Herb Roberts retired from trucking after 20 years of driving for Nielson’s Ice Cream, but his love for big trucks continues in a hobby that involves decidedly little trucks. The 82-year-old makes 1:24-scale custom models of the equipment from a workbench in Peterborough, Ont.
He started making models at the age of 10, when he had to spend more than two years in bed because of a serious illness.
“I used to make cardboard and scotch tape models of just about everything: planes, trains, trucks, you name it,” he says.
The first detailed truck model, though, didn’t emerge until his early 60s. He was inspired by the sight of a friend’s Freightliner and Sunoco B-train while mowing the lawn.
“I was really impressed with it, so I finally made one.”
More than 30 models have followed. He found himself sometimes working on three or four projects at a time, staying up until 2 a.m.
Several were for Ross Mackie, the founder of Ontario-headquartered Mackie Transportation.
“Ross Mackie saw me in the truck show two years ago. And I had, I think, three trucks down there. And Ross was walking by the trucks and he said, ‘Hey, would you like to make one for me?’ And I said, ‘Sure.’ So, I took some pictures and I made one,” recalls Roberts. “From there, Ross asked, ‘What about this one over here? And that one over there?’”
Made from scratch
These are no store-bought kits. Around 95% have been made from scratch.
“Made of anything I can put my hands on,” he says. “Wood, plastic, metal, aluminum and steel.”
This is why it takes up to two months to finish a single model. Roberts admits it’s a long time, but it’s because he wants to make everything as realistic as possible. The details catch the eye, he says. There are the 1:24 lights, plates, and stainless-steel fuel tanks and exhaust components that he sources from England. Some of the models also have functioning doors.
“I love detailing — the clearance lights, the door latches, hinges, everything,” he says. “I had a guy in one day, and I had one truck sitting on the table and the picture was just sitting behind it. The guy said, ‘You know, [the] truck looks exactly the same as in the picture.’”
His favourite part of the process involves the final touch-ups before everything is ready for a customer. And when the job is done, he says it could not be more rewarding.
He adds that making these model trucks keeps him young. Even though he is now 82, he says he does not feel his age.
“It’s funny because a lot of people that I know are getting up in age, and I don’t really have time for that, I don’t dwell on other things… I’ve got a lot of plans and things I want to get done. And by that, I mean trucks.”
Have your say
This is a moderated forum. Comments will no longer be published unless they are accompanied by a first and last name and a verifiable email address. (Today's Trucking will not publish or share the email address.) Profane language and content deemed to be libelous, racist, or threatening in nature will not be published under any circumstances.