A long time ago, in a dark alley on fleabay, I came across the offer pîctured above: a clear manifestation of the madness every young boy seems to go through (yours truly not excepted!) by trying to improve some old toys, usually with a heavy-handed paintbrush. In this case, a number of vehicles had been updated with various items of heavy-calibre ordnance from model kits as well. But the Apollo Tracker at top-right looked relatively unharmed, so a price was paid that was quite commensurate with its condition.
Upon arrival, the two poor Surveyors were confirmed to be quite beyond salvation. The Cricket was equally ruined in having had its launcher extended by somebody who applied polystyrene cement even thicker than the paint. But happily, the Tracker had indeed been spared any Frankensteinian surgery; it was merely covered in a thick crust of Humbrol.
So without much decorum, the whole thing was dunked into a jar of brake fluid and left overnight. This is medicine fit for a horse, and successfully got the paint off. As well as the original chrome plating (which after all is paint as well). And the printing on the sole surviving name sticker. Worst of all was the transparent dome, which had turned opaque white almost entirely and eventually cracked. The other plastic looked a bit whitish as well in places, where I initially thought the brake fluid might even have leeched out some of the colour. Thankfully however, it turned out to be mere residue from the paint and brake fluid.
The Tracker then stayed like that for a long time, while I tried to find a way of getting the chrome finish replaced. Which eventually was handed to me by my good neighbour across the road, who builds large airplane model kits at an industrial rate and to museum quality. He showed me a P-51 he'd just finished, done in late-war bare-metal finish. Which was most splendidly reproduced on his model, far removed from the dull silver that Humbrol does. Here was the stuff I needed, and thankfully it's available in a nearby town. (For those interested, see alclad2.com )
Things now progressed by leaps and bounds. The whitish residue proved rather resilient, but a lucky combination of automotive cockpit cleaner and lots of elbow grease made almost all of it disappear. Some good photographs by Bill Bulloch confirmed that colours were as they should be, and that any fears of bleaching were definitelty unfounded. Next, the chrome parts received a couple of coats of the wonderful alclad and shine like new.
The hubcaps couldn't be removed so the wheels were masked with Maskol. The metal axles and weight (fitted inside the chassis) were cleaned with steel wool. The driver was glued black in place and a wrecked Cricket provided a replacement dome. When refitting the wheels a bit of chrome on the edges of the hubcaps was rubbed off, but this looks quite like the wear on the original plating so will probably stay like that.
Final item were the name stickers, and here Mike Burrows came to the rescue with good detailed photographs of the ones on his Tracker. A bit of photoshopping turned these into black & white artwork of the right size, which was then output onto adhesive transparent stock, trimmed to size and put in place. The end result is below, one Apollo Tracker looking like it should!