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How to Make an RC Car Body Shell (The Ultimate Guide)

Would you agree that having your own custom body shell will be a cool thing to have? If yes, then you are in the right place. Because today I am going to share with you some tips on how to do this, the materials you need and some things that will trip you up, so you can avoid them.

Why should you create your own RC body shell? Because it can make your car stick out from the rest, in a good way. If you buy a car off the shelf, there can be hundreds, or even thousands of other people with the same design, However, if you build your own, you have more creative control.

Now let me explain how you can actually make your body shell, how to paint it, including how to correctly mask and prepare your car to avoid paint bleeding and an un-sightly mess. Also which materials you need to make your car look amazing, and other car owners wish they had your car.

Making Your RC Body Shell

Self-Building Options

You have a lot of choices, you can choose the paint colors, motors and engines most suitable for you, to build a unique car that only you can control.

Prepackaged kits can be purchased and are popular. Apart from this, you can also use your own chassis and then purchase your own separate electronic components to build your own RC car.

Finding The Best Location To Start Your Body Shell Build

Building your own Body shell and RC car may take a few days to complete. Select your most suitable location. Give yourself enough space so you can leave your components safely overnight, without a family pet or kid stepping on it. Also make sure that the selected room has good lighting.

If you are going to use an RC kit, make sure you purchase the right one, as RC kits are available in many different shapes and sizes. Choose the RC kit for you that is not only in your budget but also you are most interested in.

Tools That You Will Need to Build Your Body Shell

All you need to do is ensure the availability of required tools to create the RC body shell on your own. The tools may include the following:

  • Blow torch
  • Grinder
  • Cutter or saw
  • Drill machine
  • Sander
  • Safety gear.

I can’t emphasize enough, It is essential you make sure that you put your safety first while handling these tools. As you can imagine it is very easy to injure yourself.

Materials You Will Need

The required materials will include your remote control vehicle and an acrylic sheet. With regards to the material, you may want to consider using Sintra. Sintra is a durable material that is commonly used on road signs. The good thing about Sintra is it is very strong, durable and relatively cheap to purchase.


Building The Actual Body Shell

In this section, I will explain the procedure that you need to follow to build the body shell:

  1. Outlining: Start the procedure by holding the acrylic sheet over your vehicle, marking the mounting holes, deciding the shape and bending points thus cutting the wheel well.
  2. Moulding and Bending into Shape: This would be followed by heating the acrylic body. The objective is to bend the material into shape. This will not only require careful attention to detail but making sure you putting your safety at first. You can use a heating strip that has been professionally developed to bend the acrylic.You can also use a blow torch or a heat gun. To be honest, the blow torch may be the best option as it only heats up that particular area that you may want to bend and in this way safely provides a cleaner bending of the area.Make sure that you heat up the areas at the right temperature. Do not apply too much heat to the acrylic, otherwise, it may turn cloudy. Heat the material until it starts to bend, then stop .
  3. Drilling Holes: Now you need to drill out the previously marked holes. Drill these holes to the size of the mount. Sand the wheel wells and edges in a uniform manner to give them a better look.You can also use a blow torch to further provide a unique and smooth texture to the sanded holes and edges. The shaped acrylic material must now rest on the body. Thus, place it on the body by dismantling the bumpers. The bumpers will be in place as well once the acrylic body is displayed on the RC.Now, this is the time to assemble the system. Put the body over the mounts, pull the antenna and insert the body clip.

Painting your RC Car Body Shell into a Master Piece

Body preparation

RC cars are often painted from inside, particularly the Lexan shell bodies. This is because the shine does not come from paint directly, it is actually a reflecting effect generated from the material that has been used to create the body shell.

Before the layers of paints are applied, it is necessary to prepare the body shell properly. The body needs to be thoroughly washed and rinsed out to remove any residue that has been left. Many people don’t pay enough attention to this, don’t be one of them.

The body must be cleaned so it removes any sign of dust, oil or any other debris that might affect the finish on the paint.

Drying the body is the most important. Wipe it inside and out with a clean dish towel. Drying the body in this way will help in neutralizing any static charge that can attract overspray. Another idea is to use lint-free paper towels, you should be able to get the area really dry using this.

Masking the Body

Before painting the body, it is necessary to mask it. Either masking tape or a liquid masking product will be a suitable option. Masking tape, in comparison to any other masking product, is inexpensive and your best bet.

The best type of masking tape is the low-tack masking tape, for the best effect. The masking tape can easily be applied inside the body of the car. Once applied, you can start painting your car at once.

Some people prefer liquid masking products instead of masking tape. Liquid masking products are the most suitable option especially for complicated designs of RC cars. It is also good for complex curves and complicated designs.

