Category Archives: 1/72 softskin

1/72 M56 Scorpion – OKB Grigorov

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I’ve written an in-box review of this model for Armorama; I think it’s time to show how it looks when finished.

The M56 Scorpion was an attempt to supply a gun platform for the US airborne forces that can be easily transported by airplanes, and can be deployed using an air-drop. This requirement pretty much made it impossible for the vehicle to be armored, so it is essentially a gigantic 90mm M54 gun on a dodgem chassis. Crew comfort (and safety) also took second place to the size requirements that came with the airborne deployment option.

The M56 was developed and manufactured by the Cadillac Motor Car Division of GM from 1953 to 1959. It was a small, fully tracked vehicle, powered by a 200 hp engine with a maximum road speed of 45 km/h. It had a crew of four: commander, driver, loader, gunner. The ergonomics of the vehicle were, let’s put it lightly, not very good. The loader had to disembark before the gun fired, and jump back holding the ammunition. The gun recoil also endangered the commander. The only part that can be considered armor on the vehicle is the gun shield, which has a large windscreen cut into for the driver negating its effectiveness somewhat; the rest of the self-propelled gun is about as armored as my Nissan Micra. (Another thing that it has in common with my Micra is that it has pneumatic tires…)

The M56 was in service in the USA, Spain, Morocco, and the Republic of Korea. It was used in Vietnam by the 173rd Airborne Brigade.

There are not many models available of this little AFV; I’ve found a very expensive resin one in 1/35th scale by Hobby Fan, and there’s an old OOP (and quite inaccurate) Revell kit; other than that there’s the 1/72nd scale OKB kit reviewed here. As usual, World of Tanks introduced me to this vehicle, where it is a premium American tank destroyer; and since I liked the way it looked (and have it in my garage) I was really anxious to get a model of it.

 

Considering the size of this vehicle the number of parts (especially the amount of PE) is quite high. The model is made up by approximately 70 resin pieces and about 70 PE parts… all this is in a model that can almost fit into a matchbox.

The resin is smooth, and of different color. The detail is crisp, and the fit is quite good generally. The PE frets are the thinnest I’ve ever seen. (It’s quite easy to crumple them, so be careful; it feels like a thick aluminium foil rather than photo-etched brass.) The tracks come as resin sections which need to be warmed up before shaped to the running gear. The detail is excellent, and there is very little flash anywhere.

 

The instructions are computer generated, and frankly, not very helpful. They show different views of the assembled model, but unfortunately do not instruct on actually how to put the model together. Before gluing make sure you understand how the parts should be fitting; I did make a couple of mistakes during assembly.

The exhausts for the engine seem to be shorter; there should be a section that is turning down at a right angle from the end of the exhaust pipes.

First mistake I made was to wait with the mud guard until I finished with the running gear.

If you decide to give this kit a go, make sure you glue the mudguard onto the hull first. The simple reason is that the PE covers the whole side with cutouts for the suspension units. These holes are way too tight to slide it over the suspension if it’s already in place. I had to widen these holes considerably in order to be able to fit the mudguards into place.

The other big issue for me was the suspension arms. They look very similar, but the front and rear suspension are not identical. I accidentally mixed up on one side, and hence the wheels are a bit wonky.

Other than that, most of the model went together OK. I had to make the headlight protectors out of thin wire (I normally use soldering wire as it’s quite soft). The tracks were somewhat thick and rigid, but with a lot of patience (and hot water) they did go on eventually. The hole on the gun shield has a plexi protector for the driver; I left it completely empty, since any transparent acetate sheet would look foggy and thick in this scale. (I would need something that’s about 0.2-0.3mm thick.)

I’m not sure that the back platform is depicted as open or closed up; probably closed up due to the 2 PE rails sticking out of them. (If it’s folded down, it should be longer; if it’s folded up, it should have some extra bits for the mechanism that keeps it straight in a folded -off state.) I also noticed a bit late that the loader’s seat was left off… my mistake.

The model went through multiple rounds of priming, as usual. These coats were applied more for checking for mistakes and seams rather than to provide a base coat for the paint, and was applied using a spray-can. The model was ready (I left the gun detached for easier painting), I added a final coat, and then applied Tamiya Olive Drab lightened with some Tan. (The first two photos of the painted model show the color to be a bit too greenish, flat and dull.)
A bit of yellow and ochre filter later the green became quite nice with some brownish hues. I could not find any decals that were small enough to fit onto the model, so it remained un-marked. I used Tamiya’s weathering kit (the makeup set) to apply dust and mud to the vehicle, a silver pen around the edges, to give it a metallic shine, and called it a day.

