Airfix GMC CCKW 353 with elevating platform body conversion in 1/72 scale
         Started: February/2018
Current state: Final assembly

 
Every military enthusiast knows the GMC CCKW truck - the 2 & 1/2 - and its countless variants. Probably one of the most successful truck designs in the history, the WWII version of the Deuce came in two basic flavors: short (352) and long (353) wheel base. On top of these two simple chassis, one could find cargo, fuel, dump, ambulance, winch, compressor, radio, shop, you name the accessory you want... Of course there were other many variations, axle, transmission, hard/soft cab, and the list goes on, but the success of this particular vehicle was rooted in its flexible design, which allowed adaption to virtually any purpose.
        

 
During the last months, I've been slowly working on a Revell C-54 diorama. The plan is to put a few vehicles servicing the big Douglas at Palam airport circa 1945. During my research on the subject, I stumbled with a somewhat unique variation of the CCKW 353: a high-lift cargo truck!

As history goes, the entry into service of the new generation of transport aircraft with nose wheels put their cargo doors well above the runway to be loaded by ramps. Two American companies, Heil and Gar Wood, manufactured an elevating platform body based on the CCKW 353 chassis, reducing considerably the freight handling time in aircraft like the C-46 and the C-54. Essentially, the truck had a scissors-like mechanism capable of hydraulically elevate the cargo platform to the proper aircraft height:
         

(a)                                                                                                                                (b)

(c)                                                                                                                                (d)
At least four types of elevating platforms were produced. (a) Jack-knife high-lift hoist mechanism produced by Heil ; (b-d) Variations of Gar Wood design installed on hard cab models.
   
The Heil hoist mechanism was the simplest one and was based on the soft-cab model of the CCKW, while Gar Wood versions were based on the hard-cab and used a somewhat more elaborate lifting mechanism. It is not very easy to find photos of these particular GMCs in action, but the references at the end of this article bring some.


The idea endured long after the war, and I managed to find an advertisement of a similar equipment put to use by a Brazilian airliner company in a magazine from 1961:
   

Aero Magazine #38, 1961
   
Well, back to the war years...

When I saw these photos for the first time, I coudn't help but immediately grab my Revell C-54 and the ideas started flowing. 'I could make one of these servicing my C-54, eh ? ', I thought. It would be a bit strange because in my diorama the C-54 would be in RAF livery, surrounded by a Morris Tilly and an Austin K2 ambulance. But after consulting a couple of books it was clear that Palam was a hub for the allied air forces during the last WWII years. I guess it would be natural to find vehicles from different forces helping out each other. If not, blame the commanding officer, not me!

There is no kit of this unique variant of the CCKW. So the first thing needed was evidently a good kit of the CCKW 353 to serve as a basis for the conversion. I had a couple of Hasegawa's offerings:  
     

 
Wait, I said good kit! Okay, the Hasegawa 353 is not a bad kit, it does can be built as a nice model, and has been around for decades, but it is showing its age. The wheels are particularly awful, and there are a number of details missing. I needed an alternative, and I found one in my stash - the Airfix (relatively new) 353 which, contrary to the older kits of the brand is actually 1/72 scale. For the records, the Airfix 353 is the same kit released by Heller. Two military vehicles produced in 1/72 scale by the French manufacturer praised by modelers are the M4A1 Sherman tank and the CCKW 353, so I knew the Deuce was an accurate kit. Lucky me, I could start the conversion right away:
       
 
At this point I had already opted for the Heil type. It would be easier to adapt from a standard soft-cab 353 and the lifting mechanism was well within my scratchbuilt skills. I found very few detail photos to guide me during the process, and the necessary modifications started to become clear. It also was evident that I would have to make a few concessions to avoid too much work.


Some details would be missing in the final model simply because I didn't know any better at the beginning... 

