How to Build a Car

This has been a highly requested tutorial, even so far as for one of you sent me a great blueprint of a car to use! So, to meet demand, I'm putting my Expressions and MEL Script list aside for now to bring this to you folks. I've built vehicles out of NURBS before, but I've never been happy with the results. For this tutorial, I'm going to go the polygon route. Perhaps later, I'll do a NURBS car modeling tutorial. But in any case, let's get started!
First, get your pictures ready for reference. If you'd like to follow along, you can download the picture I used HERE. I can never emphasize the importance of reference enough, especially with something as recognizable as a vehicle or human. (Fig 1) Figure 1
I'll first start with a polygon cube to create the main frame of the vehicle. We're going to model this car in halves, so I'm only modeling according to one side, as seen in the top view. I'll delete the interior and bottom sides. (Fig 2) Figure 2
I'm going to hide the back view until I get to that part. Grab the edge on the outside corner (Fig 3). We're going to go to the front view and bevel (Edit Polygons > Bevel) to get this to match the curvature of the car in front. (Fig 4) I used the following Bevel Options. Yours may vary. Offset: 0.9 Segments: 4 Figure 3Figure 4
Next, grab the vertices and tweak them to get them to match the reference in all views. You'll be doing this pretty often, as the back of the car is slightly elevated compared to the front. I'm going to delete the extra edges the Bevel created.(Fig 5) Figure 5
Now, grab the front face and extrude it 3 or 4 times, making small extrudes. (Fig 6) Delete the bottom and side faces you don't need. Move the lower 3 vertices to points along the hole the wheel will be placed. (Fig 7) Split the front face so only the part you need remains (Fig 8). Figure 6Figure 7Figure 8
Now, extrude this thinner front face around using the rotate and scale aspects of the extrude tool. (Fig 9) Now, use all 4 views to tweak the vertices to match the reference. There's no need to get too perfect just yet, but try to follow the contours of the vehicle. (Fig 10) Figure 9Figure 10
Now, we're going to do the same thing with the back. (Fig 11) Figure 11
Time to get ready for the canopy. I'm going to split the side of the car a little bit to match the canopy support arms near the front and rear of the car. (Fig 12) Figure 12
For the canopy, I'm going to use a few of the surfaces tools with polygon outputs. First, draw a curve with the CV or EP curve tool (I use CV). (Fig 13) We're going to use the Extrude Surfaces action, so this curve will function as our path curve. For our profile curve, we'll draw another as in Fig 14. Fig 15 shows the polygon output settings I used to get the shape. Figure 13Figure 14Figure 15
With the new object, reshape it (Fig 16) and connect it to the car body. (Fig 17) Using a Lattice could be helpful to match the piece to all 4 views. Figure 16
For the top of the canopy, I'm going to use a Birail. These 4 curves are what I'll be using (Fig 18). This is the surface that results, when using the same settings as in the earlier curve extrude. Tweak and connect. (Fig 19) Figure 17Figure 18Figure 19
Just to see how it looks so far, you can duplicate and reverse the surface to create both sides. Here's mine: Fig 20. Figure 20
Speaking of which, we'd better cut out a hole for the rear window by splitting and deleting the right faces. (Fig 21) Figure 21
I'm also going to Append to Polygon in order to add the small window divider for the door. (Fig 22) Figure 22
To increase the tessellation around the wheel openings, I'll smooth those faces. (Fig 23) You'll probably not want to do this in a game situation. Figure 23
I'm going to use Append to poly to fill in the windows. Later I'll extract these faces. For the side mirrors, simply begin with a cube, and form the shape of the mirror with bevel, split polygon tool, etc. (Fig 24) Figure 24
After attaching the mirror, it's pretty much just a detail hunt and adding the wheels. (Fig 25 and 26) You could also do the interior if you'd like, as well as the undercarriage. Figure 25Figure 26
I hope this tutorial has helped you get started on creating a car in Maya! Obviously, there's still tons of little details that you need to add in order to make the vehicle as realistic as possible, but I think this tutorial puts you on the right track! If games is what you're modeling for, this car, minus the wheels, came to 1318 faces. Not too bad for the next-gen systems. Just need to get some cool texture maps on there.

Michael McKinley