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The Impala Project

Look what I made!

Cool, eh?

How did I do it? Well, LET ME TELL YOU....

So, two birthdays ago, my little sister got me this Impala model car kit:

As you can see, there's a slight problem with it - it's the two door sport model. They don't make the four door non-sport model kit. My sister bought it anyway, confident that I would figure out how to get what I wanted out of it.

I used to do these model car kits when I was a kid, but it's been years and years - also, I was very young when I did them, and for the most part I just remember being too impatient, getting plastic cement everywhere, and my wheels always being crooked. So, this time, I vowed that I would take my time and get the job done right...

I went online and searched for tutorials on how to modify the kit, figuring that I probably wasn't the first to want to do so. I found a really good one, but unfortunately, the way he had done it was to buy a second kit of a different car, saw both cars in half and attach the front of the Impala to the back of the other car. Spoiler alert: There was no way in hell I was going to do that. Firstly, I didn't want to buy a whole other kit just for the back of a car, and secondly, THAT much surgery was beyond my skill. So, I decided to go it alone...

Step 1 - All the reference material that I can get my hands on - I basically just did a google image search and tried to find every single angle of the Impala that I could. I printed off the best ones and then labeled them as to whether they were picures of the show-Impala (Baby), or pictures of fan Impalas, or pictures of other people's model Impalas.

Step 2 - Start building the car - The engine was going to look the same regardless of the outside of the car:

Step 3 - Floor - Baby is an automatic. I know people get this wrong a lot in fics, but it's true... so, the first modification I was made was to get rid of the flat area between the front seats that they wanted me to eventually attach the manual gear-shift to. I rounded it off using a combination of clay and putty:

Step 4 - Gear Shift - I attached the little gear shift to the steering wheel rather than the floor. This matches where it is on Baby:

Step 5 - Clutch -  I also sawed off the clutch (you may notice that there is just a brake peddle attached to the dashboard there... originally there were two peddles, but again, Baby isn't a manual transmission, so there is no clutch.)
FYI - Painting is my favourite thing, so I was thrilled to paint all the little details on the dashboard.

Step 6 - Back Seat - There was a weird metal detail on the back seat in the sports model. I don't know why. Dean's Impala doesn't have it though, so it had to go... this time, I remembered to take a "before" picture, as exciting as it is:

Again, it's just filled with a mixture of clay and putty. I could have probably filled it all with putty, but at the time I wasn't quite sure about the structural integrity of the putty (nor was I sure that I had enough putty to last the whole project, so I wanted to use it sparingly)

Step 7 - PURCHASE - okay, so the one thing I had to purchase special was the front seat. The sports model comes with bucket seats. As we all know from the show, Baby has a bench seat. (This is yet another thing that fics often get wrong). I first tried to "fill in" the middle between the two bucket seats to turn them into a bench seat using clay... but it was impossible to get looking right, or to even dry the right size. So, I purchased a front bench seat for a Chevy Impala from modelhaus.com, it cost all of $5, but took about 6 weeks to arrive:

By now, you might be noticing my paint job. Baby is a very oddly coloured Impala, because she is all black exterior, and the seats have black upholstery, but the rest of the interior is beige. Carpets, interior door, dash... all beige.

Step 8 - The Interior Doors - Because I was turning a two door into a four door, I had to change where the front door "opened" and I had to create the seam for where the back door would open. The front door had to be made a little smaller. This was all done with an Xacto knife and putty:

Above you can see how the door looked before I messed with it (with only a pencil line showing what I'm going to change) and then below is the other door that I've already altered. Now, technically, the back door should have also had a similar design to the front door, instead of that shelf thing that goes straight down to the ground, but there's only so much I can alter, and you weren't really going to be able to see the back very well anyway.

And the finished interior doors:

As you can see, I used a bit of clay and I added door releases to the back doors, similar to the ones that the front doors had. This way, it looks like people in the back have a way out and helps sell the illusion that it's a functioning door a little more.

Step 8 - The Body - this was the modification that took the longest, because there were several things that needed to be changed about the details and shape of the body.


The trunk is wider on the 4-door Impala than it is on the sport model. And that's pretty important when it comes to making Baby... you need to have a large looking trunk for all the weapons (and possibly the body) that you know are in there. Again, this was just an Xacto knife and putty.


I needed to make back doors, which meant making the front doors just a little smaller... but in doing that, it meant that the door handle would have to be "moved" (sanded off entirely and a new one put on later).

