Tag Archives: World War II

Dnepromodel 1/35 Straussler V-4 part 2.

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First part

I mostly used acrylic paints and Vallejo weathering products because due to a small human cohabiting with us since the end of December, I need to limit the usage of stinky, dangerous stuff in the house. (I do make sure there is an appropriate separation, but one can never be too careful.)

 

I wanted to depict a brand new prototype after a long day out on the proving ground -so lots of mud, but not much rust and fading.

I used Vallejo’s primer to prime the model, and a mixture of Tamiya greens to give the base color. (I don’t really know of any accurate color reference charts of pre-war Hungarian colors, so it’s a free-for-all.) I used Tamiya’s transparent green and yellow as a first round of filters (wanted to see how they work ever since I’ve read about them a while ago).

 

I also used several of AK’s filters on various parts of the hull to create hue differences. I used different oil colors as well for filters (dot method), and blending -you can see the results on the back hatches especially. All this helped to create visually interesting differences in the otherwise uniform green finish.

 

Instead of turpentine or white spirit I use Zest It as a diluent; it’s still not ideal, but better health-wise.

I bought a bunch of Vallejo’s weathering products: industrial thick mud, dust and oily mud washes, mud splashes, etc. They have the undisputed advantage of being water-based, so I can use them without worry to anyone’s health. I used the mud as a base, and stained it with pigments and paints, applying them in layers, and washing them back a bit with a wet brush to adjust the effect. (There are several mud colors, but I only bought one because I’m cheap.) A Tamiya mud weathering stick added some more hues of mud. (Just dab on, and adjust with a wet brush.) I used a silver pencil to bring out the details on the tracks, and to highlight the edges of the superstructure.

 

Overall this is a nice model. It is by no means perfect, but the result does look good, it’s not overly difficult to build (this is my first 1/35 resin model), and it is quite an unorthodox little vehicle which is relatively unknown and has an unique look. I really enjoyed the build, and since the tank has an intriguing history I am quite happy to put it on my shelf.

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Dnepromodel 1/35 Straussler V-4 part 1.

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This is a very odd-looking tank from the interwar period, and it was the first (and only) original Hungarian tank design, the rest being either licence produced (or based on licences bought from other countries) or simply purchased.

History

The Straussler V-4 came as the further development of -surprise- the Straussler V-3 light tank. The V-3 reached to the prototype phase in 1936 when the decision was made to further improve it due to several shortcomings. V stood for “vontató”, that is “tractor” in English. (A specialised vehicle for towing, not for agricultural work.) The designer was Nicholas Straussler, a Hungarian entrepreneur, engineer and inventor living in Great Britain, who also developed the flotation system on the DD tanks, the Alvis Straussler bomb trolley, and the AC2, AC3 and M39 Csaba armored cars among many other things before, during and after World War 2.

The V-4 arrived at a very tormented period of Hungarian history, and a period of fast changes in tank design philosophy which explains its eventual failure.

After the First World War, Hungary was forbidden from most modern military technology, so any research and development had to be conducted in secrecy. The treaties also severely limited the options of the Armed Forces in acquiring military hardware or know-how. Nicholas Straussler was a Hungarian ex-pat living and working in the UK, who still had strong ties to his old country. He was an enterprising and prolific engineer who not only had his own firm producing his designs, he also sold them for several large UK companies. He designed and offered the V-3 light tank (which was a medium tank in Hungarian nomenclature) for the struggling Hungarian Armed Forces. The tank was to be produced by Weiss Manfred Steel and Metal Works, a Hungarian company. He envisioned the tank being built and exported to the UK and other interested countries which would have bought economic benefits to Hungary as well. This arrangement was mutually beneficial: it helped him cut the costs of producing the first tanks considerably compared to the costs of production in Great Britain. The development and production of V3 went under the name of “towing tractor” to circumvent the treaties’ limitation, and were produced without armor, armament and turret. They were to be equipped in the destination countries, which would have satisfied the letter of the peace treaties (somewhat).

The V-3, and its development the V-4, were planned to be small, amphibious light tanks utilising dual-drive, meaning they could be driven with and without the tracks on. This concept was all the rage back in the ‘30s, so we should not judge Straussler for jumping on the hype train. The V-3 utilised an unique suspension system developed by Straussler himself. This was further improved on the V-4 by adding return rollers which were used to adjust the track tension, as the original design was very prone to either break or throw a track.

The running gear had two powered large wheels on the front and back, and two smaller roller wheels per side These were connected by a three piece horizontal rocking arm (apologies; not sure if this is the technical term). The suspension was provided by two torsion springs per side, which did provide a very stable platform for the weapons at slow to medium speeds, but at high speeds they were stiff, resulting in an exhausting ride for the crew. The V-3 had no track tensioning. The tank had a detachable screw and two pontoons for amphibious operations. (Both the V-3 and V-4 have shown excellent aquatic capabilities: they could steer well, and were very stable and safe on water. The only problem it had was exiting the water if the terrain was not perfect for it, which is, let’s face it, not ideal for a tank.)

The V-3 was not a successful design; the multiple and conflicting specifications (ability to use wheel-only locomotion on roads, amphibious capabilities, 45km/h top speed on tracks, etc. etc.) ensured that the tank was suffering from reliability issues, and was not able to fulfill each and every specification. In road mode the tracks could not be mounted onto the vehicle, so they had to be transported by a different vehicle. The tracks themselves were too narrow, which decreased the ability to cross difficult terrain, and stressed the rubber rimmed roadwheels. At this point the tracks were simply moved by the friction between the rubber and the tracks, and no drive sprockets were present. The improvements on the V-4 transformed the tank into a much more reliable (and heavier) vehicle armed with two 34/37M 8mm twin machine guns and a 40mm 37M main gun. Since the Armed Forces had no other viable alternatives, initially they were very much interested in the tank, and were willing to look over its deficiencies. (Beggars can’t be choosers I guess.)

