Category Archives: light tanks

Tankfest, 2018, part 2. -the cutaway tanks

A cool exhibition of a Centurion cut in half, along with a somewhat corny video of a tank maneuvering and shooting on the range.

A cutaway T-55… this is something I’m definitely going to do. I mean I did try to do one before, but I always held back of fear of ruining the model. Not any more… The new MiniArt T-55A Mod 1981, here I come. (I really like the idea of cutting away the side of the hull by the driver.) There are other examples, too, for inspiration.

Assorted thanks sitting around. Black Prince, Comet, Archer, Panzer IV, The Penis Tank, and the rest. A WoT wet dream.

An armored plate with some projectiles sticking out…

 

 

Keep an eye out -more photos are incoming.

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Tankfest, 2018, part 1.

Ever since I’ve learned about it, I wanted to see a Tankfest. Back when I was still sitting in Florida it seemed very unlikely that I’d ever get to one; but even though I did live in the UK for more than 8 years somehow I still managed not to go even once. (To be fair, Bovington is not exactly public transport friendly, and I did not have a car for most of the time.)

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This year, by accident, I actually got to see Tankfest. I guess I am Good Luck Brian now.

Since we were leaving the UK for a job on the Continent, we decided to spend a couple of days around Bournemouth. It is an incredibly nice place, especially when it is summer (and I do not mean the usual British summer. I mean the 30 degrees, baking hot summer), and I wanted to see the Museum on the side -who knows when I would be able to come back to visit, right? (My poor wife was very accommodating and did not object spending a day among these metal contraptions.)

I planned to get to Bovingdon on Tuesday but we decided the last minute to do the Tank Museum on Friday. I had some vague memories of Tankfest being around the end of June, but with the trans-Continental move and all I did not exactly pay attention. Friday morning comes the shock- Tankfest. And I do not have tickets…

The 40 minute drive to the Museum was a bit intense for my taste; I just wanted to see some tanks, and was worried that I would not be able to get in due to the event.

Well, I was in luck – even though both Saturday and Sunday was sold out, Friday was still available. It was not a “proper” day yet, more of a trial run for the big day. No famous youtubers, no wargaming events, and no pyrotechnics for the tank show.

The place was not very crowded, on the other hand, so you got to get close to the tanks, and could enjoy the show without other people pushing and getting in the way, which was definitely nice. I overheard someone who worked there remarking that it was so much better than the usual overcrowded events. I also saw the end of the day a big group of people shepherded around  -and recognized Quickybaby in the crowd. I guess this was the Youtuber section being introduced to the Museum. The Chieftain was also there; I wanted to say hi to him, but a certain Youtuber cut in the queue, and stepped in front of me. (I was a queue of one.) Shame on you, mate. And you call yourself British. (No, it was not QB.)

I got some freebies from Wargaming for playing the game on site (a T shirt, a small backpack and a code for a Churchill tank), and I got to enjoy the tank show in the arena. To be honest the whole event was much smaller than I thought it would be. The tanks were really noisy; I never thought the tracks can be this loud.

I also got to crawl around the tanks in the museum. And this is where I saw something that was both hearbreaking and funny in equal measure. (I know I’m going to hell.)

A small kid was just standing by the cut-in-half Centurion, completely still. His face was set in the grimace of complete despair and abandonment, and the tears were just streaming on his face. Apparently he was left there by his family. A Tank Museum volunteer was talking to him, while calling others on the CB, so there were about ten people swarming around him, trying to console him, while he was just standing there, staring in the distance, still in shock, not reacting to anything, and only responding to questions in a very subdued, muted voice.

I may go to hell for finding this whole situation both sad and funny, but the father of this child will definitely be there waiting for me. SHAME ON YOU, MISTER. YOU ARE A BAD PARENT.

I mean I get it, I like tanks, too, but seriously? You forgot about your own kid?

Interesting photos of the Sd.Kfz 251: the armor looks really rough. I always assumed that it was smooth; after all, none of the photos I’ve seen suggested this level of roughness, not to mention the models have not featured it, either. (Cast/rolled armor texture is something that is shown in modern kits.) Its counterpart inside the museum featured smooth armor. This may -or may not- be a Czech-made vehicle, retrofitted to look like a German Sd.Kfz. 251. (Someone suggested it might be the leftover texture after the rust removal process.)

 

I really liked these abandoned, weathered tanks- the two big Cold War Warriors, the Centurion and the T-55. Good reference photos for extreme weathering.

Matilda I – you have to love it if for nothing else but for the eyes. Cool little tank.

Assortment of tanks standing around.

Churchill turrets shot up on the range… good reference for damage and rust.

Cold War tanks in profile.

American heavy -M103.