 

Altogether, the model was a pretty pleasant build -except for the little issues I mentioned. It is certainly quite pricey, as all OKB kits are, but, just like in the case of the Batchat, you really have no other options. Overall I’m pretty satisfied with the results; it is a well recommended model of a very rare subject.

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Ode to 1/72

Braille scale has a lot going for it. I used to be a “1/35 only” person, but my circumstances gently pushed me towards the 1/72 scale. Namely I started my PhD in the UK, and had to move into a small room. Gone are the generously sized walk-in closets of the USA. This obviously impacted my hobby: no space to store my tools, my stash and my finished models. The other reason was the recent development in the quality of 1/72 models. Back in the days they were mostly toy-like models; the detail and the quality did not match the detail and quality of larger scale models. Well, not any more. Now we have really high-tech plastic models in this scale (with a subsequent increase in price I might add), and I also discovered the joys of resin models.

Here are some positives of the 1/72 models:

Braille takes shorter to finish, takes up less space (imagine a 1/35 T29). There are a lot of conversions, or full resin kits you could not get in 1/35. (Paper panzers, rare vehicles, conversions.) If you check my Sd.Kfz.251 series on the blog, it would have taken me years to finish all the variants I wanted to build. (Not to mention the collection would require a lot of shelf-space to house.) Since I’m short of both time and space, Braille offers a great compromise.

One thing to keep in mind is that normally Braille kits normally don’t have smaller, more fiddly parts than the “pro” 1/35 kits; they are not scaled down 1/35 kits. (Well, mostly. Flyhawk is getting there with their tanks.) I mean I break out in cold sweat every time I see a workable tool hinge in 1/35, yet generally I’m fine with the 1/72 scale. Companies in both cases like to get as much out of the injection moulding technology as possible, but the limits of technology don’t change depending on the scale. If anything most 1/72 kits are quicker and easier to build (due to having less parts normally, although the older 1/35 kits do seem simplified compared to the new 1/72 ones).

The detail is also pretty astonishing, most of the time. The “premium” plastic makers like DML or Flyhawk have excellent 1/72 kits (I would suggest you take a look at their pnzIIJ), and some (but not all) of the resin companies produce incredibly detailed kits as well. Some of these kits have more details than a lot of 1/35 ones. (Older Tamiyas, Italeris, and some Hobby Boss models, like the Toldi I come to mind as the ugly ducklings of the 1/35 world.)

To sum up: 1/72 has become high-tech similarly to the 1/35 scale.

I lately went back to 1/35 –mostly for writing reviews and to finish my stash I collected back in the US. I have a ton of kits with resin interiors and whatnot I really want to build; but in general I’m really happy working in 1/72 for most of the “not-so-important” projects. Let me give you an example: I have an OKB Object 279 waiting to be built. It’s a very expensive resin kit in 1/72 –you could buy the 1/35 plastic ones for the same price (or even cheaper). Yet the large ones would need to find space, they would take up more time than I would like to spend on building (it’s a delightfully weird tank, but I’d rather work on my T-55 with full interior for months if I have the choice), so I went with the small scale version. Another example would be Armada Hobby. They offer some really cool engineering vehicles based on the T-55. If I wanted to build all those, it would take forever, and would cost a LOT –even if I could find conversions available. This way I can just get them off the shelf, and build them in a couple of weeks/months, and have enough money to finance my wedding. (I’m serious here; some resin conversions can cost up to £150; a couple of those and you’re at the thousand pounds regions already.)

So this is my pitch: whatever you want to sink a lot of hours and money into, you go with 1/35. If you just want to build a cool tank (or multiple versions of the same vehicle), go with 1/72. It’s definitely worth it.

Hunor Models 1/72 Csaba armored car – command version

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The 39.M Csaba was the standard armored scout car used by the Royal Hungarian Army during WWII. Some 39.M’s were used by the police force as well, but the main users of the vehicle were the reconnaissance units of the Army.