The Swedish Landswerk L-60 was also tried alongside the V-4, and the military imagined these two being used alongside each other. However the V-4 was still plagued by mechanical issues, it did not have a very good off-terrain capability, despite of the radical redesign of the hull, and the international situation changed sufficiently for the Hungarian Army to declare its intentions of rearmament openly, so they could pick and choose from a much wider range of options. These factors doomed the V-4’s chances of being accepted into service. The Hungarian Army considered several alternatives with the second production version of the V-4, and decided on purchasing the licence for the production of the L-60, which became the Toldi I after some further development. Straussler and Weiss Manfred did not give up; both the English and the Russians were interested in the type for a while. (The tank was also trialled in Italy in 1937.) There was an export version produced with a large radio aerial around the turret, and later Straussler designed several smaller tracked vehicles aimed for the Russian and British market with the suspension developed for the V-4’s.

Further reading:
An article about Straussler and a paper-panzer that has never been built:
The Straussler MBT – Hungarian tier 10 candidate

Plans for the drive train:
https://patents.google.com/patent/US2089042

 

The Model

The model arrived very well packaged; there was no damage at all after its two thousand kilometer journey to me.

I have to say the presentation of the model is exceptional. All the parts are bagged -sometimes individually, sometimes with a few others- , and the bags are labelled with the part numbers. This definitely makes assembly easier and more organised, compared to other resin kits I’ve built. Even the tracklinks from each side are bagged separately, which is necessary, given they are not identical. The V-4 had left and right handed tracks, so keep this is in mind when assembling. Having resin individual tracks is a bit bold since gluing them together is not as straightforward as with the plastic individual tracks. (With plastic you have at least half an hour, hour to adjust the tracks after gluing them together; you lose this option with CA glue.)

Some larger parts (boogies of the suspension, etc.) are still on their casting blocks, and the attachment points are very thick. Cutting them off will require some finesse and care. (Also, constant awareness of the health implications of working with resin. Resin dust is toxic, so work somewhere where others are not exposed to it, and wear a respirator. Alternatively use wet sawing, wet sanding techniques; the water makes sure the forming dust will not get airborne.)

The instructions are somewhat basic, and can be confusing when it comes to the running gear. Most of the assembly should go without a hitch, but the running gear is complex, and would need several drawings explaining exactly how it is supposed to come together. (The confusion comes mostly from the fact that the four powered wheels were powered by a shaft system that transferred the power from the middle of the suspension where it was attached to the hull. There is an excellent article of the history of the tank -unfortunately in Hungarian (http://www.hadmernok.hu/182_05_nemeth.pdf)-, but the drawings should help positioning the drive shafts.

The casting is very high quality, and flash is minimal; there is no complaint there. The hull, however, was warped a bit (see below). The fine, subtle details are really nice. The kit comes with some PE, which is also quite delicate and well detailed.

Assembly

Hull

I started the building with assembling the hull first, and this is where I ran into the biggest issue with the kit: the lower hull (which is provided as a “tub”) is somewhat warped – it was not symmetrical. (See photo.) Perhaps it would have been a better choice to provide it as several flat pieces, as most models go about it. I used the engine deck to force the back of the hull into the right shape -with generous application of superglue and patience I managed to make the lower hull conform to the rectangular shape of the engine deck. It is not perfect, but at least now it is almost symmetrical. The top of the hull has four parts: the smaller, rectangular engine deck piece, the large part covering most of the top, the sloping frontal plate with the driver’s hatch, and a small, rectangular part covering the nose.

Starting from the back I simply glued one piece after another, making sure they are fitted to the lower hull perfectly, hence slowly ironing out the asymmetry. This obviously does put some stress on the resin, so be careful. Since the hull is relatively thin, very small amount of force is required to hold the pieces together until the glue set; nevertheless make sure you do not break the tub if you run into the same problem and use the same method of correcting it. (Other option would be to warm the tub up with hot water or a hairdryer, and shape it while it’s hot, but I went about the safer way.) I hasten to add that it might have been only my sample, and other models are perfectly fine. Since this is the only sample I have I can’t extrapolate from this.

Apart from the issue of asymmetry, the lower hull and the sloping frontal part had some gaps as well; the fit was not perfect. I decided to use Green Stuff to fill the gaps, filling and reinforcing the attachment points in one go. Another fit issue was that the two top panels did not meet completely head-on: there was a slight step between the two, instead of a smooth transition. Since the large panel had hatch details moulded on I could not sand it to profile; I simply used putty and liquid green stuff to build up a slope on the back panel instead. Again; not something I prefer doing, but this was the best I could come up with.

I find it important to mention that these issues are not unheard of with resin kits; this is the price you pay for unique and rare models.

I glued in the armored protection for the vision port on the front, and the round bases for the return rollers. The armored hatch on the front houses the hull machine gun, too, and can be displayed folded-up. The problem is that only the barrels of the machine guns are provided, and there are no interior details. If someone is able, scratch building would solve this issue. As for me I glued it shut.

The great thing about the hull and turret is that the places were the vision slits, and other larger pieces would go are actually marked with a slightly different texture. This is seemingly a small thing, but it makes placing these parts so much simpler. I really did appreciate this effort on behalf of the designers of the model.

While the green stuff was curing in the seams of the hull, I finished the turret.

