Tag Archives: interior

The tale of two Panthers: an in-box comparison of the Rye Field Models and Takom models

It seems like we are living in a Golden Age of model building: more and more “mainstream” companies come out with models with full (or reasonably full) interiors. Back in the days we had the old Academy Tiger I, MiniArt came out with their excellent tanks with (almost) complete interiors, and now Meng, Takom and Rye Field Models (among others) issuing their excellent models with interiors from the FT-18 to the M1 Abrams. We even have 1/72 scale models with interiors included. I yet to have to finish an old build, a DML Panther ausf G with a resin Tank Workshop interior, but these kits really, really made me excited.

 

Two companies tackled the famous Panther with full interior: Takom and Rye Field Models both issued their versions in early 2018 making the choice between them particularly difficult. I purchased the Rye Field Model version immediately, and then I realized there is a competitor in the form of the Takom kit. Amazingly both models are quite reasonably priced for what they are (but still not cheap), but I could not justify the investment in both time and money to build two very complex models of the same vehicle. (Yes, I know, they are not the same: one is an Ausf A, the other is an Ausf G.) A friend very graciously lent me his Takom kit so I could take a look at the differences between the two.

 

 

The aim of this review is not to evaluate the models with regards to accuracy; there are many other people who are more qualified to do so. I merely took a look at them as models, put them side-by-side, and tried to figure out how they compare with regards to ease of build, detail, instructions, etc, before handing the Takom kit back to its owner. (Frankly it would be an interesting side-by-side build, but as I mentioned the costs in both money and time are a tad too high. That being said if I can get a Takom kit cheap I will do a side-by-side build.)

 

If you are interested in sprue shots and individual in-box reviews, both have been covered by other modellers; the Takom model was reviewed here,
and the Rye Field Model here.


In this review I’ll use [R] wherever I refer to the Rye Fields Panther, and a [T] wherever I refer to the Takom one. (Would have been interesting to put the Meng Panther next to these ones, but that would have really broken the bank.) I took photos of key areas: welding lines, cast and rolled armor surfaces, ammunition, track links, etc. I also scanned the instructions (apologies for the quality; my scanner is not the best), and created side-by-side images for easier comparison of certain sub-assemblies (and of course the quality of instructions themselves). Since a picture tells a thousand words I do not comment on all of them; I also kept the text reasonably short. I also took a look at photos of the Meng Panther kit online to see how it measures up to these two, but obviously I can’t really draw conclusions based on this.

I’ve uploaded all the photos on a google drive (with the instructions included) here.

 

Without further ado, the comparison:


Both kits come in huge boxes. The sprues are placed in resealable plastic bags in both kits; the packaging looks very similar. (I would not be surprised if both kits were produced in the same factories…) The plastic is really nice to the touch in both kits, although the colors are different. There is no flash in either case. The clear parts in the [R] kit are protected by an additional small box, but the turret was broken off the sprue regardless in my model.


[R] is an Ausf G, [T] is an Ausf A (duh). If you absolutely want an Ausf G, go with the [R], and vica versa – in this case the choice is clear, and you can stop reading this review. The painting options are appropriate for the versions in question, although it is slightly annoying that no Panther kit available provides markings for the country that kept the Panther in service for the longest period of time: France. (https://worldoftanks.com/en/news/chieftain/chieftains-hatch-french-panthers/)

 

None of the models has Zimmerit. If you build an Ausf G produced after 4th September, 1944, you should not add it; tanks produced before should have it. But then again, the clear hull makes it a bit pointless to cover it up. Most Ausf A versions had Zimmerit applied; Takom, if I’m not mistaken, is going to issue a Zimmerit decal for this tank.

[R] is moulded in light brown, [T] is light grey plastic.

Overall impression: [R] seems like it’s massively more overengineered than the [T] kit: subassemblies are built using significantly more parts, even if they are not strictly necessary. (Example: engine cooling fan unit assembly: [T]: 3 parts/each side; [R] 15 parts/side. Step 66 shows the assembly of the transmission final drive: all gears are provided, even though none of it will be seen once completed.) Although both are incredibly complex, the [T] kit seems like it’s significantly easier to build. Meng looks like a more traditional kit, so that’s probably the easiest (apart from the tracks -more on that later). It features prominent structural elements inside the hull, so if you want to use an aftermarket interior with the Meng kit you will have some difficulties. (But then again, if you want a tank with interior, it’s easier to get either the [T] or [R] kit.)

[R] instructions

[T] instructions

Instructions: both are clear; personally I like the [T] computer generated version better than the more traditional line-drawing of the [R] one. [R] does have some issues with the instructions (more on that later). One of the most vexing issue is that no real painting/decaling guide is provided for the ammunition (but plenty of decals). [T] provides a guide to that. Neither of the models provide the interior stenciling that tanks normally have. (There are aftermarket sets available, though.) Overall the instructions are clearer with [T]. Neither gives a guide to the wiring of the radios or other electrical equipment, which is a shame.

[R]

 

[M]


Talking about decals: both are very fine; if you look at the macro shots, they are actually legible. (It was more difficult to photograph the [T] one as it was white against a light blue background. I tried to crank up the contrast as much as I could to show them off.

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[R] The wheel assembly is a bit strange (this is an issue about the instructions). Steps C37, C41 each show the assembly of one roadwheel pair with rubber rims -actual rubber-, but then they are not shown anywhere else. (I’m not clear why we get rubber rims for two of these, but the rest is simply moulded on. It is not clear where these roadwheels are supposed to be going. The alternate steel rimmed wheel option is not shown as a clear alternative; it is in the painting guide though. At step 66 we are shown the assembly of the steel rimmed wheels (C36), but no information of what they are used for. We only see the rubber rimmed wheels installed. At step 70, 71 we see the steel rimmed wheel option in the assembly sequence without explanation -it’s never made clear that you can use either of these options (and more importantly what these options are). The tank can be built with an optional engine heater, but it’s not actually shown where it is (or what it is); just how the firewall and the air intake should be built for that particular option. The [T] Panther can be built as a commander’s tank with the extra antenna, but no additional radio or other interior detail is provided.

