Category Archives: tank

Rye Field Models Sd.Kfz. 171. Panther Ausf G with interior Part 3.

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Part 1.

Part 2.

Since I started both Panthers (RFM and Takom), I will add some observations to help with the comparison of the two kits.

Engine and transmission

These are pretty straightforward bits; nothing major. The detail is nothing sort of amazing.

The central rod which holds the controls (handles and pedals) is somewhat awkward to assemble, since it is made up by tiny parts of the bar. Due to the small sections it is kind of difficult to make a straight rod. Not to mention the narrowness of the hull makes it difficult to keep it straight. (It bent further when I dry-fitted -or rather, attempted to- the transmission into the hull. Tried to straighten it out but I was worried it would break.)

 

Issues with the hull

Well, there is one issue, which kind of causes a whole subset of issues. The hull is too narrow. Simple as that. This causes the torsion bars to not to fit properly (as mentioned in part 2 of the build), and it means the PE brackets on the floor of the hull will also not fit.

The torsion bar issue could be solved with a simple sanding. Tedious, and a bit annoying, but doable.

The hull brackets, on the other hand, are a whole different matter.

The PE is thin, and bends easily -it also warps easily. And this is not a good thing when you are trying to install a delicate, multipart PE bracket system into a too-narrow hull. I did my best, but the results are far from perfect. At places the cross-brackets had to be trimmed to fit them into the hull, which threw some of the alignment of the longitudinal brackets off a bit. This caused further cascades of misalignment. The model has been engineered to such a tight fit, even the smallest deviations will make it difficult to install further parts (such as seats, the cabin floor, ammo holding bins). See the above photo: the seat of the driver sits on molded-on bars which had to be trimmed so that the platform fit into its place due to a tiny bit of deviation of the placement of the underlying PE brackets. At this point I was seriously feeling the model was actively trying to fight me.

Filling up the hull…

Where to start? This is where the lower hull starts to look kind of complete.

The tight fit caused further headache. The instructions would have you install the ready-bins first, and then add the sqare-shaped floor panel which holds the rotating turret floor. Take a good, long look at the panel itself: it has all the space for the read-bins pre-cut; mostly just on the sides, but one is completely enveloped by the floor panel.

The fit, as I said, is extremely tight; test-fitting the bins on their own showed how difficult it was just to push them into place. (Perhaps some sort of a lubricant would make it easier…) However, when these bins are attached to the bottom of the hull (and PE brackets), it means you have to push several of them through the panel at the same time, while the panel itself is a tad too wide to fit inside the hull comfortably, so you have to keep pressing. It is not the case of “just drop it straight down”. Without some serious pushing you cannot install the the panel in its place even when the hull was bare without anything installed yet. The fact that there are things in the way complicates matters tremendously.  You have to install the floor “sliding” (=pressing hard) through five bins, and the side of the tank -plus the firewall. Oh, and the bins are a tiny bit misaligned as the PE brackets made it difficult to attach them exactly to where they were supposed to go.

I ended up removing the bins, installing them into the floor panel, and cutting off the pegs that supposed to attach them to the bottom of the hull. After this I pressed the panel down in its place while trying to pry the walls of the hull apart to create more space for it, and once this was done I tried to force everything in its place. Needless to say this sort of manhandling is not exactly what you want to do to a delicate model… I did manage to damage the paint on the side of the tank.

And there it is. This was finished in August, but I did not have the strength to touch the tank again. Will have to plow on soon, I guess. Not looking forward to painting the ammunition for this and the Takom kit…

Takom Sd.Kfz. 171. Panther Ausf A with interior part 3.

Part 1 of the build

Part 2 of the build

Since I started the RFM Panther as well, I will add some observations to help with the comparison of the two kits.

Let’s get the tracks out of the way. Last week we assembled the RFM Panther’s tracks; let’s see how the Takom version compares.
Short answer: not so well… The idea is not bad. In order to get great detail, hollow guide horns and all, you are to glue the guide horns on individually. Fortunately they do not force you to do it one-by-one, like Meng does with its Panther, but provide you with a little setup where you can glue sections of horns onto the link-and-length tracks in one go. This sounds good in theory, however in practice with this method not all horns are glued on securely, and will detach when you try to clip the sprue away. Which means gluing individual horns on anyway. Not as many as you would if you had to do it with all links, but still.

 

 

The assembly of the engine was simple but the detail is astonishingly good. Cudos for Takom for getting the balance between detail and complexity just right.

 

 

First step painting the interior: white. After priming the tank with Vallejo primer (I probably should buy a lighter color, too… it helps with preshading to have a dark grey primer before the light colors, but it also makes painting a bit more tedious.) Anyhow, I used a creme color specifically made for German interiors by MRP’s Mr Paint. This is supposed to be a ready-to-use airbrush paint, which does not require thinning.

 

I had some troubles with it. I did shake it for over 5 minutes, I used a nail polish shaker, yet the paint came out as if it was overthinned: it hardly covered anything, and it went on patchy and runny. Obviously I’m doing something wrong, but I could not figure out what- and MRP did not respond to my inquiry. Since I am somewhat short on time, I had not inclination to experiment further; just used an ivory color by Testor’s which I had for over fifteen years to cover the area in two passes. Old school is best, apparently. (Don’t get me wrong; Mr Paint might be the greatest thing ever, but they really should include pointers how to use them… or respond to emails asking for help.) I did not give up on the paint yet, but to proceed with the build I put it aside for now.

Primer red coat… I used another new brand for me, AK Interactive’s acrylic paint. This paint needs to be diluted for airbrushing, and it went on great for the first try. (This is a flat paint, as opposed to the gloss Mr Paint one. I found that flat paints go on better and smoother than gloss ones; this could be a factor.)

