Das Original

Take the GMC CCKW353 2.5 ton truck, build a pontoon hull around it, add a propeller plus rudder and a surf board, and there you are with a swimming truck that not only served on all fronts in WW II but is decades later still being used by civilian operators, like for city tours in London and Dublin.  The lateral rubrails didn't receive their gargoyle slits at the factory, the first 2,000 or so samples had a vertical windscreen at the driver's cabin, and production ceased at the war's end.

Der Bausatz

This build report is about Italeri's first DUKW rendition, the one without any add-ons, kit # 6392. I also picked up Eduard's PE set #35687 for the DUKW plus howitzer, as it was on sale cheap, and the Thachweave bumpers. Archer Decals helped with the finish.

Der Bau

I digressed from the instructions' building sequence right away, as I wanted to see how big a model this was going to become, so I first addressed the four huge parts of the hull. It turned out that the tub formed by the three lower ones was too narrow at bow and stern, so I had to shim some to get side walls that were parallel to the deck's contours. Even then, the deck remained too long: the corrugations that come up at the stern should be in line with the deck's contour. On the other hand, the deck is a little short below the winch – easy to fix. To show a wartime vehicle, I closed all the "dehydrating slots" in the side wall rails with styrene strip.

Further ignoring Italeri's construction sequence, I continued to get the tub a-rolling. First, the dry-fit combinations of front axle and its "extensions" parts 72c and 73c were drilled through vertically in the appropriate places with a small drill bit (0.3 mm). The extensions were then cut into two "rings" each, the inner ones of which getting cemented to the axle. (A word of warning: Of rights, the front axle springs would have to be placed onto the axle before cementing these rings, as they won't pass over them. As there's some filling and sanding necessary, I found it easier to leave them off now and later cut off their "U" clamps and cement them separately.) Next, the "wheel bearing pins" were cut off the axle ends, just outside of the drilled hole, and cemented into the outer "rings" of 72/73c. Another ring from 1 mm sheet was cemented around the axle to fill the distance between the inner ring and the drilled hole.

When all this was thoroughly dry, the shortened axle ends were sanded into a sort of hemisphere, while the outer rings had their holes opened up to fit over them. A little testing and more sanding made them swivel on pivot pins of thin wire. – As expected, this work hadn't changed the track rod's length. Hence, I filled the locating holes in its ends, then drilled new holes of a very small diameter further outward. The locating pins on the wheel bearings were cut off and corresponding small holes drilled, so that stretched sprue with molten ends could be used to connect the parts.

Which left the steering linkage. Part 76c quite obviously could'nt operate the steering, being a plain rod with a right-angled bend in it. So I looked at my Italeri CCKW353 models and scratchbuilt a two-part movable link that was mounted to the hull some 5 mm behind the shock absorber. The mounting point for the kit part was removed. – Reviewers and everybody else who built this model bemoaned the rigid front towing eyes breaking off, so I drilled out and replaced their mounting bolts. To further customize my model, I fabricated front wheel well covers from sheet and strip styrene.

On the rear axle assembly, the central brace (91c) needed 1 mm cut off each end before it would let the mounting plates touch the hull. Apart from that, no problems were met here – unless you count the loose fit between locating craters and dainty mounting tabs on all leaf springs. The tire profile has been criticized in all kit reviews, and rightly so; I sanded them as much as possible to give them a rounder look. All wheels are missing valve stems and, worse, the cutouts for same in the wheel rims. I was lucky to have the ideal tool for cutting these in an ancient set of linocut knives that had been lying around unused for decades ...  Valve stems were added from stretched sprue.

The hull deck offers tons of detailing chances. Most prominent is the surf board, which couldn't be rendered in scale thickness styrene. Eduard's set #36048, "British Army Exterior", offers a brass replacement, but as I had the wrong set, I had to construct my own plate. (Warning: Eduard's #36049 is called "Surf Plates", but contains the parts for a very early DUKW's cab with vertical windshield!)

