While I'm quite happy with the detailing, paint job and lettering (by Clover House), I must assess the result to learn from my mistakes.
If I had to redo these cars again, I would address two issues that felt minor at first but have a substantial impact on the credibility of the finished models.
The first thing would be to make the fascia board a little bit narrower. Thought I made sure to measure the fascia on a quality picture with little distorsion, it seems it is to wide. Hard to tell why, by when I painted the roof, it became quickly apparent. A comparison with a Rapido GARX meat ree shell confirmed that. To be honest, I believe the fascia were originally quite large. It was common on old wood car. But visually speaking, it doesn't look right.
A second issue is the roof pitch. I kept the Varney/Life-Like steep pitch since it was the normal thing to do. However, at the end of the day, the roof looks a little bit weird, particularly when compared to similar wood reefer models. I'm not sure if Varney was wrong, but I've seen many older model that got the roof pitch inexact. I'm pretty sure it wasn't. I feel I shouldn't have been lazy and could have fixed that earlier. Oh well, lesson learned!
That aside, the models now look decent. Not great, but OK. With some fading and weathering later, they should blend into the crowd. And while it took me countless hours to get that result, it isn't wasted. I've learned a lot and improved my skills, which was useful when I had to work on other cars. Better, scratchbuilding several parts and trying to figure out the underframe helped me to better understand how real cars are built. This is something you can't learn by simply aping kit instructions.