Category Archives: world of tanks

Cromwell Models T29 Heavy Tank 1/72

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I have a confession to make: in the past I did not know much about post-war US armor. (I hope my sins can be forgiven.) I thought it was all Pattons, and they did not look particularly interesting, and the designations were confusing. Little did I know. The number of experimental, light, medium and heavy tanks produced before, during and after the war by the US is a largely untapped source of amazing-looking models. World of Tanks has helped to popularize these vehicles, which, I suspect, is the reason for recent plastic releases of the M6 and T54E1 (I know they are not perfect, but they are steps in the right direction). Most of these tanks are still only available by small resin manufacturers working in Braille scale, if available at all. Once I’ve realized that the T29 actually exists, and thatCromwell Models is producing a model of it, I had to get one… Considering the size of the tank I’d probably not buy a 1/35th scale offering even if there was one available apart from a really expensive resin version.

The T29 project was started in response to the appearance of the German heavy tank, the Tiger II. US planners wanted something that could be used against these gigantic, heavily armored and armed tanks, as nobody knew back then exactly how big of a threat they’d pose once the US engaged the German armed forces in the Continent. As it turned out not much, since they were never produced in sufficient numbers.

The T29 was based on the T26E3: the hull was lengthened; it was given a thicker armor (279mm at the thickest points), an upgraded engine, and a new turret with a 105mm main gun. The turret featured a very prominent coincidence rangefinder, which protrudes from both sides, giving the tank a very unique look. The weight of the new tank was 60 tons.

After the war ended, the T29 (and its brother the T30) development and production was put on hold, and it never entered regular service. Even though the tank was not really a successful design, it wins in my opinion just based on looks alone: it is one of the best looking tanks ever made.

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The T29 came in a simple Ziploc bag; despite of this, nothing was broken. The moulding quality is fine, even though the details are incredibly delicate. (I’m really impressed with how the suspension, road wheels and tracks are molded as one unit with the hull.) There is some flash to trim, but this is to be expected in every resin model, and easy to deal with. The moulding quality is good; no bubbles or imperfections were apparent on my model. (Only on the bottom of the hull. These can be easily removed, but since they won’t be seen I did not bother.)

The model does not come with instructions, which makes the identification of most of the smaller bits quite difficult. (I admit since I don’t have proper references -books-, I have given up after a while. I looked up walk around photos and as a last resort I used World of Tanks, but I still have a lot of parts left over I could not place.

As mentioned the hull comes as one piece, with the suspension and the tracks already mounted. The tracks are very delicate, and really detailed; be sure not to break the extremely thin cleats handling the model. There is some clean-up necessary under the tracks, between the road wheels, as the complex mould means there will be imperfections in the hidden areas. I’m not even sure how you can prepare so complex assemblies in one piece.

You also get a lot of spare track sections; should you break one or two of those cleats, you can always replace them using the extras. I’ve managed to break some as I handled the model. I did leave them like that when I took the photos of the finished kit but I’ll fix them up later before the model is placed into a display box.

The model looks accurate, and measures up against the dimensions I have found online (this is where proper references would be indispensable). It also measured it up to a 1/72 scaled picture printed out from Blueprints.com very well. In short the basic size and proportions seem to be fine.

The building

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The building is simple; after gluing the main parts together, you add the small bits (that you can identify), and you’re done. The fit is perfect, so I did not have to perform major surgeries. I decided to glue the turret in place almost in the beginning, as it is a heavy piece of resin, and managed to drop it a couple of times. (The blue tac I used to fix it onto a paint jar kept giving way…) This is when the commander’s periscope broke in half; this was the point when I gave up and just glued the damned thing into place.

All the hatches can be positioned open, but since there is nothing underneath, I elected to close them. (It would be too much to ask for an interior in this scale. But it would be awesome nevertheless.) I’ve suffered another minor accident during the build, and one of the covers of the rangefinder optics has disappeared; this is somewhat embarrassing in a review… the carpet monster has gotten its due in sacrifice.

When you look at the reference photos available online from the Patton Museum, the tank looks brown and faded from standing in the open for decades; however I wanted to show a newer tank that has been in heavy use in the field.

Painting

I used a pale yellow color (dunkelgelb, but the color is really not important) over the initial grey primer coat, and then misted several coats of lightened Tamiya olive drab over it to give a faded, used look. This has given it a more greenish color. (“Olive drab” is really a generic term, as there were a lot of variations depending on the manufacturer, the conditions of the vehicle was operating in, the age of the paint, etc. There’s a great article about this issue)

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Filters, chipping and weathering

So now we have a green tank with nice tonal variation on its different parts. To make it more brownish, the color was modulated using a brown filter- and now the tank looks a faded olive drab color.

The kit does not come with decals (as usual with resin kits), and lacking US decals/dry transfers I left the tank unmarked. I added chips using a sponge and dark brown paint, and pin washes using burned umber oil paint. I applied a black wash to the engine deck grilles to give them depth. The mufflers were painted using different rust colors and a sponge over a black base.

The lower part of the chassis was treated with different shades of earth colored pigments using white spirit. Once they dried, I used a brush dampened with white spirit to remove some of the pigments. As a final I added some dust on the top part of the turret as well using Tamiya’s “make-up” set, and I used a graphite pencil to rub around the edges and the tracks to give the model a metallic shine.

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MiniArt T-44 Build review p4. Coming together

 

Well, this is when the tank is starting to take shape, and resemble an AFV. The top of the turret was glued in place finally, hiding a lot of the details in the interior. (I was tempted to do a “cutaway” version, but I could not find a part I was comfortable cutting away; the whole of the interior is crammed with things.) The turret roof is a very thin piece of plastic; I think MiniArt made it pretty close to scale thickness. (I don’t have the instruments to measure it accurately, though.)

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The interior of the turret is quite busy, and frankly brilliant. The fume extractor, the small lights, the radio, the turret cranking mechanism, all the other details are just great. You do get the fan for the fume extractor, but it will be hidden by the PE cover. The periscopes are made out of transparent plastic. The commander’s cupola has the very fine teeth where the cupola’s turning mechanism is meshed to; small details like this make the model really shine. I was worried about installing the PE holders for the pistol gun port plug, but they snap on surprisingly easy (considering how small the pieces are). I think there might be a chain holding the plug itself in the real tank, but it was not included; if you want to depict them open, you’ll need to add the chains.

