Fixing the Halftrack

Researching the model
All I can say is thank goodness for the Internet and my local library. I found literally hundreds of photos of halftracks and many of them contained wonderful detail. Now, Im not a rivet-counter. I wanted to convey the look of accuracy.
Getting the materials together
I was already starting to get ideas of how I was going to modify this beauty with minimum expenditure. I had to use everyday items; the trusty spares box and lots of imagination to do this. I cannot afford aftermarket items, period. For this model, I used tongue depressors, bottle rocket stems, muffler tape, aluminum foil, string, aluminum wire, empty ballpoint pens and plastic sheet. I cannot stress how much I like muffler tape. It is workable, very thin, and gives a metal finish that I love to work with. I simply remove the adhesive (by balling it up with my fingers) from one side and then its ready to work with. Even if it dents or warps slightly, it looks more realistic by representing damage or everyday use.

The engine
I cleaned off the frame and decided that I would try to build the engine first. That way, if I messed it up too bad, I could always close the hood. Luckily, the bottom pan of the engine was molded in to the frame and it gave me a pattern of the size of the engine block. I built up the block from wood and added plastic sheet on top until I had the right height of the engine. I was only concerned in conveying the shape of the block, not an exacting copy of it. Once the block was done, I sanded it down to shape. I made the exhaust manifold out of string by drawing a picture of the manifold on wax paper, soaking the string in white glue and pinning it to the wax paper. After it completely dried, I removed it from the paper, covered the manifold in green stuff, and sanded it to shape. I then glued the engine block to the pan molded into the frame.

I was then able to add all the small things, like the brake master cylinder (plastic card rolled up and super-glued), the starter (bottle rocket stem), the alternator (plastic sprue) and the radiator (plastic card with the radiator screen scribed into it with a hobby blade). If you look close enough, the spark plug wires dont line up perfectly on the top of the engine, but again, the impression of spark plug wires is what Im looking for. The radiator fan is a plastic washer with scraps of plastic card glued around it. The firewall is plastic card, and the wires are either aluminum wire or stretched sprue. The distributor cap was quite an experience. I cut six wires very long (for ease of handling), melted a piece of sprue over a candle, and then jammed the ends of the six wires into the sprue. Then I trimmed the wire and sprue down to size. It took me 3 tries, but I got it.

  • Ht011
  • Ht010
  • Ht008
  • Ht008
  • Ht007
  • Ht006
  • Ht005

About the Author

About Rob Lively (husky1943)

My name is Rob and I am a 42 year old, married, with two children. I am retired US Navy and now a Base Police Officer at NAS Pensacola, Florida. My main interest is WWII figures, but I do occassionally branch out into other periods. My concentration in WWII is the Sicilian/Italy campaign.


The article is nice, but I miss 1 thing..... Photo's of the completed model With such a project it's nice to see the whole thing finished! Martin
MAY 06, 2005 - 09:24 AM
Thanks a lot for posting this. Are there any photos of this one completed? Would love to see them.
MAY 06, 2005 - 12:08 PM
Rob, Very cool project. Can't wait to see the final product... I really like the scratch built details for the engine. Show us some more of your work. Tim
MAY 06, 2005 - 12:47 PM
Nice article but it seems to focus on only a few things is there a part 2 in the works.. :>
MAY 06, 2005 - 02:02 PM
Very good article and wonderful looking work! Like the others I would love to see the model completed! It must be very, very good! Cheers and happy modelling! Prato
MAY 07, 2005 - 12:21 PM
Rob mentions in the article that he build the halftrack for the 'move it' campaign... I would imagine that a pic of the finished vehicle can be found in either the campaign gallery or his own gallery.. Good looking scratch build, and some nice use of everyday and some not so everyday items.. Cheers Henk
MAY 07, 2005 - 04:06 PM
Very innovative use of materials and an interesting article. More pictures would definitely be appreciated
MAY 10, 2005 - 03:10 AM
Ciao everyone, Thanks for the nod for the article. Thanks to Vinnie for posted it and doing the best he could with my pitiful attempts at photography. Delbert - there will be no part 2. I was just trying to give an idea of what we, as modelers, can do with ordinary things to make our models better. I'm not anti-resin or anti-aftermarket, I just can't afford it. Again, thank you and here is a picture. At least this one was taken with my new digital camera. Ciao for now Rob
MAY 10, 2005 - 05:06 AM
Rob - Nice job - really enjoy seeing some good old fashioned scratchbuilding ! ! As you mentioned you like to use inexpensive materials, I was wondering if you have ever tried soda-can (aka beer-can) aluminum. It cuts with scissors, Xactos or single edge razor blades, can be scored and snapped like styrene, and folds up just like the sheet metal it is. If you lightly sand it (wet or dry, wet) before gluing (use ACC of course) it bonds super strong. To flatten it, roll it on a workpad with an old piston pin (mine is small block Chevrolet, I think). Any smooth metal rod will do though (like the big Xacto handle). The trick to bending it is to hold down one half of the bend with a ruler or other flat object, and then slip a single edge razor blade or other thin flat object under the other half, and lift it to make the bend, sort of an improvised 'sheet metal brake' You see this technique illustrated on instructions for some of the photo etch sheets. One downside - you get one sharp 90 degree bend in any single location on a piece before the material will start to stress crack - fortunately it is free, and the scrap part can be used as a pattern for the next attempt. If the bend has a radius to it, the mateial is MUCH more foregiving. Other sources of thin sheet aluminum are good too, but the alloy and effects of the manufacturing process on the soda-can aluminum makes it harder and tougher than most aluminum sheet, which is often dead soft. Konrad
MAY 12, 2005 - 02:20 AM
Ciao Konrad, Thanks for the compliment. I appreciate it. I have heard that people use aluminum cans, wine bottle foil, etc., and I have used most of them at least once. But, I still stand behind my muffler tape. I just love the stuff. I do like it because it is soft to work with. I carefully fold it, and then smash or bend it once it is glued on. Again, thanks for the compliment. Ciao for now Rob
MAY 12, 2005 - 03:21 AM