Airfix 1/76 DUKW

KIT #: 02316
PRICE: $5 when new
DECALS: One option
REVIEWER: Spiros Pendedekas

Some boxings label it as 1/72


In order to solve the problem of resupplying units having just performed an amphibious landing, Rod Stephens Jr. of Sparkman & Stephens, Inc. yacht designers, Dennis Puleston, a British deep-water sailor resident in the U.S., and Frank W. Speir from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, came up with a watertight hull built around the GMC AFKWX, a cab-over-engine (COE) version of the GMC CCKW six-wheel-drive military truck, with the addition of a propeller at the rear. The named it DUKW (D: Designed in 1942, U: Utility, K: All-wheel drive, W: Dual rear axles)
Initially rejected by the armed services, their opposition to the DUKW melted, when a United States Coast Guard patrol craft ran aground on a sand bar near Provincetown, Massachusetts and an experimental DUKW happened to be in the area for a demonstration: winds up to 60 knots, rain, and heavy surf prevented conventional craft from rescuing the seven stranded Coast Guardsmen, but the DUKW had no trouble. The DUKW later proved its seaworthiness by crossing the English Channel. The vehicle was built by GMC and Chevrolet, with 21,147 units manufactured before production ended in 1945.

It was not an armored vehicle, being plated with sheet steel between 1⁄16 and 1⁄8 inch thick, to minimize weight. A high-capacity bilge pump system kept it afloat if the thin hull was breached by holes up to 2 inches in diameter. One in four DUKWs mounted a .50-caliber Browning heavy machine gun on a ring mount.

The DUKW was the first vehicle to allow the driver to vary the tire pressure from inside the cab. The tires could be fully inflated for hard surfaces such as roads and less inflated for softer surfaces, especially beach sand. This feature added to its versatility as an amphibious vehicle and is now standard on many military vehicles. Operationally, it proved to be one of the most versatile vehicles to emerge from WWII, being deployed in almost every major maritime or river crossing action.

Post-war, reduced numbers were kept in service by the United States, Britain, France, and Australia, with many stored pending disposal. However, the U.S. Army redeployed several hundred at the outbreak of the Korean War to bring supplies ashore during the Battle of Pusan Perimeter and in the amphibious landings at Incheon. France deployed DUKWs to French Indochina during the First Indochina War, and Britain to Malaya during the Malayan Emergency of 1948–60, with many redeployed to Borneo during the Indonesia–Malaysia confrontation of 1962–66. The Soviet Union produced a derivative, the BAV 485, adding a rear loading ramp, with over 2,000 units delivered.

A practical and handy vehicle, it was post-war put to good use by civilian organizations such as the police, fire departments, and rescue units, and it is still in use as tourist transport in harbor and river cities across the globe.


Introduced in 1966, this venerable little kit is regularly reboxed by Airfix, totally unchanged, the only one offered scheme included! Its 1993 reissue was mislabeled as 1:72 (possibly for commercial reasons?), but this changed to the correct 1:76 from the 2012 reissue and onwards. My copy was this 1993 boxing, discovered still wrapped at a bookshop in my town. The owner offered it to me for a mere €5, the same equivalent price this kit carried back in 1993…

It comes in a small top opening box, with the same nice boxart the first 1966 issue carried. Upon opening the box, I was greeted with 46 light green styrene pieces arranged in 4 sprues and a small clear fret containing 3 parts, all of them loosely floating (meaning scratching themselves...) around. Detail is on the soft side, typical of the 1966 era, with molding looking acceptable. Some details like tieback rings, shovels and the like, are molded onto the hull. 

The driver's area is simplistic, with only two generic seats and a steering wheel provided. The drivetrain is sufficiently represented for the scale, and the same can be said for the whole undersides, including the prop and helm. The wheels look nice, with separate front covers, making their painting a breeze. Some ejector pin marks are noticeable, not all of them easy to hide. Clear parts include a good looking windscreen and two minuscule headlamp lenses that look crude-ish.

The simple construction is adequately covered by the good instructions in 3 clear steps (color callouts included), the fourth step being painting and decaling. Only Humbrol color callouts are given, with the nowadays net found color conversion charts making this less of a problem. Two identical decal sheets are provided, presumably providing some safety margin to the modeler, as many decals will have to be applied over corrugated areas. Decals are of good material quality, but their registration is less than perfect, with some white bleeding out of some dark colored edges.

