From Wikipedia- "The Republic Motor Truck Company was a manufacturer of commercial trucks circa 1913 - 1929, in Alma, Michigan. By 1918, it was recognized as the largest exclusive truck manufacturer in the world, and the maker of one out of every nine trucks on the roads in the United States. It was one of the major suppliers of "Liberty trucks" used by American troops during World War I."
Republic eventually found itself in trouble and merged with American LaFrance to form LaFrance Republic in 1929. Three years later, LaFrance Republic was bought out by Sterling, and the Republic name disappeared from the marketplace.
But what if...
I pondered what may have happened had the merger with LaFrance still happened, and while ALF continued its focus on emergency vehicles, Republic would handle the commercial truck/tractor business. This thought, and an incomplete AMT ALF pumper kit were the beginning of the project. I assumed that ALF and Republic would share major components to cut costs, so that the trucks might strongly resemble each other. That made my task a bit easier, too, as about all I had to do was rework the existing ALF parts.
The CTC (Compact Tilt Cab) series was introduced in early 1958, and was designed to be a direct competitor to the tilt-cab White, which was quickly becoming a popular medium duty with several operators. It was also in competition with the Ford C-Series, though Republic execs realized that making a dent in the then one-year-old Ford design would be a tall order. The CTC quickly found a following among urban fleets and in the refuse industry.
At launch time, the CTC could be ordered with literally any engine the customer desired. A few early models even left the factory with Chrysler Firepower Hemi V8s! As time wore on, though, more customers requested the availability of the Detroit V8. Though ALF did use this engine in their 800 series units (upon which the CTC was based), due to the way the Republic tilt cab was laid out, this engine would not fit in a standard CTC. In late 1972, Republic plucked an unfinished CTC-8500 from the line, painted it in the traditional black/yellow/green paint scheme, and, after several modifications to the doghouse and raising the cab approximately 4", installed a Detroit 8v71 engine. This prototype was then sent to the Lansing, Michigan terminal of Outward Bound Truck Lines for "real world" testing and evaluation purposes. There it would be subjected to a great deal of urban driving, punctuated with several open highway jaunts. Once a week, the CTC was driven from Lansing to the Republic factory in Alma on US-127, and Republic's engineering team would perform a series of tests and inspections. Then, it was back to work in Lansing. After one year of testing, the Republic engineers had amassed a great deal of usable data.
Drivers complained of the tractor's nose-heaviness, and the cramped interior. Republic determined that both problems could be solved by adding an additional 10" in length to the cab behind the doors. This would allow for a smaller doghouse, as well as enabling Republic to install the engine/transmission further to the rear. Raising the cab another inch would be beneficial as well. These changes made their way onto all CTC series models beginning in late 1974, at the same time the 8v-series Detroit diesels became a regular option.
The CTC Detroit prototype's power and light weight combined to make it quite a sprightly performer, too. After only a week or so at the Outward Bound terminal, the OB drivers had nicknamed the tractor the "Hemi Cuda" on account of it's impressive power-to-weight ratio.
Here is how the Detroit-powered CTC-8500 appeared upon it's return to Alma after it's one-year test run with OB had ended. A little dirty, a little beat, but otherwise no worse for wear. Nobody knows what became of this CTC after it had done it's duty. Some people say it was scrapped, some people say it's still tucked away in the warehouse on the outskirts of town. There are even claims that a local truck collector has it stashed away in a dark shed somewhere in the Saginaw Bay area. Wherever it is, or isn't, the Detroit CTC-8500 was an interesting story of a small company doing what it had to do to stay afloat in a cutthroat market.
Here, the resemblance between the Republic CTC Series and the ALF 800 can be seen.
Republic's engineers mounted the prototype cab several inches forward of it's normal position in order to fit the Detroit 8v71 engine. Though not the most aesthetically pleasing solution, it did help. Production models had a longer cab and revised mounts and hinges.
Republic trucks never were meant to be pretty... other than the customary Republic paint scheme this one is all-business.
All CTC tractors ordered with a single fuel tank came standard with a 24" square tool box mounted to the passenger's side.
We're all here because we share an interest in building scale models of "big rigs".... semi tractors, straight trucks, wreckers, transit mixers, logging trucks.... or whatever particular subject(s) may light your fire. But for me, a lot of this is new. While I've always had an interest in pretty much all types of machinery, and have been building scale models since the age of six (which was a time much further in the past than I'd like to think about), I have only really gotten into modeling the subjects we showcase here in the last few years.