 

Russian heavy- the IS-3. Astonishingly small… the same size as the Type 59 and the T-72 standing next to it. I also took a sneaky photo of the interior as seen from the driver’s hatch. The only interior photo I’ve ever seen of the IS-3.

Type-59… the legendary WoT premium vehicle; otherwise a Chinese copy of the T-54.

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T-72… now this is a tank I’d like to get into. I would love to see the autoloader in person.

And we’re inside… (It was HOT outside.) Starting with the KV-1. It’s surprisingly large… I’d love to see it next to a Tiger.

1/72 AMX-40 by OKB Grigorov

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This is one of those tanks that definitely has a lot of personality. From absolute obscurity it was launched into the general consciousness* by the online game World of Tanks, which features it as a tier IV light tank. It has a certain notoriety as it is certainly one of the worst tanks in the game, but despite of this it became somewhat of a legend (or a cult, rather) simply due to its quite unique looks. It’s a sort of hipster tank, just like the Churchill Gun Carrier. The WoT community has created several amusing memes around it, and it has its own nickname: “The Duck”. Right now the only mod I run with the game is the “rubber duck” custom paintjob. (See below)

*Well, more accurately, into the general consciousness of a certain gaming community…

The unique look of the tank is the result of its designers taking the idea of sloped armour to its limits. The plans were drawn up in 1940 as a replacement option for the S35 and S40 cavalry tanks, but due to the German invasion these plans did not materialise; no prototypes were ever built. (To be fair it would have probably performed just as bad in real life against panzer IIIs and IVs as it does in-game.) The only contemporary image of this strange-looking tank available online is a drawing. The tank did inspire a lot of online creativity, thought…

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I have been toying around with Blender trying to make a printable model of this tank, but so far my efforts are less than satisfactory. (I’m not giving up, though; if I succeed I will paint it in the Rubber Duck scheme.) Needless to say when I saw that OKB is producing a version of this vehicle I ordered one at once. I quite like this feedback of computer games into the scale model industry; a lot of newer releases (KV-4, AT2, etc.) were clearly inspired by the weirder prototypes, paper panzers popularized by WoT.

The kit comes in a typical OKB box, the parts placed into ziplock bags. The instructions are computer generated and quite simple, but this is a simple model after all. Once you finish the suspension/running gear (I have no idea if they are accurate), you’re essentially finished. It comes with two PE parts, and two transparent resin pieces for the headlights. It lacks the back-mounted machine gun that was planned (that up-pointing gun mounted behind the turret). Other than that it looks very similar to the blueprint, but distinctly different from its in-game representation. (Which is a shame, because the WoT turret with its secondary machine gun turret looks much better in my opinion. It’s absolutely fictional, but looks trump historical accuracy. Well, this is what Blender is for, I guess.)

The model went together without a hitch. The suspension arms fit well, the wheels went on nicely, and the tracks were a breeze to install; that was pretty much the extent of the build, really. Apart from this I had to glue the turret and the gun in place, install the headlights, and add the side-skirts. The building process took about an hour. The only tricky part was to fix the side-skirts onto the curved profile of the tank.

The painting was also pretty easy: I primed the model with the side-skirts off with Vallejo’s German Grey primer, and applied AK’s Chipping Fluid. Once dry, I mixed up the (fictional) blue-gray color from WoT using Tamiya paints, and misted it over the model in several layers. This was followed by some moderate chipping using a wet, stiff brush.

When the model was dry, I used some oil-paint based filters (light brown, blue) to modulate the base color somewhat, and sealed everything with gloss varnish.

Unfortunately there are no decals provided with the model.

After weeks of consideration I decided to test out printing waterslide decals using an inkjet printer. The results were not satisfactory (I used transparent decal paper instead of white, and the colors are very faint), but life is about learning, right? If you want to have faded markings, print decals -that’s my conclusion. The other -bigger problem- is the thickness of the decals; they are just not going onto the surface very well, you can see silvering despite of soaking the whole model in decal softeners, and in general, just being crappy decals. Conclusion? Buy an aftermarket set next time…

The headlights were painted using a chrome pen.

I added the decals, sealed them, and painted on some more scratches and chips. Using Tamiya’s makeup set I added some dust on the lower part of the chassis; and this concludes the painting and weathering phase; the Duck is ready.

Overall the model is nice: well designed, easy to assemble, and unique-looking. The price is moderately high, but affordable; it’s great as a weekend project (or for the true fans of Le’Duck).

MiniArt’s T-60 light tank part 2. -finishing up

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Part 1

I painted and weathered the interior, closed in the hull, and moved onto the turret. As I mentioned I made a bit of an embarrassing mistake with the guns… Otherwise the interior went together fine. What I found, however, is that the assembly of the main gun is somewhat unwieldy. It’s made up of two parts (barrel and the interior part) which are glued to the holding part under the gunshield. Since they are not directly connected it’s very important to make sure they form a straight line. The gun barrel is bored out, which is quite impressive, really. The turret has a pistol port; the metal plug, however has no PE chain that would hold it. It’s somewhat disappointing, but easily remedied if needed.

