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Dragon 1/72 Pz.Kpfw.III Ausf. L Late production (7645) Armor Neo Pro Build Review

I begin with construction of the lower hull. The plastic parts all go together with no problems, but then I try to fit the large PE grill that goes on the underside of the rear hull, and it just doesn’t seem to fit. I trim it down until it does, but then discover that it fouls the exhausts, so I make an executive decision to leave it off. That leaves an opening under the rear hull but, on the completed model, this would only be visible from underneath, so I’m not too concerned.

Then I assemble the various parts on the track guards. Some are really tiny, but location is clear and fit is good, so that’s OK.

I then add the track guards to the lower hull. Again fit is very good, though it takes some careful positioning to get these straight.

Then I complete the upper hull by adding the PE parts. Happily, both grills fit perfectly, though the instructions are a little vague about where the upper armour plate on the upper hull front goes, so it takes some squinting at images of actual Panzer III Ausf. Ls to figure this out.

The upper and lower hull fit together very nicely indeed with no gaps and no need for filler anywhere.

Construction of the turret is straightforward, though it’s a little tricky to get the rear stowage bin straight and level and you do have to be careful to get the mantlet/armour/gun assembly to line up.

I check the fit of the turret on the hull, and everything looks fine.

Hey, it feels like I’m making good progress here. So far, the build has been OK – a bit fiddly in places, but fit is generally good. Then I start to work on the tracks and running gear and it all goes a bit pear-shaped. The first problem becomes obvious when I join the two halves of the sprockets and idlers and then offer these up to the hull (I want them temporarily in place so that I can check the fit of the upper and lower runs of the tracks). There is a pin on the rear of the hull, but no locating hole on the idler (you can see the lack of a hole in the idler in the image below). Similarly, there is a pin on the sprockets, but no corresponding hole in the hull. It isn’t a disaster – I simply drill 1mm holes in the right places and everything goes together, but the instructions don’t mention a need to do this. That does seem odd to me – is this normal on Dragon tank kits?

Then I offer up the upper and lower track runs, and it gets even odder. As you can see from the image below, both are too long. I mean much too long, with perhaps nine or ten links more than is required, top and bottom. According to the instructions, the upper run should extend from the centre of the sprocket to the centre of the idler and then you should use the individual links to create the curve where the track passes over the sprocket and idler, which is a pretty standard approach for link-and-length tracks. The ends of the lower run will be bent up outside the area of the roadwheels, so it does need to be a little longer, but not this long! I do a quick search online and find a decent image of the link-and-length tracks for the Revell 1/72 Panzer III Ausf. L, and the top run there is 32 links long. Here, it’s 42 links. I don’t get it – these are clearly 1/72 Panzer III tracks which look nicely to scale in terms of link size and spacing, but the upper and lower runs provided don’t fit and I can’t just cut them down or they won’t engage properly with the single links.

After a bit of head-scratching, I decide to adopt the simplest possible solution. Fortunately, the upper and lower track runs are thin and quite flexible, so I start by wrapping the front nine links of the upper run round the sprocket and I glue these in place. That will leave the free end of this track run extending as far as the centre of the idler at the rear.

Then, I also glue the front of the lower run to the sprocket, bend it into position to fit round the roadwheels and then bend it round the idler and glue it in place. Obviously, you do need to be patient here and to frequently check what you’re doing by placing the whole assembly on the hull to ensure that everything lines up. This is what I end up with, and I only needed to use one of the single track links to join the gap on the idler between the upper and lower runs.

Here are the tracks in position on the hull and with the roadwheels temporarily in place (and you’ll see that I have tried to include some sag on the top run). I don’t think it looks too terrible, but it takes time and a fair amount of fiddling to get there and this isn’t how the instructions say the tracks should be constructed. I have looked at a number of reviews of other small scale Dragon kits that use Neo Tracks, and I haven’t seen this issue mentioned. Has anyone else come across this? At least this does leave me with plenty of spare single track links which I can assemble into a short run and place in the front hull stowage area!

With the tracks on both sides finished, that’s construction pretty much done so I can begin painting. I start with the hull sides, running gear and tracks. I’m using Vallejo German Grey for the base colour. This seems to be a good match for Dunklegrau, though it is rather dark and in real life this paint seemed to quickly fade to a much lighter colour, so I will be lightening it and adding  even lighter dry-brushed highlights. And of course, I’ll be painting the tiny roadwheel and return roller tyres, not one of my favourite parts of building any tank kit! The tracks get a dark grey base coat, then gunmetal highlights on the treads.

