Category Archives: world war II

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.

 

1/72 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Modelcollect 1/72 Rheintochter 1 movable Missile launcher with E100 body, 1946

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This model was one of the three of my very first order from Modelcollect; the other two were the E-75 with full interior and a T-80. I’ll take a look at those models later on. There is also an E-50 with interior available, and a T-64, T-72 with interior in the plans… which to be honest, are some of the most anticipated models for me in any scale.

This particular model is a somewhat feasible modification of the E-100 tank: the hull of the tank is mated with an AA missile launcher platform for the multi-stage Rheintochter 1 missile, forming a mobile anti-aircraft unit. As anti-aircraft missiles go, this one is enormous; it would probably have been pretty devastating against bomber formations. There are some issues with the concept: the operators of the weapon system seem to be placed outside by the launching platform just like if it was a regular AA gun (there WERE plans to use mounts from AA guns). The problem is unless the crew vacates the area before each launch (and go quite far away from the vehicle), they would be blasted away by the exhaust by the missile engine. The blast shield even directs the gases upwards and somewhat forwards… it’s definitely not someplace I’d like to sit when the missile lifts off. Even with the much smaller Nebelwerfer Wurfrahmen rockets the crew had to find shelter before firing. There’s also the issue of reload – it would be interesting to see an ammo carrier vehicle with a crane.

Regardless the concept looks cool, and when it comes to modification of fictional tanks, it is all that matters. (There are other modifications by the same theme: twin AA Flak guns, V-1 rocket launcher, and the same weapons on an E-75, E-50 platform.) Interestingly the missile was real enough; it even was launched a couple of times during testing.

The quality of moulding is excellent, the details are good; there is no complaint there. The PE is small, but there’s really not a lot needed; the addition of engine deck grilles is a very nice touch. The instructions are simple and easy to follow.

The assembly is fast, but not without issues, though. I ran into some surprising problems. First, the running gear is quite flimsy; the connection points where the swing arms and the road wheels attach are not sturdy enough. Some of the roadwheels kept falling off, despite of being glued on with plastic glue during handling. During installation tracks also bent somewhat under the tension as you can see on the photos. Strengthening the idlers’ and drive wheels’ attachment points would eliminate this issue.

There were some fit issues with the hull as well; nothing major, but it was a bit surprising because I did not expect any.

I’m not sure where exactly the missile should be sitting. If you place the missile towards the back of the launching platform, the frontal fins tend to interfere with the shield if the missile mount is depressed to travel position. (The back fins would probably cause some damage to the crew/vehicle, during launch as they would not have enough clearance, either.)

There is a full engine included, but it will be completely invisible once installed. I did put it in, but I think it’s better just to keep it as a spare for other projects.

The whole assembly took about a total of two hours (waiting time for the glue to set not included); the most difficult thing was the attachment of fins to the missile. I use this word in a relative sense – the model was not challenging at all.

The painting was started with a Dunkelgelb base- I used Mig Ammo’s paints for this. (I still need to learn how to use these paints; I’m used to the Tamiya range.)

I did muck up the next steps. Simply put I did not account for the scale effect for the camo colors -a rookie mistake. In my rush I was focusing on the pattern and masking and forgot about the colors themselves. Thanks to this at first the model looked quite colorful… I planned to strip the whole model and give it another go, but decided to use this mistake as an opportunity to experiment a bit instead. I corrected mistakes in the masking wherever some colors showed through using a brush first; this is something to be expected whenever you use masks. Subsequent layers of yellow/green/brown colored filters and very fine Tamiya Sand mist from the airbrush managed to tone the colors down and blend them together. I used a large flat brush to distribute the last layers of filters with a downward motion, forming streaks on the side.

I used white spirit to wet the surface before applying pin washes -I did that because I did not want to apply gloss varnish, and the wash would not flow properly on a matte surface.

I used some rust colors applied with a piece of sponge on the blast shields where the heat of the exhaust gases burned away the paint. I applied some subtle chipping/rusting using the same technique and color on the hull as well.

