promotex online - articles   checkout | index
 the largest selection of herpa, herpa wings, wooster and promotex models online

Conventional Modeling

June 15, 2004, by Bill Cawthon

It's definitely the season for hobby get-togethers and model shows. I just finished a weekend enjoying the annual convention of the National Model Railroad Association's Lone Star Region. This year's convention, the "Gulf Coast Express," was held in Houston, my hometown. Over two hundred attendees enjoyed informative clinics presented by some very well-known experts, visits to some of America's best home layouts, including Gil Freitag's Stony Creek & Western and Don Bozman's Great Great Northern, and the chance to see old friends again. Naturally, there was a model contest, featuring scratchbuilt steam locomotives, freight cars and some truly outstanding dioramas.

Thomas Kelly used Kibri kits to make this award-winning Link-Belt crane. Bottom: Thomas Kelly earned three more awards with his "Chemical Plant Construction" diorama. Bob Johnson photo.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the LSR convention, but I actually want to tell you about a convention that I had to miss. That was the 1/87 Vehicle Club's annual convention, held this year in conjunction with the American Truck Historical Society's national meeting in Ontario, California. The meeting took place right before Memorial Day, and with my prior commitment to the Houston convention just a couple of weekends later, it was just too much time away from other responsibilities.

Fortunately for those of us who couldn't make it, my friend Bob Johnson was there with his camera, taking lots of pictures, some of which I want to share with you.

I always enjoy going to model shows and contests. Not only is it great (and sometimes very humbling) to see the skill and imagination on display, I will almost invariably come away with an idea for a future project, or some new knowledge of how I can make my own models better.

Some modelers enjoy contests, while others avoid them. Having been on both sides of the judging, I would venture to say that many who don't enter are doing themselves a disservice. For one thing, you never know how the judging will go. A fresh idea might do very well, even if it is not the most skillfully executed. And there is always the chance there might be only a few entries in a particular category. A friend of mine once noticed there weren't enough entries in a particular contest, drove home, picked up a model he had just completed, and won a third-place ribbon.

Even if you don't win a prize, you will have the chance to have your work examined by others. This fresh viewpoint can be invaluable, giving you an idea of your model's strengths as well as the areas it might need some attention.

Todd Terpstra's outstanding Kenworth model picked up three awards. Todd used a variety of commercial and scratchbuilt components to make this masterpiece. Bob Johnson photo.

Since you're already at the show, you might be able to pick up some ideas for improvement from the judges and other contestants. I have yet to meet anyone in a hobby contest who wouldn't share some of the secrets of their success. In fact, a lot of the modeling tips I have picked up over the years have come from contests.

Being a diorama fan, one of my favorites from the 1/87 Vehicle Club contest was Thomas Kelly's beautiful "Chemical Plant Construction" model. I'm not alone in my opinion; the scene not only took top honors in the Diorama Category, it also won Best in Show and the People's Choice Award for most popular model. Included in Thomas' diorama was the winner of the Best Kitbashed Model Category, an outstanding Link-Belt HC268 truck-mounted crane, built by combining several Kibri kits and other components.

Trucks are always a popular category with 1/87 scale model fans. My friend Todd Terpstra took three awards, Best Tractor-Trailer, Best Finish and Best Detailed, with his gorgeous Kenworth W-900L. Todd combined components from a variety of sources with his own considerable scratchbuilding talents to create this eye-catching big rig. Todd also took first place in the Construction Category with a very nice cement mixer.

The work of younger modelers was on display at the 1/87 Vehicle Club's annual convention. Top: Jamie Groeneweg took best honors in the Farm & Ranch Category. Bottom: Richard Kelly is just 12 years old and he's already building some first-class models, like this Mack with lowboy trailer and bulldozer load. Bob Johnson photo.

Younger modelers have plenty of opportunity to do well. Twelve-year-old Robert Kelly's Mack-powered rig took the blue ribbon in the Youth Category. Jamie Groeneweg, who's somewhat older and has been building top-notch models for a while, went home with Best Modern Vehicle and Best Farm and Ranch certificates. Jamie's dad, Jim Groeneweg, claimed the top award for the Intermodal Category.

There were plenty of smaller vehicles, too. Bob Kelley modified a Miber model to create a beautiful replica of a Sauber-Mercedes built for LeMans in 1988. While the prototype was withdrawn, Bob's model took the checkered flag in the Racing Category. Bob also won the Oldest Model Category with three HO-scale Chrysler cars he built back in 1961.

Bob Kelley's 1988 Sauber-Mercedes earned the top spot in the Racing Category. Bob Johnson photo.

Rick Hoskinson won the battle for Best Military Model and Best Classic Model with his World War II German P2KF Panzer. Rick started with a Trident model and added a scratchbuilt gun and lots of details to produce his winning tank model.

There were other winners, too. To see pictures of all the winners as well as some of the other models entered in the contest, I invite you to visit the 1/87 Vehicle Club website. Check out Gallery 205 and 206. In fact, there are thousands of photos at the website, recording the work of many talented modelbuilders. There's almost guaranteed to be a model that will get your creative juices flowing.

One thing you'll find with many of the large truck models you will see is that they often use models or components from Herpa and Promotex. That's because it would be hard to find a larger assortment of trucks and accessory parts from any other source. If Promotex doesn't have the specific truck you want to build, there are chassis, steering systems, wheels, tires, commercial bodies and other parts that can be combined with cabs from Dennis Aust, Sheepscot and other manufacturers. Most Herpa and Promotex parts are injection-molded plastic, making them easy to modify and paint.

Of course, there's also a wide variety of trailers, ready to use as is or modify to capture the appearance of a particular prototype.

This WWII German Panzer won two awards for modeler Rick Hoskinson. Bob Johnson photo.

One of the best things about the products from Herpa and Promotex is that they are reasonably priced. A complete undecorated tractor-trailer rig is as little as $10.95 and undecorated tractors start under six dollars. Add paint, some accessories and decals and your finished model could still be less expensive than many ready-to-run models.

Even if competitions have no appeal for you, building a unique truck model is fun. I have built custom models decorated for various model railroad clubs to which I have belonged. And the sky's the limit. It's hard to imagine a configuration that doesn't have a real-world counterpart. A visit to Hank Suderman's website will give you an idea of the nearly infinite variety of the American truck.

See you next time!

Please note that all the photos are Copyright 2004 by the 1.87 Vehicle Club.

- Bill Cawthon

Bill Cawthon is a modeler and collector. His primary hobby interests are vehicle models in 1:87 and 1:160 scales and model railroading. He is senior editor of Route 1-87, the magazine of the 1/87 Vehicle Club, and a columnist and product reviewer for Model Railroad News. He is one of the creators of the award-winning "Grimy Gulch" model railroad layout.

In real life, Bill is a marketing and public relations consultant for MARK III Systems, a successful information technology company. He also writes for, an international auto industry publication, reporting on the U.S. light vehicle industry.

He lives in Houston, Texas with his wife, Marge, and their children.

Bill's columns appear twice monthly on Promotex Online. To learn more about him, click here.


home | checkout | pricelists | search | contact

published by Cadabra Corp. This page was lasted updated: October 12, 2005