Category Archives: world of tanks

Armory 1/72 VK 72.01 (K) “Fail Lowe”

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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, OK?) 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. (Lowe being the first one, which I also reviewed, and which underwent some development since then.)

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.

 

Assembly

The model is not difficult to build, even without instructions (I used Armory’s Lowe’s instructions, the 3D renders, and the Tanks.gg 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.

Painting

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.

 

 

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

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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.

1/72 Ostmodels KV-5

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I wrote a review of this model on Armorama; a lot of the introduction is plagiarised from there. The first time I learned about Ostmodels was when I was browsing Henk’s Military Modelling website. The company is based in Australia, and is focusing on a niche of AFVs neglected by other manufacturers. Their models are designed for both the modeler and for the wargaming market. You will find experimental tanks, paper panzers, or tanks manufactured by smaller countries (like the Nimrod AAA tank). It is a very small company, and models are made on orders, so you have to wait if you fancy any of their products, but the wait is definitely worth it. Not to mention it’s nice to know that the model you bought was made for you especially. (And it’s not as if most modellers did not have a couple of boxes in our stash to finish, anyway…)

There is precious little information available about the KV-5. Planning of the tank (Object 225), based on the experience gained with the KV-4, started in 1941. The planned role of the tanks was to act as a break-through tank; this lead to some unusual features in the design. The hull was relatively low (less than a meter high), which meant that the driver and radio operator/machine gunner needed their own separate turrets/compartments to sit in. This also provided the driver a cupola with a good field of view even buttoned up. The three-man turret was very big and spacious, with a turret ring diameter of 180 cm, and contained a 107mm gun. (And judging by the size, possibly a book shelf and a kitchen top.) The whole tank was heavily armored (which was needed for both the intended role, and for the fact that the tank had an enormous silhouette presenting a tempting target), and weighted about 100 tons. Due to the lack of adequate engine to move this much metal, the vehicle had two parallel V-12 engines mounted as a power plant (which accounts for the unusually long chassis). Because the siege of Leningrad necessitated the increased production of heavy tanks of proven design, experimental work was suspended in the Kirov Plant to build the KV-1. Since the Russians did not seem to share the fascination of superheavy tanks with the Germans, focusing on the production of the more practical, lighter, more mobile medium tanks instead, the KV-5 project was eventually cancelled.

The kit is packaged into ziplock bags, which is enough to protect the parts from breaking. It consists of about 120 parts of light polyurethane resin.

The build was actually quite pleasant once I was done with the cleanup. The cleanup is tedious, though. Fire up your favorite DVD or TV show, get a scalpel, and start removing the thin film around the parts.

As with the SU-100Y the painting and weathering was somewhat of a protracted process. When I first worked on this kit I did the basics relatively well, but then I ran out of steam so I declared the model finished, and put it in a display case. From there it was looking at me accusingly for almost three years.

So the first stage I used a grey primer, and the hairspray technique to produce chipping on the following green coat. As usual yellow and brown filters were used to give the tank a bit more interesting look (a single hue green does look boring), and slapped on some brown filters as mud, and that was it.

A couple of months ago I got myself together and took it out of the display case again. I blended a lot more oil colors with the surface; it essentially meant I was “massaging” small amounts of oil paint with a dry brush. Since oil paints are somewhat transparent, the effect is pretty interesting and -more importantly- realistic. (As you can see the overall hue of the tank changed quite a bit.) One very important thing before you do this, though: make sure you put some oil paint onto a cardboard surface for about 30-60 minutes, so the linseed is removed from the paint. This ensures it will dry flat. (You can also buy specialized paints for model builders which do dry flat straight from the tube.)

I used dark brown washes on the pigments representing mud to make their color a bit more realistic and varied; I also added some more using the “add and remove” method and AK’s earth effect product. I added dust (using Mig Ammo’s washable dust product) and some oil stains, again with AK’s product. I used some black washes on the engine deck grilles to bring them out a bit more, and finally declared the tank finished -again.

 

1/35 Meng Renault FT-17 part 3.

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Please find part one and two here.

Well, the tank is finally done. It took me a long time to build, it was one of those builds which just did not want to get done; even though the model itself is just amazing.

Last steps: mud and dust… again. I have to admit I did the different stages of muddying the tank parallel to the T-55AM; everything written in part 6 applies here, too.

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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. The exhaust was treated with different rust colored pigments and brown washes.

