15 February 2018

Axel Foley's Chevy Nova (1/25 scale model)

Multiple tributes, here.

I remember first seeing Beverly Hills Cop on video at my friend Chris K's house, 'cause his family had a VCR and we'd watch tons of movies (and record music videos) together. The summer of 1984 was a special time for us (having created a strong bond in school since Grade 6 a few years before), going on biking adventures around the 'burbs and into the city, etc., and home video played an important role from then until I moved to the opposite end of Scarborough just before we started high school.

We liked the movie a lot, both of us fans of Eddie Murphy from his Saturday Night Live days. I don't think I'd seen the movie since then (it would have been 1985, probably summer, since the movie came out in late 1984) and I became curious to see if it still held up. It did. It does. I found Murphy as charming as ever and the comedy (and even the action) holds up very well and its very re-watchable and very entertaining. Beverly Hills Cop II, was an okay follow-up...and the less said about number 3, the better.

Absolute classic.

Because my mind is always engaged in coming up with ideas for paintings and, now for the past few years, modeling projects, I started thinking about the Chevy Nova that Murphy's character, Axel Foley, drove in the film and wondered if anybody had built a model of it. I really like the look of classic American cars from the 1950s to the 1970s (and have done several watercolour paintings showcasing this interest) and the Chevy Nova from the '70s is a model I've admired since childhood.

I have lots of other modelling projects on stand-by and a few are already underway (and a couple are long overdue) –not to mention new painting projects for 2018– so it was a complete surprise to me that I should watch Beverly Hills Cop, do some online research, and then decide to build it within just a few months (of very sporadic work). So even though a few projects got sidelined temporarily for this build, I enjoyed it immensely (why else bother?).

I decided to go ahead and get a Chevy Nova model kit and try to make the most accurate version of Axel Foley's car that I could, including all the dents, aging, and weathering –after all, Foley, himself, refers to it as his "crappy blue Chevy."

Ironically inaccurate.

Surprisingly enough, AMT actually has a "Beverly Hills Cop" version of a Chevy Nova...but it's not quite accurate. There are two key features this kit doesn't have: a non-SS front grill and the front quarter panel vents just in front of the doors. Also, watching a few review and build videos of this kit, I found it wasn't very detailed in other areas as well compared to the Revell kit below (for example, the door handles and windshield wipers are molded on instead of being separate, chromed parts like in the Revell kit).

Uninspiring and boring box art.

I prefer the look of painted box art for automobiles rather than photos, but at least this one depicts a Chevy closer to the one driven in the film (ironically, the inaccurate AMT kit's box even has pictures from the movie, inadvertently reinforcing, to those in the know, just how much they missed the mark). Maybe AMT got the year wrong because the Revell kit is a closer match to the car in the movie, and it has a bigger parts count –and the details are nicer.

No-so-boring box art.

I complained about a photo being used on the front of this box instead of a nice painting, but I do like photos on the sides that show the various features and details of a completed and painted kit.


Standard easy-to-follow-and-read instructions. Interestingly, Revell has posted a huge number of their model instructions online in PDF format for free download. So if you wanna see the pretty pictures of the how-to for this kit, just check out that website.

Sprue tour 1.

Sprue tour 2.

This kit is great for options: the tree on the left has bucket seats which I won't be using, but the middle tree has a bench seat for the front which is movie accurate.

Sprue tour 3.

I haven't felt the need in my automotive model builds so far to allow for the hood to open (or be displayed open) to showcase the engine, and this project is no different. I will be building quite a bit of it, though, and painting it and the engine compartment black, just so that there isn't a big open space visible behind the wheels.

However, after assembling the model I realized the wheel wells are such that you can't see into the engine compartment through the sides, anyway. Oh, well, it was still fun to build the engine...

...and the rest.

Again, the detail on this kit is quite nice: notice the angled portion of the chassis pan rear wheel wells (second from left); that part will be covered up by the rear seat! No one will ever see that tasty bit of realism unless a builder wants to build a version where the car is severely beaten up or still in the process of being put together (or whatever other scenario you can imagine). I guess that goes for most parts –especially the undercarriage– that the builder knows are there but which may never be seen by anyone else.

Engine assembly.

The engine and the frame it's sitting on will be painted black. I'll be gluing the hood closed, so you won't see the engine from the top, but the underside would look too empty without it and other things (like the exhaust pipes) need to attach to it.

Actual upholstery.

Accurizing the seats.

The kit's seats come ribbed, but the seats in the movie are smooth, so I had to fill the grooves with putty to make them more accurate.

Putty, sand, primer, repeat.

Getting close.

I still have to apply primer to this stage to see just how close to smooth I am. It could be enough, or it could need one final go with the putty –primer reveals all.

Seemed like a good idea...

