Category Archives: review

Flyhawk 1/72 M1A2 SEP tank


The M1A2 SEP (System Enhancement Package) is an updated version of the Abrams featuring depleted uranium reinforced armor, updated ballistic computers, fire control and other systems. This is an upgrade package that can be applied to any M1 variants: several older M1A1 were updated to the M1A2 SEP levels. (A good summary of the vehicle can be found here.

I was quite interested in Flyhawk’s M1A2 SEP model; all their kits I’ve built so far looked like miniaturised 1/35th scale models with regards to detail (and sometimes complexity), so there’s quite a reputation to uphold.

(In short: they do.)

The packing of the model is exceptional: all the sprues placed in the same bag are fixed together with a thin rubber band; and the delicate parts for the turret baskets are wrapped in packing foam to prevent damage.

The PE fret has a circular mask for the wheels; it is a really welcome feature.

The plastic is exceptional quality, all the ejection pin marks are in inconspicuous places, and the sprue gates are very small. There is virtually no flash to clean up. The detail is simply speaking incredible – the best example is the subtle but very realistic anti-slip surface on the turret and hull, or the single-piece gun barrel. The machine guns are pretty amazing, too: the barrels are hollowed out, and the ammunition belt running from the ammunition box is modelled, too. (Something 1/35 scale kits sometimes do not have.)

The instructions are provided in a booklet for the tank, and as a fold-out page for the mine plough. Interestingly the assembly of the mine plough has as many steps as the tank itself (although it’s obviously less complex.) The booklet is very well designed; the English is not very good, but understandable. (Being someone whose English is not perfect either, I should not be throwing stones, though.) The instructions make very good use of colors to help with the assembly process, and also provide several views of the more difficult steps to aid the modeller. Flyhawk also provided tips and some useful pieces of advice, which is very much welcome. The instructions, and the fact that the whole model was designed to be as user friendly as possible, makes for a very pleasant building experience. (The design is excellent: it is very difficult to mistakenly attach something upside down or on the wrong side – even the gun barrel is moulded in a way that it only fits into the mantlet in one way.)

As far as I could determine the model is accurate. The size is spot-on for 1/72, but I’m not really familiar with the M1- people who are better acquainted with the type are more qualified to judge the accuracy of the model.

The lower hull is assembled from four parts: a bottom, two sides and the back. This is somewhat of an old-school approach, but the fit is good, so there is no problem here. The hull already has the swing arms for the road wheels attached; this makes the build simpler, but you won’t be able to position them to conform to an uneven terrain, should you wish to build a diorama. This is going to be made more difficult because of the unique track assembly: the tracks come finished; they are assembled from two halves, but these join longitudinally. It’s very welcome due to the simplicity of assembly, but it limits the modellers options. The running gear assembly is actually quite innovative: you attach the inner row of road wheels to the hull, add the inner halves of the tracks, and then glue the outer set (and the drive wheel) on, and finally add the outer halves of the tracks. Even though the instructions suggest you glue the side-skirts on before you even add the top of the hull to the bottom, they are probably going to be the last things to be installed – well after the painting stage is done. They are provided as single pieces; you cannot open them up. The fit to the hull is OK, but not perfect, though.

The hull has a lot of PE grilles provided, which is great; there are some very fiddly PE parts, though. (The PE casting numbers on the turret are a bit over the top in my opinion. I could just about to manage the cables running to the headlights.) In general, there are a lot of tiny parts -both plastic and PE.

The turret is a pretty straightforward assembly. The hatches can be positioned open should you wish so -although there is no interior provided. The loader’s hatch has a bit too many parts I feel – Flyhawk does have the tendency of giving multi-part sub-assemblies that would shame a 1/35 model. Unfortunately the instructions only detail how to assemble the hatch in a closed position.

