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Type 82E Volkwagen Spider Kitbash

A product of a very disturbed mind
Images and text Copyright © 2012 by Matt Swan


       I was doing some internet research on spiders when I came across this rather interesting image of a full sized Volkwagen Beetle sculpted to resemble a spider. My first reaction was that it couldn’t be a spider because it only had six legs and, as everyone knows, spiders have eight legs but the idea was pretty cool. And, as it turned out, was not completely original. I found at least four more similar pieces of contemporary artwork of similar design, some with six legs and some with eight but all in the same general flavor. Regardless of the sculptors accuracy the subject had started my creative juices flowing and I felt that not only could I model this but I could make it better. What if I were to build this in scale form with all eight legs and were to light it up with LEDs and fiber optics and mount it on a diorama base? What would that look like? I’m getting ahead of myself though; I really need to find a starting place.
       To begin I considered a couple VW Beetle model kits as starting points. I found one in 1/32 and a couple in 1/24 scale plus one from Tamiya in 1/48 scale. I had to consider each of these as potential donor kits. 1/32 fit in well with most of my armor kits but that collection was really quite small in proportion to the rest of the collection. It would be easy to work with as far as installing electronics but the tubing needed for the legs would have to be large. The 1/24 kit had the same benefits plus the need for even larger leg material. The 1/48 kit had minimal leg requirements but would provide little room for electronic conversion. Looking in my parts box I did find some very small, 1.8mm red LEDs that would be perfect at this scale for headlights and appropriate sized fiber optic material. Add this to the fact that the majority of my collection of models was in 1/48 and I had a winner.
       The build shall begin with the Tamiya 1/48 scale type 82E German Staff Car – the original incarnation of the fabled Volkwagen Beetle. I will use a nine volt battery for my power supply and lodge that in a small wooden box which will act as my diorama base. Headlights will be two water clear super bright 1.8mm red LEDs. I want to light up the tail lights and add a red glow to the cabin. To accomplish both objectives I’ll use a 3mm super bright red LED mounted in the front boot. The model does not have a wall between the cabin and the front boot which works out well for me. I did a little conversion work to the 3mm LED by shaving the domed head flat then drilling two small holes into it. Into each hole I dropped a little Future then inserted a fiber optic strand and sealed the deal with a drop of superglue. I set the glue with accelerator so no fogging would occur. I left the fiber optics long so they could be cut to length near the end of the project. Now the 3mm LED provides for the tail lights and emits a warm red glow into the main cabin.
       After a couple evenings playing with this the electronics package is basically set and the car chassis is about ready for paint. My initial thought on the legs was to use brass tubing cut in my miter box and soldered together. While shopping for supplies at the local hobby shop I found aluminum tubing that looked cool so bought that and started cutting a sample leg. This is when I realized that I did not have the proper flux or solder to put these together. Rather than stock all the materials for aluminum soldering which I have very little call to do I will make a return trip to the LHS for brass tubing which I have all the necessary soldering materials for, should have gone with my first instincts instead of getting fancy.
       I drilled out the tail light fixtures with a small bit to match the fiber optics. The headlight shells were drilled out then the openings were enlarged with a round file until the 1.8mm LED fit nicely into it from the inside. Now the fiber optic strands are run along the sides of the floor and the LED is superglued to the floor of the boot area. The fine magnet wire that provides my series power to the headlights is carefully bent around the wheel wells and the headlights are test fit. I had to make a couple pieces from flat stock to blank off the tops of the front wheel wells to stop light bleed. I will apply a large drop of liquid mask to the top of the 3mm LED prior to painting which will also help me direct where the light shines and where it does not. The interior is going to be painted a uniform dark gunship gray with the only color defined areas being the instrument panel, the steering wheel, the gear shift knob and the driver. I’ll be relying heavily on shadows created by the interior light to provide detail definition inside.


       I wanted to do something weird with the driver as well. I started with the kit figure and lopped off his head. Next I found an old Hero Click figure of my sons of a skeletal warrior and said "off with his head!" With a maniacal laugh and some random spittle from my lips the skeleton head was attached to the kit driver body. The electronics harness is fitted to the chassis and the body is placed over it all. A few globs of superglue followed by accelerator fix the LEDs in place and the fiber optics are fed through the tail lights. I intentionally keep these long meaning to clip them off after all painting is complete. The dried superglue is brush painted with some flat black to prevent light leakage into the fender wells and we are ready to think about some legs. All the power lines will run through the left front leg so it is built and attached first followed by the other three outside corner legs. Oops, I am getting ahead of myself here. I need a base so .....
       My base is a pretty simple creation of Sculpti-Putty tinted with artists acrylics. Before making my mound of putty I tightly wrapped a 9 volt battery and placed it on my work board. Now the putty is formed overtop this and mashed into shape. After it has had a couple days to dry the model is carefully placed on it and the three outside corner legs mentioned a few moments ago are superglued in place. Now my big ugly bug stands properly on the base. The remaining legs are put together and attached to the body. Final details like some stretched sprue fangs, light lenses and railroad grass are added to flesh things out. With my Dremel I opened a hole on the back side of the base to accept a small toggle switch and wires were run under the base to connect to the battery and resistor. Oh, remember that wrapped battery? It quite easily is popped out of the base now and it connected to the system before being popped back in place.


You may click on these small images to view larger pictures


       It's late at night in the West Virginia back woods where you set up camp, the clouds have been rolling in for some time now and a storm seems imminent. The moon, while full and bright when you pitched your tent is now obscured and the night is black as sin. The wind dies down just as a rumble of thunder comes in from the distance and all is quiet except for a barely discernible skittering sound, your not even sure you heard something but curiosity wins out and you step from the tent to look into the blackness where you see a set of large red orbs glowing ....

"What the hell is that?" you think as your eyes adjust to the dark and just as you being to make out this large spindly shape

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a blaze of lightning across the roiling clouds above clearly illuminates your doom

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Yes laddies, its dinner time and guess who is on the menu? Seems those crazy hillbilly stories of a giant spider beetle were true but too late to think about that now cause you just did an oil change in your pants.





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