How to fix Sun Damaged / Yellowed Plastic
This item sat in a Japanese toy store window for over 20 years. Rarely (if ever) used, it’s almost mint except for the yellowed plastics and faded stickers. A worthy candidate for vintage RC restoration!
Creating your own stickers requires time and experience. If you don’t feel up to it, or you need your own design printed, speak with Nostalgia RC, who printed these for me. He also carries several of his own designs for many popular Taiyo, Tyco, Nikko and Tamiya models, and you can also get my Super Fight F1 design from him too. More information here.
If you’re not familiar with the Super Fight, it’s a 9.6v Dual Motor beauty, based on the same chassis as the legendary Tyco Lamborghini Countach. A good clean model is almost impossible to find, and it was never sold in America, only in Japan and Europe. Check out our article with full details here: 1987 Taiyo Super Fight F-1 Twin Turbo (Global)
STEP 1: Find Replacement Stickers
For the most popular and common models, stickers can be readily purchased from various sources on Facebook and eBay. Not so for the Super Fight F1 – it’s too rare. I’ll have to make my own.
The process of making stickers is simple.
- Photograph the car straight-on from top, side, front, etc.
- Import the photos into Photoshop.
- Measure and Correct to remove any warping caused by the angle and camera lens. Use a small ruler to measure each actual sticker, and ensure your copy in Photoshop matches to the millimetre.
- Clean up any poor details, defects, and enhance colors.
- Convert to vector. If possible, use Adobe Illustrator to convert the graphics (not text) to vector based art. This will provide crisper and smoother reproduction, especially when printing.
- Find Fonts to recreate any text. This will be far cleaner looking than a photo of the original. Use an online service to provide samples of the text, and download the closest matching font.
- Layout all your stickers onto a single A4 sheet ready for printing.
Your printing service will specify requirements such as distance between stickers (if you’re getting them laser-cut), and bleed (margin) around the edge. If you plan to cut them yourself with scissors then you can afford to squeeze them much closer, but be aware it’s more work cutting by hand, may not look as good depending on your scissor skills.
- Print! Get quotes online from various print services. The prices will vary massively, and can be quite costly for only one or two sheets. Don’t fall into the trap of ordering only what you need – buy extras because you know you’ll mess a few up!
I’d recommend printing Glossy and on Vinyl (rather than paper). The thinner the vinyl better it will blend in with the car – we used 55 micron.
STEP 2: Remove the old stickers
This was harder than I expected. The old Taiyo stickers take serious effort to remove, they won’t just peel off after soaking in soapy water. There’s a few steps.
- Surface removal.
Peel, scrape, and beg the old paper sticker off.
I found soaking in water overnight, then using various PLASTIC implements to scrape the old sticker off worked best.
- Glue removal
Once the actual paper or plastic sticker design is removed, you’ll be left with the hard sticky residue on the surface. I used Orange Power to remove this, which is an Orange Oil (citris acid?) based cleaner that just turns the glue to liquid while it’s on the surface. This was a life saver.
Even once you’ve removed the stickers and residue, you’ll find that the goo remover has allowed some residue to temporarily relocate itself in various other areas of your model. Use more Goo Remover to ensure your plastic surface is completely clean and shines like new.
STEP 3: Retrobrite the yellowed plastic
I tried 4 different methods over many weeks, each to varying degrees of success…
Highly diluted 6% with UVA-C and Percarbonate
Buying a big bottle of Hydrogen Peroxide 9% isn’t easy or cheap in Australia, and so the best I could do initially was 5 tiny little bottles of 6% from my chemist. This barely filled a few millimetres of my tub, and so I had to dilute this further by adding water to ensure the mixture covered the entire model. Then I added some Sodium Percarbonate (in the form of OxyClean from Aldi, a clothes washing additive) which is the activator.
I then let it sit under my UVA-C germicidal lamp (the only UV light I had at the time) and left it for over a day.
At the time I wasn’t sure it was working at all, either due to the wrong type of UV Lamp, or the mixture being too diluted, however looking at the photos now it’s very clearly got brighter/whiter!
Verdict: Works, but get a safer UV light!
High Lift Peroxide Creme 14% with Proper UV Blacklight and Percarbonate
Eventually I found a ‘better’ source of Peroxide, which is Hi-Lift 14% creme, used for bleaching hair, and easily obtainable on eBay in most countries. I also switched to a proper 60W UV Black Light (UVA) from Amazon.
Method 1: Drown it.
Initially I tried drowning the SuperFight body in the mixture (Peroxide, water, percarbonate), however this soon turned into a frothy mess, and I was’nt sure that any UV rays would be able to penetrade all the frothy mixture. I suspect it only works like this (drowning it in a tub) on all those YouTube videos if you’re using pure peroxide (not a creme hair bleach!), and heaps of it, without any percarbonate, so that it remains crystal clear.
Method 2: Bag it.
Next, I tried adding the mixture into a large bag, and putting the model inside. The idea was to keep the mixture as close to the model as possible so it would work, but still thin enough to allow some UV rays to hit it. I suspect this actually worked reasonably well.
Method 3: Make a paste.
Following a guide I found on the ‘official’ retrobrite site, I made the Hi-Lift 14% paste extra thick to help it cling to the surface and have more of an effect. This also seemed to work well, but was a pain to create, so eventually I just settled for Method 4.
Method 4: Just brush it on.
This was the simplest and most effective way I found.
Add the Hi-Lift to a small container, sprinkle on some percarbonate, mix up, and brush this mixture liberally onto your model and leave it under a UV Black Light for 3-4 hours. Re-apply at intervals until it’s at desired whiteness. Verdict: Easiest and best.
The RetroBrite Result
The difference is stark when you look at the photos, however over the approx. 2 weeks time it took to occur, the results changed so slowly that I was’nt sure it was really working at all!
It actually took my wife to dig up a photo of the original caramel yellow Super Fight to remind me how bad it looked before, and how much better it looked now.
Clearly though, it’s not perfectly white – it’s still an off-white in areas, however after 2 weeks effort I decided enough was enough, and we’d move onto the stickers.
STEP 4: Sticker Application
Cutting out and placing the stickers was a little tiresome, but at least once it’s done we had something worth looking forward to.
My advice? Make sure you have a steady hand, a good sharp pair of scissors, a steel ruler, and a razor. That, or spend the extra time/effort to get them laser cut!
Well this is what it all comes down to. Was it worth the effort? You tell me.
Bonus internet points if you can tell me where my stickers are incorrect!