Oct 10th 1997


Sometimes you want to add a driver figure to your model. This technique can be used for any type of race car. Some areas that are possible to modify are the seatbelts, helmet and arms.

Most kits do not come with a driver figure or have one that is very ugly. You can use aftermarket figures or try and modify the kit figure. Another method is to get a figure with a good head and make a mold of it so you can cast several copies of it.

There are a few different suppliers of 1:43 scale figures. I am not familiar with the manufacturers names here so you are on your own. Some kits come with a figure (Notable Tameo) and they are getting a lot better. There are more variety of poses for 1:43 than any other scale. This allows the possibility of making quite a few different dioramas. All figures I have seen are in white metal. The problem with this small scale is the figure is hard to paint and usually the faces look terrible. I haven't looked at the posibility of aircraft figures which are 1:48. Not sure if the difference in scale is that noticable

For racing drivers Hasegawa does make a 1:24 figure set. Modellers also makes resin drivers in this scale. I believe Chimenyville Hobby also makes a driver figure but I haven't seen it yet so I can not comment. Hasegawa has drivers with different helmets for different eras. The Modellers figures are modern drivers. Both Hasegawa and Modellers are good with the Modellers being better.

For a diorama Hasegawa does make a few different figures and Tamiya does make a "Campus Friends" set. Limited number of figures so a racing diorama would require a bit of modifications of figures.

For 1:20 scale, some Tamiya F1 kits have a driver figure included. If the Tamiya box art has a figure in the car then one is included in the kit. Modellers also has a 1:20 scale drivers. All of these are modern with full face helmets. Same as above in that the Modellers figures are better

Tamiya does 3 different figures sets, a tire changing crew, pit crew and driver and techincal director set.

The Tire changing crew has the following figures: 2 jack guys, lollipop guy, 4 tire changing guys. As you can see there isn't enough guys to make a modern day pit stop. You will need a minimum of one more kit and for a complete pit crew 3 more to get the three guys per tire. Figures are nicely done and with painting can look good. These figures have shorts on so a modern day (pre-fireproof suit) diorama can't be done unless there is major modifications to the figures. Decals are included for several teams

The Pit Crew kit has a variety of figures, girl taking lap times, 35mm camera man, standing driver, various garage items. The kit is relatively old and figures aren't the best and could use some work. Availability of the kit is on and off. I don't believe it is being currently produced.

The techinal director and driver set is two figures with a driver figure and a standing manager type figure with headset. The driver can be driving the car or watching a monitor. Several decal options are available. The most notable being the Senna decals. Surprising considering the no McLaren attitude of Tamiya

For 1:12 Tamiya included one in their earlier F1 kits, so they have the older style helmets, race suit etc. Tamiya also did a driver figure standing up as well as a team manager and mechanic. These figures have terrible faces and need a lot of work. I do not know of any modern generic seated figures for this scale. Tamiya does have the Senna figure in the 1:12 McLaren MP4/6 but this kit is EXTREMELY expensive and I wouldn't paint over this figure for another model. Tamiya also makes motorcycle driver figures. This way you will have to do a lot of chopping and repositioning to get the figure to fit in your car. Modellers makes a 1:12 Senna figure and as far as I know this is still available. I believe there was a Prost figure but I haven't been able to get one or confirm that it exists.

One of the hardest area to complete your figure is the decals on the helmet and overalls. Some of the Modellers figures are not bad since they do have complete decals for specific drivers. Most of the time you will have to scrounge around for decals or make your own. There are aftermarket decals sheets with common logos.(i.e. UMI, Virage etc.) For 1:24 and 1:20 you can steal decals from a 1:24 or a 1:18 diecast kit. I have bought a diecast F1 car to steal the decals from the driver figure. A popular item these days are the helmets. Most of them are 1:8 or 1:16 but there are some that are 1:12. For those impossible to find decals you will probably have to make your own.

Due to all the different helmet schemes it is most likely you will have to do some masking and painting to get the overall colours before the sponsors logos area added.

This is one area that would greatly improve your figure. There are quite a few aftermarket kits for the seatbelt (Modellers, Replicas and Miniatures, S&S etc.). Most supply just the hardware while other include the belt material. There are even those that are finished. All you do is install it in your kit.
I have used a variety of kits and almost all of them are good. Try and buy kits with multiple sets of hardware to save on costs. For the seatbelt material I usually use ribbon found in a sewing store. Don't buy the seatbelt material from a hobbystore since they are way overpriced and usually they just go to a sewing store to get their supply. They have different sizes, colours and a roll will last a lifetime. I find the ribbon looks a lot better

Figure 1 & 3 is a front view of the helmet with the left side having no face shield. The right picture has the new face shield with the pins that go into the helmet to allow the visor to open and close
Figures 2 and 4 show a side view of the helmet. Figure 2 shows the kit visor on the bottom and the new visor (thinner) on to. Use the kit visor as a template for making the new one. Figure 4 shows the new visor being installed

In some cases you have to assemble several PE (photo etched) parts together. I use CA type glues and sand the surfaces to be glued, with a 400-600 grit sandpaper. Be careful when doing this since once glued together they are very hard to get apart. There is little to no time allowed to reposition the parts.

