Vietnam Armored Convoy Escort
"Sopwith Camel"

Contact Maintenance Truck, Engineers, Vietnam 1968

Conversion / Kitbash AFV Club #AF3504 M35A1 2 1/2-Ton Cargo Truck Model Kit

Copyright 2003, Jim Lewis/GunTruck Studios
All Rights Reserved Worldwide

Page Two

Awards & Honors

Below are photos and descriptions of the conversion of the basic AFV Club Model kit, divided between the two major subassemblies - Chassis and Fighting Compartment. I've worked on the kit so many times prior, I wanted to cover it differently - in photos with captions - instead of a lot of text. The different color plastic comes from different AFV Club production runs. Many of the parts show their age, as marred by ejector pin marks, mold shift and short-shot in some cases, but still are very well done and detailed.

Fighting Compartment

The Fighting Compartment for "Sopwith Camel" is a typical second-generation type, with double walls for increased crew protection. A type of spaced-armor concept employment, it doubles as a storage location. Gun Truck modelers sometimes become as resourceful as the actual Vietnam Truckers, unlike materials combine to replicate the rather imaginative and sophisticated modifications to the Cargo Bed in these vehicles. "Sopwith Camel" was also what was called a Contact Maintenance Truck. These vehicles carried extra tires and some components to service gun trucks damaged during the convoy run. Often, when the Viet Cong attacked, all the tires on one side of the Truck were shot out.

Normally, I make a paper maquette of the intended Fighting Compartment for a particular gun truck miniature. It is easy to trim and tape Index Cards together, and toss them when needed. This time around, I just went ahead and cut the styrene sheet. I also tried a different resin casting medium, from Smooth-On. This product worked out for me very well, and I'll be using it more in the future.

A very important part for modeling these trucks, is being able to not only produce a clean and unblemished miniature in the raw - but to be able to make it strong enough for repeated handling to test-fit and adjust components as they come together. I do this alot to see how it is all coming together - it also inspires me to keep plugging away with a long, demanding conversion.

The Bolt Strips on the outsides of the Cargo Bed Walls were mounting points for the Fighting Compartment. The Vietnam Truckers built steel boxes for Fighting Compartments, that could easily be hoisted by crane, up and into the Cargo Bed of an available Cargo Truck. They could subsequently be unbolted and removed to place into another Truck if the host vehicle was badly damaged and not capable of being returned to service.

The Fighting Compartment is made up of styrene sheet panels, scribed where the individual armor panels on the real "Sopwith Camel" would butt against each other. I used to cut the panels and mount them to a frame individually - but this method is cleaner and faster. Resin pieces are cast from plastic masters made years ago - again a better method than scavenging model kits repeatedly for such items. Lesson learned, as building a second miniature gun truck got increasingly expensive buying kits to raid. Nothing is glued into place at this time - just press-fit for adjustments if needed.

Since I was building and joining subassemblies on the fly, I had to paint as I progressed. The Wheels and Hubs had to be finished for mounting on the Chassis. Not a big deal - just meant keeping hands off them. The base coat is Tamiya XF-1 Flat Black, as shown in the photos above. The first color coat of Olive Drab, below, was then overcoated with Black one time before application of gloss for the graphics.


Many of the detail additions seen here weren't because the AFV Club Deuce is deficient. When I began "Sopwith Camel", I raided my spare parts bin from past projects - and cobbled together all the parts necessary to build a complete truck - hence the explanation for all the different colors. Many of the Cab components came from my in-progress conversion/backdate to the earlier gasoline-powered REO truck to serve as a basis for the M4 LaCrosse Guided Missile Launcher. The M35 gas-engined truck has slightly different Dashboard and external features as compared to the later multi-fuel trucks that you can build with the stock AFV Club model kit. To do "Sopwith Camel", I just had to restore the details I removed for the LaCrosse Chassis.

Of all the model truck kits out on the market, AFV Club's Deuce will forever remain my favorite. I know I say it over and over again, but I love this model kit. Brass Wire comes in handy to fashion the Air Valve Lines for the rear dualies. The Bolt Strips on the side of the Cargo Bed walls are for mounting the Fighting Compartment onto the truck.

Barely tacked in place, the Front Wheels cast a curious stance. The completed model doesn't look like this, however. The Radiator Panel is a resin replacement, simply because I didn't have a complete plastic part to use - all having been chopped and cannabalized for lowered-headlight units on other truck projects. Below, the Tailgate and Rear Panel of the Cargo Bed, with the Reflector/Light detail removed and cleaned up.

Above and below, the Cab swiped from the LaCrosse conversion project. It was to have a complete gasoline engine compartment and an opened Hood. I removed those parts for this project and set them aside for another day - tape holding the Hood into place until I could redo the Hinges. At this point, I could have left the Chassis alone, it's a nice rendition of the basic Cargo Truck at this point.

All content Copyright 1998 - 2018 Jim Lewis,,,, and GunTruck Studios.
All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

Contact GTS

Next Page
Previous Page