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1/72 M56 Scorpion – OKB Grigorov

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I’ve written an in-box review of this model for Armorama; I think it’s time to show how it looks when finished.

The M56 Scorpion was an attempt to supply a gun platform for the US airborne forces that can be easily transported by airplanes, and can be deployed using an air-drop. This requirement pretty much made it impossible for the vehicle to be armored, so it is essentially a gigantic 90mm M54 gun on a dodgem chassis. Crew comfort (and safety) also took second place to the size requirements that came with the airborne deployment option.

The M56 was developed and manufactured by the Cadillac Motor Car Division of GM from 1953 to 1959. It was a small, fully tracked vehicle, powered by a 200 hp engine with a maximum road speed of 45 km/h. It had a crew of four: commander, driver, loader, gunner. The ergonomics of the vehicle were, let’s put it lightly, not very good. The loader had to disembark before the gun fired, and jump back holding the ammunition. The gun recoil also endangered the commander. The only part that can be considered armor on the vehicle is the gun shield, which has a large windscreen cut into for the driver negating its effectiveness somewhat; the rest of the self-propelled gun is about as armored as my Nissan Micra. (Another thing that it has in common with my Micra is that it has pneumatic tires…)

The M56 was in service in the USA, Spain, Morocco, and the Republic of Korea. It was used in Vietnam by the 173rd Airborne Brigade.

There are not many models available of this little AFV; I’ve found a very expensive resin one in 1/35th scale by Hobby Fan, and there’s an old OOP (and quite inaccurate) Revell kit; other than that there’s the 1/72nd scale OKB kit reviewed here. As usual, World of Tanks introduced me to this vehicle, where it is a premium American tank destroyer; and since I liked the way it looked (and have it in my garage) I was really anxious to get a model of it.

 

Considering the size of this vehicle the number of parts (especially the amount of PE) is quite high. The model is made up by approximately 70 resin pieces and about 70 PE parts… all this is in a model that can almost fit into a matchbox.

The resin is smooth, and of different color. The detail is crisp, and the fit is quite good generally. The PE frets are the thinnest I’ve ever seen. (It’s quite easy to crumple them, so be careful; it feels like a thick aluminium foil rather than photo-etched brass.) The tracks come as resin sections which need to be warmed up before shaped to the running gear. The detail is excellent, and there is very little flash anywhere.

 

The instructions are computer generated, and frankly, not very helpful. They show different views of the assembled model, but unfortunately do not instruct on actually how to put the model together. Before gluing make sure you understand how the parts should be fitting; I did make a couple of mistakes during assembly.

The exhausts for the engine seem to be shorter; there should be a section that is turning down at a right angle from the end of the exhaust pipes.

First mistake I made was to wait with the mud guard until I finished with the running gear.

If you decide to give this kit a go, make sure you glue the mudguard onto the hull first. The simple reason is that the PE covers the whole side with cutouts for the suspension units. These holes are way too tight to slide it over the suspension if it’s already in place. I had to widen these holes considerably in order to be able to fit the mudguards into place.

The other big issue for me was the suspension arms. They look very similar, but the front and rear suspension are not identical. I accidentally mixed up on one side, and hence the wheels are a bit wonky.

Other than that, most of the model went together OK. I had to make the headlight protectors out of thin wire (I normally use soldering wire as it’s quite soft). The tracks were somewhat thick and rigid, but with a lot of patience (and hot water) they did go on eventually. The hole on the gun shield has a plexi protector for the driver; I left it completely empty, since any transparent acetate sheet would look foggy and thick in this scale. (I would need something that’s about 0.2-0.3mm thick.)

I’m not sure that the back platform is depicted as open or closed up; probably closed up due to the 2 PE rails sticking out of them. (If it’s folded down, it should be longer; if it’s folded up, it should have some extra bits for the mechanism that keeps it straight in a folded -off state.) I also noticed a bit late that the loader’s seat was left off… my mistake.

