1/15 Scale M35A2 - One Big Truck!

After having taken many pictures of US Army trucks and armored vehicles in the port of Antwerp at the occasion of a Reforger exercise in December 1989, I decided to make a diorama of this. Though I was most interested in doing something with the M35A2, the AFV kits (M35 and M49) did not yet exist at the time. There only was the Revell wrecker, but given its poor quality I decided to scratchbuild my own. Since ALL parts were to be scratchbuilt, I needed detailed pictures of the separate parts of the M35, not only the parts that are easily visible on an overall picture. I made a request with the US forces in Germany to be allowed to make detailed pictures of this truck. Surprisingly easily, I was invited to visit a repair installation near Karlsruhe that was used for big repair work to the M35. Not only could I take pictures of complete trucks, these were also available in various states of repair, all taken apart in pieces. A scratchbuilder's dream! After many months, I was very pleased with the result, and decided to mold it, allowing me to make several resin copies. I broke down the model to copyable parts and put them in molds. While the breaking down went quite well, getting the original pieces out of the mold was a massacre. Many of the delicate parts were damaged beyond repair (I guess I need not explain the acronym "FUBAR" to most readers). I did not have the courage to restart the whole project from the parts that survived.
Shortly after, I met my wife, got married, became a dad, changed jobs, and shelved all modeling gear.

Almost ten years later, the modeling virus bit me again. I decided to make a new M35A2, but on a 1/15 scale. It's the first model I ever built completely from scratch. Because I had the intention to later use the same scratchbuilt pieces to make other versions of the deuce, I molded most parts to cast resin copies BEFORE the truck was constructed. The parts that were most difficult to make, can be recreated now by simply pouring them in PU resin. Of many parts, I have copies already.

The Wheels were by far the biggest challenge. No exact - or even comparable wheels of that size are available in the market.

It took me some experimenting, but in the end I succeeded in turning them from a block of PU resin with a lathe. The hubs for front and rear wheels were of course made separately. Putting the tire profiles on the original wheel was the hardest part, and to be honest, I'm not entirely happy with the result. Maybe when I make another deuce I'll create new tires.
Headlights were also turned in resin, then copied in two-component transparent resin (a real misery : it cures extremely slowly, so it takes many days/weeks of patience before they are really hard and not sticky. If you de-mold them sooner, your fingerprints may ruin them !).For that reason, the picture does not show mirrors : they are still in the mold. They should be hard now, but I didn't get to fishing the deuce out of its dust-free "aquarium" yet. Behind the headlights sits a little disc of Mylar (the fancy silver colored gift wrapping material) to reflect the light.

To make the radiator and exhaust pipe grille covers, I wrecked one of my wife's kitchen utensils: a grille that fits to put on top of a frying pan, avoiding the oil to spat all over the kitchen. She never used it anyway, and since she never bought a new one I don't think she misses it badly. Cutting one of those up, there's enough grille cover to last you a lifetime. I do not want to get nasty e-mails from your wife : if you do the same, that's your own decision!!!

License plates are made with letraset rub-on letters. So were the drivers names on the windshield. However, I cannot find the right font for license plates. Luckily, real license plates seem to be often in wrong fonts, too.. The winch was interesting, too. I must have pictures of at least four different M35's w/w, and no two winches are the same!!! I guess it is an acceptable mix of the types I found in my pictures.
The back yellow/red reflectors on the back were made from reflecting safety stickers (it's always handy to have a small kid in the family), with a flat coating on top. Here's a hint for those decal-makers among you : I'm still very interested in 1/15th license plate letters and reflectors for modern US army!

When the truck was finished, it was a "regular" M35. I had made a canvas cabin top with a machine gun mount on top. However, I could not (still can't) figure out how such roof opens up when the driver quickly decides to liven up the neighborhood with a few rounds of .50 caliber.

I didn't much like the canvas, so I decided to trade it in for a hard top. I decided to put a command shelter module on top, of which I had made a few walk-around pictures and found others on the internet. It gives the truck some importance. When I did this, I had wild plans to model the interior, leave the door open and put it all in a diorama setting with maybe a few officers having their morning coffee and a shave outside their shelter. Well, I decided to close the door. I figure it's too cold outside and it would be nicer for them to have the coffee inside the shelter anyway.
Normally, the truck is shown with the shelter. Therefore, the picture of the cabin back without the shelter, shows mistakes. But I still prefer to show how it is structured. (Picture) I did not include many of the details that would be hidden by the truck bed and shelter anyway. You can even see there's glue left where the gun mount support used to be on the cabin back. As I never had the intention to publish anything on this subject, I did not take pictures of the model before it was painted. I'm sorry for that, but I'll remember next time.

Making the whole truck from scratch, took me the best part of a year (week day evenings and spare moments in weekends).
Some parts are not as perfect as I would like them to be. But you have no idea how much you learn from doing such project. I might make another M35 after this. Maybe an M35A3 ? Having access to the molds and a fair part of the individual parts make it easier of course.