The Peace Treaties after WWI prohibited Hungary to possess any type of armored vehicles. This was the reason that the design and development of such vehicles only started in the ’30s. The story of the 39.M started with an automotive engineer, Miklos Straussler, and the Weisz Manfred Factory in Budapest. Straussler was an expat, who moved to England in the interwar period, and designed amphibious and off-road vehicles. Probably his most known designs were the flotation system for the DD tanks used by Allied forces during the war and the Alvis Straussler Bomb Trolley. He set up collaboration with the Weisz Manfred factory to produce armored cars and other designs for his home country.

The first armored car prototype –named AC1- was built in 1932 by Weisz using Straussler’s plans. This was followed by the AC2 in 1935. They enjoyed a modest export success, as the British Army ordered 53 AC2 chasses from Weisz Manfred. The engine, weapons, transmission and armor was supplied by the freshly formed joint Alvis-Straussler company in England. The “39.M Csaba felderito pancelkocsi” (reconnaissance armored car, named after the son of Attila the Hun) was developed from the AC2 in Hungary. It was a modern design and a very successful vehicle. The sloped body was riveted using 9mm armor plates. The powerplant was an 8 cylinder German-made Ford engine which gave it a maximum speed of 65 km/hrs. The transmission had 5 gears in both forward and reverse. All four wheels were driven, and the car had two driving positions as in most contemporary designs. It had an excellent off-road performance, but the complex driving arrangement made maintenance difficult, and due to the fuel capacity the range was somewhat limited (150km). It was armed with a 20mm 36M cannon and a 34/37A M 8mm MG in a rotating turret, giving it a respectable firepower. All vehicles were supplied with an R-4T radio, and had a crew of 3 (gunner, driver, radio operator/driver).

After the successful trials in 1939 the Army ordered 41 vehicles first, which was followed by subsequent orders. Altogether 135 39.Ms were built of which 30 was a special command version, the 40.M Csaba. This vehicle had extra R/4 and R/5 radios and a large pneumatic lattice radio mast installed, while the armament was removed.

The Csaba was used throughout the war; unfortunately no example survived.

 

 

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The model comes in the usual Hunor box: sturdy, flat cardboard (it found a new life as a toolbox). The box art is a very nice picture of the vehicle; it mistakenly says 39M (should say 40M, the command version). The parts are in ziplock bags, protected by packing peanuts. There are only 20 resin parts, a small and delicate photoetched fret, and the decal sheet produced by HAD. (My review sample did not contain the decals, so I used the Bison Decals offering of Hungarian tanks; it offers a number of options for most armored vehicles used by the Hungarian Army; in fact I was hard pressed to decide which one I want to use.)

The instructions are quite basic. Most of the time it is not a problem as the model is easy to assemble, but there are some areas where references will come invaluable. The pneumatic arms raising the radio mast, and the lifting hooks on the body need to be made by the modeler, and not much reference is given.

The parts are molded in cream colored resin; the pouring blocks are smartly placed, and easy to remove (with the exception of the turret where you have to saw through the whole base, which is not a design flaw, but a necessity of the molding process). The quality of the resin is very good: I did not find any casting imperfections. The model measures up to scale drawings nicely; the rivets and the armored panels are at the right place, and more importantly, right size. (In small scale models rivets tend to be exaggerated, giving the models a very characteristic Warhammer 40k look.) The included PE fret carries the radio mast and a few small parts for the model. It is very fine and delicate; care must be taken not to break the metal.

 

 

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The construction is quite straightforward and simple; it took me about two hours total. As I mentioned the only part I was worried about was the fabrication of the pneumatic arms, but it was surprisingly easy to make them from Evergreen plastics. I used slow drying superglue to fix the radio mast and the arms, which gave me time enough to position them correctly. The lifting hooks I made are a bit oversized and placed too close to the arms –they should be a bit further up.

The camouflage I chose was a pre and early-war three-color one with big, colorful markings from Bison. I used a paintbrush, as I still had no access to my airbrush when I built this vehicle. (Later in the war a much more subdued overall green or gray color was adopted; perhaps later I’ll build a 39.M in those colors.) Weathering was done using pigments mostly.

All in all, it’s a cool little model, and the antenna makes it look very unique.

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References:
The Magyar Steel, Modell & Makett kulonszam, online photos and the-blueprints.com website.

