Not long after my recent column on Lee Pratt’s wonderful custom ’58 Impala and ’50 Ford, I received an email all the way from Melbourne, Australia, from Bryce Michelmore including his rendition in 1/25 scale of Lee’s Impala, the Cad-powered ’33 coupe Lee built for Mike Young (TRJ #72 cover), and a couple others. Being, as you probably know, an avid hot rod and custom car model builder since my pre-teen days, I was stunned by the simple excellence and good taste of Bryce’s examples (including his photography).
The Impala pretty much speaks for itself. It is modified almost exactly like Lee’s, other than the sculptured white interior (near impossible to do in a model), and the roof. Bryce says he hasn’t found a way to do 1/25 lace painting yet, so he used thinned nail polish in an air brush for the candy red top with scallops. The ’33 “was built from a chopped AMT kit with lots of modifications to make it look better, including a widened frame and relocated front axle and grille. The engine is the Caddy from the Revell Merc with scratch built twin carb manifold.”
The ’65 Pontiac Grand Prix needs little explanation, but of the ’36 roadster, he says “If you know models, you know why this is special. It was built from an AMT kit. The fenders have been stretched forward of the running boards, and I scratch built the top [from styrene]. There were a stack of other mods to make an old kit look better. Anyone who has built it knows the pain of that hood fitment.”
I say anyone who builds models should already be impressed. So, first I asked Bryce if he could send me more of these excellent models/photos, which he obviously did, and then after I calmed down, I asked him to tell me a bit about himself.
Briefly, Bryce is a 44-yr. old family guy (two teens) who works in advertising (on the creative side). He says he comes from a family of “petrol heads,” and his father has had many old “yank tanks” including a ’59 Pontiac Bonneville. Of course Bryce started building models as a kid and as a teen discovered Scale Auto Enthusiast magazine and aftermarket parts. When I noted that many of his models are shown with hoods shut, he replied “Most of my models have engines, but I tend to put more effort into detailing the hoodless ones, because that’s what people see and I can enjoy on my shelf. In general, I tend to concentrate more on achieving ‘a look’ and spend a lot of time sweating small details that enhance the overall appearance, i.e., body shape, stance, wheel position, parts fit. These are more important than super-detailing and opening parts.”Using this mild custom ’57 Ford as an example, Bryce says he likes to use auto touch-up spray cans (lacquer) for paint, or even regular spray cans. But he will also use nail polish in his air brush for candies and pearls, often mixing custom colors, such as on this car. He also makes side trim, and other details, out of styrene strips, covered with Bare Metal foil. He says he prefers swapping parts from other kits rather than using aftermarket parts, plus he resin-casts some of his own parts, such as wheels and tires, making larger or smaller ones as needed. But since he sent plenty of good photos of great examples, let’s let them speak for themselves:
The tasty ’57 Plymouth is obviously in the Larry Watson style (“a la Terry Holloway car”). He made the side trim, the Lancer caps are from the ’58 Impala kit, pipes from a Revell Merc. On the other hand the ’55 Pontiac was commissioned by an owner to replicate a local car, so Bryce used an aftermarket resin body for this, with chassis and interior from a Revell ’55 Chevy.
This hood-shut ’34 roadster, built from an AMT coupe kit, illustrates Bryce’s approach “to make a pretty crappy kit look decent.” He used the windshield and cowl from Monogram’s Little Deuce, as well as a scratch-built top, to make it a roadster. “The grille on the AMT kit sits too far forward, so I modified the front fenders to better replicate the real car. Same with the hood and rear fenders.” I like the ’34 headlights and (I assume) handmade bumpers.
Speaking of replicating cars and detailing engines, here’s what Bryce calls a “McGee Roadster tribute,” using a Revell Deuce Roadster kit and a resin-cast top. Even though it has a hood, the well-detailed flatty has scratch-built twin carbs and hi-rise manifold, and plenty of wires, hard lines, linkage, and V-belt. I especially like the radiator hoses and clamps.Bryce says he adds louvers by cutting them out of other kits in strips, then molding them into the body. Before you write in, I know the trunk cut-line on McGee’s car was below the taillights…and Bryce probably does too.
Bryce used an old AMT ’37 Chevy Gasser kit to build this ’40s era tail-dragger custom “in the style of Keith Goettlich’s as featured in TRJ.” Note the hand-made side chrome. I don’t know how he made the single-bar flippers. And I’m showing the rear view mainly for the nicely recessed license plate.
And there are plenty of hot rods. Bryce freely admits he likes wide whitewalls. But his “parts bin” channeled roadster with an ArDun mill (’50 Ford truck kit) and decal flames is definitely ’50s-style (note tall skull gearshift), while the orange sedan with white roof and ‘boards, bobbed rear fenders, nerf bars, hood louvers, and especially wheelcovers over red wheels says early ’60s to me. On the other hand, the chopped A on Deuce rails with blackwalls and blown Olds is obviously a current rendition of ’50s style a la Hilton Hot Rods. And the “blued” headers using brushed-on candy colors is a little-seen touch of realism I learned as a kid. Love it.
Bryce obviously likes Deuces, and here’s your three basic styles. The excellent purple, mildly chopped, full-fendered ’50s version is “in the style of Don Van Hoff.” The unchopped but channeled one with a Chrysler Hemi is East Coast style (but note Aussie right-hand steering). While the chopped hiboy sedan with black top, tucked black-on-black wheels/tires, minimal chrome, dropped headlight bar, and modern air cleaner is today’s “early style.” Plenty of engine detailing seen here.
While Bryce states “I tend toward traditional hot rods and customs from the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s,” he also admits he has “Idolized the Vern Luce coupe since I was a young boy ogling it in Hot Rod Show World yearbooks.” He based this on Monogram’s 1/24 ZZ Top Eliminator kit with running gear from the Monogram ’37 Ford coupe. Coincidentally, the real car’s in Australia now.
And naturally I’ve saved my personal favorites (though hard to choose in this case) for last. The Revell ’48 Ford came with the Carson top, but Bryce had to hand-form the fadeaway fenders and added ’54 Chevy rear quarters and frenched taillights while he was at it. Check the tiny skirts.
Lots of you have responded positively to model car columns I’ve done so far, and have loudly asked for more. I hope you find this one fully satisfying. Bryce says he has a Facebook network where he finds and trades parts, plus he has his own Facebook page–Michelmore Rod & Kustom--where he says you can follow works-in-progress. Ah, our shrinking world. Better yet, as I pointed out last time we talked models, it’s a perfect pastime for quarantined car people–socially distanced far or way farther. I’ve got future column topics stacked up like Jimmy Kimmel’s cord wood. But if you want that to include more of these miniature styrene wonders, just let me know. Meanwhile mask up. Please.