 

Size: both are very similar; essentially all major dimensions are the same. The interior is basically the same -both models are quite accurate as far as I can determine. (I’ve built the DML Panther G with Tank Workshops interior about ten years ago, and have a lot of reference material; I am by no means an expert, though.)


[R] Transparent hull and turret parts (only in the limited run version, though) [T] no transparent parts, the interior will have to be displayed differently. (Cutaway, assembly line, maintenance… there ARE options.)

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Plastic detail: amazing on both. The “Continental” marking can be clearly read on the roadwheel of both; the bolt heads, and other small details are very sharp and well defined; overall the fine detail is just amazing in both models.


Casting texture: [R]: has nice casting texture on mantlet, and on the exhaust protectors; no texture on engine deck covers and on the hull/turret. Looking at photos (and seeing an actual Panther in Bovingdon) I have to say the engine deck covers do not really have a cast texture, but the ventillation openings do. The omission of rolled armor texture on the hull and turret is understandable: any texture would make the astonishingly clear parts, well, less astonishingly clear. However, if you plan to paint them over, you will miss the rolled armor texture. (But then you should buy the [T] kit, as one of the main advantage and selling point of the [R] kit is the clear hull and turret).


The [T] kit has very nice texture on the engine deck covers, the air intakes, etc; fine texture on the hull and turret. The texture seems a bit deeper than on the [R] kit. The texture in both kits is very discreet.


Weld seams and welding beads: [R] and [T] both have very nice detail in this regards – even on the clear parts. I have to mention the engine deck covers on the very nice welding lines on the air intakes on the [R] kit.

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[R] Lots of slide moulding (muzzle break is single piece, MG’s hollowed out; [T] also uses advanced moulding technology, but it features a two-piece muzzle break which is less ideal.


PE: [R] has extensive PE provided; lots of sub-assemblies require PE, especially the lower part of the hull, where the ribbing is formed by PE parts. (It looks like a problematic part of the build.) [T] solves most of the detail issues with plastic (even the springs on the back of the seats are moulded on); only the crow’s feet antenna and the air intake covers are provided as PE.

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Suspension: [R] has optional workable torsion bar suspension system, while [T] does not have workable suspension.

 

Running gear: [R] uses polycaps on the middle row of wheels (8 in total), making them removable for painting. I’m not really sure why they did not go with the polycaps for the rest; this solution does not seem to solve anything, really.

 

Tracks: [R] features workable tracks, and the horns are moulded in place thankfully. (They are hollow, too.) However there is a prominent ejector pin mark in the middle of each link. On the other hand [T] provides link and length tracks. They have no ejector pin marks, however the horns have to be glued on separately using a rig system allowing you to do it in sections instead of one by one. I wonder how this system works in practice; it remains to be seen. (The Meng kit in this respect is the worst: all horns have to be glued on individually.)

 

Gun: [T] has some missing detail (guiding wire mesh from the R kit for example); [R]: gun is incredibly detailed, and the recoil can be operational. I have to say gun recoil by a spring is not really an important feature, though. The gun lock can be built engaged/disengaged on the roof of the turret in the [R] kit. The turret roof looks slightly different in the two kits (see photos); I’m not sure it’s the differences between the versions, or accuracy issues.


[R]: mine thrower can be rotated, depicted open/closed, while the [T] has only one option (closed).

 

Turret basket floor: [T] features a one piece floor. [R] has two pieces, with an alternative option of having it in three if you cut the folding part in half as shown by the instructions.


Panel with drivers/radio operator’s hatch: this panel can be removed in both kit (Meng’s Panther does not have it as a separate part). This may be useful for showing off the interior, or depicting the tank undergoing maintenance. (This was the only opening big enough to remove the parts of the disassembled transmission and final drive if they needed some work…)


Ammo storage: on the floor units [R] kit uses full length ammunition; [T] provides only the protruding tips which make it a simpler assembly.


Ammo: neither has stamped bottom provided as PE disks. The base is moulded on, which is nice, but obviously the patter on the bottom is missing. [R] provides little circular decals which I suspect are to be placed on the bottom of the ammunition to remedy this issue. No real difference between different ammo types; no actual color guide for the different types in either instructions. (The projectile parts are different for each type.)

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This picture shows the different kinds of ammunition the Panther carried, and a good painting guide. [T] provides a guide to paint the shell cases in the green-laquered steel color late-war shells were equipped with instead of the usual brass; it’s up to you if you want to equip your Panther with this sort of ammo. (Due to copper shortages the Germans were forced to switch to the less-than-ideal steel version late war; it does add a visual interest to the model.)


[R] has prominent ejector pin marks on the back of the engine firewall; if you plan not to install the engine they will be visible.

 

The jack in the [R] model can be shown in storage and in-use configuration.


[R] Alternative option for back storage bin: there is a night vision option provided -but no further explanation is given. I assume if you buy an IR aftermarket set, you should install the alternative bin.

 

[R] Step 70: some sort of track maintenance option is shown but not explained. It would probably be a good diorama subject, though.


