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Big man, little trucks

HANOVER, Ont. – For many truck drivers, the trucks themselves hold no special meaning, nothing but mere metal and glass and rubber and the rest, a literal and figurative vehicle for them to perform their professional duties. But for some,...


Made by hand: Dave Gordanier creates lifelike replicas of heavy trucks and other machinery.
Made by hand: Dave Gordanier creates lifelike replicas of heavy trucks and other machinery.

HANOVER, Ont. – For many truck drivers, the trucks themselves hold no special meaning, nothing but mere metal and glass and rubber and the rest, a literal and figurative vehicle for them to perform their professional duties. But for some, especially owner/operators, it’s so much more. It’s their home away from home, their pride, and, often, their hobby.

So it makes sense that many delight in the idea of having a scaled-down, but highly detailed, diecast model of their own trucks – a tiny toy version of their much larger toys.  

That’s where Dave Gordanier comes in. The elementary school teacher and recent first-time father grew up on a farm near Orangeville, Ont., an experience he says spurred his love of big equipment. About six years ago, Gordanier was on a search for a replica of his father’s combine, but after finding a model with an “astronomical” price tag, he decided he would try and create one himself.

After successfully completing the model, Gordanier found he had unwittingly amassed a fan club of sorts for his work.

“People started asking me, ‘Well, can you do this tractor and I have this truck on the farm that we haul grain with, can you make a model of it?’ So I did that and I gradually got interested in the big trucks and big farm equipment,” the deep-voiced, but soft-spoken Gordanier told Truck News. “I just find it interesting; the size of it, what it can do, the power of it.”

So how does one go about creating custom diecast truck models at 1/64 scale? Well, much like a real truck, Gordanier is able to order a mould of each truck’s make and model with basic spec’s, but it’s taking the time to replicate the personalized details that make the finished product truly unique.  

“Basically it’s the exact same process as if you were doing a real truck,” Gordanier says. “You first of all choose whatever truck you want to do, choose your fenders, choose all of the other details. Choose all of your colours and where, if you wanted more chrome or you wanted it blacked out. It’s essentially the same process.

“I’ve recently started to strip the truck completely off and do minor modifications with tiny bits of body fill and sandpaper. Stuff like shaving the roof lights or changing the contour of the fender.”

While most graphics are next to impossible to replicate due to size, Gordanier has someone who can create simple door or trailer decals, while he focuses on paint and line work. But he admits the devil is truly in the details.

“It’s hard to get a nice tape line on it to make it look good because the details; if there’s 25 rivets down the side of the truck, there’s 25 rivets in an inch, so to get a piece of tape in there, sometimes you get a nice seal, but sometimes it’s difficult. So that’s the most difficult part, that’s what I am trying to get better at – the graphics or maybe a little design or something.”

Those details are a model-maker’s bread and butter, which is why rush jobs and shoddy workmanship will rarely result in a satisfied customer.

“I really do take a lot of pride and patience in building a model for myself or for someone else,” Gordanier says. “As a beginner, I was just happy to be able to make something that was unique or different than what someone else had. Like most beginners, I was not as concerned with the little details or even doing a good job. I was practicing, trying to get better.

“As I did it more and more, I began to challenge myself to create a model with more detail, better paint jobs and a smoother overall look. I really began to learn from each one so I could apply what I learned on the next and make it better than the last.”

Gordanier says that while his specialty at Custom Canada, the name given to his custom 1/64 DCP (Die Cast Promotions) and farm toy business, is likely custom grain trailers (“Because I haven’t seen anybody else that does them or if I have seen one, it’s not done very well”), his favourite projects so far have been the model of his Dad’s combine and another recent model of a neighbour’s tow truck.

“When I can replicate something that actually exists, that’s what I like better. To do a neat show truck with whatever pieces I have, it’s like, yeah, you just kind of put it together, but…things like the combine and the tow truck took a lot of measurements and pictures and a lot more timing. I get a lot more out of that because it’s like, here’s a picture and then here it is: here’s the exact same, but smaller.”

In the end, that’s who he’s catering to: the guys who want to see their truck the same, but smaller, and display it proudly. And while his creations are as true to form and detailed as his time and talents allow, being the humble man he is, he doesn’t like to make a “big” thing of it.

“It can be challenging sometimes with my sausage fingers trying to assemble these trucks, putting small pieces on and doing detail painting in small areas. People have joked and wondered about how someone so big and generally clumsy can manage to build something so small and detailed? I just laugh and say that any skin or fingertips stuck to the model only adds character and is free of charge,” he jokes.

“It certainly is ironic that a big guy like me can build something so small and detailed. I find it very relaxing to build them, when things are going smoothly (sometimes they don’t) and completing a unique truck and/or trailer is a rewarding experience.”

For more information, visit Customdcp.webs.com. To view a video of Gordanier’s workshop and see him in action, look for a future episode of Transportation Matters at Trucknews.com.


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