Category Archives: american

ICM 1/24 1913 Ford Speedster

 

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“I will build a car for the great multitude. It will be large enough for the family, but small enough for the individual to run and care for. It will be constructed of the best materials, by the best men to be hired, after the simplest designs that modern engineering can devise. But it will be so low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one – and enjoy with his family the blessing of hours of pleasure in God’s great open spaces.”

Henry Ford

I admit I do not have much experience with ICM. I’ve built their Panther-based artillery observation vehicle years ago and found it to be an excellent model; I was really curious how this will build up.

The Model T was introduced in 1909, and was affordable for your average working family at a price of $450. It was in production until 1927 (!), and millions were sold during these two decades. It is a truly iconic vehicle; it was the first mass-produced, easy to maintain and reliable car sold.

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ICM has already issued several versions of the Model T. This version is a stripped-down and modified version of the trusty family car, built for speed by independent companies as an alternative for the expensive, custom built race cars of the era. And when I say they were built for speed, I mean 80km/h, according to the sources I found (and the short history section of the instruction). It may not sound much, but it is actually terrifying if you look at the car. It has the bare minimum to work: an engine, suspension, wheels, seats and a fuel tank. It lacks such luxuries as a seat belt or even a proper body. (Although there were versions with streamlined bodies available.) You really had to love racing (and had to be slightly mad) to drive this car at its top speed. The Speedster versions had other modifications, too: the chassis was generally lowered by four inches, and the wheel bases extended. The car got “wire wheels” instead of the stock (and heavy) wooden wheels. The engine got a RAJO Overhead Valve Conversion (OHV), a hot cam, balanced crankshaft with pressure oiling, and side-draft or up-draft carburettors. I have not seen the other T model kits by ICM, so I cannot comment if all these changes were replicated in this kit or not.
The model is quite simple, and has only hundred parts. There are some extras provided which are necessary for other versions, and we get a nice set of white rubber tires as well. (I’m still on the fence on rubber tires in car models. I think there’s a good argument for full-plastic ones.)

The engineering is very “traditional” (or old-school if you like); there are several round parts (prominently the fuel tank) which need to be built from halves, necessitating the filling and sanding of seams. It’s a less-than-ideal solution, but something that we were all very used to until recently with all the manufacturers spoiling us with slide-moulded parts.
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The quality of moulding is excellent: the detail is sharp and there is no flash to be found. The fit of the parts is also very nice; I did not have any issues during the build -it may be old-school, but it is an excellently made model. ICM really did well designing and producing this model.

The assembly is quite quick and simple. The instructions have 55 steps, but this is quite deceptive, because unlike most manufacturers ICM’s instructions show (almost) every single individual sub-assembly as separate steps. (So gluing parts B1 to B2 will be one step on the instructions.) They are clear and very easy to follow; this model will not be a problem even for a beginner.

The assembly took me about two hours; it really does not take long.

The mounting of the front lamps and the two headlights is a bit of an issue. If you first glue the mounting brackets/holders in place, and add the lamp/headlight bodies later, you will have alignment issues. The best advice I can give is to attach the lamps and headlights to their holding brackets, and glue this whole assembly to the chassis to make sure that they line up correctly. I did not do this with the headlights (because I prefer leaving larger sub-assemblies off until I finish painting and masking), and you can see that the car is somewhat cross-eyed as a result. The lamps on the side, as mentioned, have similar problems: the holding arms tilt up if you fit them into their corresponding slot on the chassis. You will need them glued to the lamps before attaching them to the car if you want to make sure they look straight.
The build itself was quick, but I had trouble choosing an attractive paint-scheme. The green-on green is quite traditional, but I’m not particularly fond of it, and was not looking forward to painting the raised lines on the mudguards. I found a really good-looking black-yellow option, but the tires of that particular car were black, and I despise painting yellow. The red also looked nice, but it resembles a fire truck (also available from ICM by the way). In the end I asked my wife which scheme she liked best and went with that.

