Modelcollect T-80UE part 2.

Well, the painting phase arrived finally. (To be honest I always have several models stuck in this phase because it takes time to set up the paintbooth. This is the bottleneck of my model building process.)

There was also an accident involving this tank. Do you remember I talked about the necessity of gluing the turret in place in the first part? Well, it was not glued in at this point -and I successfully knocked off all the PE shields from the front of the turret on one side. My most valued and cherished wife found three of them; I replaced the fourth with a part I fashioned from aluminium foil. (I can’t tell how much I appreciate my better half, by the way. She tolerates my hobby without a complaint, and even helps me finding parts that flew off into the big empty.)

Once the disaster was averted, I sprayed dark grey Vallejo primer on the model. I gave a day for the primer to dry, and then sprayed Tamiya Buff. I looked at several photos and this color looks very close to the actual vehicle’s basecoat. The green patches were sprayed on free-hand. The green was lightened considerably with the base color. I was contemplating using masks, but the model is full of tiny protruding details -something all masks love to pull off in my experience. I used a relatively low pressure, and kept the gun close to the model; I found the process pretty easy to control, and simple to do. There was minimal overspray; the demarcation lines between the colors came out pretty good.

The last step was to paint the black lines and patches by hand. I used a dark grey color rather than pitch black to account for the scale effect.

As usual, a couple of layers of ochre filters helped to blend the colors together, and I sprayed Future on the model to provide base for the decals.

There is also a very extensive decal sheet provided; the painting guide only offers one option with minimal decals, so it’s probably a comprehensive sheet that Modelcollect uses with all their Russian armor. (Will be useful for my W-Models Pantsir build.)

Once the decals dried, I sealed them with Future, and applied a dark pin wash to the model. After about a day of drying I used a wet brush to remove the excess, forming good-looking streaks in the process. Wherever I felt there was too much wash left on the surface of the model I used a flat dry brush to remove it.

I gave a week for the wash to dry, and sprayed a flat coat over the model. I’m always a bit anxious at this step as this is where you see what the model will look like; the flat varnish makes the colors lighten a bit. I painted the tracks and the rubber rims of the roadwheels with a fine brush- again I used very dark greys instead of black. Using a 00 brush I painted discreet chips on the tank: the side-skirts got heavier black chips (since they are made of rubber). I also used the base color on the green parts for light damage, and Vallejo’s German Black Brown for deeper chips. I tried not to go overboard; in this scale no chips would be visible, but they do give some visual interest to the model. I also used sponge chipping on the barrel and larger surfaces – again, trying my best not to overdo the effect. I added some rust washes on the larger areas where chipping was more prominent; once dried I adjusted the effect with a wet brush.

I applied dust-colored pigments to the lower parts of the hull a very diluted dust mix on the top part; again I readjusted everything once dry. The exhaust got a tiny bit of black; I tried not to go overboard.

As a final step I rubbed a silver pen on the tracks and the edges of the model to simulate the shine of worn metal as usual.

Overall the model is excellent; I can wholeheartedly recommend to anyone.

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ACE Model 1/72 FV4005 Stage 2 – part 2.

Part 1

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Well, the painting of the beast has arrived.

I’ve chosen a tricky pattern which I already attempted with my Cromwell (not to much success). This is one of my favourite World of Tanks camo schemes from the British branch.

It took a while to figure out the best way to replicate the pattern. After priming (Vallejo German Grey) I painted everything in the pale greenish color which will be forming the large patches (a mixture of Tamiya JA Grey and dark green). Once it dried I added patches of silly putty, and painted everything in Tamiya JA grey – this will form the thin line between the green and the black.

 

After it dried, I carefully squeezed the sides of the putty patches to spread them out a bit- this covered the thin areas of the grey color. Then I sprayed the model with the priming color lightened with Tamiya JA Grey. (Using the same color to lighten all the camo colors tie them together well.)

I have to say the results turned out to be better than I expected; although I did have to touch up on some of the patches.

As usual, a couple of layers of green and ochre filters helped to blend the colors together, and I sprayed Future on the model to provide base for the decals. (There were only three decals provided; apparently there should have been a “Spud” marking, too, according to the instructions, but it was missing.)

 

Once the decals dried, I sealed them with Future, and applied a dark pin wash to the model. After about a day of drying I used a wet brush to remove the excess, forming some good-looking streaks in the process. Wherever I felt there was too much wash left on the surface of the model I used a flat dry brush to remove it. I repeated the same process with dot-filters; the browns, yellows and blues formed nice, faint streaks on the sides of the vehicle.

Using a 00 brush I painted discreet chips on the tank. The color German Black Brown by Vallejo is great for deeper chips where the metal is showing through. I tried not to go overboard; in this scale no chips would be visible in reality, but they do give some visual interest to the model. I also used sponge chipping on the barrel and larger surfaces – again, trying my best not to overdo the effect.

This is when I painted the tracks and the rubber rims of the roadwheels with a fine brush- again I used very dark greys instead of black.

I rusted up the exhaust: on a black base I deposited a bright, rust colored pigment (Humbrol Rust), which was treated with various dark colored wash unevenly to create patches. The end of the exhaust and the mud guard below it got a tiny bit of black to represent soot; I tried not to go overboard. The thin metal sheet that forms the exhaust guard got a really heavy chipping treatment. Because of the constant heat coming from the exhaust pipes this thin piece of metal would be constantly heated, which promotes heavy oxidation.

I made a very light slurry of a reddish rust colored wash, and applied it over the larger chips on the barrel and the exhaust covers; once dry I could adjust the effect using a wet brush. (When I use the term “wet brush” it means a brush dipped into the appropriate solvent dabbed onto a piece of rag.)  I added extra heavy layers on the exhaust guards. Later I adjusted the effect with different rust colored paints to make this piece look even more oxidated.

