Category Archives: review

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 This is what actually happens if you start collecting and postpone the building – your precious collection becomes outdated because newer models are issued… (Or, if you decide NOT to collect, your most desired models become out of production, and you won’t ever be able to get them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

 

1/72 M56 Scorpion – OKB Grigorov

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I’ve written an in-box review of this model for Armorama; I think it’s time to show how it looks when finished.

The M56 Scorpion was an attempt to supply a gun platform for the US airborne forces that can be easily transported by airplanes, and can be deployed using an air-drop. This requirement pretty much made it impossible for the vehicle to be armored, so it is essentially a gigantic 90mm M54 gun on a dodgem chassis. Crew comfort (and safety) also took second place to the size requirements that came with the airborne deployment option.

The M56 was developed and manufactured by the Cadillac Motor Car Division of GM from 1953 to 1959. It was a small, fully tracked vehicle, powered by a 200 hp engine with a maximum road speed of 45 km/h. It had a crew of four: commander, driver, loader, gunner. The ergonomics of the vehicle were, let’s put it lightly, not very good. The loader had to disembark before the gun fired, and jump back holding the ammunition. The gun recoil also endangered the commander. The only part that can be considered armor on the vehicle is the gun shield, which has a large windscreen cut into for the driver negating its effectiveness somewhat; the rest of the self-propelled gun is about as armored as my Nissan Micra. (Another thing that it has in common with my Micra is that it has pneumatic tires…)

The M56 was in service in the USA, Spain, Morocco, and the Republic of Korea. It was used in Vietnam by the 173rd Airborne Brigade.

There are not many models available of this little AFV; I’ve found a very expensive resin one in 1/35th scale by Hobby Fan, and there’s an old OOP (and quite inaccurate) Revell kit; other than that there’s the 1/72nd scale OKB kit reviewed here. As usual, World of Tanks introduced me to this vehicle, where it is a premium American tank destroyer; and since I liked the way it looked (and have it in my garage) I was really anxious to get a model of it.

 

Considering the size of this vehicle the number of parts (especially the amount of PE) is quite high. The model is made up by approximately 70 resin pieces and about 70 PE parts… all this is in a model that can almost fit into a matchbox.

The resin is smooth, and of different color. The detail is crisp, and the fit is quite good generally. The PE frets are the thinnest I’ve ever seen. (It’s quite easy to crumple them, so be careful; it feels like a thick aluminium foil rather than photo-etched brass.) The tracks come as resin sections which need to be warmed up before shaped to the running gear. The detail is excellent, and there is very little flash anywhere.

 

The instructions are computer generated, and frankly, not very helpful. They show different views of the assembled model, but unfortunately do not instruct on actually how to put the model together. Before gluing make sure you understand how the parts should be fitting; I did make a couple of mistakes during assembly.

The exhausts for the engine seem to be shorter; there should be a section that is turning down at a right angle from the end of the exhaust pipes.

First mistake I made was to wait with the mud guard until I finished with the running gear.

If you decide to give this kit a go, make sure you glue the mudguard onto the hull first. The simple reason is that the PE covers the whole side with cutouts for the suspension units. These holes are way too tight to slide it over the suspension if it’s already in place. I had to widen these holes considerably in order to be able to fit the mudguards into place.

The other big issue for me was the suspension arms. They look very similar, but the front and rear suspension are not identical. I accidentally mixed up on one side, and hence the wheels are a bit wonky.

Other than that, most of the model went together OK. I had to make the headlight protectors out of thin wire (I normally use soldering wire as it’s quite soft). The tracks were somewhat thick and rigid, but with a lot of patience (and hot water) they did go on eventually. The hole on the gun shield has a plexi protector for the driver; I left it completely empty, since any transparent acetate sheet would look foggy and thick in this scale. (I would need something that’s about 0.2-0.3mm thick.)

I’m not sure that the back platform is depicted as open or closed up; probably closed up due to the 2 PE rails sticking out of them. (If it’s folded down, it should be longer; if it’s folded up, it should have some extra bits for the mechanism that keeps it straight in a folded -off state.) I also noticed a bit late that the loader’s seat was left off… my mistake.

