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Cashuat, the "Battle Horse" of El Salvador 1/35 scratch


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I guess that this topic will depart from the mainstream.  It is not often, that a small country like El Salvador, develops an armored vehicle.  Back in the mid 80s, a Salvadoran army officer designed an APC/AV based on the chassis of the Dodge M37 3/4 truck, of which several units were out of use and readily available in country.   The concept contemplated the use of the Dodge M37 3/4 ton trucks chassis, added armor to drivers´s cockpit and cargo area, new diesel engine and transmission.   The prototype was built completely in El Salvador, but the armor lacked ballistic protection.  Additional help was received from the  US Army Tank Automotive Command's RDE Center's Design and Manufacturing Technology Directorate, who proposed an improved armor / welding design, providing units already cut and welded in Detroit, sending them afterwards to El Salvador as kits to finish the vehicle assembly in country.  Plan went on and in total, 44 vehicles were assembled in APC and AF versions, entering into service in 1985.   The "Cashuat", from the old local nahuatl word meaning "Workhorse",  proved to be  practical vehicle, mobile, versatile, and it served as troop carrier and fire support unit throughout the second half of the civil war.  


A "Cashuat" during more peaceful times.



   And this brief introductions brings me to my project:  a Cashuat in 1/35 scale.  Right, there is no kit for this, it needed to be built from scratch mostly.  I started by getting the original plans as drawn originally, and buying the most logical thing to start with:  a Dodge M37 kit in 1/35. This happened several years ago, and I have been working on this one longer than in any other model I have, and am still working on it.  



Of the Dodge kit, only the chassis, wheels, transmission and other small things were needed.  I started by extending the length of the chassis, according to the blueprints:



   Then I followed a procedure similar to the real one, cutting and gluing together the vehicle floor and armor.  Armor plates were cut from plastic sheet (0.7mm):







Started working on the cargo floor supports and details under it, like the electrical motor operating the turret.  After this I could join the chassis to the floor.







   Other details were added as work progressed, as it would be more difficult to start later.  Seats and steering wheel from the Dodge truck came in handy!


And nothing else!  I used metal sheet to issue the instrument panel.


   Then printed the instrument dials from one of the real Cashuats, and the result was quite convincing.  Here compared to the real vehicle.



Details like the radiator grill were scratchbuilt using metal sheet.



The armored 0.50" turret was built according to blueprints, frame was built with Evergreen plastic rod, the armored cover with plastic sheet.







Started experimenting with the way I would build the engine.



I think that we are into 4 years of built already… I had the complete shape of the vehicle.



I wanted to be able to open the hood and show the engine, so I issued the hinges using thin wire and syringe needles.   





And of course the "Cashuat" emblem was issued using plastic sheet, nice touch.


And started working on the cargo area.  The M-60s are mounted on tubular structure on the walls.  I used syringe needles for the pipes, and metall sheet for the other details.


The Kevlar covering the walls was simulated with Kleenex soaked in white glue.  Notice the firing ports fitted with sliding doors (they don´t slide…)



The M-60 gunners sat on two sliding seats, I issed these with plastic sheet and syringe needles.





The 0.50" turret got additional attention as well.  Using kleenex again, the external Kevlar cover of the turret was simulated (never mind the blue paint, it will be overpainted anyway).







I added Tasca 0.50" and a figure adapted from the Tamiya Figure (Legs, arms, torso, head all repositioned).  There will not be much that you can see of the figure once the turret is assembled.





   Entering into year 6 I guess, I worked on the engine, paint.








Protective frames for the headlights were issued using metal sheet.  Bolts and other structures were added to the front bumper.



And I was finally able to paint!  Cashuat had a wide variety of colors and schemes, I chose the 4-color scheme seen on early vehicles.



Only markings on the vehicle are yellow "1/2" numbers, designating their unit: 1st Squadron of the 2nd Mechanized Batallion.







Aaaand I will stop here, there are still couple more years of assembly ahead of this, HA!


Edited by Marco1965
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And of course Roden then go and release a real M37 after you've spent years fettling a WC5x!!


What an interesting little vehicle, and what a lovely build.  Dare I ask where you get such a ready supply of syringe needles??  And what do you cut them with?  They're notoriously hard and cutters squash the cut ends.