With the help of pigments I added dust on the top of the hull, some mud on the sides. The key here is application/removal as with a lot of weathering techniques: I mixed some pigments with water, dabbed the mixture on, and after it dried somewhat I used a clean, wet brush to remove most of it. Repeating the procedure in several thin layers and slightly different colors produces a reasonably realistic effect.

Finally a silver pencil helped to give some metallic shine to the tank.

Although the tank is pretty dusty (I kept to the artwork’s destroyed urban setting), I left the missile clean – it is supposed to be freshly loaded onto the launching platform. You can argue that the blast of the previous lift-offs would blow some of the dust away from the vehicle as well, but the blast-shield would direct most of it upwards. The missile’s paint scheme is completely fictional. There are some real-life examples you can use as reference, but since the whole vehicle is fictional, I thought I’d go with colors I like. (I have some real funky Citadel paints which I have not yet been able to use for anything really. After much consideration I decided against finally using Tentacle Pink and Warlock Purple. Their time has not yet come.)

Anyway, disregarding my mistakes the build overall is a quick one, and there is no real challenge involved. The model is reasonably well designed; there’s really nothing to complain about. The detail is good enough, there are no tiny fiddly parts. This 1/72 model is about the size of a 1/35 Panzer I, so it’s quite large. Obviously these fictional vehicles are not going to rock everyone’s world; they seem to be quite divisive within the community. If you don’t like them, this kit is not going to tempt you; but if you want to build something visually interesting as a weekend project, this model is probably a good candidate.

1/35 ESCI 7.5-cm l.I.G. 18

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Another old build finished… This is the model of a 75mm light infantry howitzer used by the German army.

The model is quite hold- it’s older than I am in fact, from 1976. I got it as a present from a friend years ago, back in the US, started to build it halfheartedly, and put it away in 2009 half-finished when I moved over to the UK. It was made of cheap-looking bring green plastic (similar color to the Army Men toys), and was not exactly inspiring me to finish it. It received a panzer grey coat, and that was it.

It’s incredible how much presentation matters with models. The “Eastern European” 1/72 kits (UM, Attak, etc) look pretty shabby and amateurish unpainted. Flash everywhere, the plastic is not the best, the attachment gates are thick… and usually the plastic has weird, uneven colors – nothing to drive you to press on with the build. Case to the point: my KV-2 build. It had a strange, toy-like feel to it unpainted, but once I applied the primer coat, it’s all gone, and suddenly you have a pretty detailed model in your hands. Whereas a professionally packaged kit with crisp details and good looking instructions can just make you want to drop everything and start building it. I might be shallow, I know, but presentation matters.

I dug it out three years ago from a box in my mother’s attic; by that time one of the wheels broke off. I brought it with me to the UK, but it was kept in a box forgotten and unloved. About two months ago I got fed up with stalled projects; so the SiG got a new lease in life. Since it was the quickest to finish, I thought I’d start with it. I drilled a hole where the wheel axis was, re-attached the wheel with an evergreen plastic rod, and started weathering the gun. It’s not a very detailed model (the breach assembly, the optics are very much simplified), but it’s detailed enough.

First step was a couple of light coat of blue filter; which was followed by some dark brown pin washes.

Once everything dried I added some lightened base-coat to the raised details and edges as highlights.

I tried a couple of AK products on this build; after all this seemed like an ideal opportunity to practice – if I improve the looks, fine; if I mess up the build, then that’s fine, too.

I did some streaking using different streaking products. Add a dot using a small brush, and used a moist (almost dry) wide brush with downward motion to form the steaks. I also added rust-streaks with the same method. I also added earth effects to the bottom of the gun shield and the carriage. I was reluctant before to use this particular product, as the contrast seemed high when I applied it. Once it’s semi-dry, you can (and should) remove, adjust the pigments with a moist brush. After drying the contrast will be much smaller, and the effect more realistic.

