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The Journey of 1:400 Custom-Model Making

Updated: Aug 14, 2022

The original version of this post can be found here. This version has been edited for errors and includes extra pictures of the customization process.

While my custom-making abilities are still in their infancy (and might never mature), looking at my collection today I can see a number of cherished custom-made models that I have accumulated over time and seem to indicate that customization has, unintentionally, become an important part of 1:400 collecting for me. Many of these custom models have not been shared before, so I would like to take this opportunity to do so.

My collection is heavily oriented towards the Venezuelan aviation of the 1990s, and for the longest time the only Venezuelan airlines represented in 1:400 scale were Viasa and, to a lesser extent, Aeropostal. But two of the airlines that I miss the most, Avensa and Servivensa, did not appear in the die-cast world for a long time. The desire to include more Venezuelan models in my collection is what drove me to look for alternatives, and eventually led me to customization.

My first Avensa model was a custom 737-200 that I found on eBay in 2008. As I recall, there was a small number of these customized by a collector in Miami. They used to pop up on eBay from time to time, but it seems like they all have found happy owners by now, I hope. But it was their workhorse of the 80s and 90s, the 727, the model that I wanted.

That first custom 737-200 (YV-79C. The overwing reg. is placed on the wrong wing) that came from eBay, and a 737-300 (YV-99C) that I made using a GeminiJets donor and a decal set from V1 Decals. These 737-300s are becoming fairly common with the recent JC Wings 737-300 blank release.

At the time I did not have any idea of how to remove the livery of a 1:400 model, or where to find 1:400 decals. So, I went with what was available, 1:144 decals and a plastic kit.

I had glued kits together as a kid, but never moved past that part. With this 1:144 kit I learned fairly well how to sand excess glue and fill imperfections with putty. The real fun began when I tried to paint it. I remember the first time I held the can too long in one spot trying to fill out a particular area only to ruin the entire model. Then, when I finally had the model decently painted, I tried to apply the decals as if they were stickers. Of course, after a few unsuccessful minutes I decided to read the instructions and very quickly learned the concept of water-slide decals.

This was in 2011 and the m