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Old 06-26-2008, 12:28 PM
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Default Armored Vietnam Convoy Escort: Eve of Destruction (1971)

In honor of the new Military Models Forum here on RI, I wanted to share some photos that walk through most of the process I go through in modeling 1:35th scale Vietnam Armored Convoy Escort vehicles - now popularly known as "gun trucks". I've been modeling these vehicles for commission since 1991 - and I was the first on the Internet doing so and publishing the conversion techniques. Unfortunately, over the years, many came to take my information away and claim it as their own and made money off of it. Even Eduard lifted information off my website to produce their photoetch detail set and artwork for AFV Club's Quad.50 cal gun truck model kit "Nancy". After a terse exchange or two with Eduard, they came correct and gave me credit through listing my website as the source information for the photoetch set. The experience made me pretty leery about posting that kind of information again, and affected what I decided to display on my website for many years.

It seems like similar experiences happen in the Garage Kit/Sci-Fi arena too, so I feel some kinship and learn from what many talk about here at RI.

Anyway, the cargo truck conversion to Armored Convoy Escort is difficult to get accurate. You cannot slap a weapon on a truck bed and call it a "gun truck". To do so dishonors the Vietnam Veterans who crewed these vehicles. There were almost 500 gun trucks custom-built that fought in the Vietnam War - all were unique, and for a long time, photos were not found in the public domain. When I started building these miniatures, it often took a lot of hours over several months to a year to get enough to make a credible go at a particular vehicle. "Nancy" took two years - and I am still discovering information about here six years after I built the miniature.

Enough preamble, I could bore you to tears...

Eve of Destruction, subject of this thread, is one of the best-known of the Vietnam era gun trucks - and she is the only one that was returned intact from Vietnam after the war. The others were scrapped or converted back to standard cargo trucks if still serviceable. Eve is on display at the US Army's Transportation Museum in Fort Eustis, VA.

Eve was built on two 5-ton truck chassis, and is probably the most challenging because you can actually walk up to the truck and touch it. There are no M54 5-ton truck model kits in 1:35 (at least for the last 16 years I've been modeling them) scale for you to use in conversion efforts - so you've gotta do it yourself. And, lastly, the challenge is in accuracy. Not only do you have to model the M54 cargo truck properly, you then have to convert it to the gun truck accurately too. These trucks were modified by the truckers themselves - they have warts, bugaboos and errors that make them unique beyond their paint schemes - and when they went on Convoy Escort missions, they were beat to shit, and often had extensive repairs that changed their configurations.

For an Armor Modeler, this has to be the most challenging of all wheeled fighting vehicles to pull-off. There is a certain grace and beauty to a truck done right, I wish I could impress that upon modelers who just pay it a short glance and then move on. In 1996, I picked up commissions to build six miniatures of Eve, and I got completely burned-out on modeling gun trucks. I thought that would never happen. I certainly will not build six or more of anything else like that in the future. I haven't touched a gun truck miniature waiting on my shelf since, but I am catching the bug again. I think this thread is a bit a therapy for me...

I'm posting the thumbnails backwards, from completion to start to talk a little about what's in the photos and what goes into modeling a gun truck like this.

In the first three photos, Eve is finished-up in her 1971 configuration, with crew members for scale. It is an interesting gun truck, but typical and not the most extreme of examples. During RON (Remain Over Night) missions, the gun trucks were often battered and covered with dust, mud and muck. I choose to rarely model them like this because the popular armor modeling techniques are inaccurate for these vehicles, and they really look good after the crews returned to base and lavished attention upon them. My avatar, "Sopwith Camel" shows typical weathering for a vehicle during a RON mission, for comparison...

The next five photos are stages where dry-transfers and details are being brought onto the base model for completion. I do my own custom markings, either dry-transfers, water-slide or airbrush/stencil patterns because there hasn't been any interest in doing markings like this up until last year. I'd like to think my website and exposure at Armorama in it's early days might have helped kindle interest in the subject. It is really difficult to pull things together because they have to be finished in different subassemblies and melded in the end. Thankfully, the later gun trucks like Eve had waxed finishes, and this helps when it comes to having to even things up.