Advice, again: before adding tid-bits, suspension and whatnot – paint the interior first. It was very tedious to mask off all the protruding parts. (With the RFM Panther I assembled the lower hull first -just the three main parts- and painted it before adding anything else.

 

Once the base color was done, I lightened it with some buff for some highlights, and went over the edges and other outstanding details with a brush. I used some Vallejo weathering products on the bottom (engine oil, soot and whatnot), and then added the torsion bars to the sides, and put the hull together.

This is where I went wrong a bit… I deviated from the instructions because I wanted to paint several subassemblies separately before putting them togheter; after all, painting the torsion bars after they are installed under all the hull ribbing, and painting the transmission glued in place seemed like a pain in the bum. Little did I know. I added everything to the hull bottom and the sides that were to be painted primer red, and then proceeded with painting and assembly.

 

Important things to remember:

1. Do NOT attach the hull sides before installing the transmission. The transmission needs to go in first.
2. Also: do NOT install the torsion bars before the transmission.
3. Do not attach the torsion bars to the sides as the instructions show (you are supposed to slide them in place when attaching the side) . I found it really frustrating to do so since the side does bend a bit, and it makes sliding the torsion bars into place really tedious. I think inserting the torsion bars before adding the sides would simplify this issue tremendously.
4. I messed up a bit with adding all the details onto the hull bottom; they shrouded the attachment points for some of the torsion bars, making installation a bit more difficult than necessary.
5. Do not attach anything to the sides before painting. It makes masking a nightmare. (But you will have to paint the smaller parts by hairy sticks…)

6.Do add the batteries before installing the drive shaft and the firewall. Do not ask me how I found out the order.

Keeping these pointers in mind, you may modify the order of assembly.

Rye Field Models Sd.Kfz. 171. Panther Ausf G with interior Part 2.

Part 1.

Since I started both Panthers (RFM and Takom), I will add some observations to help with the comparison of the two kits.

Let’s get the tracks out of the way. They are workable tracks, which is a first for me (unless you count MiniArt’s clip-together tracks as workable.) I have to say they were a very pleasant surprise. The links come detached, with hollow guide horns already moulded on. (You pay for this with an ejector pin mark in the middle of the links.) The assembly was kind of finicky, but nothing to worry about, and the results are pretty good. The rig functions well; I glued the pins in with extra thin cement, clipped the sprue off, sanded the pins lightly, and presto, a section is finished. Honestly, I would keep doing these tracks if I had some left over.

Further work on the interior: breaks, turret rotating motor and other small items. The kit does feel over-engineered, which can be seen demonstrated on the high number of parts that make up the turret rotating motor. On top of this, they still managed to engineer a seam line onto the part… (Same issue with the turret turning mechanism. They could have mated the two sides in a way that does not leave a visible seamline…)

On the other hand the detail is just amazing- see the weld lines on the lower hull.

The painting sequence was a bit different than the suggested assembly sequence – I did not want to try to paint the torsion bars with everything installed. I came up with the idea of first painting the PE ribs, the lower hull and the torsion bars separately, and then assemble the whole thing. It remains to be seen if this strategy worked. (I ran out of superglue.) I did make a couple of blunders with the Takom Panther for sure… (More on that in the Takom post.)

Painting the hull… I used Vallejo’s primer as usual, then the base blue color mixed from different Tamiya paints. Once that was dry, I masked off the interior, and sprayed the ivory color of the interior. I tried MRP Paint’s creme, but despite of shaking the bottle for over 5 minutes, the paint came out really diluted. (It’s a ready-to-spray paint, but sprayed like an over-diluted gloss acrylic paint.) The coverage was spotty and not very satisfactory at all. RPM has not responded to my question about this -it is perfectly possible that I did something wrong. However, the 15 year old Testors acrylic ivory paint worked like a charm… (And one can ask the question what use of a great paint if you can’t actually use it correctly?)

A little bit of annoyance: the horizontal part of the sides are joined to the lower hull with two prominent ‘flaps’. Which leave enormous and visible seams, necessitating filling and sanding. (See third photo.) I would expect a superbly engineered model not to make me to these tasks, to be honest; on the other hand it is a bit difficult to make a secure and invisible attachment, I admit. (Takom has not solved this issue, either; their solution is rather flimsy -although invisible.) The last photo shows both hulls side-by-side… (And the topic of the next post will be the Takom Panther.)

Suspension… Well, that’s another issue I ran into. The instructions instruct you to use the firewall during the assembly of the lower hull to make sure the distance is correct. Which I did. The firewall sits inside its slot quite nice and tight even without glue. So the distance is right.
However why are the torsion bars bent, then? I tried to ask around in forums , but I received no response if others ran into this as well. From where I stand the torsion bars are a bit too long; simple as that. It takes little time to trim them to size, but it is still something you would not expect from a model of this quality. (Just to make sure I mention that the torsion bars are only dry fitted on the photos…)

The suspension can be made workable, by the way, which is great. (Takom’s static.)

Well, this is where we are now with the RFM Panther. Due to the small human in our household my hobby time decreased drastically, so the progress is slow. Keep tuned in – the next post will be about the Takom Panther, and then we’ll see how far we got with this one. I am a bit anxious about the metal ribs on the bottom of the hull, and so far did a great job not doing them… You can always find all sorts of other, more pressing things to finish, right?

Dnepromodel 1/35 Straussler V-4 part 2.

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First part

I mostly used acrylic paints and Vallejo weathering products because due to a small human cohabiting with us since the end of December, I need to limit the usage of stinky, dangerous stuff in the house. (I do make sure there is an appropriate separation, but one can never be too careful.)