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2 hours ago, Das Abteilung said:

And of course Roden then go and release a real M37 after you've spent years fettling a WC5x!!


What an interesting little vehicle, and what a lovely build.  Dare I ask where you get such a ready supply of syringe needles??  And what do you cut them with?  They're notoriously hard and cutters squash the cut ends.

Thank you.  I work in healthcare... unused syringes have expiration date, and I got several or those years ago, different gauges and types.  I cut them with the Dremel cutting disk, quite easy and clean.    



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Fast forward 2 or 3 years, worked on the MH-60 and their shields.  the machineguns were borrowed from other kits, the shields scratchbuilt. The swivels actually work.





The 0.50" machinegun shield was scratchbuilt, too.  Not always was it fitted but I prefer how the Cashuat looks with the shield installed.  Notice that it had the Squadron/balattion numbers crudely painted on the inside of the shield.



I finished working on the engine, I think that it is complete now.  Some weathering still pending.



The Cashuats carried a PRC-77 radio, I scratchbuilt the thingy with plastic sheet, rod, stretched sprue and wire.  Looks nice inside of the vehicle.







And this is more or less the current situation.  I have been working in other stuff like transmission, undersides weathering, driver figure, little by little.


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  • 2 weeks later...

I have been working on the M-60s positions.  The M-60 had been "borrowed" from the UH-1H fleet, easily identified by the handles instead of the buttock.  I used metal tube and wire to put together the pivots of the machineguns, they rotate, elevate and move outwards as the real ones.







And started working on the gunners figures.  I used the Dragon "US Marines Khe Sanh 1968" kit because of the body armor and general equipment being similar to what was used on the Cashuats.  Had to modify significantly both figures to achieve the positions that I wanted.  Now that I have the basic position, can start to finetune them.  When I see the figures, I realize how small this vehicle actually was.





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  • 2 weeks later...

I always like the part when you get to find out what you want to do with the diorama, vs what you can actually do with the diorama...  Originally I only wanted to show the Cashuat with the crew inside, but I guess that might be boring.  After checking references from back in 1989-1990, when the Cashuats were intensively used in urban combat, some ideas came up to my mind and I have been "playing" with them.  In the end, I will represent a common scene, where a Cashuat has established contact with infantry, and are checking some still hot spots.  I am using Dragon 1/35 Vietnam era figures (various sets) to issue the positions that I want: 2 M-60 gunners, one vehicle commander, and two infantry soldiers.  All of them have been modified, cutting joints, repositioning them using copper wire as "joint", some resin hands have been used as well, etc.



I like figures in natural positions, not always "hero-alike", like this one, pretty cautious checking what is going on.



A general view of the scene.  In the end I modified the guy to the right and he will be talking tot he driver on the "safe" side of the vehicle.



Weaponry that will be used in and around the vehicle.  Typically the short M-16A2 was carried by the crew in the vehicle, while the standard M-16 was carried by the infantry and guerrilla, who carried whatever available, too, including AK-47, gunshots, and RGPs.  All from Dragon sets.



And the excellent AFV Ammo boxes set provided all the necessary 0.30" and 0.50" ammo boxes for the diorama (couple 0.50" came from Tamiya).





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To be true, painting figures is one of the things I DON´T like to do.  Anyway, I started painting the faces and exposed skin of the figures.  I use artist oils, mixing them freely to achieve the dark skin tones typical of the crew / soldiers seen in references.  The figure of the seated driver was the cause of the longest delay in assembling my Cashuat (it is a modified figure from don´t ask me what kit, gave up several times trying to fit it in place, until I managed recently!).



   The rest of the figures, from left to right:  1. Infantry soldier  2. Driver   3. Gunner I   4. Infantry soldier  5. Gunner II and 6. Vehicle commander




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  • 2 weeks later...

Lots of details in this final phase of assembling the Cashuat.  Went on with the weathering using drybrush, pastels, pencils.  


Finished painting the driver figure which is the only one that will go seated inside the vehicle, and glued it in place, at last!  It is curious that the driver wore kind of green overall, different from the SEA gear worn by the troops.  External weathering is still halfways, normally I wait until I can appreciate the vehicle in the diorama to check how much more it needs.  These vehicles were used during the combats in 1989 mostly in urban areas, therefore it is basically dust what they would accumulate, and I have to say not too much according to references.


