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Scratchbuilding pt 7: Plan & Mock Up For for Scale Bodies

In previous instalments we covered tools, materials, construction of basic shapes, detailing those to make scale objects, and combining objects to make a much more intricate object (a scale V8 engine). This time we'll look at the planning for building a whole scale body from styrene, and making a basic card mockup.

There's an obvious limitation on making things primarily from styrene sheet: while you can make things that are basically box shaped, flat, cylindrical, oval, have a curve, or a combination of any of those, there's no easy way to make a complex, 3-dimensionally curved surface (of which most modern vehicles are composed of) without resorting to vacuum forming.

The need to sculpt hard "bucks" to form the plastic over is the part that's putting me off at present - but in the meantime, the mid to late 1970s to very early 1980s are period ripe with interesting but fairly slab-sided (or "utilitarian", if you prefer) vehicles. Looking through a 1975 Top Trumps "Cross Country Vehicles" set (see image 1) showed several possible candidates, but the one I picked out for the worked example was the Volvo L3314, also known as the Valp, or Laplander.

jr scratch 7 001

I've saved this until near the end as I'd consider it an "advanced" build - not so much because the actual techniques are any more involved, more that you need to be more committed to a project that will take a lot longer, and because you need to have a well developed confidence in your ability to get it all done.

Even if you don't want to build one of these at home, I'd hope the concepts & ideas are of some use in building a scale body of your choice.

About the Laplander (and our Scale Version)

Also known as the "Valp" (meaning puppy - or whelp in English), or as the "Laplander" in civilianised forms, all versions of the vehicle are potentially interesting subjects for model making and RC. There are various military configurations of the L33nn series (hard top, soft top, full and half cabs, all of which have round headlights & a tubular protective grille) and the open body type 3304 (quite a different kettle of fish as it's the only one that's not forward control). The same chassis has been configured for many uses, e.g. communications, anti-tank guns, troop carriers and so on. There's also the later, plainer looking C303 and 6x6 C304, but I want to look specifically at the civilian C202 made between 1977 and 1981.

For our purposes, most of the differences between that and the earlier mil-spec models (made in Hungary, reputedly weaker axles, greater capacity engine) are not relevant - but the square grille & distinctive "cheeks" on the front doors & B-pillar are.

A quick Google image search for "Volvo C202" will show you the huge range of body types from half cab pickups, to campers with pop-up tent tops, to Paris-Dakar winners with external roll cages - but I've picked a "typical" version with the full cab and a hard top back with the additional windows.

As I'm writing this (November 2015), paint is yet to be determined, but will have to be something late 70s appropriate - beige and orange are the main candidates so far. The chassis will be a Tamiya CC-01 as although it doesn't have the portal axles of the 1:1 vehicle (what RC chassis does, off the shelf?) for the price it's a fairly scale looking, fairly capable 4WD chassis.

Although the "basic" versions of the Laplander don't tend to have anything on top, something I will be doing is to add a brass roof rack to hold some of the scale accessories made in previous parts.

Research: Paperwork & Photos

Whatever vehicle you want to build, you're going to need some fairly detailed information about it.

Start with Google image search - if there are only half a dozen poor photos of it on the entire internet then you're going to have to be a lot more inventive about the details. On the other hand, if there are a huge number of photos & articles out there, then it's going to be a lot easier to make things accurate. Look for interior shots and roof photos, and especially fully square on front and rear shots as these are a lot harder to find than side on and 3/4 angle pictures. Download and/or bookmark everything even vaguely useful in case you can't find it again.

If there are hi-res, dimensioned technical drawings of the front, side, rear and top then you're on to a real winner. More often than not these are poor quality or incomplete: definitely the case with the C202.

Is there a manual that you can buy, or has someone already scanned and uploaded one you can cull diagrams from? In this case it's a qualified yes - a Swedish language edition of the glovebox manual is available at www.terrangbil.net. Between some similarities in language, plus the context and pictures it's of some use - but still not the blueprints I was hoping for. The clear dimensions however will come in very handy for determining the scale (see later). An online version of the manual for the L3314 (the basic military version) is available (in Norwegian) from database.laplander.nu.