Seriously occupied with a Trumpeter 1/32 Sukhoi Su-27, looking for a nice "mojo-boosting" break, preferably away from my usual “aviation” stuff, nothing seemed better than tackling this small kit, for a quick, sweet, nostalgic build.


I started by putting together the hull, which consists of a bottom, port and starboard sides and three top pieces that form the upper deck, followed by attaching the front and rear drivetrain at the undersides. Upon delivery, DUKWs featured hull plates that partially covered the wheels. Whereas those were often field removed, I decided to use them, as to cover the simplistic looking drivetrains. Fit of all the above was not bad, but some gaps emerged here and there, immediately treated with liquefied styrene and sanded smooth.

I then proceeded to the top deck and attached all bits and pieces (including seats, steering wheel, front gun base, headlamp bodies, tent, rear winch and so on). Fit was good and the whole construction was very pleasant, in no time heading to the paint shop!


Back in my young modeling days, one of the things I really enjoyed was to hand paint my models, I was thus more than eager to recreate such a joyful event with my DUKW! With my trusty #2 Red Sable paint brush, I went on and hand painted the petite DUKW with Hu86 Light Olive, straight from the tinlet. Not only was the thick-ish paint applied well, but, to my joy, it acted as a nook filler, covering many minor surface imperfections! The wheel rims received the same color, too. I then gave the tent, the what were supposed to be seat cushions and the two kit provided rope lumps a coat of Hu155 Olive Drab. The steering wheel was carefully painted flat black with a 10/0 brush.

Upon drying, the whole model received a decal preparational coat of Future. I used the kit decals, in order to represent the sole scheme offered, a machine with s/n A16 377 5576045, as it took part in Operation Overlord, Arromanches, June 1944. Apart from some off-registration (easily remedied by trimming), the decals, despite their age, behaved adequately. With some help of a drop of Future applied beforehand onto each application area, they even adequately followed the “ribbed” surface. A final coat of Future sealed everything.


The wheels were cleaned, painted flat black, had their covers glued on and attached in position. After aligning all six of them and upon glue curing, the whole model was “pressed-run” a couple of times over a flat laid 220grit sandpaper. As a result, not only all six wheels “touched” the ground, but they also acquired a more realistic, “weighted” look! The spare wheel was then attached on the vehicle’s rear top and the two guns and prop were attached in position, after being painted gunmetal (the same color was used for the winch’s wire section, as well). Finally, the two rope lumps were affixed at the back sides.

Since the DUKW, even at this small scale, screams for weathering, I went on and initially applied some rust effect, by unevenly brushing Hu113 rust at places where rust was more likely to form. Then a good black wash was applied, heavier at the undersides, especially at the drivetrain component areas. The shovel and the similar “molded on” details were brought out by silver dry brushing. A heavy weathering session using brownish dry pastels was all over applied, especially at the tires area, with the whole model then receiving its satin final coat.

The windscreen had its frames hand painted and was subsequently attached in position with tiny amounts of styrene glue, whereas the headlight bodies' innards were painted chrome and their lenses were formulated by two blobs of Clearfix, before calling this petite model done!


The only other DUKW kit option at this small scale area is the modern (2004) and somewhat pricey 1/72 Italeri offering: apart from the (unexplainable, but not too serious) hollowness of the wheels inner sides, the Italer is definitely the better kit and the way to go for a detailed, accurate small scale DUKW. Bill Michaels did a wonderful job on this petite kit, which can be admired  here.

Regularly reissued and at almost half the Italeri price, the Airfix 1/76 DUKW is an old but sweet little kit with relatively accurate basic shape, average detail and adequate fit. It is an uncomplicated build, easily tackled by even a novice modeler.

I had an extremely pleasant time putting this Airfix kit together, enjoying not only a nice break from my current more complicated builds, but also a temporary revival of those nice youth modeling times of finishing a kit in an afternoon (yes, glue oozing and the like!), sleeping with the fulfilling completed model image surpassing my mind.

Happy modeling!

Spiros Pendedekas

12 April 2022

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