Category Archives: conversion

Tamiya T-55A and the whole nine yards part 5.

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Please find the first, second, third and fourth part here.

I used German Grey primer by Vallejo to create a good, sturdy surface for the subsequent layers of paint. I used to use spray cans as the application is quick, but it’s also somewhat risky. (You can easily flood the model with paint.) Setting up the airbrush and the fume extractor (paintbooth) is time consuming, but I think overall it’s a better alternative. This particular primer is pretty easy to use, too, as it does not require any dilution; it can be sprayed straight out of the bottle. I sprayed the lower sections of the anti-HEAT rubber sideskirts separately.

Once the primer dried, I sprayed rough patches of different rust colors, making sure the rubber side-skirts remain dark grey/black (with the scale effect I found dark grey looks better than full-on jet black).

I assembled the tracks using a very thin liquid glue. I normally glue two links together, and then join up these sections into larger and larger sets of links. The glue allows for relatively long time to work the tracks, so it’s relatively simple to push them around the drive wheels and idlers after 30-40 minutes of drying time. (I almost switched the drive wheels and idlers; I’ve built too many German tanks lately I guess.)

The tracks were painted with the same primer, rubbed using a metallic pigment to give them a nice, steel shine. I also applied some rust colored washes (relatively bright orange to dark brown) at this stage. (The dust will be added later.)

I went over the model using OD green from Tamiya on the lower chassis and road-wheels. This is a dark, an almost grey-green color; this color represents the darker areas covered by shadows. I painted the rubber rims with a dark grey color. This was layered with different dust and mud colors, pigments and other weathering techniques simulating dust and caked-on mud. I tried Tamiya’s dust and mud weathering sticks as well. I pushed the stick onto the surface, and used a wet brush to spread the paste around; it’s actually pretty easy method yielding realistic results.

I installed the tracks, and glued the rubber side-skirts into place.

I added AK’s Chipped effects in two layers, and waited again for things to dry. It took about an hour or so, and then I painted the tank with the same OD Green as I applied to the lower chassis.

I kept adding tan and yellow to the base color, and kept layering it onto the tank from the top of the tank; I wanted to lighten up mostly the surfaces that are illuminated by the sun (and which are normally more faded, anyhow). Adding yellow to the base green yielded a pretty nice Russian green, leaving the original color in the recesses.

I waited about thirty minutes for the paint to dry, and started to create the worn-off, chipped paint effect using a wet, stiff brush. I applied some water onto a small section, waited a bit, and used the stiff brush to wear off some of the top layer. (Sometime I managed to rub the paint off to the resin; these sections were retouched with primer.)
The chips on the rubber parts revealed a dark grey color, corresponding to the rubber; chipping on the rest of the tank showed different hues of dark brown representing rusted metal.

Once I was happy with the amount of paint chips, I waited for the tank to dry.

True Earth has a couple of filters in their product lines; I bought them a while ago, but had no luck with them so far. (I did work out you needed a very flat surface to apply it; the surface tension tends to pull the filter into droplets.) I sprayed some dark aging and light aging filters on some selected areas without diluting the product: around the turret, on the lower part of the turret, on the bottom of the tank; the effect is not as smooth as I wished it to be, but it does produce an interesting discoloration here and there. Not what I was going for (I was lead to believe applied it would look more like a darkened patch paint with a smooth transition), but a good one nevertheless. (It’s just one of those things: a product that promises easy and spectacular results turns out to be not so easy to use after all. The thing is if you need to have a learning curve to use something to make your job easier, it does not necessarily fulfil its promise.)

I applied traditional dark brown oil filters on the bottom part (with the side-skirts), and a light brown filter on the top. Another filter, bright yellow this time was applied on the top surfaces only. The tank was given some time to dry (a couple of days) and then I tried something I wanted to try for a long time: Tamiya transparent paint as filter. I used green on the bottom parts, which were supposed to be darker, and yellow on the top again.

After two days of letting the tank dry I sealed everything with a coat of gloss varnish, which was followed by a dark enamel pinwash.

The overall effect is quite nice; I managed to get that yellowish-brownish green I was going for.

The tank is now looking like an actual vehicle…

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Tamiya T-55A and the whole nine yards part 4.

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Please find the first, second  and third part here.

To be honest this approach of aftermarket bonanza is going to the way of the dinosaurs. MiniArt has just announced a T-55A with full interior.

Finally finished with most of the build. Getting closer to the end… Smaller jobs are finished. I did the back of the turret as best as I could. I zoomed into the box art photos of the Miniarm set, and tried to figure out what goes where. Somewhat unsuccessfully, since the instructions are frankly quite bad, too. (The PE parts are not numbered correctly for one. As mentioned the reference photos are bad, too…) The extra magazines for the machine gun mounted on the back had some hiccups. First of all I only had five in my set, not six. Second the PE straps that should have been going around them were short. What I did was simply cutting the straps in the middle, and attaching them to the front first. I added the handgrabs, and the wires to the smoke candles – soldering wire is incredibly useful for these tasks.

