Badge Engineering for Vehicular Variety

acptulsa Apr 22, 2017

  1. acptulsa

    acptulsa TrainBoard Member

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    I believe the term 'badge engineering' was coined by an auto journalist in the mid-1950s to describe how the Hudson Rambler came to be. When Hudson and Nash merged in 1954, Hudson instantly became the red-headed stepchild of the outfit. But the company wanted all its dealers to survive, so Hudson dealers were almost immediately given Ramblers to sell. Old George Romney (yes, Mitt's daddy), the guy who killed Hudson, actually considered Rambler something different and better than either Nash or Hudson, so he certainly wasn't going to spend a lot of money making Hudson's Rambler different from the Nash version. In fact, literally the only difference between the Ramblers sold by Nash and Hudson dealers were their Nash and Hudson emblems.

    But the Big Three had been engaging in a practice they called 'body sharing' since the 1920s. Oakland shared bodies with Chevrolets before it introduced the Pontiac brand which took it over. The bottom side of this black HO model proclaims itself to be an Alloy Forms 1950 Fleetline Deluxe. But any car buff can tell you it's a Silver Streak Pontiac, specifically a 1949 model. The postwar restyle for General Motors happened in 1949. Pontiacs and Chevrolets were the same size and the same shape. Pontiacs had different engines, nicer interiors, and more chrome. For 1950, only minor changes were made. A more thorough restyle happened in 1951.

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    Converting this common Chevrolet to a much more unique Pontiac was a pretty simple process. Most models of this type has the chrome spears and trim molded on. Invariably, they are unrealistically thick. If they weren't, they'd hardly show at all. The Chevy hardly had any, so it wasn't difficult to file it off. Model putty was used to decorate the lower grille bar with 'teeth' and a little spinner. The rear fenders were raised and peaked just a little, and made sharper. The model requires more cautious handling than it would if it were all metal. But none of it was difficult. The difficult part was painting on the large amounts of chrome trim that Pontiac slathered on the little Chevy body, in an effort to make it look like it was worth the extra money.

    Top of the line Pontiacs began sharing the larger Olds/Buick body in 1954, though this didn't necessarily include station wagons. The best way to spot good candidates for badge engineering is to look at rooflines, and to do a little research into wheelbases. If you find yourself with too many Buicks, and you find an Olds or a Pontiac with a similar-looking roof, check some historic auto site to see if the wheelbases are the same. If so, you will almost certainly get good results.

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    This 1950 Olds 88 was not made from a Praline 1950 Buick like the one next to it, but from an Alloy Forms '49 Buick. But except for the fact that the '49 Buick wasn't in the habit of chewing on its bumper, the front ends aren't dissimilar. The first step in converting it to an Olds was to put putty between the teeth of the Buick grille, because the frame around the Buick grille was thin and the great hulking chunks of chrome which made up the Olds grille weight about a thousand pounds each (give or take). Once that had hardened, the simple 'tunnel entrance' shape was but a few minute's work with a Dremel. The boxlike moldings around the parking lights were much finer work, and took quite a bit longer. Those, too, are putty, shaped mostly with jeweler's files. Someone good with a 3D printer could no doubt save the time of shaping the front sides of them, but would probably spend as much time shaping the backsides so they could sit flush on the face of the model.

    Cadillac shared bodies with Buick Roadmaster/Electra and Olds 98 until the 1980s, but for many of those years the Buick and Olds noses were shorter. Converting a Cadillac into one of those models could be done, but don't be surprised if the hood looks a tiny bit too long.

    Chrysler tended to run a special body for Imperial through 1966, and though Plymouth bodies were designed to look good with Dodge fenders (because of Canada, where really weird cars were built in the fifties and early sixties), Plymouths were normally smaller than the rest. Otherwise, the lesser Chryslers, De Sotos and Dodges tended to share bodies, though like Cadillac, Chrysler and the bigger De Sotos sometimes used longer hoods. To convert the Alloy Forms 1949 De Soto into the 1950 Dodge, much was removed and only office supplies were added. The taillights and chrome were shaved off, and the grille was hollowed out. The Dodge chrome and taillights were a simple matter of paint. Shaving the chrome makes it harder to paint shiny spears, as the raised area is easy to hit with your brush. But in truth, the thickness of the silver paint is a more realistic representation of the scale thickness of those chrome spears. So, your car comes out looking better--if you can paint a straight line!