 

I wanted to depict a brand new prototype after a long day out on the proving ground -so lots of mud, but not much rust and fading.

I used Vallejo’s primer to prime the model, and a mixture of Tamiya greens to give the base color. (I don’t really know of any accurate color reference charts of pre-war Hungarian colors, so it’s a free-for-all.) I used Tamiya’s transparent green and yellow as a first round of filters (wanted to see how they work ever since I’ve read about them a while ago).

 

I also used several of AK’s filters on various parts of the hull to create hue differences. I used different oil colors as well for filters (dot method), and blending -you can see the results on the back hatches especially. All this helped to create visually interesting differences in the otherwise uniform green finish.

 

Instead of turpentine or white spirit I use Zest It as a diluent; it’s still not ideal, but better health-wise.

I bought a bunch of Vallejo’s weathering products: industrial thick mud, dust and oily mud washes, mud splashes, etc. They have the undisputed advantage of being water-based, so I can use them without worry to anyone’s health. I used the mud as a base, and stained it with pigments and paints, applying them in layers, and washing them back a bit with a wet brush to adjust the effect. (There are several mud colors, but I only bought one because I’m cheap.) A Tamiya mud weathering stick added some more hues of mud. (Just dab on, and adjust with a wet brush.) I used a silver pencil to bring out the details on the tracks, and to highlight the edges of the superstructure.

 

Overall this is a nice model. It is by no means perfect, but the result does look good, it’s not overly difficult to build (this is my first 1/35 resin model), and it is quite an unorthodox little vehicle which is relatively unknown and has an unique look. I really enjoyed the build, and since the tank has an intriguing history I am quite happy to put it on my shelf.

Rye Field Models Sd.Kfz. 171. Panther Ausf. G with interior Part 1. (Turret part 1)

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Great blog building the same kit with a similar philosophy.

I bought both Takom and Rye Field models, and decided to build them side-by-side. This is the Rye Field Models Panther. The Takom build is running parallel. If you want to see the corresponding parts, please see this link. (I probably will do a side-by-side photo album once I’m done building.)

Since both kits are complex, and I also have to balance my newborn, my job and my sanity, these builds will take a while, so be patient, please.

(I also have several, smaller projects on the go, so I do not lose my patience. These models are demanding.) I’ll try to be less verbose in the review, and even though I might come off as overly critical at times, I have to say this is an incredible model; please read my remarks with this in mind.

The main gun

The model starts with the assembly of the gun, so this is where I started as well. Very detailed, but not very demanding. The recoil mechanism is interesting, but completely unnecessary… this is a model and not a toy, after all.

What I did not like was that the gun breach is made out of two halves, and the seamline needed to be filled and sanded in the middle.

The gun mantlet has some interesting interior detail nobody will see once I install it – this is probably useful for someone who wants to depict the tank during assembly or maintenance.

Turret interior

Turret basket, and other interior details… everything is very detailed, lots of individual parts -and some weird design decisions, like the turret turning mechanism (first photo). There is a prominent seam line where the two halves meet -the parts could have been designed to hide this line. You also will need to glue three tiny bolts on this surface. (Takom did it a bit differently -and with the bolts moulded on, without the seamline.)

The turret basket looks great and detailed. You will need to form the wiring as well, based on a template at step 12 (which is not 1:1 but you get the dimensions in mm. Be warned: the template shows the same part from two angles -front and top-, and not two different parts… it confused me for a while.) There is even some sort of cylinder in the shell case storage, which will be hidden. Not sure what the point is.

Assembly is ongoing. Some small plastic, PE and wire details are missing.

It will be interesting, as I will have to paint everything before mating it to the rest of the turret; however, a lot of the details will need to be added after it is assembled. Planning is a real headache with this kit.

 

Transparent parts

The turret is transparent. I was thinking long and hard how to display the model, because painting and weathering each individual non-transparent parts separately seemed a bit too extreme, and probably would look a bit silly. What I decided upon is to mask out areas which will remain transparent with masking fluid, and paint the rest. Let’s hope it works.

 

The cupola has a nice, cast iron texture. I left the transparent periscopes off until the very last step, as all the painting will have to be done before installing them. All the hooks will be attached to the sides- once I can decide which parts to paint, and which parts to leave transparent. Great thing with the hooks: they are attached to the sprues from their “feet”, so cleaning them is easier. (Lots of kits have them attached on a single point on their top, which is annoying.)

 

 

Well, so far this is it. This model is amazing, for sure, but it is definitely going to be a difficult, demanding build.

Dnepromodel 1/35 Straussler V-4 part 1.

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This is a very odd-looking tank from the interwar period, and it was the first (and only) original Hungarian tank design, the rest being either licence produced (or based on licences bought from other countries) or simply purchased.

History

The Straussler V-4 came as the further development of -surprise- the Straussler V-3 light tank. The V-3 reached to the prototype phase in 1936 when the decision was made to further improve it due to several shortcomings. V stood for “vontató”, that is “tractor” in English. (A specialised vehicle for towing, not for agricultural work.) The designer was Nicholas Straussler, a Hungarian entrepreneur, engineer and inventor living in Great Britain, who also developed the flotation system on the DD tanks, the Alvis Straussler bomb trolley, and the AC2, AC3 and M39 Csaba armored cars among many other things before, during and after World War 2.

The V-4 arrived at a very tormented period of Hungarian history, and a period of fast changes in tank design philosophy which explains its eventual failure.

