Category Archives: SPG

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.

Zrinyi II part 1.

Apparently there’s some time for another post this year… So: the last 2016 post. For real.

 

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The Zrinyi II has always captivated me. Being a Hungarian obviously Hungarian-made armor had an interest, but this SPG in particular caught my eye due to how it looks. It simply looks cool, and unlike the Toldi, it was an effective vehicle as well.

Let’s face it, Hungarian armor was never a very famous (or even known), there were almost no models available for the longest time. There was one series of tanks done in resin in 1/35 for a horrendous price, and Hunor has a 1/72 line of Hungarian tanks (some of which I featured on this blog) of which I did not know about for a long time.

And then there was this beast: a 1/15 scale resin model of the Zrinyi II. I saw it in the since-defunct Sas Militaria, Budapest, and it was offered to me for the paltry price of 300 dollars. Needless to say I was resigned I’ll never have any Hungarian tanks -let alone a Zrinyi- in my collection, ever.

In the last couple of years, however, suddenly these vehicles started to appear in plastic both in 1/72 and in 1/35. I built the Hobby Boss Toldi, and I also could not resist to buy Bronco’s 1/35 offering of the Zrinyi II. (To be honest I should have stick with the 1/72 Hunor one.)

The build

This was my very first Bronco model. The detail was very nice, the plastic was great quality, the fit was good, and yet I did not enjoy the process at all. The instructions were not always clear, and the model is overcomplicated. With the overly complex MiniArt kits, like the D7 dozer, you have the feeling that the engineers wanted to put everything into the model; complexity had a purpose there. With this model I felt like they were trying to mess with me. (The running gear was especially annoying to assemble, not to mention the installation of the mudguards.) Talking about the mudguards: they are very thin, very nice pieces of plastic; there is no need for any PE replacement.

We do get some interior detail, but not enough to leave the hatches open; most of the model is empty. (This is not a criticism; I’m not sure people even know how the Zrinyi II looked like from the inside.)

The tracks went together perfectly fine, unlike the Hobby Boss Toldi which I was assembling at the same time. As a first step I assembled two links at a time, and then joined these sections into larger ones; while the glue was still setting I could form the finished tracks around the return rollers and the drive wheel/idler.

Due to the fact I had to move cities several times during the build perhaps it’s not surprising I lost a small fret- unfortunately my Zrinyi does not have any periscopes.

The side skirts are very well detailed; it’s a shame they are provided as one unit per side. (It would be nice to be able to mount the different sections separately as the real things were. I was not brave enough to attempt cutting them apart.)

The marking was to be done using a provided PE mask; it was a really nice touch. The large cross sign on the engine deck is provided as a decal, but I would strongly suggest to try to paint it as well. The decal is enormous, and goes over the engine compartment’s hatches. Needless to say it does not conform well to the difficult surface even with the use of copious decal setting solution.

 

Painting

The painting and weathering was somewhat of an arduous process as I was experimenting with several products and techniques which necessitated a couple sessions of repainting.

The base color was a relatively dark, flat green; this was shaded using darker version of the same color, and then modulated using filters. I’ve used very thinly diluted oils as overall filters, and the dot method on larger surfaces.

I’ve tried to use True Earth‘s products for shading and fading with a varying degree of success; these products are not as easy and straightforward to use as the manual claims it. For one, absolute, flat surface is a must; and application by airbrush is also something that gives a better result. Don’t get me wrong: these products look like they have enormous potential; however you need to experiment to achieve a result that looks anything like the cover photo.

The wooden handles of the tools and the blocks for the jacks were painted Tamiya Tan, and then I applied some umber oil paint undiluted. By scraping most of it off using a very stiff brush you can get a nice-looking wooden surface relatively fast.

I’ve used pigments mixed with water on the lower part of the chassis; once they dried, I simply brushed off the excess. I repeated the process with much less and much lighter colored pigments on the top surfaces as well to simulate dust. With a fine brush and a dark brown color I painted some chips onto the tank, and used rust colored oil colors to simulate running rust from these spots. The exhaust received several layers of rust color pigments; I also rubbed some off between applications to make the effect realistic. (This “adding and removing” method is quite useful in weathering.) As a last step I used a silver pencil on the edges of the tank, the running gear and on the tracks to simulate the metallic shine of worn metal.

Well, the tank itself is ready. Next stop: a diorama setting.

MiniArt 1/35 SU-122 build review p3.

I’m continuing the MiniArt SU-122 build and review- you can find the previous parts below:

Part 1

Part 2

You can find the photos of the parts and the instruction manual on armorama in my review, and you can find a comparison with the non-interior version of the same kit here.

If the gods will it, I should be ready in two more posts -and about two more weeks. (I hope.)

I had some constructive feedback which mentioned photo sizes. In further posts I’ll be experimenting the different options WordPress offers- thumbnails, galleries, etc. Please let me know if you have any suggestions -length, number of photos, quality of photos, style, anything. (I also would love to read comments on the models… after all, this is one of the reason for the blog.)

