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Airfix 1/32 Model'T' Truck Conversion


By Peter Leonard




In "ye olden days" when Airfix Magazine was king, there appeared a series of conversion articles covering military versions of the Model T Ford. The series ran for quite awhile, and a good number of models were squeezed out of the two Airfix Model T kits then available – either in two-seater or four-seater form. Some were quite simple, like the straight forward four-seater staff car, or the "Ambulance" which was little more than the two-seater with a stretcher on the back. There was a machine gun carrier which was fairly complicated and a Hucks starter which was virtually a scratch build, but the most appealing to me was the tender, or pick-up in modern parlance. When someone recently asked me for a copy of the drawing I realised that I had one each of the Airfix and Pyro Model T kits set aside for just this project. Feeling a little jaded and suffering from a bad case of "modelers block" I thought the change might do me good.

The original Airfix Magazine model involved little more than placing a pickup bed on the back of a two-seater modified to accomodate it. No modeling or construction details were given, and the only reference photo was of a later type, but there was enough in it to produce a nice little tender either as a diorama accessory or as a model in its own right. One thing I wasn't particularly keen on though was that it retained the kit's soft top and I wanted mine to have a hard top.

Scratching around for references on the net I stumbled across the web site site of the Model T Ford Club of America, which is a must see for anyone at all interested in modeling the tin lizzie. There are dozens and dozens of photographs of every conceivable breed of Model T Ford, all cross indexed by year of manufacture, type, purpose, and any and every other way imaginable. The vehicle used as a start point is a 1913 van, actually a hearse, and my aim was to capture the feel rather than accurately portray every feature and detail. Some details differ from the subject van and were copied from those on other T's, either because I liked them or because they were easier to model, but I tried to retain the basic look and overall proportions. This one was strictly for fun and I wanted to keep it simple.

As many kit parts as possible are used and only the unwanted rag top and a few detail parts ended up in the spares box. Everything below the running boards is straight out of the box with running boards themselves only slightly modified. The rear mudguards – fenders to North American readers – are simply bent to a more circular form and trimmed to clear the pickup bed, the tread plates merely skinned with 10 thou plastic card to cover the various details (petrol can, spare wheel, tool box) not appropriate to the model. The bonnet (hood), radiator, headlights and wheels are used as is.

The Airfix kit has no clear parts for the lights (or windscreen) so I did my best with paint and varnish.

Just to be different – and because I liked it – the spare wheel has the spokes removed in keeping with many contemporary photographs, it is also located further back and just in front of the rear mudguard.

A new flat-fronted scuttle was made from card so that the cab could be moved forward slightly to match the proportions of the reference photo, and everything else is card and strip. The kit part wrapped in suitably bent and shaped card is the basis for the cab, and the kit seat is used, but with the back removed and replaced with simpler version also made from card. Comfort does not seem to have been a high priority in the commercial Model T and a very basic wooden bench seat was apparently much more the norm. My driver is afforded the luxury of a leather seat cushion but must make do with a wooden back rest. All planking is represented by scoring with an Olfa "P" cutter, an extemely useful tool which no modeler should be without, and steel rule.

With a view to possibly incorporating the model into a diorama at some future date I wanted a definite military look to it. Hopefully whatever ends up in the back will emphasise the military role, at the moment I envisage a Lewis gun and a box of ammo drums, but for now a coat of Khaki paint will have to do. The model is entirely brush painted with the running boards, wheels, and engine cover typically black, the rest is an olive shade mixed from black, sand yellow, and a touch of red. Tyres and the roof are shades of grey and weathering is dry brushed following an application of a dark wash to pick out the planking and other details. I have no references showing the kind of military markings applied to these vehicles, if any were, so there are none on the model.


Even if I don't, at some stage, incorporate my Model T into a 1/32 scale diorama, possibly with a Hobbycraft Nieuport or the promised Spad from the same manufacturer, then at least I have broken my modelers block and filled a little gap in the display case into the bargain. Overall I am pleased with result and still have the much nicer Pyro Model T stashed away for any future projects, maybe something a little closer to the magazine article. Most of all I enjoyed not having to account to myself for every millimetre and the refreshing feeling which doing something different brings. It may not have wings struts or wires, no flashing cockades or chattering machine guns, but definitely an On Topic OT "T".

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