 

The track assembly is relatively simple; fortunately the links are not very small. The assembly goes as usual with individual tracks: glue them together with liquid glue, wait 20-30 minutes and gently shape them onto the running gear. (Best work in sections as the links do not hold onto each other very well.) It would be really nice if MiniArt provided a jig to form a realistic sag between the return rollers.

 

Painting was easy. I glued the turret in place; I did not want to risk damaging the seat.

The first layer was the Vallejo primer base; I cannot recommend enough this primer. While it’s possible to get away not using any primer, it still provides a better surface for the paint to hold on; and in case of Vallejo, you don’t have to dilute the paint before spraying, so it’s easy to use.

I’ve used a really lightened version of OD green by Tamiya as the base color; this went on in several thin layers. The mud on the sides was applied in a very unorthodox manner. Way before painting I was applying mud to my T-55; I simply applied the leftover mixture of pigments, Mig Ammo neutral wash, plaster and static grass on the sides/bottom of the hull. It was an impulsive decision; I did not want to throw out the leftovers. It was not an unprecedented one, however; I’ve seen mud being pre-applied before painting before (or rather, mud texture, which was then painted in earth colors later on).

I avoided these areas with the primer, and only fogged the green slightly onto it; this actually resulted in a pretty neat muddy effect.

 

 

 

Reviewing the photos I just relized I forgot to add the handle for the commander’s hatch on the turret.

Anyhow, once the green color was on, it did look a bit light and bright; nothing a couple of dark filters did not remedy. I was hoping I would get the right color by the end; I’m actually pleased with the results.

The circular access hatches on the engine deck and other protruding details were painted with light green oil paint straight from the tube; it creates a nice contrast, and once the paint dries (a week…) it can be toned down a bit with filters.

The exhaust port was first painted in the primer color (German grey), then additional layers of different rust colored pigments were added using white spirit. The contrast between lighter and darker colors was toned down with a dark brown wash at the end. The exhaust fumes were simulated using “soot” from Tamiya’s makeup-set.

When I was happy with the final color, I added the decals onto a gloss varnish base, then sealed them with flat varnish.

The next steps were adding tonal variation. I’ve used the dot-method first (brown, yellow, white and green oil paints), then different streaking products from the AK Interactive range.

Finally some dust and rust colors were used from the Tamiya makeup range to blend everything together.

I’ve mixed some light, dust colored pigments with white spirit, and applied little patches onto the horizontal surfaces. Using a clean, wet brush I spread these out and removed the excess to create a little, uneven layer of dust.

I’ve used AK’s oil stains diluted with white spirit on the fuel cap. First I made a more diluted mixture, and applied a couple of larger spills, then using a less diluted mixture I added smaller ones; this gives the impression of several instances of spilled fuel around the cap. (The larger ones obviously being older, and more spread out.)

Finally the tracks and the edges of the tank were treated with a silver pencil to give a little metallic shine to the model.

 

 

I’ve mounted the T-60 next to her bigger cousin the SU-76. I think the next (and final step) in the painting phase will be the application of subtle paint chips to both tanks later on. To be honest the one reason I bought the Su-76 was the cover art: I liked how the original Russian color showed through the German camo around the driver’s hatch…

 

 

 

MiniArt’s T-60 light tank part 1. – The Interior

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The T-60 was born as the replacement of the outdated T-38 series of light tanks. It was designed to be easy and cheap to produce in large numbers, and to be simple to use. The idea was to build up a large number of light tanks armed with a 20mm autocannon which would support the infantry on the battlefield as a sort of cavalry. They were definitely not designed to fight other tanks or serious fortifications; they were supposed to scout, and fight infantry (and perhaps lightly armored vehicles) with their main armament. The production started in 1941 and went into 1942 with about 7000 tanks built; they served until the end of the war. (It was the third most produced armored vehicle in the Soviet Union after the T-34 and Su-76

The tank featured sloped armor, and a two-man crew. The driver was sitting in the hull, and a commander/loader/gunner was in the one-man turret behind the driver. There was no radio provided for the crew. The tank was powered by a GAZ-202 6-cylinder engine which had 76 hp, and allowed the tank to achieve a whopping 27mph top speed. The range was about 270 miles. The main armament was a 20mm TNSh cannon, which was later in the war was upgraded to a 37mm ZIS-19 gun. This upgrade was not pursued since the ammunition for the gun was in a short supply. A later upgrade to the 45mm ZIS-19 tank gun necessitated the complete redesign of the turret; this project was abandoned when the T-70 project was approved as the replacement of the T-60. As an additional claim of fame, this tank was used in the famous flying tank project- attaching glider wings to the vehicle to make it airborne.