Sd.Kfz.251 bonanza part 2. The AAA section

Just to recap from part one – I developed an immense (or unhealthy, depending on your point of view) fascination with the different versions and variations of the sd.kfz. 251 halftrack series at one point in my life. (Others do coke; I think I was still better off, although the costs were probably the same.)

I realized a lot of these models were available as conversions in 1/72, and the scale also offered one thing the 1/35 scale can never do: a reasonable time-frame of building. Imagine completing 10-13 models of the same type, putting together the same modules, gluing the same individual tracks, and you’ll have a decent image of a scale modeller’s hell. (At least my hell.) A disclaimer (again): unfortunately I had no airbrush at the time; and my skills with brushes are not as good as the airbrushing skills (which are, in turn, not very high either). So view the results with this in mind, please. (I also need to mention -again- that I used DML’s 1/72 251 model – I can only recommend this kit to anyone. It’s accurate, easy to build, the details are perfect, and it’s ideal for conversions.)

So to today’s topic: AAA vehicles. Funnily enough the Germans did not manage to stick an 8.8 onto this platform; the chassis was simply not strong enough. (I did build a lot of 8.8 based vehicles; most of them are on this blog, and some will be featured as soon as they are finished.)

That leaves us with the smaller caliber guns. Since Allied air superiority was an issue at later stages of the war, many different vehicles were converted into anti-aircraft gun platform. Some of these vehicles were purpose built, based on a chassis of an usually outdated vehicle, and a lot of them were converted ad hoc. There were even kits delivered to divisions which helped the workshops to do the conversion in the field. The success rate of these vehicles are dubious – for obvious reasons they quickly became the targets of ground attack aircraft, and they were not as heavily armored as the tanks they were protecting.

Sd.Kfz. 251/17

This version was equipped with a pretty cool looking gun with a small, triangular gunshield, which can be used against low flying airplanes or infantry for that matter. ModellTrans offers a neat little conversion set with turned barrel, and I have to admit it’s pretty nice. The attachment of the shield is a bit difficult, and you’ll have to add some styrene rods to the build yourself, but that’s just part of the world of resin conversions. (The moulding is pretty impressive; they managed to mould the handgrabs onto the shield.) More important issue, though, is that only one ammo storage rack is provided. I wrote a review about this conversion on armorama, so if you want to know more about the kit itself, you can read more about it.

There are instructions provided, which was a welcome change.

You literally just drop the gun into the hull, and you’re done with the conversion. No surgery, no major modification required.

Painted and weathered… (It was a learning curve how to weather 1/72 kits. Funnily enough it looks pretty good by eye; the camera has this tendency to expose the problems in a very brutally honest manner.)

Next stop: the Sd.Kfz.251/21 Drilling


To introduce this version I’d like to quote the review of this conversion.

As war progressed, aircraft needed a bigger punch. The Luftwaffe adopted heavier 3 cm cannons instead of the various 1.5-2 cm guns they have been using before, so there was a large surplus of the excellent Mauser MG151/15 and 20 cannons (15 and 20 mm respectively). Not to let the guns go to waste, the Kriegsmarine constructed a simple triple gun mount called Flak Drilling Sockellafette. This gun mount was adapted for the Sd.Kfz.251 to provide an anti-aircraft platform. They were available as kits for the troops to make this conversion possible on the field as I mentioned in the introduction. All benches were removed from the vehicle, and additional armor plates were installed around the sides. The mount itself was simply bolted onto the floor of the passenger compartment. Two ammo chests were placed in the back with a total capacity of 3000 rounds/vehicle.

The gun mount was a full rotating pedestal with a cradle assembly which housed three MG151s. They were mounted slightly offset to the right side to allow clearance for the ammunition belts and feed chutes. The shells and belt links were collected inside the pedestal. The guns were fed from three ammunition boxes attached to the pedestal itself. The center box was larger than the two others, containing 400 rounds in mixed HE, AP and tracer rounds. The two side boxes contained 250 rounds each. This arrangement was necessary as the middle gun was considerably more difficult to reload.

The gunner was sitting on a metal seat suspended at the rear of the gun, and operated the whole mount manually. The triggers were placed on the two handgrips. Early versions had reflector type gun sights, while the late ones used speed ring sights. (The armor shield and cradle assembly was different as well in these versions.)

