Plastic Fantastic

In February 2022, Mini Big Rigs13 MinutesBy Carl KirkbeckMarch 20, 2022

Doug Elliott’s passion for building model trucks was ignited by a childhood spent riding shotgun with his dad and other drivers. This month we take a close look at his recently completed tribute to those memories – a triple set of Alf Walling Macks.

With a father whose trade was a craftsman joiner as well as a boatbuilder, Doug was schooled at an early age in the fine art of building scale replica models, firstly boats, then progressing to trucks in the mid-1970s with the arrival of plastic kitsets from the likes of AMT and ERTL.

Growing up in Napier put Doug in the heart of some of New Zealand’s finest trucking country. It was also the 1970s and 1980s, arguably the most iconic era of road transport. Doug’s passenger rides varied from the pick-up and delivery duties of building materials in an ‘A series’ Bedford – when his dad was at the helm for AB Davis, the building company that his father was a joiner for – to sitting alongside Ron Middleton in the R-model Mack he drove for Alf Walling. These fond memories fuelled Doug’s desire to build replicas of No.7, No.30 and No.33 from the Alf Walling fleet.

Doug Elliott, sharing with others the passion for a hobby he truly enjoys.

The avid Mack enthusiast would have already noted that the three models Doug chose to replicate are early representations of the marque here in New Zealand. In part, they owe their existence to Reinforced Plastics Pty Ltd of Melbourne, who were tasked with providing a locally sourced cab to sit atop the North American chassis. In the early 1970s, the Australian government- protected local industry by requiring a percentage of locally produced content to be included in the assembly of imported CKD (completely knocked down) vehicles, and heavy trucks were no exception to this rule. Alf Walling was an early adopter of the locally sourced North American Mack brand so many of the early Reinforced Plastics FR and R-model cabs made their way into the Tauranga-based fleet. For Doug, this has meant that the cabs of both No.30 and No.33 are all but virtually 100% handcrafted one-offs, painstakingly whittled from sheet styrene and MDF.

Looking closely at No.33, you will see that Doug has also heavily modified the AMT bonnet by extending it to represent the longer hood of the R700. A sun visor was handmade by constructing a former first and then laminating plastic into shape over it. The kitset interior tub was modified to suit the new scratch-built dashboard, this matching the real fibreglass cabs with their own built- in fibreglass dashboards perfectly. Again, keeping the build as close to the real truck, the air cleaner and the pre-cleaner were handmade rom plastic, Perspex and aluminium, with Doug turning them up on his trusty Unimat lathe.

1) Doug’s heavily modified R-model cab and bonnet that now replicates the Reinforced Plastics Pty fibreglass versions, that were used in the assembly of the early Australasian Macks.

2) Starting with just a set of doors, Doug scratch-built the cab for No.30 from Evergreen plastic and MDF.

3) Two sets of handmade bolsters using various Evergreen plastic extrusions destined to hook up behind No.30, the FR.

4) The R700 No.33 and its matching Domett Fruehauf two-axle jinker ready for a coat of enamel paint.

He then extended the chassis in the middle and at the rear to accommodate the period-correct airlift lazy axle. The front wheels are modified from the DM kitset from ERTL; the drive wheels were made from resin castings from moulds made by Doug some years ago. Once the chassis was completed, he plumbed in the air and electrical lines throughout using telephone wire. The bulbar and logging gear were constructed using detailed scale drawings mapped out first, then hand- cut and fabricated from sheet and extruded plastic from Evergreen. As Doug said: “How did we ever get by without Evergreen?” The Domett Fruehauf trailer frame and bolsters were also made from Evergreen plastics, with the ball race being turned from Perspex.

Doug built No.7 to reference the civil contracting side of Alf Walling’s business operations.

