The future of modeling has arrived! 3D Model Parts is a company specializing in 3-D printed resin accessories for car and ship models. Their only offering for cars at the moment is these wire wheels. They will work as 15” wheels for 1:25 scale cars, and14” wheels for 1:24 scale cars.
Available with 3 different styles of knock-offs, the wheels come in a pack of 5, with an instruction sheet that explains how to work with them. The wheels and knock-offs each come attached to a thin wafer of resin, not unlike traditional resin parts, which must be sanded away to release the part. I found it easier to cut the wafer away from the knock-offs, as they were too small to hold against any kind of sanding surface without also sanding the skin off my fingertips.
The wheels themselves are beautifully detailed, with open space between all the spokes just like the real thing. The surface is slightly rough to the touch, as is common with 3-D printed items because they are built up in layers, but they look fine. A very light touch with paint and Alclad chrome will be required to avoid filling the spaces between the spokes and covering up the fine details.
One major difficulty with these parts is that they are very brittle! The instructions warn you of this, and explain that the rear edges of the rims have been made stronger to allow you to push them into the tires. My experience indicates that extreme care is needed with these, as the rims are still incredibly weak and prone to breakage. I did not use the “aftermarket rubber tires” suggested by the instructions; instead, I attempted to use the stiffer vinyl tires that came with my chosen kit. The inner rim of these tires was smaller than the outer diameter of the rims, and the rims crumbled with any attempt to insert them into the wheels.
I chose to use these with Revell/Monogram’s 1953 Corvette. This kit contains all the decals needed to replicate the car entered by Bill von Esser in the 1954 Carrera Panamericana, but it doesn’t provide the wire wheels used on that car. These wheels definitely look the part. They are a little small for the kit tires, but with the rear half of the rims (carefully) trimmed away and copious amounts of white glue to fill in the gaps, they worked. I also had to file down the kit’s wheel backs and axle retainers to make them thin enough to not interfere with the spokes. I would have liked to reduce the diameter of the wheel backs to look more like brakes and leave some open space behind the wheels, but with the wheels being on the small side for the tires, I didn’t think the wheel-to-tire connection would support the model reliably that way.
After filing and cutting away the excess resin, I washed the wheels and knock-offs in soapy water. The wheels got a light coat of gloss red enamel, and the knock-offs got a light coat of Krylon chrome paint. Everything ended up going together well, and I’m quite satisfied with the results.
Overall, I have to give these parts a very high rating. They have many advantages over both plastic and photo-etch: better detail than plastic and easier to work with than photo-etch. If they have an Achille’s heel, it would be their brittleness. Perhaps if they could be made as separate front and rear rims, with all the wires attached to the front side and a little extra material on the rear rim to allow it to work for various tire widths, this would make the brittleness a non-issue. But for now, they serve as a great example of how the new 3-D printing technology can serve our hobby. As the technology improves and the materials get less expensive, I expect we’ll see a lot more of these types of parts become available. I’m looking forward to it.