The chosen paint scheme also required black tyres, and fortunately the rubber took the black Vallejo metal primer well. I sprayed the whole model black, using this paint, and after masking I sprayed Vallejo gold on the appropriate areas. To be honest it would be better painting these parts before assembly, but I wanted to have photos of the assembled, unpainted model for this review so I had no real choice in the matter. The red further complicated matters; it’s just not an easy color to spray (similarly to yellow…). I ended up using a brush and Khorne red by Citadel mixed with Lahmian medium in several layers. The gold was touched up using AK Interactive’s True Metal gold paint; while it is still not the perfect metallic paint (there is no such thing in my experience), it is extremely good, gives a smooth finish, and moreover it is very easy to use. It’s wax based, so it’s quite thick, and has a very good coverage. With a fine brush I managed to paint the thin raised lines on the mudguards; any mistakes could be easily cleaned up with a brush moistened with white spirit (or ZestIt, which is a friendlier alternative). I used some Citadel black ink on the black areas to make them even deeper black and give a shine to the model, and well, that was it. The model looks really nice, and frankly it really stands out from the usual green and brown tanks on my shelf. Absolutely recommended even if you are not a car enthusiast.

 

 

 

Sniper (1/35)

 

 

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Well, this guy has been sitting in a box forgotten, for years. (OK, not forgotten. I did think about painting it a lot.)

 

Well, after a short time building and painting, he is done. One more long-bought kit off my conscience.

 

 

Addendum: I found something interesting. The figure is based on the photo of a real person- Carlos Hathcock, aka “White Feather“.

Flyhawk 1/72 M1A2 SEP tank

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

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

(In short: they do.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Plus Models C4-32 (C-432) Electric Mule 1/35

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 AM companies are great at finding the gaps in the modelling world; and this vehicle was definitely something that has not been covered by anyone yet (to my knowledge). The C4-32 mule (which was designated as C-432 in reality) is a hardy little veteran of the US Army, but it has avoided the limelight so far. Even though the vehicle flew under the radar so to speak, and there are no webpages dedicated to it (it did not even get a nickname like “Yellow Tiger” or “Electric Lightning”), it was widely used by the US Armed Forces, and this makes it to be a very eye-catching little detail in any diorama that depict hangars, warehouses in military or in civilian use. (In this respect I would consider this model a diorama accessory rather than a scale model.)

So here is the Mule in all its glory:

(Yeah, it looks kind of silly.)
 

What’s in the box?

 The kit comes in a small box, usual to plus model, with a photo of the assembled model on the front. The model is placed in a Ziploc bag; some parts were already detached from the pouring block, and the handle for the driver was broken. There is a small PE fret, a decal sheet, and instructions included.

The resin is good quality and easy to work with. The detail is excellent in general. There is not much flash to clean up, but some care will be needed when detaching parts from the block. The parts are numbered on the pouring blocks, which is very helpful during the building process.

There are a couple of PE parts included; mostly for the drivetrain of the cart, and the logo for the company that produced it. Since I did not find much in the way of reference, so I have to assume the dimensions are correct.

The instructions are overall not bad, but there are a couple of minor issues. On step two the part number of the fork that holds the wheel is not written (12), as on step three the number for the logo for the front of the vehicle (part 3 on the PE fret).

The building

 The building took about two hours and it really did not pose much of a challenge. Some parts of the assembly are a bit fiddly, but not impossibly hard. The little pins holding the front wheels and the main suspension comes to mind, mostly. The rest of the build is straightforward. You can build two versions of the vehicle, both in US Army service; one version has extra protective bumpers in the front and around the back.

Painting

I’ve left off the seat and other parts which were black before starting on the yellow paint. I’ve painted the whole model rust brown as a base which was sealed with Dullcote, and used the hairspray technique to create a battered, well used look. (I think I might have gone overboard with the scratches…) The next layer was the hairspray, and then came a mixture of Tamiya’s yellow and orange paint (about 3:1 ratio). Once the paint was dry to the touch I used a toothpick to “nick” the paint for the scratches, and then a wet brush to “expand” these areas. On some places on the model I had to retouch with the brown paint as the paint came off completely. Once I was happy with the results, I sealed the model with Dullcote again, and attached the seat, the pedals and other small bits. Since I did not expect the vehicle to operate in a dusty, muddy environment, I did not add dirt. The headlights were first painted silver, then I used Citadel’s red technical paint on the back headlight – these paints allow for an easy way to simulate lenses and gems. (They are not as good as the painted gemstones in miniatures, but they’re perfect for headlights.) The orange caution light that sits on a pole received similar treatment, only the base color was yellow. The result is pretty nice, I have to say: the paint does give a sense of depth.

