I have always wanted a radio controlled Disney 20,000 leagues under the sea Nautilus, but with a price tag starting from £1200 it was not going to something I could afford in the foreseeable future, so after acquiring a simple yet compact static diving submarine, I decided to make a custom body inspired by the Nautilus.
Thunder Tiger made the RC model submarine I used as a base as everything is nicely contained in sealed container, but this would also add a few problems when it comes to balancing and getting the finished sub to dive and surface properly, but these problems can't be sorted till it's almost finished, so no point worrying about them now.
So the first job was to design the new shell, but this hit a few snags as I couldn't decided on how the actual finished model would look, so it then became a sort of build as I go project, adding and changing it as I went. This is not a good way to make something, but as my plans are sketchy at best when building models it works for me.
My idea was to build the ship with a rib based skeleton, so I could skin it when done and also it would give it that steel plated look when finished. Being a submarine wood was out for construction, so as I have fibreglass materials anyway I opted to build it from that. It would be nice and strong, while still be light and water resistant.
So utilising the main container, I built my ribs to fit on the existing fixing as this made it easier all round. Also the prop would now sit further back so I made an extension bit to connect it up and this would be mounted when there is more to fix it to, but it gives me an idea where and how it needs to be fixed.
Once the ribs were fixed in place I set about plating between them. For this I used plain weave fibreglass matting sandwiched between two layers of surface tissue. This was laid up on a sheet of glass, so one side was smooth and the other rough.
When cured this was marked and carefully cut into plate size pieces and taped into place ready to be fixed from the inside.
Fixing the plates in place was done using chopped strand matting cut slightly oversize then positioned on the back side of the plate and resin applied to stick it in place. This not only gives a very good seal, but also strengthens the plates and holds them to shape as several of them had to be bent to match the contours of the hull.
While plating it. I started to add some of the detail, the first being the diving hatch on the underside. When finished this will have LED's round it so when in the water the lights can be switched on, illuminating the underside. This is the first of many detail bits that needed adding during construction, so I could make sure structural braces were all in place and strength was not compromised.
Another part of my cunning construction plan was the make the sub in three sections. This would make things easier in the long run for maintenance and sorting any problems.
So as mentioned earlier this was going to be inspired by the Disney Nautilus, so to be in keeping I wanted to incorporate certain design aspects, while keeping it different enough not to copy the original exactly. Scale wise it was going to be 1/32 scale, but during construction this turned out to be to large putting it out of perspective, but then I found some old warhammer figures knocking around which seemed much better in scale with it giving it a better length, width and height scale wise. Also a bonus to using warhammer based things is the huge range of weapons and accessories available, making the job of adding detail later much easier.
Next I started on the stern section. I was going to use my Nautilus propeller I made to drive it, but I found it was too large for the motor being used and as this was fitted in the centre water tight container, swapping it out was not an option. So instead I opted for a conventional 7 blade propeller a proper submarine uses.
So this is the tail section all ready to coat in primer. As this was inspried by the Disney Naultiuls I marked the hull out to simulate a proper riveted hull pattern, then added the rivits by simply mixing a bit of gelcoat and appling it in small dobs. Its a very time consuming job and doesn't really look anything till its painted, but once finished and painted it just adds that extra layer of detail.
So a couple more pictures of the tail section finished in red primer. I always find after applying the primer it changes what was a collection of bits stuck together into a proper form. It's also the first time you get to see what your creation will sort of looks like when finished.
While my submarine was inspired by the design and shape of the Disney version, I also wanted to add my own touches to it, and this was one of them. The Disney Nautilus didn't have much in the way of deck area, so I wanted to add a higher deck area made to look of grating and girder construction.
For this I used styrene 'I' beam, and made a section of grating and moulded and cast it in resin. The rest was just cutting and shaping it to look like a proper constructed gantry way. Again once painted its transformed from parts into the finished item.
With the tail section finished I set about finishing off the centre section. The underneath is mainly just the rivet pattern, plus a diving hatch which will have lights round it when finished. It also has water inlet grates similar to those on the underside of the Disney Nautilus.
The top is quite different altogether. While submarines inherently have very little showing above the water, I wanted to option to raise mine much higher out the water than normal. The reason for this is as detailed as a model submarine might be, when on the pond all you can see if the conning tower. While this is fine for the operator as it's what they want, it isn't much for the casual onlooker to see. For that reason I designed it so it can sit if I want so the water is just lapping over the side fin or any position up to fully submerged.
I then started to add the detail bits to the centre section. Some were bits off warhammer vehicles like the doors and missile hatches, while other bits were off starwars vehicles and the pipework were castings off a tie fighter display stand which has a surprising amount of detail in it, most of it great for things like this.
Most of the bits I had to make a mould of as styrene doesn't stick to well to fibreglass, so I cast copies of all the bits in polyester resin which can then be permanently attached.
With the centre and tail section almost finished I made a stand so it now has something to sit on as this make working and moving it much easier.
There was however more stuff needed finishing on both these sections, but the front really needed doing next to make sure everything fits together properly.