So now I have finished building all four offerings: Armory, Flyhawk, Maco and Modelltrans; it’s time to take a stock of what I’ve learned. I would not really go into accuracy, as I could not find any books on the Luchs; all kits differ slightly from each other with respect to location of the exhaust, tools, tool boxes, Jerry cans, and so on. As I could not find the time and resources to get to the bottom of these differences I merely comment on the models themselves.
The Modelltrans kit is an old resin model of the Luchs; it’s a bit undersized, has very few parts, good detail, and has some issues with bubbles in the resin- in other words, your average garage company resin model. It’s fast to build, but it’s quite expensive for what it is; plastic models will always be better priced. It builds into a respectable depiction of the Luchs, but it’s kind of “rough on the edges”, and does not come with the aerials.
Hands down, the Flyhawk kit is the most detailed and the most complex model of the four; it’s essentially a miniature 1/35 model. This, of course, comes with a price: it’s also the most difficult to assemble. The crow’s feet antenna is not very convincing; the PE offered by Armory is a much better representation. (But this is the only one that comes with width indicator rods.)
Armory’s plastic Luchs is a new kid on the block; the company only recently started to make its way into the plastic scale model market. The plastic base is somewhat basic, and the engineering is not the best; however once you get through the filling and sanding, and add all the PE, you will have a very nice, detailed model in your hands. It does require experience building models and using PE- it’s not one of those “shake the box, and the built model falls out” type of kits. However, the results are worth the effort.
Maco’s offerings are the exact opposite of the Flyhawk models: they are very well engineered and very simple models to build – in other words, they are one of those “shake the box” models. The details are still pretty good, and Maco offers a good alternative if you want to build more than one tank quickly, or if you’re still new at building 1/72 models. (Or just want to have a quick weekend project.) One thing that I need to mention is that the shape of the turret seems to be somewhat off, and you’ve got my bane of small scale models: the moulded-on tools. On the other hand you get some beautiful metal gun barrels and antennae.
All in all, the plastic offerings have things going for them; choosing one really depends on your preferences and your purpose. How much challenge do you want to face? While the Flyhawk kits can be adjusted in difficulty using the alternative options (PE vs plastic vs molded-on detail), a lot of the tiny parts cannot be avoided. The Flyhawk offerings are definitely not for beginners. It also takes considerably longer to build. Another aspect to decide is: how much the lack of PE matters for you? The details on the engine deck grille are good enough in plastic on the Maco kit, and in this scale there is an argument that it does not make much difference. (Talking about PE: only the Armory kit has the wire mesh protecting the engine grilles.) You might also want to have a metal barrel; this is not an option in the Flyhawk line of Luchs’, but you get them in the Maco kits… and so on and so forth. I’ve tried to showcase the strengths and weaknesses of all four models; it really depends on the individual builder which one he or she wants to choose.
I’ve known about Milicast since, well, forever. (Or at least as far as 2005.) I remember finding their website, and looking at the wide selection of interesting models thinking I’d never be able to afford the prices and the shipping to the US.
Well, this has changed; I moved to the UK, and I do have a slightly better salary (which is balanced by living in London…). Anyhow, I’ve ordered the Bergepanther as something I always wanted to try from them. (They even have an M3 Lee with interior. In 1/76.)
I’ve written about the model and the issues I encountered during the assembly in my review on Armorama; if you’re interested, I’d refer you to there. Here let’s concentrate on the assembly and the photos…
The complete hull is given as one, hollow part. It has all the running gear, tracks already attached; the middle is empty, where the interior (driver’s compartment, winch assembly) needs to be placed from under. There was a considerable gap left between the sides of the hull and the interior insert. Also, another issue was that the bottom of this part needed to be trimmed so that it did not stick out from under the vehicle.
The basic assembly is actually quite easy and fast. I went around the building and painting steps in an unorthodox sequence: first assembled, painted and weathered the hull, then added the interior.
Most of the winch assembly is a single piece, with some impressive detail; it’s a shame most of it is hidden once the tank is completed.
I added most of the larger details to the hull (with some of the more fragile ones left out), and did the painting and weathering. The tank was primed with red-oxide, sealed with dullcote, and applied a chipping medium by AK Interactive. I used Mig Ammo’s Dunkelgelb, and did a moderate amount of chipping using a stiff, wet brush. Since engineering vehicles undergo some serious strain, and they also tend to last longer than front line tanks, I was not worried about overdoing the effect. (This is a constant dilemma of mine; real tanks are not as rusty and worn as we depict them; absolute realism, however would make quite boring paintjobs.)
Once I was satisfied with the level of wear-and-tear, I sealed the paint, and followed with several brown filters. I also used Vallejo’s oil stain weathering product on the engine deck, and several light brown pigments on the sides and top to depict dust. The lower part of the hull and the running gear received a generous amount of mud (prepared from pigments mixed with turpentine) in several layers and colors; the last step was to rub some metallic pigments onto the tip of the dozer blade/spade. Since this is an engineering vehicle I wanted to make it properly dirty and oily. (The small scale makes it easy to overdo, though.)
Only after all the weathering was done did I glue the interior in, and chipped the bottom away a bit with a scalpel so that it did not stick out from under the tank. (It was quite thick, and could be easily seen if viewed from the front or back.)
I think completing the hull before installing the interior and small, fragile parts worked out overall, but I did run into some difficulties of my own making. It was also a bit more tedious to add the exhaust ports after the dozer blade/spade was installed, for example, and I already mentioned the gap issues, so plan ahead with the build. It would probably be easier to glue the insert in, fill the gaps, paint, and then start weathering of the interior, followed by the painting and weathering of the hull.