So that’s pretty much it. The build was enjoyable -and short-, and the model is smaller than most 1/72nd scale tanks I’ve built.

Cromwell Models T29 Heavy Tank 1/72

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I have a confession to make: in the past I did not know much about post-war US armor. (I hope my sins can be forgiven.) I thought it was all Pattons, and they did not look particularly interesting, and the designations were confusing. Little did I know. The number of experimental, light, medium and heavy tanks produced before, during and after the war by the US is a largely untapped source of amazing-looking models. World of Tanks has helped to popularize these vehicles, which, I suspect, is the reason for recent plastic releases of the M6 and T54E1 (I know they are not perfect, but they are steps in the right direction). Most of these tanks are still only available by small resin manufacturers working in Braille scale, if available at all. Once I’ve realized that the T29 actually exists, and thatCromwell Models is producing a model of it, I had to get one… Considering the size of the tank I’d probably not buy a 1/35th scale offering even if there was one available apart from a really expensive resin version.

The T29 project was started in response to the appearance of the German heavy tank, the Tiger II. US planners wanted something that could be used against these gigantic, heavily armored and armed tanks, as nobody knew back then exactly how big of a threat they’d pose once the US engaged the German armed forces in the Continent. As it turned out not much, since they were never produced in sufficient numbers.

The T29 was based on the T26E3: the hull was lengthened; it was given a thicker armor (279mm at the thickest points), an upgraded engine, and a new turret with a 105mm main gun. The turret featured a very prominent coincidence rangefinder, which protrudes from both sides, giving the tank a very unique look. The weight of the new tank was 60 tons.

After the war ended, the T29 (and its brother the T30) development and production was put on hold, and it never entered regular service. Even though the tank was not really a successful design, it wins in my opinion just based on looks alone: it is one of the best looking tanks ever made.

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The T29 came in a simple Ziploc bag; despite of this, nothing was broken. The moulding quality is fine, even though the details are incredibly delicate. (I’m really impressed with how the suspension, road wheels and tracks are molded as one unit with the hull.) There is some flash to trim, but this is to be expected in every resin model, and easy to deal with. The moulding quality is good; no bubbles or imperfections were apparent on my model. (Only on the bottom of the hull. These can be easily removed, but since they won’t be seen I did not bother.)

The model does not come with instructions, which makes the identification of most of the smaller bits quite difficult. (I admit since I don’t have proper references -books-, I have given up after a while. I looked up walk around photos and as a last resort I used World of Tanks, but I still have a lot of parts left over I could not place.

As mentioned the hull comes as one piece, with the suspension and the tracks already mounted. The tracks are very delicate, and really detailed; be sure not to break the extremely thin cleats handling the model. There is some clean-up necessary under the tracks, between the road wheels, as the complex mould means there will be imperfections in the hidden areas. I’m not even sure how you can prepare so complex assemblies in one piece.

You also get a lot of spare track sections; should you break one or two of those cleats, you can always replace them using the extras. I’ve managed to break some as I handled the model. I did leave them like that when I took the photos of the finished kit but I’ll fix them up later before the model is placed into a display box.

The model looks accurate, and measures up against the dimensions I have found online (this is where proper references would be indispensable). It also measured it up to a 1/72 scaled picture printed out from Blueprints.com very well. In short the basic size and proportions seem to be fine.

The building

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The building is simple; after gluing the main parts together, you add the small bits (that you can identify), and you’re done. The fit is perfect, so I did not have to perform major surgeries. I decided to glue the turret in place almost in the beginning, as it is a heavy piece of resin, and managed to drop it a couple of times. (The blue tac I used to fix it onto a paint jar kept giving way…) This is when the commander’s periscope broke in half; this was the point when I gave up and just glued the damned thing into place.

All the hatches can be positioned open, but since there is nothing underneath, I elected to close them. (It would be too much to ask for an interior in this scale. But it would be awesome nevertheless.) I’ve suffered another minor accident during the build, and one of the covers of the rangefinder optics has disappeared; this is somewhat embarrassing in a review… the carpet monster has gotten its due in sacrifice.