Foley's car is old and beaten up and the tires are probably nearly bald, so the fresh, new rubber the kit provides wouldn't do for my purposes. I had watched Doctor Cranky's great tutorial on weathering tires, but was too lazy to get my power driver, so I put this stupid thing together, thinking I could weather them all together efficiently like this. Nope!

Nicely worn down.

The tires kept rolling on the pencils because they kept gripping the sandpaper, so nothing was happening. It took a little longer and required a bit more effort, but I did them individually, making sure they weren't all worn down equally.

Tools of the trade.

I watched this tutorial on denting kits and thought it was a great idea to use wet paper towel to protect the areas you don't want heated up (and melted). The lighter I had handy wasn't as hot as the mini blowtorch he used, so the wet protection wasn't necessary.

Close enough.

Heating the plastic and pushing it in with a spoon isn't exactly a precise method; it's not easy, and there's only a tiny window of opportunity to push the plastic while it's still pliable, but I think I got close enough for my needs (if this were a commissioned project I might have been more careful to be more accurate, but this is enough).

Now with primer.

Close enough.

Now with primer.

Close enough.

Now with primer.

Close enough.

You can clearly see in the two shots from the movie above that the dents on the front by the headlight don't match, so there was likely a stunt car (left) and a "hero" car (right) for scenes with Murphy. And maybe others just in case. So, technically, my dent inaccuracies are actually somewhat appropriate.

All primed up.

Everything in the picture above will be getting a coat of light blue to match the movie's car. Although the interior looks like a slightly different shade of blue (a little darker, a little greener), I'll be airbrushing it the same blue as the exterior and the wheel hubs and then use a black wash afterward to darken it and dirty it up a bit. The orange-brown splotches on the body are "rusty, scratched" areas I'll reveal (using the hairspray technique) after the blue goes on.

The roof will get masked off because the movie car has a white vinyl roof (I have to figure out how I want to make the silver metal seams dividing the blue and white and the seams for the vinyl itself), and, even though it'll get weathered, I don't want any blue coming through; I want it to end up on the warm, creamy side of off-white.

Rusty and masked.

I wanted to reveal the rusty spots under the blue top coat, so I tried to spray only those areas with hairspray. The entire roof is masked because that'll be white.

All blue.

The blue craft paint I got is very close to the body colour of the car in the movie, but it's just a tad too dark. I'm counting on the chalk weathering to lighten things up.

Washed and detailed.

I used a black panel line wash over all the elements of the interior and the wheel hubs to darken the blue. Because I didn't clear coat these parts, the wash bled a bit here and there as it dried, but that just adds to the weathered look well enough, so I don't mind.


While this Revell kit has lots more detail than the "official" Beverly Hills Cop kit from AMT, this model comes with a floor-mounted standard transmission gear-shifter, not one on the steering column  (automatic transmission) like in the movie. I only realized this after installing the shifter and didn't feel like ripping it out and scratch-building a new one. Sometimes modelling is about how much accuracy I feel is reasonable/doable and how much inaccuracy I'm willing to tolerate. Sometimes "close enough" is enough.

Rust revealed.

This is the result of the hairspray technique to reveal the rust under the top coat. It looks pretty good and there's a very slight dimensional quality where you can definitely see there's a layer of paint on top of the rust (as opposed to painting rust over top of the blue) which adds to the realism.

Assembled interior.

I took a lot of shots of the interior because once the body is attached, many of these details will be very difficult to see or even never be seen again. The backseat is where you can really see the black wash bleeding I mentioned earlier –but it looks okay for this particular project; on a cleaner/newer car I'd give it a clear gloss coat first.

There's that pesky shifter!

Also, I guess I should have painted that floor mat (visible behind the steering wheel). A black rubber look with some mud and dust weathering would have been nice. Too late!

View from the backseat.


They're there: painted and detailed, but you'll hardly be able to see them once the body goes on.

Again: pedals!

Tight fit.

As nice as this kit is, I'm surprised at how close everything inside is. With the steering wheel so very close to the front seat cushion, and the back seat cushion so very close to the backs of the front seat backs, there's no room for anyone's legs! I assembled everything correctly; things are just very close together...


Axel's car had oval speakers on the back deck under the rear window and I was going to scratch-build a pair, but then I found a couple of box covers from one of my tank donor kits that seemed like a good size and shape.

Painted chassis.

That's mostly black primer with some titanium silver for the drive shaft, exhaust pipes, and a bit of dry brushing here and there. The stains were made with black panel line wash.

Weathered chassis.

I used hull red, orange, and yellow in various from-the-bottle and watered-down forms in semi-strategic areas to give it a random, rusty look (this car, presumably, would have seen many Detroit winters). Then I used some chalk pastel all over the place for that extra dusty look. I secured the pastel with a spray of clear dull coat, then added more chalk. Spraying clear coat tends to nullify much of the chalk dust, so I repeated this until I was satisfied.

