Category Archives: 1/72 tank destroyers

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.

Churchill GC (1/72 Modelltrans conversion)

 

 

I’ve learned about this tank the first time when it was introduced into the online game World of Tanks, where it acquired somewhat of a hipster tank reputation. (It was so underperforming that certain people felt compelled to play it…) The looks sold this vehicle for me: it definitely looks unique. (Too bad about the in-game stats…)

It’s really difficult to find much information about this tank destroyer online. About fifty Churchill tanks were converted into tank destroyer roles (the numbers vary between 24 and 50) between 1941-’42. The increase of firepower in case of the Churchill was always problematic as the turret was too small to significantly upgrade the gun it can house. The largest guns they could fit was the widely used 6 pounder, and the 75mm gun derived from it. By going the usual tank destroyer way, the tank has lost its turret, but received a larger, more effective gun in return. The 3 inch anti-aircraft gun was housed in a thick boxy superstructure (frontal thickness 3.5inch) using a ball mount. Not one of these conversions saw combat, and were used later on for target practice… as you can see it on the example remaining in Bovingdon.(A shame, really. It would be nice to see this tank restored.)

 

 

 

 

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The Conversion

The conversion comes in a ModellTrans blister pack as usual, which is quite an effective way to protect the parts from damage. Quality of resin is good, so the cleanup is relatively straightforward. The detail is also very nice for this scale. We get a new upper chassis for the Churchill, the boxy superstructure, the gun, and two tool boxes.

One issue with the kit is the track covers. Modelltrans has included the blast covers at each ends; they were only fitted to turreted tanks to protect the covers when the main gun was fired. The reason is probably simple: Modelltrans simply used a mould of an existing upper hull section without any alterations.

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(Just ignore the T18. That’s the topic of the next post.)

The conversion is really easy. It is designed for the DML kits, so I’m not sure if it fits the Airfix, Hasegawa or Italeri offerings, but knowing their quality in comparison to the DML one, it’s probably better to use the DML kit anyway. The resin upper chassis fits very well onto the Churchill model; it can actually be snapped into place. The superstructure’s fit is also quite good, although there were some gaps where putty had to be used. Overall there are no real issues with assembly at all. The conversion essentially builds itself if you shake the box hard enough… One detail is missing: the vertical tubes next to the boxes mounted onto the superstructure. These should not be very difficult to scratchbuild, but I still would have preferred to get them.

 

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The painting went the usual way: black primer spray was followed by a dark green colour. I tried to get it as close as possible to the dark green #24 used by the British forces, but I also needed to lighten it to take the scale effect in account, and to pre-plan for the subsequent weathering steps.

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Highlights were added using the usual Citadel snot green colour… 🙂 (I love their names; bestial brown and vomit brown especially.) I’m always worried these will stand out, but by the end of weathering they usually blend in quite well.

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Weathering went relatively fast. I started with the usual filters -both pre-diluted, and the oil paint-dot methods-, but then wanted to try something quick and fast. I have bought a couple of those Tamiya make-up kits (weathering products that look like a compact make-up kit for women), and tried the sand, light sand and mud colours as filters. If you use light sand and sand in a very thin, irregular layer, it looks like armour discolouration and dust accumulation; a pretty convincing effect when you think about how you achieve it. (By petting your model with a small sponge, essentially.)

These colours went on thicker on the lower chassis to simulate dirt; gunmetal was added to the edges, and the tracks with the same method. I have to say, the results were quite satisfactory, and more importantly: easy.

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Since finally I have bought a new camera (a Nikon D3300), I was playing a little with the aperture settings, and how they affect the field of depth. The difference between large and small aperture is pretty apparent. (Not strictly relevant to our, but an interesting comparison.)

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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 🙂