I always liked the dusty look of some of the tanks in World of Tanks: a very light colored dust layer covering the lower parts, which gets fainter and fainter as we go up the hull/turret. I dabbed “Dust Effects” by AK Interactive onto the upper part of the superstructure and the turret with a brush; this product has a very light color – too light for an European setting I think, but very close to the color from the game. I left it dry overnight (it looked horrendous, causing me no small worries), and in the morning (during my morning coffee) I adjusted it with a wet brush (using white spirit). It formed a layer similar to the effect seen in the game, but I could not make the transition completely smooth; for this I would have to airbrush the product. (I know it’s possible, but I’m reluctant to airbrush non-water based paints.)

The lower chassis got slurry of light brown pigments suspended in Mig’s neutral wash. (I have no idea what I should be using this product for, so I use it for making mud).  It creates a dark grey/brown effect used in conjunction with the brown pigments, which is very similar to actual mud in many parts of the world. The excess was wiped off once the mixture dried, and I repeated the process with a darker mixture on a smaller area to form layers of dry and fresh mud. I covered the upper parts with a sheet of paper, and created some mud splashes flicking a brush loaded with the mud-mixture. The tracks got some extra treatment of mud.

To lighten the colors a bit -and make the model look more realistic- I sprayed flat varnish onto the FV.

As a final step I rubbed a silver pen on the tracks and the edges of the model to simulate the shine of worn metal, and called the model finished.

To honest I’m quite happy with the results; despite of the issues coming up while building the model, it turned out to be a good project at the end. Let’s hope the in-game tank will also prove to be a pleasant surprise once I get there. Which should be about 200 more games…

1/35 Takom Turtle

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This weird looking vehicle got into my collection because I took my wife to the local hobby shop, and this was the only vehicle she liked. It has a relatively low part count, but it’s surprisingly large: it’s bigger than a panzer IV… (I expected it to be only slightly bigger than a car. Nevertheless I’d love to do my commute in this thing; London drivers are horrendous.)

This is my second Takom model (the first being the Ratte). The detail is OK, but not very subtle (I found the panel lines a bit too deep), and the model lacks any interior details. The hatches cannot be opened, either, so scratch-building (or using aftermarket sets if there ever will be one later) is going to be even more difficult. The quality of plastic, the presentation, the instructions are very, very professional. There are rubber tires provided, but they are quite unnecessary; plastic would be perfectly fine (with the appropriate sag moulded on, of course.) The fit is, again, OK but not perfect; the joint between the bottom and top of the hull needs some filling. (The bump on the top is assembled using four quadrant, and it’s a bit of a shaky exercise.) The model is very easy to build: it took about 2 hours to have it ready to paint.

I wanted to go all-out with the painting and weathering. First, I always wanted to try the complex camo with the black dividing line; and I wanted to do some experimenting with scratches, chips and dust. (Since it’s a city-car, only a little mud is used.) If you want to, you can go with the whole “captured vehicle in German service” cliche, but that version looks rather bland and grey.

 

The model was primed, and then the acrylic primer sealed with Testors Dulcote (as I wanted to experiment with some windex-chipping) later. The multiple colors were sprayed on in light patches. Although it’s an unconventional way to paint I painted individual patches, applied silly putty, added another set of patches with a different color, another application of silly putty, and so on and so forth. I did not want to paint the entire model with all the colors- it would have added too many paint layers. When doing scratches with windex I did not want to work through six individual layers of paint to the primer.

The results are actually pretty good; I was pleasantly surprised when I removed the silly putty.

 

The dividing lines were painted on using a black sharpie.

A few layers of light brown and ochre filters were added, and after a couple of days of drying I covered the model with Future in preparation for the washes. This is when I applied the decals, and sealed them with a further layer of Future.

I used Mig’s dark wash- applying it with a thin brush. It looked bad (as it always does), but I managed to wait an hour or so before attacking the wash. The excess was wiped away with a wet, flat brush in several steps (I kept adjusting it days after the application of the wash). I moved the brush in downwards motions; the wash created faint streaks which I kept adjusting. It also served as a sort of filter as well.

This is the point where I realized that the layers of Future will interfere with the windex-chipping technique… so I added paint chips using a brush and a sponge.

The next step was to use some oil dot filters. I put a few blobs of different shades of brown, yellow, blue and green oil paints onto a small piece of cardboard. In about an hour or so the linseed oil seeped out into the paper; this is important if you want flat finish. I added random dots on the surface, and then blended, removed them using a wet brush with downward motion. This produced very faint streaks, and modulated the base color somewhat. Yellows, greens, etc will give a slightly different tint to the underlying color. I focused the darker browns towards the bottom of the chassis. Since I was there I used a light rust color to form streaks: I prepared a dilute wash using a rust colored oil paint, and applied it with a faint brush. The excess was removed with a flat brush as usual forming faint streaks. I added this mixture around larger chips as well, and let it dry. If the effect was too strong, I adjusted it with a wet brush.

 

I left the model dry for a week, and used a similar technique to further add mud and dust onto the vehicle: I added small dust/mud colored paint on certain areas, and blended them in using a dry brush. It’s important that you have to use very small amount of paint.

I layered everything: on top of the thin, translucent dust/mud I added thicker pigments (mixture of flat varnish and pigment) of different colors; concentrating on the lower parts, of course. The very last couple of layers were splashes of different earth colors using a very stiff brush and a toothpick.

 

The next steps were more pronounced streaks using AK’s streaking products, and after that dried I sealed the whole model with a flat varnish. The inside of the headlights were painted using  liquid chrome by Molotov (great pens).

