Armed and dangerous. You thought driving on the Autobahn in the year 2000 was a nightmare. Think again! These drivers are ready for a serious encounter somewhere on the E.34 between Paris and Warsaw.
The FAV (Fast Attack Vehicle) in the center foreground is a 1:72 scale compatible plastic kit from Games Workshop, the others are diecast toys from various manufacturers, armed with spare weapons from the FAV kit. Diecast toy vehicles are cheap and they come in an incredible variety, even including military and science fiction vehicles.
- Matchbox and Majorette Automobiles
- Helicopters and Infantry, Revell
- Vehicle Weaponry, Games Workshop
- Drivers and Gunners, Games Workshop
- Accessory Set, Roco No. 277
- Thin Cardboard or Plasticcard
- Meshed Wire in 1:72 or HO Scale
- DAS-Pronto Modeling Clay
- Handdrill and Drillbits for Metal
- Matt Black Spray Primer, Revell
- Fine Sandpaper
- Hot Glue Gun
Planning the Conversions
The British firm Games Workshop publishes a number of figure sets in 20mm scale which is compatible with Matchbox autos and 1:72 scale helicopters and vehicles made by Revell, Airfix and ESCI. Every package of "Dark Future" miniatures includes a sprue with vehicle armaments made from hard plastic. The Miniguns, turrets, heavy machineguns and grenade-launchers carry a peg on the underside, which can be inserted into a small hole in the vehicle body and secured with superglue.
During the planning stages, weapons and accessories are held against different parts of the vehicle in order to locate the most effective and realistic looking place for attaching these items. A light machinegun may be mounted on the hood, assuming that a supporting structure has been welded into the engine compartment underneath. Two forward firing machineguns look very impressive when they are mounted on the fenders. We will again assume that these are not standard issue automobile fenders, but heavy duty replacement parts which are able to support the weight of the weapon. Grenade-launchers and gun turrets normally belong on the roof of the vehicle, giving them a 360 degree firing arc.
Roadwarrior automobiles are already lightly armoured on the inside. Some vehicles sport additional, improvised armour bolted to the outside. Simulated boilerplate can be cut from thin cardboard or plasticcard. However, this type of armour protection must not be overdone, considering the excessive weight of the boilerplate.
1:72 scale wiremesh is an important part of the roadwarrior conversion, it replaces the unarmoured windows and protects the driver from flying debris and wreckage. Put up around the parked vehicle, a wire fence detonates hollow-charge grenades prematurely and protects the vehicle from an armour-penetrating hit.
Rear bumpers are replaced by T-bars to protect the vehicle against ramming. Hedgerow-cutters can be installed in the front to allow the vehicle to crash through hedges, small trees, fences and barricades.
Personal equipment like tarps, blanket-rolls, rucksacks, picks, shovels, towropes, chains, spare tires, jerrycans, wooden boxes with provisions and ammo, barbed wire, camouflage netting, radios and loot ist often stowed on the outside of the vehicle, simply because the interior is full of equipment already. Many of these items come from the Accessory Set offered by Roco. Some equipment may have to be scratch-built or scrounged from model kits. Tarps and blanket-rolls are easily made from DAS-Pronto or rolled tissue paper, tied down with yarn. The paper is rolled up while dry and then soaked with water to shape it more easily. The yarn will cut into the blanket very realistically when it is tied.
Columns of roadwarrior vehicles look like a nomad caravan. By contrast, police and security vehicles are suprisingly clean and orderly in appearance, although they may also have to resort to external storage at times. Pickup trucks and dedicated supply vehicles are often used to support a vehicle column on the move, but there is always the inherent danger of losing them. Don’t put all eggs in one basket.
Stripping the Vehicle
Matchbox, HOT Wheels and Majorette autos need to be taken apart to gain better access to the parts, particularly if a driver is to be placed inside. Is is possible to get around this kind of work simply by tinting the windows black or silver. In this case, the vehicle is not taken apart, but just armed, undercoated with matt black spray primer and then painted.
There are one or two rivets on the underside of most commercially available toy vehicles, which hold body and chassis together. The head of the rivet is just a thin rim of soft metal which can be drilled out easily with a metal drill of the appropriate size. Only the bolt of the rivet will remain and the pieces of the vehicle come apart easily. Later we will put a new head on the rivet, using hot glue from the glue gun.