I also tried some of the dust effect products around the rivets and whatnot; they work reasonably well. To be honest using oil paints and pigments diluted with alcohol/white spirit/water is still a better option, but I might just be too old school for this.

As finishing touches I used Tamiya’s make-up set to add more dust and some metallic shine to the gun.

Is it a good model? Not particularly. It was nice, however, to finally finish the build. I built up a small stash when in the US, and it feels good to finally start building these models. (Even though a lot of them are somewhat outdated; we finally have a King Tiger with full interior in plastic, and MiniArt’s T-55 is coming also with full interior, I still feel good about finishing them.)

 

 

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.

Armory 1/72 Luchs

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This is the fourth Luchs in this series… and the third plastic one.

Let’s see…

Modelltrans Luchs
Flyhawk Luchs
Maco Luchs

Introduction -Armory’s plastic kits

The instructions are clear and easy to follow; the one gripe I had with them is that the parts are not numbered on the sprues: you get a sprue layout on the cover of the instructions, and you have to find the parts on the sprues based on it. It’s not that difficult to do, but it still is a hindrance during the build.

 

The model came in an “envelope-type” box, which opens on the top (and bottom). I personally don’t like these boxes because they aren’t very resistant but it’s a personal preference. The sprues were sealed in plastic bags alongside with the PE fret, decals and instructions. The cover image shows the tank in the middle of an engagement. The back of the box shows a set of computer generated images of the model, and the different build options.

The model is a 3-in-1 type of kit: you can build three different versions of the Luchs: early, mid, and the up-armored late versions.

Inspecting the plastic parts I found a lot of flash, and the detail was somewhat soft, and in some places missing. (Most notably one of the armored protectors for the vision slots is smooth, although it was ribbed in real life.)

The PE parts are thin enough and detailed; I liked working with them. The tank is really brought to life by the PE additions; the plastic itself only gives it a basic shape, really, and the PE gives it detail.

The decals are well printed and thin; there were no issues during application.

 

The build was relatively quick. The lower hull does not come as a single “tub”: you have to glue it together from four parts (bottom, sides, back). The top of the hull comes as one large part. Unfortunately it goes onto the sides rather than fitting into the opening on the top, which means there will be a seam-line around the superstructure that needs to be filling.

Before installing the tracks I’ve first finished most of the hull with all the PE details, added the roadwheels, and painted the hull and the mudguards in the base color (primer red) following the base color (RAL 7028 Dunkelgelb 1944). I added the tracks at this stage, attached the mudguards, and added the remaining details to the hull. These I painted with a brush.

I carefully painted the pattern using Tamiya olive green lightened with deck tan (for scale effect) with a brush. I was not particularly concerned about how even the patches were, since they would not be prominent after the whitewash; only small parts of the underlying camouflage would be visible. I did use a light brown filter to tone down the contrast a bit. The decals were added this point, since the whitewash was applied on the field, onto a vehicle already in service.

Once the basic painting was done, I sealed the paint with Testors Dullcote to protect it from the subsequent steps, and covered the whole model with AK Interactive Heavy Chipping Medium. This was followed by Tamiya flat white, and after about ten minutes of waiting I went on creating chips with a wet brush and a toothpick. The paint was nicked carefully at places using the toothpick, and I used the wet brush to enlarge these chips.

Once I achieved a decent amount of chipping and cleaned off the model with some running water, the contrast between the white and the underlying colors was really stark.

Sealed everything with Dullcote again, and picked up MIG Ammo’s washable white. I covered the model with it using an airbrush, and after it had some time to dry I created a transparent, uneven white layer over the whole tank using a wet brush. Moving the brush with a downward motion I blended everything together nicely; the paint left a translucent white layer on top of the model.

The weathering part is always a bit difficult, especially in 1/72; it’s really easy to overdo in this scale. One thing I’ve noticed is that the camera and the eye sees differently. It’s probably the trickiest part of the whole process to make sure the model looks good on screen as well as with the naked eye. As a general rule if by eye the model looks good, on photo the effects will appear somewhat overdone.

