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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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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