In fact, it was not until 2009 when I built my first semi tractor model. That's just over one decade after building my first model ever. Sure, I'd dabbled with a few, and I'd done a few medium duty truck models, like a Ford C-600 stake bed, but I'd never built an honest-to-goodness semi until I picked up the reissued White Freightliner Dual Drive kit from the now-defunct Hulings Hobby House in Alma, Michigan. I don't know why... the box art makes the WF look so unappealing with it's yellow and brown color scheme, but something about it just jumped out at me. So... home with me it went. Wasn't too long before I had it built, and even though it's a mess of a model, it still sits on the shelf, and I'll never change it or redo it unless it gets damaged somehow. It was Numero Uno, and it was what got the ball rolling.
Here it is... in all it's glory. I learned a lot on this one, what to do and much more importantly... what NOT to do!
It wasn't until 2012 when I really got serious about them again, and that's when I started accumulating kits at an alarming rate. I have to say there was a method to my madness. I thought "Truck models cost more, and take up more room. Maybe that will help me keep tabs on the stash, because I won't buy as many kits due to those factors." I couldn't have been more wrong! I've finished quite a few this year... more than at any point up to now. I even did a second Dual Drive as a Michigan Special. Since I was never happy with the first one, I always vowed to pick up another DD and "do it right this time".
And I have to say the Dual Drive isn't my favorite subject, in 1:1 or small scale form. But here I am, with two built, and two more in the "I'll Get To It" pile. If I actually like the subject? Forget it. I can't tell you how many Internationals and Diamond Reos I have accumulated. I don't have as many Transtar Eagles as I have Moebius F100s or Hudson Hornets, but give me a few more months and we might just see!
What got me into semi models, at first, was the challenge. I kept hearing about how fussy those old AMT truck kits were. But I have to say... I don't really see the big deal. A few truck modelers have this kind of superiority complex, and seem to think that they are better modelers who build other types of models. That's pure malarkey. Any model is only as challenging as you make it out to be. The only real difference between a kit with 300 parts and a kit with 30 parts is that on the 300 part kit, you're gluing more stuff together. Really. That's the only difference I see. Yes, some truck kits can be a pain in the bum to wrestle together, but some are an outright pleasure. Same as with any other type of subject I've built. So, while I expected a challenge, I stayed simply because I enjoyed it. The experience was a lot of fun.
A kit of a big rig subject inherently includes more detail, just on account of it's size. While a kit manufacturer can get away with a one-piece "plate" chassis with everything molded to it if they're doing a '70 Chevelle, they can't really get away with that on something like a Peterbilt highway tractor.
But I have to say the real appeal (for me) of these kits is variety. Yes, you can build, say, a '67 Mustang in a variety of ways. But with a standard semi tractor, you can pretty much go in any direction you want. That AMT California Hauler could, with a little work, become practically any Unilite-era Peterbilt you want it to be. There are so many choices as far as engines, axles, wheel and tire combinations, etc.. Most manufacturers had more than one BBC (and thus more than one hood length), set back axle configurations, sleeper options, and the like. And what do you want on the back? Anything from a simple fifth wheel to a two-bedroom combination car hauler is possible. There aren't as many limits, and that's before you consider building something custom. And in that case, all bets are off.
If you don't let the complexity scare you away... like I said, you're just gluing more parts together... a big truck model is an impressive addition to any display shelf. The same basic modeling skills and tools you'd use to build a 1:25 Corvette, 1:48 P51 Mustang, or 1:35 Abrams tank will serve you just as well on a 1:25/1:24 truck. Try it, you might like it!
I think everybody has that one special truck or tractor that just jumps out at them. When talk turns to "all-time favorites", we all have one that stands out above all the others. For me, that bogey is the Diamond Reo Raider. While I like both versions of the Raider, I tend to lean more toward the set-back front axle type. There's just something about that broad, tall grille, blunt bumper, and the slope of those square-ish fenders that just "nails it" for me.
Think of the Raider as kind of what the International LoneStar is today... basically, the LoneStar is a ProStar with a unique hood, bumper, and more lux features, right? Well, that's essentially what the Raider was. Underneath the skin, it was standard fare Diamond Reo, but offered a unique look and exclusive options.
The Raider was the flagship of the brand during the years it was owned by Alabama resident Francis Cappaert, who had purchased Diamond Reo from the White Motor Company in 1971. However, the company soon found itself in financial hardship. Just around the time the Raider was going into production, Diamond Reo filed for bankruptcy. The following year the company was taken over by Pennsylvania's Loyal Osterlund. The Raider disappeared, along with the compact tilt cab Rouge model. Fewer than 50 Rouges were ever built, and the Raider was in production for less than a year. Under Osterlund, Diamond Reo focused on custom-built heavy trucks and tractors, and it was during the Osterlund years that the iconic Giant was released. Some 150 trucks were produced each year, to customer's orders, until 1995, when the Diamond Reo name ceased to exist.