Turret

The next step was the assembly of the turret top. The commander’s hatch, unfortunately, does not fit in perfectly; it’s slightly larger than the hole it covers. You may leave it open (but the turret lacks internal details), or you can start carefully shaving off the extra, while continuously fitting it into its place to make sure you do not overdo the surgery. As I said, this is your standard protocol with resin models; they do make you work. (There is a sitting Hungarian tanker figure from Bodi, which might be used to cover up the empty space should you decide to leave the hatch open.)

The guns are supposed to be installed into the turret using a system that would make them movable. The main gun is held by two rectangular pieces with a plastic rod between them. The gun sight has a similar system, while the twin machine gun is installed using an even flimsier system of a half-sphere representing the ball-mount, and an L shaped part holding the half-sphere against the opening of the turret. The L shaped part can only hold the half-sphere in place if it is actually pushing it against the opening, which is not something you can actually achieve with simply gluing it in place. (The machine gun in the hull is not movable.)

The problem is that neither of these systems really work well. First, it’s quite difficult holding several parts in place while gluing; and you do have to hold everything in place in order to position the guns correctly. Second, the holding parts are a bit undersized. If you care about movable guns, you can just replace them using larger plastic squares; as far as I was concerned, I just glued the guns into place. The third issue is that before you do any of this, you really should check if there is clearance enough for the guns on the bottom of the turret. I managed to glue everything in place the first time around only to find out that the main gun was in the way of the bottom of the turret, so I had to adjust it again.

The assembly of the machine guns is a bit tricky. You have a central PE T-shaped part which supposed to provide the “backbone” for the twinned guns; the barrels are supposed to be running on both sides parallel, and the short hand of the T is supposed to be folded up to act as a holder. The problem is the distance of the gun barrels from each other… you can’t really set it correctly. Unless you glue them into place first, making sure they are parallel, and then add the PE part, you run the real risk of making them a bit wobbly. I used a thick, gel-like CA glue which gave me plenty of time to adjust things before setting, and did just that. This saved me from measuring and trying to position the barrels parallel to a precise distance from each other. The downside is that from now on extremely fragile things are hanging over the turret and the tank’s body making handling a bit more difficult. The detail on the barrels of the machineguns is somewhat soft.

I installed the main gun at this stage. The barrel is nice and straight. The muzzle break is a separate piece, and you have to be very careful gluing it into place, since it should be placed to the longitudinal axis of the barrel. It will show if it is off center even a tiny bit.

I finished the turret by adding the two armored vision slits on the sides.

Back to the hull…

The seams went through a series of sanding/filling until I was happy that no seam was left. I checked them after I applied the primer as well, and corrected the little imperfections.

Suspension

The model overall is very simple- except for one part. The suspension and the running gear are quite complex, and take up most of the model. The wheels and larger parts are on huge pouring blocks, which need to be sawed off carefully.

The suspension is workable, so you can put the tank into any sort of terrain. It also means you will have to carefully position the large and small road wheels before gluing to make sure they line up correctly should you want to display the model on a flat terrain.

The main bogie of the suspension unit is made out of three flat pieces; gluing them together was not very simple, and you also are advised to check if the top parts are right in the middle; otherwise the overhang will interfere with the smaller arms holding the large road wheels.

As mentioned the instructions are not very clear on how to install the drive system into the suspension, but the drawings in the linked article should help you. On of the problem is that while the suspension is movable, the drive train is not- so you will have to glue everything in place, making sure that the wheels will touch the ground once the whole unit is installed on the hull. I did the best I could, but honestly I am not sure this is the way to do it. In any case most will be invisible, so you might as well skip it. With all the complexity, it is a very impressive (although quite unnecessary) design feature of the model.

To mount the suspension units in place, I drilled a hole where the units meet the hull, and inserted a thick wire in it. A corresponding hole was drilled in the central unit, and glued in place using two-part epoxy. I reinforced the attachment point with wire because did not want to risk the joint giving up over time. To make sure everything is fixed in place until the glue set, I also used CA glue.

 

Once the suspension was in place, I started adding the tracks. As the tracks are not workable, you will have to glue the suspension in place. If you wish to display the model on a flat surface this can be done at the earlier step; if you wish to display it in a diorama setting, now is the time to decide how the suspension should be positioned. (The tank’s suspension can be set into pretty funky positions, so it might be worth considering a diorama.)

The tracks come already detached, which is nice. However… Every tracklink had to be trimmed of 4 connecting stubs that used to attach them to the pouring blocks. This was time consuming. (Even though I mostly build tanks I have a confession to make: I hate building tracks.) The tracklinks, in theory, may be workable as they click together -but you do need to force them, risking breakage. Since the traction is not strong enough for them to hold, some glue will have to be applied once you built a section. It is impressive nevertheless; but I did find that longer sections tend to fall apart from their own weight without glue.

The problem with individual tracks made of resin is that you don’t have as much working time after you applied the glue as you have with plastic tracks. I built up several smaller straight sections, and tried to get the overall shape from these. Once I was happy with their position, I applied the extra thin CA glue, and hoped they would hold. At the return rollers, where the tracks were bent at a steeper angle it was difficult to make them conform to the shape of the roller without coming apart. The problem with the moving suspension was that it was difficult to hold everything stable, so I ended up gluing the suspension arms in place before adding the tracks.
One last advice: plan the installation of the tracks so that they meet on the bottom of the drive wheels, and not in the air before or after the return rollers. Don’t ask me how I came at this conclusion. Once I am done with the painting I will glue the tank onto a base, and it will flatten out the tracks; right now the suspension is pulling them up a bit.