These tracks were a real chore to build because of the over-long runs, but I think they look all right now they’re finished and painted. Then, it’s on to the hull and turret. Everything gets a base coat of lightened German Grey, then I add some drybrushed highlights on sharp edges and raised areas.

Then I paint the tools on the track-guards and tow cables on the rear hull, And that’s a bit of a pain because they’re so tiny.

Then I add the decals, the spare roadwheels, jack, headlights and spare tracks and give it all a coat of matt varnish. I am using a different varnish here. Previously, I have used AK Interactive Matte Varnish (AK 190) and while it’s OK, it sometimes gives more of a satin finish. This time, I’m using Vallejo Premium Airbrush varnish, and even brush painting, I notice that this gives a totally consistent, truly matt finish. Then, it all gets a wash with a dark grey oil to emphasize shadows and grubby everything up a bit and finally I add some dust with artist’s pastils and that’s it done.

After Action Report

In my In-Box review, I wondered whether Neo Tracks might be the answer to my continuing track problems? On the basis of what I found here, the answer is no! I still have no idea why the upper and lower track runs here were much too long. And that’s a problem because it means you can’t really build the tracks using the technique suggested. The result looks sort of OK, and these tracks are accurate in terms of detail, but the finished result isn’t notably better than you’ll find in other kits with link-and-length tracks.

Otherwise, this kit is pretty good. Fit is great just about everywhere and it does seem to build into a very accurate representation of the Panzer III Ausf. L. OK, it would have been good if the tools and tow cables were separate parts, and perhaps the five vent covers on the rear deck too – in reality, these didn’t sit flush with the deck, but slightly above, and this isn’t shown here. I tried to paint areas of shadow round these vents to suggest that they’re separate items, but still, actually having separate parts would have been good.

And, contrary to what I claimed in the In-Box review, the exhaust, smoke launchers and other bits and bobs are included here that will allow you to finish this as an Ausf. M if you want (though this isn’t mentioned on the box or in the instructions) . You could even use the suggested Dunklegelb finish with that version… Overall, this is a perfectly reasonable little kit. It’s not perfect and it does seem a little expensive for what you get, but it builds into a nice representation of the Panzer III Ausf. L (or M).

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Dragon 1/72 Pz.Kpfw.III Ausf. L Late production (7645) Armor Neo Pro In-Box Review and History

SMER (Heller) 1/72 Fieseler Fi 156 Storch (0833) Build Review

I begin the build with the cockpit area, and what’s provided in the kit is pretty sparse – a floor, two seats, an instrument panel and a stick. However, All I’m going add are some harness straps to the seats. You could add more, but I’m not sure how much would actually be visible on the finished model.

I then fit the cockpit floor in place, and that isn’t as easy as you might think. It takes a bit of fiddling to get it all straight. And this isn’t the only time I’ll be saying that during this build…

Then, I do the only other bit of additional detail I’m going to add here, the inverted cylinders for the Argus engine. On the original, the front bank of two cylinders are clearly visible through the cooling vent on the front of the cowling. On this kit, all you get is the opening. So I make up something that looks a little like the cylinders and pushrod tubes out of bits of sprue and stretched sprue. It all looks a bit rough here…

But with everything temporarily joined, I think it will look OK from the front when it’s all painted.

Then, I paint the engine, the engine compartment and the interior of the cockpit. I add some harness straps to the seats – these are just drafted out in a graphics program and printed on a laser printer. They wouldn’t stand close inspection, but I hope they’ll add some visual interest to what is otherwise a rather empty cockpit.

I also attempt to dry-brush some detail on to the instrument panel. Not easy because what little detail is there is barely raised at all.

Then I join the fuselage halves and add the cowling nose. Fit is, well, just about OK but less than perfect. A little sanding and some filler will be needed to fill the worst of the gaps. 

With the fuselage and nose joins sanded and filled I add the tailplanes and struts, and that isn’t simple either. Location consists of a single, small, short round peg on the tailplanes and a corresponding hole in the tail. This doesn’t give a clear or strong fit and you’re going to need to carefully position and prop the tailplanes while the glue sets. I guess that’s just how things were back in the 1970s when this kit was first released!

The wing halves are then joined and there aren’t any problems here, though location isn’t well defined and you do have to be careful to get congruence between the upper and lower halves.