When you look at the reference photos available online from the Patton Museum, the tank looks brown and faded from standing in the open for decades; however I wanted to show a newer tank that has been in heavy use in the field.

Painting

I used a pale yellow color (dunkelgelb, but the color is really not important) over the initial grey primer coat, and then misted several coats of lightened Tamiya olive drab over it to give a faded, used look. This has given it a more greenish color. (“Olive drab” is really a generic term, as there were a lot of variations depending on the manufacturer, the conditions of the vehicle was operating in, the age of the paint, etc. There’s a great article about this issue)

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Filters, chipping and weathering

So now we have a green tank with nice tonal variation on its different parts. To make it more brownish, the color was modulated using a brown filter- and now the tank looks a faded olive drab color.

The kit does not come with decals (as usual with resin kits), and lacking US decals/dry transfers I left the tank unmarked. I added chips using a sponge and dark brown paint, and pin washes using burned umber oil paint. I applied a black wash to the engine deck grilles to give them depth. The mufflers were painted using different rust colors and a sponge over a black base.

The lower part of the chassis was treated with different shades of earth colored pigments using white spirit. Once they dried, I used a brush dampened with white spirit to remove some of the pigments. As a final I added some dust on the top part of the turret as well using Tamiya’s “make-up” set, and I used a graphite pencil to rub around the edges and the tracks to give the model a metallic shine.

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MRC 1/35 UH-I Huey

I was always fascinated by the Huey. It is the symbol of the US involvement in Vietnam, and of every horrible thing that came out of that conflict. Even the last event of the war -the fall of Saigon- is associated with the evacuation of the US Embassy using the Huey. The UH-1 was the first real combat helicopter, and it made insertion -and evacuation- of troops much faster; it made fire-support easier, and it lead to the development of the first dedicated combat helicopter, the AH-1. Its variants are still used widely all over the globe; all in all, it has proven to be a singularly successful design.

In other words: it’s a legendary vehicle in both the good and the bad meaning of the word.

I used to have an English teacher back home, who happened to be a Vietnam veteran; he was one of those guys who was dropped in jungles with these helicopters, carrying a radio and an M16. He did not really discuss his experiences in the war. He was (and is) a very good-humoured person; I think if you survive the horrors of war, you can either break, or be happy and grateful for every single day you get from life.

Anyhow, back to the model. MRC has issued a 1/35 version of this chopper with the engine added; I was very much excited to get my hands on one cheap (it was a second hand model). This was in my transition period between aircraft and armored fighting vehicles, mind you; about sixteen years ago. It’s also one of those models I got in Europe, brought to the USA to build, and then have it shipped back with the rest of my belongings…

The build, in general, went together quite well, although there was a gigantic fit issue with the fuselage; somehow the two halves just did not join up… A big problem, MRC. It took me a lot of time to fill up the gaps.

This is a retrospective post as well; I still have to find images of the completed model. (It’s in storage in my mother’s attic, along with all my builds from the US.)

 

The first steps of building the interior. So far, so good.

 

The rotor mast

 

The finished rotor looks really good; it is a very nice representation of the real thing.

The engine looks great; I’ve added some thin wiring for extra detail. Because the exhaust is corroded and darkened by the fumes, I started with a black base, and dry-brushed some brown on top.

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Work on the engine compartment; because it looked a bit empty, I added some extra cables.

Thins are falling together. The straps for the seats were made from aluminium foil.

The instrument panel – base coat…

The painted instrument panel. I have to say, there’s a lot going on for pre-painted PE instrument panels.

Finished interior looks pretty good to me, even without PE or other aftermarket parts. The box of grenades stroke me as a strange addition to the model; I’d expect a wooden box laying around unsecured would end up sliding out into the big empty.

Finished engine bay. At this point I was seriously pleased with myself -until the next step, that is.

Nope. It does not fit. It does not fit at all.

 

Masking and painting. There was a serious case of filling everything up with two-part epoxy – the stress on the fuselage halves is so big, I needed to have the filler itself is acting as an adhesive. I don’t think plastic glue alone would have been sufficient. It made sanding around the windscreen pretty hazardous, though, and unfortunately some fine details (rivets, panel lines) fell victim of the process.

