There are lots of people out there making amazing truck models, but none of them are like Christian Chapson. At the 2018 “Truckin’ For Kids” show in Southern California, John and I had the pleasure of meeting this man from France as he was delivering a model of Dave Foster’s W900L Kenworth to his good friend Troy Huddleston. Our friend Dave couldn’t be at the show, so Troy stepped up to take delivery and get Dave’s model home safely to him.
We were very impressed with the model, and before leaving the show, we contacted Christian and I commissioned him to make a model of John’s purple Kenworth truck and trailer – it was to be a Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas gift. Watching in pictures as the model took shape and exact details were added, when we saw photographs of the finished product, the anticipation of seeing it in person just grew. But, thanks to Covid, like so many things, delivery of the model was delayed for two long years.
This year, thankfully the MATS truck show in Louisville happened, and Christian and Carol were able to be there and deliver six models, including John’s. Every driver was anxious to finally see their model in person, take it home, and put their pride and joy on display. And the wait was worth it! The workmanship on these models is second to none.
Living in France, Christian and Carol don’t speak English, and we don’t speak French, but with the help of a little translator device Carol had in her purse, we were able to communicate quite well. The translator let us talk to each other, but the gestures and smiles were the universal language of how happy we all were to finally get to meet and, for them, to deliver something very special. I think it would be safe to say that these models are labors of love for Christian.
Having never been a truck driver himself, or anyone in his family, for that matter, Christian has always had a deep passion for US trucks and building these models has become his way of freezing these trucks in time – and their beauty will last long after the real truck may be gone. And, I might add, the “cleanup” of these models, compared to the real truck, is awesome. A little dusting of the cover and you are good to go!
Christian was 11 years old when he started building models by integrating truck bodies that he bought in the trade. At 16, he started to build models from plastic plates. He built his truck cabins (cabs) from photos in books of trucks he ordered in the USA. Today, he has 40 books in his collection. As we learned more about how Christian makes his models, we were even more impressed. His eye for detail and ability to duplicate pieces so closely is astonishing. Starting with a flat sheet of plastic, he then cuts, molds, and glues it into the shape of the desired truck or trailer he is building.
Along with the trucks, Christian also builds all kinds of trailers, as well. Depending on what the customer wants, be it a reefer, flatbed, goose neck, or something else, he can make an exact match to whatever wagon you’re pulling. I was curious how long it takes to build a model, so I asked Christian, and he said, “I don’t keep track of the time, it’s just a passion.” Carol helps him find the color of the real trucks for the models.
Over the years, Christian has made 33 models for owners in the USA, 7 models for owners in France, and 9 models for his friend Xavier Stefaniak (also French). In his private collection, Christian has 51 trucks with trailers and 70 trucks without trailers, for a total of 121 finished models. He currently has 12 truck models under construction. The models in his collection are remakes of a lot of the trucks he has done for owners, and many of these trucks have graced the cover of 10-4 Magazine. The pictures he takes of the models next to their 10-4 centerfolds are pretty impressive.
Hand delivering his models, he has had the pleasure of meeting the owners and seeing most of the trucks in person. After trying to make a few shipments, it was more work to avoid breakage. “It’s not my job to provide broken models,” Christian said. If you are interested in getting a model of your truck, he doesn’t have to see the truck in person – he can make a model using many detailed photos that you take and send him.
When John saw his model for the first time it was overwhelming and very emotional. All the detail that matched the combination was so perfect – from the license plates on both the truck and trailer, the truck’s name “Only Class” on the back of the bunk, and the lettering on the sides of the trailer – it was perfect. All the extra stainless was there behind the bunk with the lights in it, the boxes between the spread axles on each side, the stainless on the frame, the stainless piece down the center of his custom Jones Performance hood (he nailed the curves on that Raptor hood), and even the tiny brag board he made, which looks exactly like the one we use at shows.
Our friend Susie Lyons was also at MATS from Nova Scotia to take delivery of the replica of her old 359 Peterbilt. Another spot-on build! The hood on that truck had been stretched 20 inches, and with a V8 CAT in her, she would stroll down the boulevard. It was awesome to get pictures of a truck from yesteryear next to John’s, that is still working.
As I look at so many of the models Christian has built over the years, I see so many trucks I know, some I’ve seen rolling up and down the highway, and a few that were shot for 10-4 covers (and we got to be there). It’s neat to be there in person at a photo shoot and then later see the cover and centerfold. And now, to see the completed model, as well!
I hope Christian knows that the talent he shares with us is priceless. Maybe the extra time we waited for our model made finally getting it even a little sweeter. I would highly recommend this man if you are thinking about getting a custom model of your ride. You will not be disappointed. Merci Christian pour tout ce que tu fais (Thank you Christian for everything you do). Keep that passion alive and keep bringing those awesome custom models to the USA.