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Berliet CBA

December 2005

KitBerliet CBA
ManufacturerExokit / Retromodels
Accessoriesscratch, Evergreen profiles


Berliet CBA When France entered WW1, it had about 900 trucks of all types in service in his army. The heavy loss of material due to the fighting and wear made clear they needed new and modern types of trucks. France reacted in a fast and good way. Factory’s changed over to mass production and the signing of contract took no longer than necessary. This resulted by the end of the war, and also thanks to the vast deliveries of US material to the Allies from 1917, that the French army owned a car park of more than 90.000 trucks. The Berliet CBA was initially delivered from 1914 on and was good for a production of over 9.000 trucks from which a lot of them found their way to civil life after demobilisation. A number of them stayed in use and was stocked until they were needed in 1940 when they were used as artillery tow trucks. The French surrender brought an end to their careers and, as far as I know, the German army did not use them in WW2.

The kit

Exokit is a French name releasing resin kits; they were taken over by Retromodels. They are rather hard to find but I was lucky enough to find some at an event. A minor point is the lack of construction plan or decals or painting instructions. Major point is the fact that they can be classified as “exotic“, rather easy to build if you have a bit of experience building resin kits and trucks. I opted for the use of super glue gel because this gives you the opportunity to reposition a part when needed.


Berliet CBAI sorted all parts out on a tray and positioned them as supposed to be mounted. Each part was checked and cleaned-up. Watch out for the dangerous resin dust and keep your working area as clean as possible. The chassis demands a lot of attention when cleaned-up and, when mounting the cabin and the cargo bay, it will show that it is warped. It was necessary to cut the chassis at one place and to slip a small piece of Evergreen profile in between. Both sides of the seat of the driver’s compartment broke off and had to be replaced by plastic card, cut to shape. One item that jumped to the eye was the lack of pedals in this truck. Pictures found on the Internet showed no signs of them either. The big handles on the right side of the driver’s compartment apparently served as brake, gas and transmission lever. It was also very strange to find a right hand driven vehicle of French origin. The front axle is the first part to be fitted to the chassis and the first to give yet another problem due to the lack of instructions. This axle has 2 protruding parts but one cannot be sure if they need to be positioned to the front or to the rear. Checking out the pictures gave the almost certainty that they must be positioned to the front because they should be connected by a connecting steering rod for which I used Evergreen profiles. The driver’s compartment and engine consist of one part that is mounted on the chassis after being cleaned up. Make sure the radiator does not protrude over the chassis. Once dry, the cargo bay can be mounted but take care that it is in a symmetrical position.

A lot of attention is also needed when cutting loose and cleaning up of the rear tractions. These consist of two chain-connected cogwheels. The bigger of the two cogwheels has an opening in the middle and must be slipped over the rear axle. This axle was unusable and had to be replaced by an Evergreen rod. I decided to construct the entire truck before adding the wheels. The kit has two sets of wheels, a WW1 and a WW2 version but I wanted to build the WW1 version and needed the use of the wheels with full tyres. They demand a lot of cleaning and sanding, not alone regarding the spokes but also the tyres themselves that are not equal in thickness.

Berliet CBANext dangerous step is the construction of the forward mudguards and footboards. A box is moulded on the right footboard and this one gives no major positioning problems. The left mudguard is connected to the footboard but this one is only connected to the chassis by two supports of which only the rear one is provided. The other support was made out of some leftover PE. The left footboard also needed to be trimmed in width. The mudguards themselves are “floating”; they are not connected with any part of the body or chassis and so two supports have to be made from metal wire. A device that could be described in our days as a “bull-bar” protects the radiator. It is mounted on the forward protruding chassis and has a horizontal part protecting the radiator. This part will also receive both big, round headlights. I drilled them out so I could paint the inner surface in silver. Kristal Klear will represent the glass. The headlight supports are tiny pieces of resin but they are not to shape and are replaced by metal wire.

The canvas cover of the cargo area comes as one part and is rather thick. I intended to replace it entirely but the cabin canvas roof needs this part as its support when fixed. Its thickness also provided strength to the truck and that way you have a strong part that allows you to manipulate the truck without the risk of breaking it. I diminished its thickness at the end of the canvas and glued it to the cargo bay after some minor adjusting.

Time to concentrate on the finishing of the driver’s compartment. Pictures showed that early types did not have a glass windshield and that the only protection to the weather conditions was the big canvas roof secured on a frame. I made this frame out of metal wire, fitted the steering wheel and the roof on top of it. The roof was also secured to the mudguards by two leather belts. I fitted two grips to the roof and two to the mudguards and connected them by a leather belt made from a strip of aluminium foil.

Once done, two smaller lamps were fixed to the front of the driver’s compartment as well as the transmission / speed handle and the hand break handle, both to the right side of the driver. The four wheels are mounted making sure that each wheel touches the ground. As a finishing touch I added the ropes with which the canvas of the cargo bay is secured to the body. I used stretched-sprue cut piece by piece before fixing.


Berliet CBAThe entire truck, canvas included, is sprayed Gris Bleu Clair kind of dark blue-grey, typical colour of the French “poilu”. This was followed by a coat of Klir (Future) and a Raw Umber wash. Flat surfaces were highlighted by spraying the original colour + white; again followed by a dry brushing with a lighter shade grey. Driver’s seat and roof belts got brown leather followed by a coat of matt varnish over the entire truck. Dirtying-up and dusting with MIG powders. France was the first country to use yellow coloured headlamps as recognition of own forces. The drilled-out headlamps first received a silver background followed by a point of yellow paint and, finally, Kristal Klear.


Berliet CBAI had the impression that this truck would not survive multiple transfers to events, at least not without damage and therefore I decided to glue it onto a small vignette. The Berliet is rather big (7,5 cm) and I decided to base my vignette on a WW1 picture taken of motorised French transport on “La Voie Sacrée”, the road to Verdun. I found a ready painted resin cobblestone road from Winant, a Belgian manufacturer I had never heard of; apparently destined for use in railway modelling. The base was provided by a small picture frame in which I added the resin road cut to shape and coffee grind mixed with diluted white glue. The side of the road received grass and some flowers. The road was finally dusted with MIG powders. Cost: 5€ for the picture frame and 5€ for the resin road, the rest is not worth mentioning.


This was my first Exokit / Retromodels model. The lack of a construction plan and decals is a big point in minor and will discourage many modeller but everybody who has ever build a truck model knows how they are generally put together, nothing much has changed in the years. The Berliet is a very nice looking truck and I am very pleased that the build turned out fine. The use of the Internet has become a major source of information in our hobby, in special if you are looking for information on lesser-known types. The pictures found that way have been very useful and solved many problems, even if it was necessary to look at them over and over again. I would not advise this model to the starter or to people wanting to build their first resin model but rather to the more experienced modeller. It is indeed a very good and attractive model asking for attention. You have to admit it, there are not many WW1 trucks around but they all have a certain charm.

Keep ‘m building

Erwin Bovyn



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