Cutting the plate itself from printer's aluminum was easy, but the hollow stiffening channels were something else, with their outward-bent mounting flanges. There may be easier ways to produce this pattern, but here's what I came up with: Three pieces of 1 mm styrene were laminated together for a jig with a groove about 1 mm wide and deep. An aluminum strip of correct length and some 5 mm width was bent into a U-channel over the back of a suitable knife blade and was then pressed into the groove with it to keep its shape while the outward bends were made. Uniform minimal width of these flanges was achieved by scoring the metal along a spatula of the right thickness and then bending to and fro until it broke. Assembly was by gel super glue. Needless to say that I produced a lot of waste along the way, especially for that minute rib on the  backside, but I find the results worth it. Of Italeri's braces, I only used the ends and cemented them to Evergreen strip of correct length. The brace arresting clamp representations were sanded off and their PE replacements cut apart to be joined again in an operable fashion, using hinges from stretched Evergreen tubing. – Meanwhile, but too late for me, Eduard have released PE set #36048 (British DUKW exterior), which includes a brass surf plate.

All tools on the front deck were fastened in their Eduard brackets with straps from onion skin paper with thin wire buckles going through eyes of stretched sprue. The anchor looks very nice and is a respectable piece of molding, but unfortunately, it isn't correct. Not only should it be stowed on two sheet metal contraptions, but the flukes should be a lot longer, as well as the shank; only the stock has about the right dimensions. Estimating the dimensions from photos, I built a new anchor from different thicknesses of plastic sheet and rod plus stretched sprue for the weld seams. (Maybe the kit part would have the right size for Tamiya's Ford GPA?)

The anchor shank should reach out over the winch housing, and so this had to be placed provisionally. Which showed that it was molded very cleverly in only two parts, but had detailing potential. First off, I cut the half-drum from the rest of the main part. The completed drum then had its end plates removed and replaced with thin sheet ones. Drum center and "bearings" were drilled through, the winch gear housing and its counterpart received some slices off hexhead rod plus derrick mounting points from stretched tubing. The winch rope was then added from strong black linen (low-fuzz!) thread; a piece of wire insulation and a wire eye joined a length of ship model chain to this, and the kit's hook was added to the chain.

While test fitting the anchor, I had noted in the photos that the kit's spare wheel rim is way thicker than scale would require, so it was thinned from the inside and had two stretched sprue "mounting rods" cemented into holes drilled through the "securing" nuts. Speaking of holes: the PE fuel can brackets have six holes each that were filled with stretched sprue and white glue to "bolt" them to the deck and to each other.

Italeri parts fit was an issue again around the driver's cockpit. Between the cab front/windshield part and the combined air intake covers/cab upper side walls there were gaps that no self-respecting kit manufacturer should offer. The non-joint at the side walls swallowed lots of putty, while putty sanding at the front required the installation of curved sheet strips with rivet replacements from white glue. (These strips have also been taken care of by Eduard's #36048.)  

To replace the kit's wrong horn, I shaved it off the cab front wall and had to replace a few more rivets. The PE part received a narrow ring from drilled out styrene tubing to its front, and its support was shortened 1mm. To further set my model apart, I also cut off the windshield to mount it in the folded position. This entailed raising the kit dashboard part with a styrene strip of about 1 mm height. As this kit doesn't offer the tire pressure regulation devices, I cut off the smaller panel of the dashboard that contains the pressure gauges. For the instrument dials, I used the Eduard paper version: after several coats of Future on front and back sides, they were cut out with my punch and die set and then stuck into the kit instrument rings that had been freed of the molded-in needles.

The insides of the cab received whatever the PE set contained, including pedals, drain plug holders and similar stuff. Unfortunately, the set didn't include "wood grain" for the sides of the cab front next to the pedals, so there appeared a step in the sides that needed more "plywood" from scribed thin sheet. The seats received "fabric" from a single layer of tissue paper that was affixed by dabbing thin liquid glue onto it. I couldn't use the PE lateral ventilation grills as they weren't high enough for the holes I'd cut, so I cut my own grills from generic brass material. The folding cover plates to go above them, however, fit very nicely and only had "locks" added.  The exhaust pipe was replaced with a piece of insulated copper wire. A test fit showed that at certain angles, light falling through the opening behind the cockpit could be seen on the hull floor through the lateral grills, so I cemented sheet styrene "wings" below the cockpit floor. Below both grills, a self-made wire tiedown was installed.