Next, I add the leading-edge slats to the wings and again, that’s tricky due to vague location. Several plastic pegs are moulded into the leading edges of the wings, but there are no corresponding locating holes in the slats into which these fit. You have to glue the slats roughly into place, then prop them while the glue dries, keeping your fingers crossed that you’ll end up with something that looks plausible and matches on both sides.

In terms of overall construction, I’m going for the Luftwaffe version, and the camo scheme on the top of the fuselage, wings and tailplanes will need masking. All the struts that support the wings and undercarriage will get in the way, so I’m going to paint the wings and fuselage first and separately, then I’ll add the canopy and finally the wings and undercarriage. Next, I work on painting the canopy framing. I begin by taking the canopy parts off the sprue and doing some basic masking. And wow, there are a great many tiny sections of masking required! I’m not complaining – one of the reasons I chose the Storch as a subject was so that I could work on my (in)ability to mask and paint canopy frames. You have to take your time, use a series of fresh blades in your craft-knife/scalpel and aim for a state of tranquil focus. Or something like that… It took over an hour to get to the stage below, where I’m ready to start slopping some paint on the canopy.

And this is the result. It’s, well, not as bad as some of other attempts at framing. Though that isn’t a high bar to exceed! Of course, I still have to join the five pieces of the canopy together, and I have a feeling that’s going to be tricky.

But for the moment, I put the canopy aside and begin painting the fuselage and wings. I start by painting the lower surfaces light blue, then masking and painting the base, lighter green on top.

Then, guess what? It’s time for even more masking to delineate the splinter camo scheme on the upper surfaces.  And when I peel off the tape, just to add to my usual masking woes, the base green paint lifts off in places. This only happens on the fuselage and tail, but quite large sections of paint are removed (as you can see below). I don’t really understand why – I’m using my usual masking tape, I didn’t burnish it down particularly hard and the Vallejo acrylic paint I’m using is the same I always use. Oh, well, some careful touching up is required.

But at least I end up with pretty much what I was aiming for.

Next I add the decals. These are pretty good – dense, but not too thick and printed nicely in-register. I do notice that in a couple of places, most obviously on the fuselage identification letters (though it isn’t noticeable in photographs), there is some silvering, though I used both Decal Fix and Decal Softener.

Next I assemble the five parts of the canopy. It’s not easy to get everything aligned and the canopy has to be both accurately and robustly assembled because the wings attach directly to tabs on the top. And I’m not going to say that this is impossible, because clearly it isn’t, but it is very, very tricky. You’ll be juggling five separate and oddly shaped parts that just don’t fit particularly well while trying to get everything to line up. I’m happy and relieved to end up with something that looks even approximately correct.

Next, I touch up the areas of green that have become chipped, give everything a coat of clear varnish and then I attempt to attach the wings and struts. And again, that’s fiddly. The fit of the wings on to the stubs on the canopy top isn’t great – there is a fair amount of play. So, the underwing struts are needed to avoid droopy wings and keep everything in place, but these don’t fit especially well either. The small struts that fit into the wings inboard of the main struts also don’t quite seem to fit – they seem too short to connect with the main struts when they’re in place. In the end, I prop everything straight and level and hope that it will be close to right when the glue sets.

When the glue on the wings and main struts is dry, I move on to the final part of construction, the fragile undercarriage. For a change, this isn’t tricky, it’s fiendishly difficult – this is turning out to be a much more challenging build than I had anticipated! On each side, there is a single vertical leg that includes the shock-absorber and wheel and these are held in place by a pair of V shaped struts that glue into the fuselage underside (though no locating holes are provided) and side and to the undercarriage leg. Or at least, that’s the theory… On the pointed end of the end of the main, lower strut, there is a small pin, but there is nothing at all to fix this into on the undercarriage leg, and the instructions don’t really give any clues of how these are meant to join. In the end, I file off the pin (which seems to serve no purpose anyway) and attach the point of the strut with a butt joint to the top of a small box on the inside of the undercarriage legs. That isn’t really very satisfactory, but I just can’t see any other way of joining the undercarriage legs and supporting strut. With that done, trying to then get the undercarriage leg to attach to the underside of the wing while simultaneously getting the struts fixed to the fuselage underside is an exercise in swear-inducing frustration.

Then, when you have finally managed to get one leg sort of attached, you still have another to go! I think that trying to get both undercarriage legs attached and reasonably congruent on this Storch  is one of the most frustrating things I have attempted since I restarted modelling, mainly because there are no clear attachment points with which to join these parts. I recently wrote in another article how kit-building can induce Zen-like feelings of relaxation. Well, trust me on this, not if you’re building this Storch! I finally get both legs approximately attached, and leave everything to set.