All paint was acrylic (Tamiya), drybrushing and weathering was with oil colors and turpentine. Finally, a clear and a dull coating were added. The paint scheme is from the 1976 version of the TB43 -0209 manual. Though the colors are not the standard colors for the European theater, they are a correct replica of the truck I photographed in Antwerp in 1989. I liked the color combination, so I preferred these to the textbook color scheme. Interesting note : while handling the truck to make these pictures (almost a whole year after it was made), some parts broke off. It seems that cyano-acrylite glue does not hold the resin forever.
I used to think you can glue a can of Coca Cola to a can of Pepsi and it would hold forever, but I started to doubt that now. Maybe I could have avoided that by washing all resin parts before gluing them. I succeeded in repairing the incident anyway.
I envy those disciplined modelers that not only KNOW the rules of the game, but also take the effort to meticulously APPLY them!

I have been very busy at work (airport communication) Something nasty happened to our industry in September, our national carrier Sabena went down the drain in November? All that left me with very little modeling time. After completing this truck, I decided to build an M113 out of the box. I had to change those plans when I examined the kit more closely. Finally, I modified the Verlinden (he's Belgian too !)'s 1/15th scale M113 into an M577.

Now, I'm ready to get back to my deuces. A few characters in this website's forums made me decide to work on another little project I had in mind : scratchbuilding fuel cells (picture) that fit in the back of this truck. The shelter has to go. I'll report on the progress. Keep watching these pages!

Used products: For scratchbuilding, you need a calculator and a caliper. For every single part of the vehicle, you need to have the size exactly right. Scratchbuilding has a lot to do with measuring and fitting. Polystyrene plasticard, rods, strips and tubes. I mostly use Evergreen, except if I can find a cheaper brand. Almost the whole truck (except the shelter) is cast from PU resin. I made original parts mostly from polystyrene, but mostly only used the resin copies to build the truck. In this way, no original parts were lost. The resin brand I use is locally bottled, so I don't know who the original manufacturer is. Its color looks much like the early VP models.)

Filler: I'm really happy with polyester putty that is used for car repair. This is a two-component putty that comes in 500 g jars. Its nowhere as expensive as those special modeling-putties and it dries (depending on the mixture) in anything between two and thirty minutes. In the beginning it can be cut with a hobby knife, afterwards it gets hard as a rock. It doesn't shrink? it's just perfect. The brand is "Auto 5", which is European (French?), but I'm sure similar car repair polyester putties must exist elsewhere too. Transparent resin for the lights. Now here's a tricky one. I tried several often horribly expensive - two-component clear resins. I finally stick to (sometimes literally) Poly-Optik clear casting resin, produced by Polytek (Easton, PA, USA). The trouble with clear resins is that they take a long time to cure. For small parts (smaller is slower), you often have to wait several weeks.

Glue: pink and green Zap cyano-acrylate "super glue" for metal and resin parts Glue : "Humbrol liquid polly", tri-chlorine-ethylene and cellulose-thinner for gluing polystyrene I used to work with a mixture of cut sprue parts in tri-chlorine-ethylene. After a few days, this becomes a thick fluid plastic mess. I tried it for several applications, but I discovered none where it performs better than two-component polyester putty.

Paint: All base paint for the camouflage pattern is acrylic (Tamiya). Weathering and drybrushing is in oil colors. I paint with the Aztec A430. I used to have a classic paintbrush before that. Both have their advantages. I used the cheapest compressor (a small "Puma") I could get my hands on - but I'm quite happy with it. The compressor sits on a block of styrofoam to muffle its sound.

Decals: I used good old-fashioned "lettraset" rub-on letters and figures for the license plates.

Lead foil: For side-skirts I use the (.6mm thick) led foil that is used for roof-repair. It can be made thinner by bashing on it with a plain hammer. For finer applications like belts, I use the lead wrappings from old wine or champagne bottles. Old paint tubes do the trick, too. I tried to get original empty tubes from the pharmacy. They are not as flexible as lead (which would poison their content) but can be used for some modeling applications, too.

Wire in several thickness. NEVER throw away any kind of electric/electronic/other metal wire before pondering on its possible use for scratchbuilding.

The windows are clear polystyrene. Parts were masked also.

For nuts & bolts, I used Verlinden's in the past. Now, I mainly make my own with Historex Punch & Die sets (both round and hexagonal).

And of course, there's always the old recycling box with parts of broken models and sprues with parts that can find a new life, even in another scale.

Reference Material
Contrary to most other army trucks and tracked vehicles, the (real) M35 truck can be sold to the public. Though the US army has retired them from service, many hundreds of M35's are owned by happy citizens. For this reason, there are zillions of good pictures available on the internet. Furthermore, it's quite easy to find someone who owns a deuce on the web, and ask for pictures. I think I must have pictures of every nut and bolt that sit in an M35. If I can help you, feel free to mail me.

The original technical manuals can easily be found. They are for sale on paper, and in digital version (.pdf) from the internet. I got my copy on CD from www.chqsoftware.com in Canada. Their CD offers a truckload of M35 tech manuals, including the complete 1992 version of theTB43-0209 manual for camo painting. I think US citizens can order these manuals through their local library(?).

  • aah
  • aai
  • aag
  • aaa
  • aab
  • aae
  • aad
  • aaf
  • aac

About the Author

About Jan (GeneralFailure)

I live in Belgium, Europe. Though modeling was big on my list of hobbies, I spent all my time refurbishing the home we bought a few years ago. I promised I'd be back some day. That day can't be far off, now.