Well, I did the best I could -and had patience for; this will have to suffice.

I also attached the mounting points for the anti-HEAT sideskirts. Many tanks were not equipped with it, but since they are there, I might as well use them. I started with the middle section on the left side, as it has a special shape (due to the exhaust port), and used it as a reference point for the rest. The back unit is shorter than it should be, and the front overhangs a bit; somewhat annoying but easy to solve with a blade. (I simply fitted the cut off piece from the front to the back.) I’ll leave the side-skirts off for the time being; they will be attached once the main color is applied.

Tamiya wants you to make your own towing cables; it certainly makes more sense than MiniArt’s optimistic approach of prividing them as straight plastic parts. I normally use picture hanging wires for this role; it’s very life-like, and behaves like cable.

I snapped a couple of photos using my phone (hence the quality), and called it finished.

 

 

So this is where I am right now. The tank needs a base coat, and then painting can commence.

Keep tuned in…

Tamiya T-55A and the whole nine yards part 3.

Please find the first and second part here.

And the build goes on…

Interior

After some finishing touches to the interior, I closed the turret down. It really bothers me that I could not find a good reference for the AM version; I suspect there are a lot of screens and other digital equipment added to the standards layout.  Regardless now it looks like I’m making progress: the tank looks like a tank now. (With no gun barrel in this case.) One real complaint I have about the CMK set is that it provides no ammunition.

I’ve removed the external fuel tanks and reattached them with green stuff, as they did not sit level before. Now they look good. I will do the fuel lines a bit later on; I will use Legend’s photos as reference. (It feels somewhat like cheating, but there you go.)

Exterior

I’ve added the Eduart engine deck grilles; they really do make the model stand out. It is kind of a shame to cover all that nice, shiny brass with paint.

The road wheels were also installed. Over the years, and through the long way this model travelled with me, the poly caps somehow went missing; this made installing the wheels somewhat of a challenge. I overstepped the problems simply by sticking a small amount of green stuff into the cavity where the poly caps should have gone, and glued the wheels in place; once the green stuff set, the wheels were absolutely solidly fixed in place. As I mentioned in part 2 I’m using a Trumpeter individual track set; since the AM version had at least three different types of tracks mounted over the year I’m not too fussed about the exact type. (And now I can look forward to a tornado of incoming angry comments.)

Problems with the Miniarm set

Building the Miniarm conversion I found it out to my great annoyance that the photo of the set on the box (and the advertisement) may contain a resin machine gun, but the set itself does not contain it. After reading the fine print I now understand that this photo shows of several sets on one model, but I find the inclusion of them on the cover quite misleading. (Kind of like the Armory T-72 conversion’s case where the armored shield was not included with the set.)

I guess I’ll stick to the original Tamiya gun (which is not half bad, actually); there is no way in hell I’ll buy another set for this build. It’s getting a bit expensive, even without Fruil tracks. (I’m using someone’s unused Trumpeter individual tracklinks.)

As a side-note: comparing the Tamiya MG to the MiniArt and Trumpeter versions of similar AA heavy machine guns, the MiniArt gun wins when it comes to detail, but the Tamiya is much simpler to assemble. The Trumpeter offering is somewhere in between, but pretty impressive when it comes to detail. (And it’s a different heavy machine gun, to be fair. We’re talking about detail and ease of assembly here.) Different philosophies I guess; I think on the long run the MiniArt version is better as it does look better, but when you’re getting short on patience during a complex and difficult build (which is entirely self-imposed in this case), the Tamiya gun is a bliss. I’ll have to get an ammunition belt though, as Tamiya does not supply it.

There are other inaccuracies as well: some of the smoke candles are already discharged on the cover photo, but you only get the full ones; and the gun barrel is different. Apart from the thermal jacket issue (mentioned below in great detail), the stock photos for the set show the resin piece at the end of the gun barrel to have interior rifling -which mine does not have. To be fair the gun is capable firing an anti-tank missile (which, amusingly, costs about half of what the tank itself costs), and if I’m not mistaken the gun is actually smooth-bore. Two storage boxes only have two sides each; not sure what Miniarm was thinking when they designed them. They literally miss two sides; if you really look close, you can see under them. At this point I just ignored the issue; it would be relatively simple to fabricate the missing sides, but I only had a single damn to give, and damn is gone now. (You can see the missing sides on the photos below.)

Another contentious issue with the Miniarm set is that the instructions are horrible. There are two parts to this. The first is that in many cases the small, photocopied photographs show nothing of how the parts should be placed. You kind of see where they go, but nothing else. I found myself using google to see if I can find reference photos of the set itself to help me with it.