At this point my wife expressed her displeasure that the previously colorful, clean car became dirty and muddied up, so I decided to stop here.

 

 

 

The tale of two Panthers: an in-box comparison of the Rye Field Models and Takom models

It seems like we are living in a Golden Age of model building: more and more “mainstream” companies come out with models with full (or reasonably full) interiors. Back in the days we had the old Academy Tiger I, MiniArt came out with their excellent tanks with (almost) complete interiors, and now Meng, Takom and Rye Field Models (among others) issuing their excellent models with interiors from the FT-18 to the M1 Abrams. We even have 1/72 scale models with interiors included. I yet to have to finish an old build, a DML Panther ausf G with a resin Tank Workshop interior, but these kits really, really made me excited.

 

Two companies tackled the famous Panther with full interior: Takom and Rye Field Models both issued their versions in early 2018 making the choice between them particularly difficult. I purchased the Rye Field Model version immediately, and then I realized there is a competitor in the form of the Takom kit. Amazingly both models are quite reasonably priced for what they are (but still not cheap), but I could not justify the investment in both time and money to build two very complex models of the same vehicle. (Yes, I know, they are not the same: one is an Ausf A, the other is an Ausf G.) A friend very graciously lent me his Takom kit so I could take a look at the differences between the two.

 

 

The aim of this review is not to evaluate the models with regards to accuracy; there are many other people who are more qualified to do so. I merely took a look at them as models, put them side-by-side, and tried to figure out how they compare with regards to ease of build, detail, instructions, etc, before handing the Takom kit back to its owner. (Frankly it would be an interesting side-by-side build, but as I mentioned the costs in both money and time are a tad too high. That being said if I can get a Takom kit cheap I will do a side-by-side build.)

 

If you are interested in sprue shots and individual in-box reviews, both have been covered by other modellers; the Takom model was reviewed here,
and the Rye Field Model here.


In this review I’ll use [R] wherever I refer to the Rye Fields Panther, and a [T] wherever I refer to the Takom one. (Would have been interesting to put the Meng Panther next to these ones, but that would have really broken the bank.) I took photos of key areas: welding lines, cast and rolled armor surfaces, ammunition, track links, etc. I also scanned the instructions (apologies for the quality; my scanner is not the best), and created side-by-side images for easier comparison of certain sub-assemblies (and of course the quality of instructions themselves). Since a picture tells a thousand words I do not comment on all of them; I also kept the text reasonably short. I also took a look at photos of the Meng Panther kit online to see how it measures up to these two, but obviously I can’t really draw conclusions based on this.

I’ve uploaded all the photos on a google drive (with the instructions included) here.

 

Without further ado, the comparison:


Both kits come in huge boxes. The sprues are placed in resealable plastic bags in both kits; the packaging looks very similar. (I would not be surprised if both kits were produced in the same factories…) The plastic is really nice to the touch in both kits, although the colors are different. There is no flash in either case. The clear parts in the [R] kit are protected by an additional small box, but the turret was broken off the sprue regardless in my model.


[R] is an Ausf G, [T] is an Ausf A (duh). If you absolutely want an Ausf G, go with the [R], and vica versa – in this case the choice is clear, and you can stop reading this review. The painting options are appropriate for the versions in question, although it is slightly annoying that no Panther kit available provides markings for the country that kept the Panther in service for the longest period of time: France. (https://worldoftanks.com/en/news/chieftain/chieftains-hatch-french-panthers/)

 

None of the models has Zimmerit. If you build an Ausf G produced after 4th September, 1944, you should not add it; tanks produced before should have it. But then again, the clear hull makes it a bit pointless to cover it up. Most Ausf A versions had Zimmerit applied; Takom, if I’m not mistaken, is going to issue a Zimmerit decal for this tank.

[R] is moulded in light brown, [T] is light grey plastic.

Overall impression: [R] seems like it’s massively more overengineered than the [T] kit: subassemblies are built using significantly more parts, even if they are not strictly necessary. (Example: engine cooling fan unit assembly: [T]: 3 parts/each side; [R] 15 parts/side. Step 66 shows the assembly of the transmission final drive: all gears are provided, even though none of it will be seen once completed.) Although both are incredibly complex, the [T] kit seems like it’s significantly easier to build. Meng looks like a more traditional kit, so that’s probably the easiest (apart from the tracks -more on that later). It features prominent structural elements inside the hull, so if you want to use an aftermarket interior with the Meng kit you will have some difficulties. (But then again, if you want a tank with interior, it’s easier to get either the [T] or [R] kit.)

[R] instructions

[T] instructions

Instructions: both are clear; personally I like the [T] computer generated version better than the more traditional line-drawing of the [R] one. [R] does have some issues with the instructions (more on that later). One of the most vexing issue is that no real painting/decaling guide is provided for the ammunition (but plenty of decals). [T] provides a guide to that. Neither of the models provide the interior stenciling that tanks normally have. (There are aftermarket sets available, though.) Overall the instructions are clearer with [T]. Neither gives a guide to the wiring of the radios or other electrical equipment, which is a shame.

[R]

 

[M]


Talking about decals: both are very fine; if you look at the macro shots, they are actually legible. (It was more difficult to photograph the [T] one as it was white against a light blue background. I tried to crank up the contrast as much as I could to show them off.

