The toy company, ERTL, makes a highly detailed 1947 International truck cab in their Vintage Vehicles Series. The model features a die-cast metal frame and body, free-rolling plastic wheels with rubber tires, and clear plastic windshield and headlight lenses. It is quite easy to find one for sale and not terribly expensive. I have only seen it offered in bright glossy yellow with glossy brown fenders.
The ERTL truck is a very nice model and makes a great foundation for a work or farm truck on an O-scale layout. But fresh out-of-the-box, the truck is shiny glossy new, which is never the case with an actual work truck.
Time and Difficulty
The goal of the modification is to make the ERTL truck more realistic in appearance. Commercial vehicles usually see rough treatment during their service life. The modified truck will be no exception. Time and use have aged the paint, and the fenders are no longer the smooth sweeping curves that left the factory. It will be fitted with a custom-made stake bed to allow it to haul a work load. The bed project takes one afternoon and requires moderate skill. The body repaint takes two days and requires intermediate skills with a rotary tool .
What You’ll Need
- An ERTL die cast 1947 International K-12 Semi-Cab
- resin-castings (oil drums, gas cans)
- wooden cubes, 1 inch square and smaller
- 1/8″ – 1/16″ wood strips
- carpenter’s glue
- rotary tool with sanding, grinding and polishing bits
- isopropyl alcohol
- paper towels
- Age-It wood stain or black ink wash
- flat paints in various colors
- paint brushes
- masking tape
Modify the Truck Body
There are two steps to modifying the body: aging the body and repainting. The aging process entails adding signs of wear to the body. The evidence will be dents in the sheet metal, and maybe loss of a side mirror. It is entirely up to you and requires a little skill with a rotary grinder and a good eye.
You can’t just take a hammer to cast steel models and create dents. At best, the blows will do nothing, and at worst you will crack the casting. Dents have to actually be cut into the metal with a coarse grinding stone. With a grinding bit in your rotary tool, begin grinding each dent into the fender or sheet metal. You’ll have to remove quite a bit of material to make a realistic dent, but be careful not to grind all the way though the casting or your dent will become a hole.
This step may seem strange, but once you have given the dent the rough shape you want, switch to a polishing bit. Coat the bit with polishing paste and polish the dent down to a mirror-smooth surface. Clean with alcohol and a dry paper towel to remove the polishing paste and prepare for paint. Cover the windows, tires, wheels and headlight lenses with masking tape and paint the truck a light, flat color. Light colors look best because, just as in real life, dark colors tend to fade over time.
Build the Truck Bed
Because the Semi-Cab doesn’t come with a bed or trailer, you’ll need to build one from scratch. The bed boards should be be between 3″ and 12″ wide. The bed itself should be between 48 and 66 full scale inches wide. I don’t typically measure the bed width; I just make sure it completely covers the dual rear tires. Cut the bed boards to length and lay them out side-by-side. Use Carpenter’s glue to secure two or three more sticks perpendicular to the boards to hold them in place.
Use Tacky glue or cyano glue to fasten two thick wooden sticks to the metal truck frame. Paint or stain all the wood surfaces with flat paint, Age-It or an ink wash. You can glue resin castings, small wooden cubes, and thin jewelry chain onto the bed for additional interest.
Once the truck body has been painted, remove the masks and prepare for final detailing. From the top down:
- Paint the cab marker lights with flat silver (or leave the body color) and the lenses bright amber.
- Consider removing a headlamp.
- Paint unnaturally bright plated parts with gloss silver to tone them down.
- Consider a rust-colored wash and other weathering techniques.
- Add resin-cast or hand-made detail items.
The ERTL International semi-cab is a fine O scale truck model right out of the box, but with a bit of time and effort, the looks of the truck can be transformed into a realistic representation of a road-ravaged commercial workhorse.