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Pistol port…dqoxvvsk8v5wcc2ucbmsrw6kvldlo5wmqtg

Once all was done inside the hull, I started to add the armor plates protecting the front and the top. The frontal, angular plate fitted perfectly. (I would suggest leaving the splash guard off until the front plate is in place.) The top plate is probably scaled so that it’s scale thickness (it’s noticeably thinner than the side or frontal plates), however, there were some fit issues with it. Nothing that some patience could not solve: I went ahead and did what I did with the hull and the mudguards, and glued it on section by section, while holding the hull in place with clamps. Once the model was reasonably ready, I added the extra bits which I left off. I usually attach the tools, headlights, etc. last, so that I don’t damage them in subsequent steps of the build.

 

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I chose to attach the mudguards before I installed the running gear; I think it would be better to do the other way around. The detail is pretty good, and the assembly is straightforward to build. The problem is that the attachment to the hull is somewhat problematic. First of all, there are no locating holes on the sides for the little pegs on the mudguards; you either drill these out, or cut the pegs off. Once everything is on, the PE straps “holding” the external fuel tanks need to be installed. These are two-part assemblies each: one metal strap and one tiny U shaped part that is originally welded to the hull, and used to fasten the strap to.

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Before installing the road wheels and tracks I’ve painted the side of the hull green, and muddied it up with several layers of pigments dissolved in white spirit. I used light brown colors first on the side, and then went darker and darker, making sure I cover smaller areas with the subsequent layers. I also used a clean brush moistened with white spirit to adjust the layers once they dried.

 

The road wheels are simple to assemble, however, the peg that supposed to hold each wheel is tiny (about 3 mm long…) In theory you can assemble the wheels so that these pegs can rotate, but I did not bother with this; they were glued in. I also used epoxy glue, as I said, to make sure the wheels stay in place once attached to the swing arms –and since I will display the model on a flat surface, I also glued the torsion bars in place… Leave the return rollers and the drive wheels off; the tracks will be simpler to attach if you attach them together. The tracks are really nice; the detail is very good on them, but as I mentioned, they are not “workable”. You will need to glue them on. I could not put the whole 70+ link assembly together without it coming to pieces, so I just assembled sections, applied thin model glue to the joints, waited an hour, and then put them in place. Once the tracks were dry, I removed them (I left them in two large pieces on each side), painted and weathered them, and glued them in place for good.

The tracks were painted dark grey first, and then I used similar dark brown pigments diluted in white spirit to add rust and dirt. I keep seeing incredibly muddy tracks on models, where the pattern is essentially hidden by the caked-on pigments, which is not very realistic. (Well, there ARE instances; the spring/autumn mud in Russia would put a lie to this statement.) Nevertheless, I opted for a relatively clean set of tracks, as any movement would wipe and shake most of the dirt off. In fact, five-ten minutes of movement would polish the tracks shiny, and free of rust.

For green I started with Tamiya’s Dark Green. I fogged it onto the black primer, and then added subsequent layers lightened with yellow. The color will be further modulated with yellowish filters, and then with the dot filter method.

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Now it looks like a tank…tvtezwf

There is one major problem with the turret ring: the turret does not fit well. As usual with tank models, the turret is attached by sliding two little pegs into two corresponding openings, and then rotating it. This should lock the turret in place. The problem, as far as I can see, is that these pegs are very tiny, and simply do not hold the turret (or cannot click into place to begin with). Gluing a bigger piece to the turret to hold it better might solve this issue. The problem is for me is that the tank was ready when I ran into this, and it’s difficult to play around with it without breaking parts off. To be honest I was thinking about displaying the turret on a stand to show off the interior better, so I might side-step this issue; it would be a shame to glue it in place, as it would hide all the interior details.

 

Final small parts added… I try to leave these off until the very end- not to risk breaking them.dh7mu0f

The upgraded tow cables; I used the hooks of the plastic part, and replaced the plastic part of the wire with metal.kjjhisbblug4mwwrmqp4r

The cable is held by folding PE holders; it does not need to be glued in place.chvpggmf8oc8stgvsm4yj

The extra track links are also held by PE parts; the installation went on without a problem.gilkuzi1

And here is the tank -all done with the building. Still prone to lose it’s head easily -something I’ll have to figure out how to fix-, but ready for weathering. Next step: Windex chipping3xmpnhx

1/72 ARL-44 by Cromwell Models

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Disclaimer: the previous version of this article simply disappeared. It’s just gone. It does not really fill you with trust towards WordPress; I hope it’s only a glitch that will not surface again…

 

Anyhow.

 

The ARL-44 was a peculiar tank. Design started immediately after Paris was liberated (hence the “44” in the name -signifying the date), and was more of an effort to re-establish France’s heavy industry, tank production, and to retain its talent, than actually an attempt at designing a modern tank.

The design called for a 48 ton heavy tank with a high calibre armament. Due to the wartime shortages, and the consequences of German occupation, the design had to incorporate several compromises. Its design is based on the pre-war French tanks, but it also bears some resemblance to the later German tank designs (it does look like a child of a Tiger II and a B1). The power plant was chosen to be captured German Maybach engines (HL230 600 hp), and the first prototype turret was armed with an American 76mm gun, which was later replaced by a new turret, and a 90mm DC45 tank gun. The turret was well armoured and large; an actual car engine was used to rotate it.

Not only the overall design was anachronistic; the suspension, drive wheels and the tracks were quite old-fashioned as well. The armour was well sloped at 120mm. By 1945 the need for a heavy tank disappeared, but the French authorities decided to press ahead with the production of 60 vehicles (downsized from the original 600). This was a political -and an economical- decision, rather than a military one as it was mentioned previously. This showed an incredible amount of foresight on behalf of the decision makers in my opinion.

