One lazy weekend a few years ago, being in that particular mood of having quite enough that I should be doing, but nothing I particularly wanted to be doing, I thought I’d pick up on a comment made by a friend and dug out various of my Southern vans, the roofs for the comparison thereof. The utility vans and Van Cs have appeared in various forms over many years, the goods vans are available as kits from Ratio and RTR from Bachmann, Hornby and Dapol (the latter two being the moulding introduced by Airfix/GMR in the late 1970s, and none the worse for that).
Now it’s fairly well known that these vans had a distinctive compound roof curvature, and this is obviously going to present a challenge to a modelmaker or manufacturer. An article by John Hayes in MRJ 120 deals with the construction of three vans from Ratio kits, a principal feature being replacement of the roofs due to their profile. John says that all the published drawings of these vans show slight variations, which also doesnt surprise me as I suspect that even a good draughtsman is prone to ‘freehand’ a bit in such circumstances. Geoff Kent also has some words of wisdom on the matter in volume 2 of his 4mm Wagon trilogy.
As with so many things though that are ostensibly models of the ‘same’ thing, the real problems start when you want to run them together. So, some comparisons. Firstly, a couple of utility vans, Parkside on the left – with my own ends here, in order to produce a PMV, but following (ish) the kit profile) – and Wrenn/HD at right:
Next, the old Airfix 12T at left (don’t be fooled by the even planking) and the Bachmann model at right:
I think those two, although not identical, are pretty closely matched as far as the profile is concerned. There are discrepancies with the positions of the bonnet vents and their shape, but those would be very difficult to work on.
Now the Ratio kit at left, again the Bachmann at right:
This to me shows how wrong the Ratio one looks – it’s much flatter, sort of squashed-looking, at the shoulders. The vertical bits at the very sides are too short, accentuating an excessively peaked effect at the apex. As this older shot shows, it actually looks more wrong when viewed side on:
Almost as an aside, this shot shows the SR-pattern brakegear with drop link, which was adapted from the Red Panda chassis of the BR clasp pattern gear.
Of them all, the Ratio is the only one I can’t live with and as I’d put a lot of work into the rest of the van, I bit the bullet and did something about it. Trials with the Parkside CCT roof showed it would fit, with a bit of minor fettling; once cut to length, this was the outcome:
As mentioned, the roof needed a bit of work to sit snugly but the only thing I’ve done to the body ends is to file them slightly flatter across the central ‘third’:
I’m aware of the remaining slight gap at the shoulders, but I didn’t think it warranted destroying and restoring the capping strip, and since then the roof has been painted and the capping touched in. The whole job is a bit of an enigma really; it definitely looks better, and yet as that minimal gap shows, there isn’t all that much difference between the two roofs. And I still have to order a replacement part for that PMV!