After the First World War, Hungary was forbidden from most modern military technology, so any research and development had to be conducted in secrecy. The treaties also severely limited the options of the Armed Forces in acquiring military hardware or know-how. Nicholas Straussler was a Hungarian ex-pat living and working in the UK, who still had strong ties to his old country. He was an enterprising and prolific engineer who not only had his own firm producing his designs, he also sold them for several large UK companies. He designed and offered the V-3 light tank (which was a medium tank in Hungarian nomenclature) for the struggling Hungarian Armed Forces. The tank was to be produced by Weiss Manfred Steel and Metal Works, a Hungarian company. He envisioned the tank being built and exported to the UK and other interested countries which would have bought economic benefits to Hungary as well. This arrangement was mutually beneficial: it helped him cut the costs of producing the first tanks considerably compared to the costs of production in Great Britain. The development and production of V3 went under the name of “towing tractor” to circumvent the treaties’ limitation, and were produced without armor, armament and turret. They were to be equipped in the destination countries, which would have satisfied the letter of the peace treaties (somewhat).

The V-3, and its development the V-4, were planned to be small, amphibious light tanks utilising dual-drive, meaning they could be driven with and without the tracks on. This concept was all the rage back in the ‘30s, so we should not judge Straussler for jumping on the hype train. The V-3 utilised an unique suspension system developed by Straussler himself. This was further improved on the V-4 by adding return rollers which were used to adjust the track tension, as the original design was very prone to either break or throw a track.

The running gear had two powered large wheels on the front and back, and two smaller roller wheels per side These were connected by a three piece horizontal rocking arm (apologies; not sure if this is the technical term). The suspension was provided by two torsion springs per side, which did provide a very stable platform for the weapons at slow to medium speeds, but at high speeds they were stiff, resulting in an exhausting ride for the crew. The V-3 had no track tensioning. The tank had a detachable screw and two pontoons for amphibious operations. (Both the V-3 and V-4 have shown excellent aquatic capabilities: they could steer well, and were very stable and safe on water. The only problem it had was exiting the water if the terrain was not perfect for it, which is, let’s face it, not ideal for a tank.)

The V-3 was not a successful design; the multiple and conflicting specifications (ability to use wheel-only locomotion on roads, amphibious capabilities, 45km/h top speed on tracks, etc. etc.) ensured that the tank was suffering from reliability issues, and was not able to fulfill each and every specification. In road mode the tracks could not be mounted onto the vehicle, so they had to be transported by a different vehicle. The tracks themselves were too narrow, which decreased the ability to cross difficult terrain, and stressed the rubber rimmed roadwheels. At this point the tracks were simply moved by the friction between the rubber and the tracks, and no drive sprockets were present. The improvements on the V-4 transformed the tank into a much more reliable (and heavier) vehicle armed with two 34/37M 8mm twin machine guns and a 40mm 37M main gun. Since the Armed Forces had no other viable alternatives, initially they were very much interested in the tank, and were willing to look over its deficiencies. (Beggars can’t be choosers I guess.)

The Swedish Landswerk L-60 was also tried alongside the V-4, and the military imagined these two being used alongside each other. However the V-4 was still plagued by mechanical issues, it did not have a very good off-terrain capability, despite of the radical redesign of the hull, and the international situation changed sufficiently for the Hungarian Army to declare its intentions of rearmament openly, so they could pick and choose from a much wider range of options. These factors doomed the V-4’s chances of being accepted into service. The Hungarian Army considered several alternatives with the second production version of the V-4, and decided on purchasing the licence for the production of the L-60, which became the Toldi I after some further development. Straussler and Weiss Manfred did not give up; both the English and the Russians were interested in the type for a while. (The tank was also trialled in Italy in 1937.) There was an export version produced with a large radio aerial around the turret, and later Straussler designed several smaller tracked vehicles aimed for the Russian and British market with the suspension developed for the V-4’s.

Further reading:
An article about Straussler and a paper-panzer that has never been built:
The Straussler MBT – Hungarian tier 10 candidate

Plans for the drive train:
https://patents.google.com/patent/US2089042

 

The Model

The model arrived very well packaged; there was no damage at all after its two thousand kilometer journey to me.

I have to say the presentation of the model is exceptional. All the parts are bagged -sometimes individually, sometimes with a few others- , and the bags are labelled with the part numbers. This definitely makes assembly easier and more organised, compared to other resin kits I’ve built. Even the tracklinks from each side are bagged separately, which is necessary, given they are not identical. The V-4 had left and right handed tracks, so keep this is in mind when assembling. Having resin individual tracks is a bit bold since gluing them together is not as straightforward as with the plastic individual tracks. (With plastic you have at least half an hour, hour to adjust the tracks after gluing them together; you lose this option with CA glue.)

Some larger parts (boogies of the suspension, etc.) are still on their casting blocks, and the attachment points are very thick. Cutting them off will require some finesse and care. (Also, constant awareness of the health implications of working with resin. Resin dust is toxic, so work somewhere where others are not exposed to it, and wear a respirator. Alternatively use wet sawing, wet sanding techniques; the water makes sure the forming dust will not get airborne.)

The instructions are somewhat basic, and can be confusing when it comes to the running gear. Most of the assembly should go without a hitch, but the running gear is complex, and would need several drawings explaining exactly how it is supposed to come together. (The confusion comes mostly from the fact that the four powered wheels were powered by a shaft system that transferred the power from the middle of the suspension where it was attached to the hull. There is an excellent article of the history of the tank -unfortunately in Hungarian (http://www.hadmernok.hu/182_05_nemeth.pdf)-, but the drawings should help positioning the drive shafts.

The casting is very high quality, and flash is minimal; there is no complaint there. The hull, however, was warped a bit (see below). The fine, subtle details are really nice. The kit comes with some PE, which is also quite delicate and well detailed.