The last thing to do is to fit the two smaller, upper V shaped struts that also support the undercarriage legs. And while there are sockets on the fuselage sides for these, if you place the open end of the strut in the sockets, the other end doesn’t line up with the undercarriage leg. I do the best that I can and I fudge the location of these struts so that they look just about right.

The biggest surprise comes when the glue is set and I turn the model right way up to discover that, despite all the problems with assembly, everything sits pretty much straight and level. That I didn’t expect! With the last construction completed, I add an oil wash to highlight recessed detail on the wings and tail and that’s this tiny Storch finally finished!

After Action Report

The first half of construction here was fine. Fit was OK, though perhaps location is a little vague. Then came adding the leading-edge slats, building the canopy, adding the wings and struts and finally the undercarriage and associated struts. And none of that was any fun at all. Fit is horrible or non-existent, parts just don’t seem to fit in locating holes (except where those aren’t provided at all) and getting the undercarriage attached and straight was just a series of frustrations. Perhaps none of those things are really a surprise given that this is really a 1970s kit, but these problems make it very difficult to recommend this one and it certainly isn’t suitable for a newcomer to this hobby.

Which is kind of a shame, because somehow, despite all the problems and the fact that things like the struts are clearly oversize, the finished model does nicely capture the flimsy and inelegant look of the Storch. As a finished kit, this kit is sort of OK but it surely was a struggle to get there!

I have read a few other build reviews of various iterations of this kit, and while some do mention construction challenges, none prepared me for just how awkward this would be to build. This is difficult. Really difficult. And not in a good way. It’s hard to see precisely where some parts fit, the instructions provide nothing more than broad hints and a few bits seem to be the wrong length or size. If you really want a 1/72 Storch, you may be prepared to put up with all this but honestly, I’d suggest you consider spending your cash elsewhere if you want to retain your sanity.

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Revell 1/72 Spitfire Mk Vb (03897) Build Review

I start this build by addressing a couple of things I want to change. First is the spinner. I’m fairly certain that what Revell have done here is to simply copy the spinner and propellor originally provided with their new-tool Spitfire Mk IIa released in 2016. But the Vb spinner was distinctively different: longer and with the propellor mounted further forward (the Vb propellor is also heftier, but I can’t think of any simple way to address that, so I’ll be using the provided prop). The extended spinner does make the nose of the Vb look notably different – you can see what I mean on these images below of two Spitfires from the RAF Museum. These show a Spitfire Mk Ia (left) and Vb (right).

You’ll also note that the Vb spinner sits flush with the front of the fuselage while there is a distinct gap between the Mk Ia spinner and the front of the fuselage. The part that needs attention here is part 6 from sprue A, the base of the spinner. And while most of this kit has sharp detail and clean moulding, this part doesn’t. It has prominent moulding seams front and back, it isn’t entirely flat on either side and it isn’t even circular. In short, it looks as though it has been carved out of warm plasticene with a rusty spoon.

After I clean it up, I add a disk of 1mm thick plastic card to the front of this part, drilling the small piece of card to fit over the pin on which the propellor fits. Then, I add the prop and spinner. When the glue is dry, I sand the resulting extended spinner to something closer to the shape and size of the original. Above you can see a loose test-fit of the reshaped spinner within the temporarily joined fuselage halves. Certainly not perfect, but I think this does now look at least a little less wrong than what was provided in the box. With that small job done, I begin the next piece of work, seeing if I can cut out the cockpit access door so that I can show it open. That shouldn’t be too difficult, but to show that door open, I need to be able to show the canopy in the open position so the first step is checking that this is actually possible.

The canopy is provided in three separate parts: the windscreen, the sliding bubble canopy and the short glazed rear section. I thought that meant I’d be able to show the canopy open, in the fully slid-back position. I was wrong. On the original and in the fully slid-back position, the canopy sits over the rear fuselage, just ahead of the radio mast as you can see above. Out of the box, the sliding part of the canopy provided here does not fit over the fuselage, not even close. And while trying to wrestle it into place, I managed to split the sliding part of the canopy in half, which caused the inadvertent startling of my cat through a sudden stream of expletives. I don’t really understand this – what’s the point of providing a canopy in three parts if you cannot show it in the open position? Having said that the canopy doesn’t look too thick in the in-box review, I now have to revise this: it is too thick to be placed in the open position without a fair amount of work. It would probably be fine if you assemble the three parts in the closed position, but that’s not what I want to do.