Once most everything was finished, I continued with the raised frame and wooden planks around the winch assembly. Since most of the engineering vehicles were converted from broken down Panthers, I used primer red on the metal parts- this particular Bergepanther was not given an overall paint coat after assembly. To decrease the stark contrast between the red of the metal and the rest of the tank I’ve used Tamiya’s Model Master set (the one that looks like a makeup set) to add different dust and sand colored pigments; this is a quick and easy way to do weathering. The wooden sidewalls were painted Tamiya deck tan, and I used burned umber oil washes to make it look like wood- the texture is really nicely done. There are wooden planks covering the interior provided as well. I did not use them, as I wanted to display the winch; you may cut it up into separate planks, and just scatter them around the vehicle. There is also an optional armor plate/raincover (?) for the crew compartment but I also left it off.
One word of warning: when installing the frame around the winch, make sure that the side with the hole is facing backwards; this is where the cable from the winch goes through.
I have done most of the detail painting and weathering steps at this stage, leaving the fragile parts off until the last moment. The MG-34, the 2cm autocannon and the crane was added on the very last step.
The crane went together easier than I expected. I was prepared to display it folded up, and call it a day, to be honest. I was pleasantly surprised how easy the assembly was. The only bit I’m not satisfied with -which is my fault- is the slight angle the top chain has in the middle -obviously it should be ramrod-straight. If there is a small weight on the hook, the tension straightens it out, so I might actually find something to hang on it to make it look a bit more realistic. I assembled the crane in situ (in place), but it might be a better way to assemble vertical parts (two rods and the connecting chain forming a triangle) separately, laying flat on a surface first. There is a similar problem with the section of chain with the hook at the end: the resin hook is not heavy enough to pull the chain down. (I have a Revell Famo engine in my spares box; I’m thinking about installing it to deal with both of these issues.)
As the very last step I glued the wooden beam to the side of the tank (which I have forgotten about to be absolutely honest until I reviewed the photos).
Overall the kit was not as difficult to build as I thought it would be after looking at the instructions. It is a pretty good representation of the Bergepanther, and you can customize it to resemble several different variants easily. The scale is somewhat archaic (not many new 1/76 kits are being made as 1/72 has seem to have won the competition), and the model itself is quite old-school in its design, but this does not mean it’s not a good one. Anyone enjoying Braille scale resin kits will like this model.
I had not known about this vehicle before it was introduced into the World of Tanks online arcade game. In the game it is a medium tank, but in reality (as much as we can discuss reality about a vehicle only existing on paper) it was planned to be a tank destroyer. The AMX CDC is a unique looking vehicle, so I was pretty excited to see it being issued in 1/72. From now on I’ll refer to the vehicle as CDC (or “tank”)…
A little background
The French armament industry was the second largest producer of tanks before WWII broke out. After the war the industry was in ruins, and the French army had no real modern tank in its inventory. Some clandestine tank development was pursued during German occupation, so it was not surprising that immediately after the liberation of France tank design started in earnest. Wisely decision makers realized that it was important to pursue development in order to retain the talent and expertise, and also to experiment with new ideas; the less-than-stellar designs of this period were only “placeholders” until “real tank design” could start. The immediate post war designs were built on pre-war French experience (the ARL-44 is a good example), and also borrowed a lot from the German heavy tank designs.
In 1945 the AMX company produced the AMX M4 armed with a 90mm gun. This tank was essentially a French Tiger II, and not a very good one at that: the vehicle was huge, lightly armored (so that the weight could be kept low), and had overlapping road wheels which were quite impractical. The power plant was a French variant of the Maybach HL295. Two prototypes were built for testing but they were deemed unsuccessful.
The AMX Chasseur de Char was designed on the basis of the AMX M4 chassis using a redesigned turret and non-overlapping road wheels. The tank not only existed only on paper, but the armor was essentially paper as well: 30mm frontal armor, 20mm all around armor, which explains why it was only 34 tonnes. Since there’s not much information available on this vehicle, let’s move on to the model itself.
In-game the tank is not a very good one. On paper it looks like a fast sniper, but the gun is rubbish; save your money, and only get the model. Or buy a Liberte 🙂
The kit comes in a sturdy cardboard box with a painting of the vehicle on the front. The instruction manual is a sheet of paper with the parts numbered, and a computer-generated rudimentary assembly diagram; it’s perfectly sufficient for the purpose. (Many resin kits don’t even come with instructions, so that’s always a plus.)
It has relatively few parts; the suspension arms and the road wheels take up most of your time assembling this model. The tracks come in sections which need to be warmed up before shaping them onto the idlers and the drive wheels. One issue with the model is, however, the texture of the resin. The model was obviously designed by computer and printed out using a 3D printer; the faint printing lines are still visible on the model. It’s quite a choir to sand them off.
The hull comes in two parts: a bottom and a top part. The fit is not very good, so some dry fitting and filling will be necessary. The detail is sparse, but it is a paper-panzer (or paper-char?) after all; there’s not much available on how it would have looked like. One thing that is prominent is the engine deck: it does resemble the Tiger II’s. Compared to the available drawing, the engine deck on the model is shallower. The drawing shows a much steeper angle towards the back.
The turret is also a simple assembly: the base fits into the turret shell comfortably. The gun is straight (not always the case with resin models), and, interestingly, the muzzle brake is mounted vertically, instead of the “traditional” horizontal position. I’m not sure why the designers felt they needed to put the muzzle break on this way: gun would have kicked up way more dust when fired, making the tank more visible and blinding the gunner even more, (Probably). I’m not an engineer or an expert, so take this with a grain of salt.)
The drive wheels have good detail, but they are very thin; it’s quite easy to break the resin while fitting the tracks. Since the teeth do not fit into the holes on the tracks without enlarging those, I simply elected to shave off the teeth that are in contact with the tracks. The road wheels are quite nicely detailed with all the bolt heads and ridges; the holes for the suspension will need to be enlarged, though, with a drill.