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    Meanwhile, the Dodge grille is a carefully custom-bent paper clip. I used sizable blobs of epoxy at each end to hold it, and to form the parking lights. In fact, the parking light lenses are bare epoxy; I painted around them with silver paint to form the bezels and housings. I had already painted the area behind it black, and let it dry. The emblem which hangs between the grille bars is another blob of epoxy, painted silver.

    Fords tend to be a little trickier. Having only three divisions, Ford has often been at a loss to figure out how to share bodies. In fact, the Edsel was supposed to fix that--half its model lines shared the Ford body, and half shared the Mercury body.

    During its first decade, it did use Ford bodies, though it had longer noses. Here is a Ford disguised as a Mercury, and to my practiced eye, it really shows that the nose isn't long enough.


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    Even so, it doesn't look bad, and it's a little variety from all those Fords available for railroads. Those dual chrome strips are even more of a challenge to get parallel than the Pontiac's Silver Streaks. The Pontiac may have more, but at least they're straight! This, too, was a matter of filling in the Ford's coarse horizontal bars with putty, and sculpting the busy Mercury grille with Dremel and jeweler's files. Sometimes the grille texture is too fine to model, making it hard to pull off the black background and silver texture. At times like that, a little gunmetal gray paint can be a lifesaver.

    Lincoln usually used unique bodies, but there was a junior Lincoln during 1949-1951 which used the Mercury body. Since those Mercurys have been modeled by more than one company, that's a way to get a Lincoln which is otherwise rarely seen. Otherwise, opportunities for badge engineering Ford products are fairly rare until Mercury went over to the Ford body in 1961.

    Badge engineering independents is generally very difficult. Those Hudsons which were badge-engineered Nashes lasted exactly three years. Packardbakers lasted two years. Modelers of more recent eras will find imports can be just as difficult, though now that Toyota has Lexus, and Nissan has Infinit-eye, possibilities are starting to present themselves. But some variety can always be created by changing years. There are two levels of restyling--total restyles and 'facelifts' Facelifts can be relatively easy to pull off, and a good source of detail and variety as well.

    Here we have two old Walthers Magnuson tankers. The solid resin bodies may require some artistic paint on the windows to hide the fact that there's no room in there, but the resin is certainly easy to work with. Phillips had a long love affair with Dodge trucks, but the Magnuson tankers were Fords. That was zero problem, as the cabs and bodies, just as in real life, were separate pieced that had to be attached to each other, and the same company was kind enough to sell Dodge flatbed trucks. I don't suppose any of you would be surprised if I told you I have two Ford flatbeds...

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    The Magnuson Dodge was a '51 style, such as the shinier version at left. This was a facelift of the slightly boxier 1948 restyle. Putty was used to square it up, and to partly submerge the big, bold grille bars. This made them into pretty good approximations of the smaller lumps of the '48, though I had to extend them a bit because the '51 was rounded enough the bars curved and disappeared into the putty.

    It pays to be careful to stick to years where the facelifts were minor, because that way all the major details like headlights are in the same place, and the shape of certain large surfaces like hoods is basically the same. Oil tankers are nicer to do than many trucks, because oil companies tended to pay extra for chrome, and that silver paint can hide some of your mistakes. Looking to see where the grille openings are and favoring them with black paint really adds a lot of wow factor to scale vehicles.

    And I'm getting typer's cramp (oh, yeah, they call that Carpool Tunnel or something now). So, I guess that' it, unless someone has questions. If anyone wants a better view, I do have a real camera, though loading pics to the website from it is a pain. But I'll do it, if you ask nicely!
     
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2017
    RailMix, fordy744 and Hardcoaler like this.
  2. fitz

    fitz TrainBoard Member

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    Somewhat off topic, re your first pic. Pontiac stripes down the hood, but the grill looks Chevy. Here is my dad's '51 Chev taken in the '50's. Grill looks like your first pic.

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  3. acptulsa

    acptulsa TrainBoard Member

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    Allow me to turn that one around into the light...

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    Yes, there's certainly a family resemblance, which is why I chose that prototype to model from that kit. Makes life much easier. But I did do some work there, though it may not show well if it's in shadow.
     

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  4. fitz

    fitz TrainBoard Member

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    Yup, I see Pontiac now.
     
  5. fordy744

    fordy744 TrainBoard Member

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    Excellent work!

    Cars being my other hobby alongside trains this is right up my alley and commend you for taking the time to do the conversions and have vehicles other than the same old same old you see on everyone's layouts.

    I personally would like to see good pictures of the cars!
     

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