Building No.30, the FR cabover, was a project that Doug really enjoyed. Starting with literally only the doors from a donor AMT R-model kitset, Doug constructed a jig to hold the day cab one custom cut and formed piece of plastic at a time. The day cab also allowed Doug the opportunity to place a lot of emphasis on the detailing of the 237hp Mack engine, as it would be easily seen poking out of the rear of the cab. On close inspection, you will find that he has fitted all the diesel injector plumbing as well as air lines to the Ingersoll Rand air starter. The gearbox also got the treatment with the extra section added to the 5-speed gearbox that comes with the kitset, converting it to the correct 10-speed that No.30 was fitted with.

The Bailey Bridge trailer for No.30 was another challenge that had to be overcome, again, this is a completely scratch-built effort. Starting with only old grainy photos, Doug sketched out a set of blueprints to guide the build and keep it in correct proportion. The trailer is a Bailey Bridge design, however, underneath it is a 3-axle long trailer with sliding/ extending draw beam, and then a Bailey Bridge frame fitted across the top of the turntables on both the tractor unit and trailer. Fair to say, this required a good amount of patience and attention to detail to ensure all moving parts are correct to scale and still fully operational.

No.7 is a little different, being a tip of the hat to the contracting side of the Alf Walling business, which was involved in many civil construction projects throughout the Bay over the years, including the Tauranga Harbour bridge foundations. Many tipping semi units like the one Doug has compiled here were the backbone of this side of the business for Alf Walling.

1) The mighty 237 Maxidyne all set to go between the rails of No.30, featuring added details such as injector pump plumbing and Ingersoll Rand air starter.

2) The 237 in place and all plumbed in, complete with hard-earnt oil stains.

3) Looking through the driver’s window of No.30. Every detail is period correct, from the interior decor and trim colours to the keys in the ignition set to kick the air starter into life.

Doug again started with the AMT R-model kitset, armed with a hobby knife and Evergreen plastic. He has subtly modified the cab and bonnet to depict an early flat-back cab with steel dashboard and single headlights. This model was prolific in New Zealand and the Walling fleet certainly had its fair share parked in the yard.

The starting point for the trailer is an AMT kitset that has been carefully adapted to portray a typical era-specific Alf Walling unit correctly. One axle has been removed to bring it back to a tandem and Doug has also fitted 10-stud steel wheels that were extremely common at the time. Mudguards with black mudflaps and chains were added as well as electrical wiring and plumbing for air and hydraulics.

The FR No.30 with its fully operational 3-axle, self-steering Domett Fruehauf Bailey Bridge trailer replica is an incredible achievement, testament to Doug’s philosophy that the hobby promotes the use of all skillsets to achieve an accurate result.

All three models have been painted with standard enamels that were blended to achieve the correct tones and mostly applied with an airbrush. The signwriting decals on the doors were hand-painted by Doug first to form a master. This was then digitally scanned and reduced in size to the correct scale, then printed onto decal paper. Using this method makes for a realistic result. We need to remember these three models represent an era where all signwriting and pinstripes were applied to the real trucks by hand, and Doug’s attention to detail has truly paid homage to this art form and captured the feel of that bygone era.

The term replica does not completely acknowledge the true effort that Doug has devoted to these three builds. The closer you look at the level of detail he has handcrafted into these 1:25th scale Alf Walling Macks is simply extraordinary and takes the term ‘scratch- building’ to a whole other level. It truly is a testament to the fastidious passion that Doug pours into all his builds, and these three Alf Walling Mack’s are no exception – iconic models based on great memories of an iconic fleet.

4) Doug’s attention to detail and eye for scale is extraordinary, and little things, such as remnants of bark stuck between the bolster beds, add to the overall impact.

5) A 1:25th scale Alf Walling fleet reminiscent of the photos taken at the Hull Road corner back in 1987.

A WORD FROM DOUG

“With the models, I want to help people improve and develop their skills and see them enjoy what I have enjoyed and developed into a lifetime of creating miniatures. It’s a great hobby to grow into, as it develops skills such as researching and gathering information, the ability to problem-solve, and seeing the project through to completion to get that awesome feeling of accomplishment once done, and then get onto the next one. With the great aftermarket parts and kits that are available now, the sky is the limit in all forms of modelling.”