The CMK conversion set is typical of the company: it’s professional, well designed, easy to assemble, but somewhat sparse on the details, and contains inaccuracies. (The review lists the issues I could find with the set.) The most important issue concerns the gun barrels. They are made of resin, and quite chunky. I’ve seen amazingly accurate resin barrels for the Modelltrans Luchs, so convincing 2cm guns can be produced using resin, but these ones really look like a couple of broom handles. This is when you buy an aftermarket set for your aftermarket set -a couple of metal barrels. The other problem is that the gun sits too low on its pedestal; the whole assembly should be much more higher to clear the sides of the vehicle. I’ve lifted it up considerably once I realized that it would sink under the sides. (The shields are way too wide as well, but this is not as noticeable.)

Sd.Kfz.251/17 mit 2 cm Flak 38 Luftwaffe Ausführung


This was a purpose-built anti-aircraft platform for the Luftwaffe’s armored forces. (I know. Why they needed tanks is everyone’s guess. Goering wanted some cool stuff, too, and that was the end of the story. I think the world can thank a lot to the ineptitude and stupidity of the leaders of the Third Reich… looking at the success of the Mongols it’s a scary thought what would have happened if the German war machine was lead by competent leaders.) Anyway, back to the model. The whole crew compartment was radically altered to accomodate the 2cm Flak gun and the fold-down sides. All in all, it looks quite wicked I think.
ModellTrans offers a full kit of this vehicle. There are some issues with the kit: some moulding imperfection (which are to be expected), some accuracy issues (please read the review for more information), but the main problem is with the chassis itself: it’s different from the basic model. The bottom of the chassis is much more narrow than the original 251’s. I think it’s safe to say that it’s a problem with the model, and not a design feature in the original half-track, however it is an issue which you will not notice once the model is complete. The shields are very thin, and quite delicate -a very impressive feat in resin-making. As usual, instructions are somewhat sparse- they only cover the gun’s assembly. Using photos, however, it should not be a problem to build the rest of the model. (Of all the missing details I really think they should have included the rifle-rack on the mudguards, though. I’m planning to add it at a later time.)

So here they go. The three AAA vehicles in the display case. Since I’m moving about a lot, and don’t have a stable base of operation, I’m fixing my models in display cases -easy to store, easy to transport. It also protects them from accidental damage and dust.

Sd.Kfz.251 bonanza part 1. The Beginings

Well, here we go. When in 2009 I took up a PhD position in the UK, I was forced to mothball all my fancy model building equipment, my airbrush, and live my first year off in undergrad housing.

That meant little space and brushes, so 1/72 here I came. I wanted to keep building models, especially that the local toy store had an amazing array of models, paints, aftermarket, and tools… the first proper model shop I’ve seen in a long time. (I’ve discovered ModelZone later, but it since did go out of business; regardless, Langley’s is still the best there is.)

After the first couple of random models I’ve built I realized that the sd.kfz.251 has an incredible number of conversion sets for 1/72. I started to collect the DML 3 in 1 kits previously, but let’s face it: it takes an awful lot of time to build a 1/35 kit. If you want to build several versions of the same vehicle, it means a lot of repetitive steps and assembly of identical parts. I started to order the conversion sets one after another, and kept buying the 1/72 DML 251s from Ebay. Interestingly they cost just as much as the ESCI/Hasegawa/Revell offerings, but they are infinitely better, not to mention easier to convert, as the floor does not have any holes or ridges to help position the seats molded on. It also has the proper no-slip surface.

So a pro advice for you: if you want to convert 251s in 1/72 scale, use the DML kits. I managed to buy a ton of identical 251s from China on Ebay for quite a low price. (Does anyone know what I could do with 5 sets of Wurfrahmen rockets?)

I’ve also realized that the Sd.Kfz.251 Ausf. A and B versions are actually different from the more known C and D versions, and the only available, accurate model is in 1/72 scale – by ModellTrans.

So- to the builds!

(This is how my room looked like at one point in the first year I’ve spent in the UK.)

This little exercise taught me to appreciate the airbrush. I did develop some skills in basic brushwork, but I have to admit, it’s not my strength. It was also a great practice in weathering small scale models. (The camera is brutal; the models do look better in real life. Somehow the brain is more forgiving than the lens of the Cannon I use.)

Sd.Kfz.251 Ausf A

I’ve decided to build the Ausf A version, since the B was not very prominent, and did not differ considerably from the A. I’ll quote myself from the armorama review I’ve written about the model.