The model went through multiple rounds of priming, as usual. These coats were applied more for checking for mistakes and seams rather than to provide a base coat for the paint, and was applied using a spray-can. The model was ready (I left the gun detached for easier painting), I added a final coat, and then applied Tamiya Olive Drab lightened with some Tan. (The first two photos of the painted model show the color to be a bit too greenish, flat and dull.)
A bit of yellow and ochre filter later the green became quite nice with some brownish hues. I could not find any decals that were small enough to fit onto the model, so it remained un-marked. I used Tamiya’s weathering kit (the makeup set) to apply dust and mud to the vehicle, a silver pen around the edges, to give it a metallic shine, and called it a day.

 

Altogether, the model was a pretty pleasant build -except for the little issues I mentioned. It is certainly quite pricey, as all OKB kits are, but, just like in the case of the Batchat, you really have no other options. Overall I’m pretty satisfied with the results; it is a well recommended model of a very rare subject.

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Painting lights and lamps using Citadel Technical paints

This post is just a short summary of what I’ve learned using Cidtadel’s Technical paints. These paints are marketed for painting gemstones. (There’s also a traditional way if you’re interested.)

 

Anyhow; aside from painting gemstones (which I will do as I paint the odd WH40k figure here and there), I was interested in how these paints function for lamps and warning lights. I’ve used the SU-122‘s interior light and the Electric Mule‘s warning light to test them.

Interior lights

I’ve simply painted the base of the transparent light fixture with silver, and applied the Citadel paint on the top of the light. The paint flowed around the raised details depicting the protective wires, so I did not have to paint them separately, and also gave a nice, blue glass finish. It’s a perfectly good way to stain transparent light fixtures if the surface is not too large. Even with dedicated, transparent paints it’s a pain to achieve uniform coverage, so don’t expect perfectly even finish on large transparent parts. Since the depth of color of any glass object (such as a headlight lens) depends on the thickness, this uneven coverage actually produces quite a realistic effect.

 

Warning lights

In this instance I’ve used a yellow base color with the red technical paint applied. The effect, again, is pretty good, since the yellow + red gives a nice, uneven orange, which looks quite realistic as a translucent warning light.

 

In short: if you have these paints lying around, they are perfectly good for colored glass lenses, screens and warning lights. I’m sure Tamiya’s and other manufacturers’ transparent paints do the job similarly well, though.

Milicast Bergepanther Ausf A (final production) 1/76 review

headerI’ve known about Milicast since, well, forever. (Or at least as far as 2005.) I remember finding their website, and looking at the wide selection of interesting models thinking I’d never be able to afford the prices and the shipping to the US.

Well, this has changed; I moved to the UK, and I do have a slightly better salary (which is balanced by living in London…). Anyhow, I’ve ordered the Bergepanther as something I always wanted to try from them. (They even have an M3 Lee with interior. In 1/76.)

 

I’ve written about the model and the issues I encountered during the assembly in my review on Armorama; if you’re interested, I’d refer you to there. Here let’s concentrate on the assembly and the photos…

The complete hull is given as one, hollow part. It has all the running gear, tracks already attached; the middle is empty, where the interior (driver’s compartment, winch assembly) needs to be placed from under. There was a considerable gap left between the sides of the hull and the interior insert. Also, another issue was that the bottom of this part needed to be trimmed so that it did not stick out from under the vehicle.

The basic assembly is actually quite easy and fast. I went around the building and painting steps in an unorthodox sequence: first assembled, painted and weathered the hull, then added the interior.

Most of the winch assembly is a single piece, with some impressive detail; it’s a shame most of it is hidden once the tank is completed.

I added most of the larger details to the hull (with some of the more fragile ones left out), and did the painting and weathering. The tank was primed with red-oxide, sealed with dullcote, and applied a chipping medium by AK Interactive. I used Mig Ammo’s Dunkelgelb, and did a moderate amount of chipping using a stiff, wet brush. Since engineering vehicles undergo some serious strain, and they also tend to last longer than front line tanks, I was not worried about overdoing the effect. (This is a constant dilemma of mine; real tanks are not as rusty and worn as we depict them; absolute realism, however would make quite boring paintjobs.)