Assembly

Hull

I started the building with assembling the hull first, and this is where I ran into the biggest issue with the kit: the lower hull (which is provided as a “tub”) is somewhat warped – it was not symmetrical. (See photo.) Perhaps it would have been a better choice to provide it as several flat pieces, as most models go about it. I used the engine deck to force the back of the hull into the right shape -with generous application of superglue and patience I managed to make the lower hull conform to the rectangular shape of the engine deck. It is not perfect, but at least now it is almost symmetrical. The top of the hull has four parts: the smaller, rectangular engine deck piece, the large part covering most of the top, the sloping frontal plate with the driver’s hatch, and a small, rectangular part covering the nose.

Starting from the back I simply glued one piece after another, making sure they are fitted to the lower hull perfectly, hence slowly ironing out the asymmetry. This obviously does put some stress on the resin, so be careful. Since the hull is relatively thin, very small amount of force is required to hold the pieces together until the glue set; nevertheless make sure you do not break the tub if you run into the same problem and use the same method of correcting it. (Other option would be to warm the tub up with hot water or a hairdryer, and shape it while it’s hot, but I went about the safer way.) I hasten to add that it might have been only my sample, and other models are perfectly fine. Since this is the only sample I have I can’t extrapolate from this.

Apart from the issue of asymmetry, the lower hull and the sloping frontal part had some gaps as well; the fit was not perfect. I decided to use Green Stuff to fill the gaps, filling and reinforcing the attachment points in one go. Another fit issue was that the two top panels did not meet completely head-on: there was a slight step between the two, instead of a smooth transition. Since the large panel had hatch details moulded on I could not sand it to profile; I simply used putty and liquid green stuff to build up a slope on the back panel instead. Again; not something I prefer doing, but this was the best I could come up with.

I find it important to mention that these issues are not unheard of with resin kits; this is the price you pay for unique and rare models.

I glued in the armored protection for the vision port on the front, and the round bases for the return rollers. The armored hatch on the front houses the hull machine gun, too, and can be displayed folded-up. The problem is that only the barrels of the machine guns are provided, and there are no interior details. If someone is able, scratch building would solve this issue. As for me I glued it shut.

The great thing about the hull and turret is that the places were the vision slits, and other larger pieces would go are actually marked with a slightly different texture. This is seemingly a small thing, but it makes placing these parts so much simpler. I really did appreciate this effort on behalf of the designers of the model.

While the green stuff was curing in the seams of the hull, I finished the turret.

Turret

The next step was the assembly of the turret top. The commander’s hatch, unfortunately, does not fit in perfectly; it’s slightly larger than the hole it covers. You may leave it open (but the turret lacks internal details), or you can start carefully shaving off the extra, while continuously fitting it into its place to make sure you do not overdo the surgery. As I said, this is your standard protocol with resin models; they do make you work. (There is a sitting Hungarian tanker figure from Bodi, which might be used to cover up the empty space should you decide to leave the hatch open.)

The guns are supposed to be installed into the turret using a system that would make them movable. The main gun is held by two rectangular pieces with a plastic rod between them. The gun sight has a similar system, while the twin machine gun is installed using an even flimsier system of a half-sphere representing the ball-mount, and an L shaped part holding the half-sphere against the opening of the turret. The L shaped part can only hold the half-sphere in place if it is actually pushing it against the opening, which is not something you can actually achieve with simply gluing it in place. (The machine gun in the hull is not movable.)

The problem is that neither of these systems really work well. First, it’s quite difficult holding several parts in place while gluing; and you do have to hold everything in place in order to position the guns correctly. Second, the holding parts are a bit undersized. If you care about movable guns, you can just replace them using larger plastic squares; as far as I was concerned, I just glued the guns into place. The third issue is that before you do any of this, you really should check if there is clearance enough for the guns on the bottom of the turret. I managed to glue everything in place the first time around only to find out that the main gun was in the way of the bottom of the turret, so I had to adjust it again.

The assembly of the machine guns is a bit tricky. You have a central PE T-shaped part which supposed to provide the “backbone” for the twinned guns; the barrels are supposed to be running on both sides parallel, and the short hand of the T is supposed to be folded up to act as a holder. The problem is the distance of the gun barrels from each other… you can’t really set it correctly. Unless you glue them into place first, making sure they are parallel, and then add the PE part, you run the real risk of making them a bit wobbly. I used a thick, gel-like CA glue which gave me plenty of time to adjust things before setting, and did just that. This saved me from measuring and trying to position the barrels parallel to a precise distance from each other. The downside is that from now on extremely fragile things are hanging over the turret and the tank’s body making handling a bit more difficult. The detail on the barrels of the machineguns is somewhat soft.

I installed the main gun at this stage. The barrel is nice and straight. The muzzle break is a separate piece, and you have to be very careful gluing it into place, since it should be placed to the longitudinal axis of the barrel. It will show if it is off center even a tiny bit.

I finished the turret by adding the two armored vision slits on the sides.

Back to the hull…

The seams went through a series of sanding/filling until I was happy that no seam was left. I checked them after I applied the primer as well, and corrected the little imperfections.

Suspension

The model overall is very simple- except for one part. The suspension and the running gear are quite complex, and take up most of the model. The wheels and larger parts are on huge pouring blocks, which need to be sawed off carefully.

The suspension is workable, so you can put the tank into any sort of terrain. It also means you will have to carefully position the large and small road wheels before gluing to make sure they line up correctly should you want to display the model on a flat terrain.

The main bogie of the suspension unit is made out of three flat pieces; gluing them together was not very simple, and you also are advised to check if the top parts are right in the middle; otherwise the overhang will interfere with the smaller arms holding the large road wheels.

