The M38A1 military Jeep has a strong Canadian connection. Many of the first M38A1's built for the U.S. military in the early 1950's were built by Ford in Canada. And in the 1960's the Kaiser Jeep plant in Windsor, Ontario built hundreds of M38A1's for the Canadian Forces. These have gone on to become a symbol of Canada around the world, painted white for their role in a number of United Nations peacekeeping operations.
For my second Tonka refurbishing project, I decided to turn a damaged toy CJ-5 into a model of the Canadian M38A1, dressed for its deployment in UN peacekeeping.
The Tonka toy that I started with had the windshield and steering wheel completely broken off and missing. I decided to turn this problem into an opportunity, and install replacements more accurate to the M38A1. The rest of the toy was in very good shape -- little rust, and no other damage to the plastic chassis as I had found on my earlier fire Jeep conversion.
Features added to the model included blackout and marker lamps made from acorn nuts, a whip antenna, and a UN flag on a wooden stick. The flag and the other graphics were downloaded from the web, printed on paper and glued to the model with contact cement. The spare tire, from some long-forgotten toy truck, looks pretty close to the prototype's military tires. Needless to say, the big Tonka wheels and tires are not prototypical, but with the white hubs they don't look too bad.
The most difficult part of the project (aside from the evening when I dropped the white Tremclad spray can, which ruptured and sprayed most of me and my garage) was cutting and fitting the windshield where the old one had been torn off. The replacement was cut from a piece of plastic out of an old refrigerator, and attached with pins inserted into drilled holes in each side. The divider in the middle of the two-pane military windshield is a finishing nail.
The damaged dashboard side of the windshield base was patched with epoxy and filed flat, which is prototypically correct. The steering wheel is a Meccano part courtesy of my father. It has four spokes instead of three, but is a better size than the missing Tonka part.
The prototype photos on which I based the model, showed Jeeps in use on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. The UN presence on Cyprus, patrolling to prevent conflict between the Greek and Turkish populations on the island, has included a significant Canadian contingent from 1964 to the present.
Given that the Tonka CJ-5 is limited in its accuracy as a scale model to start with, I decided that I wouldn't try to be 100% accurate in this conversion to the M38A1. Some of the features of the prototype that I decided to live without, included recessed headlights, lifting rings on the bumpers, rear view mirrors, top-mounted wipers, 24V electrical connector on the right side, dual battery box on the cowl, and blackout taillights. But there's enough detail to give the model the look of this distinctive Canadian Jeep.
Thanks to Jarek Skonieczny for the prototype photo. The photographer is unknown. For a detailed black & white photo of two M38A1's in Cyprus, see the book Jeep Goes to War by William Fowler. -- Derek Redmond
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