So, without further ado, onto the build:

Gun

The gun is not really difficult to build -except for the broken recoil guard, which I had to fix with glue. It was whole when the model came, but it snapped into three parts sometime during the build. I suggest you put this part aside before you touch the model, because it’ll break as you move the sprues around during the build. The hydraulic tubes elevating the gun are working (the two parts can move), however the way they are attached to the gun (glued to a PE holding bracket) makes this feature more like an option to fix the gun in any position you desire, than to make it adjustable after the gun is in place. In other words decide what position you’d like the gun in, put the it in place, and then glue the hydraulic tubes into place. Alternatively you can just forget about them, as they would not be visible, anyhow, and this would leave the gun movable. (In the non-interior version of this kit they are not included.)

A side-note: the wheel controlling the elevation of the gun is on the right side, between the gun and the wall of the fighting compartment… ergonomics was not a main concern when the vehicle was built.

I painted the gun in the “Russian” green color I’ll paint the whole vehicle with, and weathered it with oil washes, filters to make it look used and less uniform. Some wear-and-tear was simulated with painted chips (both black-brown and some metallic). The gun shield (not sure what it is- the fat protective shield around the base of the gun) is a three part assembly, with a prominent seam going along its length. Because the lifting hook is molded with one of the parts together, the filling and sanding requires a little care.


As you may notice the gun barrel is missing still- it is added once the gun is in its place. The plastic barrel has rifling on the inside; a pretty cool feature. One thing to mention: attach the gun barrel before you add the gun shield protecting it…

 

Engine and transmission

The building of the engine is pretty straightforward affair. The detail is pretty good, although no wiring/cabling guide is provided (which is a shame, really, but there is available reference material online). The transmission looks exceptionally well detailed; it is quite easy to see how the real thing worked once you assemble the model. The fit is really good; things snap together once in place. I painted the engine in a dark aluminium color, dry brushed it with brighter metallic shades, and weathered it using oil washes and Vajello’s engine grime product (I could not resist to try it). Some of the cabling was done using thin solder wire or Champagne bottle wire painted black (I used it to simulate cabling in the fighting compartment as well).

 

And the finished engine with the radiators attached.

 

Since I “dirtied up” the engine compartment, I added the transmission at this point because I wanted to display the model with the back folded down. I left the engine out so that it’s not going to be hidden once the model is done. (It’s a shame only the very top of it would be visible once the engine compartment is finished. Because I could not figure out how to create a realistic-looking cutaway of the engine compartment, I’m going to display it in front of the model like I did with my Hobby Boss T-34/85, and the MiniArt T-44.)

 

Some other parts: a really bent cover of the transmission… (Only my sample, apparently. I’m reviewing another SU-122 kit and the SU-85 by MiniArt, and they seem fine.)

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The cooling flaps on the engine deck are positionable; it’s a pity only the back ones will be visible; the rest will be covered up by plastic parts covering the engine deck.

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Well, that’s it for now. Next steps: putting the interior together.

 

1/35 Trumpeter 1K17 Szhatie Part 1.

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The term "laser tank" evoke images of alien skies, gigantic space ships, Astrates, and the rest of the delightful Warhammer 40k universe.
In other words: this guy.
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source: http:/warhammer40k.wikia.com/wiki/Shadowsword

The 1K17 tank will not melt metal and evaporate hordes of heretics and Titans; however it does have a gigantic set of solid-state lasers mounted on a tank chassis. These were intended to blind the optics of missiles, airplanes, and other enemy weapon systems. I have not been able to find analyses of this laser-weapon’s efficiency, as the production of these vehicles was hindered by some serious practical issues. One of them is right in front of you: the optical elements of these lasers were made out of 30kg artificial rubies – each. This obviously increased the production costs somewhat, which essentially made sure that these vehicles were not built in sufficient numbers.
 The project was based on the MSTA self-propelled artillery. They kept the hull, and changed the turret so it could accommodate the solid-state lasers. The hull itself is based on the T-80, but the engine installed is a 840hp diesel engine from the T-72.

As it was already mentioned, the costs themselves were enough to doom this project; the two vehicles built were mothballed. They still can be useful, however; after all, they are perfect if you need a gigantic laser pointer to distract some invading mutant tiger army.


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The plastic is good quality, and easy to work with. The detail is crisp, and very fine. Some of the parts will need to be handled with care, as they are really thin. The wire guards for the headlights look especially fine. The PE fret included has the mesh covering the engine cooling hatches, and some extra small parts that could not be produced using plastic, like the clamps for the storage boxes. The transparent sprue contains the vision blocks, and a part for the remote controlled AA machine gun. The way some of the periscopes are attached to the clear sprue is also a bit problematic: one side has almost no space for the cutter between the part and the sprue’s frame. 

