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I've been working on what I thought was an impossible project that I almost gave up on.  I'm now ready to begin posting an amazing (and frustrating) journey to build the most accurate Cooter's Tow Truck ever done.  Maybe.

First off, there were several tow trucks used over the series.  Here's (mostly) when each appears:

     -Season 1:  Brown Chevy, simple tow rig

     -Season 2: White/Blue Ford with Red Holmes wrecker 

     -Seasons 3-4: Big Yellow Ford

     -Late Season 4 through 7:  White/Blue GMC with Red Holmes wrecker

By far my favorite is the GMC.  There was also a similar White/Blue Chevy with a much wider wrecker rear that showed up in a handful of episodes mid-series.


THE PROBLEM:  Not only is the MPC kit of Cooter's Tow Truck completely fictitious, but there is NO kit or conversion available in existence to make the correct Holmes wrecker (everything aft of the cab).  This would be the most ambitious scratchbuilding project I've undertaken to date.

Let's begin with a photo of my target subject, the GMC with Holmes wrecker:


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There is a long out of production kit of a GMC pickup truck.  I found one built junker on Ebay, along with a very similar junked Chevy pickup.  Between the two junked models, I had enough salvagable parts to begin.  The better of the two cabs was treated to multiple paint strippings and sanding.  The engine was rebuilt, but without the air cleaner and upper parts; the hood will be sealed shut for this.  An opening was made in the forward bulkhead to put a radiator, as it would be slightly visible with this type of grill.  







There is a ribbing pattern that should be on the rear of the cab.  This area was thinned, then the ribbed pattern built with styrene.  After priming it was airbrushed white and blue.






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The entire chassis has a very toylike appearance, with almost every detail molded right on as one piece.  So it was completely cut apart down to the basic frame and rebuilt.  Front suspension was improved a bit, rear suspension completely rebuilt, and exhaust system with mufflers was scratch built.  

This would have to be mostly redone a second time when I realized the wheel base needed lengthening to accommodate the Holmes wrecker.  I won't tell you what I said when I realized this....








The interior was made as dirty and grimy as possible, as a working country tow truck would be.  Scratchbuilt CB radio installed.  



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Thank you!

The real nightmare of this project was the wrecker.  I knew almost nothing about tow trucks, and there are no tow truck models or conversion sets for anything even close to this type.  I was told it was a Holmes wrecker, in the 400 series....but amazingly, Google searches with that info yielded nothing!

So I went the hard route.  I went through countless Dukes episodes on DVD, pausing them to photograph any good views of the unit.  Yep, that's right, I photographed the TV screen, and had photo prints made.  The dozens of photos I took gave just enough reference material to build this.  

Although dozens of episodes provided good material, by far the most useful episodes were "Play It Again Luke" (S6 E15) and "The Fortune Tellers" (S6 E21).  



I was able to find sheet styrene with Diamond Tread pattern molded in.  It was shockingly brittle, but I was able to fabricate the bulkheads and decking.  I also used photoetched metal Diamond Tread for the curved wheel well tops and other details.  Also detailed the rear with openings for the tail lights and more. A turkey roasting pan provided more sheet metal for the wheel bays.





Edited by Andrew D the Jolly Roger
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Scratchbuilding the winch was a challenge since a lot of it was guesswork.  As far as the brace/frame (not sure the correct terminology), I discovered I didn't have to guess the width; apparently it should be the same width as the chassis frame, which makes sense from an engineering standpoint.  Then, the more I built, the more extra details I'd discover in the photos.  This was a long, long process.  





The tow booms were heavily modified from those in the MPC Datsun Monster Truck kit.  Both ends were totally scratchbuilt to bring it all together, after careful study of my reference photos.  The booms will be removable until after painting.  The thin bar atop which will support the rotating beacon also has two round "shoulder" lights.  These were made from slices from a clear styrene rod of the appropriate diameter.  Wires were added from various thicknesses of copper wire. 










