This is documentation of an attempt to convert a Barbie doll sportster into a Kubelwagen, or German version of a jeep. A "Klaus Barbi Wagen", ha ha ha. It's my first attempt to build in styrene, and I've never built anything this big before! I say "approximation" because it's really not very accurate-- it's too short, for one thing. I was lazy, and didn't want to cut the chassis to extend it. Besides, it's already pretty big.

The first question is "why convert instead of scratch build?" Again, laziness. Even though you could rustle up all the parts for the chassis without too much trouble, it was still easier & faster to go with something that already had a chassis, wheels & tires. In this spirit, I'm eyeballing everything; making no precise measurements. Sounds weird, but I just wanna hurry through this one so I can work on something else!

The first step was to get reference material... what better reference material than a 1/35 scale model? If I were more of a careful technician, I'd have transcribed measurements. However, since the body needs to be fitted to the existing chassis, I decided to eyeball, using the axle distance as the fixed reference points. This determined where the wheelwells would be. The main body panel was then sketched on a thick piece of styrene (a "for sale" sign) and cut out. To get a mirror image, I spray painted around the edges, using the cut piece as a mask. I figured that this would give me the best "tracing" of the panel.

9/20/97-- The other panels were cut and test-fitted. The most difficult part was getting the taper in the front. The chassis had to be shaved to accommodate the taper. Really, this tapering should begin from the door at the center of the chassis. I had to cheat because I was concerned about how the driver's feet were going to fit-- Things were already pretty tight in there.

The panel scriber has been an indispensible tool in this project. Instead of cutting with a saw or Dremel mototool, you just scribe the lines and snap the plastic. Styrene is sooo easy to sand, and glues really well with Zap-A-Gap and Tenax 7R ("Space Age Plastic Welder"--oooooo!).

The panels were then glued together, and fastened to the chassis with four screws along the bottom rim. It was necessary to reinforce the plastic panels in some spots with brass tubing: Large sheets of styrene have a tendency to bend. The wheelwell covers at first were trouble-- I tried heating one to create a curve, and it warped unpleasantly. I ended up gluing the second one down (in the front) without attempting to get this curve, and the tension that was created distorted the shape. By the time I got to the back covers, I realized that the plastic could just be pre-bent without heat. Bent just short of breaking, this would help relieve the distortion-causing tension. They still need to be shaped at the edges; perhaps adding a ribbon of epoxy putty and sanding it to the proper contour.

Another problem was in adjusting the wheelbase-- It needed to be widened. I was able to do this with the back, but not the front because of the way the wheels were attached. I liked the steering mechanism, so I didn't want to mess with it.

9/21/97-- The windshield frame (no "glass" yet), is mounted on brass hinges. They were made of brass tubes which happened to fit into each other very snugly. A too-wide tire is mounted on the hood and needs to be trimmed down. The exaggerated hump on the hood came from the battery compartment cover. It looks pretty crummy, but I'm hoping that once it's painted, it won't look as bad. Additional detailing with strip styrene was added to the sides, rear & deck area. An observation-- there's a lot of "exaggeration" here; it's not intentional, but just the way things work out. Sometimes I notice it as I'm doing it and let it slide. Other times, I notice it after it's too late. Again-- this is just a toy...

9/22/97-- The most obvious way to make the irregularly-shaped details was to use clay. I'd rather use scavenged objects if possible-- they're more refined since someone spent hours, maybe days working on them. Unfortunately, sometimes you just can't find that perfect kit-bash part. That's a big difference between creating something original & re-creating a real design. So here I am, creating parts in clay whose function I haven't a clue about! The headlights are a little irregular-- I considered making castings but since I only needed two, it was much faster & easier just to do them in clay. Thankfully, the door handles were easy to make out of Evergreen styrene.

The level of detail in the 1:35 model is pretty good, yet it doesn't show enough detail for certain things, which keeps me guessing. I haven't seen a Karman Ghia in a long time, and I'm really curious about the convertible tarp's extension mechanism.

9/23/97-- I love my airbrush. Why? Because it's new. Because I haven't screwed it up yet. I gave my old one away, and turns out I had the wrong needle in the wrong nozzle. So much for being competent :) .

Notice the Barbie wheel covers? I couldn't wait to finish this thing... it was done enough to paint, so I did. If it needs to be repainted, it's no big deal since painting camouflage is about as difficult as opening a beer.

I've gotta confess-- the final pictures were digitally touched up to remove the extra background garbage. That's the problem with really big stuff-- you've got to have tons of space to photograph it. The best I could do was to pad the ground with grocery bags and shoot with a lot of light, to wash out the seams. I didn't have enough bags to pad the entire background, so that's why I had to resort to the digital trickery. It makes me feel so cheap...

Last modified: Saturday, January 6, 2001 6:20 PM