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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 look at my target subject, the GMC with Holmes wrecker:

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Edited by Andrew D. the Jolly Rogers guy
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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.  

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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....

 

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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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Edited by Andrew D. the Jolly Rogers guy
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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).  

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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.

 

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Edited by Andrew D. the Jolly Rogers guy
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1 hour ago, phantom said:

Nice, I would think Cooter would have burger styrofoam boxes and coffee cups everywhere!

 

Thanks Shawn! I actually thought about putting a couple of doughnuts in there, since in more than one episode he's either eating them or asking for some.

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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.  

 

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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.

 

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Edited by Andrew D. the Jolly Rogers guy
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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.  

 

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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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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!

 

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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.  

 

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Edited by Andrew D. the Jolly Rogers guy
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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.  

 

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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.

 

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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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Now for the rotating beacon atop the rig.  Found something very similar from Tony's Custom Squads.  Still needed some cleaning up, and the finish redone in Alclad Stainless Steel (although Polished Aluminum perhaps might have been a better choice).  

 

License plate was made by cutting a piece of aluminum turkey roasting pan to match the size of the license plate decal.  

 

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Now for the rear view mirrors.  I discovered from my photos that there were two similar yet different styles used, probably meaning two different trucks used for filming the series.  I settled on one and started work.  Once built and primed, they were finished in Alclad polished aluminum and Bare Metal Foil for the actual reflective surfaces.  I definitely should have cleaned them up a bit more after priming...

 

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Thanks Shawn!  

 

Now gotta add the last of the lights.  First the tow rig has six small rounded-rectangular position lights.  To make them all as uniform as possible I made a master shape from styrene, then made impressions of it in moldmaking material.  I made a lot of extras since I wanted a lot to choose from, and would only take the best 6.  This ended up being a very wise move.  Clear resin was poured into the mold impressions and thank God there were 6 decent ones to use from the resulting blob.  They had to be right the first time since trying to clean up and reshape anything that small would be a nightmare.

 

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Now the grill/headlight assembly.  Chrome was removed by soaking in bleach, and damage done by previous owner/assembler was repaired.  Headlights were drilled out completely.  Whole thing primed and painted in Alclad Stainless Steel (more of a workhorse appearance than chrome).  New headlights fashioned from acrylic gemstones/rhinestones, with the facets sanded smooth and then polished to shine.  The result is far more convincing than chrome headlights the same color as the grill & bumper.

 

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Andy!  Wow, you are a building machine!  And I am learning a ton!  I feel like pulling up a chair and just watching you work.  A regular plastic fabrication shop!  I like your lens molding technique.  Quick and fast.  K/r, Dutch

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Thanks Dutch, very kind! I've had to learn a TON in this as well; I often say you don't realize how little you know an item until you try to scratchbuild it, and I knew almost zero about tow trucks when I started this.  Got a fair amount of advice from the folks over on the modelcarsmag.com forums.  

 

Okay, almost there...I learned the front bumper is probably made from quarter inch steel coated in thick black rubber.  I also noticed there were two styles that showed up on the GMC truck in the series, again probably indicating two different vehicles masquerading as one for the filming.  One of them was straight and flat, and the other curled around the corners of the fenders.  I opted for the curled type.  

 

Made it from .020" styrene, carefully curled, then added three wire mounts, disguised from the front as the actual bolts that hold it on.  Then added fake bolts for the rest.  I tried to match the same pattern I saw in a couple of my photos. Then some drybrushing over the flat black with dark gray.

 

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Then the final touches with the antennae.  The last one was the one that clips on over the driver's window.  The aerial for that one was made from a bit of metal guitar string (the high E-string).  The aerial on the tow rig is only slightly thicker, from a B-string.  Also used B-string for the four other lengths of thin cable on the tow crane (totally different from the thick, braided tow cable).  

 

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In the episode "Daisy's Close Call" (S6 E19) Cooter is seen using a tool box from the rig.  I can't see it in any other episode, so, being Hollywood, it probably wasn't there at any other time, not being a true "working" rig.  Still, I thought it would be a great, even necessary, addition.

 

I estimated the size at about 20" x 8" (when he carries it to the truck it is indeed fairly slender).  From some angles the grime from being handled by a mechanic is visible.  Appears to have a silver or light colored handle.

 

I scratchbuilt it in an evening, primed it and painted it the next day. 

 

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The same day I scratchbuilt a crowbar, and added a hammer and a wrench that came with the two junkers from which this project began.  The wrench was finished in Alclad stainless steel, then grime strategically added.  All the tools were made to look worn and heavily used.  Finally all this was added to the wrecker bed, including an extra length of chain visible in the episode "Happy Birthday General Lee".  

 

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Andy, Are you going to turn your sights on creatign a scale Cooter, Daisy, Luke & Bo to go along with your vehicles?

Edited by Dutch
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