The position of road wheels is not marked on the hull; you will have to decide how low or high these wheels should sit before you glue the suspension to the hull. The positions of the return rollers are not marked, either. Looking at the drawing available they should be directly above the second, third and fourth road wheels.
The assembly stage took me about 3 hours -that with all the cleaning, filling and sanding necessary. You will need a fine saw in order to cut off the pouring blocks (and, as always, make sure resin dust is not dispersed in the process- use wet sanding/sawing methods). I have used green stuff to fill in the gaps between the hull halves; it served both as filler and an additional method of fixing the main parts together.
The tracks went on surprisingly easy (I find installing resin tracks a stressful exercise).
The model was primed with black, and then I used my best attempt at the French bluish-green color from World of Tanks, mixing Tamiya light see grey, medium blue and Caliban green by Citadel. The color was modulated with a bluish filter.
Once the paint dried I mixed up a 3% ammonia solution, and wore away some of the paint using the Windex chipping method. It’s a very simple method of creating worn away paint: wet the surface of the model with this solution, and using a stiff brush wear off some of the paint. Important to note that it only works with Tamiya paints. This method creates much more subtle abrasions and chafing than most of the other methods I know.
Once I was satisfied with the results, I sealed everything with varnish, and added some leftover decals from the Trumpeter B1 kit. The decals were sealed with another layer of varnish. I wanted to recreate the striped winter camo pattern from World of Tanks. Since the whitewash is pretty faded on that tank, I used Tamiya’s weathering master (the one that looks like a make-up set) to add white pigments onto the surface.
I’ve used Tamiya’s weathering stick (mud and sand) to make the lower chassis a bit dirtier. I bought these on a sale at Hobbycraft a couple of months ago, but had not really experimented with them yet. I did not apply the product directly; I dabbed them gently using a wet brush, and then dabbed this brush onto the surface of the model. Before it dried it was quite easy to adjust the effect with a wet brush.
I also added some tools I found to the front (my spares box is running low on 1/72 tools…), and added some Jerry cans to the back. The edges of the turret and hull were treated with metallic pigment using the same Tamiya make-up set.
Overall the tank is not a challenging build. It is not very detailed, and it’s a simple assembly; even for beginners. The price is somewhat high, but this is always the case with limited run resin kits; the question is if the uniqueness of the model is worth it for the you. For me it definitely did.
The instructions are clear and easy to follow; the one gripe I had with them is that the parts are not numbered on the sprues: you get a sprue layout on the cover of the instructions, and you have to find the parts on the sprues based on it. It’s not that difficult to do, but it still is a hindrance during the build.
The model came in an “envelope-type” box, which opens on the top (and bottom). I personally don’t like these boxes because they aren’t very resistant but it’s a personal preference. The sprues were sealed in plastic bags alongside with the PE fret, decals and instructions. The cover image shows the tank in the middle of an engagement. The back of the box shows a set of computer generated images of the model, and the different build options.
The model is a 3-in-1 type of kit: you can build three different versions of the Luchs: early, mid, and the up-armored late versions.
Inspecting the plastic parts I found a lot of flash, and the detail was somewhat soft, and in some places missing. (Most notably one of the armored protectors for the vision slots is smooth, although it was ribbed in real life.)
The PE parts are thin enough and detailed; I liked working with them. The tank is really brought to life by the PE additions; the plastic itself only gives it a basic shape, really, and the PE gives it detail.
The decals are well printed and thin; there were no issues during application.
The build was relatively quick. The lower hull does not come as a single “tub”: you have to glue it together from four parts (bottom, sides, back). The top of the hull comes as one large part. Unfortunately it goes onto the sides rather than fitting into the opening on the top, which means there will be a seam-line around the superstructure that needs to be filling.
Before installing the tracks I’ve first finished most of the hull with all the PE details, added the roadwheels, and painted the hull and the mudguards in the base color (primer red) following the base color (RAL 7028 Dunkelgelb 1944). I added the tracks at this stage, attached the mudguards, and added the remaining details to the hull. These I painted with a brush.
I carefully painted the pattern using Tamiya olive green lightened with deck tan (for scale effect) with a brush. I was not particularly concerned about how even the patches were, since they would not be prominent after the whitewash; only small parts of the underlying camouflage would be visible. I did use a light brown filter to tone down the contrast a bit. The decals were added this point, since the whitewash was applied on the field, onto a vehicle already in service.
Once the basic painting was done, I sealed the paint with Testors Dullcote to protect it from the subsequent steps, and covered the whole model with AK Interactive Heavy Chipping Medium. This was followed by Tamiya flat white, and after about ten minutes of waiting I went on creating chips with a wet brush and a toothpick. The paint was nicked carefully at places using the toothpick, and I used the wet brush to enlarge these chips.
Once I achieved a decent amount of chipping and cleaned off the model with some running water, the contrast between the white and the underlying colors was really stark.
Sealed everything with Dullcote again, and picked up MIG Ammo’s washable white. I covered the model with it using an airbrush, and after it had some time to dry I created a transparent, uneven white layer over the whole tank using a wet brush. Moving the brush with a downward motion I blended everything together nicely; the paint left a translucent white layer on top of the model.
The weathering part is always a bit difficult, especially in 1/72; it’s really easy to overdo in this scale. One thing I’ve noticed is that the camera and the eye sees differently. It’s probably the trickiest part of the whole process to make sure the model looks good on screen as well as with the naked eye. As a general rule if by eye the model looks good, on photo the effects will appear somewhat overdone.
I used some heavily diluted winter streaking grime from AK Interactive as stains on the lower chassis. Different brown pigments mixed with white spirit and “splashed mud” from Vallejo was used to simulate the mud thrown up by the tracks onto the lower chassis and the road wheels. A silver pencil helped to create a worn, shiny metal look on the edges of the tracks, and gave a metallic sheen to the gun. (Normally I use it on all edges, but in this case the whitewash made it unnecessary.) I’ve used a guitar string -E string- for the whip and the crow’s feet antennae.