I’ll continue with the build, but I’ll need to try to source a vacuuform replacement canopy. I said in the In-Box review that I appreciated the ability to be able show the canopy open (that was actually one of the reasons I chose this kit!) but don’t be fooled by the fact that the canopy here is provided in three parts: you can’t show it in the open position without risking breaking it as I did. At least cutting out the access door is simple. You can see above everything blue-tacked roughly into position. With those jobs done, I move on to construction, following the sequence in the instructions. I begin by assembling and painting the five parts that comprise the cockpit and I add the decals for the instrument panel and the Sutton harnesses.

The finished cockpit actually looks OK, though the decal harness straps look a little cartoon-like. I then assemble the fuselage halves with the cockpit inside. Fit is, well, sort of OK, but a long way short of perfect: no matter how tightly it’s clamped, the is a small but noticeable gap on the fuselage top, just behind the cockpit. The halves themselves aren’t flat and some filling, sanding and re-scribing of panel lines will be required to get rid of the most obvious joins.

Interlude: Replacement Canopy

Having messed up the kit canopy while trying to wrestle it into place in the open position, I have sourced a replacement vacuuform canopy. I haven’t used one of these before, so I thought I’d share the experience.  I have gone for a canopy from Czech company Rob Taurus, mainly because these seem to be readily available here in Spain and for less than €3. RT don’t do a canopy specifically for the Revell Vb, so I have gone for one intended for the Tamiya Mk V on the basis that one 1/72 Spitfire V canopy just can’t be too different to any other. I think…

And this is what you get…

The moulding looks sharp and the framing seems to be  nicely defined. Obviously, all parts will have to be carefully cut out of the surrounding plastic. One thing worth noting is that there are gaps comprising scrap plastic moulded between the windscreen, sliding section and rear portion of the canopy. I’m hoping that will make it easier to cut these out as three separate parts, but it means that even if you plan to show the canopy closed, you’ll still have to cut the three parts out separately and then fix them together. Before I start cutting, I pack the canopy with plasticene to stop the thin plastic from distorting while I cut.

Then, with a fresh craft knife or scalpel blade, you start scoring, very lightly and carefully, round the edges of the part. This does take some care and a steady hand, so make you have had (or not had, depending how it affects you) your daily coffee before you start.

This what I end up with. It still needs some cleaning up with emery paper, but it isn’t too bad. And a quick check suggests that it fits in place much better in the open position that the canopy provided with the kit.

I haven’t yet decided if I’ll be using the rest of the Rob Taurus canopy or the kit parts, but with that out of the way, it’s back to main construction. I do a dry-fit of the wings to check fit. The wing-root joins are very good and will barely require filler, which is great. What’s not so great is the fit of the separate wingtips. The join is very evident and the profile and leading edges of the wingtips don’t seem to quite match the profile of the wings – filling, sanding and re-scribing of panel lines will clearly be needed here.

I deal with the wingtips and add the wings, rudder and other bits and pieces to complete main construction. Overall, fit is pretty good in most places and no major sanding or filling is required.

Next, I begin painting with several light coats of Vallejo Light Sea Grey on the underside.

Then, I move on the top and begin with a couple of light coats of Humbrol Acrylic Ocean Grey. And it’s immediately apparent that it’s just much too dark. As you’ll know if you’re a regular reader, I don’t care too much about precise colour matches on my kits, but this is too far from the original even for me.

I mix up a lightened version of the same colour and repaint, which at least looks closer to the original.

Then I add the dark green camo. The grey still looks a little dark, but I can probably live with it.

Then it’s on to painting the yellow panels on the outboard sections of the wing leading edges, something I’m not looking forward to because it involves masking and that’s something I almost always have problems with. This time it isn’t too bad – not great, mind you, just not as crap as usual.

Next, I add the windscreen and the fixed rear part of the canopy. I decided to use the kit parts rather than the replacement vacuuform parts but there is a problem: I attempt to use the larger, armoured windscreen, and it just doesn’t fit. Even after lots of filing and sanding, the lower front part of the windscreen (which does look way overscale) floats above the fuselage. Finally, I give up and instead use the smaller of the two kit windscreens which does at least fit and looking at photos, this actually looks more like the windscreen on a Mk Vb Spitfire than the armoured version!