The production trials started in 1947, and delivery started in 1949. The tanks were used to replace the captured Panthers the 503e Régiment de Chars de Combat regiment operated. (Which is also an interesting story by itself.)

In service the ARL-44 was found to be less than satisfactory. The suspension, gearbox and other parts of the running gear had frequent breakdowns, which resulted in the tank being recalled from active service in 1953, and replaced by the M47 Patton tanks.

Review

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Cromwell Models sent the model in a simple ziplock bag; no artwork, and no instructions included. The parts were undamaged during transit.

The model is cast in a yellowish resin. The casting generally is good, although some issues are visible (around one of the drive wheels, and there was a bubble in the muzzle break). This is not surprising, considering how intricate the parts are; the level of detail moulded on is pretty impressive.

Some of the resin parts are incredibly fine; the gun lock in particular is a wonder by itself. It’s moulded onto some resin support; despite my worst fears it was very easy to cut it free without snapping it.

The hull is essentially one piece: everything is moulded on: tracks, running gear, everything. It’s attached to the moulding block through the tracks; you’ll need a large, fine saw to cut it free. (And you’ll need to be careful, not to cut into the tracks. A word about sawing resin: resin dust is toxic. Use wet sawing, wet sanding techniques when working with resin to minimize harm to yourself and others around you.)

The lack of instructions is not really an issue for this model; the number of parts are so low, it’s really not that difficult to figure out what goes where. (Although I still cannot figure out where that cross-like part is going…)
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The gun barrel is very nicely done; it’s straight (not always the case with resin models), and the bubble on the underside of the muzzle break was easy to fill in.

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The only minor issue I had was the top of the turret: the surface is marred by tiny little holes, which I completely missed at the priming phase. (I normally use black primer). They should be easy to fill in, if you catch them BEFORE you paint the tank. Well, lesson learned; it’s grey primer from now on.

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Since I play World of Tanks, I’ve decided to paint my model using the non-historic bluish-greenish color the French tanks come with. It took me a while to achieve the desired color. I kept mixing different ratio of blues and greens; unfortunately I can’t recall the formula of the most successful one.

I used filters to modulate the color even further.

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I’ve used some left-over decals from a French M5 Stuart to dress it up a bit. (The printing on the decals is awful, but they do give a little color to the tank.) I was seriously tempted to use the branch/leaf camo pattern from World of Tanks, though, but since I was doing a review I decided to forgo the silliness. If I get another French tank that is in the game, I’ll do the pattern, though.

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After some protective varnish I used oil paints to do pin washes and streaks.

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I used pigments for the accumulated dirt: added them dry, and used white spirit to dissolve them. A clean brush helped to make sure the extra pigments are taken away.2016_04_26_0082016_04_26_0102016_04_26_01212016_04_26_0132016_04_26_014

 

Miniart’s SU-76(r)

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This model has been a shelf-queen for a long time. When I moved to the UK I was living in a ~very~ temporary student housing, so I became severely limited in what tools I could use; among other things I was forced to give up on my airbrush. (It took me five years before my living conditions changed so I was able to get another one.)
This, and the lack of space meant I had to switch to 1/72 scale… a decision which I did not regret ever since. I quite like this scale, and I think I’ll stay focused on it in the future. However, there are models which make me stray from this scale into the world of 1/35. This one, particularly, sold itself with the box art. I liked the re-painted flaking dunkelgelb camo, and the relaxing German crew -even though I ended up not using the figures for the build. (I don’t like figures on models to be honest.) Originally it was a much more ambitious project; I wanted to make a partial interior, since the driver had nothing to sit on.
I bought the kit in 2011 in Norwich, and started work on it immediately; I thought I’d progress as far as I can without an airbrush, and then just put it away until I can finish it.

Well, I stopped a bit earlier than that.

The kit is not bad, let me say this. It is, however, not a very good one, either. There are some peculiar issues with it. For one, the parts are only numbered on the instruction sheet; the numbers are not on the sprues. This forces you to constantly check for parts on the instructions showing the sprue layout, which is really, really annoying.
The other problem was the wheels. The swing arms do not “lock” in place, where they are supposed to be when the tank is on a level surface. It’s nice if you want to position the tank on uneven ground on a diorama, however it makes positioning them on a level surface difficult. The vehicle cannot sit too low or too high; knowing what the proper height is is not easy. I’ve ended up building a rig to position the wheels using an armorama topic dedicated to this issue.
And there were the fit issues. Some parts were oversized -these had to be sanded thinner. The sides of the fighting compartment had fit issues, too, so they are slightly bent- a necessity when I needed to make sure it is glued on properly.

Nevertheless, the detail is excellent; if you accept the shortcomings mentioned, the kit builds up into quite a nice representation of the vehicle.

So… without further ado, the build.

When I got the model out of its box after sitting there for years, the first thing I did was to cut the swing arms with the wheels off, and built a little rig to help me reattach them appropriately. (As you can see I painted parts in a very funky shade of green back in the days… the reason was simple: I used up a batch of paint that was mixed for a Braille scale model. Fear not: it was not intended as the actual color of the vehicle.)

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The gun was almost finished when I got the kit out of the box, so there was very little work left to finish it. I did a silly thing, and added the muzzle break before putting the gun into its sleeve. This meant I had to cut the gun in half, attach it to the sleeve, and then glue it together again. No biggie, but a beginner mistake.

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The lifting hooks had a good amount of flash around them; it was simpler just to use a piece of wire instead. (I did clean one or two, before giving up.)

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The build was quite straightforward after I took care of the wheels. Once they were on, I painted the sides of the hull with green, and did the whole mud and dust routine. After that I added the tracks, and then proceeded with the rest of the build. (Once the mudguards are on, the tracks are near impossible to add.) This section had to be masked, of course, for the rest of the build, although a little overspray of Dunkelgelb and brown actually adds to the weathering effect.

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I’ve left the sides green, figuring that the Germans would not bother cleaning and painting the areas under the mudguards. You’d have to take the tracks and wheels off, and scrub it clean before doing any sort of painting -and the results would not be visible, anyhow. This meant that the mud and dust was going on over Russian green color. The tracks were assembled without any problems; the individual links were excellent. I painted the rims black (to represent rubber), but did not worry particularly about neat lines; the wheels were about to receive quite a heavy layer of washes, mud and dust. (Yes, I was lazy.) The surface of the return rollers that rubs against the tracks was painted steel.