The vision blocks need to be tinted (reddish), as the instructions advise. It’s probably a good idea to paint the back of their slots black before inserting the transparent pieces. You get some PE welding numbers for the turret, but seriously? I took a look at them and after a brief, amused chuckle I just left them untouched; I feel these numbers should have been moulded onto the turret. I appreciate the fact that they are individual for each and every turret, but here there was a decision to be made: either satisfy the purists (I think the term “rivet counter” has acquired somewhat of a negative overtones lately), or make the build reasonably simple. I think a generic casting number would have been sufficient; if anyone was unhappy with it, they could have just sand it off, and use the PE alternative. Unfortunately Flyhawk did not mould numbers on the turret sides, and so instead of incorrect detail I ended up with none.

The other, somewhat challenging part to build was the racks/baskets on the back of the turret. These multi-part plastic/PE contraptions were not easy to build at all; some patience will be necessary.

The mine plough is somewhat of a fiddly assembly (OK, it’s an understatement: it is a VERY fiddly assembly). In fact this is probably the weakest point of this model. The instructions are not very clear in some crucial steps; it is hard to decipher what goes where. A drawing of the finished sub-assemblies would have helped out tremendously. The tiny parts are difficult to handle without launching them onto the carpet. The other issue is that the attachment point of the dozer blades is quite flimsy, and you can easily break them off during handling.

Flyhawk provides a very fine piece of chain that you will have to cut into five parts to be attached to the plough. Once you are finished the results are pretty impressive: the plough has movable skids, and the locking arms on the frame can be disengaged, too. I’m not entirely sure of the advantages of a non-static mine-plough. I guess the plough could be made to conform a terrain feature in a diorama, or shown being installed, but I’m not certain this option is worth the effort that comes with building it. I would have preferred to have something simpler to assemble – or have better instructions. Either of these would have been nice.

The overall building was done in three quick sessions -this is not a very difficult or long build. The mine-plough was the most time consuming part of the build the truth be told. The painting steps took a tad bit longer. I’ve applied a German grey primer to the whole of the model, followed up by the desert brown in several thin layers to keep the shading effect of the dark primer. I’ve decided to go with the brown desert scheme with the plough painted green- I really liked the contrast of the two on the box art. (I originally wanted to build it in three-tone NATO colors.) Even though it’s not authentic, I kept the “Captain America” decal from the three-tone option, simply because I liked it better. My model, my rules I guess. I gave a try to the PE mask provided for the wheels, since the outer wheels were not attached to the model yet. (In retrospect I should have just left the inner row off as well; I painted their rubber rims by hand.)

Once the basic colors were on, I installed the tracks and the outer row of roadwheels, installed the skirts, and went on to weathering the model. The lower part of the hull received some light pigment dusting. I added some filters to modify the tones somewhat, and sprayed Future over the model to prepare it for the decals. Once the decals were dried, another layer of Future sealed them on, and provided a good basis for the upcoming wash. I used the wash to create some streaks as well in several layers; I also used a couple of AK Interactive streaking products, too, to give some subtle variation in color. The front ID panels have black corners; since there are no decals provided, and I did not trust my hands with a brush I used a permanent marker to paint them.

After it dried I sprayed a matte coat over the tank. That’s about it – the model was finished.

Overall I have to say the build was a pleasant one, although the sheer number of tiny plastic parts (especially in the plough assembly) was sometimes a testing my patience. The results are spectacular for sure. I’ve built Revell’s M1A2 a couple of years ago, and I have to say it’s difficult to decide between the two kits. (Long-long time ago I’ve built the old 1/35 Trumpeter Abrams. This 1/72 gem easily trumps it -bad pun intended- when it comes to detail.)

The Revell kit has excellent detail for the scale, but Flyhawk easily surprasses it in this regard. You do feel like you have a premium quality model in your hands when you build it. On the other hand the Revell M1A2 is a much simpler build. It boils down to preferences I think: if you don’t want to be bothered with tiny parts and PE, the Revell is a good alternative; if you want to go all-out, there’s the Flyhawk model for you.