The model went through multiple rounds of priming, as usual. These coats were applied more for checking for mistakes and seams rather than to provide a base coat for the paint, and was applied using a spray-can. The model was ready (I left the gun detached for easier painting), I added a final coat, and then applied Tamiya Olive Drab lightened with some Tan. (The first two photos of the painted model show the color to be a bit too greenish, flat and dull.)
A bit of yellow and ochre filter later the green became quite nice with some brownish hues. I could not find any decals that were small enough to fit onto the model, so it remained un-marked. I used Tamiya’s weathering kit (the makeup set) to apply dust and mud to the vehicle, a silver pen around the edges, to give it a metallic shine, and called it a day.

 

Altogether, the model was a pretty pleasant build -except for the little issues I mentioned. It is certainly quite pricey, as all OKB kits are, but, just like in the case of the Batchat, you really have no other options. Overall I’m pretty satisfied with the results; it is a well recommended model of a very rare subject.

Painting lights and lamps using Citadel Technical paints

This post is just a short summary of what I’ve learned using Cidtadel’s Technical paints. These paints are marketed for painting gemstones. (There’s also a traditional way if you’re interested.)

 

Anyhow; aside from painting gemstones (which I will do as I paint the odd WH40k figure here and there), I was interested in how these paints function for lamps and warning lights. I’ve used the SU-122‘s interior light and the Electric Mule‘s warning light to test them.

Interior lights

I’ve simply painted the base of the transparent light fixture with silver, and applied the Citadel paint on the top of the light. The paint flowed around the raised details depicting the protective wires, so I did not have to paint them separately, and also gave a nice, blue glass finish. It’s a perfectly good way to stain transparent light fixtures if the surface is not too large. Even with dedicated, transparent paints it’s a pain to achieve uniform coverage, so don’t expect perfectly even finish on large transparent parts. Since the depth of color of any glass object (such as a headlight lens) depends on the thickness, this uneven coverage actually produces quite a realistic effect.

 

Warning lights

In this instance I’ve used a yellow base color with the red technical paint applied. The effect, again, is pretty good, since the yellow + red gives a nice, uneven orange, which looks quite realistic as a translucent warning light.

 

In short: if you have these paints lying around, they are perfectly good for colored glass lenses, screens and warning lights. I’m sure Tamiya’s and other manufacturers’ transparent paints do the job similarly well, though.

The ultimate 1/72 Luchs showdown: thoughts on the Armory, ModellTrans, Maco and Flyhawk kits

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So now I have finished building all four offerings: Armory, Flyhawk, Maco and Modelltrans; it’s time to take a stock of what I’ve learned. I would not really go into accuracy, as I could not find any books on the Luchs; all kits differ slightly from each other with respect to location of the exhaust, tools, tool boxes, Jerry cans, and so on. As I could not find the time and resources to get to the bottom of these differences I merely comment on the models themselves.

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The Modelltrans kit is an old resin model of the Luchs; it’s a bit undersized, has very few parts, good detail, and has some issues with bubbles in the resin- in other words, your average garage company resin model. It’s fast to build, but it’s quite expensive for what it is; plastic models will always be better priced. It builds into a respectable depiction of the Luchs, but it’s kind of “rough on the edges”, and does not come with the aerials.

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Hands down, the Flyhawk kit is the most detailed and the most complex model of the four; it’s essentially a miniature 1/35 model. This, of course, comes with a price: it’s also the most difficult to assemble. The crow’s feet antenna is not very convincing; the PE offered by Armory is a much better representation. (But this is the only one that comes with width indicator rods.)

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Armory’s plastic Luchs is a new kid on the block; the company only recently started to make its way into the plastic scale model market. The plastic base is somewhat basic, and the engineering is not the best; however once you get through the filling and sanding, and add all the PE, you will have a very nice, detailed model in your hands. It does require experience building models and using PE- it’s not one of those “shake the box, and the built model falls out” type of kits. However, the results are worth the effort.