Xacto knive and putty to the rescue!

Now, this is the one thing that I couldn't modify to perfection. The roof of the 4-door is a different shape than the roof of the sports model. The back window is smaller and at a steeper angle. There was nothing I could do about the roof of this model and there was definitely no way for me to change the window, especially if I wanted to eventually put glass in it.

So, what I decided that I could do was that I could create the illusion that the roof was higher. If I changed the angle of the side window to match Baby, then it would, well, look more like Baby and less like a sport car:
So, I fitted the windows with clay:

And then I puttyed them all up and sanded them nicely, and voila:

You can see in the background the reference picture I was using. The picture is off the original sport-model body, and then a custom-made 4-door body (because some people have that kind of skill and equipment). Mine is a hybrid of the two.

The hood on the sports model is raised and has a portion where you can insert metal vents:

Obviously, that's not at ALL what Baby's hood looks like. So, and this ran a close second for the most labour intensive modification... I had to sand that sucker off entirely so that I was left with a flat middle section of the hood. Now, I didn't take a picture of it, but the very crucial thing here was that I ALSO had to fill in the inside with putty. The mold was made for that bump, which meant that the underside of he hood went UP into that bump, and if I sanded off the bump then there was a good chance I was going to put a hole in my hood. I did not want that to happen - so I puttyed the inside like crazy so that I'd have something to sand down TO. And I was glad I did. I never went through the hood like I feared, but it got VERY thin at the end. Finally, I puttyed to fill in the indented section where the vents were supposed to go:

Door Handles, Key Holes, and Stripe:

These were done with putty. I basically taped where I didn't want putty to go, and then I put a thick layer of putty down. Waited a little, not a lot (putty still had to be a little wet), and then slowly pulled up the tape. The stripe was the most labour intensive part. It's actually done in three layers to match exactly how it looks on the car. Unfortunately, when I painted it, a lot of the detail got lost. Live and learn! The picture on the kit makes it look like the stripe is already on the model, but I assure you, it was not - I had to put that thing on.

And then, it was just a matter of painting everything, putting it together, and....

It is super awesome!


I should say, the other thing I had to do that I did not take pictures of was remove the SS from the front and rear grill.
The side of the front grill is actually wrong too, for both the 4-door and the 2 door, but I didn't notice until I had the whole thing together and yeah, I can't be bothered to correct it now. (ETA: I actually have corrected it now. It's still not 100% accurate to Baby, but it's at least a little closer. Basically, on those side bits, the black is now white, to signify the lights that are underneath.)

And there you have it!

It only took me 60 hours spread over 1.25 years to make!


( 51 comments — Leave a comment )
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Apr. 28th, 2015 09:31 am (UTC)
That's amazing!
Apr. 28th, 2015 05:10 pm (UTC)
Thank you! :)
Apr. 28th, 2015 10:01 am (UTC)
WOW! That's amazing work!! Congratulations!

Apr. 28th, 2015 05:10 pm (UTC)
Thanks!! :)
Apr. 28th, 2015 10:12 am (UTC)
This is such a glorious nerd thing to learn about you. I am grinning so hard right now. :P
Apr. 28th, 2015 05:10 pm (UTC)
Haha, yay! I'm a dork! Really, it should come as no surprise. :)
(no subject) - franztastisch - Apr. 30th, 2015 03:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 28th, 2015 10:19 am (UTC)
That's just fabulous and you have insane amounts of patience! I used to do those kits as a kid (albeit much less complicated ones than that) and I was TERRIBLE at them.

Congrats at completing it! :)
Apr. 28th, 2015 05:09 pm (UTC)

That's the hilarious thing, when I did the kits as a kid I did NOT have an insane amount of patience and I was also TERRIBLE at them. It's amazing that all it takes it becoming an adult in order to step back from something for a moment and think "no, that's all I'm going to do today... I'll wait for those pieces to set before I attempt anything else." And suddenly that makes all the difference.

Apr. 28th, 2015 10:33 am (UTC)
Wow! That is super, super cool!
Now I know why you needed photos of that silver stripe on the sides of the Impala. ;)
Excellent job, Alix!
Apr. 28th, 2015 05:07 pm (UTC)
Haha, yeah, there was a method to my madness. ;)

Anyway, thanks! I'm pretty proud of myself.
Apr. 28th, 2015 10:38 am (UTC)
Amazing job! When I made mine I didn't even think to modify it to a 4 door. (I made it back in Season 2) I think the kit I got was a little closer, however. You can see my pics here: http://s52.photobucket.com/user/epeeblade/media/impala/sept2008005.jpg.html?sort=3&o=13

(the mini Impala next to it came with my season 2 DVDS, I believe.)
Apr. 28th, 2015 10:44 am (UTC)
Now that I'm looking at mine, I think my kit might be similar to yours. The picture on my box was bright green, however.

