1/87 Scale Model Trucks in Great Detail

Joe Enriquez at work.

Joe Enriquez working with some of the tiny parts he makes to super-detail his truck models.

By Day He Operates Big Rigs, for Fun He Models Them in 1/87 Scale

Much like Augie Hiscano, and many other modelers who started out building kits, Joe Enriquez has taken his skills to new levels with each model. He likes working with plastic as a material, but on his latest work only a few commercially available parts were used—and even those were tweaked to add more detail. In terms of size, 1/87 or HO scale is very popular, and a lot of parts and vehicles are commercially available. However, Joe prefers to scratch-build models of unique equipment that isn’t available on store shelves.

Joe’s day job helps him get the details right, making his models look totally authentic. We decided to feature Joe here because of the unusual nature of his subjects—large commercial vehicles at a tiny size—and his intimate familiarity with the full-size versions as an equipment operator himself.

It must be quite a change of pace to come home from a day of operating extremely large, noisy, and powerful equipment, and to then sit down and do such tiny, delicate work. Here, in his own words, is how Joe got started, and how he goes about building his models.

A long reach shear that Joe operates.
A side view of the Long Reach Shear Joe operates.
A close look at the Long Range Shear Joe operates.

A glimpse at some of the equipment Joe runs on the job—a JD 450 Long Reach Shear.

1/87 Scale Truck Modeling

By Joe Enriquez

I guess I’ve always been someone who enjoys recreating things that interest me in the world of miniature. If not in model form, I would do it with pencils on paper at a very young age. My interest in trucks, trains, heavy equipment, and the like started as far back as I can remember. I started building models when I was very young, and of course they were all the great 1/25 scale trucks that were being made by AMT and Ertl in the 70’s. I probably built nearly every one that was available. I also recognized my weaknesses in construction methods, and slowly bettered each project I made. Thankfully, my mother never seems to mind all the big truck models that started to accumulate.

Model railroads also always fascinated me, and I started to collect trains and accessories. I soon discovered the HO scale (or 1/87) trucks that were available. My first two pieces were made by Wiking. One was an orange cabover dump, and the other was a grey conventional dumper. I knew they were foreign makes, but they were very detailed for their small size, and I was hooked. That was probably around 1977.

After a hiatus from modeling due to high school, friends, girls, parties, and such, I got back into the world of 1/87 trucks around 1987. There wasn’t much available, but I enjoyed building kits from Lee Town, Ivers Engineering, and a few others. I was always looking for more modern trucks and trailers, although none seemed to be available. I also seemed to be getting more into the detail, and “prototypicalness” if you will, of the models that I built. I started adding scratch-built details to the available kits.

After some different trial and failure with materials, I soon discovered the wonders of Evergreen styrene. It came in a multitude of shapes and sizes, and glued and cut extremely easily. I was now doing things my way, and started to build the trailers and parts that weren’t available commercially.

One of Joe's models, a Kenworth C-500B heavy oilfield tractor.

This shot, with a penny for scale, shows just how small Joe’s model Kenworth C-500B heavy oilfield tractor really is.

Joe's scale model Kenworth W900L truck.

A closeup of the cab of a Kenworth W900L, with the hydraulically actuated dump trailer in the towing position.

At the time, I was sharing an apartment with a good buddy that I grew up with, and had very limited modeling area to work with. I used to use a small oak pullout work surface on an old child-size desk. I would sit on the edge of my bed and work for hours. To be honest, some of my biggest scratch-built trailers were made on that 1′ x 2′ area.

I always thought I was kind of alone in my hobby, with maybe a few people across the country that just enjoyed the 1/87 trucks, and not so much the trains because of limited space. I soon discovered that I was wrong. I’m not sure how I came across the 1/87 Vehicle Club, but I quickly signed on as a member. They had a great magazine going, but with the advent of the Internet they have dropped the magazine, and have concentrated on a terrific website.

The organization would have an annual meet and convention in different parts of the country. They came to NJ twice, and also to Allentown, PA. I was fortunate to be able to attend those three shows, and had both of my large scratch-built trailers come away as winners in their class. It was an honor to win, and was enjoyable meeting the modelers that were a part of the club, and whose models I’d admired on the site’s photo gallery pages.

Nowadays, my modeling time seems to be very precious. With my work as a heavy equipment operator, and proud member of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 825 here in NJ, I sometimes get up very early, and get home very late and tired. I also have a wife and three year old son who deserve all the free time I have as well. I find time mainly early in the mornings on weekends, and some evenings. My model subjects seem to be getting more in-detail, so a model can now take me as “little” as a few months to complete. And that’s if I stick with it, and it doesn’t end up mothballed at the side of the workbench because I got bored with it!  

For my tractors, I’ll use the available resin cabs and some parts made by a few of the small time 1/87 hobbyists/manufacturers out there. I’ll then scratch-build most all the rest, and modify and detail other available parts. For trailers, they are basically all scratch-built, with the exception of tires, wheels, and some detail parts. It is a very small scale, and I constantly find myself redoing detail parts that tend to catapult out of the tweezers, off the bench, and into the great vortex that is the berber carpet. I have spent many hours over the years on my hands and knees with a flashlight, by gosh!

Joe's scale model Eastern Express truck.

A finished scale model Eastern Express truck.

Joe's model Talbert AC3-25 tag trailer.

One of Joe’s most recently completed projects is this Talbert  AC3-25 tag trailer, scratch-built from styrene and wood.

I use a large variety of hand tools in my hobby. I don’t think I can ever have enough different kinds of sanding sticks and wands to shape the various parts I build. I’ve also learned that the best tool for cutting up styrene is a 100 pack of single edge razor blades. They cut and chop really well, are cheap, and you simply toss it in the trash when it gets a little dull. I still use the X-Acto type knives and blades for various things as well. Other than a Dremel motor tool, I have always just used small hand tools. But that’s all about to change. 

I recently invested in the Sherline model 4000 lathe, and hope to get a milling machine as well next year. I had shop classes all through high school, and dabbled on the large metal lathes, but spent most of my time on the wood turners. So I had a little bit of a clue to start with. I picked up Joe Martin’s book, Tabletop Machining, a couple months before I got the lathe, and thoroughly enjoyed it. It gave me the extra confidence I needed.

Now, as I turn 40, and move into the power tool phase of my modeling, I hope to turn out some really cool projects. I am always my own worst critic, and always find faults in what I build, but I try to change it on the next one. Rushing to finish something seems to always cause a problem for me, so that’s something I need to work on.

In closing, I would just like to say that it is an absolute honor to be a part of the Craftsmanship Museum, with all of these other incredible modelers—more than mere words can describe!

—Joe Enriquez

View more photos of Joe’s scale model trucks and equipment. 

Artisan added: June 11, 2006 - Last modified: May 8, 2023

Presented by The Joe Martin Foundation for Exceptional Craftsmanship