Category Archives: conversion

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.

Sd.Kfz.251 bonanza part 1. The Beginings

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

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

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

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

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

So- to the builds!

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

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

Sd.Kfz.251 Ausf A

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other versions:

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

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

Well, more to come soon 🙂

Revell Panzer IV ausf H Flakpanzer 88 conversion

 

Image Source: Henk’s website henk.fox3000.com

I chose this vehicle as my first scratchbuild attempt. It looked relatively easy to do, it looked cheap(ish), and the tank, let’s face it, looks crazy. The Germans seemed to have a philosophy of “if we can stick an 88 on top of it, we’ll stick an 88 on top of it”, and they did. They put 88s on everything they could think of: trucks and halftracks mostly, but among others, on top of a PnzIV chassis as well. (The only reason they did not stick an 88 on top of another 88 is that it would have looked stupid even for them.) The vehicle looks wicked, but it’s easy to see this tank topple, should the gun fire in any other direction than straight forward or backward… It certainly does not seem like the most stable contraption. Perhaps this was one of the reasons they did not build more of this. The other reason was most likely the stress the gun put onto the suspension; after all, it was a heavy gun, and the recoil also was quite severe. (Don’t forget the ausf H version was already overstressing the chassis.)

Fortunately for us, Revell makes an excellent PnzIV ausf H, which I used as a base model, and I got a cheap(ish) 88 from Hasegawa to stick on top in the well-established German fashion. (I say cheapish, because for ten quid it’s not particularly good. I had to drill out the barrel, for one, and the detail is soft altogether.)

The first cut with a small razor saw… this is the point of no return. Unfortunately I have not made any more photos of the building process. In short, I successfully removed the extra bits (without completely destroying the rest), and glued evergreen cut to size to form the “fighting compartment” of the gun. I waited for months for this part, because I was desperately looking for appropriately sized no-slip surface PE sheets, but found none. I have managed to find one set, of course, right after I finished the model.

With this step, the conversion part was essentially over. (Babysteps. I’m happy with the first major scratchbuild I did. Next: BT-SV.)

From here on, everything was straightforward.

The photo shows two tanks patiently awaiting their first layer of paint: Citadel’s black primer.

The second color, dunkelgelb, in several light layers. The black acts as a pre-shade.

The first fitting of the gun onto the deck of the tank. The gun is still black; later it was painted German gray.

I wanted to give some contrast to the model, so I painted the added bits red-oxide color, as if the builders were too lazy to paint the converted parts. Most likely they would have painted over the primer on the metal to protect it, and to decrease the contrast -after all, anti-aircraft vehicles were prime targets for ground attack airplanes. They probably would have repainted the gun itself as well; I gave it a gray color, which was the original color used in AA batteries. I wanted to make it look like a conversion: they took a used chassis and a used gun, and mated them together. The gun is slightly elevated, and offset – it looks more dynamic this way. It’s a shame it’s not movable.

The tank received a moderate amount of wear and tear, some dust and rust; not too much, but I did want to make it look like a used tank. I added some paint chips around the hatches and edges using dark brown, and some lighter scratches using a lightened base color. A soft lead pencil was used to give a metallic shine to the edges. I added a lot of dust onto the fighting compartment; after all, there were at least 4 people manning the gun, and they won’t be wiping their boots before climbing up to their station. The wicker ammo holder was strategically placed onto the mudguard to cover up the holes… Filling them in would have been a major inconvenience, as it would have damaged the no-slip marks, and getting a PE replacement would have been expensive. (And frankly: I was pleased  with myself that it was not damaged at the cutting phase; I was not about to remove it after all that suffering.) I placed some empty shell casings around the gun to make it look a little bit more “lived in”, and called it a day. Later on I plan to add some more crew equipment (helmets, personal items, etc), but I’ll need to find a good aftermarket set first.

Panzer IV Schmalturm conversion (Revell-CMK)

 

This is one weird-looking tank. As usual, the Germans were thinking the looniest ideas, trying to make a difference in the war, instead of doing, you know, the rational thing. (Well, rational people don’t start world wars, and most certainly do not engage in ethnic cleansing, or if they themselves do not take part in the above mentioned activities, do not work for people who do, so there’s that.)

Well, back to the tank. The PnzIV was already approaching the limits they could squeeze out of the chassis; the ausf J was an attempt to remedy this issue. The ausf H was already overstressed in several areas: it was, for example, so nose-heavy, the front suspensions were constantly under pressure. They simplified a lot of things (the turret traverse was manual only, they used all-steel return-rollers, changed the side-skirts into wire mesh, etc). The next “logical” step was to put the Schmalturm designed for the Panther onto this overstressed chassis to give it some extra firepower (kind of like a poor man’s Panther). Perhaps the turret-ring issue was not that big of a deal (the Schmalturm’s diameter is somewhat larger than the pnzIV turret’s), but the additional weight would have certainly made this tank immobile.

Anyway, it’s a cool looking tank; it looks like someone stuck a Darth Vader helmet on it. (It’s not my analogy. A popular WoT one.)

CMK makes a pretty cool little conversion set, which should be used with an ausf J model, but unfortunately, the only available ones are ausf Hs. You shall have to live with this, if you want to have a model of this tank.

The conversion is simple, the casting is nice (I like the turret armor’s texture), and you get some extras (like metal mudguards -only for the back side, though).

The side-skirt is made of wire mesh. Its role was to explode shaped-charge shells before they get to the side armor of the tank; this would decrease the efficiency of the molten copper jet that is supposed to melt its way through the armor, incinerating everyone inside. (Pleasant thoughts.)

The conversion uses some parts of the model’s side-skirts; I would have preferred to have the mounting brackets made of metal.

The build is a pleasant one; you build the chassis, and stick the turret on top.

 

First red-brown layer -it looks more red on the photo. It simulates the red-oxide primer for the metal. It will give some nice modulation to the subsequent layers.

Dunkelgelb. The photo is way too pale, but it IS yellow, I promise. I mixed quite a lot of  tan to simulate the scale effect (colors look darker on smaller objects, so they need to be lightened to be realistic).

I used masking tape to mask the different colors; I chose the camo pattern from my premium tank in WoT.

I only wanted to do some light weathering; after all, this is a never built, hypothetical tank. Some filters, a little bit of scratching, a light pinwash, and some dust (pigments). I used a pencil on the edges of the model; this gives a metallic look for the tank.