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The finished gun, and the sides of the fighting compartment.

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I’ve decided to leave the fighting compartment in the original green color. (I reasoned that the vehicle was adopted to German use in a field shop, so they did not strip everything to be repainted. They would probably be content on leaving the interior of the fighting compartment untouched.) This made the painting a bit more tedious (had to finish and mask the fighting compartment before proceeding). The fighting compartment itself was painted along with the rest of the model in green, and the dust/accumulated dirt added using pigments.

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The painting of the ammunition was a bit boring to be honest. First, you have to remove the mould seams, and then paint them one by one… not very entertaining if you ask me. I’ve used Citadel’s bronze and gold colors on the casings. I cut a couple of the projectiles off to create “used” casings, which went onto the floor of the fighting compartment, under the gun.

 

Attaching everything to the hull… the parts of the model are in various stages of painting.

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The gun installed… I’ve used the kit’s tow cable, which was a straight plastic part; you are supposed to bend it around the holding pins. Well, I decided to be bold, and try it, instead of using a metal tow cable. (You also get the ends of the cable as two extra separate pieces should you decide to go this route.) As expected, the plastic broke; hence the somewhat angular look.

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Once the sub-assemblies were reasonably done, I’ve used Russian green as primer.

I wanted to depict flacking paint as I mentioned already. Since the vehicle was captured, I decided I would not only show the underlying original colors, but the rust/scratches that the vehicle has accumulated before its capture. Once the SU-76 was painted green, I’ve used dark, rust colors on edges, and other areas where heavy wear and tear was expected. The idea was that removing the Dunkelgelb from these areas would expose the base metal, while on other areas only green would show through.

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As soon as the green dried, I applied hairspray, waited an hour, and added the Dunkelgelb coat. (Tamiya paint, lightened with tan to account for the scale effect.)

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Yes, you can see the numbers still…

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Since Tamiya paints dry really fast, I could add the red-brown pattern right after the yellow base. It was necessary to add heavy layers at regions where the permanent marker showed through… I thought I was smart when I wrote the part numbers onto the plastic with a permanent marker, until the point where I realized that it showed through on everything… Some of these numbers only disappeared after the brown color was added in heavy layers. There you go: an important lesson. Don’t use permanent marker on exposed areas.

By the way, this was the first ever free-hand camo I’ve done with an airbrush.

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The chipping was done with a brush, and with a toothpick- depending on what effect I wanted to achieve. I added water to the surface with a brush, waited a bit, and then used a stiff brush/toothpick to carefully. It’s difficult not to overdo it, so it’s worth stopping now and then for a while, and put away the model for a day or so. With a fresh eye it’s easier to gauge the effect.

Once I was satisfied with how the model looked like, I sealed everything with an acrylic varnish, and applied the decals. I took some of the decals from the MiniArt T-44 set; after all, they looked good, and I liked the name on the gun.

As soon as the decals dried, I applied another layer of varnish, and started on filters. I used yellow and dark yellow colors. While the surface was still wet with the diluent, I used some dark pin washes (the wet surface ensures that the capillary action can work unimpeded even on a semi-matte surface). The same filters and washes were used in the fighting compartment as well.

Everything was sealed with varnish once again, and I started on the dust and mud. The dust was simple light colored pigments (chalk ground up) added mixed in water. Once it dried, I just brushed away the excess, and sealed it with pigment fixer.

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The rolled up canvas cover was a very underwhelming affair; it did not look like cloth at all. (I was not even sure what it was until I checked in the instructions; it was very symmetrical and smooth.) The cloth effect was added using oil paints. I painted the plastic with desert tan first, and then used burned umber directly from the tube to add the folded cloth look using a brush, and rubbing some off after letting it dry for a day. I’ve even painted the sides with oils to give an impression of it being rolled up. I have to say the canvas given for the T-44 is a much better affair.

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All in all, it was a pretty good result considering how this model looked like when I got around to finally finish it. The model itself is not bad, but I think the new Tamiya offering probably supersedes it in quality. Nevertheless, fear not; it was not an unpleasant journey.

Miniart T-44 Medium Tank 1/35 build review p1.

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I was really excited when MiniArt offered me a review sample of this tank. It’s been hyped quite a lot -a never previously available tank with interior details, working suspension… What’s not to love?

When arrived, the box did contain a LOT of plastic; however, compared to the D7 dozer, the assembly is simpler. One thing I did not notice at first is that it does not have a full interior – the driver’s compartment is missing, and only the engine is included. The rest of the engine compartment and the transmission are not included. I’m not sure what the reason behind this decision by MiniArt, but it certainly left some gaps in the model. Including them would have elevated the model into mind-blowingly amazing from simply “really damned good”. (Here’s an in-box review; the photos of the instruction manual will come handy later on if you want to check the issues in Appendix. I think I have the first ever blog with an Appendix, by the way.)

I switched to 1/72 due to space issues – they simply take up less space, and I’ve been on the move for the last two decades. The other reason is a personal one: a tank model in 1/35 feels “empty” for me. You essentially are building a large model with a lot of air inside. Having interior added actually makes these models come to life – you build a small replica of the vehicle; something that looks like the real thing inside AND out. You get to peek under the hood in a quite literal sense. You get to see the crew stations, get to have a feel how it must have been for them to work in there, you get to see how the vehicle operated. Hm, the transmission is in the front, but the engine is in the back? I wonder why; let’s read about it! Wow, I did not know the Hetzer was so cramped; and how could the commander of a T-34 stand on all those ammo crates, anyhow? I find these sorts of things incredibly interesting, and for me they increase the value of the model tremendously. Hobby Boss came out with their jaw-dropping 1/48 T-34s with complete interiors (and these were cheaper than the Tamiya offerings) AFV Club has issued an interior set for their Sturmtiger (after I’ve finished mine, of course), and had come out with a T-34 with full interior; Trumpeter has their 1/16 monsters; you can buy resin sets for a lot of models to equip them; so I’m not alone with this interest. (Fortunately.) I have a full set of German armor lined up from the Pnz I to the Tiger II with interiors; and building a Churchill is also on the menu. Not to mention I cannot wait for the SU-122 from MiniArt, either.

