Photos by the author
When asked to do an article for this prestigious publication, I didn't know quite what was expected of me at first. After careful consideration and some terrific suggestions from those who have the keys to the executive bathroom at the 1/87 Vehicle Club, I settled on building a mid-50s era construction combination of the Mack B-875 heavy haul tractor with a 100-ton beam lowboy. The load for this rig was easy. First Gear had just released the terrific 1/87 scale die-cast International TD-25 dozer with ripper bar. A perfect piece of heavy equipment from the 50s... in fact, the heaviest in its class at the time. The detail, construction and finish on this model are far superior to anything available in a similar price range. I look forward to seeing much more in HO scale from these folks. This is a ready-to-run model, and I made no changes to the dozer except for some weathering.
The Mack B-875 tractor is a resin kit from Don Mills Models. The selection of vintage vehicles and the quality of the kits from Don Mills Models made this an easy choice as well. The castings are clean and crisp, and the details are prototypical in proportion to scale and historical accuracy. This model doesn't just have a pretty face either. The chassis has a detailed drive train and suspension as well and comes with a choice of two styles of wheels and exhaust. All of the small details necessary to build a complete model are in the kit, including things like air cleaner, fuel tanks, battery box, and fifth wheel. And who doesn't associate the Bulldog with big trucks? My thanks to Mr. Mills personally for providing the model for this article as this model is a sell out wherever it is offered.
The Sheepscot Scale Models 100-ton lowboy beam trailer (#95049) leaves me with the same impressions with regard to the manufacturing quality and prototypical accuracy of the Mack kit. Sheepscot offers a great repertoire from the 40s into the 60s of solid resin truck cabs, decals and a great variety of beds, trailers and accessories in plaster, resin and cast metal that have all been chosen for era-specific appropriateness. I know George Barrett, proprietor at Sheepscot, and he gives the highest regard to making his models look prototypically correct with the right amount of details to give the most realistic look without spending a fortune and a lot of time to get it. It is the realistic representation of all three pieces and the quality of craftsmanship and materials in the models that has most influenced my choices to represent this era. It isn't difficult these days to acquire vehicles that present realistic and accurate renditions of some of the vehicles that tickle our fancy in real life from any era and that we would like to be displaying on our layouts, dioramas and collections. One look at the photographs of this combination reveals the immensity of the rig, and Im sure it would be a focal point in any scene.
The build itself is fairly easy and straightforward. The use of cyanoacrylate (CA) glue, some files and a sharp #11 blade is about all that is needed in the way of tools. The Mack is an all-resin kit, and the detailed drawing that comes with the kit is all the instruction that is needed for assembly (even for my feeble, fading mind). If you havent worked with resin before, wash everything thoroughly before painting to remove any remnants of mold release. The trailer is basically a cast-pewter kit, and the styrene strips (provided) give the appearance of the I-beam construction. Three pages of highly detailed instructions as well as a description of the prototype accompany this kit. Both kits come with their own decals, and the trailer kit provides a "headache" rack and rotating beacon for the tractor. For the most part, these are out-of-the-box models, ready to be built and finished. Some of the added details include the wheels and tires on the jeep dolly from Dennis Aust Models, mudflaps from A-Line, photo-etched deck plate from Plano and the chains are used by model ship builders. The wide load sign on the front of the Mack was done by putting the Sheepscot decal directly on a piece of dry tissue. It was allowed to dry and then painted from the back. When the paint dried, a thread was glued to the back. I might add that any modeler worth his salt will have something in his parts box that he would want to use in personalizing these models, and there is certainly room for kitbashing possibilities. The Mack would make a terrific dump or cement mixer for instance, since the frame comes extra long and you can make the wheelbase fit your needs.
Both the tractor and lowboy needed to be painted. In photographing and viewing things in our scale, I believe we need to create the perception that there is atmospheric debris (smog, etc.) between the viewer and the subject. Looking at a layout from 4 ' away is the equivalent of being over 350' away in scale distance. Were not talking a Ferrari here either, so some road and construction grime is in order. For these reasons I tried to subdue the colors (slightly darkened Floquil Railbox Yellow and Pullman Green in this case). The use of subtle colors and light weathering with washes, drybrushing and pastel chalks certainly aid in this perception. I also believe that high-gloss finishes give vehicles in this scale a toy-like look and emphasize defects, hence the flat clear finish.
I hadn't intended for this to be a kit review but rather, a few representations of the myriad of true-to-scale, prototypically correct, authentic-looking vehicles and equipment offered in 1/87 today by some of the lesser known manufacturers. Ive spent countless hours pouring over websites featuring fabulous layouts with magnificent workmanship put into trains, scenery and structures only to find inexpensive and out-of-scale toys occupying space in some of them. It is an annoying distraction to say the least. You may feel that the small details of 1/87 scale get lost on a layout because the viewer is usually not so close that they would notice them. I would suggest that the internet and the sharing of pictures on it have brought a new way of looking at the scale, and that these details are indeed noticed, in fact, necessary. In my opinion, the addition of quality scale representations of vehicles on a layout is as essential to it as any of the other elements, and elevates it from just good to great. I hope you have found my thoughts to be informative and maybe even a little inspirational. Happy modeling.