The decal sheet includes a LOT of numbers so you can customize your tank (not that you have many options if you want to be historically accurate), and a set of Soviet-era crest.

Since this kit is built on the Trumpeter MSTA kit, you get a lot of extra parts –the gigantic gun included.

The build was really straightforward and relatively quick; I have not run into any difficulties. The assembly starts with the hull, as usual. Right in the beginning, there are some issues with the instructions. In the first page it is indicated that you should not glue the towing hooks; I believe the symbol should be next to one end of the unditching log’s holding straps. (This realization was a bit late for my build.)

 

 

 

 

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The headlights are somewhat difficult to glue, and mostly because of the engineering of the kit. On the real tank they are attached directly to the metal guards (which are essentially metal frames) using one little peg. Unfortunately the model headlights are constructed the same way. You’ll have to attach the headlights with this peg, and position them perfectly while doing so. This is a tricky proposition, and some other solution that would have helped with the positioning while drying would have been nice. (I used silly putty to position the lights, and superglue to fix them onto the frame –see photos. This method worked surprisingly well.)

 

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The fenders, the storage boxes and the side-skirts are assembled as separate units. All the clips for the storage boxes are provided as PE parts; it takes a while to attach each and every one. (I can imagine how practical this setup is in real life… “hurry, get the tools!” “Yes, comrade, give me half an hour to undo these straps!”.) While I was taking the photos, I realized one clip was left out on a box– which was attached after the photo session. (This demonstrates why it’s worth taking photos of your models while building them.) The greatest issue with how the kit is designed are the side-skirts. The side-skirts of Russian tanks are usually thick rubber painted over with the camouflage colors. If you look at photos of T-70s, T-80s, etc, you’ll see that the side-skirts are readily deforming, they separate from each other, and they are obviously not rigid. Unfortunately Trumpeter did not give any impression of the flexible nature of the rubber: they are rod-straight. They could be made out of thick metal for all we know. (I say “unfortunately”, because it’s not an impossible task: Revell has managed to capture these rubber side-skirts amazingly well in 1/72 scale.) There’s also no obvious method of leaving them off. If you choose to display the tank without the side-skirts (as the 1K17 is displayed in the reference photos available online), you’ll have to saw them off. (And thus display the incorrect suspension…) It’s such a simple thing to do, which, nevertheless, would dramatically improve the look of the tank. The rest of the vehicle has been so meticulously reproduced; I have no idea why Trumpeter got lazy on this issue.

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Before the fenders are attached you will have to assemble, paint and weather the running gear, tracks and most of the hull. Once the side-skirts are in place, you will not be able to get to those areas. The turret is well done; some of the panels do not fit perfectly, so filler will need to be used. (The welding lines are very nice touch on the edges of the armor plates.) There is some crucial missing detail here, however. Looking at photos you can see that the lenses are protected by lens protector flaps (which are provided), but there is also a rubber band around each lens assembly that enables these flaps to close weathertight.

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source: Gizmodo

These rubber bands are missing, which is a shame. The instructions also fail to give you options for leaving the middle lens covers in an open or closed position. Again; photos are available, and can be used as reference, but the instructions should highlight the options available nevertheless.

 

 

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The lasers are housed in a separate box, which is attached to the turret. Before closing it in, I’ve painted the back of the transparent lenses red (Ruby red from the Citadel paint range), and the inside of the box was painted black. There’s an awful lot of free space inside the turret, so someone with a little patience and a small LED light can actually make a pretty cool modification lighting up the lenses -although it would not be a set of coherent light beams, of course. (I might just do that, actually.)

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The fit of the assembly containing the laser with the turret is not perfect; it forces the sides of the turret apart visibly at the attachment points. (This can be remedied if you cut the holding pegs, and glue the part into place.) You’ll find the opposite is the problem with the long, protecting strip on top of the laser-weapon: it is supposed to be movable, but it just does not click into place easily. The attachment between the parts is flimsy, and it falls off quite easily; you would be better off gluing them fixed.

 

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One serious technical gripe I have with the kit is the tracks. The guide teeth will need to be glued onto each and every track link. To compound this issue, the teeth are attached to the sprue right where the track link and the guide teeth are joined; this means you will have to clean up each and every one of the 174 or so guide teeth with a scalpel before you can assemble the tracks. This is when you wonder why they could not mould these parts together, or even better yet, use a link-and-length solution.

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Dryfitting… the model is taking shape nicely.

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The turret, interestingly, “sits” on the hull; the usual pins, that are making sure the turret stays in place, are missing. I’m not sure why this is the case. Most of the time it should not be a problem, as the fit is quite snug, but this could be an issue during the transport of the model. (Alternatively you can just glue it in place.)

 

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More dryfitting…

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The AA heavy machine gun turret is a subassembly on its own right; it is a very nice representation of the real thing. After this we’ll just have to glue the millions of grab handles in place, and the model is essentially done.v

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Well, that’s it for building. Next part -painting