However, with a liquid mask you need to wait a little longer, for example, you may need wait till the next morning for the body of the RC car to be dried. If you go this route, you can attempt to speed up the drying process using a hair dryer.

Vinyl masking tape works excellent for small intricate areas, that need detailed attention. Another example that this could be used for is stripes. Firisket film is another option, it is like shelf paper, the adhesive type.

One word of warning when it comes to masking tape is, be careful how you store it. By this I mean avoid storing it in some dusty old draw, because this will just attract dust and debris. The problem is, once you then go to use it, it will transfer onto your car body paintwork and negatively affect the finish.

A good way to work around this is to keep them stored in a plastic bag, ideally sealed, you can pick up some cheap zip-locked bags for this.


Paint the body

Don’t cut corners on the preparation, because it will make a big impact on your painting. Painting the body is one of the most complicated and crucial tasks. We have seen many people who felt confident while painting, however, despite this the finished product does not turn out to be the one that was envisioned by them.

Not everyone has efficient painting skills, but you can use a number of different tools to make your job an easier one. Tools, in particular, stencils, will help you to achieve your best results. You can use a ruler, some kind of adhesive shapes such as squares, circles, rectangles and triangles just to name a few, or some different types of pre-cut masks as well.

You must use specially formulated paint products, but whether you use spray cans or an airbrush, there are certain basics to apply. You can prepare the paint by running the can under the water with warm water flowing over it.

With 70 degrees of ambient temperature, the paint will run out of the spray can perfectly. Besides this, you can also pressurize the spray through a little more by applying additional heat to the can. Be careful not to overheat the can, but the temperature of the water must also be kept at a reasonable setting.

The same trick, however, may not be applied when using an airbrush to paint. You will need to take extra care of the body of the airbrush. The action of the airbrush if fouled up may result in affecting the flow of the paint on the body of the RC car.

When you begin to paint using an airbrush, make sure that you hold the brush for about 6 to 8 inches away from that particular area you are going to paint. A smooth flowing motion, from side to side will help in applying a thinner coat of paint to the body. A better and elegant looking RC car is generally the one that contains a thinner coat of paint rather than a thicker one.

Spray Paint Layers

To get the best effect, you need to layer the paint on. You can’t just paint it once then walk away. The first coat should be a really thin, almost misty layer. It is important to wait for each layer to fully dry, before you move onto the next one. This requires patience, but stick with it, because the finished product will be worth it.

The problem with applying heavy coats, is it will take ages to dry, and there is a good chance that the paint will just run. To give you an idea of how many coats you will need, you can expect up to 4 layers to get a good finish.

One tip, use a spare piece of cardboard to test your paint before you start, because it is hard to know how fast or thick the paint will come out. And you don’t want uneven messes on your car body, do you?

Advantages of an Airbrush

An Air brush gives you much more precision. It can give you the power to focus on detail. For example you can do custom patterns and designs. It can also give you more control on the paint flow.

Related Questions:

Q: Can you Personalizing an RC Kit Instead of Building from Scratch?
Yes, Another option you can consider is personalizing an RC kit. So, in this section I will explain how you can do this.

An RC kit is a box that contains all the parts that are required to put together an RC car, effectively, the opposite to a Ready to Run (RTR). If you have decided to build an RC car from the ground up, you can either look for an RC kit online or at a hobbyist shop.

RC kits start from $50 and can go up to $1,000, depending on your choice of the materials,  components and the size. Besides this, you can also find RC kits in different colors, sizes and shapes.

What’s inside an RC kit?

Inside an RC kit, you will find a range of different hardware components such as bearings, shocks and some other cool bits and electronic components too. However, one of the perks of building your own RC car is you get to choose and buy all the best components yourself. 

Pros of having a personalized RC kit

No doubt, there is a lot of benefit to having a personally built RC car. The satisfaction that an RC car owner may get from transforming his car through his own efforts cannot be described in words. You eventually will have several occasions to tear your car down and replace the older parts with the newer ones.

The body shell is the part that is most commonly swapped. Designing and creating a new body shell requires efficient material, special paint may also be required to give your RC car an excellent finish.

Cons of having a personalized RC kit

If it is your very first experience in building cars, the entire process will still require a lot of effort and time, probably days. Patience is the name of the game. You will be required to search each and every step on your own.

The hardware components that you require to build your car may also be expensive, however, it will depend more on the size and the type of components you choose.

With having an RC kit, you will have a manual that will guide you with each step you may need to follow. Low confidence in your mechanical aptitude may also hinder your car building techniques.

Despite purchasing an RC kit, sometimes, you may also need to buy some additional items in order to make your car work. For example, there are kits that do not have batteries, tires, motors, chargers, body paint, etc.