Once I was satisfied with the level of wear-and-tear, I sealed the paint, and followed with several brown filters. I also used Vallejo’s oil stain weathering product on the engine deck, and several light brown pigments on the sides and top to depict dust. The lower part of the hull and the running gear received a generous amount of mud (prepared from pigments mixed with turpentine) in several layers and colors; the last step was to rub some metallic pigments onto the tip of the dozer blade/spade. Since this is an engineering vehicle I wanted to make it properly dirty and oily. (The small scale makes it easy to overdo, though.)

Only after all the weathering was done did I glue the interior in, and chipped the bottom away a bit with a scalpel so that it did not stick out from under the tank. (It was quite thick, and could be easily seen if viewed from the front or back.)

I think completing the hull before installing the interior and small, fragile parts worked out overall, but I did run into some difficulties of my own making. It was also a bit more tedious to add the exhaust ports after the dozer blade/spade was installed, for example, and I already mentioned the gap issues, so plan ahead with the build. It would probably be easier to glue the insert in, fill the gaps, paint, and then start weathering of the interior, followed by the painting and weathering of the hull.

Once most everything was finished, I continued with the raised frame and wooden planks around the winch assembly. Since most of the engineering vehicles were converted from broken down Panthers, I used primer red on the metal parts- this particular Bergepanther was not given an overall paint coat after assembly. To decrease the stark contrast between the red of the metal and the rest of the tank I’ve used Tamiya’s Model Master set (the one that looks like a makeup set) to add different dust and sand colored pigments; this is a quick and easy way to do weathering. The wooden sidewalls were painted Tamiya deck tan, and I used burned umber oil washes to make it look like wood- the texture is really nicely done. There are wooden planks covering the interior provided as well. I did not use them, as I wanted to display the winch; you may cut it up into separate planks, and just scatter them around the vehicle. There is also an optional armor plate/raincover (?) for the crew compartment but I also left it off.

One word of warning: when installing the frame around the winch, make sure that the side with the hole is facing backwards; this is where the cable from the winch goes through.

I have done most of the detail painting and weathering steps at this stage, leaving the fragile parts off until the last moment. The MG-34, the 2cm autocannon and the crane was added on the very last step.

The crane went together easier than I expected. I was prepared to display it folded up, and call it a day, to be honest. I was pleasantly surprised how easy the assembly was. The only bit I’m not satisfied with -which is my fault- is the slight angle the top chain has in the middle -obviously it should be ramrod-straight. If there is a small weight on the hook, the tension straightens it out, so I might actually find something to hang on it to make it look a bit more realistic. I assembled the crane in situ (in place), but it might be a better way to assemble vertical parts (two rods and the connecting chain forming a triangle) separately, laying flat on a surface first. There is a similar problem with the section of chain with the hook at the end: the resin hook is not heavy enough to pull the chain down. (I have a Revell Famo engine in my spares box; I’m thinking about installing it to deal with both of these issues.)

As the very last step I glued the wooden beam to the side of the tank (which I have forgotten about to be absolutely honest until I reviewed the photos).

Overall the kit was not as difficult to build as I thought it would be after looking at the instructions. It is a pretty good representation of the Bergepanther, and you can customize it to resemble several different variants easily. The scale is somewhat archaic (not many new 1/76 kits are being made as 1/72 has seem to have won the competition), and the model itself is quite old-school in its design, but this does not mean it’s not a good one. Anyone enjoying Braille scale resin kits will like this model.

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.

1/35 MiniArt T-54-1 build review p.4

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Part one

Part two

Part three

Well, the last part of the review has arrived… painting and weathering left.

I’ve glued the turret together using white glue; at this point I was not sure how I wanted to display the tank, but I did want to show the interior somehow.

The tank was primed using a grey primer, then used a mixture of sand yellow and tan (Tamiya) to cover the whole vehicle. I’ve used silly putty to mask the subsequent colors. Olive green (lightened with tan), and red-brown (again, with tan added) were applied.