Maco’s offerings are the exact opposite of the Flyhawk models: they are very well engineered and very simple models to build – in other words, they are one of those “shake the box” models. The details are still pretty good, and Maco offers a good alternative if you want to build more than one tank quickly, or if you’re still new at building 1/72 models. (Or just want to have a quick weekend project.) One thing that I need to mention is that the shape of the turret seems to be somewhat off, and you’ve got my bane of small scale models: the moulded-on tools. On the other hand you get some beautiful metal gun barrels and antennae.

All in all, the plastic offerings have things going for them; choosing one really depends on your preferences and your purpose. How much challenge do you want to face? While the Flyhawk kits can be adjusted in difficulty using the alternative options (PE vs plastic vs molded-on detail), a lot of the tiny parts cannot be avoided. The Flyhawk offerings are definitely not for beginners. It also takes considerably longer to build. Another aspect to decide is: how much the lack of PE matters for you? The details on the engine deck grille are good enough in plastic on the Maco kit, and in this scale there is an argument that it does not make much difference. (Talking about PE: only the Armory kit has the wire mesh protecting the engine grilles.) You might also want to have a metal barrel; this is not an option in the Flyhawk line of Luchs’, but you get them in the Maco kits… and so on and so forth. I’ve tried to showcase the strengths and weaknesses of all four models; it really depends on the individual builder which one he or she wants to choose.

Sharkit’s AMX CDC -AMX Chasseur de Char 1/72

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I had not known about this vehicle before it was introduced into the World of Tanks online arcade game. In the game it is a medium tank, but in reality (as much as we can discuss reality about a vehicle only existing on paper) it was planned to be a tank destroyer. The AMX CDC is a unique looking vehicle, so I was pretty excited to see it being issued in 1/72. From now on I’ll refer to the vehicle as CDC (or “tank”)…

A little background

The French armament industry was the second largest producer of tanks before WWII broke out. After the war the industry was in ruins, and the French army had no real modern tank in its inventory. Some clandestine tank development was pursued during German occupation, so it was not surprising that immediately after the liberation of France tank design started in earnest. Wisely decision makers realized that it was important to pursue development in order to retain the talent and expertise, and also to experiment with new ideas; the less-than-stellar designs of this period were only “placeholders” until “real tank design” could start. The immediate post war designs were built on pre-war French experience (the ARL-44 is a good example), and also borrowed a lot from the German heavy tank designs.

In 1945 the AMX company produced the AMX M4 armed with a 90mm gun. This tank was essentially a French Tiger II, and not a very good one at that: the vehicle was huge, lightly armored (so that the weight could be kept low), and had overlapping road wheels which were quite impractical. The power plant was a French variant of the Maybach HL295. Two prototypes were built for testing but they were deemed unsuccessful.

The AMX Chasseur de Char was designed on the basis of the AMX M4 chassis using a redesigned turret and non-overlapping road wheels. The tank not only existed only on paper, but the armor was essentially paper as well: 30mm frontal armor, 20mm all around armor, which explains why it was only 34 tonnes. Since there’s not much information available on this vehicle, let’s move on to the model itself.

In-game the tank is not a very good one. On paper it looks like a fast sniper, but the gun is rubbish; save your money, and only get the model. Or buy a Liberte 🙂


The kit comes in a sturdy cardboard box with a painting of the vehicle on the front. The instruction manual is a sheet of paper with the parts numbered, and a computer-generated rudimentary assembly diagram; it’s perfectly sufficient for the purpose. (Many resin kits don’t even come with instructions, so that’s always a plus.)

It has relatively few parts; the suspension arms and the road wheels take up most of your time assembling this model. The tracks come in sections which need to be warmed up before shaping them onto the idlers and the drive wheels. One issue with the model is, however, the texture of the resin. The model was obviously designed by computer and printed out using a 3D printer; the faint printing lines are still visible on the model. It’s quite a choir to sand them off.

The hull comes in two parts: a bottom and a top part. The fit is not very good, so some dry fitting and filling will be necessary. The detail is sparse, but it is a paper-panzer (or paper-char?) after all; there’s not much available on how it would have looked like. One thing that is prominent is the engine deck: it does resemble the Tiger II’s. Compared to the available drawing, the engine deck on the model is shallower. The drawing shows a much steeper angle towards the back.

