This model has been a shelf-queen for a long time. When I moved to the UK I was living in a ~very~ temporary student housing, so I became severely limited in what tools I could use; among other things I was forced to give up on my airbrush. (It took me five years before my living conditions changed so I was able to get another one.)
This, and the lack of space meant I had to switch to 1/72 scale… a decision which I did not regret ever since. I quite like this scale, and I think I’ll stay focused on it in the future. However, there are models which make me stray from this scale into the world of 1/35. This one, particularly, sold itself with the box art. I liked the re-painted flaking dunkelgelb camo, and the relaxing German crew -even though I ended up not using the figures for the build. (I don’t like figures on models to be honest.) Originally it was a much more ambitious project; I wanted to make a partial interior, since the driver had nothing to sit on.
I bought the kit in 2011 in Norwich, and started work on it immediately; I thought I’d progress as far as I can without an airbrush, and then just put it away until I can finish it.
Well, I stopped a bit earlier than that.
The kit is not bad, let me say this. It is, however, not a very good one, either. There are some peculiar issues with it. For one, the parts are only numbered on the instruction sheet; the numbers are not on the sprues. This forces you to constantly check for parts on the instructions showing the sprue layout, which is really, really annoying.
The other problem was the wheels. The swing arms do not “lock” in place, where they are supposed to be when the tank is on a level surface. It’s nice if you want to position the tank on uneven ground on a diorama, however it makes positioning them on a level surface difficult. The vehicle cannot sit too low or too high; knowing what the proper height is is not easy. I’ve ended up building a rig to position the wheels using an armorama topic dedicated to this issue.
And there were the fit issues. Some parts were oversized -these had to be sanded thinner. The sides of the fighting compartment had fit issues, too, so they are slightly bent- a necessity when I needed to make sure it is glued on properly.
Nevertheless, the detail is excellent; if you accept the shortcomings mentioned, the kit builds up into quite a nice representation of the vehicle.
So… without further ado, the build.
When I got the model out of its box after sitting there for years, the first thing I did was to cut the swing arms with the wheels off, and built a little rig to help me reattach them appropriately. (As you can see I painted parts in a very funky shade of green back in the days… the reason was simple: I used up a batch of paint that was mixed for a Braille scale model. Fear not: it was not intended as the actual color of the vehicle.)
The gun was almost finished when I got the kit out of the box, so there was very little work left to finish it. I did a silly thing, and added the muzzle break before putting the gun into its sleeve. This meant I had to cut the gun in half, attach it to the sleeve, and then glue it together again. No biggie, but a beginner mistake.
The lifting hooks had a good amount of flash around them; it was simpler just to use a piece of wire instead. (I did clean one or two, before giving up.)
The build was quite straightforward after I took care of the wheels. Once they were on, I painted the sides of the hull with green, and did the whole mud and dust routine. After that I added the tracks, and then proceeded with the rest of the build. (Once the mudguards are on, the tracks are near impossible to add.) This section had to be masked, of course, for the rest of the build, although a little overspray of Dunkelgelb and brown actually adds to the weathering effect.
I’ve left the sides green, figuring that the Germans would not bother cleaning and painting the areas under the mudguards. You’d have to take the tracks and wheels off, and scrub it clean before doing any sort of painting -and the results would not be visible, anyhow. This meant that the mud and dust was going on over Russian green color. The tracks were assembled without any problems; the individual links were excellent. I painted the rims black (to represent rubber), but did not worry particularly about neat lines; the wheels were about to receive quite a heavy layer of washes, mud and dust. (Yes, I was lazy.) The surface of the return rollers that rubs against the tracks was painted steel.
The finished gun, and the sides of the fighting compartment.
I’ve decided to leave the fighting compartment in the original green color. (I reasoned that the vehicle was adopted to German use in a field shop, so they did not strip everything to be repainted. They would probably be content on leaving the interior of the fighting compartment untouched.) This made the painting a bit more tedious (had to finish and mask the fighting compartment before proceeding). The fighting compartment itself was painted along with the rest of the model in green, and the dust/accumulated dirt added using pigments.
The painting of the ammunition was a bit boring to be honest. First, you have to remove the mould seams, and then paint them one by one… not very entertaining if you ask me. I’ve used Citadel’s bronze and gold colors on the casings. I cut a couple of the projectiles off to create “used” casings, which went onto the floor of the fighting compartment, under the gun.
Attaching everything to the hull… the parts of the model are in various stages of painting.
The gun installed… I’ve used the kit’s tow cable, which was a straight plastic part; you are supposed to bend it around the holding pins. Well, I decided to be bold, and try it, instead of using a metal tow cable. (You also get the ends of the cable as two extra separate pieces should you decide to go this route.) As expected, the plastic broke; hence the somewhat angular look.
Once the sub-assemblies were reasonably done, I’ve used Russian green as primer.
I wanted to depict flacking paint as I mentioned already. Since the vehicle was captured, I decided I would not only show the underlying original colors, but the rust/scratches that the vehicle has accumulated before its capture. Once the SU-76 was painted green, I’ve used dark, rust colors on edges, and other areas where heavy wear and tear was expected. The idea was that removing the Dunkelgelb from these areas would expose the base metal, while on other areas only green would show through.
As soon as the green dried, I applied hairspray, waited an hour, and added the Dunkelgelb coat. (Tamiya paint, lightened with tan to account for the scale effect.)
Yes, you can see the numbers still…
Since Tamiya paints dry really fast, I could add the red-brown pattern right after the yellow base. It was necessary to add heavy layers at regions where the permanent marker showed through… I thought I was smart when I wrote the part numbers onto the plastic with a permanent marker, until the point where I realized that it showed through on everything… Some of these numbers only disappeared after the brown color was added in heavy layers. There you go: an important lesson. Don’t use permanent marker on exposed areas.
By the way, this was the first ever free-hand camo I’ve done with an airbrush.
The chipping was done with a brush, and with a toothpick- depending on what effect I wanted to achieve. I added water to the surface with a brush, waited a bit, and then used a stiff brush/toothpick to carefully. It’s difficult not to overdo it, so it’s worth stopping now and then for a while, and put away the model for a day or so. With a fresh eye it’s easier to gauge the effect.
Once I was satisfied with how the model looked like, I sealed everything with an acrylic varnish, and applied the decals. I took some of the decals from the MiniArt T-44 set; after all, they looked good, and I liked the name on the gun.
As soon as the decals dried, I applied another layer of varnish, and started on filters. I used yellow and dark yellow colors. While the surface was still wet with the diluent, I used some dark pin washes (the wet surface ensures that the capillary action can work unimpeded even on a semi-matte surface). The same filters and washes were used in the fighting compartment as well.
Everything was sealed with varnish once again, and I started on the dust and mud. The dust was simple light colored pigments (chalk ground up) added mixed in water. Once it dried, I just brushed away the excess, and sealed it with pigment fixer.
The rolled up canvas cover was a very underwhelming affair; it did not look like cloth at all. (I was not even sure what it was until I checked in the instructions; it was very symmetrical and smooth.) The cloth effect was added using oil paints. I painted the plastic with desert tan first, and then used burned umber directly from the tube to add the folded cloth look using a brush, and rubbing some off after letting it dry for a day. I’ve even painted the sides with oils to give an impression of it being rolled up. I have to say the canvas given for the T-44 is a much better affair.
All in all, it was a pretty good result considering how this model looked like when I got around to finally finish it. The model itself is not bad, but I think the new Tamiya offering probably supersedes it in quality. Nevertheless, fear not; it was not an unpleasant journey.