Edited by Andrew D the Jolly Roger
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I love seeing someone jump into an unusual project and this is the kind of project I love!   You have a great attention to detail Andrew and you haven't let the lack of information stop you, your TV screen photos are proof of it!  You can already be proud of the work accomplished, there will not be another like it for sure... 👍

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Now for some of the lights.  First the two rounded-rectangular rear-facing lights on the sides of the crane structure.  I used acrylic gemstones, cut to shape, then the facets sanded out then polished smooth.  




Then the amber lights on top of the cab.  I wouldn't mind cutting/sanding to shape some clear sprue for one or two, but there are FIVE of them.  Trying to make five all identical that way is too much.

So, I made one with scrap styrene, and used it to make a mold.  From that I cast several identical in clear resin.  Once cured they were cleaned up and painted with clear orange, with flat black at the bottom.  Then, mounted on the cab.







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Great detail work on this wrecker. I fully understand how tuff it is to create a realistic  period era 1 ton wrecker. FYI, the white and blue paint scheme tow trucks  were once part of the automobile club of southern california fleet. Many were used by studios.


Edited by leafsprings
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Amazing work with this. The level of dedication on the wrecker bed  is especially Awesome! I went back and refreshed my memory on the Ace Parker "Lee 1" build too. Steller build, I could totally see the wrecker pulling that car or better yet, build the trailer and have the General Lee pulling it. Looking forward to the updates on Cooters truck...👍

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3 hours ago, disconovaman said:

Amazing work with this. The level of dedication on the wrecker bed  is especially Awesome! I went back and refreshed my memory on the Ace Parker "Lee 1" build too. Steller build, I could totally see the wrecker pulling that car or better yet, build the trailer and have the General Lee pulling it. Looking forward to the updates on Cooters truck...👍

Thanks for remembering my Lee 1 build!  Honestly as crazy as that one was, this one ended up being much more challenging....

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The red paint on the wrecker was going to be critical.  It isn't regular red.  Not only is it sort of a brick red color, but it's also stained and heavily sunbleached, giving a chalky appearance.  You know, like playground equipment that gets sunbleached and then when you touch it you get white chalky residue on your hand?  That's what it looks like. 

So.  How to do sunbleached off-red without making it look straight pink?  

I started with a mixture of dark red, flat red and rust brown and sprayed everything in a base color.

Then I used a mixture I came up with years ago that I call "Brick Red" and went over everything carefully, again.  It's slightly lighter than the first color mix.

Then I went back over it again with a VERY thinned mixture of light gray/off-white (36622 Camouflage Gray in military parlance, the color of the undersides of US warplanes in Vietnam).  

Then I went back with a wash of watercolor sludge (after this pic) and the result was almost perfect!



Now to add the taillights.  I made them using acrylic rhinestones/gemstones.  Don't use glass ones, because the acrylic ones can be sanded to remove the facets and make them smooth once polished.  Two were done in clear red, the other two left clear.  




Edited by Andrew D the Jolly Roger
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Thanks for the kind comments!

On to the actual tow cable.  I was first referred to some braided metal cable produced specifically for modelmakers, but it was much too thick, and didn't coil around the spool at all.  I found my answer in a picture hanging kit.  The braided wire for hanging pictures on a wall was almost perfect in the smallest size, the 10-50 lb strength.  I ran it through a candle flame to give it the appropriate worn/stained appearance.  




Next, some of the most critical scratchbuilding of the project, the sling.  I tried various materials to simulate the heavy duty rubber straps, including black duct tape, black latex gloves and even bicycle inner tube.  The latter had the perfect appearance but alas, was far too thick.  

I found the answer in black party balloons.  The rounded part had too many curves to use, but the balloon necks had barely enough length of flat material.  

Add to that the chains on each side and the effect exceeded my hopes.






On the end of the chains are hooks; these I made from reshaped sections of paperclip, then attached to the chains and painted worn dark metallic.  After this I was VERY relieved and pleased with the result.  



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