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Building a 1955 Chevy Stepside Pickup

Memories serve as a powerful guide for one modeler replicating his grandfather’s pickup in 1/25 scale
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Lloyd E. Mathes, my granddad, raised cattle and grew wheat in Smith County in northern Kansas on the land that his grandfather, a German immigrant, homesteaded in 1875. Although the famous song “Home on the Range” was written in the same county, I must confess that I’ve never seen any antelope playing there with the deer. On the other hand, Granddad had a sturdy 1955 Chevy pickup to work the farm that I often saw. In fact, it was the first vehicle that my brother and I ever drove. During visits to the farm, Granddad allowed us to “find ’em and grind ’em” in the pasture where we could do little harm. I wanted to build a model of the old truck as a gift for my brother, a reminder of good times.

Despite our searches, neither of us was able to lay our hands on a photo of the old pickup, so I settled for modeling the Chevy as it looked around 1975 based on our collective memories. I thought it appropriate to have it sitting in the pasture, ready to help with fence repairs. Granddad enjoyed Pabst Blue Ribbon and Coors beer on occasion, so maybe a discarded beer carton in the back wouldn’t be out of place.

No single kit would correctly replicate Granddad’s no-frills pickup. To kitbash it, I chose an AMT 1/25 scale 1955 Chevy Cameo as the base kit supplemented with the rear fenders, tailgate, taillights, bumpers, grille, hitch, mirrors, and steering column from the AMT 1955 Chevy Stepside Street Machine.

Although I didn’t have photos of Grandad’s truck, with a friend's help, I could locate a junked Chevy Stepside and refer to Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) manual drawings. Photos of restored and unrestored pickups on the internet helped tremendously, too. And the first thing I tackled was the side-mounted spare tire.
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Although good quality, neither AMT kit offered the side-mounted option for the spare tire. First, I removed the under-bed spare tire rack and then, after consulting OEM drawings, constructed a new mount out of brass wire, styrene sheet and angle, and photo-etched metal (PE) parts from my spares box.

To notch the rear fender, I mocked up the placement of the spare tire, bed, and fender and traced the tire outline onto the fender. Then I drilled a series of small holes along the outline and cut the chunk out of the fender with a razor saw. A section cut out of the Cameo kit’s unused fender served as the dished portion of the fender behind the spare tire. I filled gaps with sprue dissolved in liquid cement and sanded until it matched the circumference of the tire. I attached the spare tire mount to the bed and glued the fender in place over it.

The reflectors for the headlight lenses were punched from a soda can, and I made the tailgate chain fittings along with the toolbox hinges and latches from spare PE parts.
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A working farm truck rarely has an empty bed. Modeling these details nearly turned into a project of its own. A friend supplied the spare tire, tools, oil cans, and toolbox from his spares box. Scale lumber made up the crate side and boards in the back. I made the jack block and fence posts come from wooden skewers and popsicle sticks and fashioned the steel posts from a styrene angle and sheet. The post driver was assembled from a styrene tube and a pencil lead container cap. I was able to locate 1/25 scale beer cartons online and printed them.

Grandad’s pickup saw about 20 years of service on the farm, yet I do not remember it being damaged or very dinged-up, so I did very little in terms of putting dents in the model. However, the faded paint certainly reflected its time in the sun and the elements.
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First, I primed and then painted a bare-metal color on the areas of paint that would be worn off. Next came rust colors on the rusty areas, pre-shading on the panels with dark gray, then the base color coat, Scale Finishes Chevrolet Neptune Green (No. 587) for the body, and Chevrolet India Ivory (No. 593) for the bumpers. I modulated the colors—lightening the body color with India ivory and light tan—and airbrushed it on the roof, tops of the fenders, and a few more areas sunlight would hit hardest. The interior surfaces had much less color modulation applied, with the dashboard receiving the greatest amount. Then I sealed everything under an acrylic matte varnish.

I replicated paint chips with various acrylic colors and artist pencils before weathering with a filter of AK Interactive Streaking Grime (No. AK012). An artist-oil dot filter, brown pinwashes, and rust effects followed. I dry-brushed various Model Master Metallizer colors and shades of tan and then did more work with artist pencils and pastel chalks on the tires, wheel wells, and lower portions of the truck. AK Interactive oil and gas stains went around the hood, on the oil cans, and near the oil filler cap.

With the pickup assembled, painted, and the parts filling the back, I went over the model one last time with artist pencils to add a last touch of weathering. I made the base from a board and covered it with model railroad grass.

A Kansas pickup would not be a real truck without some bugs on it. Large grasshoppers were ubiquitous on the farm. So, I used acrylic greens and yellow to paint some insect splatters on the windshield, bumper, grille, and hood.

Remembering Granddad’s pickup truck with my brother was a lot of fun. The ultimate seal of approval came when he, as demanding a judge as you would ever encounter at a contest, looked at a picture of the model and pronounced it accurate.

Photos by Aaron Skinner
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