     

 
Since the Airfix kit comes with the front winch, my first task was to remove it from the model. Airfix made my life easy and it was just a matter of cutting off the winch extension from the front of the truck (part 1) and gluing the front bumper (part 2) ahead of the reduced chassis:
 

 
I also noted that the transmission depicted in the Airfix model is of the split type and, if you really want to nitpick, the rear bumper should be different than the one in the kit (part 10, which is wrong for the Banjo type, too). This is one of the aspects ignored on my model in view of my lack of knowledge on the subject:
   

     
The cabin was assembled in a different sequence from the instructions. I opted for assembling it completely so as to correct a few glitches resulting from leaving the original machine gun out. Plastic shims helped to make the fit tighter, and blocked off unwanted apertures. I removed the rear mirrors to install them at the end. The characteristic jerry can socket on both sides of the cabin were removed and replaced by thinner Aluminum ones for a better scale aspect. The headlight guards were also refined using careful sanding and stretched sprue:
   
   
   
The chassis structure (part 1) was completed using C-channels from Evergreen. You must use a channel there in order to allow the scissors to move up and down (later on, once the high of the cargo platform is determined, movable parts would be fixed in place). Some bolts and eyebolts from Grandt Line were added here and there. The battery was detailed with terminals and cables, while the fuel tank was improved as per photos.

The inner area of the chassis was detailed with reinforcements and itens related to the hydraulic cylinder, which was scratchbuilt in a mini-lathe. A piece of Aluminum tubing was polished to look like the oleo arm which will push the platform scissors. The hydraulic plumbing would be added later
, and the aluminum arm cut to the correct length:
        



     
The scissors itself was scratchbuilt from 1mm plastic card, cut and shaped to match the photos I had. Because I made the mechanism movable, the correct position to match the C-54 cargo door would be adjusted later:
   




   
   
It was a lot of fun, but at this point I realized that the model did not have any engine, and since it was possible to see through the sides of the cabin, I'd better to find one. 
   
       
   
The cargo platform started with the Airfix parts. On a second look, however, I realized that the Hasegawa's ones would represent better the Heil's platform prototype. And as an additional advantage, it matched almost exactly the length I measured from photos. I kept the rear and front parts from Airfix, though (parts 36 & 37). The rear door (part 36) was split along the hinge line to be installed in loading position later. The underside of the platform recieved a small surgery to accept plastic channels to allow the scissors to move:
   


   
   
At this point I had most of the hard work done. Some smaller details were still missing, but the project was basically done. Now I could play a bit with my new toy.

Look, mom...it moves up and down! 

      
 

 
   
Time to start loading my airbrush. But before start shooting paint I had to take care of that see throught under the driver's cabin. I made a fake engine using things from my spare parts bin. It took me 20 minutes, no kidding. It is completely fake, but will do the job.

As for the paint, I used GSI H-78 Olive Drab 2 from their Aqueous line. I tried to highlight selected areas with H-52. Details were hand painted with Vallejo colors. In retrospect, I could have used the H-52 as a basic color. The H-58 seemed a tad too dark for the scale:

   
   


   
Then all parts received a good coat of Tamiya X-22 Clear. The next step was the application of washes. I didn't want to simulate dust and sand at this point, so I basically applied a dark brown wash over everything, and cleaned up the excess:
     
   
     
Decals came next. I used the kit decals with the stars from Techmod. Another pass with X-22 sealed the decals. After waiting them dry overnight, the flat finish came in the form of the old and still reliable Testors Dullcote. The final touch was a gentle drybrushing with yellowish oils, just enough to highlight the raised details. Some plumbing, supposedly associated to the hydraulic scissors, were added to the back of the cabin:
   


   
   
The chassis received the master cylinder responsible for lifting the platform and a couple of associated lines. Smaller lines would be added later on, when the platform is fixed in its final position. The exhaust was also painted. It is important to remember that when the platform is raised, many details under the chassis, normallly not seen in a standard 353, become visible...
      


   
   
And here is the last photo before gluing the cabin definitely to the chassis, painted, decaled and dullcoated:
     
   
   
The wheels were painted and weathered according to what one would expect from a dusty airfield. Photos from the period at Palam show a cream colored earth, almost like crushed coral airstrips in the PTO...
   
   
   
The spare tire is a resin copy of one of the kit wheels. Unique in this 353 variation, the spare tire was bolted upward to the left side of the chassis, between the cabin and rear wheel.
   

Will show you more in the next update. Stay tuned...



References
   

 
 
Technical file
Kit: 
- Revell #04723
Additions: 
- Legend Productions LF3214 - He-162 cockpit set for 1/32 Revell kit
Basic colors: 
- Primer: Automotive universal grey primer
- Basic camouflage: 
GSI H-78 Olive Drab 2
- Highlights:
GSI H-52 Olive Drab
- Detail painting: Vallejo
- Flat finish: Testors Dullcote
Notes: 
- Many scratchbuilt details (see text).


Rato Marczak 2018