The last stage was to take care of the remaining small details. I painted and installed the tools; the PE straps were a pain to add. The painting was relatively easy: the metallic parts were treated with the Vallejo primer and then rubbed some steel pigments to make it look like metal. The edges were dry-brushed with AK’s true metal steel paint. The handles were painted with buff, and then using a stiff brush I gently painted some brown oil paints; this made the surface uneven and gave an impression of wood grains. If you take a look at the instructions you’ll see that the hammer should have been installed under a plastic part during the construction. I left it off deliberately to make painting it easier. Installation was simple: I cut the handle in half…

I painted the straps of the tool box, and the construction was essentially finished.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1/72 Ostmodels SU-100Y

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One look at the SU100Y and you realize that the designers wanted to send a message: Mother Russia does not do subtle. It’s essentially a metal house on tracks and a huge gun in the front. The internal volume suggests that besides an engine and some space for the gun and ammo, the Soviet engineers managed to fit a sauna in for the well-being of the crew.

Looking at the sheer size of the thing, one would be forgiven to think it was only a paper project, but a prototype was actually built and even used in battle.

The basis of this vehicle was the T-100 heavy tank prototype, which was a multiturreted heavy tank designed in the late ’30s. It failed field trials miserably in Finland; however the hull was still useful for other purposes. After the experience of the Winter War, and the difficulties of destroying fortifications, it was realized that large caliber assault guns were needed to overcome fixed defenses. One –more successful, but that does not say much under these circumstances- such vehicle was the KV-2. The other, finalized design was the SU-100Y, which was essentially a siege-gun, mounting a 130mm gun. The vehicle went through a couple of design-phases with different superstructures and guns, but the main idea remained the same. The final version had the 130 mm naval gun (B-13-S2) stuck onto the chassis of the T-100, and was intended to demolish fortifications encountered during the Winter War. The large casemate structure is a result of necessity: it was the only way to make the ammo handling practical. Considering the size, the armor was paper-thin; this, coupled with the enormous silhouette made the vehicle especially vulnerable. It arrived too late to take part in the hostilities in Finland. The sole prototype, however, got its chance to fight during the defense of Moscow (and -despite its size and lack of armor- it survived). Fortunately it was not scrapped, and today it can be seen in the Kubinka Tank Museum. (Other sources say it did fight in Finland; I do not have access to Russian documents, so it’s difficult to know for sure.)

 

Ostmodels offers both the SU-100Y and the T-100. These kits are made for order, so you will have to wait a bit before they arrive, but the wait, I think, is well worth it.

The SU is a relatively simple model. The whole chassis and superstructure comes as one part, the gun mantlet and gun come as a separate part, and finally the running gear and tracks. Essentially that’s it. The bag consists of quite a lot of parts, but most of them are the road wheels, suspension arms and track sections. The basic construction is quite simple. While it is quite tedious to attach each road wheel to its suspension arm (more on that a bit later), it makes it possible to depict the vehicle on an uneven terrain.

All of the parts were packed into two Ziploc bags, with a small leaflet. There are no instructions included with the kit, but the construction, as I mentioned, is straightforward.

The detail in general is good and sharp. The gun is reinforced with a metal wire, which makes sure that it will not warp or break easily; I found this solution by Ostmodels an especially nice touch. The road wheels come as one unit (every wheel was made out of two wheels attached to each other). This means that the groove between the two halves needs to be cleaned up, as there are bits of resin there. The detail on the rubber tires is somewhat soft.

Due to the casting technology, there is a very thin film of resin attached to every part, which makes cleanup a very tedious process. (However no need to saw gigantic resin plugs, which is always a plus.) Once clean-up is complete, the build itself is very simple, although not without challenges. Well, one challenge, to be fair. The suspension arms are somewhat of a weak point of this model. Their ends are supposed to fit into their respective holes on the lower chassis, but this fit is way too tight; either the ends are too thick –or the holes are too small. There are no locator pins, which mean the swing arms can be positioned in any position (you can depict a vehicle on an uneven terrain, a vehicle with broken torsion bars. However, if you plan to depict the vehicle on a flat surface, then you are probably better off building a small jig that helps you position them accurately and evenly, as in the case of the Miniart SU-76. This jig would ensure that there is an even distance between the hull and the surface the model is standing on.

It’s also probably wise to insert small wires into the attachment points to make the joints more stable –and also flexible until you set the arms into their correct positions. Putting some support between the hull and the other end of the arms (where the wheels are, and hence they cover this support) is also probably a good idea, as the model itself is quite heavy. I used strong two part epoxy glue to fix the arms into their place, and small pieces of plastic to reinforce the whole running gear; if you are careful, it is not visible unless you turn the model upside down. (The wire idea came way too late in the building process, and the whole setup is a bit wobbly.)

Using online references (mainly the photos of the vehicle), and the included technical drawing, the location of parts is easy to determine. The tracks are provided as short, straight sections, and you will need to warm them up with a hair dryer or hot water, to make them soft enough to be wrapped around the drive wheels and idlers. There really is no more to say about the build –once you glue the road wheels and tracks on, you are done. The large, flat surfaces offer a lot of opportunities for weathering; the model is about the size of a 1/35 panzer I.