I add the sliding part of the canopy (using a dab of PA glue) and the cockpit access door. Next, it’s time to apply the decals, and there are quite a few. They’re nicely dense and printed precisely in-register, and they’re not too thick – they conform well to what’s underneath with a couple of applications of Vallejo Decal Softener. The only tricky bits are the tail ring, which comes in two pieces with a join on the top of the fuselage and the patches over the machine gun muzzles.  Getting the tail ring lined up without any gap takes a bit of fiddling and the small red patches just don’t want to bend over the wing leading edges.  

Then, I add the propellor, undercarriage, exhausts and radio mast. No problems with fit, and finally, I add some oil paint streaks and shadows and that’s this Revell Spitfire Vb done. 

After Action Report

For whatever it’s worth, I don’t feel, as I have read elsewhere, that this is a terrible kit. Though I’d have to say that it’s not completely wonderful either. The kit spinner is too small, you can’t show the canopy open and the armoured windscreen won’t fit in any way that looks credible. Set against that, the overall shape and proportions of the wings, tail and fuselage look pretty good to me (though I haven’t measured them) and while perhaps some of the surface detail isn’t 100% accurate, overall, it doesn’t look too  bad. The decals seem comprehensive and I do like the harness decals – I think they notably improve the cockpit interior.

I wanted a cheap kit on which I could practise my rusty aircraft kit building skills, and this certainly allowed me to do that. It’s as cheap as it gets for any 1/72 kit, in most places fit really isn’t too bad and there is really nothing here that would challenge the skills of even a novice kit-builder. If that’s what you’re looking for, you won’t be disappointed. If you want a totally accurate 1/72 Spitfire Vb, you may want to look elsewhere. 

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Airfix 1/72 Mitsubishi A6M2b Zero (A01005) Build Review

I’m going to build this straight out of the box, though I will be trying to add flaps.

First step is the cockpit, and I’m impressed with the level of detail. I’d be tempted to add even more items such as harnesses if the cockpit could be shown open, but as it can only be closed, I’m keeping it standard.

I paint the interior in Vallejo Olive Green, which seems a reasonable match for N5 Light Olive Green used on some Japanese aircraft. I add a wash of dark grey oil to pick out the shadows and the two instrument panel decals.

Next, I join the fuselage halves and add the upper front panel that includes the cowling machine guns. Fit is pretty good, though a little filler is needed to blend in the upper cowling panel.

Then, I join the upper and lower wings and cut off the wingtips. Fit is again very good. I also cut out the flaps, which I’ll be building out of plastic card and adding in the take-off position.

I do a dry-fit of the wings, and there is a fairly noticeable gap between the wing roots and the fuselage.

It only takes a little filler and some sanding to get a reasonable join between wings and fuselage. I also add the tailplanes and rudder, and these fit very nicely with no filler required.

I add the flaps in the extended position – these are simply fabricated with thin plastic card and some plastic strip for the framing.

Then I hand-paint the cockpit framing. And, to be honest, it isn’t great. But I’m really not confident about masking such tiny panels, and I’ll try to clean it up a little later using a sharp blade. I also use a little filler to blend in the rear part of the cockpit with the fuselage.

Now, it’s time for paint. There seem to be a great many opinions about the actual colour used on aircraft of the IJN. The latest research seems to indicate that these were painted a fairly light grey, though in some lighting conditions this is described as having a green or brown tinge. It certainly isn’t as light as used to be thought – it seems that this paint finish faded lighter as it was exposed to sunlight. Looking at photographs of aircraft from late 1941 (which this kit is supposed to be) also shows the rudder, ailerons and elevators as being slightly lighter. You can see what I mean on this image of the rear fuselage of a Zero shot down during the attack on Pearl Harbor below.

I believe that the whole aircraft was painted in a single colour, so I guess that perhaps the paint reacted differently when applied to the fabric covered control surfaces? Anyway, I have decided to use Vallejo Light Sea Grey as the base colour with lightened rudder, elevators and ailerons.

Here it is after several thinned coats. I painted the cowling black, then overpainted in dark grey, leaving recessed detail and the gun troughs in black.

Then, I add the decals. These go on without any problems, though they are quite thick – even after several applications of Vallejo Decal Softener, they don’t conform to the detail underneath.