I used some heavily diluted winter streaking grime from AK Interactive as stains on the lower chassis. Different brown pigments mixed with white spirit and “splashed mud” from Vallejo was used to simulate the mud thrown up by the tracks onto the lower chassis and the road wheels. A silver pencil helped to create a worn, shiny metal look on the edges of the tracks, and gave a metallic sheen to the gun. (Normally I use it on all edges, but in this case the whitewash made it unnecessary.) I’ve used a guitar string -E string- for the whip and the crow’s feet antennae.

Well, pretty much this was it. The model was not very difficult to build (some experience with PE required), and the detail looks good when finished. The crow’s feet antenna looks especially good compared to most of the other offerings in this scale.

Interestingly all 1/72 Luchs kits have minor differences from each other: the location of the Jerry cans, the combination of changes, the shape of the mudguards, even the turret are all slightly differ from each other. Unfortunately I cannot really comment on the accuracy of these; there are not many photos available, and they might -or might not- be representative to all the tanks produced.

The tale of the four Luchs’ – the Maco Pz.Kpfw. II Luchs

Modelltrans’ Luchs

Flyhawk’s Luchs

…and still to come: Armory’s Luchs!

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These years seem to be the golden years of scale models. Vehicles that have not been available or only available in the form of limited resin kits suddenly get a lot of attention. The Pz.Kpfw. II. Luchs was one of these vehicles. I’ve built the ModellTrans version five years ago, inspired by the online game World of Tanks, and now, in a very short span of time we get not one but three Braille scale plastic versions of the tank.

I have reviewed Flyhawk’s 1/72 Luchs offerings before, and I was really curious what the other Luchs kits are like. This review will be about the up-armored Maco offering; I’ll comment on the differences between this kit and the Flyhawk kit here and there during the review. (The up-armored Luchs is essentially the same as the basic Maco Luchs with a small fret added; anything I say here is relevant to all Maco kits.)

The breakdown of the model is quite old-school: we have a “traditional” lower hull assembly from four parts (two sides, a bottom and the back). The suspension units and the swing arms holding the roadwheels are already moulded onto the sides. There is an interesting solution for the last pair of braces on the mudguards: they are moulded onto the back panel. The mudguards will need to be slid under the brackets. Be careful not to cut them off; first I thought they were some sort of plastic overflow during the moulding process. As most of the finer details, the back light is moulded onto the left brace.

The added parts are on a separate sprue: the tool box from the back of the mudguards, the jerry cans for the turret sides (these were moved to the back of the tank in the Flyhawk up-armored Luchs kit), smoke grenade launchers, some extra boxes on the back of the turret, a metal armor plate for the lower hull on the front, the perforated vision block protector, and additional track sections protecting the frontal hull. Without this sprue you can build the early version of the model easily.

The interweaving road wheels are done the same way as DML handled them with their kits: the two inner rows of wheels form one part each, onto which you’ll have to attach the outermost row as individual wheels. This solution makes assembly much simpler, and it’s a great solution to avoid any misalignment. The pattern on the road wheels is very well replicated, and the wheels are very thin, which is probably quite true to scale. (Although it’s a conjecture on my part since I have no access to a real vehicle, and neither have I found any information on the thickness of the wheels anywhere.)

The drive wheel is nicely detailed, and the plastic is a tad thicker than the Flyhawk kit’s- this is actually a good thing, because it can easily bend when you are trying to install the tracks on the Flyhawk model. The tracks come as link-and-length, and they are very easy to assemble. (They are probably the easiest I’ve had so far in 1/72.)

The upper hull and the mudguards come as one piece. The model is really “traditional” in this sense as well: the sides of the hull will need to be fitted as separate parts due to the details (viewing ports) that need to be there; no slide-moulds for this kit. The fit is remarkably good, though, so no problems there.