Painting happened in two stages with about three year between the stages… The black primer was followed by a usual Russian Green Tamiya paint, and then some filters -both as solution (about 5% oil paint suspended in 95% white spirit), and as dots. (Different oil paints dotted onto the surface and removed with downwards brushstrokes using a wet brush.) I used MIG’s dry transfer set for the slogan on the side. The mud/dust application was not the most convincing one, I have to say.

Not long ago I took the model out of the case, and gave it some more love. The sides and top received a bit more treatment using brown/yellow oil paints; I carefully and gently blended the paint with the base green, producing a bit more interesting surface. I also used brown washes on the mud deposits, making them look a bit more realistic.

Mig Ammo’s washable dust was applied onto the top in a very diluted solution; when it dried it formed a very discreet, very subtle and uneven dust layer.

I guess the point of this post (apart from showcasing a rare tank destroyer by a relatively obscure producer) is to demonstrate that it’s worth going back to older builds to improve them. If nothing else you won’t feel bad experimenting on them, and in the best case scenario they will be significantly improved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

1/35 Meng Renault FT-17 part 2.

Please find part one here.

So yes, the engine was finished mostly in black with all the piping, etc. done in glorious copper and bronze. AK’s steel pigments were used to give a metallic shine to the transmission and the metal body of the engine.

 

Looking at the interior it must have been singularly unpleasant to actually fight in this tank. Yes, it was a revolutionary design, but it still had a couple of leather slings for the commander to sit on, he had almost zero visibility, and the driver probably better had his feet removed because there was not much space for him to fit them.

 

I chose one of the kit’s paint scheme; unfortunately this is where the instructions fall flat a bit- only a side-drawing is provided. The box art gives a slightly different perspective but I still don’t know what the right side is supposed to look like.

Regardless the model was first painted with Vallejo’s German Grey primer, followed dark green in several layers. Each consecutive layer was lightened a bit with the yellow (actually Dunkelgelb by Mig Ammo). I focused the lighter colors on the top and the middle of the panels; even the full-green pain scheme looked pretty good in my opinion.

Once the green cured, I masked it with silly putty, and proceeded with the yellow, then the brown. The brown was Tamiya’s NATO brown with some yellow added.

Once the main steps were done I had to retouch some parts with a brush; these masking jobs never turn out perfectly.

 

The contrast at this stage was pretty stark between the colors; light brown and yellow filters helped to blend them a bit. Once everything dried I applied varnish on top, added the decals and sealed them with another layer of varnish.

 

I applied dark brown wash to the rivets and other small details, and used a wet brush to remove the excess after 30 or so minutes; this created some nice, pleasing streaks. I also used some streaking products by AK to add further streaks.

 

 

1/35 Meng Renault FT-17 part 1.

I’m finishing up long outstanding builds… so I have several of these builds running parallel. I’m finishing up the T-55 (and quite a few others) alongside of this build.

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This is probably the most iconic tank -ever. (Or it should be.) Meng has come out with a really excellent model of it a couple of years ago, and this February I just gave in and purchased one at my local hobby shop.

I was not disappointed. The manual is excellent (and gives a pretty good history of the model), the instructions are clear, the quality is top-notch. AND it comes with an interior. I have to say I fell in love with Meng.

 

 

The assembly is quite straightforward, with a couple of issues, though. (What model is without them, right?)

The suspension actually works; you get little metal springs with the model, which is nice; putting it together, however is a bit fiddly.

 

 

The engine is very well detailed; most of it will be hidden, though if you choose to install it. For this reason I decided I’ll display it in front of the model, as I did with a couple of other kits before (T-34, T-44…)

 

The interior got the usual heavy treatment. I used a black primer (acrylic spray… since then I switched to Vallejo’s German Grey primer), which was followed by an enamel-based varnish, and Tamiya’s flat white. If you use high pressure, it can be sprayed with very little dilution, which will result in a solid cover (always an issue with white and yellow).

I used the windex chipping method to create worn surfaces, with the black showing through. The contrast is quite high; in retrospect I should have used some brown instead.

Once the model was try I used oil paints to create discoloration and streaks on the side-panels. The interior details are quite nice; the painting of the ammunition in the ammo rack is a pain in the neck, though. (There’s a choice of main guns; the machine gun option would leave you without this chore.)

The bottom of the engine compartment was treated with different AK and Vallejo products (engine grime, oil, fuel stains).

I took some artistic licence painting the engine; I tried how it would look like if I installed it, but eventually decided that it will be displayed outside of the tank.

Once the interior was finished I assembled the hull; the tank was ready for painting.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

OKB Grigorov Batignolles-Chatillion Char 25T (Batchat) 1/72

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One of the positive things of the game World of Tanks is that it introduced a lot of obscure vehicles to the wider audience. I’m not sure how many of us have heard of the Batignolles-Chatillion Char 25T aside from for French armor enthusiasts… and now at least 45 million people know of this vehicle. The fame did not come with scale models flooding the market (yet), so I was really happy to see that OKB issued this model in 1/72.