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The finished model -well, almost finished. Some details were needed to be painted (I don’t have any more photos left, unfortunately…) As soon as I find some, I’ll update the post.

Miniart D7 Armored Dozer -review 3. Painting

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This is the third part of the review of the Miniart D7 Dozer.

Even though the cab will almost completely hide the operator’s station, I decided to weather it properly…

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As you can see I’ve already removed the offending toolbox from the fender

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This is the last time you have access to the whole engine, so weather away… washes, oil stains, metallic pigments -anything goes. Only the sides will be visible, but we know it’s there

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The metallic shine came from Tamiya’s weathering master -silver and gun metal

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…aaaand… it’s all gone.

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…a lot of the engine is hidden now as well…
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On the other hand it resembles a vehicle now
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Final parts attached, and yes, that is a handcrank

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The tracks received a black primer coat first, and then were painted in a dark grey color. The metallic sheen came from dark metallic pigments rubbed on them; the parts that are normally subjected to higher wear and tear, therefore are usually highly polished, received some silver pigments. Once they were mounted onto the suspension I added a heavy brown wash, and once it was dry I added some dust, using brown pigments suspended in water, and some more silver pigments.

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IT LOOKS LIKE A D7 NOW!!

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This was an incredible feeling -after month of work on the model without any visible improvement, suddenly I had a D7 Dozer on my desk

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Miniart D7 Armored Dozer -review 2.

This is part two of the MiniArt D7 review.

The suspension is a very complicated, very detailed assembly. Miniart has managed to even mould a set of springs… an actual plastic representation of springs, which look exactly like the real thing. They are very delicate, and easy to break (while you are trying to remove moulding seams), and also will be covered by the metal plates protecting the suspension, unfortunately. Nevertheless I have to say, it is an impressive feat of plastic moulding technology.

 

 

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One ready, one unassembled

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That plastic spring still makes me wonder how they did it.

The assembly here -considering none of it will remain visible- seems overly detailed. The wheels and return rollers are composed of mulitple parts (step 51, 57 for example); I’m sure these could have been designed to consist of no more than two parts each. Most of the suspension elements could have been simplified as well, as they will be hidden once assembled. The only reason they are designed to resemble the real thing is that you might wish to depict the suspension during maintenance (I’ve seen a photo with the covers removed) or with damage. I was tempted to do a “cutaway” view on one side, but did not dare to endanger the review sample.

Once the suspension and the tracks installed, the final hydraulics pipes will need to be glued on. The over-engineering can be seen here as well: the pipes (H8, 9, 10, 11) could have been moulded together with parts H12, 13, Db16 to simplify things.

 

 

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Those little pegs on top of the suspension could have been simply moulded together with the hydraulics

The dozer blade and its attachment unit is the very last step of the build. The blade itself and the frame looks gorgeous; you can see the subtle welding lines; the instructions, however, don’t show the alternative positioning optinos. It goes together reasonably well, however you will need to do some filling on the blade itself. Part Db4 will snap if you put it on  peg on Db9 in step 79, due to the smaller diameter of the hole on it; enlarge the hole slightly with a scalpel first.

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The model is slowly taking shape… time to paint.

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How many parts do a dozer make?

Painting

Fortunately most of the model is olive drab, engine included. This simplifies the painting process, as the model needs to be painted while being built. I’ve chosen to display it with moderate amount of weathering and rusting; while I really find the rusty-worn-torn look appealing, tanks and tractors did not really rust that bad on the field. (It’s a combination of short lifetime, maintenance, and protective paint.) Dozers and tractors are somewhat exception to the rule, as they were generally not in the line of fire, but I still did not want to overdo the effect. (After spending a month building it day and night I was afraid I mess it up with overzealous weathering. I’m a coward.) The other reason I’ve gone for the relatively clean look, despite of photos available of the dozer being absolutely caked with mud and dust was that this would have hidden most of the model.

 

 

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Black spray paint was used as primer; any good quality spray can will do

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The plastic has some interesting moulding imperfections. Don’t worry; these will be invisible under the final paint.

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I’ve done most of the painting and weathering on the larger subassemblies: armored cab, engine and chassis, the suspension, tracks, and the dozer blade; this, of course means I only saw how the vehicle looks like at the very end of the building process. It was an incredible feeling -suddenly I had something to show for after all the work.