Turning to the windows, the first measure was to cut new panes from very thin acetate. Thin styrene strips were then prepared to hold these. This, in turn, required the removal of the incorrect kit wiper motors and their replacement with plastic rod and disks plus brass wire and stretched sprue. A small angular contraption from the top of the brass dash was transferred to serve as connecting point between brass wire and "flexible wiper motor drive tubing" from stretched black vinyl (tank track) sprue. The triangular lateral windows had the round knobs at their bottom edges sanded off; instead, small plastic disks were cemented to the cab sides. The triangles were then "folded" onto the main windshield frame which could now be mounted and "fixed" with the PE spring locks that had been made three-dimensional with white glue.

The engine grill behind the cab had been the main reason for my investing into the PE set, as Italeri had delivered such a chunky rendition of it that I simply couldn't live with it. The PE replacement tended to collect kinks whenever I as much as looked at it, so I strengthened it by cementing 0.4 x 0.5 mm Evergreen strips beneath its borders. But it wasn't until after I had cemented it in that I noticed that I should have installed four drive shaft imitations: two for the rear axles and two thinner ones for winch and propeller – too late. There were two more things missing in this area, namely the supports for the machine gun ring mount. These were mounted in all DUKWs, regardless of their actual armament, and so I scratchbuilt them from plastic sheet. Two tiedown hooks were placed at the cab rear, together with PE fire extinguisher holders and such; later, I also added two brackets for the cab tarpaulin brace here. Two small tiedown buckles for this tarpaulin were set below the side window arresting knobs.

Time to turn to the cargo bay. So its bottom should have plywood grain – but I wasn't willing to invest into another PE part (especially as these –Gauntlett or Eduard #36045 "British DUKW interior"– seem to have a ship's deck pattern, which I can't detect in the available prototype pictures), so I decided to just put a full load into my DUKW or throw a tarp over all the offending floor plates. Which left the outside tiedowns. Eduard gives some 20 hooks like they can be found around the CCKW truck bed, but the DUKW represented by the kit had only four of these on the rear wall, whereas on the sides, there were wire tiedowns looking like an "N", with the diagonal bar welded down and its ends sticking out. So, it was do it yourself again with thin brass wire after sanding off the (correct pattern) Italeri moldings. (The PE hooks might be appropriate, together with Eduard set #36049, for an early vertical-windshield DUKW.) I didn't use the Eduard insets for the tarpaulin bow holes either, as at least the sample in Toadman's pictures has these open just like the kit.

After adding more tiny bits from the PE set and lots of wing nuts, the rope bumpers remained. Granted, here Italeri have done what they could – for styrene, these are great. But my painting abilities aren't sufficiently developed to make these things look like real rope, and so I treated myself to a set of Thachweave bumpers. Only to discover that Italeri had made another mistake: The great looking connection of the front bumpers to the central clevis is unique to the kit – I couldn't find a single prototype photo of that clevis being tied up! Instead, there's a metal rod oval welded to the central corrugation right behind it, and that's what the bumpers are attached to on the prototype and on my model. For coloring them, I soaked them in strong black tea (two bags in one cup) several times, allowing them to dry in between; that gave the color of the "recently replaced" bumper. The others additionally received some water color once they were mounted. Speaking of mounting: the Thachweave bumpers are longer and less oval than the Italeri ones, so they can't be installed quite like the prototypes and needed a tie-up in places. From the string included with them, I formed a rope coil on the engine hatch; tea-dyed white sewing thread was used for a thinner rope. The "tarpaulin" in the cargo bay is silk fabric soaked in watercolors, as is the "map case" at the back rest of the driver's seat.

Die Bemalung/Alterung

Before that, however, came the dreaded ordeal ‒ the DUKW had to be painted, which is the part I just hate about modeling. Anyway, everything got a brush undercoat of Humbrol Gun Metal, onto which I dabbed Olive drab. Outside decals came from the kit and went down without problems, as did Archer interior signs. Details were picked out as necessary, the red reflectors being made with punched out slices of red candy-wrap aluminum foil and drops of Future. A black-brown oil wash was applied over it all, nothing else ‒ hey, my hobby is model building, not painting, OK?


In the end, a very nice model could be built. But with a little more care on Italeri's side (that wouldn't even have cost money, just attention to detail), a lot more could have been possible out of the box.

Price / Value: ***** Fitting: *****
Detailing: ***** Skill level: *****

Recommended references:

  • "Toadman's Tank Pictures" im Internet    
  • Boniface/Jeudi, "The GMC, a universal Truck" 
  • Ampersand "Allied – Axis", Vol. 2.

© 02/2022 Peter Schweisthal

1424 readers of this build log since 15.02.2022

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