a basic floor tub and rear end it was time to start on the front.
The entire engine frame and front chassis was made from brass tube and section, all being Araldited together – no, I can’t solder. I worked from factory drawings and plans to get the parts as correct as I could, constantly referring to pictures of the real car for any differences of which there were quite a few. Everything had to be painted at this stage as trying to paint the car with an engine installed would be ridiculous. In many ways, building the model was very similar to the build of a real car.

I cast all of my own engine components from masters made over 6 years ago. They have served me well in building C and D type Jaguars and recently, the Knobbly Lister.
With the basic engine in place, umpteen other details were added but I was particularly pleased with the wiring. I hounded to owner of the car continually over several weeks for close up pictures of various components, emphasising I needed to know not only where a particular wire was attached, but also where the other end went. There was no point adding a wire to a particular relay terminal, if the other end just vanished behind a piece of gubbins elsewhere.

I went to great lengths to make sure that each wire was close to the correct colour and that it attached to the correct terminals, relays and components wherever possible. Again, my ‘obsessive’ approach…

Everything had to be weathered, stained and lightly rusted after the car was painted the correct shade of Old English white. That entailed using different washes of browns, black and reds thinned with white spirit. Many years ago I taught art in a high school and lots of different painting techniques came into play to get the model looking like the real car wherever possible.

The chassis plate was made by photographing the actual plate and printing it at the correct size at a very high resolution. That way, it is nicely faded, worn and stained but still readable – as per the original.

The suspension components were made from brass wire inside resin parts for extra strength and the Dunlop wheels were also cast in resin before being shod with – you guessed – resin tyres. For my newer models I now have a lovely tyre master for a period Dunlop Aquajet.
I always flatten the bottoms of the tyres so that the car looks as if it has some weight. The wheels never go round.

The bonnet was next and I started with the kit part but it needed a lot of modifying to create the extra louvres the real car has, to improve the ‘mouth’ and to remove the chrome seam line on the outer edges of the wing tops. The bonnet was cut into three parts along the seam, cleaned up and then re-joined so that the seam line was real.

The E Type was beginning to look a bit more like a car now, with the rear differential, axles and suspension in place.

The wheels weren’t actually fitted permanently yet as they would be far too easy to knock accidentally, resulting in possibly catastrophic damage to the suspension parts.

The roadster roof and screens were vacuum formed from a wooden master. I have a friend with a very large vac forming machine who is more kind than anyone could imagine. My models would be seriously more difficult without his help.
Before the roof went on I had to add the substantial roll cage inside.
This was made by using an old electric guitar lead, removing the inner core of wires and feeding a length of brass wire inside.
That way, lengths of the cable could be gut and bent to shape easily and fitted into the model. The end result was very effective.

Next came the front screen and side windows. All of the window rubbers are made from very thin real rubber sheet, cut into thin strips and individually fitted, The surrounds and extras were then added and finally the roof was screwed into place while continually checking that the doors would open and shut properly without fouling anywhere.

The decals were all printed by me and added, small lights, tail lights etc were fitted with tiny rubber backing sheets added. Even the boot lid bungee works. It is made from a small piece of black woven elastic from a clothing shop label with wire hooks made and fitted to each end.

It was a great, fun project and is probably the most intricate model I have made in terms of trying to capture the feel of the real thing.

Once the model was finished the owner of the real car wanted to see it as so far, he had only seen various pictures I had emailed to him at his request.

I took the car to his office and he spent about 15 minutes on his knees staring into every little nook and cranny, even calling his secretary and other assistants to come and have a look.
He would not let me take the model home…

However, 1/8 scale cars are pretty huge, especially once inside a display case. As I have around a dozen such cars in my ‘cubby hole’ as my wife calls it, there really isn’t room to keep them all so although I was sad to see 9023 DU go, I’m pleased to know that it has three of my other models to keep it company. Yes, the E Type was the fourth that he has had from me.

But, model making is still for me a hobby and when one is finished it’s time to start on the next. Currently on the go are a pair of C Type Jaguars – a green one for the owner of RKX 991 (he saw my models in the office of the E Type owner and immediately wanted one of his own car) and the other, the blue Ecurie Ecosse car LFS 672 for myself.

Scratch building a model isn’t really the black art people imagine. Any fairly experienced model maker will have probably scratch made various bits for their models at some time. The next step – doing all of it – is just a leap of faith. If you’re tempted, give it a go. Research and reference is essential though. No matter how many pictures you find there will always be some part you can’t quite see properly. Luckily these days we have the internet and good old Google images readily to hand.

Also, it’s surprising how helpful the actual car manufacturers will be. With my Knobbly Lister, the factory provided me with 3D CAD data to get a master body shell 3D printed that I could then use as a buck for vacuum forming a 1.5mm thick body to actually work with. They even invited me to the factory and gave me a free run of the place with my camera, notebook and tape measure so that I could get reference from the seven or eight cars there, all in different stages of build. The MD himself even made me a coffee!
After that, take your time. You can frequently use parts of similar model kits as a basis for your own but they usually need at least some modification or alteration to get them how you want.

It’s all about taking your time, and being prepared to bin numerous attempts at pieces, or breaking down something you have just spent ages on, because it isn’t really quite right. You can’t pretend something is ok when you know it really isn’t. It will just bug the life out of you. Go back and fix it.

To begin with, why not just take a basic E Type model kit – there are lots out there at different scales and many are quite inexpensive – and just try altering it a bit so that it’s YOUR version of the car. You’ll soon find the hobby very addictive. If you need help or advice my email address is at the end.

Who knows 'next'?
Perhaps something completely different, like another Aston Martin or early Ferrari.
Hmmm… that Maserati Birdcage looks like it might be fun…
roymattblack attached the following image(s):
#2 Posted : 01 September 2019 22:48:51

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Another stunning build Roy


#3 Posted : 02 September 2019 07:20:05

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Stunning build Roy, you certainly do know your Jags.Love Drool

#4 Posted : 02 September 2019 23:09:53

Rank: Super-Elite

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BigGrin Another great build Roy and just shows what can be achieved if you put your mind to itCool
Current builds:-C57,Zero, Lamborghini Countach, Caldercraft HMS Agamemnon,Robi,R2-D2, MFH Cobra .

#5 Posted : 04 September 2019 10:01:10

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Great work there Roy. Also a very interesting write-up that you've provided. I must say that scratch building at the level you show is something that I can only dream of doing.
Cheers Malc.
#6 Posted : 06 September 2019 04:25:40

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Awesome, Roy!!! I admire your passion for both Jaguar and modeling it. Great write up - keep up the great work!
Kit builder fanatic!
Awaiting arrival: Jaguar E-Type and Suzuki GSX 1300R Hayabusa
Received: Lamborghini Countach 500S - build in progress; Shelby Mustang GT-500 build on hold need Pack 9
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