Well, pretty much this was it. The model was not very difficult to build (some experience with PE required), and the detail looks good when finished. The crow’s feet antenna looks especially good compared to most of the other offerings in this scale.
Interestingly all 1/72 Luchs kits have minor differences from each other: the location of the Jerry cans, the combination of changes, the shape of the mudguards, even the turret are all slightly differ from each other. Unfortunately I cannot really comment on the accuracy of these; there are not many photos available, and they might -or might not- be representative to all the tanks produced.
These years seem to be the golden years of scale models. Vehicles that have not been available or only available in the form of limited resin kits suddenly get a lot of attention. The Pz.Kpfw. II. Luchs was one of these vehicles. I’ve built the ModellTrans version five years ago, inspired by the online game World of Tanks, and now, in a very short span of time we get not one but three Braille scale plastic versions of the tank.
I have reviewed Flyhawk’s 1/72 Luchs offerings before, and I was really curious what the other Luchs kits are like. This review will be about the up-armored Maco offering; I’ll comment on the differences between this kit and the Flyhawk kit here and there during the review. (The up-armored Luchs is essentially the same as the basic Maco Luchs with a small fret added; anything I say here is relevant to all Maco kits.)
The breakdown of the model is quite old-school: we have a “traditional” lower hull assembly from four parts (two sides, a bottom and the back). The suspension units and the swing arms holding the roadwheels are already moulded onto the sides. There is an interesting solution for the last pair of braces on the mudguards: they are moulded onto the back panel. The mudguards will need to be slid under the brackets. Be careful not to cut them off; first I thought they were some sort of plastic overflow during the moulding process. As most of the finer details, the back light is moulded onto the left brace.
The added parts are on a separate sprue: the tool box from the back of the mudguards, the jerry cans for the turret sides (these were moved to the back of the tank in the Flyhawk up-armored Luchs kit), smoke grenade launchers, some extra boxes on the back of the turret, a metal armor plate for the lower hull on the front, the perforated vision block protector, and additional track sections protecting the frontal hull. Without this sprue you can build the early version of the model easily.
The interweaving road wheels are done the same way as DML handled them with their kits: the two inner rows of wheels form one part each, onto which you’ll have to attach the outermost row as individual wheels. This solution makes assembly much simpler, and it’s a great solution to avoid any misalignment. The pattern on the road wheels is very well replicated, and the wheels are very thin, which is probably quite true to scale. (Although it’s a conjecture on my part since I have no access to a real vehicle, and neither have I found any information on the thickness of the wheels anywhere.)
The drive wheel is nicely detailed, and the plastic is a tad thicker than the Flyhawk kit’s- this is actually a good thing, because it can easily bend when you are trying to install the tracks on the Flyhawk model. The tracks come as link-and-length, and they are very easy to assemble. (They are probably the easiest I’ve had so far in 1/72.)
The upper hull and the mudguards come as one piece. The model is really “traditional” in this sense as well: the sides of the hull will need to be fitted as separate parts due to the details (viewing ports) that need to be there; no slide-moulds for this kit. The fit is remarkably good, though, so no problems there.
The model does not come with many PE parts: we get the top of the German “crow’s foot” antenna, and that’s it. We also get a couple of brass items: the rod part of this antenna, another whip aerial, and a turned barrel. (The thin metal aerial with the “crow’s foot” looks much more convincing than Flyhawk’s version of plastic rod combined with the metal top.)
The tools -with the exception of the jack, the fire extinguisher, and the shovel- are moulded onto the mudguard; this is something I’m not very keen on. (I prefer painting them separately before attaching them onto the model.) The shovel is a pretty simple affair; it’s probably better to replace it from the spares bin. The model does not have a width indicator; you should get a PE one (Dan Taylor modelworks does a set), or fashion one from stretched sprue. They were too fragile in the Flyhawk kit that I just used PE aftermarket ones instead of trying to clean them up. The tool boxes are slightly different than in the Flyhawk kit, and their locations are not exactly the same, either- again, these could be simply because the models were based on different production versions.
The turret is made out of five parts; the plastic barrel is molded on the top section. Interesting solution (both the assembly of the turret and the gun barrel), and it works. You have an option for a metal barrel, which is nicely detailed. The only imperfection I found with the kit was the grab handle on the back: it was broken and bent during transit. (I ended up not changing it.) The other issue I have with the turret is the almost perfectly rectangular shape of the top of the turret; I think it’s a bit larger than it should be- it’s certainly larger than the Flyhawk’s turret. (Which is also smaller than the ModellTrans turret). The shape is not the same, either. The Flyhawk kit’s turret is more hexagonal: the back and the front are a bit narrower than the middle. In the Maco kit it’s more rectangular. It also looks like the top is a bit larger than on the drawings I found online. The big question is which one is correct. I don’t have access to an actual tank to check, and the photos I found were taken mainly from eye level -for obvious reasons. (If there’s one in Bovingdon I’ll keep an eye out next time I get there.)
The top turret hatch (the commander’s) can be opened. The hatch has interior details, but the rest of the turret does not; it’s probably best to put a figure in it if you leave it open. The back large, rectangular hatch cannot be opened.
The assembly was about two hours -tops; it’s a very well engineered, easy to assemble kit. I tried something new (for me) in this build, and made the whole running gear/track assembly as a single sub-assembly; the whole shebang can be removed for painting and weathering. (I think I’ll use this approach in the future more often.)