The turret is also a simple assembly: the base fits into the turret shell comfortably. The gun is straight (not always the case with resin models), and, interestingly, the muzzle brake is mounted vertically, instead of the “traditional” horizontal position. I’m not sure why the designers felt they needed to put the muzzle break on this way: gun would have kicked up way more dust when fired, making the tank more visible and blinding the gunner even more, (Probably). I’m not an engineer or an expert, so take this with a grain of salt.)

The drive wheels have good detail, but they are very thin; it’s quite easy to break the resin while fitting the tracks. Since the teeth do not fit into the holes on the tracks without enlarging those, I simply elected to shave off the teeth that are in contact with the tracks. The road wheels are quite nicely detailed with all the bolt heads and ridges; the holes for the suspension will need to be enlarged, though, with a drill.

The position of road wheels is not marked on the hull; you will have to decide how low or high these wheels should sit before you glue the suspension to the hull. The positions of the return rollers are not marked, either. Looking at the drawing available they should be directly above the second, third and fourth road wheels.

The assembly stage took me about 3 hours -that with all the cleaning, filling and sanding necessary. You will need a fine saw in order to cut off the pouring blocks (and, as always, make sure resin dust is not dispersed in the process- use wet sanding/sawing methods). I have used green stuff to fill in the gaps between the hull halves; it served both as filler and an additional method of fixing the main parts together.

The tracks went on surprisingly easy (I find installing resin tracks a stressful exercise).


Painting
The model was primed with black, and then I used my best attempt at the French bluish-green color from World of Tanks, mixing Tamiya light see grey, medium blue and Caliban green by Citadel. The color was modulated with a bluish filter.

Once the paint dried I mixed up a 3% ammonia solution, and wore away some of the paint using the Windex chipping method. It’s a very simple method of creating worn away paint: wet the surface of the model with this solution, and using a stiff brush wear off some of the paint. Important to note that it only works with Tamiya paints. This method creates much more subtle abrasions and chafing than most of the other methods I know.

Once I was satisfied with the results, I sealed everything with varnish, and added some leftover decals from the Trumpeter B1 kit. The decals were sealed with another layer of varnish. I wanted to recreate the striped winter camo pattern from World of Tanks. Since the whitewash is pretty faded on that tank, I used Tamiya’s weathering master (the one that looks like a make-up set) to add white pigments onto the surface.

I’ve used Tamiya’s weathering stick (mud and sand) to make the lower chassis a bit dirtier. I bought these on a sale at Hobbycraft a couple of months ago, but had not really experimented with them yet. I did not apply the product directly; I dabbed them gently using a wet brush, and then dabbed this brush onto the surface of the model. Before it dried it was quite easy to adjust the effect with a wet brush.

I also added some tools I found to the front (my spares box is running low on 1/72 tools…), and added some Jerry cans to the back. The edges of the turret and hull were treated with metallic pigment using the same Tamiya make-up set.

Overall the tank is not a challenging build. It is not very detailed, and it’s a simple assembly; even for beginners. The price is somewhat high, but this is always the case with limited run resin kits; the question is if the uniqueness of the model is worth it for the you. For me it definitely did.

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.

1/35 MiniArt T-54-1 build review p.4

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Part one

Part two

Part three

Well, the last part of the review has arrived… painting and weathering left.

I’ve glued the turret together using white glue; at this point I was not sure how I wanted to display the tank, but I did want to show the interior somehow.

The tank was primed using a grey primer, then used a mixture of sand yellow and tan (Tamiya) to cover the whole vehicle. I’ve used silly putty to mask the subsequent colors. Olive green (lightened with tan), and red-brown (again, with tan added) were applied.

At this point the tank looked very toy-like: the colors very flat and artificial. This is the point when panic is not the right emotion; filters, washes and the rest of the weathering steps will blend everything together, and create a (relatively) realistic finish.

So this is what I did.

First, several layers of dark yellow filters by AK. This was followed by True Earth’s Dark Aging product, applied by an airbrush. This is a water based filter-like product, and so far I have not been very successful using it: even on the flattest surface it forms little beads. I probably need to try to use some mild surfactant to break the surface tension up.