Armory 1/72 VK 72.01 (K) “Fail Lowe”


When I was told I had a chance to review a model that has not even been issued yet, obviously I said yes; after all it is a rare opportunity to get your grubby hands on something so fresh out of the moulds. An added point of interest is that Armory is mostly known as a producer of high quality resin and PE aftermarket company, and their foray into the plastic scale model world is quite an interesting -and daring- step (with other resin manufacturers following suit lately).

The subject of this kit is a fictional vehicle from the popular online game World of Tanks; it it a German superheavy gift tank given out at Clan Wars, and in general it is regarded as a less-than-effective tank in-game. (Well, it might be an understatement. It’s called the Fail Lowe…) It is possible that it was an actual plan during the war, but it does not really make a difference if we call it a paper panzer or a ‘46 German tank, really. Amusing Hobby issued it in 1/35 scale; now we have a more manageable sized 1/72 version.

Armory seems to be interested in fictional German tanks for their injection moulded kits; this is the second of such vehicles, and share several parts.

The hull has a complex shape, and the surface seems rough in several places; I needed to sand the round part on the back, for example. There are no attachment points of the interlocking armor plates simulated where these plates are normally located, which is a shame (where the frontal armor meets the side armor, for example.)

The PE is top-notch, which is to be expect of Armory; they have a long experience with producing PE conversions  for both armor and aircraft, and full resin/PE models.



The model is not difficult to build, even without instructions (I used Armory’s Lowe’s instructions, the 3D renders, and the website during the build). The hull is a conventional assembly of several flat parts; we don’t get a “bathtub” like lower hull. The fit is reasonably good.

I chose to assemble the running gear and the tracks before adding the mudguards.

The running gear’s attachment points are somewhat flimsy and weak; the wheels can detach quite easily after assembly, so be careful. (This seems to be a common issue; I had some problem with the running gear of Modelcollect’s E-100, too.) The idlers are done in an interesting fashion: the individual disks had to be glued on a shared axis. I did have to enlarge the holes on these wheels.

Since I did not have the instructions I was unsure how close the tracks needed to be mounted to the hull; it turns out I mounted them a bit closer than should have, and it meant some trimming and cutting, which is somewhat noticeable. (You won’t have this issue if you use the instructions, but I felt important to confess, since it’s the result of my circumstances and not the model’s fault.)

And this is the part where we come to the less-than-ideal part. The mud guards have small protruding sections sticking out to help with the attachment; these should fit into the corresponding holes placed on the side of the hull. The fact is that they don’t fit; the mudguards are quite thick and chunky, and the holes are not wide enough. This is a recurring issue with the model: several plastic parts are somewhat thick, which suggests a need to refine the plastic injection moulding process Armory uses (or replace the mudguards with PE parts…). Interestingly other parts, such as the tools and towing hooks are very finely moulded.

The top of the hull is a little bit wider than the bottom, which required some sanding to bring them to the same width. The top part is sitting on the top of the sides, which means there is a seam to be filled on the side.

This leads us to the next issue: the need for filling seams. The fit is not as good as to eliminate the need for filler. The seams between the mudguard and hull are quite wide and need to be filled. The triangular parts on the side under the round section also need filling (and they have a sink-mark as well). The turret also needs some trimming and filling to fit properly. The armored mantlet does have a seam on the artwork,so I decided not to touch it. Due to the nature of the moulding process, the muzzle breaks (there are three options to choose from) have also seams to fill, which is a bit more difficult due to the fine details. If you are patient, it’s worth drilling out the holes.

As I said the PE considerably improves the model; the engine deck grilles, etc. are very nice additions. I switched some tools to DML ones as I had those pre-painted; I also put on a 1/35 rolled tarp on the mudguard.

Overall, once I finished with the fitting and filling the build became quite enjoyable. The model looks unique, and once it takes shape, it’s a cool little thing to work on.


I chose a fictional painting scheme with my fictional tank, and used silly putty to mask the dunkelgelb parts. The Dunkelgelb is a mixture of Mig’s two kind of Dunkelgelb colors (mid and late war). I’m still a bit conflicted on these paints; if you use them right they do spray on nicely, but the fact that they form a cured layer makes them a bit less attractive for me. I’m used to the Tamiya paints, and I really like the fact I can just “mist” them on. I’m not sure I can do that with these paints.