 

The mudguards and the rest of the missing pieces were only added once I finished the tracks, and the tank was firmly sitting on them. The mudguards should be fit over an angular part of the hull, but the folding line on the PE will not conform to the hull-shape exactly… I ended up gluing tiny evergreen rods where the mudguards were supposed to go, and used them as support. Where the mudguard did not meet the hull (in the angular part, where two hull plates meet) I simply unfolded a little of the flap that I had to fold into the photoetch previously.

With this the tank was finished. It will take me a while to get it painted, but the painting stage should not be very difficult. If you have some leftover decals from other Hungarian tanks, you can built a what-if vehicle, which was accepted into service, but since it only reached prototype phase it carried no marks in real life. It can also be built very clean or very dirty, since it did go through trials; in other words the opportunities for weathering are endless.

 

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. (In the meantime Trumpeter announced a 1/16 Panther with interior… In case you don’t have enough choices already.)

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), so finally I ended up buying both. (Yes, I know, they are not the same: one is an Ausf A, the other is an Ausf G.) Let’s 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.

(Later on I will do a side-by-side build.)

Update: Takom build Part 1.

                                       Part 2

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. ([T] is coming out with an Ausf G version later on, though. They will also issue tanks with Zimmerit applied, and also a model with an optional clear hull; [R] is issuing a Panther with a cutaway option already included, which makes the build considerably less stressful than when you do the cutting… it seems like we are getting an endless permutation of options which does not help with choosing only one.)

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.

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, and you can also buy resin, PE and decal Zimmerits from other companies (or do your own).

[R] is moulded in light brown/tan, [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. Taking a look at online photos of the Meng kit, it looks like a more traditional kit, so that’s probably the easiest to build (apart from the tracks -more on that later). The Meng kit 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. It is important to mention though that some drawings on the [T] instructions are way too small; you will need a magnifying glass to make sure you glue some pieces in the right orientation. [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] does provide a guide to that. [T] and [R] both provides the interior stenciling that tanks normally have, which is nice. (There are aftermarket sets available if you need more.) 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. More importantly, neither takes in account the painting steps. Since there is a complex interior in both kits, the assembly sequences will need to be changed accordingly. It probably makes sense to first put together several sub-assemblies and paint them together, than do the painting at several stages.

[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.) The alternative steel rimmed wheel option is first mentioned in p23; it shows up in the painting guide again, and at step 66 we are shown the assembly of these wheels (C36), but no information of what they are used for. We only see the rubber rimmed wheels installed at step 69. At step 70, 71 we see the steel rimmed wheel option already installed in the assembly sequence. The point is: the different options need to be decided upon before building and understood, as the instructions can be confusing. In case of the steel rimmed wheels I guess the painting guide could be used as a base: if you want to paint the tank in the given scheme, you install the wheels, and from then on, you disregard the other options. (Alternatively, if you do know your Panthers -or you are not concerned about absolute historical accuracy, after all it’s your model-, you can make your own decisions, obviously.)

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 (not even the periscopes), the interior will have to be displayed differently. (Cutaway, assembly line, maintenance… there ARE options.) [R] will be coming out with a non-transparent version with a special cutaway hull and turret.

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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. This system is not exactly an user-friendly one as some horns tend not to stick to the links, and will need to be re-glued separately. [R]’s individual working tracks, on the other hand were a breeze to assemble. (The Meng kit in this respect is the worst: all horns have to be glued on individually.)

Gun: Both guns are incredibly detailed, even where the mantlet covers them up. (It is useful if you want to show the models during maintenance.) [T] has some missing detail (guiding wire mesh from the R kit for example); [R]: gun is incredibly detailed, and the recoil can be made operational. I have to say gun recoil by a spring is not really an important feature, though in a scale model. The gun lock can be built engaged/disengaged on the roof of the turret in the [R] kit, but not in the [T] 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.

Fume extractor: the hose of the fume extractor running from the spent case storage under the gun to the top of the turret is a flexible plastic piece in the [T] kit, and a two-piece plastic affair in the [R] model. Personally I like the flexible solution better.

[R]’s turret interior is way more detailed; you are shown how to install the electric cabling as well. (There is also a cylinder in the interior of the shell casing storage under the gun… one of those unseen details that seem to be absolutely unnecessary.)

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 pattern 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. (The projectile parts are different for each type, which is not shown in the instructions -see picture below.)

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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 (unless you sand them off, of course).

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, but important 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; having finished the interior, I can compare it to the newer MiniArt T-54/55 kits: complex, detailed, but not very taxing.

It lacks the clear hull and turret, which is a big selling point for the [R] Panther, 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. (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 -and know their Panther in-and-out. They will be able to make the most of this kit, since there are several opportunities to display the tank in maintenance, assembly or as a wreck. 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. I did end up buying both, since they are both significant improvement over the resin interior I’ve built before, and both are worthy kits to build. 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. I could not so I bought both. I hope this short comparison will help others to make their choice, though.

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.

Armory 1/72 VK 72.01 (K) “Fail Lowe”

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When I was told I had a chance to review a model that has not even been issued yet, obviously I said yes; after all it is a rare opportunity to get your grubby hands on something so fresh out of the moulds. An added point of interest is that Armory is mostly known as a producer of high quality resin and PE aftermarket company, and their foray into the plastic scale model world is quite an interesting -and daring- step (with other resin manufacturers following suit lately).