The unditching log was painted back, then drybrushed using tan, and finally I used some washes to make it more realistic; the result is pretty convincing I think.

This was followed by oil-dot filters using several different browns, yellows with some blue and white added.

Once done, I’ve pried the turret halves apart, and used some evergreen rods to mount the top. ( I could not decide how to cut the turret for a cutaway, so I settled with this solution.) I’ve attached the rest of the missing parts, and gave a nice coat of dust using my airbrush and some pigments.

With a couple of small issues (like the thick viewing port for the driver’s rain-protector), the model by MiniArt is really excellent.

(Reviewing the photos I just realized I forgot to add the windshield wipers…)

 

 

 

 

 

 

1/35 MiniArt T-54-1 build review p.3

The first part of the review

Second part.

Exterior

The engine deck consists of several subassemblies that form a somewhat complex set of hatches. The cooling flaps can be positioned open or closed, and they are protected by a very set of nice PE grilles.

I did not even bother to try to clean up the thin plastic rods (c1, c2) required for the engine deck; I simply used them as a template to fashion replacements from wire.

Smoke canisters are installed similarly to how the real thing was: the PE straps hold the tiny plastic rods that are fixing them to the back of the hull, along with the mechanism that allows to them to be released. The assembly is finicky, but pretty impressive.

The unditching log looks pretty convincing; normally I switch them for an actual wooden stick, but in this case I kept it. Primed it black, and then spent some time drybrushing Tamiya Tan on top. The whole thing was then painted with Agrax Earthsade by Citadel.

Mudguards

As mentioned the external fuel tanks are provided as two halves. They are typical WWII type ones, although they are somewhat narrower than the ones used on wartime tanks. They are held down by PE strips – when building make sure you do the fuel tanks first, and add the storage boxes after, because in several cases they obstruct the tie-down points for the straps. Another important piece of advice: do not install the fuel tank on the left back mudguard. The flap (C9) protecting the exhaust port should be fitted first. (In my case the fuel tank was placed too forward, which interfered with the correct placement of the flap… Annoying.)

The towing lines were provided as plastic parts; MiniArt is being very optimistic about the chances of being able to bend and fit them into their places. Better get some picture hanging wire, and use the plastic eyes of the cables only. Make sure you cut a wire half a centimeter longer than the plastic part; it’s too short otherwise.

The AA machine gun is a complex multimedia assembly of plastic and PE parts; normally I buy aftermarket barrels (or even resin guns) to replace this part, but in this case it’s perfectly suitable.

The turret interior is pretty busy; it’s actually not as tall as the T-44 turret, and have a lot of things crammed into it. The turret originally was cast as a two-part hemispherical shape with welded roof consisting of two rolled armor plates 30 mm thick. The model’s turret is designed the same way: it’s built up from two parts (top and bottom), and the roof plates are added separately. The roof plates are considerably thinner than the sides; I suspect they are all scale thickness.

The 10RT radio and the TPU-4-bis-O-26 telecom systems are placed on the commander’s side, and there is a ready rack on the back of the turret.

The gunner’s MK-4 periscopes, and the low profile commander’s cupola with three observation TPC-1 prisms are replicated very well.

The gun is a very delicate assembly, so once it’s finished care needs to be taken not to break the thin plastic parts off.The gun breech has a seam in the middle, which needs to be filled in; to be honest it will be very difficult to see in the model. The gunner’s sight and the coaxial machine guns are complex little models of their own; once they are glued on, they tend to break off easily… (An important point for further handling.)

I have primed the interior using a primer red color, sealed it with varnish, and used the hairspray chipping method on the top color (blue grey on the bottom of the hull and white everywhere else). To make the vehicle look used, and to decrease the contrast of the pure white with the chips, I mixed up a burnt umber filter, and applied it unevenly to create patches of darker and lighter discolorations, and some dark, almost black brown washes to bring out the finer details. Finally I used different shades of rust brown oil paints to create some discreet streaks. Some rust and dust colored pigments were used to add a little more depth to the weathering, and I used a silver pencil on the edges to make them look metallic.

