Clay modeling in the modern era
In this modern electronic era with 3-D modeling, 3-D printing and virtual reality headsets, you would think that the age-old practice of modeling a new automotive design out of clay had been abandoned, but you would be wrong. Although computer modeling has reduced it significantly, automakers still use clay models because computer models cannot replicate that way light plays over a well-turned fender. The Mazda exhibit at the 2017 Silicon Valley Auto Show at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center featured a display that illustrated how clay models are built.
Photo of early GM clay modeling
courtesy of claymodelers.com
This method of shaping industrial plasticine (artificial clay) dates back to the nineteen thirties in the General Motors Art and Color Section under the direction of Harley Earl. In a process still used today the completed clay model covered with a colored stretch “Diloc” film so it looks like a finished car is shown to a committee of upper management for a final vote on the design. The early designs may only be 1/10 or ¼-scale, but the final design is full-scale with the clay model that might weigh close to 5000 pounds.
This neat Mazda display showed off the tools used to sculpt the clay a video of the process and partially completed model.
In researching this subject, the author found a fascinating website that offers a 1/10 scale clay sculpture model kit that you can buy; check it out at http://www.claymodelers.com
To learn more about the clay material and the tools visit http://chavant.com/