Anyhow, back to be model at hand. MiniArt has issued both the T-44 and T-44M in plastic; they are quite similar to each other. Despite of the similarities, they are intriguing steps in the evolution of WWII armor into the well known T-54/55, and later post-war Soviet tanks. The turret of the tank is unmistakably from the war; it looks very much like the turret of the T-34/85. The hull, however, already resembles the T-54 -in fact, the T-44 was used as a basis to develop the most successful tank design we know as the T-54/55. The T-44 still is equipped with the war-era external fuel tanks; these are switched to the more familiar flat external tanks on the T-44M; the familiar T-34 tracks were changed to the more modern-looking T-54 style pattern. (A full breakdown of differences are highlighted in MiniArt’s excellent poster.) Even though the T-44 was not exactly a successful design, it was an incredibly important step in the development of Soviet armor.

The build

I’ve started to build all the interior details first; it makes sense to paint everything at the same time, and proceed with the exterior after. (The instructions would have you first finish the hull, then the turret.)
As I said the torsion bars are actually functional; the instructions are not clear if they needed to be glued to the support or not (or if you need to glue them, do you need to glue the end or the whole section), so I did not glue them. The torsion bar units were dry-fitted, and the glue was applied from the outside to the seams; this way I avoided accidentally applying glue to the torsion bars as well.

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The engine is quite an intricate assembly, but nothing challenging; it looks nice, but not much of it will be visible, even if you leave the hatches open. Since there is no transmission, and no details in the engine bay, you would have to add those, if you wanted to open all the hatches as if it was undergoing maintenance.

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The roadwheels are OK… there’s not much to discuss. They are round, and they look like the original. 🙂

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The back of the hull is made up by several panels; one of them carries an abundance of grousers. They can be attached to the tracks for additional grip when the tank is negotiating an icy, snowy environment. They were present on the T-34 as well, and they are replaced by the characteristic log in the T-44M. The thin rods are supposed to go through the grousers to keep them in place. They are extremely thin, and the attachment point are going to be hell to clean up. I think I’ll simply substitute them for evergreen rods.

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The hull is assembled in an old-school manner: the “tub” is made out of the sides and the bottom separately. In this case it’s actually quite a good thing, as this allows for proper painting and weathering of the interior before assembly.

 

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The interior is taking shape. The empty space in place of the driver’s compartment will be filled out with a CMK T-55 driver’s compartment set modified accordingly.

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The turret -similarly to the hull- is a multi-part assembly as well. There are some injection mould marks, where the parts were pushed out of the mould, but they should not be hard to fill -and most of them are in places where they would not be visible, anyway. The outside of the turret has some nicely-done rough casting texture. (A little criticism: the armor used for the hull of the tank was homogeneous rolled armor; it too had some rough texture. These could have been moulded into the model; if you want to replicate them, you’ll have to use a rotary tool.)

I will take a look at the accuracy of the fighting compartment later; the only scale drawings I found were of  the T-44M, hence they might not be accurate for this model. Nevertheless, some detail seem to be missing -electric wires, wall-mounted electronics, protruding rivet heads, etc. These can be scratchbuilt to enhance the interior.

The interior of the turret, however, seems fairly comprehensive; it looks like there are more details included -sans the wires, of course. (I’m not sure how I feel about moulded-on wires, anyway; they are difficult to paint well. If you want them, they  can be added easily enough.)

The top of the turret is significantly thinner than the sides; it’s scaled to the real thickness. The hatches can be made workable if you use the glue sparingly. However, the attachment holes need to be enlarged with a thin blade for the teeth of the hatch to fit into them.

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Bottom part of the turret with the seats of the loader and the commander.

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The sides of the turret, waiting for all the details added. You can pose the pistol ports open, but then you’d need some real thin PE chain to hold the plug.

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I also started to assemble the gun… there is no metal barrel included, but if you really want one, there are several available online. Since it’s a review of a model I’ll limit the aftermarket parts only for the missing details, like the driver’s station.

 

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Tidbits… there are a LOT of them.

This is some part with a crank affixed to the side of the turret; not sure what it is (perhaps the turret turning motor?), to be honest. Once I figure it out, I’ll let you know.

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The fan of the fume extractor.2pb7bfp

 

The gunner’s sight.epu18es

The PE work has begun: PE screens, ammo racks for the MG. Although the PE is thin, it’s really difficult to cut with the scalpel.

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I started the work on the mudguards as well, adding tool boxes and the attachment points for the fuel tanks.

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Well, this is where I’m at now. The interior is being painted slowly. This is the only problem with my fetish with interior details: white is difficult to paint. I’ve used a grey spray paint to set a good base, and I’m going over with several light coats of white.

The other tedious part to do will be the ammunition… removing seam-lines and attachment points, painting the casing to metallic brass, and the projectile to the appropriate colors -many, many times over. I’ll be lazy, and do only the ones that will be in full view; the projectiles covered in the ammo racks will simply be painted without all the tedious preparation. I’ve purchased AK Interactive’s True Metal gold to pain the casings; I’ll be curious of how they turn out.

Well, that’s it. Keep tuned, more will come next week.

 

Appendix: issues with instructions #1

The instructions are great, however, they are not perfect. So far I’ve run into the following issues:

Step 17, assembly of hull: a part holding the engine is labelled as c8. The color number is superimposed onto the part number; the actual number should be Hc8

Step 41: part G15 is shown to have a small locating peg in the middle to which part De7 is attached. This is not present in my kit.

Step 43: Part C17 is in fact C3

Step 58: Part C32 is in fact C38

 

T18 75mm Howitzer Motor Carriage (1/72 Modelltrans conversion)

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There is not much information floating around about this vehicle. It was a self-propelled gun that was designed for close infantry support in 1941 using a 75mm howitzer. The gun was built in using a gun mount adapted from the M3 Grant. Two mild steel prototypes were built on the M3 chassis, but they were not successful during their trial on the Aberdeen Proving Ground. They had a high profile, and they were nose-heavy, which meant their performance suffered considerably. These issues lead to the cancellation of the T18 project. The successor of the vehicle was the M8 where the howitzer was placed into a rotating turret.