The gun got a similar treatment, only the cover color was green, rather than white, and for obvious reasons I did not add any streaks to it.

Coming up- final instalment: finishing the tank.

1/35 MiniArt T-54-1 build review p.2

The first part of the review can be found here.

So the hull interior is reasonably finished, but I had to add bits and bobs (fire extinguishers, ammunition for the main gun and for the machine guns, etc.). Once I put the driver’s periscopes in place, I could close down the hull. The top part is really thin; I suspect it’s quite close to scale thickness.

 

Fitting the mudgards was not straightforward: the locator pins did not fit into the corresponding holes on the sides, so there was a tiny gap between the mudguards and the tank’s hull. I simply shaved the pins off. The plastic mudgards are quite thin, and the long parts had a slight bend; the solution was to glue them in place in two steps, straightening them out in the process.
The drive wheels have very small attachment points to the swing arms; since it’s a static model it’s not a real problem, but I still prefer a bit more robust connection.
The tracks are -correctly- narrower than what was used on the final production version of the T-54 (as a comparison I’ve used an individual track link from a Trumpeter kit on the photo). You need 90 per side (the resources I’ve read specified 91 for the actual tank), and you have an option to use a special link for every 20th track link. These links don’t have teeth, and are specially designed to mount the cleats that allow the tank to get better traction on snow or other difficult terrain. Unfortunately it’s not specified in the instruction, but that’s what you can use them for. (The instruction manual shows the cleats in a stored position on the mudguards.) The cleats in their storage position require some really thin plastic pins to hold them in place: first, the holes on the cleats are too narrow, second it’s almost impossible to clean these pins of the sprue gate… so I just used some thin evergreen plastic to replace them.
The headlight has an option to attach a protective wire cage around it; the plastic was very thin, and snapped the second I tried to remove it from the sprue, so I chose the other option.

 

Parallel to the work on the hull, I was working on the turret as well. As I mentioned I’ve been doing a lot of painting and weathering before ataching all the necessary parts, so only time will tell if they will stand out or not after all is said and done.

I have some serious decisions to make at this point. I would like to present the interior open somehow. Either I show the turret tilted up, with the gun being installed, or I simply make a “cutaway”. (I saw a photo on the T-54, T-55 group’s facebook page.)

The first version would be the most attractive solution, but the problem is I’ve installed everything already: ammunition, equipment, etc. A tank would be stripped out before the turret is lifted, so it would not be very realistic.
The second option would be to simply leave the top of the turret off- held up by a couple of plastic pegs, showing the interior off. (This way I don’t have to cut and saw into the plastic. With the King Tiger and other large tanks there are parts you can cut away easily; with the T-54 I would be taking a lot of detail away if I cut parts of the turret away. Since the driver’s position and the engine compartment are not very well detailed regrettably I will not cut into the hull, as there’s not much to display… But MiniArt has made the turret halves join up as they did in the original tank.

 

1/35 MiniArt T-54-1 build review p.1

Well, the long awaited MiniArt T-54-1 is here finally. I’m in the middle of several builds -somehow I ended up reviewing and building a lot of kits at the same time. Nevertheless this model got priority when it arrived, since it was something I really had an interest in.
I planned to build the Tamiya kit in my stash with the CMK interior set parallel, but until I can finish up the ones already started, I do not want to begin to work on new builds. Too bad, I guess. (I did start on the Tamiya last night, since I finished two out of three OKB kits, and the all Luchs as well -some left to be published at a later date.)

I would not start an essay on the tank itself; I’ll put it into my review to be sent to Armorama. I’ve used the references available on the T-54, T-55 research group on Facebook; I would like to thank everyone there for putting together such a comprehensive resource.

Short version of the review: the model looks really, really good. (I’m not trying to be a fanboy; it’s honestly a great kit.)

A slightly longer version:

Opening the box we are faced with a bewildering number of small sprues. MiniArt, as usual, followed its philosophy of modular kit design, which does help creating multiple versions of the same vehicle easily, however it does present a problem finding the sprues you need during building. Add to this the tendency of having to use several sprues during sub-assemblies, searching for sprues was a constant activity during the build. If you have the space it’s probably best to have them out and labelled visibly.

