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Accurate Miniatures McLaren M8B

From 1966 to 1974, the Can-Am Challenge racing series' wide-open rule book produced some of the most exciting and innovative race cars ever. Bruce McLaren's M8B is a perfect examples of the breed. Powered by seven-liter fuel-injected Chevrolet V8s, the 1,500-lb. car had almost 700 hp available. Can-Am cars were extremely fast - and extremely loud. Having seen them race at Sebring and Road America, it's hard to believe my ears aren't still ringing!

A glance at the individually bagged white-styrene parts in Accurate Miniatures' kit gives the impression that every part from the full-size car is represented. Included are two sprues of flexible vinyl parts - one silver, one black - to model the car's ignition wiring and plumbing. Fabric seat-belt material is included for the five-point belts, and plastic buckles are included. A rubber-like seat cushion comes on the sprue with the car's tires. The car's tiny brake lights get their own translucent-red sprue, but no chromed or photoetched parts are provided.

My kit was one of the first ones produced and arrived before the boxes had been printed. Although most of the parts were well molded, several were marred by pronounced sinkholes. Some, like those on the bottom of the car's tub (part No. A17) and engine plate/rear bulkhead (D58), will be difficult to fix without removing surrounding detail in the process. Some of the cylindrical parts, like the starter (B33) and fire bottle (E83), are hourglass-shaped.

The instruction book - and I mean book - is a staggering 40 pages long. Line drawings and written instructions lead the builder through the model step-by-step, and following the instructions to the letter is essential with a kit this complicated. Check boxes are thoughtfully provided to help you keep track of your progress.

Although they're not perfect, two things about the instructions really impressed me. First, painting instructions are included with each step for every part used. Second, instead of simply identifying the parts by number, the instructions also identify each part by name. It's as though Accurate is explaining all of the full-size car's systems to you.

Construction begins with the engine. Everything fit together OK after a little trimming, sanding, and test fitting, with the exception of the exhaust headers. It's not clear where they should attach to the cylinder heads, and if you're a little bit off one way or another, they'll interfere with the rear suspension components that wrap around them in later steps. Mine were a little bit off, and as a result I couldn't add the rear coil/shock absorbers (B36) in step 3 because the pipes were in the way. Thankfully the omission isn't too noticeable in the jam-packed rear of the car.

The vinyl parts look good once they're in place, but were frustrating to clean up and install. Most of the parts had mold-separation lines running down each side, which I carefully shaved off with a new single-edge razor blade. Most of the hose ends were too large to fit into the holes in the plastic parts. I had to open up the holes with a round file and trim the ends of the vinyl parts before I could install them with super glue. The instructions recommend that you leave the vinyl parts unpainted, and although the black parts look good right off the tree, I wish I had painted the silver ones before installing them. I used clear red and blue acrylic paint to simulate anodized fittings at the hose ends.

I painted the tub's natural-metal surfaces with Floquil Old Silver. It's extremely durable, and I knew I'd be handling the model a lot during construction. I added the rear bulkhead and engine to the chassis and discovered that the hoses running to the radiator in the car's nose interfered with the removable seat back/accessory cover (B40). I ended up trimming off some of the vinyl parts and gluing the cover in place. I also decided to omit the out-of-scale operating hinges for the doors. I left them loose so I could display the model with all the bodywork off.

The biggest frustration came when I tried to add the rear body over the completed engine. I test fitted all of the bodywork to the chassis several times during construction, and everything fit nicely until I added the transaxle oil cooler (D69) in step 21. It sits too high, and keeps the rear body from sitting properly. Remedying the problem will take delicate work. Luckily the car looks OK with the body off.

The tires are molded with recessed Goodyear logos. Using a fine brush, I filled them with Tamiya flat white acrylic paint (XF-2) and removed any excess with a damp cotton swab.

I painted the body with MCW Automotive Finishes' McLaren orange lacquer (No. 2070) after first applying a coat of MCW's light gray lacquer primer (No. 1004) to protect the plastic. This was my first try at a lacquer finish, and I couldn't be happier with the results. The paint dried unbelievably quickly and polished out beautifully with MCW's Buff-Ez (No. 1015) and Novus No. 2 plastic polish.

Pete Lyons' book Can-Am was a helpful reference, but the Scale Auto Enthusiast crew down the hall provided me with Tom Hiett's excellent color photos of the M8B that Accurate Miniatures used to design its kit. The photos will appear in the March 1999 SAE as a Pit Pass feature, and I highly recommend using them.

The photos bring up an interesting point. None of the original three M8Bs exists in its original form - the car Accurate Miniatures measured was constructed from spare McLaren parts. The kit looks good when compared to photos of the new car, but I wonder how close it is to the original.

Markings are provided for both of the McLaren works cars; I decided to model Bruce McLaren's No. 4 car. The decals went on well with a little Micro Sol, and the white portions were sufficiently opaque over the orange body work. Compared to my reference photos, however, the blue in the markings may be a little too light.

I worked on my McLaren for more than 50 hours. With all of its niggling fit problems, this was a trying model. I recommend it only to experienced builders with plenty of patience.

- Matthew Usher
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