Sunday, August 9, 2020

Customized Diecast Vehicles for 28mm China Wargaming

 I wanted some more scatter terrain for my Back of Beyond and WW2 Chinese wargaming, so I though some appropriate 1920's and 1930's vehicle would fit the bill nicely. 1/56 civilian vehicles designed for 28mm wargaming are hard to come by, so your best bet is to look for diecast cars and trucks that are relatively close in scale (as I did for VBCW).  As I only knew of one truck specifically intended to represent a vehicle of that era in China, so conversions of American and British branded vehicles were called for.

Lledo and Matchbox Diecast Vehicles for Wargaming 1920's,1930's and WW2  China in 28mm
Lledo and Matchbox Diecast Vehicles for Wargaming 1920's,1930's and WW2  China in 28mm

First up was the aforementioned ready to use truck, a Matchbox Yesteryear Tsingtao Great Beers of The World 1920 AC Mack (YGB23).

Matchbox Yesteryear Tsingtao Great Beers of The World 1920 AC Mack (YGB23)
For modifications, I only weathered it and added some clear plastic for a windshield. It was nicely detailed for a toy truck and cost me around $15 US with shipping. No scale was listed on the box, but collector sites have given it a nominal scale 1/60, so fairly close to target.   When compared to a Warlord Games' 1/56 Type 97 Isuzu truck, they looked reasonable together.

Matchbox Mack Compared to Warlord Games Truck
Matchbox Mack Compared to Warlord Games Truck
Next up were some Lledo Days Gone vehicles that seemed suitable for conversion.  The Lledo cars were not as detailed as their Matchbox rival, but at $7-10 US with shipping, they were a good deal (with lots of color variants to choose from).

Lledo Days Gone Diecast DG51, DG56, DG13
In addition to weathering and added windshields, I decided to update these with customs decals based on period photos from Shanghai. I had never made custom decals before, so did a lot of online research in hopes of not completely screwing it up.  For what I wanted to do, it appeared white decal paper was going to be more useful than the clear version. I tried locating the Testors paper in the US, but could find nowhere selling it (and it's proprietary sealant) for a reasonable price. In the end, I went with Sunnyscopia inkjet decal paper from Korea (available on Amazon).  It's a general crafting decal sheet rather than one specially designed for model makers, but the price was right for experimenting.
Some of the reviews cited problems with the images bleeding when submerged in water, or decals not releasing easily from the backing.  I experienced none of these issues after following the directions.  I printed my decals at 300dpi photo quality on an HP Deskjet 1510 and gave them one hour to dry before spaying them with Rust-Oleum Universal Clear Topcoat Satin. I chose satin over gloss, as it was easier to see where the spray had landed on the glossy paper.  The Rust-Oleum wasn't designed for model makers either, so the spray mist wasn't as fine as I would have liked.  This made me nervous about good coverage, so I ended up applying 4 coats (5 minutes in between), rotating the paper for each application. The decal paper was allowed to sit for one hour, then dried with a hair dryer on low for 5 minutes.

The application was rather straightforward, with the decals releasing easily from the backing (though they did have a tenancy to curl in the water), and able to stick to the glossy paint (I didn't pretreat the vehicles with anything). The one major thing to be aware of with these decals is that the film was much thicker than professionally made decals. As such, you could see and feel the decal edges after application.  It may be less obvious with the clear version, but the edges of the white backed decals required touching up when printing darker colors. The white of the decals was also not completely opaque, so if you had large areas of white on your decal, it's best if you had a uniform color underneath it.
Decal edges before finishing touch ups
DG51 Chevrolet 1928 Box Van 
Lledo DG51 Chevrolet 1928 Box Van , Western Branch Market, Shanghai, China, 28mm WW2 Bolt Action Wargaming
For this van, I didn't find an image of a particular vehicle, but used a reference photo of a sandbag emplacement being built in front of a Shanghai market in 1937.
DG56 Ford 1930 Model A Raised-Roof Van
Lledo DG56 Ford 1930 Model A Raised-Roof Van, Socony Motor Gasoline, Shanghai, China, 28mm WW2 Bolt Action Wargaming
Though the Lledo van was already marked with Standard Oil livery, I opted to convert it over to the Chinese branding seen in this image from 1931. Standard started the Atlas tire brand in the 1930's, and though I don't know if they were sold in China, I decided to keep the sign.

Socony Motor Gasoline Truck, Shanghai, China, 1931. Source:

DG13 1934 Model A Ford Van
Lledo DG13 Ford 1934 Model A Van, Sin Wan Pao Newspaper, Shanghai, China, 28mm WW2 Bolt Action Wargaming
Sin Wan Pao (新聞報) was a Chinese newspaper firm in operation from the 1890's to the 1940's.

I have not be able to find a scale guide for the various Lledo vehicles, But I think these models looked reasonable with a Copplestone Chinese figure and against a Warlord Games 1/56 Morris 15cwt Truck.

Lledo Vans Compared to Warlord Games Truck
Lledo Vans Compared to Warlord Games Truck

One additional Lledo vehicle I purchased that did not look good for 28mm wargaming was the DG42 1934 Mack Tank Truck. It should have been similar in size to my Matchbox Mack, but was woefully undersized.

As I think the 1934 Mack variants share parts, I would avoid all of these.

Overall, these came out much better than I thought they would.  I've placed some eBay orders for additional Lledo vehicles, so fingers crossed they will look good as well.  If you would like to do any conversions yourself, here's the decal designs I made.  They are free for personal use, but I don not give permission for them to be sold.

Added 30Aug20: Part 2 of my conversions can be found here.

Chinese Decals for 28mm Wargaming by Chris Schuetz.  Free for Personal Use Only.


  1. They look goo to me. Really enjoy your Back of Beyond projects.

  2. Most of the Lledo line are reasonably well sized, but their wheels & tyres are entirely too small. This makes them sit low, & looks squatty, especially if your figures are based and your vehicles aren't. I'd base mine, but then I couldn't go "Vroom, Vroom" then could I?

  3. Very effective and great for Back of Beyond.

  4. the scale looks about right