The hardest part of assembling the seatbelts, for me, is threading the material through the hardware. To make this easier I add a touch of CA glue to the end of the ribbon. After it has dried I cut the end to a point which will make the threading easier. After it is threaded through cut the end square and glue over. Here I also use CA glue. When cutting strips of ribbon always cut a length more than you need. You don't want to find yourself short. See diagrams.

Putting the seatbelt on the driver may require you to take off the one moulded onto the driver. This can usually be filed or ground off. This doesn't have to be perfect since it will be covered with the new harness.

The bottom harness can usually be glued to the legs of the driver. The shoulder belts usually have to be left loose since this is usually connected to some point on the car.

Some real seatbelts come with logos on them. Some are supplied in the aftermarket kits. To get this to stick to the ribbon I ususally use white glue. Don't use CA glue since it will make the ribbon change colour and it will look obviously different from the rest of the belt

1. The parts of the assembly. PE part on the bottom and the ribbons for the belt material
2. Ends of the ribbon dipped in CA glue to prevent fraying
3. End on ribbon cut into a V section for easy threading through PE part

4. Thread ribbon through PE part 6. Extra length of ribbon glued or taped to end. You might wonder why I don't do this with one piece of ribbon? I have tried this but it never seems to work out properly

7. Repeat this process with the other portion of the seat belt hardware
8. Side view of the completed shoulder assembly. Side view shows how the parts are stacked to make the final part

9. Sample of how one seat belt final assembly may look like. The bottom belts have no hardware but are just loops of ribbon. Check references to find out what type your model would have

Most driver figures have the arms in the forward driving position. To add variety to your figure you can cut and reposition the arms so it appears he is turning the car. This requires you to cut the arm in several positions (wrists & elbows). You then add some wire between these joints so you can position them. One you have found a good position you fill in the gaps with putty.

This may sound like the decal section but this is a bit more. Depending on the amount of time you want to spend on the helmet you can dramatically change this area.
The visor (or faceshield) that comes in the kit is usually very thick clear plastic. Of course this is out of scale. Replace this with thinner clear plastic. A source of this plastic is the wrapping for a toy or any other item you buy. Use the kit part as a template to cut the new part.
Once you have the new visor, test fit it to the helmet to make sure the fit is right. As an added bonus you can make it so the visor can raise and lower. To do this you have to add the pins where the visor pivots. Drill two holes in the visor then place this on the helmet to mark where you are going to drill the next two holes. I usually use a pin head as my pivot point. I cut it to around 1/8" long. this is a bit big for 1:20 scale but if fine for 1:12. This will go through the visor and through the helmet. I then glue inside. This way no glue gets on the visor.
I haven't thought about adding the tear-off yet. Maybe someday. As a reminder that all helmets are not the same so always check references.

Another part of the helmet is the wiring for the oxygen, radio, drink tube etc. References is the only way to go since almost everyone is different.

The face of the figures are usually OK. Painting them as is doesn't produce a very realistic face. But what can you do I hear you say?
If you are totally insane you can do the following.
Cut out the face so it is separate from the helmet. Build up the area around the face and paint it at this time. Add a baraclava since most drivers have one. Tissue dipped in white glue is good here. Clean up the helmet edge so it looks like a helmet. Replace the face into the helmet and voila!
Cautions. Test fit the face into the helmet every so often to make sure it still fits in. Also check every so often to make sure you can not see and gaps between the helmet and face.

The above method is generally for plastic figures. The resin figures are usually pretty decent and don't need the extra work. The only problem with the resin helmets is the face doesn't have a baraclava on. This is not an easy thing to add on.


Figures for a diorama are limited. If you want to do a diorama modifications to figures will be needed. One of the most important things about a diorama is the layout. Draw sketchs, try different layouts. This is the area that most dioramas fail. The motion doesn't flow, the diorama doesn't tell a story, placement of figures, poses wouldn't happen in real life etc. I have not gotten into the face painting or figure painting area as there are book and books on painting techniques and each one is different from the other. Read the books, take lessons or develope your own techniques.

Well there you have it. A variety of options. If nothing else for the driver you should add new seatbelts and visor. All the other stuff is extras that add a bit more to the realism.

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