The model does not come with many PE parts: we get the top of the German “crow’s foot” antenna, and that’s it. We also get a couple of brass items: the rod part of this antenna, another whip aerial, and a turned barrel. (The thin metal aerial with the “crow’s foot” looks much more convincing than Flyhawk’s version of plastic rod combined with the metal top.)

The tools -with the exception of the jack, the fire extinguisher, and the shovel- are moulded onto the mudguard; this is something I’m not very keen on. (I prefer painting them separately before attaching them onto the model.) The shovel is a pretty simple affair; it’s probably better to replace it from the spares bin. The model does not have a width indicator; you should get a PE one (Dan Taylor modelworks does a set), or fashion one from stretched sprue. They were too fragile in the Flyhawk kit that I just used PE aftermarket ones instead of trying to clean them up. The tool boxes are slightly different than in the Flyhawk kit, and their locations are not exactly the same, either- again, these could be simply because the models were based on different production versions.

The turret is made out of five parts; the plastic barrel is molded on the top section. Interesting solution (both the assembly of the turret and the gun barrel), and it works. You have an option for a metal barrel, which is nicely detailed. The only imperfection I found with the kit was the grab handle on the back: it was broken and bent during transit. (I ended up not changing it.) The other issue I have with the turret is the almost perfectly rectangular shape of the top of the turret; I think it’s a bit larger than it should be- it’s certainly larger than the Flyhawk’s turret. (Which is also smaller than the ModellTrans turret). The shape is not the same, either. The Flyhawk kit’s turret is more hexagonal: the back and the front are a bit narrower than the middle. In the Maco kit it’s more rectangular. It also looks like the top is a bit larger than on the drawings I found online. The big question is which one is correct. I don’t have access to an actual tank to check, and the photos I found were taken mainly from eye level -for obvious reasons. (If there’s one in Bovingdon I’ll keep an eye out next time I get there.)

The top turret hatch (the commander’s) can be opened. The hatch has interior details, but the rest of the turret does not; it’s probably best to put a figure in it if you leave it open. The back large, rectangular hatch cannot be opened.

The assembly was about two hours -tops; it’s a very well engineered, easy to assemble kit. I tried something new (for me) in this build, and made the whole running gear/track assembly as a single sub-assembly; the whole shebang can be removed for painting and weathering. (I think I’ll use this approach in the future more often.)

The painting was a bit more difficult, as I am not really good with spraying 1/72 freehand camo. I’ve base-coated the model with primer red, and used Mig Ammo’s Dunkelgelb. Obviously neither my airbrush nor my skills were up to the challenge of making thin sprayed on lines, but here I had an idea of pure genius. (If I can be as bold as to call it that.) The Ammo acrylic paints form a cured surface; they are very different from the Tamiya paints. And, as we know from experimenting with the Windex chipping method, Tamiya paints are dissolved by ammonia… I simply made up a 2-3% ammonia solution, and used a brush to carefully clean up the overspray.

Job done.

This is something definitely worth remembering; as long as the base layer is different (either enamel, or, in this case, Mig’s Acrylic paint), you can clean the Tamiya top layer up easily. (I did not take a photo after applying the green, but imagine the yellow areas having a greenish oversrpay all over.)

The weathering steps further helped with the camo issues. Some dust (pigments mixed with water and some surfactant sprayed onto the model), washes all made the base color a bit darker, and helped to fade the green patches a bit. The silver pencil really helped making the model look like a chunk of metal.

I’ve used different colors of mud (in this case I used Vallejo’s and AK’s sets, not pigments). The key is to first use the lighter colors on a larger area (both flicking it on, and by applying with a brush directly), representing the dried under-layer, and then add the darker shades, representing the still wet mud. With a brush moistened with the appropriate solvent (water in case of Vallejo, white spirit with AK) you can -and should- adjust the effect before the layer dries.