The painting was a bit more difficult, as I am not really good with spraying 1/72 freehand camo. I’ve base-coated the model with primer red, and used Mig Ammo’s Dunkelgelb. Obviously neither my airbrush nor my skills were up to the challenge of making thin sprayed on lines, but here I had an idea of pure genius. (If I can be as bold as to call it that.) The Ammo acrylic paints form a cured surface; they are very different from the Tamiya paints. And, as we know from experimenting with the Windex chipping method, Tamiya paints are dissolved by ammonia… I simply made up a 2-3% ammonia solution, and used a brush to carefully clean up the overspray.
This is something definitely worth remembering; as long as the base layer is different (either enamel, or, in this case, Mig’s Acrylic paint), you can clean the Tamiya top layer up easily. (I did not take a photo after applying the green, but imagine the yellow areas having a greenish oversrpay all over.)
The weathering steps further helped with the camo issues. Some dust (pigments mixed with water and some surfactant sprayed onto the model), washes all made the base color a bit darker, and helped to fade the green patches a bit. The silver pencil really helped making the model look like a chunk of metal.
I’ve used different colors of mud (in this case I used Vallejo’s and AK’s sets, not pigments). The key is to first use the lighter colors on a larger area (both flicking it on, and by applying with a brush directly), representing the dried under-layer, and then add the darker shades, representing the still wet mud. With a brush moistened with the appropriate solvent (water in case of Vallejo, white spirit with AK) you can -and should- adjust the effect before the layer dries.
The Flyhawk kit is an incredibly detailed, albeit complex model, which will challenge the model builder. The Maco kit is a very well detailed, well engineered, easy to assemble model. Sure, it does not pack as many PE parts and tiny plastic bits, but it does make the build less of a challenge, and the results are still nice. The moulded on detail is convincing, and it is nice to have a model that is a breeze to build. In my subjective opinion it is on the same level as the Revell 1/72 Famo in the quality of plastic, ease of assembly and level of detail. (In other words: pretty darn good.)
It comes with a metal gun barrel, and two metal aerials -things the Flyhawk kit lacks. On the other hand it does not have a PE engine deck grille unfortunately.
In short: if you want to go all-out, and have a challenging build, go for the Flyhawk one. If you want a good, easy to build model, which builds fast, choose the Maco model; in this fortunate case we have an abundance of choice when it comes to this vehicle.
I have written a review of this kit for Armorama; most of the introduction is reused for this post.
There are three 1/35 kits available for this tank, all of which were issued in recent years -so officially there are more models than actual vehicles in existence. (Something only the Tiger I has achieved to this day.*) Before the styrene versions came out almost at the same time (which makes me wonder how companies decide on what to work on next and why they always seem to decide on the same vehicle**), there was a 1/72 resin version by OKB of this extraordinary-looking tank. Frankly, it looks like the tracks were only an afterthought; you’d expect to find anti-gravity propulsion installed. (Perhaps the subcontractors were late with that project.)
**these days we can all anticipate the incoming new King Tiger kits with full interiors… it’s an interesting choice to flood the market with something that someone already is producing instead of coming out with something new. This enigma, along with the tendency of Hollywood to do the same thing with movies, will always perplex me.
The tank was designed in the Kirov Plant in 1957 to resist HEAT ammunition and have good off-road capabilities (the ground pressure was less than 0.6 kg/cm2). The weird shape would also ensure that the maintenance would be a nightmare for the crew -especially if the tank threw a track. Surprisingly it was able to reach 55km/h, and had a range of 300km, which is pretty good for a heavy tank- even more so for one with four sets of tracks. (Decreased air resistance due to the shape of the hull might have something to do with this…)
The shape of this tank was due to a second layer of shielding which covered the hull. It served multiple purposes. First of all it was supposed to make it harder to flip the tank over (nuclear blasts do tend to have some strong shockwaves). It also worked as a protection against HEAT and APDS projectiles, and against shaped charges. (I really would like to crawl into the prototype displayed in Kubnika to see what the interior looks like.) The tank was obviously equipped with CBRN protection. The main armament was a rifled, 130mm gun (M-65) with 24 rounds of ammunition, the secondary armament was a KPVT coaxial machine gun; they were stabilized in two planes.
The history of the tank was not very illustrious. Once the prototype completed all its trials (which showed a couple of problems with the track system), the program was axed by Khrushchev himself, as it was way too heavy for the requirements set for new tanks. (In short, the Soviet leadership viewed heavy tanks as outdated, and were obviously blind to the propaganda value of a weapon created apparently using alien technology.)
It took me some serious deliberation to purchase the Braille scale version of this model by OKB as it costs about the same (or more in some cases) as the 1/35 versions. In the end I’ve decided to go with it as I prefer this scale in case for large vehicles. I have a constant space shortage at home, which is the main reason my 1/144 Dora stays in her box for now.
The model comes in a small, sturdy cardboard box. The box art is a photo of the vehicle displayed at Kubnika; however it was seriously faded in my kit. In it we find several small Ziploc bags, and some pieces of bubble wrap which make sure that the kit arrives unharmed and undamaged.
The instructions –which are a rare thing indeed in resin model circles- are clear and computer generated. The only problem is that it’s difficult to see the images as they were pretty faded. (OKB will email you a set of instructions if you ask them ASAP, so this is not an issue.) Since the model is relatively simple, even using the faded instructions does not impact on the assembly process.
The model is made up by about 70 resin pieces and 30 PE parts. The parts are very well detailed, the flash is minimal, and the fit is excellent. One of the swing arms of the suspension was miscast, but generally the quality of resin is excellent.
The tracks are given as sets of straight resin pieces, which need to be warmed up before being shaped to fit the running gear. (I prefer hot –not too hot- water to a hair dryer for this job. Hairdryers can be surprisingly hot, and damage the resin.) The hull comes in one piece; most of the small parts make up the running gear. The muzzle break on the gun is something to be seen: it’s quite a complex shape with several openings and it’s moulded in one piece; A pretty impressive affair. The photoetched fret is very thin and very delicate; it’s very easy to bend (even crumple) the parts, which makes working with them a bit difficult.