As mentioned the instructions are not very clear on how to install the drive system into the suspension, but the drawings in the linked article should help you. On of the problem is that while the suspension is movable, the drive train is not- so you will have to glue everything in place, making sure that the wheels will touch the ground once the whole unit is installed on the hull. I did the best I could, but honestly I am not sure this is the way to do it. In any case most will be invisible, so you might as well skip it. With all the complexity, it is a very impressive (although quite unnecessary) design feature of the model.

To mount the suspension units in place, I drilled a hole where the units meet the hull, and inserted a thick wire in it. A corresponding hole was drilled in the central unit, and glued in place using two-part epoxy. I reinforced the attachment point with wire because did not want to risk the joint giving up over time. To make sure everything is fixed in place until the glue set, I also used CA glue.

 

Once the suspension was in place, I started adding the tracks. As the tracks are not workable, you will have to glue the suspension in place. If you wish to display the model on a flat surface this can be done at the earlier step; if you wish to display it in a diorama setting, now is the time to decide how the suspension should be positioned. (The tank’s suspension can be set into pretty funky positions, so it might be worth considering a diorama.)

The tracks come already detached, which is nice. However… Every tracklink had to be trimmed of 4 connecting stubs that used to attach them to the pouring blocks. This was time consuming. (Even though I mostly build tanks I have a confession to make: I hate building tracks.) The tracklinks, in theory, may be workable as they click together -but you do need to force them, risking breakage. Since the traction is not strong enough for them to hold, some glue will have to be applied once you built a section. It is impressive nevertheless; but I did find that longer sections tend to fall apart from their own weight without glue.

The problem with individual tracks made of resin is that you don’t have as much working time after you applied the glue as you have with plastic tracks. I built up several smaller straight sections, and tried to get the overall shape from these. Once I was happy with their position, I applied the extra thin CA glue, and hoped they would hold. At the return rollers, where the tracks were bent at a steeper angle it was difficult to make them conform to the shape of the roller without coming apart. The problem with the moving suspension was that it was difficult to hold everything stable, so I ended up gluing the suspension arms in place before adding the tracks.
One last advice: plan the installation of the tracks so that they meet on the bottom of the drive wheels, and not in the air before or after the return rollers. Don’t ask me how I came at this conclusion. Once I am done with the painting I will glue the tank onto a base, and it will flatten out the tracks; right now the suspension is pulling them up a bit.

 

The mudguards and the rest of the missing pieces were only added once I finished the tracks, and the tank was firmly sitting on them. The mudguards should be fit over an angular part of the hull, but the folding line on the PE will not conform to the hull-shape exactly… I ended up gluing tiny evergreen rods where the mudguards were supposed to go, and used them as support. Where the mudguard did not meet the hull (in the angular part, where two hull plates meet) I simply unfolded a little of the flap that I had to fold into the photoetch previously.

With this the tank was finished. It will take me a while to get it painted, but the painting stage should not be very difficult. If you have some leftover decals from other Hungarian tanks, you can built a what-if vehicle, which was accepted into service, but since it only reached prototype phase it carried no marks in real life. It can also be built very clean or very dirty, since it did go through trials; in other words the opportunities for weathering are endless.

 

Takom Sd.Kfz. 171. Panzher Ausf A with interior part 2.

Part 1 of the build

Since I started the RFM Panther as well, I will add some observations to help with the comparison of the two kits.

If you want to paint the interior, unfortunately you need to deviate from the suggested roder of assembly.

I skipped the steps which detailing the outside of the hull, and continued with step 42. This step details the finishing touches on the hull’s interior: the top section. The hull machine gun, radios, etc. are installed. The hull machine gun is a quite elaborate piece, but the barrel is not hollowed out; kind of annoying oversight. (In this day of injection moulding this is not an unreasonable expectation.)

The radio is also a very nicely detailed multipiece assembly, which, in turn, gets then enveloped by the walls of the radio mount, so only the front face remains visible. There is no guide for the wiring, and there are no headsets provided.

From here I skipped to steps 47 to 63: turret exterior and interior assemblies. You have some choices with regards to the gun mantlet; I just picked the one I liked the best, since I was not modelling one particular Panther.

Again; a pretty detailed set of steps, but nothing stands out as particularly difficult. Even the grab handles were good enough to be used; normally I switch them for wire. I particularly liked the flexible hose that will connect the fume extractor to the spent shell holder; it makes assembly a lot more easier. RFM has this hose as two separate parts that will meet in the middle when the turret halves are joined; we’ll see how good the fit is.

A couple of things to note:

The commander’s cupola is easier to assemble if you first glue K2 and K24 together (top of the cupola + insert), then add the periscopes, and finish off with K3. It is really difficult to fit the periscopes in if you follow the instructions. The periscopes, by the way, are not clear, so they will need to be painted. (RFM provides clear parts for the periscopes.)

Periscope guards are provided on a template, which sounds like a good solution. You glue the template in place, and then cut the guards off individually. Not sure how it is better, but it is a neat idea. None of the periscope guards are provided in PE, put they are thin enough to suffice.

There are injection pin marks in the interior of the turret; these will need to be sanded off carefully if you intend to show the inside.

Steps 51-52 go through the assembly of the back of the turret. The loader’s hatch is workable, but the assembly of the hinges is a bit flimsy, and not very user-friendly. Honestly, this was the part were I was cursing the most.

Steps 53-54 detail the assembly of the AA machine gun and its holder, and the bottom part of the turret. There is only one type of MG32 available; I’m not sure if there were alternative options for barrels and sighting devices used on the Ausf A Panthers. (RFM gives you some options for the Ausf G.) I left the ammo pouch off until I finish the painting stage to make things easier. (I’ll just paint all the pouches in one batch, and install them once the hull interior is done.)