The subject of this kit is a fictional vehicle from the popular online game World of Tanks; it it a German superheavy gift tank given out at Clan Wars, and in general it is regarded as a less-than-effective tank in-game. (Well, it might be an understatement. It’s called the Fail Lowe…) It is possible that it was an actual plan during the war, but it does not really make a difference if we call it a paper panzer or a ‘46 German tank, really. Amusing Hobby issued it in 1/35 scale; now we have a more manageable sized 1/72 version.

Armory seems to be interested in fictional German tanks for their injection moulded kits; this is the second of such vehicles, and share several parts.

The hull has a complex shape, and the surface seems rough in several places; I needed to sand the round part on the back, for example. There are no attachment points of the interlocking armor plates simulated where these plates are normally located, which is a shame (where the frontal armor meets the side armor, for example.)

The PE is top-notch, which is to be expect of Armory; they have a long experience with producing PE conversions  for both armor and aircraft, and full resin/PE models.

 

Assembly

The model is not difficult to build, even without instructions (I used Armory’s Lowe’s instructions, the 3D renders, and the Tanks.gg website during the build). The hull is a conventional assembly of several flat parts; we don’t get a “bathtub” like lower hull. The fit is reasonably good.

I chose to assemble the running gear and the tracks before adding the mudguards.

The running gear’s attachment points are somewhat flimsy and weak; the wheels can detach quite easily after assembly, so be careful. (This seems to be a common issue; I had some problem with the running gear of Modelcollect’s E-100, too.) The idlers are done in an interesting fashion: the individual disks had to be glued on a shared axis. I did have to enlarge the holes on these wheels.

Since I did not have the instructions I was unsure how close the tracks needed to be mounted to the hull; it turns out I mounted them a bit closer than should have, and it meant some trimming and cutting, which is somewhat noticeable. (You won’t have this issue if you use the instructions, but I felt important to confess, since it’s the result of my circumstances and not the model’s fault.)

And this is the part where we come to the less-than-ideal part. The mud guards have small protruding sections sticking out to help with the attachment; these should fit into the corresponding holes placed on the side of the hull. The fact is that they don’t fit; the mudguards are quite thick and chunky, and the holes are not wide enough. This is a recurring issue with the model: several plastic parts are somewhat thick, which suggests a need to refine the plastic injection moulding process Armory uses (or replace the mudguards with PE parts…). Interestingly other parts, such as the tools and towing hooks are very finely moulded.

The top of the hull is a little bit wider than the bottom, which required some sanding to bring them to the same width. The top part is sitting on the top of the sides, which means there is a seam to be filled on the side.

This leads us to the next issue: the need for filling seams. The fit is not as good as to eliminate the need for filler. The seams between the mudguard and hull are quite wide and need to be filled. The triangular parts on the side under the round section also need filling (and they have a sink-mark as well). The turret also needs some trimming and filling to fit properly. The armored mantlet does have a seam on the artwork,so I decided not to touch it. Due to the nature of the moulding process, the muzzle breaks (there are three options to choose from) have also seams to fill, which is a bit more difficult due to the fine details. If you are patient, it’s worth drilling out the holes.

As I said the PE considerably improves the model; the engine deck grilles, etc. are very nice additions. I switched some tools to DML ones as I had those pre-painted; I also put on a 1/35 rolled tarp on the mudguard.

Overall, once I finished with the fitting and filling the build became quite enjoyable. The model looks unique, and once it takes shape, it’s a cool little thing to work on.

Painting

I chose a fictional painting scheme with my fictional tank, and used silly putty to mask the dunkelgelb parts. The Dunkelgelb is a mixture of Mig’s two kind of Dunkelgelb colors (mid and late war). I’m still a bit conflicted on these paints; if you use them right they do spray on nicely, but the fact that they form a cured layer makes them a bit less attractive for me. I’m used to the Tamiya paints, and I really like the fact I can just “mist” them on. I’m not sure I can do that with these paints.

The green was Tamiya dark green lightened with a lot of tan. The triangles were hand painted once the paint was dry. The model received a pin wash of dark brown to bring out the small details. (Looking over the photos I realized I forgot to paint the periscopes… this is something I’ll remedy tonight.)

As usual I applied filters (light brown, in several layers) to lessen the contrast, and added mud to the bottom of the chassis and running gear using pigments mixed with white spirit.

The decals were applied in a haphazard manner. I made up the identification numbers (birthday of my wife, if you really want to know), and put on the charging knight because I quite like the figure. I sealed everything with Testors dulcote.

Several layers of subtle streaking was added using AK’s Winter Streaking Grime. The photos bring out everything incredibly stark; they don’t look as strong by eye. It’s actually a good idea to take photos just to see the mistakes; it’s incredible how much more critical the camera is… (It also exaggerates the weathering effects, so keep that in mind. You can please the eye or you can please the camera; rarely can you do both…)

I used Tamiya’s makeup set on the whole model; it got a nice, uneven coat of dust (dark dust on the lower part, light dust on the upper part), which was followed by Mig’s washable dust on the horizontal surfaces. I did not use the product “straight”: I heavily diluted it with water, and added small patches where I thought dust would accumulate. With a clean, wet brush I could spread these patches, and remove the excess quite nicely. I did not add paint chips to the model; I thought I’d keep it relatively pristine. The edges got the usual treatment with a silver pencil to give a metallic shine to the model, and I declared the tank finished. (Prematurely, as I just realized, since I forgot to paint the periscopes, and lost the radio operator’s machine gun barrel somewhere in the weathering process… Let’s say he removed it for maintenance, and leave it at that.)