Q: How can you make your body shell stronger?

Body shells are often broken or cracked. Many experts reinforce their body shells with shoe go and drywall tape. Fibre glass drywall joint tape, a self-adhesive fibre glass mesh is recommended because it is light and thin.

Besides this, it is extremely strong and easy to use. It will also increase the strength of the joints greatly. It’s durable and will reduce the chance of cracking if it is crashed.

Always clean inside of your cars body so that the adhesive can have a good surface to bond to. It is  recommended to put a layer inside in order to make your body shell stronger. You can also glue a plastic disc to displace the stress and support the area around the mounting holes.

Q: Any extra tips to properly mask a body shell?

As discussed earlier, body preparation is among one of the most important tasks if you want a long-lasting custom paint job. It is tricky because, the paint may stick to the body if your preparation is not correct.

Another tip, when preparing you car body for masking, is to wash your car body in warm water to remove any of the residue formed. Apply masking tape to the windows. You can also mask over the entire side of the body. Various mediums can be used to mask a the body. The most popular is a liquid mask, but vehicle tapes or even vinyl masks can also be used.


Q: Which type of masking tapes provides satisfactory results?

It is an undeniable fact that masking tape is easier to work with, however, at the same time, it is necessary to use masking tape of a higher quality, otherwise you may have notice some paint bleeding issues.

An automotive quality masking tape may serve as the most suitable option for you. After you have done painting the area, you need to remove the masking tape. The automotive quality masking tape does not tear or knick whenever bending or making a curve. Besides this, it does not result in causing blotching issues by leaving a sticky or gooey residue behind.

As mentioned earlier, you can consider using vinyl tape, however, be warned, sometimes it lifts up from the area where it has been applied and can cause paint bleeding issues. If you have decided to use a vinyl masking tape, try using it very carefully without stretching it much. Always use a a sharp knife or blade to cut the masking material, for a clean cut.


Q: How can you improve your spray can skills?

When working with a spray can make sure that you have rinsed the spray tip out. Otherwise, it will not take much time to make your entire plan ruined at once.

When painting your car body shell, you need to be in a well-ventilated room. In this way, the paint fumes will not overcome you. Test it first to confirm how slow or fast the paint will flow out of the spray can by using an old piece of cardboard.

Before you get to the body, make sure that you have depressed the nozzle and try not to release it until you have decided which area needs to be covered. Hold the can perpendicularly to the surface you are going to spray at a distance of about 8 to 12 inches away from the area.

In this way, not only the lines will be smooth, but the color distribution throughout the area will also be even. In case you are using water-based paints, make sure the paint between the coats is dried first, by using a hair dryer.


Q: What other materials can be used to build the body shell of an RC car?

The body shell of an RC car is generally made up of plastic, acrylic plastic is much lighter and easier to handle. A more impact resistant or thicker acrylic plastic would be the most suitable option.

As discussed earlier, you should consider using Sintra, as it is durable, cheap, light and indestructible. There are a lot of Injection moulded plastic used for scaled model kits, but still, the most common body shells for RC cars are the Lexan body shells.

You may also use metal to build your body shell, however, using metals will be more expensive. Besides this, handling metal will also require the necessary skills and expertise.


Q: Can 3D printing be used to produce a better look?

Yes, you can 3D print an RC car to provide a cool different look. You can get inspiration from a radio-controlled enthusiast, James Beswick, who used 3D printing to create his own custom components and today much of his car is actually 3D printed.

If you are going for an option of 3D printing, you must consider the advantages and disadvantages of building a 3D printed car. 3D printing will not only allow your car look much better, at the same time, will offer the more flexibility with the materials you can use to build your RC car shell.

3D printing is customizable, affordable (for some)and suitable for a diverse range of materials. It also has a shorter turn-around time and offers unlimited geometry options.

However, 3D printing is much harder to scale and has a complex workflow. You may struggle with smaller size 3D printed RC cars as 3D printing struggles with small details. If you have wished to build your own 3D printed RC car, the ability to manage each and everything will definitely be a huge deal.

Q: What kinds of Spray Paints are available?

You can pick up cheap cans of Rust-Oleum, this will typically set you back about $20+. However,  if you want to consider the expensive top grade options, you can consider the Tamiya or Pactra brands.

Q: Why do people prefer Air Brushing?

Without a doubt air brushing will produce a high quality finish. It is ideal to get the glossy looking finish that most people adore. The beauty of the airbrush is that it is fast, but also produces quality finishes.

You can use it for intricate work that needs detail. The only issue is, it is not cheap. This is one of the reasons a lot of people still use spray cans. If you do use one though, you need to get the right paint, which isn’t cheap.