Step 55 assemble the turret rotating mechanism. Lots of small parts, but the results are pretty good; I have to say I was impressed with how it looks. I was especially impressed with the accuracy: the rod connecting the two sides of the machinery just fell into place; not a fraction of a milimeter misalignement.

The main gun is assembled from step 56 to 57. It is -again- not a difficult undertaking, and the the instructions provide a couple of drawings of the finished parts -it certainly helps the assembly. (I would be nice to have this sort of assistance a bit more often; they would certainly improve the instructions.) Comparison to the RFM kit: well, the gun on the RFM is definitely more detailed -and have a lot more parts- , no doubt about that. The question is if it is something you actually notice. I myself am curious of the answer to that. 

The gun and the gun mantlet has a lot of details, such as rivets and hexagonal bolts, that will be hidden… they might be useful if someone knows the tank enough to assemble the model as a tank undergoing complete overhaul.

Steps 58 and 59 show the assembly of the turret basket floor and all the stuff that is attached to it (spent shell holder, seats, electrical components, etc.)

In the next two steps (60-61) the base of the turret and the turret basket are joined together.

Step 62 installs the top part of the fume extractor hose, and step 63 details the installation of the gun barrel to the main gun, and the attachment of the main gun to the turret. The muzzle break is made out of two halves, which is less than ideal, since it necessitates filling and sanding. I really would have preferred to get a single piece one.

And finally… the last step – step 64. The final touches on the turret, the mating of the turret and the hull, with an optional turret ring provided (should you want to display the model with the turret off, which is very likely if you decide to buy the 16 ton crane Takom and Amusing Hobby are coming out with. The separate ring will help you with the painting: it is much simpler to do this way, rather than trying to paint moulded-on details. For obvious reasons this step has not yet come for this tank. But it will. How soon- well, time will tell.

So here we are now. Time to paint.

Unfortunately the fact that I have an apartment to refurbish, while work full time and also settle in our little home with my wife waiting for our daughter to arrive, means I can only work on models for a short period at any time; perhaps the painting will need to be postponed for a while. Until then – let’s finish up the RFM tank as well! Stay tuned.

Takom Sd.Kfz. 171. Panzher Ausf A with interior Part 1.

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2018 will be the year of the Panther, probably; several companies have issued their Panther models, and two of these models have a full interior included: Rye Fields’ and Takom’s. There is also a Trumpeter 1/16 one coming out -also with full interior.

I bought both Takom and Rye Field models, and decided to build them side-by-side; this review contains my impressions of the Takom model. Since I just moved to a different country, and not everything is set up yet, the photos are somewhat questionable quality; for that I apologise. I can already see that there will be some serious holdups during the build simply because it is a shame to hide all of the amazing interior details. Since I would like to display the complexity of the interior, this necessitates a cutaway model. I do not wish to butcher this gorgeous model, so it will take a while figuring out how to cut it up cleanly to provide a good view the interior. Another option is to wait for Takom’s upcoming crane to come out, and show the tank with the turret lifted up… If you have not yet bought your Panther yet, Takom also issued a model with optional clear parts, issued the Ausf G as well, making their range quite wide, and providing similar options to Rye Field’s offering… so you have a LOT of choices even within the Takom range.

Back to the kit… The box is enormous; the model is over 1500 parts, after all. The sprues are well protected in individual plastic bags, nothing was damaged during transit.

The instructions come in a small(ish) booklet. There are color panels showing the interior painted, and the suggested color schemes for the tank itself, but most of the steps are shown in black-and-white. The steps are clear for the most part. To be honest I did run into difficulties now and then trying to figure out where to put the tiny little parts for subassemblies simply because the drawings are small. The solution is either a magnifying glass, or, in my case, I simply took photo of the complex and tiny drawing and zoomed in on my phone. This is certainly an issue but not an insummarable one. The kit looks incredibly complex, and the whole assembly looks very daunting at first. My advice is to take it one step at a time. While the model IS complex, it is not horribly so; individual steps should not be challenging by themselves. Step-by-step, just focusing on the next steps without worrying the next dozen pages of instructions still waiting, you will slowly find that you have completed most of the tank. Despite of the complexity I did find you don’t need incredibly high level of skill to build this model. There are a lot of tiny sub-assemblies, complex parts, but the designers of this model tried to make sure that the way these parts fit would make it difficult to make mistakes; carefully placed locator pins, asymmetric joints, etc all make sure that you can only fit parts together in the correct orientation. (It IS possible to mess up, though; always check the instructions carefully.)

What I really liked about the model is that Takom tried to use PE as little as possible, and managed to achieve a highly detailed, complex kit with only 7 PE screens. Obviously, if you want to replace the side-skirts, or other parts with PE, several aftermarket companies have already issued sets for the model, but for most people I think the plastic parts will be perfectly suitable. There are also no clear parts for periscopes and whatnot, but I never actually thought they were adding anything to a model, so it’s all good…

The only extra I bought -and this one is, unfortunately, quite necessary- was the Meng Zimmerit decal set. Most Panther A-s had Zimmerit applied, so there is no way out of this one unless you want to model that handful of tanks which were left bare of Zimmerit. I have never used decals for Zimmerit, so this will be an interesting experience. (I’m not sure why Takom did not issue this model with Zimmerit -perhaps they wanted to give the modellers the flexibility. The only problem is that you are then left with aftermarket or DYI Zimmerits. Fear not: there are other Takom Panthers coming out with Zimmerit, but they were not yet announced when I bought this model.)