The figure will be covered by the roof, this perspective will note be possible when the vehicle is finished.



   Ammo boxes are now finished and weathered, I'll glue them in place inside the vehicle when the weathering is done.



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  • 1 month later...

I chose all the equipment that the crew (and soldiers around the vehicle) would be carrying, from different Vietnam figure sets, and a couple backpacks made of resin from "Greif".  I painted them either Olive Drab of Field Drab, and then added shadows/lights with artist oils.  



I located some equipment in the vehicle, random, I wouldn´t really know what and how they carried inside, but this was my best guess.   A belt with magazine packs, canteens, hand grenades, backpacks, sleeping bag, generic bags, ammo boxes.   Gunners carried their own M-16, I positioned them the best I could.



Notice the swiveling seats for the gunners, in most reference pictures they are not in use, gunners are seen always standing.



Once I glue the roof in place, not much in the drivers compartment will be easily seen, but most of it will be noticeable by opening the doors.



Once I put the 2 gunners in place, it will look crowded.  Several details still pending, mostly on the M-60, M-2, and swiveling seats.



Sorry for the excessive light in the pictures, I will improve it next time.


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The swiveling gunner seats have always caught my attention, a detail not often seen from the outside of the Cashuats as they are hidden within the gunners compartment.   Believe it or not, the seats were equipped with safety belts.  Only a few reference pictures show this detail, and for the most part they show ripped seat belts, I guess nobody used them anymore.  I decided to issue seat belts in different "stages" of deterioration, just for the sake of showing them:  One complete, two ripped stubs, and one side without belt at all.  I issued the belts from the metal sheet that seals the wine bottle´s cork, excellent material, borrowed a buckle from a USAF PE set, and there you are.  They look quite real and worn out.



One ripped belt.



And the final result, installed in the vehicle.  Weathering included drybrush with steel, gunmetal/rust, graphite.  Note the marks on the floor caused by the swiveling seats.



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I like this one very much, what a beautiful conversion and excellent scratch building. I also like your method of rebuilding the figures, they look really natural. You seem to have thought of everything!

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  • 1 month later...

Ok, it has been a while, not lazy, just wanted to show some significant advances.  I finished painting the figures, applied light/shadow with artist oils.  I prefer to work with oils on gloss finish (that is why the figures look glossy).  After oils have dried, I will add equipment like backpacks and/or belts, cans, ammo packs, etc. and finally seal with dullcote.





   Meanwhile, working on the ammo boxes & supports for the M-60s and 0.50" turret.  I glued the 0.50" shield in place.  Eduard 0.5" PE ammo came in handy, I only had to thin the inner walls of the ammo box to make it fit into the box, and then easily went into the feed of the MG.  It all came together perfectly!  The ammo box and belt are not glued yet, as I need still to paint the box and apply decals.



The Kevlar turret cover issued with facial tissue/white glue looks quite convincing!





   And currently working on the M-60 ammo boxes supports.  I issued the supports with Evergreen angle and 0.13mm plastic sheet (in white in the picture below).  As the ammo boxes will be open, without the cover, I had to thin the walls for the ammo to fit in properly.


The ammo boxes fit into the supports, as in real life, and the support, once painted, will be glued to the M-60 pivot, being able to swivel with the MG.



Almost done!  


Edited by Marco1965
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Well weaponry is done.  I painted and glued all the parts to the machineguns.  The PE ammo belts look quite nice, although I would have liked them to look less straight in the 0.30" boxes.  They look nice, though, no complaints.



Once installed on the Cashuat, they play the part, ready for combat!





   I started the final part of the weathering process.  I have to say that I have been working on weathering as I have advanced with the project.  Washes were applied, some pastels, and this is the part that I like most, the artist oils subtle effects.  Salvadoran Cashuats showed different grades of weathering, some of them were quite weathered, others were better kept.  I took one of the "not so weathhered" references.  First I applied some "scratches" ramdomly using gray and dark brown color pencils, nothing that you should really notice but contributes to the whole result.  Then I started adding artist oils "curtains", ramdomly, truying to achieve some tone variations.  This is the passanger side already with the oil curtains:


Compared to the side w/o artis oils (ok, the light is different, sorry, but it looks "flatter" than the other one):


And I can always add as much effect as I want.


Edited by Marco1965
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