Today, when you mention the name Diamond Reo, most people will respond with either a blank stare, or "Yeah... aren't they a country band?"
Anyway... back to the story at hand. Like I said, I just love the way the set-back Raider looks. That front end, the classic lines of the Driver Cab (originally an Autocar design dating back to 1950) are great enough on their own, but set it up on spoke wheels and a short wheelbase, and all those traits conspire to create one brutish looking machine.
I have only ever seen one Raider in the flesh. It is owned by a local salvage yard- they use it to transport their auto crusher. The owner of the yard had a Diamond T many years ago, and when the opportunity came to purchase the Raider, he jumped on it.
This Raider is a typical Michigan Special. Okay.... I hear some of you saying "What is a Michigan Special"? Basically, it is a short-wheelbase tractor, set up to haul heavy loads.... up to 75 gross tons on eleven axles. Years ago Michigan law dictated a short wheelbase for certain applications. Now, there are no restrictions on wheelbase. But during the years of more stringent laws, the short, dual-drive tractors were a common sight. Front axle capacities of up to 20,000 pounds were allowed, so in many cases flotation tires were used on the steer axle. Many had cast spoke wheels and double frames, and more than a handful had hand-painted scrollwork and numbered flags. In fact, I'd be willing to bet quite a few truckers would argue it's not a "real" Michigan Special without such graphics, regardless of how it's spec'd out!
Of course, I've always wanted to build a model of a Raider, in set-back, Michigan Special form. I always have an AMT Diamond Reo kit or two on hand, and I recently obtained a very old Frank Gortsema resin casting of a set-back Raider. And after spending a few minutes poking around the salvage yard's Raider, I had a pretty solid idea of what I wanted...
I opted not to do a full-on replica, more of a lookalike.
The old slush-casting had a weak roof, so the cab was cut away and replaced with an AMT piece. The inconsistent thickness and sheer weight of the hood led me to attach it to the cab, rather than try for a tilting hood. Another detail is the grille- on the real Raider, the grille frame tilts with the hood, while the vertical bars and diamonds (insert) stay vertical, attached to the radiator core support. The casting lacks the holes in the bumper- given the nature of the old, brittle resin, I opted not to cut them into the bumper for fear of shattering it. I think the fact that this was built using the vintage Gortsema castings adds to the overall "feel" of the model... almost like it has a little scale modeling history built right into it.
In this picture the "stubby-ness" of a Michigan Special tractor is evident. The kit battery boxes and tanks were used, just re-positioned a bit. I don't recall how much I cut out of the wheelbase- I just eyeballed things and hoped for the best. The front axle was also moved rearward. I robbed the exhaust stacks from an Italeri parts set. The entire model was weathered to appear as a tractor that was showing its age, but had been mostly well maintained. Also note it's wearing three different types of tires... Michelins on the front, Goodyears on the forward drive axle, and Uniroyals on the rear axle... apparently nobody told this Raider's skinflint owner about the dangers of mixing radials and bias-plies! This was done for two reasons. One... old rigs like this never have the same tires- the owner will typically run whatever is cheapest when the time comes to buy a new tire. And because the Michelins are just a bit taller than the kit supplied Goodyears, the middle axle would have been off the ground. This is also why I used the Uniroyals at the rear, they are just a tad shorter than the Goodyears. So, by going from tallest to shortest as I went rearward, I ensured that all ten tires would sit flat, and gave the tractor a slight tail-down stance... just perfect for a loaded trailer!
The flags were made from white decal film, hand painted and topped with a dry transfer number. I've had the door lettering for years, the decal graphics came from the original 1999 run of the Revell '41 Chevrolet pickup. Unfortunately, these graphics are not in the current "Trucks" reissue. Killins Gravel Company actually did exist at one time, and I've found quite a few old photos showing the site. No idea if they were still around in the '70's or if they ever had a Diamond Reo, but it's a model, so why can't I suspend reality just a tad?
During test fits the cab tilted to the rear a bit. I decided to keep the look- it gives the impression of broken-down cab mounts. I also went with a flat rear frame... the frame just plain ends after the mud flap brackets. It looks a little bare with no trailer lines back there, but I might get to that when/if I ever build a trailer for this. As a Michigan Special, it could pull pretty much anything, from a flatbed full of coiled steel bound for an auto plant, to a pair of end-dump gravel trailers. Seeing as how it's lettered up for a gravel pit, I'd imagine I'll have to gunk up a gravel dump for it. I guess we'll see.
Anyway, that's about it, I hope you enjoyed reading all that drivel. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a forward-set Raider I need to get around to building....