Step 1.

The assembly starts with the bottom part of the hull. The transmission, the torsion bars, all the small bits are relatively easy to put together. The suspension is static; you will not be able to position the swing arms, but this is how it is; the model has been made user friendly as possible by Takom, and simplifying how the suspension is built up is part of this. (The other part are the link-and-length tracks.)

Step 2.

This is a multi-part assembly of the transmission. It is a very detailed little part, and I ran into the first issue here: step 2G is so tiny, it is impossible to see where M15 and M37 goes. This is where the magnifying glass comes handy. At step 2H you are supposed to glue in the piping coming out of the transmission, but I suggest you dry fit it into the hull first, and glue the pipes in with their other ends fitted into their respective holes on the hull (step 4).

Step 3- 4.

Assembly of the hull’s bottom (the ribbing) and the sides. You are shown to glue the transmission in, but it would make painting more difficult later should you decide not to paint everything primer red. (The transmission was most likely not left in primer red.)

IMPORTANT: don’t do as I did. Before adding most of the tidbits to the sides, paint the interior first… Now I will have to mask around the details…

Step 5-6.

Addition of the sides to the bottom, with the torsion bars. These parts fit remarkably well- it holds together even without glue…

The sub-assembly at step 6 details the assembly of the controls for the driver.

Step 7-9.

Running gear… The swing arms are fixed, so you cannot position the wheels; the link and length tracks would make this impractical as well. You do get a template to position the swing arms, and the very same template is used to assemble the tracks. Important: do NOT glue F2-1 and F2-2 (the drive sprockets’ housing) before using the template as they will be in the way.

Step 10-11-12-13-14.

The assembly of the hull bottom, the driver’s and radio operator’s seats, the extra three ammunition storage under the turret, and the instrument panels. It also goes through the assembly of the firewalls in the engine compartment, and the drive shaft/turret turning mechanism. You also assemble the ammunition storage boxes around the lower hull. They are both good and bad. The good part is that you don’t need to use individual projectiles; there are specially moulded parts that fit into the ammo holes from under the box, and only contain the parts of the projectiles that are actually sticking out. It certainly makes assembly a bit more simple, since instead of multiple projectiles, you only have one part per box. However it makes painting a bit more difficult, since you can only install them from under the box. Either you finish the painting of the interior, and then glue the boxes in place, or you paint the projectile heads after everything is installed and painted. I really do prefer putting as much of the model together as possible before painting, so I don’t find this option a very good one.

Step 15-16-17

Here comes the assembly of the tracks. The tracks are plastic link-and-length types, and you need to glue the guide horns onto them (two per tracklink…). These horns are hollow, and I think it was a simpler solution than to mould the tracklinks as one piece. Takom has provided a pretty unique and relatively simple solution of this making the process less monotonous and time-consuming, but it is still far from ideal. They have moulded the guide horns in rows onto plastic strips, which can be positioned over the track links, so you can glue them in rows. (I just used an extra thin glue with a brush.) Once they are dry, you can safely remove the tracklinks… the gluing part is easy; the cutting part still takes a lot of time, not to mention you need to smooth out both faces of the guide horns where the sprue gates were located. Despite of having the horns lined up on a straight plastic part, gluing them in a straight line was a bit challenging; a lot of the horns are somewhat wobbly, and required some careful adjustments.

All in all, the idea is good, but I still prefer if they moulded the tracklinks as one piece. Even if they don’t have hollow horns.

Once the track links are finished, you can use the same template you used before to glue the tracks together; or you can use the actual mode, too. (I did not find the template very useful, but that is a highly personal opinion.)


You also add a couple of personal items, like canteens to the hull.

Steps 18-22

Detail the assembly of the Maybach engine. As they usually say, the engine is a small model on its own, and while it might sound like a cliche at this point, it is actually true. In general the instructions do a good job showing you what goes where, but some reference photos will still come useful to help deciding exactly where certain pipes go, and what angle they should stand.

Steps 23-24


You add more small stuff to the sides wall. I am not sure I like this philosophy, spreading the assembly of a part into several different steps; I would prefer if all steps concerning the assembly of a given part of the tank would be grouped together, and you did not have to constantly re-visit areas you thought you have already finished. (It makes planning much easier.)

25

This step details the ammo rack assemblies on the side of the hull. The instruction manual has a couple of colored panels in the middle, which will help you with painting the ammunition, and placing the decals on them; it is as good time as any to refer to them. (Obviously it makes sense to paint all the ammunition at once, even though you were already instructed to install a couple of projectiles in the bottom of the hull. I have delayed those steps until I finished the painting of the interior.) The painting guide suggests to use a mixed load of brass/lacquered steel cased ammunition; while visually it is appealing to have both, I’m not sure how accurate this would be. I think tanks were probably loaded with one or the other type, the steel case substituting the brass later in the war due to copper shortages. (On the other hand you can also make an argument for a slow process of exchanging one for the other, while having a transition period having both.)

I also left the racks off, since it is one of those rare instances when it is simpler to paint the parts on the sprue, and then assemble them. Once the ammunition is finished and the racks are painted white I will put them together -probably towards the end of the build.

Well, that’s it for now. I have a huge box full of Panther parts, and a really diminished box of yet-to-be-used sprues.

Next will be the turret interior, and then I will be forced to sit down and seriously thing about cutting up the model. I was a perfect procastinator; did everything to be busy and to avoid making these decisions at the same time, but once the interior is complete, the time is up: some hard choices have to be made how to cut and what to cut to display most of the interior of this gorgeous model. (I might be able to get away using rare earth magnets to hold everything together, but I would not hold my breath.)

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See you on the next post.