Wheel Works

After completing Issue 15, a couple of things bothered me about the look of the wheels for my 1:8 scale Back to the Future DeLorean model: the color of the wheels and the lettering on the tires. This is how I tried to improve them.

The Wheel Color

The Hubcaps supplied with the model have some kind of weird chrome plating on them. However, on a real DeLorean, the wheels were actually cast alloy with a silver paint. Therefore, I wanted to correct this. I removed all four wheels and disassembled them. I also removed the little black plastic valve stems by pushing them out from behind with a paper clip. I then airbrushed the Hubcaps with Tamiya X-32 Titanium Silver acrylic paint. This was a quick mod, but resulted in a much closer representation to the real car:

The Sidewall Lettering

The stock representation of Goodyear font, ‘winged foot’ logo, and location on the tires was not quite right. Thankfully, once again, Mike Lane comes to our rescue! His superb Tyre Transfer Kit fixes this exact problem. The following steps are how I installed his kit.

Starting out, this is what the stock wheels/tires looked like while my Hubcap paint was drying:

Next, I used the supplied Tyre Print Removal Wipes to rub off the existing lettering from the outside of each tire. Only the outside of the tire will get Mike’s new lettering, but the inside of the tires from the films also had no lettering so you can remove both sides if you so choose. After wiping them with a clean, damp cloth to remove any residue, we are left with nice blank tires free of lint or dust:

I then put the wheels back together with my newly painted Hubcaps (a great improvement I think). The wheels need to be fully assembled so I could align the new decals:

Starting with the front wheels (the narrower tread and smaller rim), I used the Mike’s transfers marked ‘F’ for front. After cutting the transfer out, I clear taped it in place using the black lines of the transfer to align to the Hubcap. Based on the location of the wheel nuts in the rim, I chose to align the ‘Goodyear’ top decal opposite the valve stem:

Next, using a soft lead pencil, I rubbed the new lettering into place. I made sure to press firmly and cover the entire white graphic completely. I also tried to not rub the black alignment decal at all (it will stick to the Hubcap):

I repeated this process for the ‘Eagle GT’ decal on the opposite side of the tire:

Finally, I carefully removed the tape/backing paper and pressed lightly over the transfer with my finger to ensure it is fully adhered. Unfortunately, I didn’t pay close enough attention here and you can see I missed a little bit of the ‘G’ in Goodyear. Be sure that the entire decal is transferred before removing the backing! In my case, after this article was written, I fixed this by placing the backing again, and going over it once more with the pencil.

The photo below shows a comparison between the original lettering (left) and the new lettering (right). Mike’s wipes also remove the weird semi-gloss finish from the tire for a more natural look. What a difference!

This process is then repeated for the other three tires, using the transfers marked ‘R’ for the wider rears. Mike includes one extra front and rear decal as spares and a separate front set for the spare tire which comes in Issue 110:

I am extremely happy with the outcome and how this small change improved the look of my model. For anyone who wishes to do the same, be sure to handle the tires with care as this new lettering can be delicate and possibly damaged. See my Mike Lane page for more information!

9 thoughts on “Wheel Works”

  1. Hello! I’m trying to airbrush the same paint on my rims, but getting poor results. What ratio did you use thinner to paint for your result? Did you use regular acrylic thinner?

    1. I use 91% isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol to thin my acrylic paints. You can get it pretty much at any grocery store. I start with a few drops of alcohol in the airbrush bucket, then add a few drops of paint (50/50 to start). Then, I add alcohol (to thin it) or paint (to thicken it) drop by drop until it is the thickness of 2% milk and the bucket has enough in it to cover the job. Probably a strange way I am sure, but how I learned to do it and it works for me. When you spray, if it spatters, it is too thick (or the air pressure is too low), if it runs or blasts everywhere like a starburst, it is too thin (or the air pressure is too high).

      1. Thanks! At first it was too thick, second time too thin I guess. Using the Grix at about 18-20 psi, not sure if that’s ok with the Metallics, been fine with regular acrylics. I think I’ll start to strip what I did with the windex soak method, and experiment and practice some before trying again. I’m in a dreaded wait with Eaglemoss right now at issue 46 🙁

  2. I don’t see where you say you primed the wheels? Is that necessary?
    For thinning, I use a 2:1 ratio. 10 drops of Tamiya Thinner to 20 drops of paint. I also use a couple of drops of Vallejo Airbrush Improver. I normally don’t mix brands, but Tamiya doe snot make an Improver. Adding this gives a nice thin coat and it helps keep the needle and gun clean

  3. I did not prime the wheels as I wanted to keep as much detail as possible. The paint stuck to the chrome just fine.

  4. Hi, do you think i can brush paint this and all the other paint job, since i dont use airbrush, or it will give good results?
    Thank you!

    1. Depends on the specific paint (metallics need more thinning). I try to aim to have the paint in the cup be the consistency of skim milk. ‘Creamy’ but not ‘watery’.

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