I’ve used Citadell’s Steel Legion Drab and Castellan Green to mix an olive drab color for the dozer. I always wanted to try the airbrush ready Citadell paints, and this looks as good time as any. Changing the ratio also allowed me to prepare lighter and darker colors. They are very thick, they did seem to be very good for airbrushing. I tried diluting them at first, because I could not see how this thick paint could get through the airbrush, they were perfect unthinned.

 

 

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Well, the first paint layer was done. It’s getting near to the finish.

 

Miniart D7 Armored Dozer -review 1.

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This is a multi-part review of the MiniArt Dozer; due to the sheer amount of text and photos I have decided to go with this format.

Background

Caterpillar Tractor Co was founded with the merger of Holt Caterpillar (the makers of the original Holt tractor, the first tracked vehicle ever made), and its competitor, the C.L.Best Gas Tractor company, in 1925. The new company was focusing on primarily of the production of road construction machinery. As soon as the US entered the war in 1941, the War Department started to purchase all equipment deemed essential for the war effort- Caterpillar’s “track-type crawlers” included. The US Army has used several types of the Caterpillar D7 tractors and bulldozers in the Second World War. The tractors were meant to pull artillery pieces and other cargo, and only at the later stages of the war had the purpose-built high-speed tractors started to replace them. These vehicles were not equipped with dozer blades.

Caterpillar bulldozers were on every theatre of war; they have been instrumental in the Allied war effort. (A number of them were shipped to the Soviet Union as part of the Lend-Lease program.) They were used to repair roads, and to build new ones, to keep the supply lines open. They have been used to construct artillery positions, to build (and to destroy) tank traps, to clear beaches, to clean up rubble and build airstrips anywhere they were required (in the Russian taiga, on a corral atoll or in the jungle). Not all of the bulldozers were armored (since most of them were civilian models, or modified civilian designs), although they were operating in the front lines quite often. The book The D7 Tractor: A Visual History of the D7 Tractor in US Army Service 1941 – 1953 would be a very useful reference for builders.

Miniart has issued recently the Caterpillar D7 with an armored cab M2, and a hydraulically operated R71 dozer blade in plastic, along with other versions of the trusty D7 tractor. This is a welcome trend indeed, as many of these vehicles are only available in limited run resin kits (if they are available at all). These bulldozers can often be seen in archive photos, and offer a great opportunity for diorama builders. Since they have been in use for a considerable amount of time after the war, they offer almost endless opportunities for modifications and settings.

The box and general impressions

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The kit consists of 759 plastic parts, and 8 PE parts. Miniart has utilized the side moulding technology to its limits (more on that later). The detail is very fine, and very delicate, but the plastic does not feel as good as some other manufacturer’s. (I’m not an expert of styrene, so I cannot really form an educated opinion; it’s just an impression.) Some flash is present, so cleanup will be necessary. There are a lot of very fine parts (pipes, control rods, etc) which are attached to the sprues by multiple thick attachment points. This makes their removal a dangerous endeavour, as you can easily break them (if they were not already broken during transport to begin with). Some of the thinner, finer parts have broken during transit, so fixing broken plastic will be a constant activity during the build. Substituting these plastic parts from stretched sprue or wire is also an attractive alternative.

To remove thin and delicate parts I was experimenting with some success using a scalpel blade heated up in a flame; this enables you to detach the part without stressing it, but one thing I have to stress (no pun intended) is that you cut well away from the part (at least a centimetre away), unless you want it to melt, too.

Cleanup is also going to be risky, as even the gentle force of removing the seams can easily break the plastic; use a new blade, and be very careful. (This is a very prominent problem with sprue C, where most of the engine parts are located, but also with the control linkages under the floor of the cab, and the steering levers.) Sometimes I just left the thin seam lines in place rather than risk breaking the part.

