2001 Honda NSR500

1/12 Rossi’s 2001 Honda NSR500

Paul Adams begins Renaissance’s latest resin transkit to convert Tamiya’s 2000 Honda NSR500 Nastro Azzurro kit into Rossi’s 2001 Italian GP ride..

In the first of a small number of instalments, I plan to take you through a bike build, from kit review, clean up, pre-assembly, paint, final assembly and hopefully completion. I’ll record the high’s, lows and mistakes, so that hopefully I can show you how not to build a model and perhaps I’ll be better placed to eliminate those annoying problems when I tackle this kit once more!

Renaissance is widely known amongst the car modelling community for their 43rd and 24th scale kits, excellent decal sets, and upgrade kits for cars, bikes and aircraft. In keeping pace with market interests, the manufacturer has also provided various decal options and detail sets for MotoGP bike kits from Tamiya. The catalyst for this interest has been the success of the Italian, Valentino Rossi, who’s on track success and flamboyant character has won him a legion of fans worldwide. Kit manufacturers have followed suit with many kits in 24th, 12th, 9th and 6th scale being released. However, there remained, until recently, a gap in 12th scale – there was no kit available to build Rossi’s first 500cc championship year bike, the 2001 Honda NSR500. Using Tamiya’s 2000 NSR500 kit, Renaissance has created new bodywork, a revised frame, swing arm, petrol tank, air intake and radiator to update Tamiya’s excellent offering. Eventually three decal options will be available, the first version being the Hawaiian scheme, run as a one off at the Italian GP. Later kits will feature a fluorescent yellow test bike scheme and the familiar white and yellow Nastro Azzurro colours.

Pic 1The kit (Pic 1) comes in the small 6 inch square plain box with only a small sticker to indicate it’s contents which are tightly packed, leaving no room for movement of the fragile parts during transport. Despite this, the front mudguard was cracked on my sample. The thinly cast, pale yellowish resin fairing features new vents and air scoops, an accurate slimmer 2001 seat, and new scoops on the lower cowl, a smaller and reshaped one-piece tank. Initial impression are good, though the front mudguard did not match my reference and would need some revision and the tank will need an underneath as this will be visible on the finished bike. The heart of any bike kit is the frame, which forms the basis for the model to be straight, true and accurate in stance. Renaissance provides a three-piece affair, just needing a small lower brace from the Tamiya kit to complete. Some clean up will be necessary here as will there be with the swing arm, as test fitting reveal a significant step in the casting. The resin air intake will require some surgery to get it to fit Tamiya’s 2000 specification engine. 

The final minor parts include the rear mudguard or `hugger’, which looks very accurately shaped. A small photo etch fret contains the 2001 season footrest frames, some gauze work for the lower cowl and some framework for the lower radiator. Finally the colourful and very crisply printed decal sheet provides the `Hawaiian shirt’ graphics, sponsors and fluorescent No 46 race numbers. A basic pictorial instruction sheet is included with a guide to decal placement.  The 2001 Italian GP was run in the wet, and as the kit doesn’t offer rain tyres as an option, you can only build the bike as seen during qualifying.

This aside, the kit is welcome addition to the range available to the modeller and helps to complete the line up of championship winning machines of  `The Doctor’.

Lets’s make a start, then………

I would be the first to admit I’m no fan of resin. My first forays into this odorous activity began nearly 10 years ago when I cut up a Tamiya Le Mans Porsche kit and added an open drivers door. Seemed simple enough. I progressed to hacking more pieces off of stock car kit bodies and fitting up-to-date front bumpers etc. I had gotten used to seeing pinholes, some rough casting and learnt to put up with the smell. My first stumbling block came in the form of an expensive Le Mans Miniatures full kit of the glorious Bentley EXP Speed 8 – a beautiful car that just had to be built. After spending 4 months on the kit, I gave up. What went wrong?  I’ve had a couple of years to think about that – and it was simply I wasn’t experienced enough with resin to get the best out of the kit. Was there anything wrong with the kit? No, not really – the usual problems were evident including a warped rear wing, but fundamentally I just didn’t tackle the project properly. One thing I wasn’t fully prepared for was how much time (and patience) it would take. Depending on the size of the project, you need to clear much more space in your diary than you will need for an `easier’ plastic kit.

