Scale 1/72
Manufacturer Matchbox
Kit ID
Type Dodge D-300 Crew Cab Swingline Pickup
Date 1964
Aftermarket parts used None
Other detail added See text
Model built by Alex Hunger
Date Completed September 2009

Sometimes your old toys come back to haunt you.  As a child I had quite a few Matchbox toy cars and for some reason, my favourites were always the boxy American cars from back in the days when the US car industry was still something to look up to.  Those toys didn't survive my adulthood, but somehow I found out that many of these die cast cars scaled in between 1/72nd and 1/75th.  Also, Halfords Atlantic Blue spray paint was a near complete match for USAF blue used on many staff cars and vans, which allowed me to convert many cars, station wagons and pick-up truck into suitable diorama models over the last 10 years.  My friend Haydn from the USAF SIG even prepared a sheet of decals for them.

However, something was missing.  There was a much-used USAF photo of a B-52F with a Hound Dog missile and a strange double cab pick-up truck which resonated in my mind.  In the late '50s, the US Air Force appears to have championed a series of "Crew Cab" pick-up trucks which could bring flight crews to and from their aircraft and still carry tools and spares.  Dodge, part of the Chrysler Group, seemed to have benefited the most from these government purchases up until the late 1960s.

There was the original, quite rounded, 1959 model, followed by the 1962-1964 boxier but still elegant Swing-line model equipped with a slant-6 engine.  There was a face-lift in about 1965 where they received a modified grill, large round lights and modified taillights.  Some had a cheaper truck bed with external wheel arches.  They came in the D-200 rear wheel drive version and the D-300 4WD version.  D-100s were normal single cab pick-ups. Chrysler originally outsourced half-completed trucks to a supplier, but quickly brought production back in house. In the 1970s, there was a new generation of Dodge pick-ups and other manufacturers jumped in on the crew cab bandwagon. In many ways, these robust utilitarian vehicles became the ancestors of the monster SUVs that have now almost brought about the near demise of the US auto industry.

Matchbox had an interesting tow truck that bore a passing resemblance to the Swingline series but seemed taller. Google research revealed that it was a D-700 truck on a beefier chassis and with a raised cab, but otherwise it was usable.  I ended up purchasing 2 of these die cast monsters on Ebay and proceeded to chop them up using my little rotary saw.  I needed to cut of the rear and bottom of the cab, taking care to save the front bumper, which would be reattached.  On the second vehicle, I chopped off the front and bottom of the cab.  After some clean up, these were mated using superglue and a few strengthening plates on the inside.  The holes for the red lights were closed up and many layers of filler later, I had an acceptable crew cab.

All I had to do now was to scratch build the truck bed and the chassis.  Careful measurements however revealed that Matchbox had built this die cast in about 1/79 scale in order to make it fit in the standard box.  This was not insurmountable, but precluded making molds for possible series production as an off scale vehicle would be quite obvious.  Nevertheless, it was relatively easy to build a truck bed using left over plasticard. A little more effort was required for the chassis on which the cab and the truck bed would be mounted.  Fortunately, Google revealed quite a few photos of the suspension and trans-axle as well as well as the interior and even a cut away of a simple D-100 pick-up.  Two shaped beams served as the frame, while a sheet of plasticard served as the base for the seat and the instrument panels. Following this, the hand made engine, wheel arches, suspension, axles and many other details were added.  Due to a lack of information, I only omitted the exhaust system and fuel tank, while I didn't want to waste a wheel for the spare tire under the rear frame at this stage of the game.  Also, the rear view mirror was omitted, as I guessed that it would break off within 5 minutes anyway!  This detailing only took 2 evenings and was quite rewarding from an engineering point of view.

Cab, bed and chassis were primed with Halfords grey primer, while cab and bed received a couple of coats of the aforementioned Ford Atlantic Blue.  Most of the chassis was hand painted in Tamiya Gun Metal with just a touch of red for the top of the engine block and the battery.  The instrument panel was done up in black, while the long bench seats were done in gloss light green to simulate the vinyl seat covers.

The final problem proved to be the cracked sickly green glazing from the Matchbox kits.  In the end, I had no choice but to trim the best one to size and use it for the front of the cab and windshield, leaving the rear sides open.  Clear plasticard served for the flat rear window, as this was an easy shape to replicate.  The cab is not glued to the chassis and at a later stage I may develop the courage to vacuform my own windshield.

A small colour touch up brought out the lights and radiator, while the decals readied it for a photo shoot with some Hasegawa crew figures and a an Italeri B-57 on a Vietnam flight line.  The oil stains on my taxiway are actually tea stains and the sedan in the rear is a Matchbox Ford Fairlane I did earlier.

In conclusion, it can be conclusively stated that the die cast toy industry is a treasure trove for diorama builders!

Model, article and photographs by Alex Hunger