The development started on the basis of the sd.kfz.11 halftrack. A ballistically shaped armored superstructure was built on the chassis of the vehicle, creating an armored personnel carrier capable of transporting ten troops, a driver and a commander. The ausf. A, and the interim ausf. B, were considerably different from the much more widely known ausf C and D models. The nose was made of two armor plates with a ventilating flap in the middle; two other flaps were located on the sides of the engine compartment. Later cowls were added over the cooling flaps on the ausf. B. The air intake for the radiator was located under a grille on the engine deck in front of the large double hatch. This version was equipped with a bumper, which was not present on the ausf C/D vehicles. The turning indicators were placed right in front of the front vision blocks; later, in the ausf C., they were moved lower, just above the front mudguards. The armor was mostly welded with a few places where rivets were used (the hinges on the back doors, for example).There were three vision blocks on each side of the half-track: one for the driver or commander, and two for the passengers (these last two were removed in the ausf B).

There were two MG34s mounted on the vehicle’s front and back in unprotected mounts. They were later retrofitted with armored shields, and fixed pivot mounts which increased protection and accuracy; it’s not uncommon to see photos of early 251 ausf A’s with sandbags around the front MG mount. The toolboxes were located on the middle of the fenders; most of the larger tools were fixed to the sides of the passenger compartment.

The interior of the vehicle was also very different from the ausf C/D versions. The seats for the driver and commander were much more simple constructions, with padded cushions and separate backrest with simple support frames. The 251 was equipped with the standard Funksprechgerat F radio. It was placed on the side-wall, just behind the commander in the ausf A version, making its operation a bit difficult, as he had to turn back and sideways to access it. In the ausf B version it was moved to its final position, in front of the commander. (There was a medical kit in the ausf A version in this position.) The aerial of the radio was originally on the right front mudguard, and this also was moved on the ausf. B to the right side of the passenger compartment. The benches in the passenger compartment were also much simpler, and the backrests were placed directly against the armored superstructure; there were no stowage bins installed (the presence of the side vision ports would have made them impossible to install). These were added in the ausf. C version. There were brackets on the walls of the passenger compartment for attaching the two MG34s, spare barrels, Kar98 rifles and other equipment.

As you can see there’s a lot in the box; some of the parts are quite astonishing, in fact. (The main hull is an especially impressive feat of engineering.) You do get a lot of things, but one thing you don’t get is instructions. Since this was my first full resin model, I was quite worried that I got a defective kit. Regardless, with some planning and research, it’s pretty easy to figure out what goes where. There were some bubbles and casting imperfections, though. Some of them were not easy to fix, so I left them like that, rather than risking damage to the details.

The tracks are given as an already assembled unit, which made assembly easier.

The finished product. (I borrowed a machine gun from one of the DML kits, and used an aftermarket set for personal belongings that were hang onto the sides.) I really wish I had an airbrush; that’s all I can say…

Other versions:

DML Sd.Kfz. 251/7 Ausf D. w 2.8cm sPzB 41 gunThe sPzB 41 was a squeeze bore AT gun– relatively small with a big punch. Comes with an Sd.Kfz 251 halftrack and a pair of pioneer bridges for a limited time only. The kit is excellent quality, and the gun itself is brilliant.

But if we’re talking about AT guns, then we cannot go wrong with a PaK 40, can we?

Well, more to come soon 🙂

Armada Hobby: MAZ 537G late

Yeah… this one is a BIG truck. Eight wheels and all. Designed to work in mud, frost, quite possibly under the sea as well… One of the coolest looking truck I’ve ever seen -although this is highly subjective, of course. Others might like the angular shapes of the Western-made trucks. They are wrong, of course, but who am I to judge? To me it looks like it has character – like something out of a hauler version of Thomas the Tank Engine. Ivan the Eight Wheeler, perhaps? (Apologies for the bad joke.)

The model is made by Armada, and I have to say, it’s one of the best 1/72 resin model (possibly one of the best 1/72 in any medium) I’ve ever seen. The instructions are clear (which is something of a novelty when it comes to resin models from any model maker), the parts are well-cast, delicate and well-detailed.

Assembly is straightforward. The wheel hubs fit into the suspension parts like a glove – very well designed parts. I had my worries when I saw how they are supposed to be put together, as I have some experience with resin kits, but I was pleasantly surprised.