The second problem is that the instructions are incomplete. The back of the turret is quite busy, but you don’t really get an explanation how to use the set to build it up. It’s not very clear how to assemble the holding braces for the AA machine gun for example. I also have a bunch of unused resin parts which don’t seem to be doing anything; I do not know where they are supposed to be going. This does annoy me because I paid for them; I’d like to know how to use them. Even when something is in the instructions, sometimes it does not tell you where to put the finished artifact. In step 2-4 you are instructed to produce a part from multiple small PE pieces, but then it does not tell you what to do with it. I realized long time into the build that it’s actually supposed to be on the right side of the back of the turret. (Walkaround photos…) Also the PE frame of the gunner’s sight is simply missing. It’s there on the photos, but the instructions are quite confusing, and instruct you to cut p23 to size and glue it to the side; p23 looks nothing like the picture, and in any case, it’s shorter than required. It’s also bent, so you can’t really fit it to the straight surface.

The saga of the gun barrel

I started to work on the gun barrel. Interestingly the gun barrel on the cover photo looks absolutely different from what you get in the kit; I find this quite odd, to be honest. There must have been different versions of the T-55AM with and without thermal jacket, but I still find it curious that you get something different than that is advertised on the box cover. (I don’t even mention the fact that the photo had a brass/copper barrel, while you get an ugly aluminum one.)

I was quite wary of this stage of the build; the thermal jacket on the barrel is made out of very tiny resin parts. Especially the tie-downs are horrid: you have wrap each end of the PE tie-downs around a thin, 1.5mm long wire, and connect the two ends with a similarly short piece of wire.

I made a huge mistake and did not anneal the PE with heat before starting to work with it; it was quite difficult to wrap them around the barrel.

I started with a relatively long piece of plastic rod (and in retrospect, a thick one), glued across multiple tie-downs; once the PE set, I wrapped them around the plastic one by one. It’s not a simple process, and unfortunately the CA glue did pile up around the tiny details.

Looking at the reference photos, though, you can’t fail to notice that no matter how thick the wire you use, it will look out-of scale on the model. (Too bad I found these photos after doing most of the work already.)

These pieces of wire are meant to be the bolts holding the tie-downs in place; and they are quite small in real life. Just look at this reference photo from an AM gun barrel’s advertisement:

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Looking at these photos I had one option: I cut the plastic off, and simply used the PE straps by themselves. To be honest the straps on the real gun blend in so much I could probably get away with not using them at all. (My preferred option, but I like pain, so I went with trying to glue the straps on.) This is something that’s not the set’s fault: it’s a technically quite challenging part of the build. (To make the straps themselves more to scale, it would be best to simply use strips cut from aluminium foil; even the PE is too thick for it.)

The PE ridges along the top of the gun barrel are oversized compared to the real thing. Hopefully it will not be very noticeable; the gun barrel has re-formed slits where these need to be inserted, which might hide most of their width.

Trying the gun in the resin mantlet I could not help but notice that the fit is far from snug – there will be considerable amount of filler needed to hide the gaps. It also means I’ll need something more sturdy than CA to fix it in place. (I used the good ole’ green stuff; it fixes the gun into place, and acts as a filler at the same time.)

Miniarm does offer PE lightguards, but to be honest they are difficult to assemble (and require extra wire to add), and look quite unconvincing. These guards were made of about 1.5cm thick metal rods; PE looks quite flat compared to them. (Not to mention it looks weird to mix wire with PE when all components should really look the same.) I just used the Tamiya plastic parts; they are surprisingly good.

All these complaints about the Miniarm conversion by no means are deal-breakers, but they do temper my enthusiasm about it. The detail is impressive, the resin and PE are well designed, and good quality, but I think it’s better just to get the damned Takom kit and be done with it.

Finishing touches

I’ve added all the other bits and bobs to the hull and the turret: the searchlights, various ammo boxes, handholds, wires, etc. Presently I’m looking at walkaround photos and the Takom instructions to figure out how to finish the back of the turret.

I should have finished the tracks before adding the top of the hull; this is the next big step now. The AM version had side-skirts protecting the tracks and the sides of the hull; before I add them I’ll need to install the tracks and paint the lower hull. (Which means I’ll have to learn how to use my Aztek airbrush first.) Once that is done, I can finish the sideskirts (a very daunting prospect since I can’t really make sense of the instructions at this time), and then I can at last paint this beast and be done with it.

Tamiya T-55A and the whole nine yards part 2.

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Please find the first part here.

So the saga continues. This is, by far, the most complex build I’ve attempted: several aftermarket sets are used parallel so mistakes are a possibility. Well, mistakes have been already made.