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[R] The wheel assembly is a bit strange (this is an issue about the instructions). Steps C37, C41 each show the assembly of one roadwheel pair with rubber rims -actual rubber-, but then they are not shown anywhere else. (I’m not clear why we get rubber rims for two of these, but the rest is simply moulded on. It is not clear where these roadwheels are supposed to be going. The alternate steel rimmed wheel option is not shown as a clear alternative; it is in the painting guide though. At step 66 we are shown the assembly of the steel rimmed wheels (C36), but no information of what they are used for. We only see the rubber rimmed wheels installed. At step 70, 71 we see the steel rimmed wheel option in the assembly sequence without explanation -it’s never made clear that you can use either of these options (and more importantly what these options are). The tank can be built with an optional engine heater, but it’s not actually shown where it is (or what it is); just how the firewall and the air intake should be built for that particular option. The [T] Panther can be built as a commander’s tank with the extra antenna, but no additional radio or other interior detail is provided.

 

Size: both are very similar; essentially all major dimensions are the same. The interior is basically the same -both models are quite accurate as far as I can determine. (I’ve built the DML Panther G with Tank Workshops interior about ten years ago, and have a lot of reference material; I am by no means an expert, though.)


[R] Transparent hull and turret parts (only in the limited run version, though) [T] no transparent parts, the interior will have to be displayed differently. (Cutaway, assembly line, maintenance… there ARE options.)

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Plastic detail: amazing on both. The “Continental” marking can be clearly read on the roadwheel of both; the bolt heads, and other small details are very sharp and well defined; overall the fine detail is just amazing in both models.


Casting texture: [R]: has nice casting texture on mantlet, and on the exhaust protectors; no texture on engine deck covers and on the hull/turret. Looking at photos (and seeing an actual Panther in Bovingdon) I have to say the engine deck covers do not really have a cast texture, but the ventillation openings do. The omission of rolled armor texture on the hull and turret is understandable: any texture would make the astonishingly clear parts, well, less astonishingly clear. However, if you plan to paint them over, you will miss the rolled armor texture. (But then you should buy the [T] kit, as one of the main advantage and selling point of the [R] kit is the clear hull and turret).


The [T] kit has very nice texture on the engine deck covers, the air intakes, etc; fine texture on the hull and turret. The texture seems a bit deeper than on the [R] kit. The texture in both kits is very discreet.


Weld seams and welding beads: [R] and [T] both have very nice detail in this regards – even on the clear parts. I have to mention the engine deck covers on the very nice welding lines on the air intakes on the [R] kit.

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[R] Lots of slide moulding (muzzle break is single piece, MG’s hollowed out; [T] also uses advanced moulding technology, but it features a two-piece muzzle break which is less ideal.


PE: [R] has extensive PE provided; lots of sub-assemblies require PE, especially the lower part of the hull, where the ribbing is formed by PE parts. (It looks like a problematic part of the build.) [T] solves most of the detail issues with plastic (even the springs on the back of the seats are moulded on); only the crow’s feet antenna and the air intake covers are provided as PE.

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Suspension: [R] has optional workable torsion bar suspension system, while [T] does not have workable suspension.

 

Running gear: [R] uses polycaps on the middle row of wheels (8 in total), making them removable for painting. I’m not really sure why they did not go with the polycaps for the rest; this solution does not seem to solve anything, really.

 

Tracks: [R] features workable tracks, and the horns are moulded in place thankfully. (They are hollow, too.) However there is a prominent ejector pin mark in the middle of each link. On the other hand [T] provides link and length tracks. They have no ejector pin marks, however the horns have to be glued on separately using a rig system allowing you to do it in sections instead of one by one. I wonder how this system works in practice; it remains to be seen. (The Meng kit in this respect is the worst: all horns have to be glued on individually.)

 

Gun: [T] has some missing detail (guiding wire mesh from the R kit for example); [R]: gun is incredibly detailed, and the recoil can be operational. I have to say gun recoil by a spring is not really an important feature, though. The gun lock can be built engaged/disengaged on the roof of the turret in the [R] kit. The turret roof looks slightly different in the two kits (see photos); I’m not sure it’s the differences between the versions, or accuracy issues.


[R]: mine thrower can be rotated, depicted open/closed, while the [T] has only one option (closed).

 

Turret basket floor: [T] features a one piece floor. [R] has two pieces, with an alternative option of having it in three if you cut the folding part in half as shown by the instructions.


Panel with drivers/radio operator’s hatch: this panel can be removed in both kit (Meng’s Panther does not have it as a separate part). This may be useful for showing off the interior, or depicting the tank undergoing maintenance. (This was the only opening big enough to remove the parts of the disassembled transmission and final drive if they needed some work…)


Ammo storage: on the floor units [R] kit uses full length ammunition; [T] provides only the protruding tips which make it a simpler assembly.


Ammo: neither has stamped bottom provided as PE disks. The base is moulded on, which is nice, but obviously the patter on the bottom is missing. [R] provides little circular decals which I suspect are to be placed on the bottom of the ammunition to remedy this issue. No real difference between different ammo types; no actual color guide for the different types in either instructions. (The projectile parts are different for each type.)

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This picture shows the different kinds of ammunition the Panther carried, and a good painting guide. [T] provides a guide to paint the shell cases in the green-laquered steel color late-war shells were equipped with instead of the usual brass; it’s up to you if you want to equip your Panther with this sort of ammo. (Due to copper shortages the Germans were forced to switch to the less-than-ideal steel version late war; it does add a visual interest to the model.)


[R] has prominent ejector pin marks on the back of the engine firewall; if you plan not to install the engine they will be visible.

 

The jack in the [R] model can be shown in storage and in-use configuration.


[R] Alternative option for back storage bin: there is a night vision option provided -but no further explanation is given. I assume if you buy an IR aftermarket set, you should install the alternative bin.

 

[R] Step 70: some sort of track maintenance option is shown but not explained. It would probably be a good diorama subject, though.