Putting the running gear together was not very difficult; the swing arms fit into their slots remarkably well. (The small wobbling unfortunately will show when you attach the wheels, as they will be somewhat misaligned. When the suspension units are done, it’s best to use some hot water to warm the whole thing up, align everything between two rulers, and wait for the resin to cool down.
I would have preferred to put the tracks on while the assembly was off the hull but the drive wheels are separate units. This means you’ll need to glue both the running gear and the drive wheels onto the bottom of the hull first, then add the tracks. To make your life easier you can add the front section of the tracks on the suspension while they are off the hull.
Now, there was a little issue at this point: one of the sections holding the running gear did not fit into the groove on the lower hull. After a little fiddling I found the reason: it was a couple of millimeters longer than the other. Some trimming had to be done to make it fit. Another issue I’ve already mentioned: one of the suspension arms had a casting error, so it was too short to add a wheel. I made sure this section was turned inwards so it would not be seen.
The face of the drive wheels is made out of PE. As I said the PE bends very easily, so assembly was not exactly easy. (They bend readily even to the small pressure needed to push them in place.) Since the resin axles were a bit thicker than the holes in the PE parts I needed to trim them a bit using a knife. I used epoxy glue for most of these parts, since I wanted to make sure they will hold strong; this is important especially when you install the tracks.
Once the drive wheels and the whole running gear was on the tank, I added the tracks. (Warm them up, wrap them around the running gear, wait.) There are some tight fits between the running gear and the bottom of the hull, but all four sections went on eventually.
The hull is not a difficult affair to assemble: you need to add the towing hooks, the PE tiedowns for the external fuel tanks on the back, and the PE handholds. These handholds were a bit problematic: you need to fold the legs down, but there is no marking where to fold; these markings usually make it easier to fold the part in a neat right angle. Use a plyer or a hold-and-fold. The metal is very thin, so it is extremely easy to distort its shape while working with it.
The travel lock is made out of PE (not sure if you can make it functional; the gun barrel is made out of several pieces, so technically it should be possible.) The headlights and the guards for the headlights are pretty easy to install. I noticed that the metal strips for the guards are somewhat longer than necessary, so I trimmed them, and made a little fold at the ends so they stick better to the hull. The exhaust has a rectangular metallic guard around it.
The gun barrel made out of several sections, and it’s kind of hard to make all the pieces align perfectly straight. The muzzle break, as I said, looks really great.
The turret is also a simple affair There are two PE squares on the top (I think this is where they are supposed to be- it was hard to see on the instructions and the photos were not very good for that angle). The IR headlight is fixed next to the gun, I’ve prepared a couple of handholds using wire, and attached the gun barrel; that’s it. (Obviously I only primed the tank so far; it will be finished after the Christmas holiday.)
Once I had the rust-brown base coat on, I’ve sprayed some Tamiya Nato green lightened with tan, and mixed with some AK Washable agent as a test. The test was a partial success – some vigorous brushing did manage to remove some of the paint. Clearly more experiments are needed with different paint/agent ratio. Once the paint was dry I fixed everything with some varnish and added some decals from the leftovers. The decals were fixed with some Dullcote.
I proceeded to add oil washes, and some light ochre filters, and went on to see how I can make the tank look dirtied up without overdoing the effect.
I picked up some Tamiya weathering sticks in HobbyCraft at their latest sale, so that was the first stop. It’s a strange, almost lipstick like product (pen shaped), and direct application only deposits some non-realistic smears. Using a stiff brush to add the paste and adjusting the pattern after application with a wet brush seemed to work well, though. I used the mud version to add mud on the lower chassis and the running gear, along with the edges of the top of the tank; and I used dust to add deposited dust/dry mud onto the top. With downwards stokes I tried create a perpendicular pattern to the edges as if they were marks made by the water pouring/tickling down from the hull. I repeated the process on the turret as well although much more subtly.
Since it did not look enough (only two colors do not look very convincing) I’ve mixed up some darkish (almost black) brown mixture of pigments and matte varnish, and flicked it onto the hull with a brush and toothpick to simulate fresh mud splashes.
I’ve used some weathering effects (oil stains and diesel stains) on the running gear and the external fuel tanks, respectively), and called the tank finished.
The build was not a challenging one; in fact it was easier to build than most resin models I’ve built so far. This is the third OKB model I’ve built, and I have to say they are very well engineered models: clear instructions, good detail, and no major issues to remedy. The only real drawback is the price- for most people this would make the 1/35 offerings more attractive.
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 checkmy 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.
I managed to snap the width indicator rods, so I replaced them with a PE set by Dan Taylor Modelworks (I got them from the Milicast website if interested).
The first layer was a primer- simply used a spraycan of grey primer. While they are easy and fast to use, there is always a danger of flooding the details with paint; I think from now on I’ll use my airbrush to apply primer. (Primer is not strictly necessary: modern acrylic paints are pretty good at sticking to the surface without it, but I still prefer it as it will provide an uniform surface. If you use dark primer, it serves as a pre-shade as well.)
I used Mig Ammo’s dunkelgelb, and this time I followed the instructions. The first time I used these paints I assumed they’d work like any acrylic paint I used before, and was frustrated when they did not. After seeing their youtube tutorial, I was able to actually use it correctly. Well, read the manual is the take home message from this. I’ve found these paints to be really good, by the way. Right now I’m torn between these and the trusty Tamiya paints. (Tamiya gives some amazingly flat finish, so there are definite advantages.)
I added some pigments mixed with plaster to the lower chassis to simulate mud, installed the running gear and the tracks, and proceeded with the camouflage. (Well not strictly in this order, but for the narrative’s sake let’s pretend.)
Anyhow. This step was fine; the next, however, was a fateful one.
I hand painted the camouflage.