I’ve finished up the interior finally; the CMK set is done. There are considerable differences between the interior of the T-55A and the T-55AM I’m building with the Miniarm set; however I will ignore these for the sake of my sanity. To be honest it’s difficult to find good quality references for the interior of the AM, and this is the point where I give up; it’s a hobby after all.

The hull interior was relatively simple to finish; as I said in the previous post, there are a lot of shortcuts in the CMK kit, but then again, you can argue that most of it will not be visible, anyway. The driver’s station is especially devoid of extra instruments and whatnot you can see on photos. These videos by Wargaming are really useful: one is Chieftain’s “normal” inside the tank one, the other is a pretty cool virtual video. There is also a really good one here.

I also finished the turret interior. The bottom of the turret comes as a resin replacement; I did not realize it in time but the turret ring of the Tamiya kit is actually narrower than the CMK turret’s ring. This means cutting; not the best thing to do with all the fragile PE around, so make sure you do it first – unless you like challenges as much as I do.

The gun, the turret turning mechanism, radio, different electrical boxes, the handle, etc. went in fine. I took some liberties and used some parts from the Verlinden T-62 interior set -periscopes and whatnot. I also did some cabling using soldering wire painted black. They were placed mostly using a creative licence – the actual tank has way more cables all over the place. Once all was in place, I used some diluted filters on the white -mostly light browns, and added streaking to the sides with very subtle rust colors. Did not want to make it look like it was standing abandoned for decades, but I did want to add visually interesting details. Real tanks are remarkably free of rust and rust streaks; it’s a balancing act.

Once the bottom of the turret was safely in place over the top of the hull, I started to attach the Tamiya parts for the exterior. I have to say it was a joy compared to the aftermarket set- finally everything is clear-cut and simple! Until you realize you need the next conversion set, and now you have to figure out what’s needed from the Tamiya kit, and what needs to be replaced and altered. I also noticed I was a bit hasty closing in the hull- I should have fitted the road wheels and the tracks first; it will be a bit more difficult with the mud guards in place. Well, that’s a headache for later.

The Miniarm instructions are not very good, and sometimes they just don’t warn you about minor things, like the need for filling in certain holes on the Tamiya hull. The problem is in the front: the added frontal covers most of the front, but you need to fill in two small holes. It would have been simpler if I realized it before I glued the fragile plastic parts 1 mm from the holes in question. Oh well.

The mantlet cover also comes from the Miniarm set, which interferes with the CMK gun breach making it impossible to put the top of the turret in its place. The simple solution was to cut off the front of the gun breach. Of course trying to fit the turret, and figuring out the problem meant that the delicate PE parts of the ammo holder on the back of the turret got damaged. Frankly at this point I’m not sure I’ll fix them; very little will be visible anyhow. Another issue for the next day will be the CMK coaxial machine gun; it just does not line up with the Tamiya turret.

I also realized I made a mistake at this point with the loader’s hatch: I used the CMK replacement instead of the Miniarm one. They are slightly different, but what’s done is done. The fuel tanks are provided by Miniarm, too, but the casting blocs are very thin; it’s not easy to saw them off. I’m also not sure why some tool boxes are replaced, and why others are kept from the Tamiya set… Oh well.

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So here we are now: the model now resembles an actual tank. (My wife says it looks like a sad, dopey-eyed vehicle.) Some detail painting is left in the turret interior, and then I can finally close it off.

I finally gave up, and bought Eduart’s engine deck grill set for the build; I hope it’s the last expense I have this with this model. It really annoys me Miniarm did not provide a set; after all, if you offer a conversion, you might as well throw in some improvements, too, saving costs for your customers. As I said the set is not cheap at all.

The next few steps will be the most painful ones: itsy-bitsy PE everywhere… That’s a story for the next post. I’m really looking forward to the painting phase.

 

 

Tamiya T-55A and the whole nine yards part 1.

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Since then I got the MiniArm set as well…

 

Well, this is one old project. This is what actually happens if you start collecting and postpone the building – your precious collection becomes outdated because newer models are issued… (Or, if you decide NOT to collect, your most desired models become out of production, and you won’t ever be able to get them again – you simply cannot win this.)