While the SPG did fail its field tests, I think we all can agree it would have passed based on looks – it is probably one of the cutest armored vehicle I’ve seen (if you can use this word about a weapon of war). It used to be an extremely overpowered tank destroyer in World of Tanks, which was used extensively for seal-clubbing. Now they turned it into an artillery piece, with is historically more accurate.

The conversion

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The conversion set is marked as designed for the Stuart models by Mirage Hobby –but it does not specify which type of the many Stuarts from the line. I made a mistake -the first of several in the duration of this build-, and ordered the wrong one. This meant scratchbuilding the two mufflers and the boxes behind the mufflers which sit on the mudguards… not very successfully, I might add.

The kit comes in the usual Modelltrans blister pack. It consists of exactly two parts, so the conversion itself is not very difficult. We get the superstructure and the gun itself. The details are very nice on the parts, but the attachment point to the casting block on the main superstructure is at a very delicate place. The problem is that it’s very thick, and it’s right at the very delicate and fragile mudguards; extreme care needs to be taken when sawing it off. (And as usual: be very careful when working with resin. It’s best using a wet-sawing, wet-sanding technique to minimalize dust production, as the fine resin dust is quite bad for health.) There were some casting issues on the superstructure: at places the resin was flaking off, or were downright cracked. You can also see how the superstructure was cast: as if Modeltrans had used a strip of plastic to make the armor thicker, but did not bother enough to hide the outlines of this plastic strip. This can be easily dealt with some filling and sanding, though, unless you forget about it until you put on the camo already, at which point you decide to just ignore the issue. (As I did. As I said: long line of mistakes during the build of this small tank.)

 

 

 

 

building

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The assembly is dead easy: the superstructure needs to be mated with the plastic lower hull, the gun needs to be attached, and various kit parts glued to the superstructure.

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The superstructure’s fit onto the hull of a Mirage Hobby Stuart is not perfect; I needed to doctor the base kit a bit with a scalpel.

I could not find good scale drawings about the vehicle, so I used World of Tanks as a reference. It helped me to decide where to place the fuel tank caps onto the model, and it was useful for determining where to put the tools and other plastic parts coming from the Mirage Hobby kit. The machine guns barrels for the side-mounts can be adapted from the kit machine guns.
As I said I have chosen the “wrong” Stuart version: the M5A1 has the whole back of the chassis covered with armor plates, while the T18 was based on an earlier M3 chassis. The main difference for us is the mufflers were exposed, and there were two storage boxes mounted on the mudguards behind them. I’ve cobbled together some sort of replacement for these, but they are far from satisfactory.

The painting was quick. I wanted to replicate a camo scheme from World of Tanks: a very light green/grey base with darker green areas. I applied black primer, then covered it with neutral grey. I figured the green hue will be added by the subsequent filters. The green patches were added using an airbrush: with the paint flowing, I simply moved the parts of the model I wanted to paint into the way of the pait spray…

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The details were painted with a thin brush and using Citadel’s paintsl; I’ve also glued the tracks on. As you can see they’re not the best fit; I find these rubber band tracks hard to install, unless I can hide the ends under a mudguard, where they cannot be seen.

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I always liked the rubbed-off paint on metal effect on models (and real vehicles). Since I was less and less inspired to finish the model, I was ready to experiment. I simply -and carefully- rubbed the edges of the superstructure against a piece of cloth, until the black primer was exposed. This really made the tank look like it’s been through some tough times.

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The next steps were the filters: green filters did make the grey look greenish… (No big surprise, but still: big relief here.)
Some light brown and blue filters further modified the colors, and I had to use some yellow as well, as the blue made everything look very cold.
Pin washes were used on the recessed details.

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The last steps were to use Tamiya’s weathering set to add yellowish hues to the superstructure (I used the light sand colors, but only in a very light layers, as in this case I wanted to show discoloration, and not dust). I have to say, this last touch bought the model alive; suddenly it became realistic-looking.

I used mud to simulate dirt on the chassis and the suspension. The obligatory soft lead pencil was used to make the edges look metallic -which looks really convincing on the worn areas, where the black shows through.

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I’ve tried AK Interactive’s fuel stains as well on the fuel caps; I’m sure you don’t get as much spilled fuel on any tank, but at least it makes it look more interesting.

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All in all, apart from the mistakes I’ve made through this project, the result looks nice. I just have to make sure it’s not displayed showing its “bad” side.

Churchill GC (1/72 Modelltrans conversion)

 

 

I’ve learned about this tank the first time when it was introduced into the online game World of Tanks, where it acquired somewhat of a hipster tank reputation. (It was so underperforming that certain people felt compelled to play it…) The looks sold this vehicle for me: it definitely looks unique. (Too bad about the in-game stats…)

It’s really difficult to find much information about this tank destroyer online. About fifty Churchill tanks were converted into tank destroyer roles (the numbers vary between 24 and 50) between 1941-’42. The increase of firepower in case of the Churchill was always problematic as the turret was too small to significantly upgrade the gun it can house. The largest guns they could fit was the widely used 6 pounder, and the 75mm gun derived from it. By going the usual tank destroyer way, the tank has lost its turret, but received a larger, more effective gun in return. The 3 inch anti-aircraft gun was housed in a thick boxy superstructure (frontal thickness 3.5inch) using a ball mount. Not one of these conversions saw combat, and were used later on for target practice… as you can see it on the example remaining in Bovingdon.(A shame, really. It would be nice to see this tank restored.)

 

 

 

 

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The Conversion

The conversion comes in a ModellTrans blister pack as usual, which is quite an effective way to protect the parts from damage. Quality of resin is good, so the cleanup is relatively straightforward. The detail is also very nice for this scale. We get a new upper chassis for the Churchill, the boxy superstructure, the gun, and two tool boxes.