And I failed to lighten the camo colors to a suitable level… Disaster struck, in other words.
The issue was that I, for some reason, failed to appreciate the scale effect: namely that the same colors look much darker on a small model than on a large vehicle. I also use the base color normally with the darker colors to lessen the contrast; otherwise you’ll end up with a very strongly contrasting, very unrealistic paintjob (don’t even get me started on the obvious brushwork; the spots should be airbrushed, but in this scale it’s a tad difficult).
Which I did. (Apologies for the wildly varying photo quality -living in a small London apartment makes setting up the photobooth a choir, and sometimes I just skip it if I only have to snap a photo or two.)
As you can see the results are toy-like; on a real tank these colors would blend in with each other. Filters are an excellent way to blend them together, but if the contrast is too high, they will not be as effective. On the photos with a incorrectly set white balance (the yellowish ones) you can see the effects of several light dark brown filters; some of the contrast disappeared.
At this point I put the tank in a box and scrubbed its memory out of my mind. The Flyhawk kit is really a feat of model kit engineering, essentially a shrunken 1/35 model, and it was not a pleasant thought that I made a mess of the paintjob.
The next breakthrough came with an idea: use some washable dust (again by Mig Ammo). Since I had nothing to lose at this part. A very light mist of the paint actually brought the whole camo scheme together: suddenly the tank looked much better (something I dare to present in front of others).
Well, here’s to a Luchs bonanza… Since I’ve been reviewing some of the latest Luchs offerings in plastic, here’s a trip to memory lane, when the Luchs was only available in resin…
(I just noticed I did not finish the Flyhawk review… it shall be done in the next post, I promise.)
I fell in love with the tank playing World of Tanks; it’s a ridiculously overpowered little terror of a tank in the game. It was natural to try to get it in a scale model as well. Back then, in 2011 the only available version was the ModellTrans in 1/72. (Come to think of it Armory might have had one, but I’m not sure.) Little did I know that three company will start churning out plastic versions as well -more on those later.
The assembly was pretty easy: the tank had approximately five pieces altogether. I’ve changed the resin gun barrel for a metal one, but that was my only improvement on the model. The kit sadly does not come with the crow’s foot antenna, and has no width indicators, so I’ll have to get those fixed once I find the model again. (It’s in storage right now.)
The detail is OK, a bit on the rough side. There are some bubbles; nothing unexpected in a resin kit. The dimensions are a bit off; the model is smaller than 1/72.
I went with the German grey version, and painted it by hand. I’m not very happy with how the paintjob turned out to be, but it is what it is; I was improving. I painted relatively large paint chips with a lightened version of the base color, and used some rust to show wear-and-tear.
Some pigments were used to depict dust, and I declared the tank ready to go. I mounted it onto a cheap base (with a plastic cover to protect it from dust), and the little Luchs went into the dark depth of a cardboard box.
Well, this has been a long, arduous trip. It was one of those models where you lose inspiration, you make mistakes, and it feels more and more frustrating to spend time on, rather than on a more rewarding project -and not because of any fault of the model itself. It was just one of those builds I guess. I had no clear conception where I want to end up, I made some mistakes, and it felt like a choir trying to push forward. The end result however, was surprisingly nice. So this is the story of the poor, neglected Lowe.
The Löwe was a 90 ton super heavy tank, which was planned -but never built- by Nazi Germany. It was superseded by the even heavier Maus- which actually did get built. Along with the super heavy members of the Entwicklung series, these gigantic tank design programs demonstrate some of the lunacy of the direction WWII tank design took to in Germany during the second half of the war: embarking on even more and more ambitious tank projects in search for a war-winning superweapon, consuming valuable resources and manpower, while the fronts were collapsing all around them. It did give us some nice-looking tank models, though, so there is some silver lining.
Disclaimer: I’ve used my review in Armorama for some of the text.
The plastic parts are well done, apart from some minor problems. Overall I found the quality of parts, the detail, etc. on par with the Eastern Express/UM/Roden offerings: not very good, but not bad, either. The detail, in general, is good; certainly not soft, but don’t expect DML quality. There is very little flash. The model could use some extra detailing; one of the things I would have liked to do was to replace the periscope covers with photo etched ones. (They are simple molded-on blocks. Armory produces excellent quality periscope covers for the King Tiger, which would probably serve well as substitute.) The one thing I really missed is the depiction of the interlocking armor plates on the upper hull. The hull was (to be) originally constructed by welding slabs of armor together, and the points where these armor plates meet should be visible (you can see this on the hull of the Tiger, and Tiger II, for example). It would have been nice to have these details molded onto the hull. It’s possible to carve them out, but I decided not to bother with them. Some parts you will have to create yourself; you will need some wire for the towing cables, for example. (You can get some wire used to hang pictures from art stores.)
The only real problem I found was the engine deck. The grills have several casting imperfections (see photo above), where plastic got into the perforated parts; if you want to open them up, you will have to work very carefully with a very thin scalpel. I attempted, but quickly decided to leave them as they were- did not want to risk the delicate plastic detail. I assume the vehicle would have had screens over the engine deck, just as the Tiger I and Tiger II did; these would have been great additions to the model. (I tried to find aftermarket 1/72 scale Tiger II grille screens, but the only one set I managed to find was sold out everywhere.)
The tracks are flexible, and made out of several segments. The detail is somewhat soft on the inner side; again not a big problem. This solution of segmented flexible tracks is an interesting combination of the link-and-length plastic tracks and the “rubber band” style tracks. It makes it easier to install them, but alignment is a problem – in fact it is kind of a nightmare. A set of PE tracks would have been really nice (although this is a bit too much to ask for this price I admit), or at least some plastic alternatives. All in all, the kit could use some more brass. As for tracks and engine deck grilles I’m happy to report that Armory has came out not long ago with an updated version of this kit, which alleviates all these issues.