[R] two headlight options but no explanation


[R] has an option to install ice cleats


So what are the conclusions of this comparison? There are marginal differences between the models. Both are very complex, state-of-the-art kits featuring an accurate depiction of the actual vehicle. The [T] model is more “user-friendly” both in instructions and the way it is assembled. It lacks the clear hull and turret, which is a big selling point, but it has nicer textures. There are some shortcuts (the one-piece turret basket floor for example), some drawbacks (two-piece muzzle break), but overall the quality and complexity is very high. The [R] model is way more ambitious: it is way more complex, it uses a lot more PE, and it features the clear hull/turret parts which ultimately sold it for me over the [T] model. (A word of warning: the clear parts will be only included in the anniversary edition. One can only hope that the non-transparent version will have a textured surface.)

 

Both models will be a challenge to build, but the [T] kit has less of a skill-floor – it’s friendlier to the average Joe such as myself. The [R] kit will be appreciated more by people who like to go “all-out” with their build, and prefer to have as much detail as possible. They will find the assembly easier, too, since they will not be dumbfounded (and confused) by the huge number of options which are not clearly explained by the instructions. If you know your Panther intimately, you will be able to get the most out of the [R] model. The [T] is “just” an extremely impressive model with full interior, while the [R] one is a more special, one-of-a-kind kit. Honestly I still can’t decide if I made the “right” choice buying the [R] one- they both are stunning models, and the differences are not so big as to make one a clear winner over the other. Anyone willing to purchase one should weight the issues that matter to them most to decide which model is the right one for them: individual tracks vs link-and-length, workable suspension vs static, one-piece muzzle brake vs two-piece, clear hull/turret vs conventional one. As I said I’m still on the fence even though I already bought one. I hope this short comparison will help others to make their choice, though.

 

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Modelcollect 1/72 E-75 German heavy tank with interior

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As an introduction I have to admit that I love models featuring their interior. (The blog is full of these models…) If I can, I buy aftermarket sets to enhance my models, and obviously I was overjoyed by the recent influx of tanks with full interior by several manufacturers. Modelcollect has been on my radar for a long time now, because I do like to build post-war Soviet armor/trucks, and I also like that the 1/72 scale Modelcollect kits usually come with PE and metal barrels, which is really unusual -and amazing-, and more importantly, I like their prices. When I saw that they were working on a series of tanks with interior included, obviously I became very much interested indeed. I kept checking their online shop to see when these tanks become available, and when the E-50 and E-75 finally did, I immediately went and purchased the E-75.

The first thing I received was a sprue of the top of the hull. That was all I got in the cardboard box, and there was no explanation included. This made me worried for a while as you can imagine, but it took me just an email to clear up the situation: Modelcollect sent out replacement sprues for all the E-75 they sold. Exceptional customer service I’d say. (The reason, as far as I could determine, was that the top hull was somewhat damaged in the original sprue – the back of the engine compartment is a thin plastic strip, and it was bent a little in my sample. Other than that I could not find any differences between the original and the replacement.)

The tank itself is a paper panzer: it never got further than the planning phase. It was planned to use a lot of the Tiger II components, and looks remarkably similar to it. I suspect the model’s interior was designed using the Tiger II as a template – after all German tank designs were quite conservative during the war, so it is a safe bet from Modelcollect. The model is packed in a somewhat thin cardboard box; the box art is a technical drawing of the tank against a black background.

The kit comes with several extra parts you will not use during the building phase; an extra lower turret, two E-50 turrets, and a lot of smaller bits. (This seems to be the case with most Modelcollect kits; my spares box has been filling up lately from the leftovers of the three models I’ve bought.) The introduction on the instructions are taken from the wikipedia page of the E-50. (A mistake obviously.)

The instructions are provided as a foldout on high quality, glossy paper. The steps are outlined well and look clear, but during the building phase I ran into a couple of issues, which I will highlight over the course of the review. None of these issues are deal-breaking, but they did cause me some headache; however if you know about them you will have no problems whatsoever during the build. (I guess this is one of the reasons to read reviews.)

The model also comes with a very large set of PE: apart from interior details and a lot (and I mean a lot) of round disks for the bottom of the ammunition, we also get the back and front mudguards as optional PE parts, and the track guards are included as well. A lot of the PE is not used for the build; I’m honestly not sure what they are for. It’s an intriguing enigma. There is also a small fret for the engine deck grilles, periscope covers and lifting hooks. A third tiny PE fret is also included, which is not used at all. (And not included in the sprue layout section of the instructions, either.) Another mystery; if anyone has the answers, please let me know in the forum. There’s a nice-looking crew included if you want to place them inside the tank; the detail is not as fine as some resin offerings’, but they are still pretty good. The plastic is somewhat fragile. The parts are finely cast, but there is some flash (not a lot), and the detail is OK, but not exceptional.

The interior is not too detailed, unfortunately. I know I’m asking for a lot here, so take this criticism with a grain of salt. The basics are in, but there is a lot more that could have been done. The detail from the firewall is missing completely, and the radio-operator’s station has no detail at all. The seats have no moulded-on detail of padding, and the turret is missing a lot of things (fume extractor, electrical boxes, etc.). Obviously this is a 1/72 scale kit, so the expectations need to be adjusted a bit, but I still would have liked to see a more comprehensive interior. If you plan to build the tank with only the hatches open most of it will be invisible, so it may not be an issue for you -but then why not buy the cheaper version with no interior? I built the model as a cutaway, so for me the more detail the model has, the better. My impression is that originally the tank was not planned with an interior, but it was added to it later. The interior sides of the larger parts (hull, turret, etc.) have no markings where the different interior detail should go, and some hatches are moulded shut. A lot of the PE options look like an afterthought, too, and sometimes surgery is necessary before installing them (I’m thinking of the front and back mudguards mostly).


The first step details the addition of extra track links to the turret; I would leave them off until after the painting is done. The teeth are supposed to be replaced using PE replacements; I’ve left them as they were. (The instructions are not clear about removing the plastic teeth, and they are tiny anyway.)

