Promoting Excellence in HO Scale Vehicle Modeling

A Truck Modeler's Notebook, by Dave Bontrager - Review

Please note: The opinions expressed in our reviews are the views of the reviewer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the 1/87 Vehicle Club.

book critique by BIll Cawthon

Dave Bontrager is a second-generation trucker. He is also a writer and 1/87 scale truck and trailer modeler. "A Truck Modeler's Notebook" is a compilation of his experience, knowledge and modeling techniques. But more than just a dry recitation of steps, Dave's book is also a statement of his modeling philosophy. Probably one of the wisest things about model building I have ever heard is Dave's belief that you should build a model to please yourself. If your model does that, it's likely to please others as well.

Dave's techniques range from simple to complex, but if you work with them you will find yourself with a model that captures the look of the prototype. That's important, because as Dave points out, in 1/87 scale attention to the overall appearance is more likely to produce a pleasing-looking model than rivet-counting that looses the flavor in a morass of extraneous detail. Dave uses a combination of computer-generated drawings and extensive notes to provide a part-by-part guide to prototype modeling of trailers and tractors. There is a special focus on the 28-foot "pup" trailer, but Dave expands the information supplied to cover other sizes as well. You'll find scale measurement conversions and other reference tables to aid even the novice model builder. There are reviews and commentaries on a number of commercial products from A-Line, Athearn, Herpa and others. These reviews originally appeared in Model Railroading magazine, but what's in this book is not a reprint, it's Dave's personal copy of his work. Covering a variety of truck and trailer products, he takes the time to point out the strengths and weaknesses of each and often offers suggestions on how to make them better.

Throughout the book are snippets about the cast of Dave's fictitious Colorado & Western Railroad Company and its many subsidiaries. Dave even offers the Roadhouse Diner's recipe for goulash; it sounds mighty tasty. These extra touches add flavor and spice (if you will) to his model building narratives. It is important to note that "A Truck Modeler's Notebook" is not a smooth-flowing, start-to-finish kind of book. Dave is presenting a number of topics, each of which could stand on its own. So the book is divided into sections. You'll want to read through it first, locate the topics and drawings and learn the terminology. You might even want to take the 170-question quiz at the back of the book. If you pass on the first try, you're either a trucker or a died-in-the-wool fan of the big rigs. Once you've familiarized yourself with the layout, you'll be ready to put some of Dave's ideas and techniques to work on your own models.

"A Truck Modeler's Notebook," originally published by DABble Publishing with a single copy price of $50.00 is now available on CD in e-book format for $25.00. For ordering information:

David A. Bontrager
Transportation Photography
R.R. 1, Box 202
Elnora, IN 47529
[email protected]

Bill Cawthon