I started to collect the parts way back in 2007, when I was still in the US. Since then of course, there are models of different T-54 variants with full (well, almost full) interior, we can expect the T-55 as well (it does make sense), and of course, there’s a perfectly good (and cheap) T-55AM available by Takom. Overall, I was considering just selling the whole thing -except for the CMK interior- and buying the Takom kit instead. After much deliberation I decided to keep the original; mostly for sentimental reasons. (This is what is going to happen with the upcoming King Tiger build… I already have everything to finish up the build, so I might as well proceed, pretending the full interior 1/35 plastic kit never happened.) Since I’ve been building T-44s and T-54s left and right, I wanted to make this model look distinct -so I did the rational (airquotes) thing, and bought the MiniArm conversion set for the same amount of money the whole Takom T-55AM costs. :/ It still has no PE engine deck grilles, so that will be an interesting task; I am not prepared to spend more money on this build…

 

I was curious how the CMK set goes together. I have used the driver’s compartment part of the CMK kit for the T-44 I was building before; that part was quite familiar. Overall the set is quite good, but the instructions frankly are horrible when it comes to the ammo stowage. (It’s a shame no ammo was given with the set, by the way.) I also put the little box by the driver the wrong place; it should be a bit further back, but the instructions were not exactly clear on that part. I only noticed it when I got further down the line, and saw a drawing of the finished part.

Oh well.

The turret is quite busy- unfortunately CMK does not help with the cabling. The ammo boxes on the seat of the gunner are quite poor in detail; just a slab of rectangular resin. They should be individual ammo boxes for the coaxial MG sitting next to each other. (Similarly to the setup on step 69 on the T-54-1 instructions.)

The pre-heater for the engine cooler is also lacking detail- compared to MiniArt’s plastic interiors again. Normally it’s the other way around, but in this case the plastic model is actually more detailed than the resin one. If you’re prepared to spend money like crazy it might not be a bad idea to get a MiniArt T-54B and use the interior parts to “beef up” the CMK set. (It also provides the fuel lines for the external tanks, individual track links, and other details which are better than in the Tamiya kit.)

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Since I wanted all this detail to be seen, I cut the side off the turret. It took me some time to decide what part, but at the end I settled for the left side; this will allow the interior show, without cutting away too many interesting things. (These tanks were cramped… similar cutaway will be much easier to do on the Tiger and Tiger II that are in the pipeline…)

 

Anyhow; Tamiya’s white, and the first layers of paint for the gun- that’s all for now. I’m moving to a new apartment, plus will be spending some time away, so the next update on this build will be in September most likely. I would like to make a dent on my collection of unbuilt kits, so there’s a Zvezda Pnz IV, a MiniArt Pnz III, and a DML Tiger I-II waiting to be built with full resin interiors. Not to mention the models I get for reviews, and the 1/72 stuff I still want to finish… (Modelcollect T-80, E-100 mobile rocket launcher, E-75 with interior, Hunor Nimrod, Airfix 1/12 Bentley and MiniArt T-60 with interior… And these are only the ones I can remember. My mother’s attic has a couple of really interesting models I also would like to build in the oncoming years- so subscribe, and keep your eyes on this page 🙂 )

 

Milicast Bergepanther Ausf A (final production) 1/76 review

headerI’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.

Tamiya 1/35 T-62 with Verlinden damage set

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For the last post of the year: the Tamiya T-62 and the Verlinden set that comes with it.

It’s old shelf-queen as well… sitting in a box since 2004. Time to finish her royal highness. (Or, as it turned out later, a royal pain in the neck.)

I did not have any concept for this build, until I finally got that elusive STALKER figure I’ve been searching for for the last seven years. (This was an object lesson: even though you are buying stuff you don’t need, hence increasing the stash you have in your closet, certain things, like resin models are a must-buy when they are available. Once they become out of production, you’ll end up trying to snatch them up on Ebay, and beg on online forums if anyone has a leftover set somewhere.) Bringing these two together I have decided to do a STALKER style diorama with a burned-out, rusting tank. I’m not entirely sure what destroyed the tank; a catastrophic explosion was one option, since the Verlinden set allowed it (theoretically), but for reasons listed below I went with the simple “burned out engine compartment and abandoned” tank instead. One of the reasons was the lack of heavy fighting in the Chernobyl exclusion zone that would cause a tank to explode. The other, less glamorous reason was the difficulty of inserting the resin turret ring into the Tamiya upper hull…

This Verlinden set caught my attention way back in 2004, when my focus shifted towards armored vehicles. Back in those days, children, you could actually buy stuff on ebay from other people, as it was not the exclusive playground of professional vendors. That was a long, long time ago. You could even buy cheap models back in those good ole’ days from fellow modellers! (I know, heresy.)

Anyhow, I really wanted this Verlinden conversion; after all, it featured the interior of the T-62, it was full of metal and resin; what can go wrong, right?

Little did I know. I should have suspected something was awry when an American gentleman essentially threw this kit at me- I got it for less than 10 dollars (with shipping). Ten dollars of PE and resin; quite a lot of it, actually.

What you do not get a lot of, however, is the instructions…

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There was a very quick reality check that I should set my sights lower than this diorama. One prominent issue is the disparity in skills, the other is, well, the conversion/base kit itself.