Existing Models?

Is there a small scale model, kit or toy version? Even if you don't use it to make plans from (see later), it can be very useful to have a three-dimensional example in front of you.

In the case of the Laplander, French firm Majorette made a 1:59 diecast version. Named the "Explorateur" (Explorer), all have a half cab with plastic bench seats in the pickup bed and a plastic soft top back, most with some form of printing on the top. It was available in a wide range of colours, with a wide range of prints too. I picked up a reasonable metallic blue/ Paris Dakar example from a seller in France for under 5GBP posted, and while I was waiting for that to arrive, another from the UK for a bit less (and a lot, lot quicker).

How about a papercraft version? As luck would have it I downloaded a 1:32 version some years ago from www.papermodels.cjb.net (currently inactive). There are some issues with it though - the front & rear have completely parallel sides (there should be a slight angle, increasing at the window line) and the details mark it out as a L3314 rather than the C202 I want to build - so it's not going to be that helpful. That's my excuse for not finishing it properly, anyway.

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What Scale?

The C202 Swedish language Instruktionsbok shows that the hjulbas (wheelbase) is 2 100mm and the bredd (width - or breadth) is 1680mm.

The Tamiya CC-01 chassis has a wheelbase of 242mm, 252mm or 267mm depending on which version you get, so taking the 2100mm wheelbase of the real vehicle into account (and with some heavy rounding) means our RC model would have to be built at 1:9 or 1:8 scale.

Looking at the CC01 width across the tyres of 192mm confirms a scale of around 1:9 - this is good because although it's possible to take some quite large liberties with the ratio of width to length and still have the model look good, this means we won't have to - and it's close enough to 1:10 scale that we can use a Tamiya 1:10 scale driver figure .The 1:10 scale objects we made earlier (if you're building along at home) will look ok too.

It also means the shortest wheelbase CC-01 chassis is going to be the most appropriate, which would rule out the Land Cruiser or FJ Cruiser variants. However, as I have at least one short driveshaft left over from previous builds, it really becomes more about buying the version with the best balance between price, which wheels and tyres are included, and the ease/value of resale of the body.

In the end I bought a 58602 Mitsubishi Pajero Rally Sport kit, principally as it was the cheapest at the time. It's a SWB version, but the 5-spoke satin chrome fake alloy wheels aren't really a good approximation of 1970's pressed steel rims, so they'll have to be replaced or heavily modified later on. The surplus body/decals (+ fasteners / fittings / manual / box) have some value so I'll probably to move them on at some point.

Making the Drawings

As the technical illustrations I've found for the Laplander are of poor quality and incomplete, I'll be starting with from drawings made from the 1:59 scale diecast model, with extra details drawn in from other photos.

The first step was to get some decent, consistent photos of one of the diecast models - by "consistent" I mean pictures with the same level of zoom, and the camera the same distance away from the model each time. This is easy enough to achieve - use the lines on a cutting mat as a guide & don't fiddle with the camera in between shots.

To convert the photos to line drawings you'll need a graphics package that supports layers - this rules out MS Paint. I use Paint Shop Pro 5.01 (by JASC, long since bought out by Corel) as I got it free with some hardware a long way back. The current version is available as a free 30 day trial, alternatively I've read good things about the freeware package " GIMP".

