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AutoArt Nismo R34 Z-tune

I have been off the 1/18 scale die-cast scene for quite some years now, but when I came across this AutoArt R34 that needed a full respray, I couldn't say no! The spray was still original, however for some reason, it started to blister in several different places, mainly the rear mudguards. Its previous owner was successfully pushing the blisters back down, but when a large blister showed up on the front mudguard, he decided to get a replacement. Then somehow, this Z-tune ended up on my desk!

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This is how I took delivery of the Z-tune, still neatly packed inside the original AutoArt box

Removing the box, I started inspecting for the damages. It has a nice shade of silver, but obviously this has to go!

This is the first noted damage: blisters on the rear mudguard. I was told that this is caused by low quality die-cast material

More blisters could also be noted on the other rear mudguard, and a couple little ones on the roof too

This, on the front right mudguard, was the worst blister of all. The previous owner had tried to flatten it but it was too large and ended up removing all the paint of the actual blister, as can be seen above! 

Another problem noted was the hood not sitting properly due to a damaged strut, so that's another thing to correct later on!

One other challenge I had before removing paint, was to carefully remove the original badges and try to save as much possible

The R34 was then taken completely apart to get it ready for the paint remover! I was impressed by the amount of parts it has!

Next, the body was covered with paint remover and in a few minutes the body ended up as seen above!

The other body parts were also covered with paint remover and within a few minutes were ready to take off the old paint

All the remaining plastic parts were inserted inside the isopropyl alcohol for a few hours and all the paint was removed too

All the panels were then cleaned and smoothed using 320-grit sand paper and everything prepared for the first primer layer

One of the rear wheel arch extensions was damaged during removal (due to the mysterious super hard glue AA uses!!) so I had to sculpt a new piece out of styrene and putty. The new part can be seen in the picture above on the right edge 

While talking to another modeller who specializes in die-cast customizations, he suggested using Zinc Primer for the metal parts to avoid the bubbles from re-occurring. So I'll be using the primer seen above, which will be de-canted and airbrushed

All the metal body parts were then airbrushed using the Zinc primer

While the remaining plastic body parts were airbrushed using an automotive 2K primer

Next step was the black primer where all the body parts were airbrushed in the ZP-3019

While waiting for the body paint to arrive, I decided to lower the R34. These 2 pictures below show the original AA ride height

Each corner had a different ride height. So every gap was measured and noted prior to start working on lowering the R34

This is how I lowered the front! I took out the front wheel assembly and cut off the required drop measurement from the top part of the cylinder seen above. This will make the assembly sit at a higher position, giving me the required drop!

This however made the wheel move vertically once the car was lifted, so I used the piece I had cut earlier together with a piece of styrene and attached them on the other side of the cylinder. This closed the gap that was left earlier due to the cutting

I was now satisfied with the drop, however the tires were touching with the inner arches, making them static. So I marked exactly where the tires were touching and prepared for some serious grinding to eliminate this new problem!

Using a rotary tool together with the grinding accessory seen above, I began smoothing down the inner arches as seen above

Once both arches were sanded enough and both front wheels rotated and turned without touching the inner arches, I replaced the grinding accessory with a sanding one and smoothed the arches for a cleaner finish, ready for a new coat of zinc primer

All that remained at this stage was to attach the body to the chassis and check out the new lowered ride height at the front

Then it was time to start working on the rear set-up. First thing I did was to take the differential and all the wheel assembly out

Then I examined what could be done and decided that the best option was to cut the wheel hub out from the assembly, as seen above marked with the arrow. It's definitely not the best procedure to lower an AutoArt, but that's the route I chose!

Separating the wheel hub from the control arm gave me the flexibility to attach the hub at a higher position. It was a delicate process since once you do the cut, the wheel becomes very loose and needs lots of patience to attach at a higher position! First thing I did was to re-attach the rear wheel assembly to the chassis, which was already attached to the body. Then, I inserted a piece of styrene (red arrow) between the tire and arch to produce the desired new ride height. This gave me the exact gap I needed to fill, between the hub and arm (yellow arrow). This shows how much lowering was needed on the back

Final picture shows the gap filled with 3 layers of styrene pieces attached on top of each other (yellow arrows). The picture was taken while waiting for the glue to dry and the styrene is still raw. These will be sanded neatly in place and airbrushed black

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All that remained was to attach the body and check out the new ride height! All wheels still rotate freely and the fronts turn too! Please note that the rear wheels are in line with the body because of the rear over fenders still need to be attached

It was then time to start airbrushing the colour coat. Before I do that, I decided to attach all the body parts together. I did this to be sure that all panels receive the same amount of paint layers. It will be dismantled again for the clear

Everything was then airbrushed in Gravity Colors Midnight Purple 2 (LV4) and followed with 2 mist coats of 2K clear. Once dry, all the panels were slightly sanded with 2000-grit to remove orange peel. Then, the spoiler beneath the front bumper together with the B-pillars were covered with carbon fibre decals. Following this, I also attached 2 Nismo logos to the pillars

Once all decals fully dried, I took out the 2K clear again and airbrushed all body parts with 3 wet coats! As I mentioned earlier, all body panels were once again separated for this process. This was done so that all inner panels could be cleared well

While waiting for the 2K clear to fully harden and begin polishing, I turned my attention to the chassis to detail it further. Seen above is the stock chassis that AA provides. It's very plain and there are several areas that can be improved!

The rear wheels and differential were already removed due to the lowering I performed earlier, so first thing to do was to add some weathering to make the details pop out! I added a wash using Tamiya smoke to all silver parts, mainly the gearbox

Several parts were noted to have a considerable amount of mould marks, which was making them quite unrealistic. The most notable of this was the exhaust, as can be seen above, which had a mould mark along the whole lenght on both sides

These marks were sanded and the parts concerned were either painted or fully airbrushed once again, like the exhaust above. This was first airbrushed in black primer, then in gloss black and finally in a variety of colours including aluminium and chrome

Finally everything was put back together and the undercarriage called done, as can be seen above! Looks more realistic to me!

All body pieces were then polished using the procedure shown in the tutorials section, with the buffer & automotive compounds

The body was then fully masked so that I could airbrush the window trims and the boot inner side in satin black

And that's the result once all the tape was removed! Since the body colour is dark the black isn't very visible, but in reality it is!

Final modification I did before putting everything back together, was tinting the rear windows using Tamiya X-19 smoke

All that remained was to put everything back together and call the AA R34 done

In Oct. 2016, it was entered for a local competition in the die-cast section where the Z-tune won a Gold Medal and Best-in-Class. The picture below was taken by our Club President, Ramon Borg, and shows the R34 on the exhibition table as it was displayed for the competition.

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