One issue with the kit is the track covers. Modelltrans has included the blast covers at each ends; they were only fitted to turreted tanks to protect the covers when the main gun was fired. The reason is probably simple: Modelltrans simply used a mould of an existing upper hull section without any alterations.

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(Just ignore the T18. That’s the topic of the next post.)

The conversion is really easy. It is designed for the DML kits, so I’m not sure if it fits the Airfix, Hasegawa or Italeri offerings, but knowing their quality in comparison to the DML one, it’s probably better to use the DML kit anyway. The resin upper chassis fits very well onto the Churchill model; it can actually be snapped into place. The superstructure’s fit is also quite good, although there were some gaps where putty had to be used. Overall there are no real issues with assembly at all. The conversion essentially builds itself if you shake the box hard enough… One detail is missing: the vertical tubes next to the boxes mounted onto the superstructure. These should not be very difficult to scratchbuild, but I still would have preferred to get them.

 

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The painting went the usual way: black primer spray was followed by a dark green colour. I tried to get it as close as possible to the dark green #24 used by the British forces, but I also needed to lighten it to take the scale effect in account, and to pre-plan for the subsequent weathering steps.

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Highlights were added using the usual Citadel snot green colour… 🙂 (I love their names; bestial brown and vomit brown especially.) I’m always worried these will stand out, but by the end of weathering they usually blend in quite well.

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Weathering went relatively fast. I started with the usual filters -both pre-diluted, and the oil paint-dot methods-, but then wanted to try something quick and fast. I have bought a couple of those Tamiya make-up kits (weathering products that look like a compact make-up kit for women), and tried the sand, light sand and mud colours as filters. If you use light sand and sand in a very thin, irregular layer, it looks like armour discolouration and dust accumulation; a pretty convincing effect when you think about how you achieve it. (By petting your model with a small sponge, essentially.)

These colours went on thicker on the lower chassis to simulate dirt; gunmetal was added to the edges, and the tracks with the same method. I have to say, the results were quite satisfactory, and more importantly: easy.

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Finished modelfflla7xzdzyxsye5wynbwplufnfhssafvut5vtlbyb

 

Since finally I have bought a new camera (a Nikon D3300), I was playing a little with the aperture settings, and how they affect the field of depth. The difference between large and small aperture is pretty apparent. (Not strictly relevant to our, but an interesting comparison.)

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MS-1 (Armory, 1/72)

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History

This little tank was the first mass produced Soviet tank (almost a thousand was made), and the humble forefather of the later successful Soviet tank designs. Due to its historical significance it is a welcomed addition to the Armory offerings.

The T-16 (prototype T-18) was heavily based on foreign designs, primarily the FT-17, the first archetypical tank. (The Soviets have made several copies of captured FT-17s.) It was a rear-engine, fully riveted design with a crew of two (commander and driver). The engine was a license-build 35 hp Fiat truck engine, the gun was a modified French 37mm SA 18 gun with a semi-automatic breech (this gun was used in many contemporary light tanks), and the suspension was a modified Renault design. A curious design feature was that the 7.62mm Hotchkiss machine gun and the main gun were placed at a 45 degree angle in the turret. The prototype was not successful, as it had mobility problems (transmission failures), and had issues crossing wider trenches. The improved version, named as T-18 or MS-1 was, however, accepted for production after several rounds of redesign. (MS stands for Maliy Soprovozhdeniya-Perviy: light support vehicle.)

The production T-18/MS-1 had an extra support roller, a redesigned independent vertical spring suspension, and an improved 40 hp Russian-designed engine, which increased the maximum speed to a whopping 17kmph. (Nobody said early tanks were fast.) Its weigh was increased to 5 tons. The riveted armor was overall 8mm on the turret, and 16 mm on the hull. Instead of an optical sight, the vehicle was equipped with an obsolete dioptre sight (similar to what you’d normally find on rifles).

The tank was only a minor improvement over the FT-17. It was slightly faster, more maneuverable, and a bit better armored. Overall, due to the high rate of fire it was quite effective against infantry, but not very useful against other armored vehicles.

The tank was already obsolete when it got into production in 1931, so it saw limited service (mostly on the Far East), and it was mainly used as a training vehicle. It also served as a useful testbed for Russian designers. In 1941 the still operational tanks were upgraded with a 45mm gun in a new turret with the designation T-18M after the German invasion of the Soviet Union.

Fortunately there are several surviving examples of this vehicle; useful photos can be found at http://the.shadock.free.fr/Surviving_MS1_T27.pdf

The arergard.com webpage has some really interesting photos of an MS-1 restoration process, which can be used as a great source of reference for the build.

The box

Armory supplies the model in a thin paper box with the built model’s photo on the front. It was packaged very safely, so none of the parts were damaged. The parts are very finely cast, and they have thin films of resin to be cleaned up – this is not surprising or unexpected in resin kits. The hull and the cupola are supplied as one piece, and most of the resin is used to make the running gear and tracks. The tail is a multi-part PE assembly which can be quite challenging. (Before bending large PE sheets it’s worth gently heating it up over an open flame; it makes it easier to shape. Be careful as you can easily burn the metal, though.)

The main dimensions of the kit measure up accurately to the real vehicle as far as I was able to ascertain (I found a scale drawing for both the MS-1 (http://www.tanks-encyclopedia.com/ww2/soviet/photos/drawing_T18.jpg) and the T-18 SPG version, a lot of photos and used the dimensions found in encyclopaedias).

Some of the parts (both resin and PE) are extremely tiny and thin; experience working with resin and PE will be needed for this kit. The suspension units are modelled as one part (fortunately), but they are very delicate: the thickness of the suspension arms is actually smaller than the attachment point itself. This means extreme care needs to be taken while removing them from the casting block as they can be broken very easily. A fine drill will be needed to prepare holes for the swing arms of the return roller on the front of the tank. Strangely the inside face of the drive wheels have ribbing moulded on, but this cannot be seen after assembly. There are some missing parts: namely a headlight and the horn, which are not included in the set.

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The build

The instruction sheet (which is a welcome thing in itself –very few resin models come with one) is computer generated, and clear for the most part; it’s always a good idea to check against photos, though.