[R] two headlight options but no explanation


[R] has an option to install ice cleats


So what are the conclusions of this comparison? There are marginal differences between the models. Both are very complex, state-of-the-art kits featuring an accurate depiction of the actual vehicle. The [T] model is more “user-friendly” both in instructions and the way it is assembled. It lacks the clear hull and turret, which is a big selling point, but it has nicer textures. There are some shortcuts (the one-piece turret basket floor for example), some drawbacks (two-piece muzzle break), but overall the quality and complexity is very high. The [R] model is way more ambitious: it is way more complex, it uses a lot more PE, and it features the clear hull/turret parts which ultimately sold it for me over the [T] model. (A word of warning: the clear parts will be only included in the anniversary edition. One can only hope that the non-transparent version will have a textured surface.)

 

Both models will be a challenge to build, but the [T] kit has less of a skill-floor – it’s friendlier to the average Joe such as myself. The [R] kit will be appreciated more by people who like to go “all-out” with their build, and prefer to have as much detail as possible. They will find the assembly easier, too, since they will not be dumbfounded (and confused) by the huge number of options which are not clearly explained by the instructions. If you know your Panther intimately, you will be able to get the most out of the [R] model. The [T] is “just” an extremely impressive model with full interior, while the [R] one is a more special, one-of-a-kind kit. Honestly I still can’t decide if I made the “right” choice buying the [R] one- they both are stunning models, and the differences are not so big as to make one a clear winner over the other. Anyone willing to purchase one should weight the issues that matter to them most to decide which model is the right one for them: individual tracks vs link-and-length, workable suspension vs static, one-piece muzzle brake vs two-piece, clear hull/turret vs conventional one. As I said I’m still on the fence even though I already bought one. I hope this short comparison will help others to make their choice, though.

 

ACE Model 1/72 FV4005 Stage 2 -part 1.

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This has been one of those vehicles I would never have learned about had it not been for World of Tanks. It looks weird with the giant turret, which immediately makes it attractive. This and the fact that it has recently been buffed in-game made me decide to grind it out (a long commitment, and my first would-be tier X tank). In the meanwhile I’ve got the model to build.

There are not many models available of this vehicle, which is not surprising. British armor has been neglected by companies, and experimental British armor doubly so. Apart from this version, there’s a Cromwell Models resin kit out there, and that’s it as far as I know. It was really good to find a plastic version available -it’s both cheaper and easier to obtain than a limited-run resin model. Since Ace has a line of Centurions, it was not a big investment to make this weird-looking tank destroyer into a model; and good for them (and us) I would say.

The model is by no means perfect, but it’s OK. The detail is soft at places, and the fit is, well, hit-and-miss. The instructions could use some improvement, and the sprues are not always labelled correctly. The model also has rubber-band style tracks, which are less than ideal; I prefer the plastic alternative. On the other hand these issues are not deal-breakers; it is just a warning that it’s not a shake-and-bake model.

The kit does come with some PE, and it considerably improves the model. Once you’re finished it’s not a bad kit when it comes to detail; in fact I am quite happy with it. (I did take a short-cut: because the side skirts hide most of the running gear and the tracks, I was not very careful building them -which considerably improved the building time. Since it’s not visible, no-one has to know, right?) The tow-cables are not very good (the moulding is not perfect), but I’ve decided to use them for the review.

Most of the gaps were easy to fill in with putty. The one in the front, however, is a contentious issue; and this is the one issue I did not like about the kit. I tried to fill it in completely so it would blend the top of the hull and the frontal plate together, but the step between the front glacis and the top was too big. The hatch detail on the top was too close to the edge so I could not trim it to shape it to the front armor. Unfortunately there is still a visible step remaining (which kind of looks intentional, so if you don’t know the type you may think it is a design feature). The other big fit issue was the mudguard: the front parts just could not be fitted without a major surgery, so I just left them off. Battle damage.

 

Now the model is finally done and ready for the paint. The only question remains: which non-historical camo pattern I should pick from the game?

improved-british-and-american-camo-colours-0-9-1-wot-mod-1

Modelcollect T-80UE

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In the last couple of years Modelcollect quickly gained a reputation for producing good quality models of Cold War Soviet vehicles -and “1946 Alternate History” type of German panzers. (E-75, weird walking tanks, hypothetical AAA tanks based on the E-100 chassis, the P-1000 Ratte in 1/72 (!), etc.)

I always liked how busy modern(ised) Soviet armor looks; since they are quite small, the exterior is really busy with all the equipment could not be fit inside, and the constant modifications, extra armor and sensor equipment also add to the unique look.

This is my third Modelcollect build; and the first one that does not depict a somewhat esoteric vehicle (meaning: it actually exists).
The build was an easy and quick one. Since there are several versions of the T-80 offered, the model is full of extra parts; I was very happy to see an armored shield for the commander’s hatch included, which I will add to an older T-72 build.

The only issue with the turret is that it’s quite loose in the turret ring; this combined with the heavy metal barrel means you’d better off gluing it into place because it will rotate quite violently when the model is moved. The rubber protector flaps for the turret ring are made of PE, which is very nice: you can fold them a bit to make them look more realistic. (They are best installed after you fixed the turret in place; there is very little clearance between the hull and the edges of these flaps, so you can knock them off easily if you move the turret.)

The lower hull went together fine, since the fit is very good, and the running gear is actually easy to assemble. I chose to add everything -tracks, return rollers, idlers and drive wheels- before painting. This means I will have to be careful to paint the rubber rims and the tracks with a brush, but it also simplifies the assembly. The tracks are very good – the pieces fit together like a dream.