Arming the Vehicle
A tiny hole needs to be drilled in the hood, fender, roof or any other part of the vehicle which will be armed. Miniguns, machineguns, launchers and turrets of the Dark Future series have a small peg which can be inserted in these holes to check that the pieces fit nicely together. In order to achieve a smooth surface for the gunmount, the area may have to be sanded lightly. The weapons are glued to the body with superglue. In addition, the small peg on the weapon may be secured with a drop of hot glue applied from the inside of the vehicle body.
Modeling and Painting the Interior
To achieve a realistic interior, the passenger seat and the entire rear bench should be removed similarly to how stock cars are prepared for racing. That the floor of the chassis is not detailed in these models can easily be hidded by stacking boxes and other equipment inside the vehicle.
The Dark Future series offers several driver figures which can be painted and attached to the driver seat with a drop of hot glue. Be sure that the body and the chassis still fit together nicely before permanently attaching the driver. In the event that the driver’s head presses against the roof or the glass inset, the seat may have to be lowered or the seat cushion sanded down a little.
Improvised Armour and Anti-Ramming Devices
Boilerplate made from thin cardboard or plasticcard replaces the front and side windows of the vehicle. The Kenworth tanker shown here has an armoured cab to protect the crew. The vehicle is unarmed, it could not possibly involve itself in a firefight with this kind of cargo. Outside of protected places, tanker trucks normally travel in convoys with their armed escorts. The chosen camouflage is useful for hiding the vehicle by the roadside, in the event that escorts are temporarily called away to deal with a roadblock further down the road.
Narrow vision slits need to be cut with a skalpel, they have been painted in here. Vehicles like the M3 Half-Track have hinged armour plating which can be lowered when they are not needed, providing the driver a much better field of vision. To protect the tires, boilerplate may be bolted to the outside of the fenders.
Anti-Ramming devices in the rear of the vehicle can be very useful in a chase. Side impact protection is not usually necessary since a capable roadwarrior can avoid such a collision by speeding up, breaking or turning away from the attacking vehicle. In the front, hedgerow-cutters are quite practical, they clear the way through barricades, fences, hedges and small trees.
Matt black spray primer is the ideal undercoat for most vehicles. Dissembled vehicles can be sprayed black inside the body as well. Acrylic paint can be used to paint the vehicle, it dries matt and gives the vehicle a faded and battered look. It is best to apply the paint by drybrushing it onto the vehicle and allowing the black primer to show in joints and recesses in the body. This creates a nice shading effect.
Drybrushing lighter hues of the base colour highlights the raised detail and areas where the paint has faded. In this case, it does not matter if there is a little bit more water in the brush than we normally use. The paint will then be applied in streaks which look like scratches and dirt stains. Drybrushing with silver exposes areas on handrails, hinges, truck beds and tank hatches, where the paint has worn away through excessive use by the crew.
Oil seepage and gasoline spills around wheelhubs, petrol caps and jerrycans can be simulated by staining the effected area with black acrylic paint. A rusty stain can be used on chains, steel cables, jerrycans and rusting bodyparts.
Personal equipment should be painted before it is attached to the vehicle. After the vehicle is completely painted and equipped, it can be weathered by applying a dusty drybrush. Sand or flour mixed into umber acrylic paint creates realistic looking mud which can be applied to wheels, inside fenders and on side panels. A nice effect, but don’t overdo it.
Prior to assembly, the wheels and axles need to be immobilized with hot glue or superglue. This is to prevent the model from needlessly rolling around on any terrain pieces on which it may be displayed later, and when the model is used in wargaming, where exact positioning and measurement of firing ranges is important.
If the interior detailing work was done correctly, the interior and the chassis should fit snugly into the body. The rivet bolts will be flush with the holes in the chassis and a drop of hot glue holds the pieces together securely.
Important equipment like personal weapons and ammunition are normally stored safely inside the vehicle or in the trunk. Packs, blankets, tarps and coils of wire may fit on the roof, unless a turreted machinegun is already mounted there. Mounting brackets are attached to the tops of fenders, hoods and trunk lids, to accept spare wheels, jerrycans, tools and sand channels. Tarps and camouflage netting may be placed on the bumpers and tied to the supporting struts.
Loading the vehicle is a rewarding task which leaves a lot of room for creativity. Model railroad shops offer lawn chairs, parasols, surfboards, bicycles, hunting trophies and many other items in HO scale which roadwarriors may find absolutely essential on their dangerous journeys.