The cab is dressed up by the PE quite nicely. The mudguards are well-done, but are made of two segments, which make the assembly a bit awkward. This is only the first part attached. The second one is an overhang, which has to be attached to the front parts, and to the chassis using PE brackets at the same time. This makes alignment really difficult.

I really am sorry that the engine compartment is closed… An engine would have been an amazing addition to this kit.

Dryfitting. The cab and the superstructure behind it are only placed onto the chassis to check the fit. They were only glued on after the painting process was complete.

The cockpit is painted (it’s not very detailed, but not much can be seen through the windows), the cab is closed, all is glued on. The second part of the mudguards finally fixed onto the model… it was probably the most difficult part of the built. First layer of paint. Not very convincing.

I tried to mix that brownish color the Hungarian vehicles were painted in, instead of the typical T-34 Russian green color, which was the first attempt.

I have to say, after some trial and error, the mixture looks good. You can also see the brackets holding the second parts of the mudguards.

Another view.

All glued on, wheels added. The back ones are not completely aligned. I think the wheel hubs should be glued on with the wheels already on; this would make the alignment easier.

The windscreen was cut out from the provided transparent sheet, and all the tiny PE added. I printed out some decals using an ink-jet printer. I wanted to depict a Hungarian vehicle, with relatively little wear and tear. (Not many muddy roads to go around.) I mounted the model onto the base of an old car-display case; I will have to work on the surface a bit more.

As an ex-soldier friend immediately pointed out the license plate is wrong; the military uses their own numbering systems. Oh well.

I really was worried about this build, and kept putting it off; the number of parts, the complexity, and the worries about accuracy made me anxious to start it. But the thing is, this was the best braille model I’ve ever built. I think. I certainly enjoyed building it the most.

Roden 1/72 Sd.kfz 4/1 72 Panzerwerfer with Armory PE

I always liked halftracks -especially the Germans built ones. They look angular, somewhat futuristic, and they have been built in an incredible number of versions. (Especially the 251 series; more on that in a later post…)

Anyhow, the Sd.kfz. 4.1 is essentially a modified Mercedes-Benz truck that has been armored, and fitted with a 15 cm Panzerwerfer 42 rocket launcher by Opel. The armor was enough to protect the crew from small-arms fire, and the halftrack gave mobility to the rocket-launcher platform. The issue with rocket launchers was that they were relatively short-ranged area saturation weapons, that leave tell-tale trails, so counter-battery is relatively easy. So after you fired, you’d better get out of dodge FAST, because you can bet that the enemy will throw everything at you the second they recover from your rockets. This is the reason for mounting the Katyusha rockets onto trucks, by the way. Nobody wanted to stick around after the first salvo, so due to its low mobility the German version was not the most effective.

The problem of mobility lead to the Germans creating their own mobile rocket launcher platforms. They used the Sd.kfz 251 halftrack to mount the Wurfrahmen 40 rocket system. This was known as the badassly named Stuka-zu-Fuss (Stuka on foot), and also as the less-than-flatteringly named Bellowing Cow… In any way, the problem with this weapon system was that you could not stay in the vehicle while firing for obvious reasons. (Just imagine what the blast of 6 successive rocket launches would cause less than a meter from you, and you’ll see why.) They also used captured tanks and tracked vehicles to stick rocket launching platforms onto them, but these were mostly ad-hoc, field modified solutions to the problem.

The Sd.Kfz 4.1 on the other hand had no such issues. It stored the rockets in the crew compartment, so reloading was fast; and it was protected enough so the crew did not have to disembark from the vehicle before launch. All in all, it was a relatively successful weapon platform.

Roden has issued an excellent 1/72 scale version of this vehicle, but to be absolutely honest, the kit will only shine, if you invest in the Armory PE sets as well. You will absolutely need the exterior detail set, the tracks, and if you feel adventurous, the interior as well. (This is not strictly necessary, as most of it will be hidden, anyway.)

There are some issues with the base kit: the tracks are short (kind of a big problem), and they don’t look very nice, either. The details are soft: the edges of the vehicle are not sharp enough. When you compare the razor-sharp edges of the PE replacements for the fenders, the armored plates in front of the radiator, the storage boxes, etc, with the plastic parts, you’ll be happy you got the extra metal. Other than that the running gear is a bit finiky, and VERY easy to break the delicate parts.