There are two more photos of the outer walls of the Fighting Compartment painted - as this gun truck was a later design (tagged Second-Generation) I have to build the model with inner walls to be added during final finishing - you won't be able to paint the truck properly if you don't.

Bare naked plastic: the subsequent photos are of the major conversion parts in the raw. I design and cast my own resin parts to suit a particular vehicle and the most redundant things like radio sets and wheels. Armor Plate is simple sheet styrene because casting thin parts like this introduce a factor of warpage that I don't want to entertain during construction. Little details like fixtures and fittings are added in different steps depending on access to subassemblies and the flaws present in the real vehicle are modeled in this stage. I am particularly proud of Eve, because Veterans who have seen and crew-served the real vehicle in Vietnam have inspected my miniatures and found that I modeled all the flaws found in the real truck. IPMS judges (and I am one ) be damned - these things don't get noticed in the proper context. I love modeling for Veterans, they have an entirely different perspective of a miniature like this. I can engineer mostly all of my parts to fit snugly enough together for repeated handling during the construction process - even the finicky tires, which always want to wobble off-line when a camera lens is pointed in their direction. Each truck I build, I figure out better ways of mating the parts in the dry-fit stages. I haven't wrapped my mind around the concept of gluing everything together and then painting it - I can't see it on a model miniature like this. Everything has to be able to be done in stages...

The next six photos are the nitty-gritty of the gun truck conversion. I do conversions on both the AFV Club 2 1/2-ton Cargo Truck and Italeri 5-ton Cargo Truck model kits. I don't have a preference with one over the other, but admit I like AFV Club's parts and detail far more than Italeri's. In modeling any wheeled AFV, I always start out with a grid sheet onto which I draw the truck's critical measurements. This is the workbench that I build the model upon. It is critical for a 5-ton truck conversion because it has odd features that create a characteristic stance and if you don't get it right, nothing else does on the miniature's profile. A lot of gun truck conversions and miniatures fall short here. The M54 is a 11-12% scale-up of many of the sheet metal parts in the M35 2 1/2-ton cargo truck - the modelers make the mistake of thinking that you can use straight AFV Club parts for the conversion, unfortunately. Real Model, out of Europe, retails an incredibly expensive resin truck now - but the designer is an arrogant ass and can't accept the fact that he's made the same mistakes in basic research and design. $200 dollars plus is a whole lot of jack to spend on a resin kit that is inaccurate right out the gate...

The last few are miscellaneous photos of the truck components painted and coming together. A typical Second-Generation Fighting Compartment in grafted into the standard model kit cargo bed and wheels and items are put into place to double-check proper positioning and details.

I am passionate about these types of military vehicles, I guess you can tell. Wait until I start blabbing and cluttering the Forum with my absolute favorite stuff - 1950's and 1960's US Atomic Battlefield Ordnance!
Attached Images
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GunTruck Studios
Museum Associate Curator - Supervisory, Military Vehicle Technology Foundation (MVTF), Portola Valley, California

... Cry Havoc and let slip the Pastels of War! ...

Last edited by Gunnie; 06-26-2008 at 12:39 PM.
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Old 06-26-2008, 12:32 PM
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Whoa... hey Jim... Excellent thread and great work! And yes, I stopped to read the WHOLE post!!
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Old 06-26-2008, 03:39 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Out Of Time View Post
Whoa... hey Jim... Excellent thread and great work! And yes, I stopped to read the WHOLE post!!
Thanks Guys!
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GunTruck Studios
Museum Associate Curator - Supervisory, Military Vehicle Technology Foundation (MVTF), Portola Valley, California

... Cry Havoc and let slip the Pastels of War! ...
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Old 06-27-2008, 10:12 PM
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This is an awesome build. I can't believe how detailed it is.
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Old 06-27-2008, 11:05 PM
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Man all i can say is WOW!!! That is some outstanding work!!!
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