Pic 2With this in mind I embarked on making the most of this new kit, in fact making it look as though Tamiya had updated their own kit. The build began with the construction and cleaning up of the frame and swing arm. The frame was in three parts with a fourth from the Tamiya kit. The swing arm was all resin; including a fragile shortened part for the shock absorber. These were glued together using medium viscosity Rocket Rapid cyano. Clean up began and Tamiya’s excellent epoxy filler was applied liberally to the partially sanded joints. A day later and sanding started with help from my Dremel! This speeded things up, but it was necessary to wear my facemask as clouds of epoxy filler and resin filled the room! Once completed, I offered the two parts together and mounted the swingarm in the frame to test the fit. The swing arm is of an asymmetrical design and to my eye look decidedly wonky! Mounted in the frame, things looked even worse. Alarms bells rang, so to help identify the problem I quickly removed the Tamiya kit arm from it’s sprue and hastily fastened it together. Test fitting this revealed something was wrong. At the pivot point with the frame it just didn’t look right, the arm was at a distinct angle. If I had of carried on, I would have had a serious misalignment with the front and rear wheels and that just wouldn’t do on a Rossi build! I contacted Etienne at Renaissance to report the swing arm problem. Could he help? I almost immediately received a reply and in fact he’d already been working on a new frame for the kit (Pic 2). The two pivot holes on the frame were at different heights, so when the swingarm was mounted it wasn’t level. A few days later and two new frames arrived. The new one-piece frame was cleaned up and offered the swing arm: all was now well.

I continued with cleaning up thPic 3e fairing parts, removing flash and filling pinholes with more epoxy putty as I went. The fairing was attached to the frame to check alignment and to establish the threads in the appropriate holes for the tiny Tamiya screws. I also test fitted the Tamiya windscreen – the fit was perfect. Moving on to the seat, a little less cleaning was required but straight away I realised that the seat would need some reshaping to fit the frame properly and unlike the Tamiya part which has locating lugs and holes for screwing to the frame, I needed to drill holes so it could be mounted. The same applied to the tank as my example had a small lug already broken off, which would allow it to be held in place with another screw. I scratchbuilt a slightly larger one and drilled a central hole. This was then offered up to the frame and with the seat taped in place, I began understanding where I needed to trim from and where to start drilling the holes. Once these were located I found the tank needed to be trimmed underneath as it fouled the upper frame brace and while I was at it, I fashioned a fill-in piece from plastic card to cover the hole left from the casting process. (Pic 3) After more sanding and filling, I fixed the fairing, tank and seat and basic engine block onto the frame, complete with swing arm to take a look. The angle of the seat also effects how the upper exhausts will peer out from under the seat and so these were constructed and test fitted. The 2000 bike frame had an upper brace from which a bracket was mounted onto which the exhausts were attached. Only the upper brace remained on the 01 bike and nowhere to locate the exhausts! Renaissance give you an etched bracket which holds the tail pipe ends together and I guess the intention is that this will give enough strength to hold everything in place once the pipes are glued into position on the engine….

Pic 4My attention turned to the forks. The Tamiya kit has 2000 season forks; the 2001 bike used fork ends that eventually found their way onto the 2002 season Honda RC211V, so these ends were stolen from a Tamiya RC211V kit and mated to the 2001 fork tops. Still with me? To join the tops and ends together I planned to use some machined brass pistons from Museum Collection. Some careful cutting, sanding and drilling resulted in an updated fork set that matches my references. I also removed the extended bracket on the 2002 fork bottom as the mudguard was attached differently on the 2001 bike – and I modified the mudguard accordingly; with a little reshaping, things were much improved (Pic 4). To help further I also stole some updated brake callipers from another Tamiya kit.

The revised air intake called for some changes to the engine. I removed the upper parts of the kit intake on both halves of the engine and then glued them together. The angle at which the resin intake met with the kit parts was a little off – so I fashioned some filler pieces from 20 thou card and created the right angle for the intake to meet up with the fairing opening. Once again no lugs were provided for attachment, so I installed two metal pins into the base of the resin part and drilled corresponding holes in the engine. After yet more finessing it line up nicely with the fairing. Another headache loomed in the form of the lower radiator. My references from the excellent Model Graphics Pit Walk No1 indicated that the main and lower radiator plumbing was different to that in the transkit: the resin part was roughly cast and looked too big – so I used the Tamiya example and modified the kit pump housing using solder and heat shrink tubing for the pipework. This was a bit of an hit and miss affair – without a proper locating lug for the radiator, much of it was down to test fitting and head-scratching to get it right.  I decided to do yet another test fit; this time with the engine and intake in place. I set up a spare set of forks onto the frame and immediately found the intake fouled the forks  – preventing them from turning. After correcting this problem I ventured further and assembled the bike’s main components; the swing arm with rear wheel, chain, brake discs, front wheel and fairing. After several weeks of work, I finally had a model that was ready for paint. (Pic 5,6,7)

Pic 5 Pic 6 Pic 7

My experiences at this point lead me to believe the Renaissance kit was no different than many other resin kits – in need of fine tuning to get the parts to become one, but worth the effort, as I now had, after many hours of toil, the beginnings of a 2001 NSR500 Honda.

