Life is a scratchbuilding project
Build On &
Interior rework and details being added...
One of the more complex parts of the model has been the reworking of the interior. This required removing two floor plates with their seats, removing the seats, and then altering the flooring to match a conventional Excursion. In the front, the platform on the passenger side had to be sawed away and the open area replaced with new flooring that also replaced part of the transmission hump. Once the floor was in place, a chair platform was constructed from more sheet plastic to form a duplicate of the driver's side platform. With these floor details completed, then a copy of the driver's side seat was made by creating a RTV Silicone mold. This two-part rubber compound cured after a day and allowed a casting to be made using a polyurethane resin casting compound. The copy was then cut apart and the parts rearranged from right to left so that the passenger-side copy has the arm rest and other features on the correct side of the chair.
Getting the carpeting right proved to be a challenge - the original model carpeting gave me fits! I finally tried removing it and at first I simply could not get the old flocking to come off. I decided to wash the parts in warm water. While filling the bucket I was interrupted with a phone call and the bucket filled with hot water which much to my delight actually did the trick! Now with the floor plates down to bare plastic, I can prime them and paint them a uniform color, then add the new flocking to them.
Once the basics are in, details such as a laptop, radios, scanner, speakers, etc. will all be added as well.
Pilot cars and pilot trucks are probably one of the least understood types of vehicles out on the highways and roadways of our great country and yet they perform a very dangerous and complex job acting as guides and warning vehicles for big and wide loads going from one destination to another. Few motorists have any idea just what pilot cars and their drivers do, nor are they aware of the array of gear these vehicles carry.
In the course of doing this particular project I've learned more about this unique class of vehicle, but I've also come to respect what pilot drivers do and it has been a pleasure creating this model, though it has definitely provided some very interesting building challenges!
The actual vehicle is a 2005 Eddie Bauer Special Edition Ford Excursion outfitted with an array of lights and equipment, making this truck one of the better equipped pilot trucks out on the road. This was the original truck worked by Got Your Back Pilot Cars, LLC and was Theresa Marshall's personal truck. The model was commissioned by her husband Bob as a gift to her and I want to personally thank Bob for his guidance and encouragement as we've worked through this project together. Clients don't get much better than this and it has been great working for them.
Once the truck was reconfigured back to "normal", we then needed to add a few upgrades to get it up to Eddie Bauer spec and then add the special exterior equipment. That meant doing a two-tone paint job and then adding things such as a front pushbar/height pole assembly to the nose, roof racks and a "Oversized Load" sign and bracket assembly, plus a set of working lights including a lightbar and arrow stick.
The first step was to cut the model down to size and then strip the body of the factory black finish. Cutting the diecast apart proved to be a challenge! The alloy used to cast the body was very tough and nearly burned out one of my Moto-tools trying to cut it apart. Using the smaller tool I thought would insure not cutting away too much at the start, but the tool could barely cut through the casting. I finally had to use a full-size conventional grinder to cut the center out of the diecast, taking out a full 6" or 9 scale feet in the process. Once the initial cutting was done I mated the two halves, noted where further trimming was needed and carefully removed the excess material. When this was completed I used Ready-Strip to remove the factory paint and get the model back down to bare metal.
Note the length of the original model and the thickness of the metal as seen in the cross-section of the roof seen in the third photo.
The model is a heavily modified 1/18th scale die-cast model that has been modified and painted to match the real truck that you see above. While the company is based in West Virginia, Bob and Theresa are proud native New Yorkers and many of the details on the truck reflect their love for their home state and devotion to the fallen heroes of 9-11.
There are an array of additional details that are prepared and will be added over the next few days. Accurate license plates have been created with the Excursion's correct plate "number", as well as the I Love NY front plate. Widow decals with the company logo have been made and will be applied to the side windows. Construction of the pole support / pushbar assembly is nearly complete and the roof rack rails and Oversize Vehicle placard support had also been made from brass is ready for installation. The stock wheels have been replaced with mag wheel centers that are much closer to what was on the real truck.