I then give it a coat of clear varnish and a wash in dark grey oil to highlight panel lines and recessed areas, and I am surprised at how much difference this makes. It really gives the aircraft a much more 3D look. The interior of the flaps, wheel-wells, interior of the undercarriage doors and ends of the folded wing tips are painted in viridian, a blue-green intended to replicate the Aotake anti-corrosion finish used on some IJN Zeros. I’m not certain this is actually correct for an aircraft that took part in the attack on Pearl Harbor because it was only used on aircraft manufactured by Nakajima, but I like the look of it and it provides a nice contrast to the grey finish.

I then add the wingtips, and propellor. Finally, I complete the undercarriage and this is the only really fiddly part of the build. Location is imprecise and the main legs are very wobbly, so I do the best I can. I’ll probably add a stretched sprue radio antenna later but apart from that, this Zero is finished!

After Action Report

This was a fun build! Fit is generally very good, with the exception of the wobbly undercarriage legs. Detail is nicely done and the recessed panel lines work very well with an oil wash. Overall, if you want an inexpensive and straightforward introduction to aviation modelling, you could do much worse.

OK, I would have been happier if the cockpit could have been shown open and perhaps the decals are a little thick, but those are really the only issues I encountered. If this is representative of the quality of these new Airfix mouldings, I’m impressed. The only thing I would suggest is that if you’re building one of these, it would probably be worth buying a pre-cut mask for the canopy. What joy to discover that Airfix 1/72 aircraft kits can still provide kit-building pleasure. Now, if I can just find an Airfix aircraft kit with an opening cockpit canopy..

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Italeri 1/72 AH-64D (080) Build Review

One thing I noticed when I began this build (and which I missed in the In-Box Review) is that there are two sprues here, but though they are completely different, both are identified as “080 A”, moulded into a tab on the sprue. The instructions refer to them as A and B. This isn’t by any means a major problem, but it does perhaps indicate a certain carelessness in the making of the moulds for this kit.  As you follow this build, you’ll realise that this isn’t the only issue with these parts…

Anyway, I start on this kit by attempting to improve the shape of the rear of the fuselage sponsons. These are completely the wrong shape so I start by cutting off the rear of the existing sponson.

Then, I create a new rear part of the sponson using plastic card and filler. The result certainly isn’t perfect, but I believe it is closer than the kit version.

Next I work on the cockpit tub. No real problems here and I don’t spend a great deal of time on detail given that this is obviously the wrong cockpit for this model of AH-64. The seats are a problem. They include harness shoulder straps, which is nice. But they also have distinct ejector pin marks right in the centre of the rear seat cushion, right between the straps. If you sand off the pin marks, you’ll lose the strap detail…

Before I join the fuselage halves, I check the fit of the cockpit, and I’m glad I do because it’s around 2mm short.

In the image below, you can also see just how bad fit between the fuselage halves is – look at the area in front of the cockpit and the mounting hole for the upper sensor module… I use filler to build up the front edge of the cockpit in the hope that this will help to hide the gap.

Then, I join the fuselage halves. Fit, frankly, is horrible. There are locating pins, but even using these as guides, the two halves just don’t match up – this is especially noticeable on the top of the nose, ahead of the cockpit. After lots of sanding and the use of a fair amount of filler, I end up with a fairly smooth join, but of course I lose all the raised panel lines and rivet detail in the areas where I have sanded the joins.

Then I assemble the halves of the engine pods. Again, these have locating pins and again, the top and bottom halves just don’t line up. This leaves a very noticeable seam between the halves. I’m going to sand and fill to remove this, but this also means that I’ll be removing virtually all the detail from the outside of the pods. Just take a look at the image below (and yes, I have used the locating pegs and holes to line the pod halves up). I really can’t remember the last time that I dealt with this level of fit issue, though I suspect it was around 1972… 

After a great deal of filling and sanding, I end up with engine pods that look just about OK, though as you can see, they now lack surface detail on the outside. I have also added the undercarriage and the horizontal stabilator, which is tricky to fit straight.

I go on to add other bits and pieces to the fuselage, including the canopy and the underwing stores. I used filler to build up the fuselage ahead of the canopy, but more was needed at the rear of the canopy to cover a small gap. In addition, the Hellfire missiles really don’t look anything like the originals and the endcaps for the Hydra rocket pods fit badly – lots of sanding and filling is required to get smooth cylinders.

Final construction of the fuselage is completed and happily, I don’t encounter any further serious fit problems. I also construct the rotor head, blades and Longbow radar and these go together precisely and  with no problems at all – hurrah! These are temporarily fitted, but I’ll be leaving them off until painting is finished. I also Ieave off a couple of small antenna that don’t seem to appear on operational versions of the AH-64D – I guess that these were perhaps unique to the prototype? As you can guess, I haven’t enjoyed this build at all but now, finally, I’m ready to start painting.

