“Nobody is bored when he is trying to make something that is beautiful, or to discover something that is true.”
~William Ralph Inge~
During the interminable and mundane weeks of the Formula One winter break, when all the manufacturers are paying their engineers and designers overtime in the hope of obtaining another tenth of a second over their competitors, the diehard fans are anxiously awaiting any snippet of news pertaining to the upcoming season. Even the rumours of yet more internal spats within the Ferrari conglomerate are read as if they were a long awaited sequel of a favourite novel.
Over the past couple of years I have had several hobbies to fill in the gaps between seasons. When I first became enthralled by Formula One I read every book I could source on the subject, anxious to fill in my huge holes in historical lore. I then enthusiastically mastered the track layouts by playing F1 2012 with my teenage son. This resulted in an improved, though still limited, understanding of the thrill of attempting to fly through Eau Rouge without lifting off the throttle, and the amount of steering lock required to manoeuvre the car around the hairpin at Monaco.
It was while exploring the toy shops searching for Christmas presents for my children, trying to find something creative that might drag them off their respective computers for an hour or two, that I saw a Ferrari F1-89 model kit. I had attempted over the years to interest my teenage son in model making, with little success. Suddenly I then had an idea – maybe I could construct it myself.
It was the only Formula One car available, so I was fortunate that it was so stunning. It was a John Barnard design with a sleek, ebony front wing, a faint forerunner of the complex wings seen today. The scarlet chassis had exquisite bulging side pods to house the radiators with maximum aerodynamic efficiency. Nigel Mansell drove it to victory in its first race at the 1989 Brazilian Grand Prix. Unfortunately, although the car was extraordinarily fast, it was also profoundly unreliable – it either finished on the podium or didn’t’ finish at all. Mansell came 4th in the championship despite the car only finishing 6 races!
Since I started following F1 I have been more captivated by the cars themselves, and their respective designers, than the drivers. Maybe subconsciously I am echoing Enzo Ferrari’s mantra that the cars win races, but the drivers loose them. I love reading about the designers, especially of the days gone by when aero was of minimal importance, and just having the idea of putting a wing on a car in the first place was a monumental leap forward.
I have been moderately crafty in the past – able to knit cardigans and booties for my babies, though living in the subtropics they got little wear, smock dresses for my daughters until they grew too old to appreciate my efforts and fashion costumes as required for gymnastics performances. With this in mind I had no doubt I was capable of constructing a F1 car model.
I brought home the box and eagerly opened it. A myriad of diminutive pieces of plastic, attached to plastic frames met my eyes. The first challenge was how to get the bits of plastic off the frame. I began by just twisting them until they came off. However, I was then left with little bits of plastic attached to my fragment of frame – how was I to get rid of them? I tried a knife with little success…I then sharpened said knife, but it still wasn’t as effective as my perfectionist side desired.
After perusing the instructions I also decided that I would need some paint…but perhaps not as many colours as were suggested. It was after all my first model and I didn’t really want to spend $60 on paint that might never be used again. Perfectionism can be taken too far and at the moment I was doing this for fun rather than expecting shop bought miniature quality. I purchased four of the most used colours along with a razor-sharp craft knife so I could at least trim my bits of plastic to the level of precision I desired, even if they were not all going to be painted the correct colour.
What astonished me first was the level of engineering I found in the model. I suppose I expected it to be more like a toy, a faint replica of the actual vehicle. The suspension was complex, but I was amazed at how easily it all fitted together – it was like it had all been designed by engineer! The parts of the engine were recognizable. As I was putting it together the whole design of the car amazed me.
And then I hit a snag…the rear suspension was attached to the brake disk and try as I might they wouldn’t fit on. I did what all true creative people do…leave it until the next day. Usually whatever is baffling one day is as clear as glass the next, and occasionally the problem is even solved in your dreams. Unfortunately this didn’t happen. Eventually I enlisted my husband’s help. He had built models previously and was more versed in the different techniques used to encourage errant pieces of plastic to behave. He gradually trimmed the end of the suspension and so managed to encourage the piece to slot in the place required.
The next challenge was painting the driver. Up until now I had only done minimal painting of the model and that was more for fun. I had splashed a bit of silver tint onto the engine to make it look more realistic, along with a few other bolts and attachments. I was more concerned that the driver did not look like a five year old had been allowed to paint it, but I was holding out little hope that this would be the case. I was also handicapped by my elderly eyes, not yet at the point of requiring spectacles for reading, but still not able to focus as clearly as they could a quarter of a century ago. The only solution was to take off my usual coke bottle glasses, and hold the figurine a couple of centimeters from my eyes, so I could see and focus on the minute area of seat-belt requiring black paint. I think that I will probably improve with practice…and at this point I definitely need more practice!
After the challenge of painting, it was more enjoyable to return to the construction of the various elements of the car’s chassis. It was then I discovered a challenge even greater than painting – decals! There were these numerous minute pieces of decoration to be soaked in water and then applied to the driver’s helmet. For some reason they preferred to stick to my fingers rather than the plastic, and it took a lot of encouragement for them to stay on the helmet. I then found out that I would need to wait for each one to dry before applying the next, otherwise I would move them all out of position. I do tend to have a reasonable amount of patience, but applying 8 different decals while waiting for each one to dry before applying the next definitely tried it.
After the final construction, involving the front and rear wings, was complete I was down to the last step in the process…more decals! This time however the process was more enjoyable. The decals were bigger and were being applied to the large, flat surface of the chassis. As they went on, one by one, the car started to become alive in front of my eyes. The number 27, prancing horses, sponsor’s names – each added to the feeling of realism until suddenly what was once a hundred tiny pieces of plastic now looked like it was the real deal, preparing to drive off my table…the engine rumbling and reverberating…as spectacular as in the clip below 🙂