At this point the tank looked very toy-like: the colors very flat and artificial. This is the point when panic is not the right emotion; filters, washes and the rest of the weathering steps will blend everything together, and create a (relatively) realistic finish.

So this is what I did.

First, several layers of dark yellow filters by AK. This was followed by True Earth’s Dark Aging product, applied by an airbrush. This is a water based filter-like product, and so far I have not been very successful using it: even on the flattest surface it forms little beads. I probably need to try to use some mild surfactant to break the surface tension up.

The unditching log was painted back, then drybrushed using tan, and finally I used some washes to make it more realistic; the result is pretty convincing I think.

This was followed by oil-dot filters using several different browns, yellows with some blue and white added.

Once done, I’ve pried the turret halves apart, and used some evergreen rods to mount the top. ( I could not decide how to cut the turret for a cutaway, so I settled with this solution.) I’ve attached the rest of the missing parts, and gave a nice coat of dust using my airbrush and some pigments.

With a couple of small issues (like the thick viewing port for the driver’s rain-protector), the model by MiniArt is really excellent.

(Reviewing the photos I just realized I forgot to add the windshield wipers…)

 

 

 

 

 

 

1/35 MiniArt T-54-1 build review p.3

The first part of the review

Second part.

Exterior

The engine deck consists of several subassemblies that form a somewhat complex set of hatches. The cooling flaps can be positioned open or closed, and they are protected by a very set of nice PE grilles.

I did not even bother to try to clean up the thin plastic rods (c1, c2) required for the engine deck; I simply used them as a template to fashion replacements from wire.

Smoke canisters are installed similarly to how the real thing was: the PE straps hold the tiny plastic rods that are fixing them to the back of the hull, along with the mechanism that allows to them to be released. The assembly is finicky, but pretty impressive.

The unditching log looks pretty convincing; normally I switch them for an actual wooden stick, but in this case I kept it. Primed it black, and then spent some time drybrushing Tamiya Tan on top. The whole thing was then painted with Agrax Earthsade by Citadel.

Mudguards

As mentioned the external fuel tanks are provided as two halves. They are typical WWII type ones, although they are somewhat narrower than the ones used on wartime tanks. They are held down by PE strips – when building make sure you do the fuel tanks first, and add the storage boxes after, because in several cases they obstruct the tie-down points for the straps. Another important piece of advice: do not install the fuel tank on the left back mudguard. The flap (C9) protecting the exhaust port should be fitted first. (In my case the fuel tank was placed too forward, which interfered with the correct placement of the flap… Annoying.)

The towing lines were provided as plastic parts; MiniArt is being very optimistic about the chances of being able to bend and fit them into their places. Better get some picture hanging wire, and use the plastic eyes of the cables only. Make sure you cut a wire half a centimeter longer than the plastic part; it’s too short otherwise.

The AA machine gun is a complex multimedia assembly of plastic and PE parts; normally I buy aftermarket barrels (or even resin guns) to replace this part, but in this case it’s perfectly suitable.

The turret interior is pretty busy; it’s actually not as tall as the T-44 turret, and have a lot of things crammed into it. The turret originally was cast as a two-part hemispherical shape with welded roof consisting of two rolled armor plates 30 mm thick. The model’s turret is designed the same way: it’s built up from two parts (top and bottom), and the roof plates are added separately. The roof plates are considerably thinner than the sides; I suspect they are all scale thickness.

The 10RT radio and the TPU-4-bis-O-26 telecom systems are placed on the commander’s side, and there is a ready rack on the back of the turret.

The gunner’s MK-4 periscopes, and the low profile commander’s cupola with three observation TPC-1 prisms are replicated very well.

The gun is a very delicate assembly, so once it’s finished care needs to be taken not to break the thin plastic parts off.The gun breech has a seam in the middle, which needs to be filled in; to be honest it will be very difficult to see in the model. The gunner’s sight and the coaxial machine guns are complex little models of their own; once they are glued on, they tend to break off easily… (An important point for further handling.)