The Germans captured and quite a lot of these tanks, but I could not find any information on what they thought of the vehicle. (They mostly used it as a towing tractor/ammo carrier, so this might indicate something.) Tanks captured by the Romanian armed forces were rebuilt into the TACAM T-60 tank destroyer. 

The operational history of the T-60 was not very illustrious but it was crucial in the early days of Barbarossa when the Soviets needed tanks to hold back the German advancement while their industry was relocated further East. It was certainly reliable and could handle difficult terrain well; it was also available in large numbers -something that really counted when other, more superior weapon systems were not yet ready in large numbers. As a stop-gap solution it worked, but it was certainly not a good tank.

One of the reasons I like models with interiors is that you get an idea of what was it like for the crew to work and fight in these vehicles, and in this respect MiniArt’s offering is a very eye-opening one. I have to say based on what I’ve seen of the T-60 during the build of this model, it must have been a singularly unpleasant vehicle to be in. It was tight, cramped, and the engine was in the same compartment as the crew. The driver had a large, hot engine with rotating shafts, fuel and oil pipes all over right next to him, and the position of controls were also pretty un-ergonomical, placed as they were literally behind him. If the turret was facing forward his hatch was obstructed by the gun so leaving quickly was not much of an option, either… All this in a tank that had an armor that could be penetrated with a relatively stern look.

This tank must have been extremely dangerous to operate even in peacetime, but having people shooting at you as well will transform the picture from grim to hellish. All in all, I do not envy the people who had to fight in tanks -any tank, really- during the war, but these little vehicles must have been especially horrid. The Panzer II, it’s most comparable German counterpart, was positively luxurious compared to the T-60 -and it also had a radio.

 

The model is your typical Full Interior MiniArt kit. It has relatively few parts.

Normally MiniArt instructions are very easy to follow; this case I had some issues with them. For one, sometimes you have no idea how the finished article should look like (case to the point: the horn (?) assembly on the frontal glacis. For that particular part you will need to check the painting guide or historical photos.) The other, bigger is that the order of assembly does not always make sense. The most outstanding example would be the mudguards. First you add some of the tools and other details to the mudguards (e.g. holding brackets for the towing cable, but not the cable itself) but then you stop and move on to other parts of the model, leaving assemblies half-finished; later on you return and finish the build.

The other big problem was that sometimes the instructions show an assembly turned over, and then later steps showing it in the right orientation; this, combined with my inattention meant that I made a seriously silly mistake and put the main gun in the wrong position. I guess it’s fitting; as a left handed person now I can claim I have a left handed T-60. The mistake is mine, but the instructions don’t make it easy to avoid. (Interestingly enough my version now gives more clearance for the driver’s hatch to open… I think I might have improved on the design.)

Another mistake I made due to this issue was the installation of the PE bracket for the hand-crank shaft; fortunately this was easy to remedy when I realized the mistake.

 

The build is quite straightforward and -with some issues aside- easy. The suspension is a torsion bar suspension, but unlike in the case of the T-44, T-54, T-55 kits, it’s not functional. It is faster to assemble, but the problem is that the swing arms need to be manually positioned -something this kit shares with the older SU-76 kit. Not a big issue, but it’s not a welcome one.

The interior goes together easily. The engine has really nice detail (I could not find reference on the cables and wires, so I did not add them), and the transmission is really nice, too. I replaced the plastic rod representing the shaft of the hand-crank because it was too delicate, and broke when I removed it from the sprue. I installed the different pipes (fuel, air, etc) after I weathered the interior as they are all over the place, which would make access to certain places more difficult during the painting/weathering process.

 

 

 

I had some difficulties installing the gills into the back of the tank; you are supposed to place them parallel to each other and the back of the tank. The guiding ribs are not very pronounced and don’t hold them very well, so actually inserting the gills into the right ones can be a bit frustrating. (As soon as the glue “melts” the plastic a bit, the gills will freely move out of their ridge.)

The engine service hatch can be posed open, which is very much welcome, since it allows showing off the interior. (Why else build it, right?) The instructions show this as a “movable” option with a hinge; however I find this to be a very optimistic assessment: the hinge is very small, and the fit of the hatch is quite tight.

Well, this was part 1. Part to is coming next. (Duh.)

 

1/35 Meng Renault FT-17 part 3.

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Please find part one and two here.

Well, the tank is finally done. It took me a long time to build, it was one of those builds which just did not want to get done; even though the model itself is just amazing.

Last steps: mud and dust… again. I have to admit I did the different stages of muddying the tank parallel to the T-55AM; everything written in part 6 applies here, too.