The second step assembles the turret basket (very nice PE plate), and the third finishes off most of the turret interior and the gun. This is where you run into the first issue: the metal barrel should fit onto a small peg on part A6- but there is no hole drilled into the metal. I cut the peg off and tried to glue the barrel to the plastic base as straight as I could; it’s still a bit wonky if I’m honest. Only after painting -when I was putting the leftover bits into the spares box- did I realize that we actually get a proper mantlet that can fit the metal barrel (A9 instead of A8). This is a recurring problem with the instructions- they seem to have been designed for an all-plastic model, which was modified later to include PE, metal barrel and interior. Unfortunately not all the modifications made their way into the instructions; some did, but this particular one, for example, apparently did not. Regardless now you know, so you can use the correct part.


There are two turret bases included, but the instruction does not give the part number, so I have no idea if I used the right one. This is again a tricky issue. The turret ring on the hull does not have the holes for the interlocking pegs normally moulded onto the ring of the turret itself. These are very well known features of almost all tank models: this is how the turret is locked into place. Upon inspection you will find that one of the turret bases has these little pegs, while the other does not. The latter one would go better with this model, but at the end of the day it makes little difference which one you choose to use. Obviously I used the ones that had them as I did not notice these differences during the building phase…

The turret bottom has moulded-on holders for the gun; these are unnecessary, since the gun comes with its own support-and these details are not featured in the instructions, either. (You just have to cut them off.) Where the gun goes exactly is not marked anywhere, unfortunately; I used the location of the holding pegs I cut away to attach the gun.

Step 4 finishes off the turret exterior: hatches, lifting hooks and everything else. Unfortunately the back access hatch cannot be displayed opened; and the loader’s hatch can only be opened about 90 degrees, because the fume extractor housing is in the way.

Step 5 and 6 work on the upper hull and engine deck: you have an option to cut off the moulded-on mudguard, and substitute it with a PE one (tiny PE part alert). There are also PE guards supplied for the whole length of the tank; this is really nice if you want to show them damaged, bent or missing. I would not add them to the hull at this stage, though -wait until you finished the hull and running gear. (There are no markings where exactly should the tools, towing cables, trackguards go.) The engine deck has nice PE grilles.

None of the engine access hatches or the driver’s/radio operator’s hatches can be opened; this is a shame, since you do get an engine compartment and a driver’s compartment. Unless you are building a cutaway these details will be invisible once you finish the build.

Steps 7-10 detail the assembly of the running gear/tracks. The process is quite easy and straightforward. The E series was not planned to use torsion bars; the special spring suspension is nicely replicated. The positions of swing arms, however, are not very obvious. You can move them up or down, hence adjust the road wheels to any terrain, but the “neutral” setting is not very clear.

The kit comes with link-and-length tracks, which is a very good option for this scale. The links are left and right handed; something the instructions do not say or indicate. You should sort the track links first and then start with the assembly. I cut off the connecting pins from them because it was easier to assemble them (they are a bit clunky and don’t fit very well into their grooves). The number of links necessary for the tracks shown on figure 10 is not correct; you will need at least five extra individual links to finish the complete track.

Step 11-12 shows the assembly of the engine compartment. There is some flash on the lower hull which needs to be removed. The basic layout is created by parts H18 and H4; there are no guiding grooves within the lower hull to help you with the placement. (It’s not difficult to find the correct position, but it would still be nice to have them. The engine is quite detailed little thing, and once finished the whole engine compartment looks pretty good. Some larger pipes can be scratchbuilt if you are so inclined; overall, it’s a really good representation of the real thing in this scale. The problem is that none of it will be visible if you close the engine deck, since the access hatches cannot be displayed open.

Step 13-15 details the assembly of the interior. It is somewhat basic, but generally enough in this scale. The radio operator’s station in quite neglected as I mentioned; if you plan to do a cutaway, best use the driver’s side, or work on your scratchbuilding skills. To make painting easier do not yet glue the bottom of the fighting compartment into the hull; I did, and it made painting somewhat difficult.

Step 16 shows the assembly of the ammo racks; depending on how you want to display the tank you may not need to bother with all the PE disks for the ammunition. The place where part J8 should be placed is not marked on the hull.

Step 17-19 show the assembly of the back armor plate of the tank. The detail is pretty good, but I’m not sure the suggested sequence is correct. You have an option of using a PE mudguard; for this you need to remove the moulded-on plastic part. The instructions would have you attach all the small parts to the panel and then remove the plastic mudguards. Performing this surgery first, and then adding the protruding details might be a better way of doing it. I would also glue the panel to the hull before adding the smaller bits; the fit is tight, and it takes some fiddling to slot it in place. (I generally prefer finishing off the large assemblies first, and then add the details to minimize damage later on; this means I’ve installed this part when I was finished with the tub of the hull and before I installed the interior.)

Step 20 is the final assembly. The top of the hull does not fit perfectly to the bottom which necessitated some sanding on the sides of the lower hull to achieve a good fit. As mentioned at step 1, the turret ring on the hull is perfectly circular; there are no notches that would allow the turret to lock onto the hull. This may be annoying to some, but I think it’s actually a good thing: it allows you to display the tank with the turret off, without having to make those notches disappear. It also means that nothing keeps the turret in place if you don’t glue or magnetize it.

 

Once the assembly was done I’ve chosen a hypothetical (and funky looking) camo pattern; I did not like the plain dunkelgelb suggested by the assembly. I tried to make weathering as realistic as possible: as usual I applied some filters to “unify” the colors, and after washes, I painted paint-chips, scratches and rust streaks onto the tank. The streaks were done in several layers in several colors: from blackish to rust, representing dirt, dust and rust streaks. As a final step I dabbed some pigments on the horizontal surfaces to simulate dust.