Conclusion

The Flyhawk kit is an incredibly detailed, albeit complex model, which will challenge the model builder. The Maco kit is a very well detailed, well engineered, easy to assemble model. Sure, it does not pack as many PE parts and tiny plastic bits, but it does make the build less of a challenge, and the results are still nice. The moulded on detail is convincing, and it is nice to have a model that is a breeze to build. In my subjective opinion it is on the same level as the Revell 1/72 Famo in the quality of plastic, ease of assembly and level of detail. (In other words: pretty darn good.)

It comes with a metal gun barrel, and two metal aerials -things the Flyhawk kit lacks. On the other hand it does not have a PE engine deck grille unfortunately.

In short: if you want to go all-out, and have a challenging build, go for the Flyhawk one. If you want a good, easy to build model, which builds fast, choose the Maco model; in this fortunate case we have an abundance of choice when it comes to this vehicle.

Coming up: Armory’s offering.

Zrinyi II part 2.

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So, my first ever 1/35 diorama; I used it as a trial for the T-62 dio I’m planning. (The first statement is not entirely true; I did do a snowed-in Mobelwagen long time back, but a small snowy vista is hardly a complex diorama.) It started without a concept; I had two figures and a bunch of equipment to use, so I made use of them… The scene -in retrospect- depicts a Zrinyi II in a prepared position somewhere on the Eastern Front in late Fall/early Spring (probably in 1943, as they are not fleeing). Two German soldiers are discussing the tactics, while one of the tankers is sitting on the tank, uninvolved, having a smoke. Not very dramatic, but there you go. I finally got to use the German figures which -as you might have guessed by now- were sitting in my collection since 2007 gathering dust. The Hungarian tanker came from Bodi.

Disclaimer: I had no idea what I was doing when I started. (I’m not sure I do now.)

One thing is for sure: I’ve learned a lot about how to “populate” a diorama.

The first steps were adding the textured base from Tamiya. It’s supposed to be mud colored, but it’s not very convincing; the color and texture looks something entirely else. Something better would be needed.

I went out to the garden, gathered up some dried-out soil, and mixed it with plaster; using this mixture I added some terrain irregularities. (The German figures came with a small base which needed to be blended in the rest of the scene.) I used a couple of boxes and fuel barrels as well to make the scene look busier. Because the plaster made the color of the earth I used, I went over the whole scene with my airbrush several times using different earth tones. The tank was in place by then, but the little overspray actually helps in this case; it blends in the mud on the lower chassis with the soil. I made some more mixture of soil (and much less plaster), which was “flicked” onto the lower part of the screens on the side. I loaded up a stiff brush, and created the splatters using a toothpick (it is not difficult, but first try which direction you need to move the toothpick to make sure the mud ends up on the tank…) As with everything: the layers are the key. Several slightly different colors were added in several light layers – it adds  to the realism of the weathering.

The other issue with the soil was that it cracked as it dried. It was a fortunate thing for me- it does look like real McCoy. In this case I can claim that it was totally intentional. Absolutely. However if I want to produce a groundwork that is not cracked, I might be in trouble. Experimentation is in order I feel; this is where shortcuts, like pre-made mixtures can help.

I have bought a bunch of different diorama products to prepare the vegetation. The self-adhesive grass patches looked much better once I used the airbrush to spray some brown color on them. The laser-cut shrub has an unfortunate, unnatural color; green and brown oil colors helped to make them resemble actual living plants.

The figures were painted over several years, really; I’m not much of a figure painter. For the face (the most problematic area) I used Citadel’s different flesh colors in layers. I had to get a replacement head for the sitting figure, as the original was lost.

As a last step I put some fallen leaves and other plant detritus into the scene. There’s a tree which has a long, caterpillar-like seed-pod. (Despite of being a biologist I have absolutely no clue what the tree is called… As soon as I figure out I’ll amend this post.) When you  crumb it up, it falls apart, and some parts do look like fallen leaves. I mixed these in with some strongly diluted white spirit, and placed it all over the base. Small details like that actually made this scene a lot more realistic.