There are several problems with the Tamiya kit- it’s an old, motorized, inaccurate model, and quite simple at that. The Verlinden set looks incredible- but has the same inaccurate turret, and, quite frankly, takes superhuman efforts to assemble. The instructions were abysmal, the gun barrel was 90 degrees bent, the fit in cases was horrible; after a while I just threw the towel in, and decided to use whatever I can, leave out everything else. I also decided early on against trying to be accurate… So yeah; this model is not going to satisfy any rivet counting tendencies you or I might be harbouring. Let’s just say it’s an “impression” of a T-62 rusting on the field.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m not trying to belittle this conversion set. I will constantly bitch and moan about the difficulties that I ran into, but I think it is useful to be aware of them if you decide to pick this set up. Never once I felt frustrated during the building state; I accepted that if something does not fit or makes sense, I just move on, and ignore the problem. It is incredible set, but you really, really need to be good and extremely dedicated to bring out most of it. It was a learning process for me. I realized what I always knew: I do not like to spend time on challenging builds that are challenging due to poor instructions, poor alignment, and fit. I thoroughly enjoyed MiniArt’s D7 dozer, even though it was a difficult kit. It was a challenge in complexity, and not bad engineering. I never felt I was suffering because the designer wanted to throw a curveball at me, or did not think something through, so I did not mind the effort I put into it. In this case I just simply gave up on a lot of things. Someone who has better skills and more patient can bring out much more of this kit than I can.

That being said… one thing that really, really irked me about the instructions was the frontal mudguard. It shown the original Tamiya part with the plastic mudguard left on when it described what to cut off, and never once indicated that PE replacements are provided. It took me quite a long time to actually realize that it can be changed to a metal one, but by that time the hull was assembled. Beh. The other big issue was the fit of the engine compartment. You need to saw off the back of the hull (it was quite an intense few minutes to get myself going with the saw), and the engine compartment/back hull needs to be glued to the original plastic one. Well, it’s a couple of millimetres wider.

As glue I mostly used epoxy glue, because it is stronger than cyanoacrylate; and I used green stuff as putty to increase the strength of the bond even more.

The mudguards were attached with superglue first, then reinforced with epoxy glue; they are very stiff, and hard to bend. (I did some “battle damage” using a cutter, and it took me considerable effort to cut and bend the metal. Not sure what would cause damage like this in this particular case, but I always wanted to try it, and here was the perfect opportunity.) Same with the tool boxes: the tops were bent and damaged.

 

The interior has some issues as well: the back firewall is missing, and it’s quite visible even if you peek through the hatches; same with the driver’s compartments’ floor. I’ve used some Evergreen plastic to fill these areas out.

I’ve left several parts of the transmission out -so that the rest can be visible, and added some fuel lines to the engine. The exhaust pipes are made out of PE which is odd.

 

 

I thought about depicting a tank that exploded and threw the turret off; the plans, however, died in their infancy. For one, the Tamiya hull had to be cut so that it could accommodate the resin turret ring. I did not feel the resolve to start cutting a large, circular hole. I did not wish to invest in the necessary tools, and doing it free-hand… well, that’s above my skills.

The other main problem was the confusing turret interior layout. The instructions are horrible showing what goes where, and not many people have built and posted photos of this set, so I could not find good reference photos, either. Now, I could have researched the interior of the T-62 using the few black and white photos, and then painstakingly recreate it, but I have shrunk from this challenge.

The turret stays on. I added the gun (but left off most of the components of the gun), bought an aluminium gun barrel (as I did not wish to depict a tank that can only fight in the corners due to the 90 degree bend in its gun), and called it a day.

As for the gun. Normally burned-out tanks have their gun sagging down, as most of the mechanisms holding it in balance are destroyed during the fire. Well, the incorrectly shaped, shallow Verlinden turret and the massive gun breach actually guarantees that the tank does not have any room to depress its gun. In fact it cannot even keep it level- it has a quite steep elevation. In other words this T-62 can only shoot at the stars, because sure as hell it would not be able to depress its gun at anything lower than the sky.

The different vision ports, etc, were also a bit problematic to fit into/onto the turret- the holes were generally larger than the parts themselves. A bit annoying, really. The last problem with the turret: the Tamiya hatches. Russian tanks have quite an elaborate interior hatch structure, which are not replicated on the Tamiya model; I was not sure how it was supposed to be depicted using the Verlinden set. (No instructions, remember?) After a little thinking I just glued the seat pads onto them, so they look like a traditional, WWII hatch with padding. I know it’s not accurate, but as I said: I realized I need to compromise if I want to finish this kit in this century.

I’ve decided -again- not to bother trying to assemble the machine gun from the 30 odd resin and PE pieces, or use Tamiya’s plastic one- after all, the weapons would probably be removed from the abandoned vehicle. Same with most of the storage boxes and tools.