Overall the detail is good, the subject is great (depending on your preferences, of course), and the interior is a very welcome bonus. What really lets the model down is the instructions; as I pointed it out several times they are not very good at certain steps, and at others they are flat out wrong. This is not a deal-breaker; especially if are aware of the weak areas. The model, as I mentioned, was improved from an all-plastic version. The design of the “base” pieces, the several extra parts, and the somewhat mangled instructions all seem to point to this direction. There is nothing wrong with improving existing models; I just wish the instructions were improved to the same level as the model itself was. It is certainly not a bad model by any measures I have to add; in fact I quite like it, and I’m really looking forward to building the T-80 I have in my stash -and the T-72 with interior still to be issued.

Conclusion

To sum up: what can you use this model for? As I mentioned it a couple of times already, if you just build it out of the box, most of the interior detail will not be visible. In this case you are better off ordering the non-interior version. (This is a very good idea MiniArt seems to be adopting, too: a budget version for most people, and a “premium” version with interior for the more unhallowed model builders.)

The interior version is a very good option if you plan to build a damaged tank, or a tank under repair. For these purposes this model offers an incredible deal, since it is relatively inexpensive, and has enough detail to showcase it with the turret lifted off with a crane. If you want to add more detail, you can use the Tiger II as a guide and either scratchbuild the missing detail, or adopt one of the aftermarket resin interior sets available for the Tiger I. I think Modelcollect could have gone a bit further with detail even if it means an increase of price: after all, there is a cheaper alternative available, and this was always going to be a niche product, so why not go all the way? Regardless if would like to build something special; this is definitely a good model to grab.

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

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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.

1/35 Meng Renault FT-17 part 3.

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Please find part one and two here.

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

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

Quote:

The next step was to apply dust. Dust and mud are the two things I’m not really good with, so this part I put off as long as I could. I settled for AK’s dust products, and mixed my own mud.

AK’s dust comes as a suspension; when you apply it, it goes on thick, and the results are not very pleasing. At least this is what I thought at first. As with everything I realized the secret is not adding stuff to the model, but removing it after. I diluted some of the mixture in white spirit, dabbed it onto the tank, waited some time, and then using a wet brush I removed most of the dust, spreading it around, adjusting it. The key is to be patient: you can always repeat the procedure (in fact, you should), if there’s not enough added. Adding less is always  preferable to adding more.

One the dust was dry, I went on mudding up the lower chassis.

What I failed to realize for a long time is that it’s not enough to buy a product called “mud”, and them smear it onto the tank; just as you can’t just cover a tank with a paint labelled “rust”, and expect realistic results. Obviously the results will be sub-optimal; there are really no shortcuts in mud. (I feel this sentence carries some deeper, more profound meaning.) Even if you buy custom-made products you still have to learn how to apply them, and that’s that. And since you need to learn it anyhow, you might as well save some money and make your own mud.

The first layer was simple pigments suspended with water. I dabbed it on, then after it was mostly dry, removed some using a brush. A day later the procedure was repeated with a different color. The key here is layers; just like Shrek, mud has layers, too. Old mud tends to be dryer and lighter; newer deposits tend to be thicker, darker and placed lower. I dabbed the pigment-water mixture all over the lower chassis, the side-skirts, even on the top of the mudguards (in a much more diluted form).

I also splattered some using a loaded brush and a toothpick onto the side-skirts; any splatters that were out of place (on the side of the turret, for example) was removed with a wet brush using downward motions, leaving a very faint streak behind. I’ve also used Vallejo’s mud product on the side-skirts; it produces quite dark splatters which are quite different from how it looks like on the photo on the bottle.

A day or two later I decided to try something I’ve never done: I made thick mud. I used Mig’s Neutral Wash as a base. I got this as part of a set, and frankly I can’t really find any use for it; it’s too grey to be a “normal” wash. If you know how to use it, please let me know.

It did serve as a good medium, though. I mixed in a lot of brown pigments of different shades, some sand and some static grass, and then offering my soul to the gods of model building, I proceeded to apply the mixture to the lower chassis.

The method was the same application/removal as before; with a brush dampened with white spirit I adjusted the amount of mud on the wheels and chassis. I also added some on the mudguards (and sprinkled some on). The results are actually quite spectacular; I did not dare to hope for such a nice effect.

Once the mud dried (I gave it a week), I used my graphite pencil to give some metallic shine to the edges. The exhaust was treated with different rust colored pigments and brown washes.

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tamiya T-55A and the whole nine yards part 6.

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This is the last part of the building of the T-55. Just in time for the MiniArt T-55A with full interior to come out, but to be honest I don’t really mind; I’ve been collecting parts for this build for a long time -it does have a sentimental value for me…

Previous entries:

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

As with all builds, I’ve learned a lot from my mistakes; and I finally know what those things sticking out of the back of the turret are. Which is nice.

 

The last time we left off the tank was mostly finished; the filters I wanted to apply were on, pin washes finished, and everything was ready for the weathering. Before I started I added some decals, though. The markings are fictional; I’ve printed out some Hungarian markings and used a number from the MiniArt T-44 set; the only thing that is not fictional about the tank is that the AM version was in service of the Hungarian armed forces. I know purists will be horrified, but I just did not have the energy to do hours of research to find one particular tank to model. (Ironically I have an amazing book on the history of the Hungarian Armoured Forces – two thousand miles from here…)

I also needed to paint a couple of details, such as the canvas cover for the gun mantlet, but mostly the tank was done.

The next step was to apply dust. Dust and mud are the two things I’m not really good with, so this part I put off as long as I could. I settled for AK’s dust products, and mixed my own mud.