Before painting I began by washing all of the resin parts in warm soapy water so that any release agents could be removed and small particles of resin and dust would be wash away from any fine detail areas and fixing holes. I always start a bike model by painting the fairing and bodywork related parts. This is mainly because it’s the longest process and frankly if it doesn’t turn out well there’s little point in continuing with the model – the paint job is the first thing most observers will look at and most will not get past a bad one to look at any detail you’ve added!

The Mugello Honda is relatively simple to paint just a base white over which the decals will be applied. I primed Pic 8everything in Halfords Plastic white primer. My customary 3 coats covered the yellow resin just fine. I included spraying the insides of each part too. The fairing in particular was very translucent and I figured that when the insides were painted satin black, this might darken the white. After fixing a few minor blemishes the primer was gently wet sanded with 1500 grit wet and dry paper, which yields a lovely smooth surface.  My airbrush was primed with airbrush ready Zero pure white acrylic basecoat paint and applied in three coats, 5 minutes apart in a criss-cross fashion, checking constantly to ensure even coverage. The drying time for this paint is short; 30 minutes or so is all you need before you can move onto applying the clearcoat over the satin finish. I chose Mr Hobby Topcoat, a rattle can acrylic clearcoat, which is very forgiving of the modeller, in that it dries very flat and smooth and requires comparatively little polishing.  The clear was applied after a short warming session in water in three coats, two of which were heavy `wet’ coats. The body parts were set-aside for three days, and then polished using fine wet and dry paper and Tamiya’s coarse and fine polishing compounds. The parts were then ready for the major task of decaling. (Pic 8)

From the outset it was clear that decaling this bike was going to be no picnic. Around 90% of the surface area is decal and with very little room for error, correct placement was essential. Over the course of planning this build, I scoured the Internet for reference photos and oddly for a Rossi bike, found very little of use.

Pic 9 Pic 10  Pic 11 

So most of the placement information was gleaned from the pictorial instruction sheet, not ideal, but combined with some fuzzy pictures from the race, I made do. Decaling began while manning the table at the Salisbury show with applying the small decals to the front mudguard. This enabled me to get a feel for how the decals reacted to Microsol before committing the larger colour swatches elsewhere. Immediately I made a placement mistake, which I didn’t realise I’d done until applying the last few on the mudguard! Great start!  The liberal use a Microsol was a must as virtually every decal was laid over a curved surface and would not conform without some assistance. That same day I applied one of the fairing side large decals, which proved much tougher than I first thought. After about one hour of frantic readjustment and reference checking and Microsol, I got the decal into position…. with an audience! With that scare over, I decided that I’d better slow down, so over the following days I carefully applied the remaining decals. In all, I spent 12 hours on application with a second bite at the lower cowl as I made yet another mistake in alignment. The decal set is very good with some minor problems, in particular the left side fairing decal is not sized correctly around the air vent and this compromises it’s position and then leads to other problems further along, hence the need to redo the lower cowl. Even after doing this, the left side Nastro logos are a little `off’. I found also that separating some of the flowers from the larger decals made fitting easier – simply just less to think about. These separated decals could then be fitted a little later. After one week to allow the decals to fully dry, I applied 4 more coats of Mr Hobby Topcoat, 3 of which were `wet’ heavy coats. When clearing over decals, and I guess this applies to clearing over aircraft or armour subjects too, it is vital to allow the moisture trapped beneath the decal to evaporate beforehand, otherwise you risk a reaction that will ruin your hard work. The parts were put to one side to allow the now glossy finish, to harden.  A few days later and polishing commenced. Depending on the finish out of the can, I usually start with fine wet and dry paper and remove any `major’ blemishes and flatten off the glossy finish. I then move on to Tamiya’s coarse compound and work this in to achieve a smoother surface, being sure to remove any fine scratches from the sanding process. Eventually I work through the fine compound and finally the finish grade, which really brings out a superb look to the decals and paint with a deep gloss shine. (Pic 9,10,11)

