Trailer Talk

Beautiful custom-built models start with long sheets of styrene

May 17, 2011

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Some truckers are so proud of the equipment they operate that they want scale models to display in their homes or offices. One man who makes that happen is master modeler Kuenn (pronounced Quinn) McClinton,
himself a former over-the-road driver and now part owner (with brother Rick) of several real-life rigs.

McClinton, 48, has been building industrial and vehicle models since 1984, including a stint with General Motors. He now employs two full-time modelers in a shop in Chicago, and has a large photo portfolio of his creations, some of which he recently sent me.

One is this 1/24-scale Merritt 50-foot livestock trailer and its accompanying Peterbilt 359 tractor, made for Ray Rollins of Rollins Farms in Missouri. McClinton built two such replica rigs for Mr. Rollins.

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The replica trailer is based on drawings obtained from the manufacturer. These were scanned into a computer-controlled milling machine, which then worked on long sheets of styrene plastic to duplicate the punched aluminum sides and ends, plus nose, undercarriage, interior decks and ramps and their hydraulic adjustment mechanisms. Parts were painstakingly assembled and painted to match the prototype.

Over the years McClinton has built hundreds of models of many types of rigs, such as end-dumps, drop-decks, and specialty vans, along with tractors of various makes and models. The real-life rigs are often show quality, and this is reflected in the beauty of their replicas. Most customers want 1/24 scale, he says, but he and his crew also model in 1/25 and 1/16 scales.

Each model is unique and takes a lot of time to make, so isn't cheap. A similar "cattle wagon" rig cost its buyer about $2,100, he says. But look at the results.

McClinton and I met about 20 years ago at the Mid-America Trucking Show, where he had a booth, and I wrote a feature on him. Out of the blue he e-mailed me a few weeks ago and attached some pics, prompting me to phone him.

"Hello, Mr. Berg," he began, and we caught up on what he's been doing. Among other things, he consulted on the movie "Transformers," in which one of the machine beings is a Peterbilt tractor.

His customers are always "Mister," so if you contact him to inquire about commissioning a model, prepare for such politeness. He's at kmcclinton@sbcglobal.net or 312-903-9645.

For more photos of McKuenn's models, see HDT's Facebook page at www.facebook.com/heavydutytrucking

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Author Bio

Tom Berg

Senior Editor

Journalist since 1965, truck writer and editor since 1978. CDL-qualified; conducts road tests on new heavy-, medium- and light-duty tractors and trucks. Specializes in vocational and hybrid vehicles.

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