AK’s dust comes as a suspension; when you apply it, it goes on thick, and the results are not very pleasing. At least this is what I thought at first. As with everything I realized the secret is not adding stuff to the model, but removing it after. I diluted some of the mixture in white spirit, dabbed it onto the tank, waited some time, and then using a wet brush I removed most of the dust, spreading it around, adjusting it. The key is to be patient: you can always repeat the procedure (in fact, you should), if there’s not enough added. Adding less is always  preferable to adding more.

One the dust was dry, I went on mudding up the lower chassis.

What I failed to realize for a long time is that it’s not enough to buy a product called “mud”, and them smear it onto the tank; just as you can’t just cover a tank with a paint labelled “rust”, and expect realistic results. Obviously the results will be sub-optimal; there are really no shortcuts in mud. (I feel this sentence carries some deeper, more profound meaning.) Even if you buy custom-made products you still have to learn how to apply them, and that’s that. And since you need to learn it anyhow, you might as well save some money and make your own mud.

The first layer was simple pigments suspended with water. I dabbed it on, then after it was mostly dry, removed some using a brush. A day later the procedure was repeated with a different color. The key here is layers; just like Shrek, mud has layers, too. Old mud tends to be dryer and lighter; newer deposits tend to be thicker, darker and placed lower. I dabbed the pigment-water mixture all over the lower chassis, the side-skirts, even on the top of the mudguards (in a much more diluted form).

I also splattered some using a loaded brush and a toothpick onto the side-skirts; any splatters that were out of place (on the side of the turret, for example) was removed with a wet brush using downward motions, leaving a very faint streak behind. I’ve also used Vallejo’s mud product on the side-skirts; it produces quite dark splatters which are quite different from how it looks like on the photo on the bottle.

A day or two later I decided to try something I’ve never done: I made thick mud. I used Mig’s Neutral Wash as a base. I got this as part of a set, and frankly I can’t really find any use for it; it’s too grey to be a “normal” wash. If you know how to use it, please let me know.

It did serve as a good medium, though. I mixed in a lot of brown pigments of different shades, some sand and some static grass, and then offering my soul to the gods of model building, I proceeded to apply the mixture to the lower chassis.

The method was the same application/removal as before; with a brush dampened with white spirit I adjusted the amount of mud on the wheels and chassis. I also added some on the mudguards (and sprinkled some on). The results are actually quite spectacular; I did not dare to hope for such a nice effect.

Once the mud dried (I gave it a week), I used my graphite pencil to give some metallic shine to the edges. I used some black pigments on the side-skirts directly next to the exhaust, and applied some oil stains. Again; I just used AK’s and Vallejo’s products slightly diluted. I made bigger, more dilute patches, and once these dried, added smaller patches on top of them with oil products slightly less diluted.

The external fuel tanks on the back were given some diesel stains. (I admit I did not scratch build the piping that would allow the tank to use these external tanks. I did make the pipes for the smaller external tanks if it’s any consolidation, though.)

That’s pretty much it. I finally have a T-55AM with full(ish) interior. It was a pretty long (and expensive) undertaking. To be honest I can’t recommend anyone doing the same- after all, there will be an all-plastic alternative available by MiniArt soon, with a much better detail than the CMK set. (A subject of a later set of posts…)

 

 

1/35 Meng Renault FT-17 part 2.

Please find part one here.

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

1/35 Meng Renault FT-17 part 1.

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Tamiya T-55A and the whole nine yards part 5.

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Please find the first, second, third and fourth part here.

I used German Grey primer by Vallejo to create a good, sturdy surface for the subsequent layers of paint. I used to use spray cans as the application is quick, but it’s also somewhat risky. (You can easily flood the model with paint.) Setting up the airbrush and the fume extractor (paintbooth) is time consuming, but I think overall it’s a better alternative. This particular primer is pretty easy to use, too, as it does not require any dilution; it can be sprayed straight out of the bottle. I sprayed the lower sections of the anti-HEAT rubber sideskirts separately.

Once the primer dried, I sprayed rough patches of different rust colors, making sure the rubber side-skirts remain dark grey/black (with the scale effect I found dark grey looks better than full-on jet black).

I assembled the tracks using a very thin liquid glue. I normally glue two links together, and then join up these sections into larger and larger sets of links. The glue allows for relatively long time to work the tracks, so it’s relatively simple to push them around the drive wheels and idlers after 30-40 minutes of drying time. (I almost switched the drive wheels and idlers; I’ve built too many German tanks lately I guess.)

The tracks were painted with the same primer, rubbed using a metallic pigment to give them a nice, steel shine. I also applied some rust colored washes (relatively bright orange to dark brown) at this stage. (The dust will be added later.)

I went over the model using OD green from Tamiya on the lower chassis and road-wheels. This is a dark, an almost grey-green color; this color represents the darker areas covered by shadows. I painted the rubber rims with a dark grey color. This was layered with different dust and mud colors, pigments and other weathering techniques simulating dust and caked-on mud. I tried Tamiya’s dust and mud weathering sticks as well. I pushed the stick onto the surface, and used a wet brush to spread the paste around; it’s actually pretty easy method yielding realistic results.

I installed the tracks, and glued the rubber side-skirts into place.

I added AK’s Chipped effects in two layers, and waited again for things to dry. It took about an hour or so, and then I painted the tank with the same OD Green as I applied to the lower chassis.

I kept adding tan and yellow to the base color, and kept layering it onto the tank from the top of the tank; I wanted to lighten up mostly the surfaces that are illuminated by the sun (and which are normally more faded, anyhow). Adding yellow to the base green yielded a pretty nice Russian green, leaving the original color in the recesses.

I waited about thirty minutes for the paint to dry, and started to create the worn-off, chipped paint effect using a wet, stiff brush. I applied some water onto a small section, waited a bit, and used the stiff brush to wear off some of the top layer. (Sometime I managed to rub the paint off to the resin; these sections were retouched with primer.)
The chips on the rubber parts revealed a dark grey color, corresponding to the rubber; chipping on the rest of the tank showed different hues of dark brown representing rusted metal.