With the decaling complete I could then begin painting the other parts and I started with priming the frame, swingarm, exhausts, intake, hugger and wheels in grey plastic primer from Halfords. These parts were done first as they all start out in various finishes of black. The frame along with the swingarm and exhausts were sprayed gloss black from a can of Tamiya’s TS14 in readiness for Alclad polished and aircraft aluminium. The intake and hugger got a coat of Halfords satin black and the wheels had two airbrushed coats of Zero pure black followed up with two coats of 2-part clearcoat. Again following my own sequence, I turned to decaling the various parts that were made from carbon fibre and kevlar. I chose Scale Motorsports (SMS) and Studio 27 (S27) decals for this task. The rear hugger was covered with medium sized S27 carbon kevlar, and the remaining parts, SMS plain weave pewter patterned carbon fibre in 1/20th scale. Carbon decaling is not a task that can be hurried, in all I spent around 15 hours just completing this! The finish on carbon parts is often open to debate, and it has changed over the years. In many cases race teams add a clearcoat to parts that are seen outside of the fairing and leave others in their natural, satin look. Check any modern Formula One car and you’ll see even the tiniest carbon parts finished as well as any of the paintwork. Bike teams have followed suit in recent years, however a few years back Honda left some parts plain or satin and others glossy. I plumped for the glossy look as this offered improved longevity because the decals are covered in a harder finish and, it tends to hide minor failings in the modeller’s ability to apply them cleanly! A couple of coats of 2-part clearcoat were sprayed through my cheap airbrush and left to dry.

Race bike exhausts pipes offer an excellent opportunity to get a little creative – the heat staining effects seen on them can add a splash of exotic colour and so I wasted no time in deciding how I wanted mine to look. This was also a chance to try my new IwaPic 12ta HP-CH airbrush out – fitted with a fine tip, it was made for a task like this. After checking references I began by masking off the weld seams with 1mm Tamiya tape. A band of Tamiya clear orange darken with Tamiya smoke was sprayed around each seam, lessening the effect as I worked towards the silencer. This was followed with smoke and clear blue around the first few seams and along the pipe. Finally Testors purple pearl was thinned and sprayed around the blue areas, which gives a nice realistic heat effect. To finish I unmasked the seams and hand painted a thin black line around each one, adding further to the detail.  Overall, I was pleased my two hours of work, though next time I will try Tamiya enamels rather than acrylics as I think they will give me a finer result. I added retaining springs to each of the silencers, another fiddly 8-hour task, and finished off with a wash of Humbrol Metalcote Gun Metal. (Pic 12)

Once the clearcoat was dry on the carbon parts I masked off the airbox section of the engine and set about giving it some colour. Humbrol Metalcote gunmetal was used for the main block and a mix of Metalcote polished aluminium and steel for the cylinder heads. When gunmetal is airbrushed it dries totally flat. I use a wide brush and lightly `drybrush’ the paint that polishes the edges and highlights some features whilst leaving a matt finish elsewhere. This I think produces a very realistic finish. I attached various parts to the engine and mounted it into the frame. Hopping around a little I mounted the tyres and applied the Michelin decals. On the last few kits I have built I have weathered the tyre manufacturer logos. They tend to look somewhat overstated straight on and so this time I mixed a wash made largely from Tamiya acrylic Buff, a little orange and black and brushed it on in two light coats.

With many of the minor parts painted assembly of the frame, swingarm and ancillaries could take place.

Once the engine was attached it was time to begin assembly. This is where the fun ended and the misery began! The shock and spring must be fitted to the swing arm before it can be mounted to the frame. I found the spring was too long and needed cutting down in order for it to fit without the danger of parts flying into orbit! With the swingarm and chain on, I still had difficulty in attaching the shock onto the mount in the frame. The angles are all wrong, it fits, but only just. This accounts I believe for the fact that the swing arm does not quite sit at the correct angle, making the back of the bike a little low.  The rear hugger was next. I had pre-drilled some mounting holes earlier and realised I hadn’t got the holes just right, so I abandoned plans to attach it with some machined fittings and just glued it on with some white glue. The rear wheel, disc and brake calliper went on without issue.