Also, did yours come with a little plastic laptop? I thought it was really odd that mine did, but I also thought it was perfect for Sam and Dean so I painted it silver and put it in the car...
(no subject) - hells_half_acre - Apr. 28th, 2015 05:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - epeeblade - Apr. 29th, 2015 10:54 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - hells_half_acre - Apr. 29th, 2015 03:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 28th, 2015 11:31 am (UTC)
Wow, awesome job!
Apr. 28th, 2015 05:04 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
Apr. 28th, 2015 11:50 am (UTC)
This is so awesome, especially seeing the step-by-step pictures. I never knew about using putty and clay to modify those models. I do not have steady enough hands to paint anything that small but yours came out really well. So cool.....
Apr. 28th, 2015 05:04 pm (UTC)

I'm not sure if the clay would be the go-to for people who do these kits religiously, they'd probably use some sort of moldable plastic or something fancy. I was just magyvering out of materials that I knew how to work with.

My hands aren't that steady either, hahaha! Oh man, it was a challenge. The engine is actually missing a few parts because I either couldn't get them on (too fiddly) or I had them on and then in the process of putting the body on, I knocked them off, and then it would be too fiddly to get them back on again. :P
Apr. 28th, 2015 12:47 pm (UTC)
This is AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!
Apr. 28th, 2015 04:59 pm (UTC)
Thank you! :)
Apr. 28th, 2015 03:34 pm (UTC)
It's awesome and so are you! :)
Apr. 28th, 2015 04:59 pm (UTC)
Thanks! :)
(no subject) - pushistyj_koshk - Apr. 28th, 2015 04:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - hells_half_acre - Apr. 28th, 2015 05:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 28th, 2015 05:54 pm (UTC)
HOLY CROW! This is amazing! You sunk so much work into it, and it's PERFECT! *just stares*
Apr. 28th, 2015 07:01 pm (UTC)
Thanks!! It was a lot of fun. :)
Apr. 28th, 2015 06:57 pm (UTC)
WOW! I am very impressed. To take a model for a 2-door and turn it into a 4-door, those are some mad skills. I could never do that. Love the car. What a lovely treasure. Now, the only thing missing is the license plate. Are you going to add that? If so, which one, the KAZ or the CNQ? GREAT job!
Apr. 28th, 2015 07:00 pm (UTC)

Unfortunately, I don't know how to make the license plate, so it will stay empty for now. If I figure it out one day, I'll probably do the KAZ one. :)
(no subject) - metallidean_grl - Apr. 28th, 2015 07:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 29th, 2015 12:25 am (UTC)
THAT is pretty damn impressive!!!

Apr. 29th, 2015 02:03 am (UTC)
Thanks! :)
Apr. 29th, 2015 01:21 am (UTC)
What an amazing job you did there! Enjoyed your sharing the details of what you had to do to modify the kit - what a great job at modifying too!

I noticed comments about the license plate - what about using a Shrinky Dink? They have the ink jet ones that can have anything printed on them and then you bake them in the oven - it shrinks a lot! What would the size need to be? Then it would be trial and error to see what size to print and then bake the Shinky Dink down to.

Okay now that's over - KUDOS!!! JOB WELL DONE!

Apr. 29th, 2015 02:03 am (UTC)
I have never even heard of Shrinky Dink! I'll look into it! Thanks for the suggestion. :)

And thanks for the kudos too! :D
(no subject) - cappy712 - Apr. 29th, 2015 02:24 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - hells_half_acre - Apr. 29th, 2015 02:26 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - cappy712 - Apr. 29th, 2015 02:50 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - hells_half_acre - Apr. 29th, 2015 04:01 am (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 29th, 2015 03:54 am (UTC)
I can't even with how incredible your wok on this is! The customisation is just incredible!
Apr. 29th, 2015 04:00 am (UTC)
Thanks! I've actually repainted one small thing since I took the pictures to correct a small mistake that only one person noticed and pointed out privately (at which point, I had also already noticed). So, it's now even MORE accurate.
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( 51 comments — Leave a comment )


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