I started with the front, cropping the image down so the bulk of the background was gone, created a blank white image the same size, then pasted that in as a new layer. Fading that out to about 35% transparency meant I could see enough of the original photo to draw all the edges with the straight & bezier line tools, shapes (circles, rectangles) etc - remembering to save regularly. Fading back to 100% leaves a black on white plan drawing: images 3, 4 and 5 show the progression.

jr scratch 7 003 jr scratch 7 004  jr scratch 7 005 

Repeat the process for the side and rear: images 6, 7 and 8 show the progress on the side, image 9 shows the completed rear end.

jr scratch 7 006 jr scratch 7 007 jr scratch 7 008

 jr scratch 7 009


Looking at those line drawings, they have some obvious flaws compared to the 1:1 vehicle - the wheels are toy-like & too large, far too wide and the body sits too low on them, the wheel arches are oversized, it has a canvas back rather than the solid one I want to replicate, and the signature U shape of the side door is too small and too high.

Overall it's lacking in fine detail & looks a bit too squat (though it's not really) - all of which is probably to be expected from upscaling a 3" (75mm) long toy. These problems could all be worked out during the build phase - and if this was the only reference source I had, that's what I'd do.

However, I'm writing this up in hope that some readers will want to follow along at home with their own build - and I think that calls for better drawings.

I found a reasonable quality, side on photo of just the version of the truck I want to make, created a mirror image of it, converted it to greyscale (to see the details better), and resized it to match as closely as possible my existing line drawing, and pasted it as a new layer into a copy of that drawing.

You might well ask why I didn't just use that photo as a starting point - the reason was that I didn't have a matching photo of the front of the same truck (not a full square one anyway), and the front and sides of a scale version of anything really need to match.

I converted the new photo to a line drawing in the same way as above - but with a few important differences. The front & rear bumpers are from the original drawing, as are the lines of the front grille, leading edges of the body & windscreen, the upper roof line, and the centre point of the roof gutter line - this will allow the front to match the sides.

You'll note that keeping the roof and gutter lines the same have meant that the top of the windows & some other details have had to move down a bit, but I'm quite happy with the way it looks. I've also taken significant liberties with the position and size of the third window in the name of making it look "right" ...

The wheels I cheated on, just resizing & moving the "toy" versions.

Working on a copy of the side view, I pasted in my existing drawing of the front of the Laplander. As the front is sloped, some parts were further away from the camera. These perspective errors added up to the height of some of the details on the front view not quite matching those of the side - so a little horizontal slicing of the image was called for. After redrawing the gutter to match the slimmed down version of the side elevation, I moved on to the wheelarches, door pods and grille - though I probably did get a bit carried away on the level of detail on the lights and wipers at this stage.

Moving on to the rear panel, starting with a copy of the original drawing of the front, I blanked out all the details apart from the outline (so I had the correct width and angles), gutter detail and waistline. I have to admit what I drew in was mostly guesswork, with the details combined from several indifferent and/or awkwardly angle pictures of the rear of the truck. At this point I have no idea whether the spare wheel mount was accurate, or how the door is meant to hinge/open.

jr scratch 7 010 jr scratch 7 011 jr scratch 7 012 



Making the Prototype Card Mockup

This is an important step for me, as although it's quite possible to go straight from the plans (or even just photos) to marking out cut lines directly on to styrene sheet, thin card is a lot less expensive than styrene & I think it's a lot better to find and correct any errors and/or discrepancies in your measurements in a cheap material. I also find it can be very helpful to have a complete looking, fully scaled version to look at - even if it's just for motivation.

Getting the sides the correct size took a little bit of fiddling in PaintShopPro - working on copies of the completed drawing, first I cropped down to a section from the middle of one wheelarch to the centre of the other, then resized the image to 242mm wide (being the wheelbase of the CC-01 chassis). Overlaying that over another copy of the side, I worked out that the whole plan needed to be resized to 30% of the original drawing size in order to match.

It was obvious that the sides were too big to print on one side of A4, so I split them (with an orange line indicating the join point) into two sections (see image 13). These two parts I then mirrored to make the other side. The front and rear I also resized to 30%, then printed all the sections on 160gsm card before cutting them out.

jr scratch 7 013


The sides were fine, but needed the bumper sections removing as they just complicated things at this point. Although the overall width of the front didn't need any fudging, there were issues with the front windscreen and roof sections being way too short.