The amount of parts for a small kit like this is astonishing (or horrifying, depending on your point of view); as is the size of some of them. This is a very dense kit: while the inside of most models are mostly made up of empty space, this small kit feels surprising heavy due to all of its 700+ parts being concentrated in such a small volume. (I know it’s not a usual metric in the world of scale models, but it might be a good way to demonstrate my point. This kit weights 97g when assembled, while a similar size Toldi I by Hobby Boss weights 46g.) If you wish to, you can certainly simplify the build somewhat. Studying the instructions it’s possible to determine which parts can be left out altogether. (If you close all the hatches and doors for the armoured cab, you can leave out several dozen parts, for example. Not that I would suggest to do so, because it would not give justice to this kit to cut corners in this manner.)

Some parts are so small you are forgiven to think that they’ve broken off the sprue already… until you take another look. This model is not for the faint-hearted; considerable amount of experience will be needed to assemble it. The detail is incredible, but at the cost of overengineered, multiple-part assemblies. Sometimes you have the feeling the complexity is unnecessarily high; that the same results could have been achieved by using fewer parts.

In certain cases the intricate details are hidden by other parts, and hence they could have been left out, or simplified (I’ll be mentioning this issue a lot); one example is suspension units where all the springs and rollers are exquisitely detailed, then hidden under a cover forever. I think the designers of this kit have decided to create a museum-quality model, and did not make any compromises; the model resembles its real life counterpart as best as possible. It’s also possible that all this was done so that the model can be displayed while undergoing service, or showing damage.

One recurring annoyance was that a lot of subassemblies required parts from several sprues; this meant constant hunts for sprues during the build. I appreciate the fact that you might not be able to place all required parts in one sprue, but it still felt arduous to constantly trying to find a specific sprue among dozens.

Instructions are provided in a very nicely done booklet. They are incredibly well done, easy to understand (for the most part), and easy to follow (again, for the most part… sometimes it’s difficult to tell where exactly a part should fit). Miniart has not holding back on design here, either; the booklet is very pleasant to read.

There is one mixup I should mention: probably because Miniart has issued several versions of the same vehicle, one mistake has slipped in. There’s a toolbox (A35-36 on step38) which is indicated to be glued to the mudguard; this part a couple of pages later then is shown to be glued to the back of the cab. I got a slight panic attack when I realized I don’t have parts I needed; I thought they were lost. Upon more careful study of the instructions you can see that the box from the fender has disappeared. Miniart probably reused the instructions from another version without the armored cab, and forgot to change this step. The box, by the way, would obstruct the door of the cab; this is how I realized something was amiss. (If you look at the photos, you’ll see the box is on the fender for quite a long time into the build.) Since the other door is already blocked by the oil tank, it’d be really difficult to get into the cab if that box staid on the fender.

It would also be nice if the instructions showed the different options the dozer blade can be positioned; only through accident I realized they can be positioned at an angle.

The decals are brilliant. The US Army stars are not just white stars printed on a transparent disk; the carrier film is actually shaped to the pattern, so that you don’t have large surfaces of transparent film on the model with the danger of silvering or bubbles stuck under. One of the stars go onto the hood, which have two protruding parts of the engine going through it- the holes are pre-cut onto the star. I have to stress: they are actual holes in the decal, and not just printed ones on the carrier film. There are some tiny decals (instructions on the engine and gauges on parts C87, C47) which will be covered or not be seen at all; these I did not bother with to be honest.

The painting guide only gives you one option, a dozer used by the 237th Engineer Battalion of the 1st US army, Germany, 1945.

The assembly

The assembly is broken up into 80 steps; I don’t really want to cover them one-by-one, simply give you impressions, opinions and highlight issues I found during the build. Steps 1-38 detail the assembly of the engine, the controls, and parts of the chassis (by the end of which you’ll have most of the engine and the operator’s station ready, steps 38-44 will have you finished the winch and the armored cab, and by step 48 you’ll have the core of the dozer ready. The next steps will deal with the suspension, the undercarriage, and the tracks (49-70). After this you will be able to add the whole track assembly to the dozer, which will immediately transform into something that resemble a vehicle, and steps 75 to 80 will have you finish the dozer blade, and attach it to the D7.

Before doing anything, though, I suggest you start on the tracks right away.