The green was Tamiya dark green lightened with a lot of tan. The triangles were hand painted once the paint was dry. The model received a pin wash of dark brown to bring out the small details. (Looking over the photos I realized I forgot to paint the periscopes… this is something I’ll remedy tonight.)

As usual I applied filters (light brown, in several layers) to lessen the contrast, and added mud to the bottom of the chassis and running gear using pigments mixed with white spirit.

The decals were applied in a haphazard manner. I made up the identification numbers (birthday of my wife, if you really want to know), and put on the charging knight because I quite like the figure. I sealed everything with Testors dulcote.

Several layers of subtle streaking was added using AK’s Winter Streaking Grime. The photos bring out everything incredibly stark; they don’t look as strong by eye. It’s actually a good idea to take photos just to see the mistakes; it’s incredible how much more critical the camera is… (It also exaggerates the weathering effects, so keep that in mind. You can please the eye or you can please the camera; rarely can you do both…)

I used Tamiya’s makeup set on the whole model; it got a nice, uneven coat of dust (dark dust on the lower part, light dust on the upper part), which was followed by Mig’s washable dust on the horizontal surfaces. I did not use the product “straight”: I heavily diluted it with water, and added small patches where I thought dust would accumulate. With a clean, wet brush I could spread these patches, and remove the excess quite nicely. I did not add paint chips to the model; I thought I’d keep it relatively pristine. The edges got the usual treatment with a silver pencil to give a metallic shine to the model, and I declared the tank finished. (Prematurely, as I just realized, since I forgot to paint the periscopes, and lost the radio operator’s machine gun barrel somewhere in the weathering process… Let’s say he removed it for maintenance, and leave it at that.)


And that’s it, really. The model is OK; it’s not a high-tech Flyhawk kit, but it’s not bad, either. It’s something you are used to if you work with Eastern European Braille models, with one exception: the basic plastic is greatly improved by the brass barrel and extensive PE. I think it’s pretty impressive that a mostly resin/PE aftermarket company is moving to the injection moulded model market; it’s something OKB and other companies seem to be doing, too. Exciting time for the 1/72 market, that’s for sure.



1/35 Zvezda Panzer IV (Sd.Kf.z 161/2) ausf H. part 1


I have built Dragon’s offering of the Pnz. IV., so obviously I was curious what Zvezda came up with. They come from two very different philosophies: DML crams in as much detail as they can with PE, individual links, metal barrels, and the whole nine yard in a highly complex, high-tech kit. This comes with a higher price tag and a much higher part count. Zvezda, on the other hand, goes for a more budget option for both time and money with their newer kits. They provide good detail for a much lower part number and much lower price. The build is much faster and simpler; the price you pay for this is a couple of compromises in construction and options. In short: this is a perfect model if you don’t want to spend too much money or too much time on a build, or if you are only getting into “serious” building and don’t want to bother with PE and individual tracks yet. It seems like Zvezda spotted a gap in the present market: good quality, cheap and easy to build models. With the present trend of expensive, highly complex kits, newcomers to the hobby (who are usually young and have no income on their own) are usually left out of the equation; it seems like Zvezda’s offerings might make it easier for them to stay in the hobby.

Zvezda’s offering is a bit strange in one respect: the side skirts have very nicely textured Zimmerit, however the hull lacks it completely. This leaves the model builder with two choices: either apply Zimmerit to the whole of the tank, or buy/fabricate new side-skirts without the coating. I chose to go with the latter as I personally don’t really like the look of Zimmerit. (If you decide to dress the hull up, there are alternatives: PE, resin or even home-made one using putty.)

