Ringing the Changes
One way that toy manufacturers can maintain a stream of new releases is by creating new versions of existing models, simply by altering the paint scheme and markings, and possibly changing plastic accessories. This allows them to advertise new products and keep their customers interested, without having to invest in expensive new metal mould-making.
Since real-life vehicles appear in numerous guises, it’s a reasonable practice and increases the choices available to buyers – do you want that tank in a desert war paint scheme, or camouflaged for the European theatre? Do you want that truck rigged for cargo transport, or equipped as an ambulance?
Many of the Solido range of military models had long lives. From the initial releases in the 1960s, some models remained available right through into the 21st century. Not surprisingly then, Solido released multiple versions of these models – refreshes, if you like – during their lifetime. To examine how inventive they could be in doing this, let’s turn to a military ‘softskin’, a lorry: the ubiquitous GMC ‘Deuce and a half’ medium truck of World War Two.
The GMC CCKW
When the United States began re-equipping for anticipated participation in the Second World War, a major requirement was for a general-purpose 2.5 ton 6×6 truck capable of carrying cargo and/or troops. Rather than waste time putting this requirement out to competition, the government negotiated directly with General Motors (GMC). The result was the famous ‘Deuce and a Half’, a rugged and capable truck identified by GMC using the code ‘CCKW’ (C for 1941, C for standard cab, K denoting all-wheel drive, and W indicating dual rear axles).
The CCKW was powerful and rugged, could reach 45 miles per hour, and could carry 16-24 troops (although of course, many more were crammed in when necessary!).
The CCKW was, in fact, the most numerous military vehicle to see service during the war, with more than 572 thousand built to 1945. Perhaps its greatest moment came when many thousand were used to supply the advancing American armies as they broke out from the Normandy beaches and raced to the German border. The ‘Red Ball Express’ created to enable this, saw a constant stream of trucks moving supplies 24×7 along dedicated one-way routes from Cherbourg to Chartres and returning for more.
The CCKW was retired from US service in 1956 to be replaced by the M35 series, but continued with many allies including France, where it formed the backbone of French military transport into the 1970s (and, as a result, found itself modelled by Solido).
The Solido GMC 6×6
Solido 4595/12 GMC Truck
Year first produced:1995
L132xW44xH56, Metal 162g, Scale 1:50, Features: 2
The GMC truck was a relatively late entrant into the Solido range, first appearing in 1987. As such, it is probably one of the more sophisticated models that they produced. There are three main Mazak castings, one for the chassis and one each for the cab and cargo compartments which are bolted to it. The wheels are plastic hubs with rubber tyres, fitted onto three metal axles secured underneath the chassis by plastic plates, and roll smoothly. The rear axles have a pair of wheels each side, so the truck has a total of ten – or rather, eleven, counting the spare wheel stowed underneath on the left side.
The castings are nicely done, with engraved panel lines on the cab. Further detailing is added with smaller plastic parts – a tow hook at the rear, a front grill and winch, and most importantly interior fittings for the cab including seats, a steering wheel and clear window glazing. At the rear the canvass cover for the rear of the truck is moulded in softer, more ‘rubbery’ plastic, and replicates nicely the folds that the canvass original would have had. The cover is removable.
The underside of the model has several markings:
“Verem”, “MADE IN FRANCE”, “GMC”, “1/50”
Verem was, as a paper insert in the box explains, “a wholly owned subsidiary of Solido France”, and Solido released models (seemingly randomly) under both the Solido and Verem brands. The intended scale of the model, 1:50, is confirmed by the overall measurements.
Our model dates from 1995, when Solido produced a ‘limited edition’ set of vehicles commemorating the 50th anniversary of Peace in Europe (1945). In common with other limited editions released by Solido around this time, the models were meant to represent specific vehicles. The box identifies our truck thus: “GMC 2 ½ Ton 6×6 Truck in Livery of 30th US Infantry Div.”. The 30th Division landed in Normandy on June 11th, and thereafter saw heavy fighting throughout the campaign, later also fighting during the Battle of the Bulge and crossing the Rhine into Germany in February 1945. A set of decals included in the box includes the serial number of an individual truck, so in theory it may be possible to check the service history of the vehicle to verify that it did, indeed, serve with the 30th Division (but life is surely too short to bother!).
It’s a nice model of the CCKW, one that does the Deuce and a Half justice.
Some Solido Variants
Now, in real-life, the CCKW was used as the basis of a bewildering variety of military trucks. In addition to the standard cargo and troop transport roles, variants were built as tankers, recovery vehicles and dump trucks, as well as numerous very niche special-purpose variants.