I have primed the interior using a primer red color, sealed it with varnish, and used the hairspray chipping method on the top color (blue grey on the bottom of the hull and white everywhere else). To make the vehicle look used, and to decrease the contrast of the pure white with the chips, I mixed up a burnt umber filter, and applied it unevenly to create patches of darker and lighter discolorations, and some dark, almost black brown washes to bring out the finer details. Finally I used different shades of rust brown oil paints to create some discreet streaks. Some rust and dust colored pigments were used to add a little more depth to the weathering, and I used a silver pencil on the edges to make them look metallic.

The gun got a similar treatment, only the cover color was green, rather than white, and for obvious reasons I did not add any streaks to it.

Coming up- final instalment: finishing the tank.

1/35 MiniArt T-54-1 build review p.2

The first part of the review can be found here.

So the hull interior is reasonably finished, but I had to add bits and bobs (fire extinguishers, ammunition for the main gun and for the machine guns, etc.). Once I put the driver’s periscopes in place, I could close down the hull. The top part is really thin; I suspect it’s quite close to scale thickness.

 

Fitting the mudgards was not straightforward: the locator pins did not fit into the corresponding holes on the sides, so there was a tiny gap between the mudguards and the tank’s hull. I simply shaved the pins off. The plastic mudgards are quite thin, and the long parts had a slight bend; the solution was to glue them in place in two steps, straightening them out in the process.
The drive wheels have very small attachment points to the swing arms; since it’s a static model it’s not a real problem, but I still prefer a bit more robust connection.
The tracks are -correctly- narrower than what was used on the final production version of the T-54 (as a comparison I’ve used an individual track link from a Trumpeter kit on the photo). You need 90 per side (the resources I’ve read specified 91 for the actual tank), and you have an option to use a special link for every 20th track link. These links don’t have teeth, and are specially designed to mount the cleats that allow the tank to get better traction on snow or other difficult terrain. Unfortunately it’s not specified in the instruction, but that’s what you can use them for. (The instruction manual shows the cleats in a stored position on the mudguards.) The cleats in their storage position require some really thin plastic pins to hold them in place: first, the holes on the cleats are too narrow, second it’s almost impossible to clean these pins of the sprue gate… so I just used some thin evergreen plastic to replace them.
The headlight has an option to attach a protective wire cage around it; the plastic was very thin, and snapped the second I tried to remove it from the sprue, so I chose the other option.

 

Parallel to the work on the hull, I was working on the turret as well. As I mentioned I’ve been doing a lot of painting and weathering before ataching all the necessary parts, so only time will tell if they will stand out or not after all is said and done.

I have some serious decisions to make at this point. I would like to present the interior open somehow. Either I show the turret tilted up, with the gun being installed, or I simply make a “cutaway”. (I saw a photo on the T-54, T-55 group’s facebook page.)

The first version would be the most attractive solution, but the problem is I’ve installed everything already: ammunition, equipment, etc. A tank would be stripped out before the turret is lifted, so it would not be very realistic.
The second option would be to simply leave the top of the turret off- held up by a couple of plastic pegs, showing the interior off. (This way I don’t have to cut and saw into the plastic. With the King Tiger and other large tanks there are parts you can cut away easily; with the T-54 I would be taking a lot of detail away if I cut parts of the turret away. Since the driver’s position and the engine compartment are not very well detailed regrettably I will not cut into the hull, as there’s not much to display… But MiniArt has made the turret halves join up as they did in the original tank.

 

1/35 MiniArt T-54-1 build review p.1

Well, the long awaited MiniArt T-54-1 is here finally. I’m in the middle of several builds -somehow I ended up reviewing and building a lot of kits at the same time. Nevertheless this model got priority when it arrived, since it was something I really had an interest in.
I planned to build the Tamiya kit in my stash with the CMK interior set parallel, but until I can finish up the ones already started, I do not want to begin to work on new builds. Too bad, I guess. (I did start on the Tamiya last night, since I finished two out of three OKB kits, and the all Luchs as well -some left to be published at a later date.)