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The next step was to apply dust. Dust and mud are the two things I’m not really good with, so this part I put off as long as I could. I settled for AK’s dust products, and mixed my own mud.

AK’s dust comes as a suspension; when you apply it, it goes on thick, and the results are not very pleasing. At least this is what I thought at first. As with everything I realized the secret is not adding stuff to the model, but removing it after. I diluted some of the mixture in white spirit, dabbed it onto the tank, waited some time, and then using a wet brush I removed most of the dust, spreading it around, adjusting it. The key is to be patient: you can always repeat the procedure (in fact, you should), if there’s not enough added. Adding less is always  preferable to adding more.

One the dust was dry, I went on mudding up the lower chassis.

What I failed to realize for a long time is that it’s not enough to buy a product called “mud”, and them smear it onto the tank; just as you can’t just cover a tank with a paint labelled “rust”, and expect realistic results. Obviously the results will be sub-optimal; there are really no shortcuts in mud. (I feel this sentence carries some deeper, more profound meaning.) Even if you buy custom-made products you still have to learn how to apply them, and that’s that. And since you need to learn it anyhow, you might as well save some money and make your own mud.

The first layer was simple pigments suspended with water. I dabbed it on, then after it was mostly dry, removed some using a brush. A day later the procedure was repeated with a different color. The key here is layers; just like Shrek, mud has layers, too. Old mud tends to be dryer and lighter; newer deposits tend to be thicker, darker and placed lower. I dabbed the pigment-water mixture all over the lower chassis, the side-skirts, even on the top of the mudguards (in a much more diluted form).

I also splattered some using a loaded brush and a toothpick onto the side-skirts; any splatters that were out of place (on the side of the turret, for example) was removed with a wet brush using downward motions, leaving a very faint streak behind. I’ve also used Vallejo’s mud product on the side-skirts; it produces quite dark splatters which are quite different from how it looks like on the photo on the bottle.

A day or two later I decided to try something I’ve never done: I made thick mud. I used Mig’s Neutral Wash as a base. I got this as part of a set, and frankly I can’t really find any use for it; it’s too grey to be a “normal” wash. If you know how to use it, please let me know.

It did serve as a good medium, though. I mixed in a lot of brown pigments of different shades, some sand and some static grass, and then offering my soul to the gods of model building, I proceeded to apply the mixture to the lower chassis.

The method was the same application/removal as before; with a brush dampened with white spirit I adjusted the amount of mud on the wheels and chassis. I also added some on the mudguards (and sprinkled some on). The results are actually quite spectacular; I did not dare to hope for such a nice effect.

Once the mud dried (I gave it a week), I used my graphite pencil to give some metallic shine to the edges. The exhaust was treated with different rust colored pigments and brown washes.

The last stage was to take care of the remaining small details. I painted and installed the tools; the PE straps were a pain to add. The painting was relatively easy: the metallic parts were treated with the Vallejo primer and then rubbed some steel pigments to make it look like metal. The edges were dry-brushed with AK’s true metal steel paint. The handles were painted with buff, and then using a stiff brush I gently painted some brown oil paints; this made the surface uneven and gave an impression of wood grains. If you take a look at the instructions you’ll see that the hammer should have been installed under a plastic part during the construction. I left it off deliberately to make painting it easier. Installation was simple: I cut the handle in half…

I painted the straps of the tool box, and the construction was essentially finished.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1/35 Meng Renault FT-17 part 2.

Please find part one here.

So yes, the engine was finished mostly in black with all the piping, etc. done in glorious copper and bronze. AK’s steel pigments were used to give a metallic shine to the transmission and the metal body of the engine.

 

Looking at the interior it must have been singularly unpleasant to actually fight in this tank. Yes, it was a revolutionary design, but it still had a couple of leather slings for the commander to sit on, he had almost zero visibility, and the driver probably better had his feet removed because there was not much space for him to fit them.

 

I chose one of the kit’s paint scheme; unfortunately this is where the instructions fall flat a bit- only a side-drawing is provided. The box art gives a slightly different perspective but I still don’t know what the right side is supposed to look like.

Regardless the model was first painted with Vallejo’s German Grey primer, followed dark green in several layers. Each consecutive layer was lightened a bit with the yellow (actually Dunkelgelb by Mig Ammo). I focused the lighter colors on the top and the middle of the panels; even the full-green pain scheme looked pretty good in my opinion.

Once the green cured, I masked it with silly putty, and proceeded with the yellow, then the brown. The brown was Tamiya’s NATO brown with some yellow added.

Once the main steps were done I had to retouch some parts with a brush; these masking jobs never turn out perfectly.