One of the best features will be a set of working strobe and steady lights as well as a working lightbar. Unfortunately the maker of these lights shipped the regular police versions of the lights (Red, Blue, etc.) instead of the white or yellow I requested, but he has agreed to replace what he sent with the correct items.
Fusing the halves together and modifying the chassis
2005 Ford Excursion Pilot Car in 1/18th Scale
Project challenges & initial cut-down of the Limo
Tour of the additional details being added...
Most of my projects begin with a real vehicle or prototype that I then try to replicate. These are some samples of the real thing and you can click on the link below to take you to other material used to build the model.
"Massive" is the only way to accurately describe the 1/18th scale diecast model of the Excursion limo, and I don't mean just how long the thing is. The diecast in it's original form was impressive from the standpoint of weight and this from the alloy used to cast the model. In order to get the dachshund-like limo back down to the size of a "normal" Excursion, a full six inches had to be removed from the middle of the casting. Complicating matters is that the model in original form had working doors and we wanted to preserve that feature if at all possible. The model had to be cut down in a way that the front and back halves could be re-mated with a fair amount of precision and in a way that insured that the halves would stay together once they were rejoined.
The interior also needed to be changed in several ways. The model was finished in a gray monotone finish while Theresa's truck was a special Eddie Bauer edition that had a two-tone bone & bronze-like finish, which also meant refinishing the carpeting. The limo version of the truck wasn't just longer, but the interior needed to be altered too. Instead of having a seat on the passenger side in the front, the diecast had a raised platform with no seat. Correcting that would take some special fidgeting, but more on that later. And after talking it over, Bob and I also settled on adding as many interior details as possible such as radios, scanners, speakers, and a laptop - all part of the set-up in the real truck.
The model is painted using the same kind of lacquer automotive products used on full-size vehicles, but the hardness of the alloy used in casting the body parts proved to be a challenge, especially when doing the two-tone Eddie Bauer paint scheme. Several times removing the masking also removed chunks of the previously painted layers, forcing me to go back, repaint areas, and blend new paint into the old. Gradually, the entire model has received the correct two-tone finish and Final clear topcoats are about to be applied.
Bob Marshall contacted me about building a detailed replica of the pilot truck that his wife had owned when they first started their pilot car service. Pilot cars not only escort the big rigs that carry and pull the wide and heavy loads you see out on the Interstates, but they also insure that their charges make it safely passed, under, over, around, and through all kinds of roadway hazards and obstacles that you and I in our "normal" sized cars and trucks take for granted. And it isn't just making sure a truck and it's cargo fit on a road or under a bridge,that is part of the job, but making sure all the proper permits and paperwork is completed so that these massive loads get from point "A" to point "B" safely and without any hitches. If that sounds easy, it's not! There are a lot of details that have to be attended to and kept reminding myself of that as I have worked on this model. It sounded deceptively easy compared to the complex fire apparatus I usually build, but there were a ton of challenges that we had to overcome as you shall see.
First, there really isn't a model kit or casting of the 2005 Ford Excursion. The choices of replicas are pretty limited too to a 1/50th scale diecast model of a FDNY Battalion Chief's car and a 1/18th scale diecast Excursion limousine.That's right, an extended chassis Excursion is it if you want a decent sized model, so the first task Bob and I had was locating what was rapidly becoming a rare and BIG diecast model to act as the basis for the miniature copy of Theresa's truck.
The photos below show the truck as it came from the vendor and the process I used to disassemble it so that we could cut the body down and de-convert Excursion to the conventional sized truck. (You can click on any of the photos below to get a full screen shot...)
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Bonding the two halves of the body back together was simplified by the fact that the roof was in two layers, allowing me to replace the cut-apart outer layer with a new single outer layer that would help hold the two parts together. An application of JB Weld, a metallic epoxy adhesive, fused the roof section and the two halves back together again. Once this was dry and clean, the model was then primed using regular automotive lacquer - the same kind used on full-sized vehicles.