The two mudguards are pretty elaborate pieces of plastic; most of the detail is moulded-on. It’s not readily apparent that the rubber side-skirts are, in fact, made of rubber. They looks like massive armored slabs. The 1/72 Revell T-72 has very well done side-skirts in this respect; and to be fair to Modelcollect, even newer 1/35 scale tank models have these side-skirts moulded straight as if they were made of metal plates.

The PE engine grilles are excellent, and really improve the look of the model; and the PE lamp guards are also pretty impressive. (And, more importantly, easy to assemble.)

The holding brackets for the external fuel tanks are somewhat flimsy (it’s difficult to determine what goes where), but using a little patience and checking a few reference photos it’s not hard to install them correctly. The un-ditching log has a very nice wooden texture.

And that’s it – the building was a breeze. (I was watching documentaries with my wife while building the tank; it took me two evenings altogether- about four hours total.) Right now I’m contemplating the best way to go about painting it, but since it looks really impressive with all that shiny brass, I decided to leave it like this for a while.

DML’s Sd.Kfz. 251/2 Ausf. C mit Wurfrahmen 40 – 3-in-1 kit – finishing at last

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Another ghost from the past. I was really into the 251 series; the angular form of the halftrack looks pretty futuristic and the endless modifications make it a very interesting platform to model. For two or three models; after it does get a bit boring to assemble the same base over and over again. This was one of the reason I’ve switched to 1/72 scale when building these vehicles; the other was that I moved to the UK into a student housing, and had no access to my compressor and airbrush. The results of my formative years in grad school were posted in three posts (first, second, third).

However, this was the very first Sd.Kfz 251 I’ve built. It was still back in Florida, and since I really liked how the Bellowing Cow looked like, I wanted to start with it. There were several vehicles the Wurfrahmen rockets were launched from; the 251 was the most prominent one. (I’ve built two others: a captured French tank and a small tankette.)

Most of the build was finished in Florida; however life interfered with my plans, and I had to pack up and move. The model went into a box, and stayed there for almost a decade. Only lately did I unpack it, brought it to the UK with me, and finally finished it for good.

This DML kit has been an great experience to build. I can wholeheartedly recommend these Dragon kits to anyone. I merely needed to finish the paintwork, attach the rocket launching frames and other small parts, and weather the whole thing; a couple of hours max.

I used silly putty to mask off the dunkelgelb areas, and applied green and brown lightened with the base color in succession; I have to say I’m pretty pleased with the results. I applied streaking, filters and washes as usual, and then went on adding various layers of dust and mud. The interior also received a lot of dust, and I added small pieces of equipment to make it look more lived in. Unfortunately back then I did not add the rifles into the racks, so they remained empty.

And with this I declare this halftrack done. I was itching to finish it for years now, and I can finally put it in a display case; the experience was the polar opposite of what I had with the Sd.Kfz250 Neu I’m also finishing. One more down; two more to go. Time is pressing; apparently another cross-continent move is in the plans in the near future.

Games Workshop Custodian

 

What can I say? I just like the way these guys look; even those ridiculous bolter-lance contraptions which make aiming utterly impossible. (They must be among the most impractical weapons of the grim future ever.) Aaron Dembski Bowden’s books bought the Custodes into life for me, so naturally I wanted to build one; not to mention I really wanted to have Kitten (or Corn Cob as the Emperor likes to call him) on my shelf. The problem is it’s not possible to buy one figure; and I did not want to buy a whole squad. The solution, after checking Ebay for a year, was to buy a whole set and sell the rest a bit cheaper.

Well, that’s about it. Due to the gold paint scheme painting was not very difficult; I quite enjoy using AK Interactive’s wax-based true metal paints. I dry-brushed the figure in several steps over a black primer base, applied to washes and highlights, and then finished with the small details.

Easy-peasy. I’m sure die-hard figure painters will take some serious issues with the model, but it’s mine, and I’m happy with it as an armor-model builder. I would like to hear your opinion, though. Shoot away the comments.

DML 1/35 Sd.Kfz. 250 Neu with Royal Models set part 1

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This is a very, very old build that has been sitting in a box for a long, long time. I feature this model because it represents my limits; not necessarily limits of ability (although those, too), but the limits of what I’m willing to do for a build. The base kit may not be a difficult one, but this is an all-out aftermarket bonanza. Over the years I reflected on this build a lot, and it helped me understand better of what the hobby means to me. I realized I like challenges, but only within a certain limit; as soon as a build becomes work I do not enjoy it any more. This model with all the aftermarket essentially became a job; you are spending an hour or so just to put together the convoy light from individual PE pieces -and the fruit of your effort does not actually look better than the plastic original (if there’s a visible difference at all). Or worse yet, due to the high level of skill needed for assembly, it actually looks worse. So yeah. From now on only builds that are not evolving (or devolving) into a full-time job. (Unless someone is paying for it of course.) So the work has been ongoing for at least a decade now: I continued my predecessor’s efforts, then gave up; I shipped the model to Hungary when I moved to the UK, and there it sat in my mother’s attic until I dug it out to finally finish it two years ago. Here in the UK I’ve finished several 1000+ part models while it was waiting patiently for me to work on it which I did on and off. But mostly off. And now it’s finally close to finishing.

So without further ado, the model.

I bought it on Ebay already started; someone went all-out with the DML 250, and bought all the Royal Models aftermarket sets he could get his hands on- and then sold it for peanuts. It was an ambitious project; a project with appealed to my naive younger self. Trying to build several sets does feel like biting a bit too much: you not only have to coordinate the kits instructions with one aftermarket set, but coordinate it with several sets, with a lot of overlap and variation. Some sets fit a different version of the vehicle, and all three have parts which are duplicated/triplicated; making sense of four sets of instructions is not an easy feat. The fact that Royal Models are not always clear on their instructions do not help matters either.