I would not start an essay on the tank itself; I’ll put it into my review to be sent to Armorama. I’ve used the references available on the T-54, T-55 research group on Facebook; I would like to thank everyone there for putting together such a comprehensive resource.

Short version of the review: the model looks really, really good. (I’m not trying to be a fanboy; it’s honestly a great kit.)

A slightly longer version:

Opening the box we are faced with a bewildering number of small sprues. MiniArt, as usual, followed its philosophy of modular kit design, which does help creating multiple versions of the same vehicle easily, however it does present a problem finding the sprues you need during building. Add to this the tendency of having to use several sprues during sub-assemblies, searching for sprues was a constant activity during the build. If you have the space it’s probably best to have them out and labelled visibly.

Fortunately there are only few of the notoriously thin plastic parts that are impossible to be cut off the sprue without breaking. One of the handholds for the turret was already broken in my sample, but I normally replace them with wire anyhow. It’s much easier than trying to clean up these extremely fragile and thin plastic parts.

The placement of the gates are sometimes a bit unfortunate: instead of having to clean off one edge, they sometime overhang, and this necessitate cleaning (cutting or sanding) two or three surfaces. This is especially notable in the case of the individual track links, where you will need to clean multiple sprue attachments from three faces (bottom, top, side) on all the track links… (I really, really like magic tracks, to be honest; they come pre-cut, ready to assemble. I have to confess: the assembly of tracks and the painting for ammunition are the two least favorite parts of model building for me, so anything that makes my job easier is welcome.)

The plastic is nice quality; soft enough and easy to work with. The detail is astonishing. From the texture of the turret to the casting numbers on the suspension units, everything just looks like a miniaturized version of the real thing. The torsion bar suspension is working, but I’m not sure how useful it is since the tracks will need to be glued together to make sure they are held in place. (The different panzer III variants by MiniArt had a workable track solution; it would have been nice to have this utilized on the T-54-1 as well.)

The interior followed the usual T-44 layout – that is to say it’s still closer to the T-44 than to the T-54 final version. The driver’s compartment sadly lacks a lot of instruments and whatnot… not that it’s going to be visible, but still. At least it’s there, unlike in the T-44 kits, so you have something to work with should you wish to improve the area. I have decided to use the rain cover for the driver’s hatch, which is something I’ve never seen before.

The turret interior, on the other hand, is really well done; most everything is in place.

I’ve left the engine unassembled for now- I’ve built a couple of these from the SU-122, SU-85, T-44, so I’ve decided to leave it out for now. I might finish it later and display it in front of the tank as I’ve done with the other kits. (There are differences between the V-34, V-44, V-54 engines, but they are not apparent immediately.)

The interior was painted and weathered the same way as I did with the T-44. In short: a dark brown basecoat with hairspray applied was oversprayed with Tamiya white for the sides and a grey-blue color for the bottom of the hull. A stiff brush and some water helped to create some moderate chipping I applied a light brown filter to make it more dirty and used. I’ve only added the smaller parts after I did the basic weathering; with the turret it might have been a mistake. (There are a lot of smaller bits that are white, and they might stand out if you paint and weather them separately. Time will tell.)

I tried to keep weathering restrained; after all the amount of chipping and rusting was normally minimal while the vehicles were operational. Maintenance does take care of these things normally.

The ammunition was painted using Vallejo’s new acrylic gold paint; the results are pretty good. I did not bother painting the tips for the ones that were placed into the rack. I’ve used photos for reference found in this website for painting.

The mudguards were finished separately before attaching them to the hull. One thing to keep in mind: do the PE straps first, and then add the toolboxes. I glued the boxes in first… In some cases the boxes were in the way, and it made attaching the straps difficult.

The AA machine gun is a pretty complex assembly, but the detail is really great. Cleaning up the sprue attachment points on the barrel is not easy, but possible. (There are aftermarket barrels available, but it would be a shame to throw the plastic out; it is very well detailed.)