Pic 13The front forks were next on the menu. To get everything to fit I had to change the order of assembly. I mounted the fork legs through the bottom yoke and the slid the front mudguard between the forks, on to the locating lugs, then mounted these up into the top yoke and secured the lot with a Tamiya 26mm screw. The fork ends were attached to the front wheel together with some spacers and glued up into the fork. I used white glue once more, set the front down and allowed it to dry.  Once again, things don’t quite line up, but it’s not too noticeable (Pic 13).Pic 14

Other small features were attached and then came the upper exhausts. I mention previously that the transkit lacked any suitable mounts. Aligning the pipes proved to be a major problem and while attempting this I discover that the internal surface of the seat prevents the pipes from fitting up out of sight. In addition, the brackets I attached to brace them and help hold them in place didn’t now line up either!! It’s all going well then!  I realised too that the centre brace on the frame also fouls the pipes a touch, limiting the angle at which they exit the engine area. I decided to leave this problem this time around, and look to correct these problems when I build the 2001 test bike.

Thinking that I had gotten through the worst, I test fitted the fairing and found that the inlet and outlet pipes for the radiator fouled it on both sides…. even more test fitting followed, eventually drawing the conclusion that the transkit designer hadn’t built this kit before releasing it to the unsuspecting public!  With razor saw in hand, surgery followed. The parts are now in intensive care! I decided I had enough at this point and figure that the majority of the plumbing would be hidden with the fairing and lower cowl on, so I fashioned my new pipes around this. The viewer won’t know anything different! Just to add insult, I fitted the bottom exhaust pipes to find that I hadn’t positioned two of the retaining springs correctly and they now look at an odd angle compared to the other two on the second pipe. And then comes the last straw (actually there’s two last straws!)…the kit provides a nice photo-etched bracket which fits between the exhaust and the seat, or should I say, should fit. I estimated it was at least 5mm too long and after even more head scratching to fathom if I had made an assembly error the said piece careered toward the waste bin never to be seen again. I used the Tamiya bracket, though incorrect, it does the job (Pic 14).

Pic 15With the forks on I could attach the instrument pod, handlebars and add a few of Rossi’s personal decals and add the lines for the brakes, throttle and brake reservoir. I did my now customary job of replacing the throttle lines with thinner gauge wire than Tamiya’s somewhat out of scale tubing. I also added wire retainers to the handlebar grips using 5amp fuse wire. I used a redundant reservoir cut from the top yoke to act as the one for the rear brake. This was paint up, plumbed and mounted inside the frame where it is just visible through the opening in the seat. The last item and definitely this time the last straw, was the resin air intake. I knew this was going to be a tight fit from earlier tests, but with the radiator, coats of paint, decal and clear on, it just would not allow the fairing the to screw it place without straining the mounting holes. So, another piece was resigned to the parts box.  Oh, I nearly forgot, a small electrical box that sits on the side of the frame couldn’t be used either – there was nowhere near enough clearance.

I fixed the fairing on and attached the windscreen with the confidence that it wouldn’t be a problem. Wrong! The clock pod just fouled the screen, but worse, the retaining arms that would on the real machine steady the flimsy fairing at speed, added more strain to the joint. After fixing it place with white glue, I watched with amusement as the screen somersaulted across my workbench. Modifications followed to the left side arm. The shortened version allowed everything to stay in place. The lower cowl was clipped on and the fuel tank screwed into place for the final time, except….the rear brake reservoir I’d glued on earlier now fouled the tank. Eventually I resolved to move it further under the tank and all was well.  The last items to go on were the foot pegs and levers. The photo-etched peg brackets needed to be stronger; as once the tubing was fixed on they became bent out of position.

To the strains of U2’s `Stuck in a moment you can’t get out of ‘coming from my PC, my biggest resin challenge was nearing completion! The stand was painted satin black and a small number of photo-etch bolt heads were attached to the lower cowl. After 5 months of blood (I cut myself with the hobby knife several times), sweat (I never thought I’d finish it) and tears (hayfever) my project was done ( Pic 15,16,17,18). It certainly felt like I was `stuck in a moment’ as I seemed continually to be going back over parts of the build that I though I had already seen the back of.  On the outset I believed this project would have taken about 3 ½ months to complete, but I spent 6 weeks just finessing the parts to get it all together. Well I thought I did at the time. Despite the problems I have a nice, reasonably accurate, representation of a 2001 season NSR500. The Renaissance kit clearly needs some tweaks to make it user friendly, limiting its appeal to experienced modellers only. I subscribe to the opinion that in many cases you need to build a kit to find it’s faults before you can make another one to a good standard. I have another kit version waiting in the wings, a fluorescent yellow and black test bike. 

Pic 16 Pic 18 

Pic 17

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