From Anten to Alingsås
(The text of this feature is based on construction notes by Sven Örnberg. I decided to retain the 1st person perspective from Sven's original description of the build I have read during the recent Swedish national contest. This is not to distract from the fact that the model is all Sven's and that the writer is but a humble messenger - Ed.)
For many years I have wanted to build a model of a bus from the 1930s. My inspiration came from the very bus I remember travelling as a kid, which went daily on the Alingsås - Björkekärr - Anten line. Countryside buses of that era were more than just means of transporting people. They carried goods on roof luggage racks, delivered and collected post, and if you travelled over longer distance, you could take your bicycle with you, hooked at the front of the bus while you enjoyed the rather bumpy ride inside.
As I found no commercially available kit of such object, scratchbuilding was my only option. Besides added difficulty, its has one big advantage - you can pick any subject you like!
Up until the 1950s, most buses were manufactured according to the the same basic recipe, using the truck chassis as base. First, the chassis frame was enlarged with 2-3 meter extra length. Then, a bus body built on wooden framework with sheet metal (or sometimes plywood) skin was added.
For my model, I decided to follow the same basic procedure but in 1/24th scale. Searching for the suitable kits and components, I was lucky enough to get my hands on the 1/24 Opel Blitz kit from Italeri. The kit provided good-quality chassis, engine, driving mechanism and wheels, in other words parts which would require a considerable effort to build from scratch. Not bad for the starters!
While there are quite many books about buses and other utility vehicles of the era, accurate scale drawings are rather difficult to come by. I therefore made my own scale drawings based on photographs. I had some photographs of my own plus a couple of useful books.
The Blitz story
Opel Blitz is one of the true classics of the automotive history. Opel made its debut on the truck market in 1931 with the Opel Schnell-Lastwagen. The new car received the name Blitz (lightning) only after a public name contest which resulted in 1,5 million (!) name proposals.
The initial variant could carry 2 tons of cargo, but already in 1932 it was upgraded to 2,5 tons. In 1934, a small 1 ton version was introduced with 4-cylinder Olympia engine.
In 1937 the design received a more modern look and increased capacity, resulting in the most famous Blitz model - a 3-ton truck. I featured a 3,6 litre 6-cylinder gasoline engine of 75 hp. This version consolidated Opel's lead on the German truck market, and was accepted by the German army as standard transport. Following the increase in orders, Opel moved the production to a new ultra-modern plant in Brandenburg. Over 70 000 trucks were produced there until production ceased in 1944. The basic design was used as base for countless specialized vehicles - busses, ambulances, fire trucks, and so on.
After the end of hostilities, Opel re-started the production line in 1946 with practically unchanged model, albeit with the famous "blitz" emblem removed from the grille. The production continued until 1952 when the first true post-war generation Blitz was introduced.
The construction started with extending the Italeri chassis frame with 8 cm. Also the drive shaft and the exhaust pipe had to be extended with about 3 cm each. As Sweden had left-hand traffic up until 1967 I had to convert the chassis and engine installation to the right-hand drive. The conversion involved the steering mechanism and several fittings in the engine compartment.
Moving on to the body, I traced the shape of formers and longerons onto a piece of fine 1,5 mm plywood and cut them out with a jigsaw. After good sanding they were put together, forming a hollow body framework. This was then covered with 0,5 mm plasticard. Altogether there were larger and smaller 175 parts, and this part of the project required a great deal of patience.
The interior was furnished with the driver's seat and passengers seats, 26 of them. I fabricated them from sheet styrene and copper wire. Smaller details like the dashboard, defroster and other small bits were made of styrene.
More details were added to the exterior: the rear bumper, spare wheel mount, a front frame used to carry bicycles, rear view mirrors, wipers, directional indicators, number plates and the post box were made from plastic sheet and rod of various sizes. (nostalgia time: when did you last see a post box mounted on a countryside bus?).
The bus is painted with acrylic automotive paint. After the application it was allowed to dry for about 4 weeks. Then the surface was worked with very fine abrasive paper and finally polished to a uniform gloss finish.
All in all, I estimate the total time spent on this project to somewhere between 300 and 400 hours. Readers don't need to feel sorry for me - it was a lot of fun from the beginning to the end!