The tin man

In December 2023 - January 2024, Mini Big Rigs4 MinutesBy Carl KirkbeckFebruary 10, 2024

There must be something about being the first in the world to see the sun that inspires model truck building, because we once again head east to Gisborne, this month to catch up with Robin McKnight and look over his superb Super-Liner.

You may have already come across Robin McKnight in various publications. His models have featured far and wide over the years, and his abilities and creations have attained accolades and praise from fellow modellers worldwide. Robin’s heavily modified Mack Super-Liner, complete with scratch-built four-axle bottom-dump semi-trailer, is a work of art.

On closer inspection you discover even more depth in Robin’s scratch-building abilities. Robin has an extensive model building history, one that has its roots firmly in his childhood.

“The hobby for me started at age 13, really, and it has followed me right through my adult life. They are my pride and joy and I just love spending time working on them. It’s very rewarding,” he says.

The Mack Super-Liner project came about thanks to the prizes Robin has won. “I have displayed some models at competitions here in New Zealand and Australia and basically accumulated the parts I needed. So next thing I was into it.”

The first steps were shortening the chassis to the correct length, adding an Auslowe E-9 V8 under the hood, and fitting a set of artillery wheels to the running gear. The twin exhausts are scratch-built by Robin from stainless steel; he also scratch-built the mirror arm assemblies. The diesel tanks were sourced from Auslowe.

“Nigel [Lowe, the owner] does a beautiful job of making those at Auslowe. They are spun alloy so they have a true level of realism that silver paint can’t achieve.”

Next was the trailer – which is where things start to get even more interesting. Most of us would reach for a sheet of styrene plastic and some bonding glue. Not Robin, who instead turns to his collection of sheet tin, solder and soldering iron.

“Tin is great to work with,” he explains. “It is a more rigid material that holds its form more accurately, and the solder instantly bonds it – no waiting around for glue to dry.”

The artillery wheels on the trailer are resin-cast, which Robin has manufactured himself. He also topped off the build with a rollover fertiliser cover for those all-important backloads.

The model has been airbrushed using Resene acrylic topcoats in orange to resemble the Cable Price Downer livery. Robin has used a clever technique to age the model. He does this by carefully wiping a dark enamel stain into the nooks and crannies, then removing the excess to leave a residue in the details. It’s a treat to look at closely.

For the signwriting, Robin has used basic ‘rub-on’ letters and cut the CPD triangles from signwriters’ offcuts – once again, very clever.

With Robin’s Mack Super-Liner, the closer you look, the more you see. We are privileged to display it on these pages for you to have a close look at, and we look forward to showcasing more of Robin’s outstanding builds here soon.