 

The contrast at this stage was pretty stark between the colors; light brown and yellow filters helped to blend them a bit. Once everything dried I applied varnish on top, added the decals and sealed them with another layer of varnish.

 

I applied dark brown wash to the rivets and other small details, and used a wet brush to remove the excess after 30 or so minutes; this created some nice, pleasing streaks. I also used some streaking products by AK to add further streaks.

 

 

1/35 Meng Renault FT-17 part 1.

I’m finishing up long outstanding builds… so I have several of these builds running parallel. I’m finishing up the T-55 (and quite a few others) alongside of this build.

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This is probably the most iconic tank -ever. (Or it should be.) Meng has come out with a really excellent model of it a couple of years ago, and this February I just gave in and purchased one at my local hobby shop.

I was not disappointed. The manual is excellent (and gives a pretty good history of the model), the instructions are clear, the quality is top-notch. AND it comes with an interior. I have to say I fell in love with Meng.

 

 

The assembly is quite straightforward, with a couple of issues, though. (What model is without them, right?)

The suspension actually works; you get little metal springs with the model, which is nice; putting it together, however is a bit fiddly.

 

 

The engine is very well detailed; most of it will be hidden, though if you choose to install it. For this reason I decided I’ll display it in front of the model, as I did with a couple of other kits before (T-34, T-44…)

 

The interior got the usual heavy treatment. I used a black primer (acrylic spray… since then I switched to Vallejo’s German Grey primer), which was followed by an enamel-based varnish, and Tamiya’s flat white. If you use high pressure, it can be sprayed with very little dilution, which will result in a solid cover (always an issue with white and yellow).

I used the windex chipping method to create worn surfaces, with the black showing through. The contrast is quite high; in retrospect I should have used some brown instead.

Once the model was try I used oil paints to create discoloration and streaks on the side-panels. The interior details are quite nice; the painting of the ammunition in the ammo rack is a pain in the neck, though. (There’s a choice of main guns; the machine gun option would leave you without this chore.)

The bottom of the engine compartment was treated with different AK and Vallejo products (engine grime, oil, fuel stains).

I took some artistic licence painting the engine; I tried how it would look like if I installed it, but eventually decided that it will be displayed outside of the tank.

Once the interior was finished I assembled the hull; the tank was ready for painting.

 

 

 

 

 

Armory 1/72 Luchs

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This is the fourth Luchs in this series… and the third plastic one.

Let’s see…

Modelltrans Luchs
Flyhawk Luchs
Maco Luchs

Introduction -Armory’s plastic kits

The instructions are clear and easy to follow; the one gripe I had with them is that the parts are not numbered on the sprues: you get a sprue layout on the cover of the instructions, and you have to find the parts on the sprues based on it. It’s not that difficult to do, but it still is a hindrance during the build.

 

The model came in an “envelope-type” box, which opens on the top (and bottom). I personally don’t like these boxes because they aren’t very resistant but it’s a personal preference. The sprues were sealed in plastic bags alongside with the PE fret, decals and instructions. The cover image shows the tank in the middle of an engagement. The back of the box shows a set of computer generated images of the model, and the different build options.

The model is a 3-in-1 type of kit: you can build three different versions of the Luchs: early, mid, and the up-armored late versions.

Inspecting the plastic parts I found a lot of flash, and the detail was somewhat soft, and in some places missing. (Most notably one of the armored protectors for the vision slots is smooth, although it was ribbed in real life.)

The PE parts are thin enough and detailed; I liked working with them. The tank is really brought to life by the PE additions; the plastic itself only gives it a basic shape, really, and the PE gives it detail.

The decals are well printed and thin; there were no issues during application.

 

The build was relatively quick. The lower hull does not come as a single “tub”: you have to glue it together from four parts (bottom, sides, back). The top of the hull comes as one large part. Unfortunately it goes onto the sides rather than fitting into the opening on the top, which means there will be a seam-line around the superstructure that needs to be filling.

Before installing the tracks I’ve first finished most of the hull with all the PE details, added the roadwheels, and painted the hull and the mudguards in the base color (primer red) following the base color (RAL 7028 Dunkelgelb 1944). I added the tracks at this stage, attached the mudguards, and added the remaining details to the hull. These I painted with a brush.

I carefully painted the pattern using Tamiya olive green lightened with deck tan (for scale effect) with a brush. I was not particularly concerned about how even the patches were, since they would not be prominent after the whitewash; only small parts of the underlying camouflage would be visible. I did use a light brown filter to tone down the contrast a bit. The decals were added this point, since the whitewash was applied on the field, onto a vehicle already in service.

Once the basic painting was done, I sealed the paint with Testors Dullcote to protect it from the subsequent steps, and covered the whole model with AK Interactive Heavy Chipping Medium. This was followed by Tamiya flat white, and after about ten minutes of waiting I went on creating chips with a wet brush and a toothpick. The paint was nicked carefully at places using the toothpick, and I used the wet brush to enlarge these chips.