Fortunately there are only few of the notoriously thin plastic parts that are impossible to be cut off the sprue without breaking. One of the handholds for the turret was already broken in my sample, but I normally replace them with wire anyhow. It’s much easier than trying to clean up these extremely fragile and thin plastic parts.

The placement of the gates are sometimes a bit unfortunate: instead of having to clean off one edge, they sometime overhang, and this necessitate cleaning (cutting or sanding) two or three surfaces. This is especially notable in the case of the individual track links, where you will need to clean multiple sprue attachments from three faces (bottom, top, side) on all the track links… (I really, really like magic tracks, to be honest; they come pre-cut, ready to assemble. I have to confess: the assembly of tracks and the painting for ammunition are the two least favorite parts of model building for me, so anything that makes my job easier is welcome.)

The plastic is nice quality; soft enough and easy to work with. The detail is astonishing. From the texture of the turret to the casting numbers on the suspension units, everything just looks like a miniaturized version of the real thing. The torsion bar suspension is working, but I’m not sure how useful it is since the tracks will need to be glued together to make sure they are held in place. (The different panzer III variants by MiniArt had a workable track solution; it would have been nice to have this utilized on the T-54-1 as well.)

The interior followed the usual T-44 layout – that is to say it’s still closer to the T-44 than to the T-54 final version. The driver’s compartment sadly lacks a lot of instruments and whatnot… not that it’s going to be visible, but still. At least it’s there, unlike in the T-44 kits, so you have something to work with should you wish to improve the area. I have decided to use the rain cover for the driver’s hatch, which is something I’ve never seen before.

The turret interior, on the other hand, is really well done; most everything is in place.

I’ve left the engine unassembled for now- I’ve built a couple of these from the SU-122, SU-85, T-44, so I’ve decided to leave it out for now. I might finish it later and display it in front of the tank as I’ve done with the other kits. (There are differences between the V-34, V-44, V-54 engines, but they are not apparent immediately.)

The interior was painted and weathered the same way as I did with the T-44. In short: a dark brown basecoat with hairspray applied was oversprayed with Tamiya white for the sides and a grey-blue color for the bottom of the hull. A stiff brush and some water helped to create some moderate chipping I applied a light brown filter to make it more dirty and used. I’ve only added the smaller parts after I did the basic weathering; with the turret it might have been a mistake. (There are a lot of smaller bits that are white, and they might stand out if you paint and weather them separately. Time will tell.)

I tried to keep weathering restrained; after all the amount of chipping and rusting was normally minimal while the vehicles were operational. Maintenance does take care of these things normally.

The ammunition was painted using Vallejo’s new acrylic gold paint; the results are pretty good. I did not bother painting the tips for the ones that were placed into the rack. I’ve used photos for reference found in this website for painting.

The mudguards were finished separately before attaching them to the hull. One thing to keep in mind: do the PE straps first, and then add the toolboxes. I glued the boxes in first… In some cases the boxes were in the way, and it made attaching the straps difficult.

The AA machine gun is a pretty complex assembly, but the detail is really great. Cleaning up the sprue attachment points on the barrel is not easy, but possible. (There are aftermarket barrels available, but it would be a shame to throw the plastic out; it is very well detailed.)

The engine deck features some of those notoriously thin and fragile plastic rods MiniArt loves to include with their kits. I did not even attempt to cut them off the sprue; it was easier to fabricate similar parts from wire, and use those. (Added benefit: you cannot glue them accidentally to the plastic mounts, since the plastic glue does not work on metal.

The smoke canisters, as I said, were moulded as one piece, and the PE/plastic contraption that holds them in place are kind of fiddly to assemble. (The mechanism that allows ejecting them is modelled in great detail… sometimes I feel less is more.)

The model is certainly complex, and it’s easy to burn out; especially if you work on a review. What I did was to pace myself: once the larger assemblies (turret interior, mudguards, hull interior) was done, I just kept coming back to the model to add the smaller details a few at a time. I did the machine gun one night, “dressed up” the engine deck the next- it’s easier to make progress one step at a time.