 

And that’s it, really. The model is OK; it’s not a high-tech Flyhawk kit, but it’s not bad, either. It’s something you are used to if you work with Eastern European Braille models, with one exception: the basic plastic is greatly improved by the brass barrel and extensive PE. I think it’s pretty impressive that a mostly resin/PE aftermarket company is moving to the injection moulded model market; it’s something OKB and other companies seem to be doing, too. Exciting time for the 1/72 market, that’s for sure.

 

 

1/72 Ostmodels KV-5

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I wrote a review of this model on Armorama; a lot of the introduction is plagiarised from there. The first time I learned about Ostmodels was when I was browsing Henk’s Military Modelling website. The company is based in Australia, and is focusing on a niche of AFVs neglected by other manufacturers. Their models are designed for both the modeler and for the wargaming market. You will find experimental tanks, paper panzers, or tanks manufactured by smaller countries (like the Nimrod AAA tank). It is a very small company, and models are made on orders, so you have to wait if you fancy any of their products, but the wait is definitely worth it. Not to mention it’s nice to know that the model you bought was made for you especially. (And it’s not as if most modellers did not have a couple of boxes in our stash to finish, anyway…)

There is precious little information available about the KV-5. Planning of the tank (Object 225), based on the experience gained with the KV-4, started in 1941. The planned role of the tanks was to act as a break-through tank; this lead to some unusual features in the design. The hull was relatively low (less than a meter high), which meant that the driver and radio operator/machine gunner needed their own separate turrets/compartments to sit in. This also provided the driver a cupola with a good field of view even buttoned up. The three-man turret was very big and spacious, with a turret ring diameter of 180 cm, and contained a 107mm gun. (And judging by the size, possibly a book shelf and a kitchen top.) The whole tank was heavily armored (which was needed for both the intended role, and for the fact that the tank had an enormous silhouette presenting a tempting target), and weighted about 100 tons. Due to the lack of adequate engine to move this much metal, the vehicle had two parallel V-12 engines mounted as a power plant (which accounts for the unusually long chassis). Because the siege of Leningrad necessitated the increased production of heavy tanks of proven design, experimental work was suspended in the Kirov Plant to build the KV-1. Since the Russians did not seem to share the fascination of superheavy tanks with the Germans, focusing on the production of the more practical, lighter, more mobile medium tanks instead, the KV-5 project was eventually cancelled.

The kit is packaged into ziplock bags, which is enough to protect the parts from breaking. It consists of about 120 parts of light polyurethane resin.

The build was actually quite pleasant once I was done with the cleanup. The cleanup is tedious, though. Fire up your favorite DVD or TV show, get a scalpel, and start removing the thin film around the parts.

As with the SU-100Y the painting and weathering was somewhat of a protracted process. When I first worked on this kit I did the basics relatively well, but then I ran out of steam so I declared the model finished, and put it in a display case. From there it was looking at me accusingly for almost three years.

So the first stage I used a grey primer, and the hairspray technique to produce chipping on the following green coat. As usual yellow and brown filters were used to give the tank a bit more interesting look (a single hue green does look boring), and slapped on some brown filters as mud, and that was it.

A couple of months ago I got myself together and took it out of the display case again. I blended a lot more oil colors with the surface; it essentially meant I was “massaging” small amounts of oil paint with a dry brush. Since oil paints are somewhat transparent, the effect is pretty interesting and -more importantly- realistic. (As you can see the overall hue of the tank changed quite a bit.) One very important thing before you do this, though: make sure you put some oil paint onto a cardboard surface for about 30-60 minutes, so the linseed is removed from the paint. This ensures it will dry flat. (You can also buy specialized paints for model builders which do dry flat straight from the tube.)

I used dark brown washes on the pigments representing mud to make their color a bit more realistic and varied; I also added some more using the “add and remove” method and AK’s earth effect product. I added dust (using Mig Ammo’s washable dust product) and some oil stains, again with AK’s product. I used some black washes on the engine deck grilles to bring them out a bit more, and finally declared the tank finished -again.

 

1/72 Ostmodels SU-100Y

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One look at the SU100Y and you realize that the designers wanted to send a message: Mother Russia does not do subtle. It’s essentially a metal house on tracks and a huge gun in the front. The internal volume suggests that besides an engine and some space for the gun and ammo, the Soviet engineers managed to fit a sauna in for the well-being of the crew.

Looking at the sheer size of the thing, one would be forgiven to think it was only a paper project, but a prototype was actually built and even used in battle.

The basis of this vehicle was the T-100 heavy tank prototype, which was a multiturreted heavy tank designed in the late ’30s. It failed field trials miserably in Finland; however the hull was still useful for other purposes. After the experience of the Winter War, and the difficulties of destroying fortifications, it was realized that large caliber assault guns were needed to overcome fixed defenses. One –more successful, but that does not say much under these circumstances- such vehicle was the KV-2. The other, finalized design was the SU-100Y, which was essentially a siege-gun, mounting a 130mm gun. The vehicle went through a couple of design-phases with different superstructures and guns, but the main idea remained the same. The final version had the 130 mm naval gun (B-13-S2) stuck onto the chassis of the T-100, and was intended to demolish fortifications encountered during the Winter War. The large casemate structure is a result of necessity: it was the only way to make the ammo handling practical. Considering the size, the armor was paper-thin; this, coupled with the enormous silhouette made the vehicle especially vulnerable. It arrived too late to take part in the hostilities in Finland. The sole prototype, however, got its chance to fight during the defense of Moscow (and -despite its size and lack of armor- it survived). Fortunately it was not scrapped, and today it can be seen in the Kubinka Tank Museum. (Other sources say it did fight in Finland; I do not have access to Russian documents, so it’s difficult to know for sure.)