The Char 25T was developed by the Batignolles-Chatillon company (hence the name). Interestingly the company produced trains and locomotives; tanks were a new frontier for them. It was to be a main battle tank, designed around similar principles as the AMX-13: oscillating turret, a 90mm F-3 gun with a magazine/drum type autoloader, low silhouette, and sloped armor (80mm on the front). It featured a hydraulic suspension with six road wheels on each side. The tank was very small (5.67 meters long, 3.16 meters wide and, 2.37 tall), very light (25 tons), and not surprisingly it was highly mobile (65km/h top speed); also somewhat unsurprisingly armor was not exactly strong. It had a crew of four: a commander, a driver, a gunner and a radio operator. The design lost to the more conservative AMX-30, and hence never entered into production. Reliability issues, the oscillating turret, the autoloader (the tank needed to stop and the crew had to exit to reload the gun), and the lack of NBC (nuclear, biological, chemical) protection all played a part in the failure of the prototypes in the trials.

The only reason I know about this tank is World of Tanks; it is one of the best end-tier medium tanks in the game. (Well, was. It’s been nerfed not long ago.) It also looks quite unique, so obviously it was one of my first ever purchases from OKB. (Their models tend to be expensive, so it’s not something I do every day. Every purchase is being considered and mulled over for several weeks.)

The model is made up by over a hundred resin pieces and ten PE parts. The parts are very well detailed, the flash is minimal, and the fit is good (when I attached the side to the main hull I needed to use some filler in the front though, so it’s not perfect). The headlights come as transparent pieces, which is something I’ve never seen before in a resin model.

The tracks are given as sets of straight resin pieces, which need to be warmed up before shaped to the running gear. (I prefer to use hot –not too hot- water.) The hull and the turret come as one piece (each); most of the small parts make up the running gear. The photoetched fret is very thin and very delicate; it’s very easy to bend (even crumple) the parts; this is something to look out for. (It would be better if they were a bit sturdier) There is very little information available on this vehicle, so I cannot really comment on the accuracy of the kit; it measures up to the published measurements I could find quite well.

Normally with resin models the suspension is moulded as one part; in this case the elaborate suspension is made up by several small parts (most of the parts of the model are parts of the suspension). The assembly is not very difficult but a fine pair of tweezers is a must have. The fit is surprisingly good, but I ran into a small problem with the road wheels. Due to small misalignments in the suspension arms, the road wheels did not align perfectly; they were a bit wonky. I put the model in some warm (~50C) water and set them straight between two rulers; once the resin cooled the alignment was much better.

The tracks were also warmed up using warm water, and wrapped around the road wheels, drive wheel, return rollers and idler. Since one section will only cover about 2/3rd of the required length, two will need to be used per side.

Once the tracks were installed I glued the sides of the hull on. There was a small gap on one side which needed to be filled; nothing major there. The front part of the mudguards are PE parts which need to be gently bent. It would be nice to have a larger flap that goes under the hull to help gluing them in place.

The lights on the back and their PE covers were a bit difficult to install as the PE kept bending to the slightest touch. (The lights need to be pushed into the holes in the PE covers.) A couple of small PE parts (towing hooks, etc) were attached to the back of the hull and the resin gun lock to the front. (I managed to lose the top part of the gun lock, and somehow the headlights… We’re in the middle of moving right now, and parts do get misplaced, unfortunately.) The thinness of the PE is an issue, as it is very easy to bend or distort the pieces during handling.

The turret was pretty easy to finish: top of the fume extractor, the smoke grenade launchers, a rectangular piece of unknown function and the gun barrel had to be attached, and the tank was essentially done. The gun barrel is slightly crooked; I tried to straighten it using hot water, but gave up eventually; I did not want to make the issue worse.

 

The painting and weathering did not take long- after all, it was an experimental tank. I chose a hypothetical camo using World of Tanks as an inspiration, and used an airbrush to apply it free-hand. I did a couple of light-brown filters to blend the colors together.

I covered the model with varnish, applied the leftover decals from Trumpeter’s B1 (the subject of the very first post of this blog). I’ve used these decals for other French tanks (ARL-44) before; my French markings are now officially depleted. Another varnish layer sealed the decals (this time I used Matte). Washes, some dust applied using pigments, and some mud (again with pigments); that’s pretty much it.

The model, overall, is quite easy to build, even for beginners. The running gear/suspension is a bit difficult to align, but there are ways to correct smaller problems. The price is a bit high, but there is no other alternative of you want to build a Batignolles-Chatillion Char 25T in any scale, so there you go.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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