Once I was happy with the amount of paint chips, I waited for the tank to dry.

True Earth has a couple of filters in their product lines; I bought them a while ago, but had no luck with them so far. (I did work out you needed a very flat surface to apply it; the surface tension tends to pull the filter into droplets.) I sprayed some dark aging and light aging filters on some selected areas without diluting the product: around the turret, on the lower part of the turret, on the bottom of the tank; the effect is not as smooth as I wished it to be, but it does produce an interesting discoloration here and there. Not what I was going for (I was lead to believe applied it would look more like a darkened patch paint with a smooth transition), but a good one nevertheless. (It’s just one of those things: a product that promises easy and spectacular results turns out to be not so easy to use after all. The thing is if you need to have a learning curve to use something to make your job easier, it does not necessarily fulfil its promise.)

I applied traditional dark brown oil filters on the bottom part (with the side-skirts), and a light brown filter on the top. Another filter, bright yellow this time was applied on the top surfaces only. The tank was given some time to dry (a couple of days) and then I tried something I wanted to try for a long time: Tamiya transparent paint as filter. I used green on the bottom parts, which were supposed to be darker, and yellow on the top again.

After two days of letting the tank dry I sealed everything with a coat of gloss varnish, which was followed by a dark enamel pinwash.

The overall effect is quite nice; I managed to get that yellowish-brownish green I was going for.

The tank is now looking like an actual vehicle…

Tamiya T-55A and the whole nine yards part 4.

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Please find the first, second  and third part here.

To be honest this approach of aftermarket bonanza is going to the way of the dinosaurs. MiniArt has just announced a T-55A with full interior.

Finally finished with most of the build. Getting closer to the end… Smaller jobs are finished. I did the back of the turret as best as I could. I zoomed into the box art photos of the Miniarm set, and tried to figure out what goes where. Somewhat unsuccessfully, since the instructions are frankly quite bad, too. (The PE parts are not numbered correctly for one. As mentioned the reference photos are bad, too…) The extra magazines for the machine gun mounted on the back had some hiccups. First of all I only had five in my set, not six. Second the PE straps that should have been going around them were short. What I did was simply cutting the straps in the middle, and attaching them to the front first. I added the handgrabs, and the wires to the smoke candles – soldering wire is incredibly useful for these tasks.

Well, I did the best I could -and had patience for; this will have to suffice.

I also attached the mounting points for the anti-HEAT sideskirts. Many tanks were not equipped with it, but since they are there, I might as well use them. I started with the middle section on the left side, as it has a special shape (due to the exhaust port), and used it as a reference point for the rest. The back unit is shorter than it should be, and the front overhangs a bit; somewhat annoying but easy to solve with a blade. (I simply fitted the cut off piece from the front to the back.) I’ll leave the side-skirts off for the time being; they will be attached once the main color is applied.

Tamiya wants you to make your own towing cables; it certainly makes more sense than MiniArt’s optimistic approach of prividing them as straight plastic parts. I normally use picture hanging wires for this role; it’s very life-like, and behaves like cable.

I snapped a couple of photos using my phone (hence the quality), and called it finished.

 

 

So this is where I am right now. The tank needs a base coat, and then painting can commence.

Keep tuned in…

Tamiya T-55A and the whole nine yards part 3.

Please find the first and second part here.

And the build goes on…

Interior

After some finishing touches to the interior, I closed the turret down. It really bothers me that I could not find a good reference for the AM version; I suspect there are a lot of screens and other digital equipment added to the standards layout.  Regardless now it looks like I’m making progress: the tank looks like a tank now. (With no gun barrel in this case.) One real complaint I have about the CMK set is that it provides no ammunition.

I’ve removed the external fuel tanks and reattached them with green stuff, as they did not sit level before. Now they look good. I will do the fuel lines a bit later on; I will use Legend’s photos as reference. (It feels somewhat like cheating, but there you go.)

Exterior

I’ve added the Eduart engine deck grilles; they really do make the model stand out. It is kind of a shame to cover all that nice, shiny brass with paint.

The road wheels were also installed. Over the years, and through the long way this model travelled with me, the poly caps somehow went missing; this made installing the wheels somewhat of a challenge. I overstepped the problems simply by sticking a small amount of green stuff into the cavity where the poly caps should have gone, and glued the wheels in place; once the green stuff set, the wheels were absolutely solidly fixed in place. As I mentioned in part 2 I’m using a Trumpeter individual track set; since the AM version had at least three different types of tracks mounted over the year I’m not too fussed about the exact type. (And now I can look forward to a tornado of incoming angry comments.)

Problems with the Miniarm set

Building the Miniarm conversion I found it out to my great annoyance that the photo of the set on the box (and the advertisement) may contain a resin machine gun, but the set itself does not contain it. After reading the fine print I now understand that this photo shows of several sets on one model, but I find the inclusion of them on the cover quite misleading. (Kind of like the Armory T-72 conversion’s case where the armored shield was not included with the set.)

I guess I’ll stick to the original Tamiya gun (which is not half bad, actually); there is no way in hell I’ll buy another set for this build. It’s getting a bit expensive, even without Fruil tracks. (I’m using someone’s unused Trumpeter individual tracklinks.)

As a side-note: comparing the Tamiya MG to the MiniArt and Trumpeter versions of similar AA heavy machine guns, the MiniArt gun wins when it comes to detail, but the Tamiya is much simpler to assemble. The Trumpeter offering is somewhere in between, but pretty impressive when it comes to detail. (And it’s a different heavy machine gun, to be fair. We’re talking about detail and ease of assembly here.) Different philosophies I guess; I think on the long run the MiniArt version is better as it does look better, but when you’re getting short on patience during a complex and difficult build (which is entirely self-imposed in this case), the Tamiya gun is a bliss. I’ll have to get an ammunition belt though, as Tamiya does not supply it.