 

Ostmodels offers both the SU-100Y and the T-100. These kits are made for order, so you will have to wait a bit before they arrive, but the wait, I think, is well worth it.

The SU is a relatively simple model. The whole chassis and superstructure comes as one part, the gun mantlet and gun come as a separate part, and finally the running gear and tracks. Essentially that’s it. The bag consists of quite a lot of parts, but most of them are the road wheels, suspension arms and track sections. The basic construction is quite simple. While it is quite tedious to attach each road wheel to its suspension arm (more on that a bit later), it makes it possible to depict the vehicle on an uneven terrain.

All of the parts were packed into two Ziploc bags, with a small leaflet. There are no instructions included with the kit, but the construction, as I mentioned, is straightforward.

The detail in general is good and sharp. The gun is reinforced with a metal wire, which makes sure that it will not warp or break easily; I found this solution by Ostmodels an especially nice touch. The road wheels come as one unit (every wheel was made out of two wheels attached to each other). This means that the groove between the two halves needs to be cleaned up, as there are bits of resin there. The detail on the rubber tires is somewhat soft.

Due to the casting technology, there is a very thin film of resin attached to every part, which makes cleanup a very tedious process. (However no need to saw gigantic resin plugs, which is always a plus.) Once clean-up is complete, the build itself is very simple, although not without challenges. Well, one challenge, to be fair. The suspension arms are somewhat of a weak point of this model. Their ends are supposed to fit into their respective holes on the lower chassis, but this fit is way too tight; either the ends are too thick –or the holes are too small. There are no locator pins, which mean the swing arms can be positioned in any position (you can depict a vehicle on an uneven terrain, a vehicle with broken torsion bars. However, if you plan to depict the vehicle on a flat surface, then you are probably better off building a small jig that helps you position them accurately and evenly, as in the case of the Miniart SU-76. This jig would ensure that there is an even distance between the hull and the surface the model is standing on.

It’s also probably wise to insert small wires into the attachment points to make the joints more stable –and also flexible until you set the arms into their correct positions. Putting some support between the hull and the other end of the arms (where the wheels are, and hence they cover this support) is also probably a good idea, as the model itself is quite heavy. I used strong two part epoxy glue to fix the arms into their place, and small pieces of plastic to reinforce the whole running gear; if you are careful, it is not visible unless you turn the model upside down. (The wire idea came way too late in the building process, and the whole setup is a bit wobbly.)

Using online references (mainly the photos of the vehicle), and the included technical drawing, the location of parts is easy to determine. The tracks are provided as short, straight sections, and you will need to warm them up with a hair dryer or hot water, to make them soft enough to be wrapped around the drive wheels and idlers. There really is no more to say about the build –once you glue the road wheels and tracks on, you are done. The large, flat surfaces offer a lot of opportunities for weathering; the model is about the size of a 1/35 panzer I.

Painting happened in two stages with about three year between the stages… The black primer was followed by a usual Russian Green Tamiya paint, and then some filters -both as solution (about 5% oil paint suspended in 95% white spirit), and as dots. (Different oil paints dotted onto the surface and removed with downwards brushstrokes using a wet brush.) I used MIG’s dry transfer set for the slogan on the side. The mud/dust application was not the most convincing one, I have to say.

Not long ago I took the model out of the case, and gave it some more love. The sides and top received a bit more treatment using brown/yellow oil paints; I carefully and gently blended the paint with the base green, producing a bit more interesting surface. I also used brown washes on the mud deposits, making them look a bit more realistic.

Mig Ammo’s washable dust was applied onto the top in a very diluted solution; when it dried it formed a very discreet, very subtle and uneven dust layer.

I guess the point of this post (apart from showcasing a rare tank destroyer by a relatively obscure producer) is to demonstrate that it’s worth going back to older builds to improve them. If nothing else you won’t feel bad experimenting on them, and in the best case scenario they will be significantly improved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ultimate 1/72 Luchs showdown: thoughts on the Armory, ModellTrans, Maco and Flyhawk kits

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So now I have finished building all four offerings: Armory, Flyhawk, Maco and Modelltrans; it’s time to take a stock of what I’ve learned. I would not really go into accuracy, as I could not find any books on the Luchs; all kits differ slightly from each other with respect to location of the exhaust, tools, tool boxes, Jerry cans, and so on. As I could not find the time and resources to get to the bottom of these differences I merely comment on the models themselves.

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The Modelltrans kit is an old resin model of the Luchs; it’s a bit undersized, has very few parts, good detail, and has some issues with bubbles in the resin- in other words, your average garage company resin model. It’s fast to build, but it’s quite expensive for what it is; plastic models will always be better priced. It builds into a respectable depiction of the Luchs, but it’s kind of “rough on the edges”, and does not come with the aerials.

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Hands down, the Flyhawk kit is the most detailed and the most complex model of the four; it’s essentially a miniature 1/35 model. This, of course, comes with a price: it’s also the most difficult to assemble. The crow’s feet antenna is not very convincing; the PE offered by Armory is a much better representation. (But this is the only one that comes with width indicator rods.)

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Armory’s plastic Luchs is a new kid on the block; the company only recently started to make its way into the plastic scale model market. The plastic base is somewhat basic, and the engineering is not the best; however once you get through the filling and sanding, and add all the PE, you will have a very nice, detailed model in your hands. It does require experience building models and using PE- it’s not one of those “shake the box, and the built model falls out” type of kits. However, the results are worth the effort.

