Well, this is when the tank is starting to take shape, and resemble an AFV. The top of the turret was glued in place finally, hiding a lot of the details in the interior. (I was tempted to do a “cutaway” version, but I could not find a part I was comfortable cutting away; the whole of the interior is crammed with things.) The turret roof is a very thin piece of plastic; I think MiniArt made it pretty close to scale thickness. (I don’t have the instruments to measure it accurately, though.)
The interior of the turret is quite busy, and frankly brilliant. The fume extractor, the small lights, the radio, the turret cranking mechanism, all the other details are just great. You do get the fan for the fume extractor, but it will be hidden by the PE cover. The periscopes are made out of transparent plastic. The commander’s cupola has the very fine teeth where the cupola’s turning mechanism is meshed to; small details like this make the model really shine. I was worried about installing the PE holders for the pistol gun port plug, but they snap on surprisingly easy (considering how small the pieces are). I think there might be a chain holding the plug itself in the real tank, but it was not included; if you want to depict them open, you’ll need to add the chains.
Once all was done inside the hull, I started to add the armor plates protecting the front and the top. The frontal, angular plate fitted perfectly. (I would suggest leaving the splash guard off until the front plate is in place.) The top plate is probably scaled so that it’s scale thickness (it’s noticeably thinner than the side or frontal plates), however, there were some fit issues with it. Nothing that some patience could not solve: I went ahead and did what I did with the hull and the mudguards, and glued it on section by section, while holding the hull in place with clamps. Once the model was reasonably ready, I added the extra bits which I left off. I usually attach the tools, headlights, etc. last, so that I don’t damage them in subsequent steps of the build.
I chose to attach the mudguards before I installed the running gear; I think it would be better to do the other way around. The detail is pretty good, and the assembly is straightforward to build. The problem is that the attachment to the hull is somewhat problematic. First of all, there are no locating holes on the sides for the little pegs on the mudguards; you either drill these out, or cut the pegs off. Once everything is on, the PE straps “holding” the external fuel tanks need to be installed. These are two-part assemblies each: one metal strap and one tiny U shaped part that is originally welded to the hull, and used to fasten the strap to.
Before installing the road wheels and tracks I’ve painted the side of the hull green, and muddied it up with several layers of pigments dissolved in white spirit. I used light brown colors first on the side, and then went darker and darker, making sure I cover smaller areas with the subsequent layers. I also used a clean brush moistened with white spirit to adjust the layers once they dried.
The road wheels are simple to assemble, however, the peg that supposed to hold each wheel is tiny (about 3 mm long…) In theory you can assemble the wheels so that these pegs can rotate, but I did not bother with this; they were glued in. I also used epoxy glue, as I said, to make sure the wheels stay in place once attached to the swing arms –and since I will display the model on a flat surface, I also glued the torsion bars in place… Leave the return rollers and the drive wheels off; the tracks will be simpler to attach if you attach them together. The tracks are really nice; the detail is very good on them, but as I mentioned, they are not “workable”. You will need to glue them on. I could not put the whole 70+ link assembly together without it coming to pieces, so I just assembled sections, applied thin model glue to the joints, waited an hour, and then put them in place. Once the tracks were dry, I removed them (I left them in two large pieces on each side), painted and weathered them, and glued them in place for good.
The tracks were painted dark grey first, and then I used similar dark brown pigments diluted in white spirit to add rust and dirt. I keep seeing incredibly muddy tracks on models, where the pattern is essentially hidden by the caked-on pigments, which is not very realistic. (Well, there ARE instances; the spring/autumn mud in Russia would put a lie to this statement.) Nevertheless, I opted for a relatively clean set of tracks, as any movement would wipe and shake most of the dirt off. In fact, five-ten minutes of movement would polish the tracks shiny, and free of rust.
For green I started with Tamiya’s Dark Green. I fogged it onto the black primer, and then added subsequent layers lightened with yellow. The color will be further modulated with yellowish filters, and then with the dot filter method.
Now it looks like a tank…
There is one major problem with the turret ring: the turret does not fit well. As usual with tank models, the turret is attached by sliding two little pegs into two corresponding openings, and then rotating it. This should lock the turret in place. The problem, as far as I can see, is that these pegs are very tiny, and simply do not hold the turret (or cannot click into place to begin with). Gluing a bigger piece to the turret to hold it better might solve this issue. The problem is for me is that the tank was ready when I ran into this, and it’s difficult to play around with it without breaking parts off. To be honest I was thinking about displaying the turret on a stand to show off the interior better, so I might side-step this issue; it would be a shame to glue it in place, as it would hide all the interior details.
Final small parts added… I try to leave these off until the very end- not to risk breaking them.
The upgraded tow cables; I used the hooks of the plastic part, and replaced the plastic part of the wire with metal.
The cable is held by folding PE holders; it does not need to be glued in place.
The extra track links are also held by PE parts; the installation went on without a problem.
And here is the tank -all done with the building. Still prone to lose it’s head easily -something I’ll have to figure out how to fix-, but ready for weathering. Next step: Windex chipping