Overall the model is quite accurate as far as I could determine, with some issues of the drive-wheel. There is little flash on the parts (the only case I found was on the drive wheel), and the detail is quite good. The weld seams are reproduced very well, the lettering on the rubber rims of the road wheels is visible (although not as sharp as on the DML and newer Trumpeter models), and the no-slip surface of the mudguards is very well done. The Zimmerit pattern on the side skirts is reproduced very well; the problem is that now you have to apply Zimmerit to the hull if you plan to use them. Another issue is not specific to the Zvezda model: the side skirts are given as one unit, all the armour plates moulded as one part. If you wish to depict them in a more realistic position, you will have to separate the different plates (shouldn’t be a problem). The thickness is quite out-of-scale, too, but once assembled it should not really be that apparent.


Since I have a Tank Workshop interior for the PnzIV ausf H I decided to build it with this kit. I was planning to get a DML offering, but facing another 1000+ part build was just too much. The Tamiya kit is showing its age, so Zvezda it is. (I wanted to avoid the problems of the Tamiya model: rubber tracks, detail, gun barrel- all issues that would require aftermarket products.) Because the interior set is designed for the Tamiya kit sometimes the fit is not the best. The interior set itself is OK, but there are more detailed options out there -Verlinden’s for example. With the current bonanza of full-interior kits, resin sets became somewhat of a last-ditch option.

Since the turret basket and the gun is actually quite nice in the Zvezda kit, I am using the plastic parts instead of the resin; most of the Tank Workshop set goes into the hull instead.

The ammo storage is quite rudimentary: just pieces of rectangular resin. The driver’s and radio operator’s station is quite well detailed; the problem is that the transmission is largely hidden by the model’s upper front plate. None of the front hatches can be opened; I think I might try to cut open the large middle hatch.

The radios’ backs are also featureless; these were placed into a metal rack, which should be visible when you look at the back of the radios. Thought about fabricating something, but then I just skipped this part.

The transmission is actually quite nice; can’t wait to see it painted and weathered.

Well, this is it so far… next step: finishing up the interior, painting and weathering it. Keep tuned in.

Tamiya T-55A and the whole nine yards part 6.


This is the last part of the building of the T-55. Just in time for the MiniArt T-55A with full interior to come out, but to be honest I don’t really mind; I’ve been collecting parts for this build for a long time -it does have a sentimental value for me…

Previous entries:






As with all builds, I’ve learned a lot from my mistakes; and I finally know what those things sticking out of the back of the turret are. Which is nice.


The last time we left off the tank was mostly finished; the filters I wanted to apply were on, pin washes finished, and everything was ready for the weathering. Before I started I added some decals, though. The markings are fictional; I’ve printed out some Hungarian markings and used a number from the MiniArt T-44 set; the only thing that is not fictional about the tank is that the AM version was in service of the Hungarian armed forces. I know purists will be horrified, but I just did not have the energy to do hours of research to find one particular tank to model. (Ironically I have an amazing book on the history of the Hungarian Armoured Forces – two thousand miles from here…)

I also needed to paint a couple of details, such as the canvas cover for the gun mantlet, but mostly the tank was done.

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. I used some black pigments on the side-skirts directly next to the exhaust, and applied some oil stains. Again; I just used AK’s and Vallejo’s products slightly diluted. I made bigger, more dilute patches, and once these dried, added smaller patches on top of them with oil products slightly less diluted.

The external fuel tanks on the back were given some diesel stains. (I admit I did not scratch build the piping that would allow the tank to use these external tanks. I did make the pipes for the smaller external tanks if it’s any consolidation, though.)

That’s pretty much it. I finally have a T-55AM with full(ish) interior. It was a pretty long (and expensive) undertaking. To be honest I can’t recommend anyone doing the same- after all, there will be an all-plastic alternative available by MiniArt soon, with a much better detail than the CMK set. (A subject of a later set of posts…)



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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The tank is now looking like an actual vehicle…

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



Please find the first, second  and third part here.

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

Keep tuned in…

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

Please find the first and second part here.

And the build goes on…


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

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


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

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

Problems with the Miniarm set

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

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

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

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

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

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

The saga of the gun barrel

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Finishing touches

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

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

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


Please find the first part here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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



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


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.)


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


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.