The roadwheels provided by Verlinden have a nice burned-look (no rubber left), but the holes are actually solid. I’ve opted not to open them up; time and sanity saving measures. With a rotary tool it would be reasonably fast, but I don’t have one in the UK, and it’s not very healthy to work with resin dust, anyhow. Talking about roadwheels… I wanted to reposition the swing arms for the suspension, but it was almost impossible to simply cut them off the hull; Tamiya made sure they are very solidly attached to the lower hull. This is important because torsion bars would lose their flexibility once the fire weakens them, and the whole tank would just “sit” on the ground. Well, this one will not.

Painting was done in several steps. First, to check for seams I painted the whole of the bottom hull with different shades of rust- this was also to be a nice base layer for chipping.

Once I was satisfied with everything came the interior- using hairspray technique. AK’s Heavy Chipping fluid and Tamiya’s white were chosen. Once I was satisfied with the amount of chipping, I waited a day and sealed the paint with some varnish. I used some oil washes to do filters and some streaking, but overall I was not unduly worried about the interior, since I decided by that point that it will not be open to the elements. I did add some leaves and some dirt, though.

 

 

Once I tried the top of the hull on I realized that about 0.5cm of the interior’s walls are on the top- and they were not painted and weathered. So back to the rust/white chipping. Unfortunately they do not look uniform. (Apart from the seam between the upper and lower hull, there are color differences.)

 

Well, this is where we are now. The assembly is essentially over, and now it’s “just” the painting and weathering. It’s going to be quite a learning process; the first ever rusted tank I’m building. Keep tuned in- it’s going to be an interesting ride.

DML Panther Ausf. G. and interior

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I have gotten the new “Smart” DML Panther Ausf. G. a long while back; it was, in fact, a 2007 Christmas project. Because it looked very sad and empty inside, I’ve gotten my hands on something I’ve hardly dared to try: a Tank Workshop complete interior… (As I mentioned before, I have a fetish for interiors… they do make the model much, much more interesting by letting you peek under the “hood”.) It made me understand how torsion bars work, how the torque was transferred to the front gearbox, where the ammo was stored… it made me understand a bit better how a steel monster, like the Panther, was assembled. Having finished a couple of other German tanks with interior detail, it also made me appreciate the similarities and differences between the different German tanks from the light Panzer I to the enormous King Tiger. (Interestingly the basic layout did not really change from the Panzer III.)

So… the first steps were the bottom parts and the torsion bars. The torsion bars were created from evergreen plastic. Two things were incredibly frustrating: removing the bottom from the casting block (it was one huge flat block), and removing the plastic pegs from the inside of the lower hull…

For most of the time I’ve either used Gorilla Glue, or two part epoxy. I wanted to make sure the joints will hold. Forever.

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At least the bottom of the interior fit into the hull.

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Fitting everything together… with some paint already applied.

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The turret

The turret basket is -obviously- a multiple part affair…  not an easy one at that. The detail is quite nice; you get all the motors that are rotating the turret, the gun cradle, equipment stored on the base of the turret. There’s even an ammunition pouch on the side.

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The gun’s breech is entirely resin; the kit did not have one.u8xflpn

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The turret basket is finished; with the seats installed it is quite apparent that even the relatively large Panther had a very tight turret.

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Painting

The assembled hull was sprayed with Surfacer 1000.

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Once the mistakes were corrected, I’ve used a light cream color for the typical German interior color.

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Once it was dry, the interior surfaces were masked with tape, because I needed to do the lower hull. I’ve decided against the typical primer red; every modeller uses it, but the Germans did not necessarily leave everything red. A lot of the tanks had a light blue-ish basecoat on the bottom of the inside.

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Kind of like this. I might sound a bit strange to do the blue second, but I was conscious of the fact that light colors are very difficult to paint well. I was not sure how hard it would be to achieve an even coat with the light cream over the darker blue. The neutral grey primer was a much more forgiving surface for painting it.

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Adding details… the tank’s interior looks more and more busy.

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I’ve collected some reference photos online; I tried to replicate the larger cables and wires, but overall I was not concerned with absolute authenticity. To be honest, as this was my very first resin interior, I was happy it was coming together nicely, and that I managed not to mess it up.

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Painting the turret was a similar affair: it was spray painted to the interior color, and I’ve used a brush to paint the rest.iwnv8rk

Weathering was done very lightly. Some metallic wear-and-tear only. Unfortunately I have not taken photos of the turret’s interior; Tank Workshop has provided everything to dress up the frankly quite plain kit turret interior.

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Even more details were added and painted.ygazy5msuf6fre

 

Finishing the interior by adding the ammo racks, radios, seats, and other small details.4rfoxxbjjbqgfa

 

Painting the exterior was done after some extensive masking. I’ve chosen the two-tone color scheme from the box art.

