Horizon Iron Man Kit Conversion

Last Updated: February 24, 2010 ...

  • New - completed with all photos and text


My goal was to convert the 1989 Horizon Iron Man kit to a Silver Age (1960's - 1970's) version. The original kit was of the Bob Layton's version of Iron Man, as first seen in Iron Man issue #233 (1988). I show the cover to Iron Man # 214 below, which has a nice full-body view of that version of armor. My conversion is mainly based on Iron Man per Tales of Suspense (TOS) #59 (artist Don Heck), but with some elements as per TOS #95 (artist Gene Colan).

Original Kit

The photo below shows the original kit, trimmed and assembled. I numbered each of the conversion or modification points to better illustrate the "task at hand" .

Kit - assembled and "snapped together"

Conversion list:

  1. Forehead - red area ends in a "point"
  2. Ears - grind-away "square" ones, and make round ones
  3. Form bottom of helmet to be "continuous shell"
  4. Round-off squared-off lines from shoulder to shoulder on front and back
  5. Collar - remove hexagon one and replace with round one
  6. Add rings around shoulder
  7. Upper Torso - make all red (remove seams which show red-yellow division)
  8. Add outlet plug on each breast plate
  9. Arms - remove shoulder pads
  10. Gloves - create cuffs; make forearms "correct shape" and striped
  11. Grind-off odd-shaped piece on shorts; Put stripes in shorts
  12. Add raised belt buckle to top of shorts
  13. Add storage pods at each hip
  14. Boots - create cuffs; make calves "correct shape" and striped


I used five materials to help me with this project ...

  • Bondo Glazing and Spot Putty (reddish-brown in photos)
  • ProCreate Epoxy Putty (used as a sculpting putty)
  • Styrene Strips 1/8" x 1/8" (thanks to Tom Sosenko for giving me these)
  • Styrene tubing in 3/8" and 1/2" diameters(thanks to Tom Sosenko for giving me these)
  • Thin Super-Glue (used as a glaze over Bondo Putty)

I used these specific tools which would not normally be used to build a vinyl kit ...

  • Engraving tool (thanks to Tom Sosenko for loaning me this)
  • Dremel Tool with 7/32" diameter wheel point
  • Hot Glue Gun

Head Conversions

The head with modifications #1 through 3.

  • I had to grind -away the trapezoid-shaped piece at the forehead to a "point", and carefully puttied to smooth the area around the point.
  • For the ears, I used a 3/8" diameter Styrene tube as a "cookie cutter" on a layer of putty before it had a chance to harden. I shaped them, and then glazed them with "thin" (water-like) super-glue to keep them from flaking or breaking in half during handling.
  • The bottom of the original helmet had cut-away areas under each ear. I filled them, and puttied along the entire side and rear of the helmet to make the helmet a "one-piece" shell ... in the comics, they don't call Iron Man 'Old Shell-head' for no reason . The white putty is Squadron white putty. I ran-out so I started using the Bondo putty (for the first time) per recommendations I read in model-building forums I found on the web.

Upper Torso Conversions

Upper torso with modifications #4 through 8. Shoulder Rings made from styrene strips.

  • You can't tell from the photo but the squared-off edge from shoulder to shoulder, has been ground-off so the shoulders are "more rounded".
  • I ground-off the hexagon collar, and used ProCreate epoxy putty to form a circular collar, but still with a square cross section.
  • For the shoulder rings, I put styrene strips into a cup of boiling water and curled them into the general shape I needed. Then while still very warm, I quickly checked how each one fit and shaped it as best I could before it cooled. I had to repeat this process a few times until I got them right. The right-hand photo above shows one ring not yet completed, and one ring fitted and the ends glued together.
  • The seams that defines the red and the gold areas of the upper torso were covered with Bondo putty and sanded smooth. Note that I was tempted to fill in the stomach area to remove the six-pack look, since in the early issues of TOS, the armor was straight-down like a shell. But later as per TOS #95, Gene Colan drew the armor as showing the defined six-pack stomach, so I went with that
  • The two outlet plugs were made using the end of straw to "cut-out two circles of putty. I then used a small drill bit to make the indentations in the center of each plug.

Lower Torso Conversions

The lower torso with modifications #11 through 13.

After grinding-off the funny shaped thing on the front of his shorts, I had to putty to smooth-out that area:

  • Using an engraving tool, I tried my best to make lines/grooves/stripes in his shorts. However the vinyl is surprisingly "hard", so that the lines were not consistent ... some parts of each line were deeper, and some came out more "raggedy". If I do this again, I may try a very fine tip soldering iron to sort of "burn" the lines in.
  • After defining the upper-most stripe, I used a couple of layers of Bondo putty to form a raised rectangular belt buckle. In the comics it looks flush with the shorts, but I am assuming it would be "raised" in "real life" .
  • I used two small blobs of ProCreate Epoxy putty to make the storage pods on each hip.

Arm Conversion

Original arm with shoulder pad; shoulder pad removed and glued back underneath; reshaped shoulder.

For each arm, the shoulder pad is cut-off (photo 2 above). However, this leaves a hole and there is nothing to apply the putty to. So I reused the cut-off shoulder pad, and glued it to the bottom of the hole, from inside of the arm. This now gave me something I could apply putty to. I used Squadron white putty for the coarse coat, and Bondo putty for the finer coats. After shaping it and sanding it to be like a shoulder muscle, I then glazed the putty with thin super glue, to help prevent the putty from cracking (photo 3 above).

Boots and Gloves

Reshaping the boots and gloves was probably the most tedious and challenging of the conversion steps. Since most of the vinyl had to be removed from each boot or glove, and each is just a shell, the structural integrity and basic alignment of the top of the boot or glove, with the foot or hand, had to be maintained !!

As in photo 1 above, for a boot, I glued a 1/2" diameter styrene tube to the inside bottom of the boot. I then filled the boot with hot glue. The trick was not to get the hot glue too close to the top of the boot, which would later make it difficult to insert the bottom of the leg into the boot. But not high enough, and the remaining "cuff" of the boot won't be strongly held by the hot glue to the styrene tube !! After the hot glue cooled and set, I then cut-off the vinyl covering the calf area of the boot, leaving just the desired cuff and show (photo 2 above). Some of the hot glue was then cut-off or ground-off with my Dremel tool so as to allow for putty to be applied. Using an awl, I tried my best to make lines/grooves/stripes in the boots (photo 3 above).

In photo 4 above you can see the portion of the boot that was cut-away and discarded.
Photo 5 above shows the other boot after I did the same process to it.
Photo 6 above shows one of the gloves. The process was similar to the boots, except that I used a 3/8" diameter styrene tube for each glove.


Kit with above conversions - assembled and "snapped together"; ready to be primed and painted.

Completed Model

Converted model - assembled and and painted.

For the gold parts, I used Krylon's Metallic Gold spray paint. This produced a very shiny and SMOOTH gold effect. I thought the result was excellent !!

For the red parts, I decided to first air-brush them with a coat of Createx Opaque Airbrush Red. This opaque coat hides all the irregularities in the primer coat, but is a very flat and pastel-colored red. So I then applied a coat of Createx Transparent Airbrush Red over the opaque coat. This produced a smooth, brilliant red, with a glossy finish to it.

Unfortunately the photo still seems to show the red with too much yellow in it, rather than the "deep" red that it is. Also, the red is so bright, that I couldn't take a proper photo ... you can barely see the stripes/lines in Iron Man's shorts, gloves and boots