The assembly is very straightforward as the model is well engineered. The only challenge was the handling of small parts; there were no fit issues. The leaf springs are to be assembled from individual PE parts; I would have preferred to have them made out of resin. (Assembly can be a bit tedious and it’s quite difficult to line them up correctly.) Drilling a hole in part 8 was quite a tense activity. One thing I noticed, and I’m not sure how it happened is that the roadwheels don’t line up perfectly; the first suspension unit is slightly out of plane. I attached them before gluing the roadwheels on -perhaps doing it the other way around (attaching the roadwheels first) would help to remedy this issue. (The suspension units fit pretty neatly into their attachment points.)

 

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Finicky PE

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Taking shape

 

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First green layer

Well, the green chosen looks a bit too light; I decided to go deliberately lighter than I normally would, as the subsequent weathering steps will darken the base color.

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Light green highlights

I’ve used one of the Citadel greens to highlight certain parts of the model. (Probably snot green or some other delightful color.)

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Filters and washes

I’ve used a lot of pre-diluted colors (oil paints in solvent: mostly burnt umber, burnt sienna, green, blue, yellow), and some dark brown pin washes. I’ve tried Tamiya’s weathering products (the ones that look like make-up kits) to add dust and some dirt on the lower part of the chassis.

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The finished tank

Finally the usual lead pen highlighting of the ridges and rivets – this makes the tank look like it was made of metal, not a piece of resin. I’m quite happy with the results; I’ve always wanted to have one of these in my collection. (As an avid World of Tanks player, this was one of my favorite tanks in tier 1.)

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Flyhawk VK 16.01 – Pz.Kpfw. II Ausf J., 1/72

The VK 16.01 (or unofficially PzKpfw.J.) was a very peculiar design – along with its “sister” the VK.18.01 (or PzKpfw I.F). (VK stands for VersuchsKetten, experimental tracked vehicle; the number 16 stands for the weight and the 01 is the model number.) They share many features but they were designed to perform different roles – namely infantry support in case of the PzKpfwI.F., and reconnaissance in case of the PzKpfw II.J. They shared the same engine, similar hull, same torsion bar suspension and the same tracks; the main difference was the turret and the primary armament.

The concept was a very interesting one, but I think it is safe to say, a very outdated one. We are talking about up-armoring a light tank to heavy tank standards (the frontal armor was 80mm, the sides and turret 50mm), which put its weight to 25 tons -about the same weight as a T-34’s. This tank was supposed to work in a battlefield where increasingly high powered anti-tank guns, and fast, hard-hitting medium tanks were already making it somewhat of an anachronism even before the design process was finished.

It was equipped with a Maybach HL45P engine, which gave it a top speed of 21kmph, and the wide tracks gave it an excellent cross-country mobility. Based on the experiences of the PzKpfwI.F, it was up-armed with a 2cm KwK 38 L/55 gun, and a co-axial MG-34. The turret had only manual traverse. An interesting feature it shares with the PzKpfwI.F. is that the hull was one unit with the superstructure, as opposed to the superstructure being bolted to the hull, as we can see in most German tank designs. MAN produced 22 of these little tanks in 1942; seven made it to the 12th Panzer Division, and were transported to the Eastern Front, and some were given to the 13th Polizei Panzer Kompanie.

This tank (and its sister designs) were not exactly successful in the field however they served as evolutionary steps to the Pz.Kpfw II Ausf L, Luchs.

What’s more important, though, is that this tank (used to be) the most coveted seal-clubbing tank in World of Tanks. (Now its status has been diminished due to its availability in the gift shop now and then.)

The kit comes in the usual Flyhawk box… you know what; it’s the third Flyhawk kit in a row to be featured. What I said about one of them is valid for all: astonishingly good kits, great packaging, scalable difficulty. This one does not come with a metal barrel, but I’ve used one from an aftermarket set. Let’s move on.

The model essentially falls together if you shake the box. It’s an easy build, if you skip on some of the more difficult PE parts -like the lifting hooks on the turret.

I’ve chosen the German grey scheme -again. I was tempted to do a camo pattern I have on my WoT vehicle, but I was pressed by deadlines (I was reviewing the kit), so grey it was.

Painting

Dust and scratches are added

Early and Late VK.18.01, and the VK.16.01 together at last…

Flyhawk VK18.01 (panzer I F.) late version 1/72

The development of this tank has been covered in the previous post; the description of the model is also very similar, so I’d refer you to that post if you are interested.

So, let’s see the build

Box and contents

The model is packaged in the same Flyhawk-style: it keeps the contents save even in case of a nuclear strike. It also looks amazing, although I suspect it’s a bit of an overkill. (Certainly resource-intensive.) The box art is nicer than the Early version’s; you can see the front of the tank.
The parts are ordered on the sprues in a somewhat different layout, but the basic tank is the same. (Obviously.) The quality is outstanding; like a shrunk 1/35 kit. (I keep saying this, because it’s true.)



Build
As usual, the build is straightforward, and you get the different options for PE parts, if you do not like the plastic provided. No metal barrels this time, though, but you get two cool little figures.



The turret without the guns looks like the stupid robot from that insurance commercial…

Going full-brass





Painting
Same color scheme as before: German grey. Perhaps I should have chosen something else than grey, but I wanted to experiment with different painting and weathering styles. This time I’ve used Tamiya paints. They are fine, but dry quickly, so retarder is very much necessary when painting with an airbrush. They are also very sensitive to the dilution- you have to get the water (diluent)/paint ratio just right.



Highlights are added using Tamiya German Grey lightened with Tan

Filters were applied using the dot-method. Oil paint (umber, burnt umber, blue, yellow, green) was dotted onto the surface, and washed off using a damp bush. Damaging to small details if not done carefully.


Dust and scratches are added. The scratches were done using the hair-spray technique: I applied hair-spray to the black primer, and then added the grey. Very gently you can remove some of the paint using a wet paintbrush. (It’s easy to overdo.)
The dust was applied using Tamiya’s make-up kit. (I was lazy.)


Early and Late versions together, side-by-side.