Solido likewise produced a great variety of CCKW models. For example, of the 17 releases in the Peace in Europe range mentioned above, no less than six were GMC trucks in various versions. How did they go about this?
A basic variant that Solido provided was an open-topped cab (an upgrade that was introduced in the summer of 1943 to reduce the amount of metal required during manufacture, as well as lowering the profile of the truck and lightening it for transport). The alternative cab was a new metal casting, attached to the chassis in place of the closed cab.
Other variants were provided for by creating alternative plastic bodies for the rear of the truck, which could be substituted for the metal cargo body. These could be paired with either cab version, as appropriate.
And of course, the third way of creating variety was by finishing the models in different colour schemes and markings, to represent trucks serving at different times and with different armies.
Let’s get a feel for this variety by taking a look at some examples. We started with a ‘standard’ hard cab cargo truck, representative of the most common configuration of CCKW. So before leaving this type, let’s take a look at something completely different…
This model was released in 1994 as part of the Battle of the Bulge limited edition, commemorating the 50th anniversary of that campaign. Like the Peace in Europe series, models are intended to represent specific vehicles (or, at least, specific types). In this case, the box tells us that the truck is a “Captured GMC 6×6 – 2nd Panzer Division”. As such, it is painted grey and carries German markings including the trident symbol of 2nd Panzer Division.
Aside from this, there are two physical differences to our first model that I can see. There is no winch at the front, and a frame for mounting a machine gun (crafted from plastic) has been inserted between the cab and rear section. Many US vehicles mounted such weapons, primarily as defence against air attack, so it is a valid option – but the problem here is that the crew have no means of accessing it! In real life, when the weapons were mounted on a hard cab CCKW, a hole was cut in the cab roof to enable the co-driver to stand up and use the gun. Oh well.
Our next example is a specialised vehicle, one of the other CCKWs produced in the Peace in Europe series. As the box tells us, this truck is a “GMC 2 ½ Ton 6×6 Truck in Livery of 243 Field Park Co. RE, 52nd (Lowland) Div.”. In other words, this is a vehicle belonging to the Royal Engineers contingent within the British 52nd Infantry Division. The rear of the truck mounts a compressor, a (typically rather noisy) machine used to compress air to drive construction equipment such as drills, or to inflate floats for bridges. The compressor is made from plastic, and replaces the standard cargo back.
Another and very important variant of a military truck is a tanker, either for carrying fuel, or as in this case a water bowser. As with the compressor, the tank is a plastic moulding attached to the rear of the chassis in lieu of the standard cargo back.
One of the sexiest versions of the CCKW has to be that with a Maxson quadruple AA machine gun mounting installed in the back, that Solido created in 2006. It just looks so cool! Solido achieved this version by attaching a plastic floor into slots in the standard cargo rear. Into this floor is mounted the plastic quadruple machine gun assembly, so that it can swivel, while the guns can elevate as a group, and thus point in any direction.
Our next variant is another engineer’s vehicle, a recovery truck, equipped with a winch and used for field maintenance and repair. The one-piece plastic crane rig is fitted into slots in the floor of the cargo rear, provided for this purpose when the CCKW model was first created by Solido. The same slots were used by the Maxson variant described above.
The observant amongst you will have noticed that this is also our first CCKW with the roofless cab. A removable canvass roof (made from plastic) is fitted, and it’s surprising how different the truck looks if you remove it (see image below).
The last variant we’ll look at is obviously intended for desert service. It has an open cab, and the standard cargo rear is enlivened with a load of jerrycans, modelled in plastic. CCKWs were deployed to North Africa during WW2, but I’ve not been able to verify that any would have been painted in a sand colour.
In conclusion, as we have seen, Solido was inventive when it came to creating physically and visually distinctive versions of the standard CCKW. In the 1990s, when the development of entirely new models had all but ceased, the Solido range continued to make frequent new releases by repurposing their existing moulds embellished with new plastic accessories and painted in different colours. In the world of Solido, as in real life, the basic CCKW model would appear in many guises!
Shortly after creating the CCKW, GMC went on to produce an amphibious version of the truck, which encased the chassis in a completely new watertight flotation body. This large vehicle was the famous DUKW (D=1942, U=amphibious), extensively used on the Normandy beaches and elsewhere. Solido followed suit, modelling the complex and curvaceous body of the DUKW in resin, releasing several versions in different finishes.
US military trucks were well-served by Solido. In addition to the GMC, they produced a range of Dodge trucks including two models in 1975: no. 242, the contemporary Dodge WC42 1.5 ton truck, and no. 245, an early version of the truck that replaced the GMC and was widely used in the Vietnam War, the Kaiser-Jeep M34/M35.