 

My main issue -aside from the conundrum presented by the several sets of instructions- was the tiny PE parts plaguing the whole build. I started the interior in 2007 back in the US, then shelved the model because I got a bit overwhelmed by the sheer amount of PE. I still do not know how possibly I could hold a 1mm PE part, and apply it to wherever it should be going without gluing my tweezers together and onto the model.

The finishing touches did not go well; not at all. I finished the interior a year ago, and the model went back to the box as I found it difficult to add the PE tool boxes on the sides. A year ago I weathered the interior a bit: added streaks, chips and dirt, finished with the small details, and closed the hull. I realized really quickly that the kit parts are not always inferior to the aftermarket alternative: the radio rack (but not the radios), some of the smaller equipment was kept from the DML set. In retrospect I wish I kept the tool boxes and the fenders, too…

The kit tracks were surprisingly good -they are workable plastic tracks. I have to say this may be an older DML model, but it’s still pretty good when it comes to detail.

Once the hull was closed off, I turned to the toolboxes on the side. I managed to attach them after a brief struggle, but there are some issues with the angles. I suspect some of it is my own incompetence, but some is due to the fact that the Royal models set was designed for the Tamiya model, and it’s the DML version I’m using. Regardless I went through several iterations of filling, sanding and painting; I used both Green Stuff and ordinary putty to do the job, and used the primer to check for irregularities.

Despite of having done the most annoying/disheartening part – filling and sanding- I ran out of steam again. I was only recently spurred on by my feelings of guilt. I have decided not to start new models until I finish off these shelf-queens; so far I’m making good progress. (There’s an Airfix Bentley and a DML 251 to be finished; not to mention several WWII and Warhammer figures.) And here I ran into one of the problems with the instructions: the doors for the tool boxes were to be installed from the inside. Which were not exactly indicated by the instructions: it shows the doors going on from the outside. The problem is I’ve already attached the frame to the hull, so outside the doors went.

I did try to install most of the minuscule little padlocks and all but at the end of the day I did what I could without driving myself crazy. For me a victory will be achieved if I finally can mount this model in its case. Ironically the plastic original has very nice padlocks moulded on them.

The Royal Model set is extremely comprehensive and detailed; the problem is it’s not very user friendly. I especially disliked the fact that the front mudguards are to be built from three different parts instead of folding one into shape; I’m not even lamenting on the fact that you’re supposed to glue the edges together without a small PE flap provided that could have been used for more secure attachment. (OK, I am. I AM lamenting.)

Another few months of rest; and then a new effort to finish this build. I’m quite motivated to finish off everything as I may be moving to a different country; I want to take these models with me mounted in their cases, instead of languishing in a box, half-assembled.

I sorted through the kit parts that I wanted to keep, and installed every single little detail I’ve left out so far. I also decided to stick to the kit’s plastic option whenever I can; particularly when it comes to the antenna mount for the large radio. I did not feel like folding and gluing the elaborate little assembly made out of several tiny PE parts, so I just slapped the three-part plastic one on. It does not look as nice, but at this point I was just happy to call the building phase finished. I also decided to use the kit’s width indicator rod instead of trying to fashion one out of wire as the instructions suggest; I also used the kit lamps and tools. The truism -just because it’s there you don’t need to use it- never rang truer to me than in this kit. I still am left with a ton of PE I have absolutely no idea where they should be going.

Anyhow. I’m done with the building, and this is what matters. Next step: painting the blasted thing.

 

Flyhawk 1/72 M1A2 SEP tank

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The M1A2 SEP (System Enhancement Package) is an updated version of the Abrams featuring depleted uranium reinforced armor, updated ballistic computers, fire control and other systems. This is an upgrade package that can be applied to any M1 variants: several older M1A1 were updated to the M1A2 SEP levels. (A good summary of the vehicle can be found here.

I was quite interested in Flyhawk’s M1A2 SEP model; all their kits I’ve built so far looked like miniaturised 1/35th scale models with regards to detail (and sometimes complexity), so there’s quite a reputation to uphold.

(In short: they do.)

The packing of the model is exceptional: all the sprues placed in the same bag are fixed together with a thin rubber band; and the delicate parts for the turret baskets are wrapped in packing foam to prevent damage.

The PE fret has a circular mask for the wheels; it is a really welcome feature.

The plastic is exceptional quality, all the ejection pin marks are in inconspicuous places, and the sprue gates are very small. There is virtually no flash to clean up. The detail is simply speaking incredible – the best example is the subtle but very realistic anti-slip surface on the turret and hull, or the single-piece gun barrel. The machine guns are pretty amazing, too: the barrels are hollowed out, and the ammunition belt running from the ammunition box is modelled, too. (Something 1/35 scale kits sometimes do not have.)

The instructions are provided in a booklet for the tank, and as a fold-out page for the mine plough. Interestingly the assembly of the mine plough has as many steps as the tank itself (although it’s obviously less complex.) The booklet is very well designed; the English is not very good, but understandable. (Being someone whose English is not perfect either, I should not be throwing stones, though.) The instructions make very good use of colors to help with the assembly process, and also provide several views of the more difficult steps to aid the modeller. Flyhawk also provided tips and some useful pieces of advice, which is very much welcome. The instructions, and the fact that the whole model was designed to be as user friendly as possible, makes for a very pleasant building experience. (The design is excellent: it is very difficult to mistakenly attach something upside down or on the wrong side – even the gun barrel is moulded in a way that it only fits into the mantlet in one way.)