For this reason, I’ll start with step 67 – the tracks. The assembly process is tedious to say the least, and I would suggest that you only added one section at a time between other building steps; this will help making the task less monotonous. (It also makes sure that the glue has time enough to dry.) Another word of caution: you don’t get extra track links at all; be careful not to break any. It’s quite easy to do as they are very delicate, and many need to have the flash cleared out from the attachment holes. One set of tracks will require 36 of the three part assemblies, and Miniart has not given any extra links. (Which is unfortunate; normally model makers supply the builders with some extras.)

I had some issues with how the tracks are assembled. They are assembled just as the real tracks were, but in practice you probably need one or two hands more than you possess. (Unless you are a Hindu deity, because then you’re covered.) One important thing I found was not to follow the instructions. The real tracks are made up by a metal chain, which is driven by the drive wheels, and plates (trackpads? Not sure of the nomenclature) that are bolted to these links, and form the surface of the tracks. The kit’s tracks follow the same pattern. The instructions would have you to put the chain together first (each link consists of two parts, and held together by a pin), and glue the trackpads on after. (I found this series of videos quite interesting about modern Caterpillars.)

The assembly of the chain is fiddly (but doable), and it’s very, very difficult to make it even. Once the chain is ready, then you are to glue the trackpads onto them. The problem is the slightest mismatch in the chain links will cause the tracks look wobbly. My suggestion is to first glue the parts of the chain to each trackpad individually, and assemble the tracks after. This would make the assembly easier, and make them look more even.

Back to step 1…

The engine is the central part of the build. It’s really fascinating to start with the building of the engine blocks, and slowly build up the whole model around it; only at the very last steps will you see the actual vehicle take shape, which was a pretty incredible feeling for me… two months of work suddenly looked like a dozer.

Although Miniart has made every effort to create a model as close to the real thing as possible, it has failed to replicate the four sets of pipes from the governor and fuel injector pump (part C11 -I suspect these are fuel pipes). These pipes are quite prominent on photos of the dozer, and you’ll need to build them using thin plastic or perhaps metal wire.

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Once the engine is reasonably finished (you’ll be adding parts to it now and then), you’ll slowly build the lower chassis and the operator’s cabin around it. It is perhaps the best to paint as you build, as many parts will be inaccessible once you finish them; this is why it’s quite handy that the whole vehicle, engine included, is of one color. For the purposes of this review I tried to build the model as much as possible without painting. On step 33 you are supposed to add the long oil pipe (H1); this was already broken in my sample. This is one of those pipes you’d better off making out of wire, as it is very easy to damage it during the rest of the construction. (In general it’s hard to handle the model without breaking something.)

 

 

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Step 34 shows the finishing of the bottom of the lower chassis; most of the detail will be hidden forever by the armored plates protecting it, unfortunately.

As you build the tractor around the engine, more and more detail that you’ve build with considerable effort will be hidden forever. I have replaced the control rods with plastic strips (as the originals snapped), only to be covering them up with the floor panels. The bottom of the engine will be covered by the armored plates protecting the chassis, and the exquisite detail on the chassis will be covered by the armored couch in the cabin. (These dozers actually had couches instead of seats; I think this makes their drivers the only people who could honestly claim they did their duty sitting on a couch.) The handrests are hanging over too much (step 36); if you intend to install the armored cab, you would have to glue them with less of an overhang. (The couch was designed for the “original”, non-armored D7.) Since most of the interior will be invisible once you glue the cab in place, it’s not much of an issue, really. (I’ve detailed, painted and weathered the cab, though.)

 

 

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Military lazyboy

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The evil little toolbox on the fender -and not where it is supposed to be

The cab is a simple matter, however, there are some challenges here, as well. (Not surprisingly.) First, I could not pose the armored slits open, because the plastic part representing the mechanism opening and closing them simply broke when I tried to remove it from the sprues. It’s just too delicate. It should not be too difficult to re-create them using thin plastic rods.

. At step 45 you install a lever to the oil reservoir (I think it’s the oil reservoir) that is supposed to reach into the cabin through a narrow slit; the slit is too narrow for the lever to go through. You’ll have to carefully sand some of the lever away

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You can see the slit here

Step 34 shows the assembly of the lower part of the chassis; this is when the towing hook is constructed. I was unsure where parts H18, and H17 go, until I checked the instruction at step 38 –I think it’s better to do these together

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Taking shape

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All of this is going to be invisible

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Well, that’s for part one. Stay tuned for part two.