Interior and wheels.

The wheel hubs are nicely detailed and I'm glad Axel's car was missing its right rear hubcap to be able to show this. I assembled, painted, and weathered the tires separately and then attached them after I attached the interior to the chassis. Note the "speakers" on the rear deck.

Like a stripped-down hot rod!

Safe rollover.

Things sure look more realistic if they're weathered; most cars stay showroom fresh only for a very short time, and dust and rust buildup is inevitable. I added some extra "oil stains" with the black wash over top of the chalk dust to really stand out. Of course, this kit has very excellent detail to help promote the high level of realism I enjoy and try to achieve (even though the underside will very rarely –or never– be seen again).

I didn't think the copyright markings (top and top right) would bother me (like I said: how often will the underside be seen, anyway?) but I eventually filed them off and re-weathered and re-painted those areas.

Seams like a good idea.

To make the seams of the vinyl roof, I placed strips of masking tape, two layers thick, in the appropriate areas (to make two long seams on top and two short ones on the front posts), then filled that tiny gap with putty.

At bottom left you can sorta see where I used the same tape-and-putty technique to create the "metal strips" where the "vinyl" meets the body, and they'll be painted chrome silver when I do the rest of the trim.

The "vinyl" roof.

After removing the tape I had more or less in-scale seams (although the edges toward the middle of the roof should be lower than the outside edges as that centre panel overlaps the two outside panels), but it's close enough and looks pretty good painted and weathered.


I used buff acrylic paint for the mud stains and lots of chalk pastel for the dust. I initially overdid it on the brown dust in the seams of the roof, and I had to take it down quite a bit with some watered down white paint to get it back to a more screen accurate level. The windows got a quick shot of dull coat before installation.

The side reflectors are decals as are the "Nova" markings (which go over raised "Nova" details on the sides and back) and the long stripe which is supposed to be a moulding. The side mouldings in the movie are black with a silver outline, but the kit only came with black, grey, and white outline options which all have openings that reveal the body colour in the middle. I suppose I could have masked off the (very thin) stripes, painted them black, then applied the white decals...but close enough is good enough.

There were also decals for the keyholes also, but I decided to paint them chrome silver and applied a touch of black wash.

Too much.

The back window is overly foggy because I sprayed the inside accidentally, so the inside surface was dull but the outside was shiny! Which is the opposite of what I wanted. Removing the fogging from the inside would be too much work (if at all possible) so now it's extra dusty. Oh, well...

Pretty good.

I'm fairly happy with my denting, painting, and weathering to get it as close to the car in the movie (and look as realistic) as possible.



I masked off the appropriate arcs of the wipers, but accidentally inverted the bottom one. It's a stupid mistake and it's glaring at me whenever I look at the windshield. Bah! Curse my temporary inattentiveness! This is definitely a case where "close enough" is not good enough! But it's irreparable, so I have to live with it.


The side reflectors came as decals, but these lights came as clear pieces which I painted on the insides; the reverse lights white; the brake lights clear red; and the turn signals clear orange (I left the headlights alone, 'cause they looked good unpainted in the silver housing). The chrome parts got a shot of dull coat to reduce the shine and reflectivity, then the grill got a few passes with the black panel line wash.

Foley's car only had a rear licence plate, so I added that but have yet to print out a movie-accurate plate to glue on it.

Classic automobile.

I mentioned earlier how I prefer cars from the 1950s to the 1970s (they have a personality that I find lacking in most cars from the 1980s onward) and that I'd done a number of watercolour paintings featuring cars of this era. I didn't paint a Chevy Nova as part of that series, but I really like the look of them...and this project scratches that itch (even though it's not shiny and factory fresh).

Sound system.

The kit-bashed parts I added as speakers in the back look good and convincing, but I wish I'd placed them just a few millimetres more together and a few millimetres forward.


There's nothing like shooting a model outside with the sun to make it look realistic and less like a toy (proper painting, detailing, and weathering help, go a long way to this end, too). These shots are just on our well head (which is covered in pretty lichen) and I still have to create a nice curb scene for models of this scale which I can take around town for some better contextual shots. I took one of my Fencing Trucks into Picton and tried to make it look like it was actually in the scenery with some degree of success).

My interest in modelling encompasses the whole process of building and painting. Sometimes parts need to be adjusted or replaced; sometimes things don't fit well; sometimes you need to scratch-build something. The building's fun and the painting and detailing's fun. It's all fun for me, and if I can add a personal custom touch then it's even more enjoyable. This particular kit went together well and, as I've said elsewhere, it's beautifully detailed (while I like challenges, I also appreciate a well-designed kit that has few fit issues).

At this scale, and at my current modelling skills, this is the closest I can get to recreating Axel Foley's "crappy blue Chevy," and I'm very happy with the result.

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