As far as I could determine the model is accurate. The size is spot-on for 1/72, but I’m not really familiar with the M1- people who are better acquainted with the type are more qualified to judge the accuracy of the model.

The lower hull is assembled from four parts: a bottom, two sides and the back. This is somewhat of an old-school approach, but the fit is good, so there is no problem here. The hull already has the swing arms for the road wheels attached; this makes the build simpler, but you won’t be able to position them to conform to an uneven terrain, should you wish to build a diorama. This is going to be made more difficult because of the unique track assembly: the tracks come finished; they are assembled from two halves, but these join longitudinally. It’s very welcome due to the simplicity of assembly, but it limits the modellers options. The running gear assembly is actually quite innovative: you attach the inner row of road wheels to the hull, add the inner halves of the tracks, and then glue the outer set (and the drive wheel) on, and finally add the outer halves of the tracks. Even though the instructions suggest you glue the side-skirts on before you even add the top of the hull to the bottom, they are probably going to be the last things to be installed – well after the painting stage is done. They are provided as single pieces; you cannot open them up. The fit to the hull is OK, but not perfect, though.

The hull has a lot of PE grilles provided, which is great; there are some very fiddly PE parts, though. (The PE casting numbers on the turret are a bit over the top in my opinion. I could just about to manage the cables running to the headlights.) In general, there are a lot of tiny parts -both plastic and PE.

The turret is a pretty straightforward assembly. The hatches can be positioned open should you wish so -although there is no interior provided. The loader’s hatch has a bit too many parts I feel – Flyhawk does have the tendency of giving multi-part sub-assemblies that would shame a 1/35 model. Unfortunately the instructions only detail how to assemble the hatch in a closed position.

The vision blocks need to be tinted (reddish), as the instructions advise. It’s probably a good idea to paint the back of their slots black before inserting the transparent pieces. You get some PE welding numbers for the turret, but seriously? I took a look at them and after a brief, amused chuckle I just left them untouched; I feel these numbers should have been moulded onto the turret. I appreciate the fact that they are individual for each and every turret, but here there was a decision to be made: either satisfy the purists (I think the term “rivet counter” has acquired somewhat of a negative overtones lately), or make the build reasonably simple. I think a generic casting number would have been sufficient; if anyone was unhappy with it, they could have just sand it off, and use the PE alternative. Unfortunately Flyhawk did not mould numbers on the turret sides, and so instead of incorrect detail I ended up with none.

The other, somewhat challenging part to build was the racks/baskets on the back of the turret. These multi-part plastic/PE contraptions were not easy to build at all; some patience will be necessary.

The mine plough is somewhat of a fiddly assembly (OK, it’s an understatement: it is a VERY fiddly assembly). In fact this is probably the weakest point of this model. The instructions are not very clear in some crucial steps; it is hard to decipher what goes where. A drawing of the finished sub-assemblies would have helped out tremendously. The tiny parts are difficult to handle without launching them onto the carpet. The other issue is that the attachment point of the dozer blades is quite flimsy, and you can easily break them off during handling.

Flyhawk provides a very fine piece of chain that you will have to cut into five parts to be attached to the plough. Once you are finished the results are pretty impressive: the plough has movable skids, and the locking arms on the frame can be disengaged, too. I’m not entirely sure of the advantages of a non-static mine-plough. I guess the plough could be made to conform a terrain feature in a diorama, or shown being installed, but I’m not certain this option is worth the effort that comes with building it. I would have preferred to have something simpler to assemble – or have better instructions. Either of these would have been nice.

The overall building was done in three quick sessions -this is not a very difficult or long build. The mine-plough was the most time consuming part of the build the truth be told. The painting steps took a tad bit longer. I’ve applied a German grey primer to the whole of the model, followed up by the desert brown in several thin layers to keep the shading effect of the dark primer. I’ve decided to go with the brown desert scheme with the plough painted green- I really liked the contrast of the two on the box art. (I originally wanted to build it in three-tone NATO colors.) Even though it’s not authentic, I kept the “Captain America” decal from the three-tone option, simply because I liked it better. My model, my rules I guess. I gave a try to the PE mask provided for the wheels, since the outer wheels were not attached to the model yet. (In retrospect I should have just left the inner row off as well; I painted their rubber rims by hand.)

Once the basic colors were on, I installed the tracks and the outer row of roadwheels, installed the skirts, and went on to weathering the model. The lower part of the hull received some light pigment dusting. I added some filters to modify the tones somewhat, and sprayed Future over the model to prepare it for the decals. Once the decals were dried, another layer of Future sealed them on, and provided a good basis for the upcoming wash. I used the wash to create some streaks as well in several layers; I also used a couple of AK Interactive streaking products, too, to give some subtle variation in color. The front ID panels have black corners; since there are no decals provided, and I did not trust my hands with a brush I used a permanent marker to paint them.

After it dried I sprayed a matte coat over the tank. That’s about it – the model was finished.

Overall I have to say the build was a pleasant one, although the sheer number of tiny plastic parts (especially in the plough assembly) was sometimes a testing my patience. The results are spectacular for sure. I’ve built Revell’s M1A2 a couple of years ago, and I have to say it’s difficult to decide between the two kits. (Long-long time ago I’ve built the old 1/35 Trumpeter Abrams. This 1/72 gem easily trumps it -bad pun intended- when it comes to detail.)

The Revell kit has excellent detail for the scale, but Flyhawk easily surprasses it in this regard. You do feel like you have a premium quality model in your hands when you build it. On the other hand the Revell M1A2 is a much simpler build. It boils down to preferences I think: if you don’t want to be bothered with tiny parts and PE, the Revell is a good alternative; if you want to go all-out, there’s the Flyhawk model for you.

Scale model building – amateur style