There are other inaccuracies as well: some of the smoke candles are already discharged on the cover photo, but you only get the full ones; and the gun barrel is different. Apart from the thermal jacket issue (mentioned below in great detail), the stock photos for the set show the resin piece at the end of the gun barrel to have interior rifling -which mine does not have. To be fair the gun is capable firing an anti-tank missile (which, amusingly, costs about half of what the tank itself costs), and if I’m not mistaken the gun is actually smooth-bore. Two storage boxes only have two sides each; not sure what Miniarm was thinking when they designed them. They literally miss two sides; if you really look close, you can see under them. At this point I just ignored the issue; it would be relatively simple to fabricate the missing sides, but I only had a single damn to give, and damn is gone now. (You can see the missing sides on the photos below.)

Another contentious issue with the Miniarm set is that the instructions are horrible. There are two parts to this. The first is that in many cases the small, photocopied photographs show nothing of how the parts should be placed. You kind of see where they go, but nothing else. I found myself using google to see if I can find reference photos of the set itself to help me with it.

The second problem is that the instructions are incomplete. The back of the turret is quite busy, but you don’t really get an explanation how to use the set to build it up. It’s not very clear how to assemble the holding braces for the AA machine gun for example. I also have a bunch of unused resin parts which don’t seem to be doing anything; I do not know where they are supposed to be going. This does annoy me because I paid for them; I’d like to know how to use them. Even when something is in the instructions, sometimes it does not tell you where to put the finished artifact. In step 2-4 you are instructed to produce a part from multiple small PE pieces, but then it does not tell you what to do with it. I realized long time into the build that it’s actually supposed to be on the right side of the back of the turret. (Walkaround photos…) Also the PE frame of the gunner’s sight is simply missing. It’s there on the photos, but the instructions are quite confusing, and instruct you to cut p23 to size and glue it to the side; p23 looks nothing like the picture, and in any case, it’s shorter than required. It’s also bent, so you can’t really fit it to the straight surface.

The saga of the gun barrel

I started to work on the gun barrel. Interestingly the gun barrel on the cover photo looks absolutely different from what you get in the kit; I find this quite odd, to be honest. There must have been different versions of the T-55AM with and without thermal jacket, but I still find it curious that you get something different than that is advertised on the box cover. (I don’t even mention the fact that the photo had a brass/copper barrel, while you get an ugly aluminum one.)

I was quite wary of this stage of the build; the thermal jacket on the barrel is made out of very tiny resin parts. Especially the tie-downs are horrid: you have wrap each end of the PE tie-downs around a thin, 1.5mm long wire, and connect the two ends with a similarly short piece of wire.

I made a huge mistake and did not anneal the PE with heat before starting to work with it; it was quite difficult to wrap them around the barrel.

I started with a relatively long piece of plastic rod (and in retrospect, a thick one), glued across multiple tie-downs; once the PE set, I wrapped them around the plastic one by one. It’s not a simple process, and unfortunately the CA glue did pile up around the tiny details.

Looking at the reference photos, though, you can’t fail to notice that no matter how thick the wire you use, it will look out-of scale on the model. (Too bad I found these photos after doing most of the work already.)

These pieces of wire are meant to be the bolts holding the tie-downs in place; and they are quite small in real life. Just look at this reference photo from an AM gun barrel’s advertisement:

mm3514-4t

Looking at these photos I had one option: I cut the plastic off, and simply used the PE straps by themselves. To be honest the straps on the real gun blend in so much I could probably get away with not using them at all. (My preferred option, but I like pain, so I went with trying to glue the straps on.) This is something that’s not the set’s fault: it’s a technically quite challenging part of the build. (To make the straps themselves more to scale, it would be best to simply use strips cut from aluminium foil; even the PE is too thick for it.)

The PE ridges along the top of the gun barrel are oversized compared to the real thing. Hopefully it will not be very noticeable; the gun barrel has re-formed slits where these need to be inserted, which might hide most of their width.

Trying the gun in the resin mantlet I could not help but notice that the fit is far from snug – there will be considerable amount of filler needed to hide the gaps. It also means I’ll need something more sturdy than CA to fix it in place. (I used the good ole’ green stuff; it fixes the gun into place, and acts as a filler at the same time.)

Miniarm does offer PE lightguards, but to be honest they are difficult to assemble (and require extra wire to add), and look quite unconvincing. These guards were made of about 1.5cm thick metal rods; PE looks quite flat compared to them. (Not to mention it looks weird to mix wire with PE when all components should really look the same.) I just used the Tamiya plastic parts; they are surprisingly good.

All these complaints about the Miniarm conversion by no means are deal-breakers, but they do temper my enthusiasm about it. The detail is impressive, the resin and PE are well designed, and good quality, but I think it’s better just to get the damned Takom kit and be done with it.

Finishing touches

I’ve added all the other bits and bobs to the hull and the turret: the searchlights, various ammo boxes, handholds, wires, etc. Presently I’m looking at walkaround photos and the Takom instructions to figure out how to finish the back of the turret.

I should have finished the tracks before adding the top of the hull; this is the next big step now. The AM version had side-skirts protecting the tracks and the sides of the hull; before I add them I’ll need to install the tracks and paint the lower hull. (Which means I’ll have to learn how to use my Aztek airbrush first.) Once that is done, I can finish the sideskirts (a very daunting prospect since I can’t really make sense of the instructions at this time), and then I can at last paint this beast and be done with it.