Finally, the modeller gets an option of building a “historical” model (whatever it means in this context), or the World of Tanks version of the vehicle (you get the very characteristic muzzle break from the game, and a different engine hatch on the back panel).
Instructions are well done, and easy to follow, but the first part of the build is a bit challenging if you follow them. The hull has to be assembled from multiple parts (as usual in these kits). The issue is that if you follow the instructions, the hull parts will not fit. Once you assembled the “tub” that makes up the lower part of the hull, you are supposed to glue the fenders onto the sides, and finally place the upper part of the hull on top of this. The plastic parts are on the thick side, and the guiding ridges are not perfectly placed onto the fenders. Despite of how small these differences are, they do add up. When you put the lower and the upper part of the hull together, there will be a gap on the front where these two halves should meet.
The best –and quite easy- way to get around this problem is to do some surgery first, and to deviate from the instructions. First, thin the sides of the top part of the hull from the inside a bit (for an easier fit into the grooves molded onto the mudguards). Glue the back panel, the top and the bottom parts together first (parts 1, 24, 35), creating the overall shape of the tank (see photos) without the sides.
This way the top and bottom will touch in the front. This is the time to use some filler to make sure the attachment points on the back and the front are smooth, and there are no seams anywhere.
Sand off the guiding ridges from the side parts (parts 34, 36) of the hull, and glue them in place. Cut away the guiding ridges from the sides of the fenders (parts 23, 25). It is necessary, as they are supposed to go on top of the side panels, locking together with the ridges on those parts, fitting between the two hull halves. Unfortunately there is not enough space. The fenders themselves are not thin enough to fit, but this will not be an issue if you remove these ridges. (It would have been more fortunate if the fenders were made of PE.) Glue the fenders in place, and you are almost finished with the build.
The other issue I had with the kit was that the attachment of the back panel is a bit unfortunate. Usually the top of the hull goes over the back panel, covering it. This follows the original way of construction, and does not break the upper surface with an extra seam. In this kit, however, the back panel is placed behind the top part, creating an extra seam on the top of the hull. This, unfortunately, needs to be eliminated with filler.
The turret has a strange, round shape, which is very uncharacteristic of the usual angular German designs. It is made out of three parts: the main part of the turret (part 2), the frontal bit under the gun mantlet (part 6), and the bottom part, which will not be seen (part 17). This bottom part has two invaginations which should fit with the two little pegs molded onto the smaller, frontal part of the turret, but they are too small for the actual parts. You will have to enlarge them with a scalpel. It’s not a major surgery, and as it will be hidden under the turret, it will not impact on how the model will look. The rest of the kit falls together without any problems whatsoever.
I have finished the model to the point of weathering for this review. A couple of details are missing (the towing lines, for example, as I will need to fashion one later). Photos of the finished model will be posted in the World of Tanks campaign forum.
I’ve given the tank an uniform German grey color, before attaching all the equipment, tools, etc to the hull.
At this point I kind of lost my motivation to go ahead. I had other projects, and I felt a bit stalled; I was not sure what direction I would like to take the model.
After spending a year in a box (I’ve moved to London, I’ve had other worries) I dusted the Lowe off, and gave a hard thought of what sort of a paintjob I wanted to give it. I settled with the octopus-pattern, which I’ve seen on some fictional 1946 designs. The build stalled even further as I had no idea how to achieve this finish…
The next breakthrough was when I spotted a punch set in a charity shop; I managed to make little rings out of masking tape. They were not exactly good, but I went ahead, nevertheless as I wanted to get the painting over with.
The results were disappointing to say the least. The masking tape rings were not good enough, and I’ve used Mig’s paints for the first time without reading about them. I assumed they are to be used the same manner as Tamiya paints; well, I was wrong. Nevertheless at this point all I saw was that the paint behaved weirdly, and I really, really hated it. (Since then I actually learned to use it properly.)
The other thing I’ve failed to consider in my rush to finish the build was the scale effect: the model had a really bad, very strong contrast. (The colors should have been “toned down” in this scale.) Needless to say I went on working on more successful projects; nobody likes to be reminded of mucking things up.
The next step -after standing like this in my “half-finished” box, I’ve decided to give it a winter whitewash; to use the model for practising -and to finish it finally; and this I did. I’ve covered the Lowe with dullcoat, and used Tamiya white in several light, irregular layers. About 30 minutes later I’ve brought out my ammonia-containing cleaning product, and proceeded to do some practice on the Windex chipping method. This relies on the fact that ammonia dissolves Tamiya paints, and by preparing a 2-3% solution you can carefully remove some of it with a brush. (It’s a process that can be controlled surprisingly well.) It creates much subtler chips than chipping solutions/hairspray technique.
Once the whitewash was on and made look worn, I was in the finish. The model finally looked like a proper model, all past mistakes corrected or hidden away, and even the octopus camo pattern looked good under the whitewash. The emotional roller-coaster was high again. Some white pigments (chalk ground up) in water was used on the fenders and the back of the engine compartment to simulate accumulated snow.
Since it was a winter vehicle I wanted to make it looked dirtied up. Winter slush is dark, almost black. I’ve used oil paints as a slurry, and to make it look even dirtier and disgusting I’ve put some green in the mixture as well. I’ve used MiniArt’s painting guide to the SU-122 as an inspiration: the winter camo (“Rudolph, the red topped SPG”) option is quite dirty and covered in this dark, blackish much.
I dabbed the oils on using a large brush, and used a clean, wet brush to “wash back”, and remove the excess from the top part of the hull, and other regions where I judged the dirt to be too much. The brush then -since it had some pigments trapped in it already- was dabbed onto the turret and other “lightly” soiled areas.
Essentially this was it. The moral of this story is essentially this: despite of all my efforts to mess it up, I managed to make something resembling a presentable tank out of this model.