The engine deck features some of those notoriously thin and fragile plastic rods MiniArt loves to include with their kits. I did not even attempt to cut them off the sprue; it was easier to fabricate similar parts from wire, and use those. (Added benefit: you cannot glue them accidentally to the plastic mounts, since the plastic glue does not work on metal.

The smoke canisters, as I said, were moulded as one piece, and the PE/plastic contraption that holds them in place are kind of fiddly to assemble. (The mechanism that allows ejecting them is modelled in great detail… sometimes I feel less is more.)

The model is certainly complex, and it’s easy to burn out; especially if you work on a review. What I did was to pace myself: once the larger assemblies (turret interior, mudguards, hull interior) was done, I just kept coming back to the model to add the smaller details a few at a time. I did the machine gun one night, “dressed up” the engine deck the next- it’s easier to make progress one step at a time.

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.

Plus Models C4-32 (C-432) Electric Mule 1/35

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 AM companies are great at finding the gaps in the modelling world; and this vehicle was definitely something that has not been covered by anyone yet (to my knowledge). The C4-32 mule (which was designated as C-432 in reality) is a hardy little veteran of the US Army, but it has avoided the limelight so far. Even though the vehicle flew under the radar so to speak, and there are no webpages dedicated to it (it did not even get a nickname like “Yellow Tiger” or “Electric Lightning”), it was widely used by the US Armed Forces, and this makes it to be a very eye-catching little detail in any diorama that depict hangars, warehouses in military or in civilian use. (In this respect I would consider this model a diorama accessory rather than a scale model.)

So here is the Mule in all its glory:

(Yeah, it looks kind of silly.)
 

What’s in the box?

 The kit comes in a small box, usual to plus model, with a photo of the assembled model on the front. The model is placed in a Ziploc bag; some parts were already detached from the pouring block, and the handle for the driver was broken. There is a small PE fret, a decal sheet, and instructions included.

The resin is good quality and easy to work with. The detail is excellent in general. There is not much flash to clean up, but some care will be needed when detaching parts from the block. The parts are numbered on the pouring blocks, which is very helpful during the building process.

There are a couple of PE parts included; mostly for the drivetrain of the cart, and the logo for the company that produced it. Since I did not find much in the way of reference, so I have to assume the dimensions are correct.

The instructions are overall not bad, but there are a couple of minor issues. On step two the part number of the fork that holds the wheel is not written (12), as on step three the number for the logo for the front of the vehicle (part 3 on the PE fret).

The building

 The building took about two hours and it really did not pose much of a challenge. Some parts of the assembly are a bit fiddly, but not impossibly hard. The little pins holding the front wheels and the main suspension comes to mind, mostly. The rest of the build is straightforward. You can build two versions of the vehicle, both in US Army service; one version has extra protective bumpers in the front and around the back.

Painting

I’ve left off the seat and other parts which were black before starting on the yellow paint. I’ve painted the whole model rust brown as a base which was sealed with Dullcote, and used the hairspray technique to create a battered, well used look. (I think I might have gone overboard with the scratches…) The next layer was the hairspray, and then came a mixture of Tamiya’s yellow and orange paint (about 3:1 ratio). Once the paint was dry to the touch I used a toothpick to “nick” the paint for the scratches, and then a wet brush to “expand” these areas. On some places on the model I had to retouch with the brown paint as the paint came off completely. Once I was happy with the results, I sealed the model with Dullcote again, and attached the seat, the pedals and other small bits. Since I did not expect the vehicle to operate in a dusty, muddy environment, I did not add dirt. The headlights were first painted silver, then I used Citadel’s red technical paint on the back headlight – these paints allow for an easy way to simulate lenses and gems. (They are not as good as the painted gemstones in miniatures, but they’re perfect for headlights.) The orange caution light that sits on a pole received similar treatment, only the base color was yellow. The result is pretty nice, I have to say: the paint does give a sense of depth.

So that’s pretty much it. The build was enjoyable -and short-, and the model is smaller than most 1/72nd scale tanks I’ve built.