Once I achieved a decent amount of chipping and cleaned off the model with some running water, the contrast between the white and the underlying colors was really stark.

Sealed everything with Dullcote again, and picked up MIG Ammo’s washable white. I covered the model with it using an airbrush, and after it had some time to dry I created a transparent, uneven white layer over the whole tank using a wet brush. Moving the brush with a downward motion I blended everything together nicely; the paint left a translucent white layer on top of the model.

The weathering part is always a bit difficult, especially in 1/72; it’s really easy to overdo in this scale. One thing I’ve noticed is that the camera and the eye sees differently. It’s probably the trickiest part of the whole process to make sure the model looks good on screen as well as with the naked eye. As a general rule if by eye the model looks good, on photo the effects will appear somewhat overdone.

I used some heavily diluted winter streaking grime from AK Interactive as stains on the lower chassis. Different brown pigments mixed with white spirit and “splashed mud” from Vallejo was used to simulate the mud thrown up by the tracks onto the lower chassis and the road wheels. A silver pencil helped to create a worn, shiny metal look on the edges of the tracks, and gave a metallic sheen to the gun. (Normally I use it on all edges, but in this case the whitewash made it unnecessary.) I’ve used a guitar string -E string- for the whip and the crow’s feet antennae.

Well, pretty much this was it. The model was not very difficult to build (some experience with PE required), and the detail looks good when finished. The crow’s feet antenna looks especially good compared to most of the other offerings in this scale.

Interestingly all 1/72 Luchs kits have minor differences from each other: the location of the Jerry cans, the combination of changes, the shape of the mudguards, even the turret are all slightly differ from each other. Unfortunately I cannot really comment on the accuracy of these; there are not many photos available, and they might -or might not- be representative to all the tanks produced.

The tale of the four Luchs’ – the Maco Pz.Kpfw. II Luchs

Modelltrans’ Luchs

Flyhawk’s Luchs

…and still to come: Armory’s Luchs!

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These years seem to be the golden years of scale models. Vehicles that have not been available or only available in the form of limited resin kits suddenly get a lot of attention. The Pz.Kpfw. II. Luchs was one of these vehicles. I’ve built the ModellTrans version five years ago, inspired by the online game World of Tanks, and now, in a very short span of time we get not one but three Braille scale plastic versions of the tank.

I have reviewed Flyhawk’s 1/72 Luchs offerings before, and I was really curious what the other Luchs kits are like. This review will be about the up-armored Maco offering; I’ll comment on the differences between this kit and the Flyhawk kit here and there during the review. (The up-armored Luchs is essentially the same as the basic Maco Luchs with a small fret added; anything I say here is relevant to all Maco kits.)

The breakdown of the model is quite old-school: we have a “traditional” lower hull assembly from four parts (two sides, a bottom and the back). The suspension units and the swing arms holding the roadwheels are already moulded onto the sides. There is an interesting solution for the last pair of braces on the mudguards: they are moulded onto the back panel. The mudguards will need to be slid under the brackets. Be careful not to cut them off; first I thought they were some sort of plastic overflow during the moulding process. As most of the finer details, the back light is moulded onto the left brace.

The added parts are on a separate sprue: the tool box from the back of the mudguards, the jerry cans for the turret sides (these were moved to the back of the tank in the Flyhawk up-armored Luchs kit), smoke grenade launchers, some extra boxes on the back of the turret, a metal armor plate for the lower hull on the front, the perforated vision block protector, and additional track sections protecting the frontal hull. Without this sprue you can build the early version of the model easily.

The interweaving road wheels are done the same way as DML handled them with their kits: the two inner rows of wheels form one part each, onto which you’ll have to attach the outermost row as individual wheels. This solution makes assembly much simpler, and it’s a great solution to avoid any misalignment. The pattern on the road wheels is very well replicated, and the wheels are very thin, which is probably quite true to scale. (Although it’s a conjecture on my part since I have no access to a real vehicle, and neither have I found any information on the thickness of the wheels anywhere.)

The drive wheel is nicely detailed, and the plastic is a tad thicker than the Flyhawk kit’s- this is actually a good thing, because it can easily bend when you are trying to install the tracks on the Flyhawk model. The tracks come as link-and-length, and they are very easy to assemble. (They are probably the easiest I’ve had so far in 1/72.)

The upper hull and the mudguards come as one piece. The model is really “traditional” in this sense as well: the sides of the hull will need to be fitted as separate parts due to the details (viewing ports) that need to be there; no slide-moulds for this kit. The fit is remarkably good, though, so no problems there.