So to the build.

Interior: really cool. I did not use many of the PE parts, simply because you will not be able to see them. There’s no point in adding the pedals, the excellent instrument panel, and the mechanisms lifting the armored panels covering the viewing slots. (OK, these come very handy if you depict the vehicle with open viewing slots, and if -unlike me- you don’t mess them up.) I installed the back of the seats, the no-slip flooring, and some smaller titbits in the engine compartment. (You get a really detailed engine, which you can superdetail as much as your little heart desires; I did not go crazy with it, though. I added some wires to the engine compartment’s firewall, and that’s about it; most of it will not be visible even if you open the engine hatches, anyway. I forgot to take photos of the finished engine compartment before closing it up, unfortunately.)

You have to admit, it looks cool with all the shiny brass.

Once I have finished with the interior (painting and weathering included), it was time to close it up, and move onto the exterior.

This is where the PE additions shine best (weak pun intended). The storage boxes, fenders, mudguards, steps; they all enhance the model significantly.

After fitting, and sanding, and fitting and sanding, the model has gotten it’s first layer of paint: black. I’ve used Citadel’s black primer spray can.

The second layer was the German Dunkelgelb. This is where the purists will crucify me, but the fact is I don’t adhere to the “sacred color charts”. While the paint was relatively standardized, true, there are many factors that would influence the final color of the vehicle. The Sun will fade it, the scale effect will make it appear lighter, and somewhat bluer; not to mention dust, wear and tear will all modify the original color. Having said that, since I planned to add a worn whitewash, it does not really make any difference, anyway.

After the yellow base color, I wanted to try something. The most popular method of simulating worn whitewash, is to use the hairspray technique: put a player of hairspray between the base color and the white, and once the white paint is dry, you can use a wet swab or brush to dissolve the hairspray. This way you can remove parts of the white paint, as if it was worn off.

Whitewash originally was either white paint (surprisingly), or more often than not, lime smeared onto the vehicle using mops and rags -so the coverage was not perfect to begin with. The whitewash was further worn off by the crew climbing all over the vehicle, by the elements (wind, snow, meltwater), etc; so by the end of Winter, if the vehicle survived that long, the white layer was usually all but worn off.

I wanted to try something other than hairspray as I did not have any of the stuff around. I did, however, had a water soluble varnish for oil paintings by Windsor. This is a thick solution, drys relatively fast, and can be redissolved with water -just the thing you need. I covered the model with the varnish, and after drying I painted Vajello’s white primer on with a flat brush. (Quickly,  and using a relatively thick paint, so that the water in the paint does not dissolve the varnish.) Surprisingly it worked. Using wet swabs I was able to create the worn, washed off look I was looking for.

thinly diluted white pigments were used to “tie” the surfaces together; this takes the contrast of the yellow and white away, and blends everything together.

Different colored pigments were applied to the lower chassis and the mudguards using a wet brush both by dabbing and by flicking (simulating the mud-spatters) -and the weathering was essentially done.

And finally, the tracks.

The rubber bands you get from Roden are not very good. They are short, for one. The running gear, as I mentioned, is very delicate; any kind of tension would break the plastic parts. This means you need the PE set. Any PnzI tracks would do, actually, as this vehicle used the same tracks as the Panzer I, but I stuck with Armory’s set. (This is a rare case of common sense in the German armed forces, looking at the incredible number of different vehicles they have been using. Support must have been a true logistical nightmare.)

Armory’s tracks are brilliant. They have two parts; all you need to do is to fold up the interior part (the guide teeth), and carefully glue it to the track’s exterior part. A PE folding tool comes handy (as with the other parts of the assembly), but the folding can be done using two razor blades as well: one holds down the part, the other is used to fold it carefully.

It is made of metal, so it was easy to position it, and to simulate the typical “drop” non-live tracks have on the top of the road wheels. Even without the issues of length, the rubber bands given as tracks will never be able to give convincing results like these. This was my first experience with PE tracks; I think I’m sold on the idea.

(I have to take some photos of the vehicle with the tracks on… keep tuned.)

So there it is. A brilliant little kit, made even better by aftermarket PE. I have to say considering my skills in photoetched parts, these can be recommended to people who are not professionals. With some basic skills and patience, it it possible to achieve decent results.