Maco’s offerings are the exact opposite of the Flyhawk models: they are very well engineered and very simple models to build – in other words, they are one of those “shake the box” models. The details are still pretty good, and Maco offers a good alternative if you want to build more than one tank quickly, or if you’re still new at building 1/72 models. (Or just want to have a quick weekend project.) One thing that I need to mention is that the shape of the turret seems to be somewhat off, and you’ve got my bane of small scale models: the moulded-on tools. On the other hand you get some beautiful metal gun barrels and antennae.

All in all, the plastic offerings have things going for them; choosing one really depends on your preferences and your purpose. How much challenge do you want to face? While the Flyhawk kits can be adjusted in difficulty using the alternative options (PE vs plastic vs molded-on detail), a lot of the tiny parts cannot be avoided. The Flyhawk offerings are definitely not for beginners. It also takes considerably longer to build. Another aspect to decide is: how much the lack of PE matters for you? The details on the engine deck grille are good enough in plastic on the Maco kit, and in this scale there is an argument that it does not make much difference. (Talking about PE: only the Armory kit has the wire mesh protecting the engine grilles.) You might also want to have a metal barrel; this is not an option in the Flyhawk line of Luchs’, but you get them in the Maco kits… and so on and so forth. I’ve tried to showcase the strengths and weaknesses of all four models; it really depends on the individual builder which one he or she wants to choose.

Armory 1/72 Luchs

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

Let’s see…

Modelltrans Luchs
Flyhawk Luchs
Maco Luchs

Introduction -Armory’s plastic kits

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zrinyi II part 1.

Apparently there’s some time for another post this year… So: the last 2016 post. For real.

 

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The Zrinyi II has always captivated me. Being a Hungarian obviously Hungarian-made armor had an interest, but this SPG in particular caught my eye due to how it looks. It simply looks cool, and unlike the Toldi, it was an effective vehicle as well.

Let’s face it, Hungarian armor was never a very famous (or even known), there were almost no models available for the longest time. There was one series of tanks done in resin in 1/35 for a horrendous price, and Hunor has a 1/72 line of Hungarian tanks (some of which I featured on this blog) of which I did not know about for a long time.

And then there was this beast: a 1/15 scale resin model of the Zrinyi II. I saw it in the since-defunct Sas Militaria, Budapest, and it was offered to me for the paltry price of 300 dollars. Needless to say I was resigned I’ll never have any Hungarian tanks -let alone a Zrinyi- in my collection, ever.

In the last couple of years, however, suddenly these vehicles started to appear in plastic both in 1/72 and in 1/35. I built the Hobby Boss Toldi, and I also could not resist to buy Bronco’s 1/35 offering of the Zrinyi II. (To be honest I should have stick with the 1/72 Hunor one.)

The build

This was my very first Bronco model. The detail was very nice, the plastic was great quality, the fit was good, and yet I did not enjoy the process at all. The instructions were not always clear, and the model is overcomplicated. With the overly complex MiniArt kits, like the D7 dozer, you have the feeling that the engineers wanted to put everything into the model; complexity had a purpose there. With this model I felt like they were trying to mess with me. (The running gear was especially annoying to assemble, not to mention the installation of the mudguards.) Talking about the mudguards: they are very thin, very nice pieces of plastic; there is no need for any PE replacement.

We do get some interior detail, but not enough to leave the hatches open; most of the model is empty. (This is not a criticism; I’m not sure people even know how the Zrinyi II looked like from the inside.)

The tracks went together perfectly fine, unlike the Hobby Boss Toldi which I was assembling at the same time. As a first step I assembled two links at a time, and then joined these sections into larger ones; while the glue was still setting I could form the finished tracks around the return rollers and the drive wheel/idler.

Due to the fact I had to move cities several times during the build perhaps it’s not surprising I lost a small fret- unfortunately my Zrinyi does not have any periscopes.

The side skirts are very well detailed; it’s a shame they are provided as one unit per side. (It would be nice to be able to mount the different sections separately as the real things were. I was not brave enough to attempt cutting them apart.)

The marking was to be done using a provided PE mask; it was a really nice touch. The large cross sign on the engine deck is provided as a decal, but I would strongly suggest to try to paint it as well. The decal is enormous, and goes over the engine compartment’s hatches. Needless to say it does not conform well to the difficult surface even with the use of copious decal setting solution.

 

Painting

The painting and weathering was somewhat of an arduous process as I was experimenting with several products and techniques which necessitated a couple sessions of repainting.

The base color was a relatively dark, flat green; this was shaded using darker version of the same color, and then modulated using filters. I’ve used very thinly diluted oils as overall filters, and the dot method on larger surfaces.

I’ve tried to use True Earth‘s products for shading and fading with a varying degree of success; these products are not as easy and straightforward to use as the manual claims it. For one, absolute, flat surface is a must; and application by airbrush is also something that gives a better result. Don’t get me wrong: these products look like they have enormous potential; however you need to experiment to achieve a result that looks anything like the cover photo.

The wooden handles of the tools and the blocks for the jacks were painted Tamiya Tan, and then I applied some umber oil paint undiluted. By scraping most of it off using a very stiff brush you can get a nice-looking wooden surface relatively fast.

I’ve used pigments mixed with water on the lower part of the chassis; once they dried, I simply brushed off the excess. I repeated the process with much less and much lighter colored pigments on the top surfaces as well to simulate dust. With a fine brush and a dark brown color I painted some chips onto the tank, and used rust colored oil colors to simulate running rust from these spots. The exhaust received several layers of rust color pigments; I also rubbed some off between applications to make the effect realistic. (This “adding and removing” method is quite useful in weathering.) As a last step I used a silver pencil on the edges of the tank, the running gear and on the tracks to simulate the metallic shine of worn metal.

Well, the tank itself is ready. Next stop: a diorama setting.