Jim Keeler's Dodge Fever models: Part Deux.
By John Dino, Trustee
Editor's Notes: This first part of this excellent set on Jim Keeler's epochal Dodge
Fever models ran in Volume 10, No. 1 (2004). Back issues of The Builder are available from the Museum for a donation. Mark Gustavson bought them from Jim nearly 20 years ago and discovered that the models had
to be restored. With the help of Tom Dillion II and Greg Struhar, the two Fevers were restified and now reside at the International Model Car Builders Museum in the "Hot 150" cabinet, which is set aside for the 150
most influential models in the history of our hobby. Thanks to John Dino for his excellent articles.
Last time, we explored the story of Dodge Fever and Dodge Fever II, Jim Keeler's
contest-winning design for a 1960's funny car. We looked at a bit of Jim's interesting personal story, and detailed the construction of Dodge Fever II, which ran in a series of articles inCar Model Magazine in 1969. This time, we'll look at the construction of the engine for Dodge Fever II, the most detailed 1/25th scale engine ever built up to that time.
Although Car Model promised that the engine would be finished in the next issue (which would have been August 1969), there was no installment that month. The next installment appeared in September 1969. It appears that Jim needed some time to re-think this most important aspect of the project, because he made some significant changes in the construction technique. If you remember, in the July 1969 CM Jim had instructed his audience to use the 426 hemi engine block from the MPC 1969 Dodge Charger, and fill it with dentist's plastic before boring out the cylinder holes. He noted in September that the engine block used was actually from the Miss Deal funny car, so the reference had been in error. He also stated that in the intervening time, he had taken the engine construction in a completely new direction.
He now used the engine block from the '69 Jo-Han 442 Oldsmobile, which could be modified to
look like a Hemi. The parts were laid out in a very unique photograph, which gave the kit source of each part. Since no single kit offered all the parts needed, he chose them (29 in all) from the following kit
Revell Dodge Revellion Funny Car
Parts: Blower front Fuel shut-off valve Oil filter Hydraulic throttle control Engine rear
plate Clutch housing Clutch lever
AMT Don Garlits Dragster
Parts: Blower rotors, Blower back, Engine front cover plate , Blower drive pulleys, Fuel
pump, Magneto, Clutch
Jo-Han '69 Rebel
Parts: Blower intake manifold, Blower case Enderle injector, Engine mounts
Jo-Han '69 Olds 442
Parts: Engine block
Revell Miss Deal Funny Car
Parts: Heads Valve train Oil pan Valley cover frame Valley cover plate Starter
Jo-Han '69 Plymouth GTX
Parts: Valve covers
MPC Dyno Don Nicholson Funny Car
Parts: Exhaust headers
Revell Display Packs
Parts: Pistons, Crankshaft
Jim admonished the modelers who were attempting to build this project along with him that
this is where it would get expensive-the total cost of the kits for the engine build-up alone was $10.00! (By the way, that's $51.83 in today's money, but you'd never get eight kits for that now!)
(I've always wondered what happened to any modelers who were following this series and
keeping up with Jim. I was trying to do some of the things he recommended, but was so far behind at this point that I hadn't tried yet investing in the Dentist's plastic, at $10 a bottle. I guess the lesson I
learned was that you always waited for the conclusion of a multi-part series before starting construction! If any of you got left in the dust, drop me a line).
It's obvious that Jim was a kit-bashing genius, because trying to make all these parts from
different kits (and manufacturers!) work together must have been quite a task, to say the least. His position as a Technical Advisor for Car Model probably afforded him access to many current and new kits of the day, and this would have been a decided advantage over the average modeler, but that doesn't lessen the achievement here.
This is the original model that has benefitted from careful cleaning, some repairs and a good paint polish. Think about the sensation this caused in 1968!
Modifications to the parts were extensive. The block was bored out for pistons, and the lifter
bores were opened for pins, which simulated pushrods. The heads were drilled for "bolts" and "valves" (both made from straight pins). The crankshaft was fitted to a series of braces
cemented into the bottom of the block, so it would rotate. Rod caps were removed from the piston rods so they would snap over the crankshaft, once it had been installed. The pistons
go up and down in order when the crankshaft is rotated.
The rear engine/cab-forward ultra streamlining of this model was visionary for its day. Hundreds of parts comprised this model and its sequel.
Wiring and plumbing were extensive, and ground-breaking, for their time. Jim used wires
from grain-of-wheat bulbs to simulate rubber fuel hoses, and coated floral wire for spark plug wires. Braided fuel lines were simulated with model airplane control cable. Plastruct
was shaped and used extensively for the fuel block, engine mounts, etc. While the pictures make the final assembly seem somewhat crude by today's standards, keep in mind that the
rest of us were pulling thread through wax for spark plug wires at the time! This level of detail was unheard of in 1/25th scale back then, and anyone who copied it must have
knocked the judges' socks off at contests.
Check out the hand formed aluminum sheeting that was carefully dimpled to suggest rivets. The excellent build quality lead to the survival of this model.
It's hard to appreciate the role this model played as an example of all that static modeling could be. Remember, the crankshaft turns and moves the pistons and valve train.
The final installment in the series, in October 1969, was almost anti-climactic after that
engine build. The rear axle was fitted to the chassis after the addition of brake lines. The body (now Testor's Orange, as discussed in the previous article) was trimmed and hand
-lettered. Final attachments between the engine and chassis were made, and the whole thing was brought together with a driver figure in the cockpit. Photos show that Jim had
sanded down the front and rear tires to simulate use, another detail that, while a virtual requirement in a contest model today, was often overlooked on many models of that era. He
must have been feared on the competitive circuit!
This look through the open back window shows the excellent mechanical detailing for which Jim is mostly known.
The editors of Car Model admitted that this was the most detailed series they had ever
published for building a styrene model. They (rightly) pointed out at the end of the series that it was not meant to get everyone to build Dodge Fever duplicates, but to take the tips
and techniques which had been passed along, and use them in their own projects. Thus, this series can be viewed as giving a big forward push to the building of highly-detailed
static models. If it encouraged people to push their own limits in adding more details to their models, then it served its purpose.