The model does not come with many PE parts: we get the top of the German “crow’s foot” antenna, and that’s it. We also get a couple of brass items: the rod part of this antenna, another whip aerial, and a turned barrel. (The thin metal aerial with the “crow’s foot” looks much more convincing than Flyhawk’s version of plastic rod combined with the metal top.)

The tools -with the exception of the jack, the fire extinguisher, and the shovel- are moulded onto the mudguard; this is something I’m not very keen on. (I prefer painting them separately before attaching them onto the model.) The shovel is a pretty simple affair; it’s probably better to replace it from the spares bin. The model does not have a width indicator; you should get a PE one (Dan Taylor modelworks does a set), or fashion one from stretched sprue. They were too fragile in the Flyhawk kit that I just used PE aftermarket ones instead of trying to clean them up. The tool boxes are slightly different than in the Flyhawk kit, and their locations are not exactly the same, either- again, these could be simply because the models were based on different production versions.

The turret is made out of five parts; the plastic barrel is molded on the top section. Interesting solution (both the assembly of the turret and the gun barrel), and it works. You have an option for a metal barrel, which is nicely detailed. The only imperfection I found with the kit was the grab handle on the back: it was broken and bent during transit. (I ended up not changing it.) The other issue I have with the turret is the almost perfectly rectangular shape of the top of the turret; I think it’s a bit larger than it should be- it’s certainly larger than the Flyhawk’s turret. (Which is also smaller than the ModellTrans turret). The shape is not the same, either. The Flyhawk kit’s turret is more hexagonal: the back and the front are a bit narrower than the middle. In the Maco kit it’s more rectangular. It also looks like the top is a bit larger than on the drawings I found online. The big question is which one is correct. I don’t have access to an actual tank to check, and the photos I found were taken mainly from eye level -for obvious reasons. (If there’s one in Bovingdon I’ll keep an eye out next time I get there.)

The top turret hatch (the commander’s) can be opened. The hatch has interior details, but the rest of the turret does not; it’s probably best to put a figure in it if you leave it open. The back large, rectangular hatch cannot be opened.

The assembly was about two hours -tops; it’s a very well engineered, easy to assemble kit. I tried something new (for me) in this build, and made the whole running gear/track assembly as a single sub-assembly; the whole shebang can be removed for painting and weathering. (I think I’ll use this approach in the future more often.)

The painting was a bit more difficult, as I am not really good with spraying 1/72 freehand camo. I’ve base-coated the model with primer red, and used Mig Ammo’s Dunkelgelb. Obviously neither my airbrush nor my skills were up to the challenge of making thin sprayed on lines, but here I had an idea of pure genius. (If I can be as bold as to call it that.) The Ammo acrylic paints form a cured surface; they are very different from the Tamiya paints. And, as we know from experimenting with the Windex chipping method, Tamiya paints are dissolved by ammonia… I simply made up a 2-3% ammonia solution, and used a brush to carefully clean up the overspray.

Job done.

This is something definitely worth remembering; as long as the base layer is different (either enamel, or, in this case, Mig’s Acrylic paint), you can clean the Tamiya top layer up easily. (I did not take a photo after applying the green, but imagine the yellow areas having a greenish oversrpay all over.)

The weathering steps further helped with the camo issues. Some dust (pigments mixed with water and some surfactant sprayed onto the model), washes all made the base color a bit darker, and helped to fade the green patches a bit. The silver pencil really helped making the model look like a chunk of metal.

I’ve used different colors of mud (in this case I used Vallejo’s and AK’s sets, not pigments). The key is to first use the lighter colors on a larger area (both flicking it on, and by applying with a brush directly), representing the dried under-layer, and then add the darker shades, representing the still wet mud. With a brush moistened with the appropriate solvent (water in case of Vallejo, white spirit with AK) you can -and should- adjust the effect before the layer dries.

Conclusion

The Flyhawk kit is an incredibly detailed, albeit complex model, which will challenge the model builder. The Maco kit is a very well detailed, well engineered, easy to assemble model. Sure, it does not pack as many PE parts and tiny plastic bits, but it does make the build less of a challenge, and the results are still nice. The moulded on detail is convincing, and it is nice to have a model that is a breeze to build. In my subjective opinion it is on the same level as the Revell 1/72 Famo in the quality of plastic, ease of assembly and level of detail. (In other words: pretty darn good.)

It comes with a metal gun barrel, and two metal aerials -things the Flyhawk kit lacks. On the other hand it does not have a PE engine deck grille unfortunately.

In short: if you want to go all-out, and have a challenging build, go for the Flyhawk one. If you want a good, easy to build model, which builds fast, choose the Maco model; in this fortunate case we have an abundance of choice when it comes to this vehicle.

Coming up: Armory’s offering.