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Camouflage was done with silly putty.

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Practically ready.3yn6104d6q2zwzgtkehl3

 

The tank is unfinished as of yet. Mostly because it’s in storage still (I’ve built it in Florida), and because I have no idea how I should display it… I do not want to close up the hull. Perhaps I’ll cut a couple of holes on it, or display it somehow with the upper hull “levitating” over the lower. Some weathering will be also in order; the interior needs some scratches, some dirt; as does the exterior. Anyhow; the main parts are done. On to the next German tank with interior.

Two-in-one model: KV-220 and T-150

Having the KV-220 in World of Tanks, I got the model because I was interested in building the tank itself. (There’s a slight mixup in-game with the actual designations.) It turns out PSP, the makers of the model were planning ahead, and included a lot of extra parts for all the different versions of the KV family. You get a bunch of extra turrets, gun mantles and all sort of other parts; and I noticed I can actually build a second turret for the T-150 version. Since this is also a version I was planning to build, and I did not cherish the opportunity to building a second hull (it also meant I saved some money as well), I decided to make this tank into a 2-in-1 model: depending on which version I would like to display I can decide which turret to put on top of the hull. (If I manage, I’ll get a KV-3 turret as well, to make it into a 3-in-1 tank, since they all share the same hull.)

The construction went along nicely; the plastic is good quality, and the flash can be cut off carefully. One glaring issue with the kit is the tracks… there’s not enough of them. This version of the KV is actually longer than the original tank, and the tracks included are enough only for the shorter version. I only noticed this when I finished one set already; both drive wheels and both idlers already had the individual links attached to them. This left me with only a couple of options: try to get a replacement set (could not get any), or make use of the ones I already have somehow -which I what I did. The tank is depicted with a set of broken tracks; the only real problem is that tracks don’t break like this. They usually break while the vehicle is in motion, so they’d be thrown either behind or in front of the tank by the drive wheel (depending on where the track has broken, and which direction the tank was going). I’m not sure it’s even possible to have track break like this – perhaps if the tank was immobile, and someone just pulled out a track pin from the top section.
I got an aftermarket barrel for the KV-220 version, and also a set of towing cables; they do improve the look of the model. I could not find a metal 107mm gun barrel, so I used the one supplied with the kit (which looks like a tree log, but there you go. Sacrifices had to be made; if you don’t like it, you can just look at the photos with the other turret on. 🙂 )

First black primer, then green from a Tamiya spray can.

Disaster strikes -the paint breaks up, cracks, and looks pretty horrible in general. (I wouldn’t mind to be able to actually do this effect.) This Tamiya spray has done it before once, and back then I blamed the cold weather. (I sprayed a tank outside in wintertime.) This time there is no such excuse. The can landed in the trash. This and the track issue made me abandon this project for a while. (In principle I don’t throw models away. It came close to ritual melting, though.)

Rescued… Carefully sanded off the offending paint. (Also: a perfect look at the imperfectly broken tracks.)

The final product. Unfortunately no photos were taken during the painting step, as I pretty much gave up on the model at that point.

In short: I’ve repainted the model using several layers of different shades of green. I essentially used a semi-dry brushing technique: I made sure that the paint was not removed from the bush as much as it usually is during drybrushing, and added layers upon layers of green. The result was surprisingly nice and smooth. (I think it’s a kind of a blending technique Wargamers use.)

As you can see the bottom hull is already weathered and muddied up; this is because it’s much easier to do these steps before the tracks are glued on; and the tracks can only be glued on before the top part of the hull is attached…

Once the base color was finished, I applied some patriotic slogans using dry transfers, and painted some parts (mostly hatches and panels that stand out) in a lighter shade of green. The contrast was pretty large, but this was taken care of in the next step. I added filters using the oil paint-dot method. Principally blue, white, yellow, green, burnt umber and burned sienna was used. The last two colors were also used to create pin-washes. (Since I did not want to cover the surface with gloss varnish, I simply wet the surface with spirit, and used the surface tension to add the paint to the crevices.

Brown/black was used to paint scratches onto areas where wear and tear usually happens.

After this, the whole model was sealed with semi-matte varnish.

Once it was done, I tried some of the true earth weathering products, but the fading agent and other filters just did not spread out well. I suspect the surface must be absolutely matte, or I should use some surfactant to help it spread better. It does look good, though, just make sure you don’t overuse the filters.

Some dust and dirt were added to the upper hull, and the model was done for good. It turned out much better than I expected; this should be a lesson to all. (Not sure what the lesson is, but it should definitely be one.)

There you go: a 2-in-1 model of two Russian experimental heavy tanks.

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

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

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

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

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

Sd.Kfz. 251/17

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

There are instructions provided, which was a welcome change.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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