Mk.2 of the front end I created by sectioning the front end image in PaintShopPro. The grille & scuttle panels were kept as they were (as was the the roof gutter/trim section), but the windscreen was increased in height from 45mm to 52mm, and the roof front increased from 12mm to 32mm high (really). The slices were then reassembled, but the mudguard/fender extensions and "cheek" panels were removed as they really weren't needed at this point.

A mk.3 version was also needed - the winscreen section really needed a couple of extra mm in height, and an extra section needed to step the overhanging section of roof out correctly.

For the rear panel, some horizontal sectioning and resizing was needed (the section below the "waist" was changed to 59mm, upper to 80mm, the gutter left as is & the top now 15mm).

The roof at this point is a simple 330mm x 152mm flat panel made from two sheets of card to get the length.

Build it Yourself?

If you have any ambition to build a Laplander body along at home I'd strongly suggest you build the basic card version first, to do that you will need:

• 7 or 8 sheets of light (160gsm or so) A4 card;
• printer;
• the plans;
• 30 & 45cm steel rules;
• craft knife/scalpel & A3 cutting mat;
• scissors;
• PVA glue (or Pritt stick);
• blunt knife/creaser for scoring lines.

Download plans:

Right click and "Save target" / "Save link" or similar.

  1. Front
  2. Rear
  3. Roof & left rear
  4. Left front
  5. Right front
  6. Right rear


I'll be the first to admit that the plans are a little crude in places, but they're only intended to make a card mockup for guidance, not to be a finished model in their own right. One thing they're missing is a method of joining the panels to each other. I used 12mm wide strips of card creased & folded down the middle, you could use tape, or even draw tabs on the plans before you print them (the foward, top and rear edges of the side panels would probably be best).

Either way, print out the plans: settings will vary depending on your printer & paper size, but in general they should be 100% on A4 card (use the scale on each page to check).

Cut out the left hand side panels (pages 3 and 4), you might want to cut out the "step" hole too. Score along the "waist" line (the centre of the three lines approx. 1" (25mm) above the rear arch, continuing all the way to the front, through the door handles) and the roof line (the line approx. 1/2" (13mm) below the top of the panel). Put a "mountain" fold on both scored lines - i.e. make peaks with the printed sides outermost (as opposed to a "valley" fold where the printed sides would meet each other, if the fold was dramatic enough).

Glue the two panels to each other, then repeat for the Right hand side panels.

Cut out the front panel, and crease in five places: the line just below the square air intake (mountain fold) , the line just below the lower windscreen "rubber" (valley fold), and the 3 lines above the upper "rubber" (valley, mountain & mountain folds from bottom to top).

The folds on the rear panel (having cut it out) are the same as for the sides.

The Roof panel just needs to be a simple rectangular piece to fit the gap - mine was 330mm long by 152mm wide. Obviously that's longer than a single sheet of A4 so I'd suggest starting with one new sheet joined with a small overlap to another sheet (or the blank end of page 6 of the plans), then cutting down to size.

Join the panels in one of the manners discussed above. The completed body will be held on by the standard CC-01 tab at the front and a swivel catch at the rear, but that's not worth doing in card at the moment, so I just taped some cocktail sticks to the chassis' wheelarches to hold it up in roughly the correct position for the photos.

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Obviously you also need a CC-01 chassis if you're going to build a body of your own ... if you don't have one handy that will mean buying and possibly building one. I don't have any specific suggestions for upgrades beyond getting a full bearing set for it (I recommend RcBearings.co.uk) and fitting a 45T or 55T motor - whizzing around at buggy speeds with the kit motor and hand-built scale bodies don't really mix.

Next Time ...

There's a long way to go so I don't want to be too prescriptive about future installments at this point, but part 8 will almost certainly cover modifying the wheels, and building the basic body structure.

Detailing, interior, making a roof rack, paint & so on will appear in later parts.


Written by TB member Jonny Retro