Masking the cockpit is less of a problem than it can be simply because the canopy comprises mainly large, flat panels. I go for several thinned coats of Vallejo Russian Uniform for the base coat. The instructions suggest olive drab, but I’m going for a British Army Air Corps version and these seem to be a lighter green (and current US Army AH-64s are painted grey, not green). I add some highlights and pick out details like the sensor panels and hydra rocket heads in a light grey and add the decals.

Finally it gets a grey oil wash to pick out details and make the whole thing look well-used. Most images of operational AH-64s show them with blotchy, discoloured and chipped paint. With that done, this Italeri AH-64 is finally finished. One thing I’m particularly disappointed about on the finished kit is that the pilot’s control panel is clearly visible, and is equally clearly the wrong panel for this model of AH-64.

After Action Report

If you want to build a small scale AH-64, buy one of the Academy kits. Or anything else at all rather than this, the kit that time forgot. I have read in other reviews that fit on this kit is “indifferent.” I disagree. Fit is only indifferent in the good parts. In many places, it’s utter crap. You’ll be left with the choice of leaving very visible seams, or sanding and filling which will remove much of the raised surface detail. Some parts, such as the cockpit, just don’t fit the opening in the fuselage.

I had initially thought of adding some detail here. The M230 chain gun, for example, lacks the distinctive protective cage fitted on all Apaches and the Hellfire missiles used by the British Army have distinctive markings for which decals are not provided. But really, I couldn’t be bothered given all the other problems I encountered here. By the time I finished just building this kit, I was losing the will to live…

I had been really looking forward to building an aviation subject for the first time in a number of years before I began this build but, as a wise man once said: “This is no fun, no fun at all.*” I’m not normally a giver-upper, but I really struggled to find the enthusiasm to finish this build. I have built some old kits since I re-started kit-building a few years back, but I haven’t come across anything quite this bad. Almost every single step of the build involved dealing with deficiencies in fit and mouldings that just don’t match.

Does crap fit and a lack of accuracy make you feel nostalgic for the kits you built as a kid? If so, you might, possibly, enjoy this one. Otherwise, I can’t think of any reason why you’d waste your money on this piece of shoddy tat. Avoid at all costs!

* If you care, it was Johnny Rotten, at the Sex Pistol’s last gig in San Francisco in 1978.

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Tamiya 1/48 U.S. Medium Tank M4A3E8 Sherman “Easy Eight” (32595) Build Review

I’m generally following the instructions here, but I plan to assemble and paint the suspension, running gear and tracks before I continue with the rest of construction.

I begin with lower hull assembly. Fit is great and I included the weights provided, though I still don’t really understand why they’re there…

There is nice detail on the rear hull: the exhausts are particularly well done, though I don’t think they will be visible on the finished model.

Then it’s on to assembling the suspension bogies and sanding moulding seams off the roadwheels. No problems here and fit is great but location is also particularly good. When adding the circular parts on the front and rear of the main bogie frame, I failed to notice that these face in opposite directions. That became obvious as soon as I tried to fit one the wrong way round: it wouldn’t fit. Regular readers will know that I have been known to fit parts upside down, back to front or occasionally, both. Good location helps to avoid this.   

Although I will be adding the tracks later, I do want to assemble the top run and the curved sections that go round the sprocket and idler now, before I paint anything. There are five separate links at front and rear, and two more single links used to connect the elements of the bottom run. There are no spares, so do be careful! I suppose you could modify some of the spare track links that are intended to be stowed on the fenders if you do lose one of the links, but it’s better not to if you can avoid it.

I followed the advice in the instructions by gluing the five separate links together flat. Then I dry-fitted the sprocket and idler and glued the inner wheels of the large return rollers in place. Then, I placed the top run in position and, before the glue was completely set, curved the five links at either end to the right profile and attached them to the top run. When it’s dry, the whole assembly of top run with front and rear curves attached can be removed for painting separately. Obviously, I won’t be able to construct the bottom run until the suspension bogies and road wheels are assembled and in place, but that should be much simpler because there are fewer single links to deal with.

I do want to mention location again here: there is a vertical peg on the inside wheel of the rear return roller. This engages with a hole in the top track run (which will be hidden by the fender on the completed model). Using this peg to locate the top track run means that you are assured it’s the right way round. That’s great, because it means you can’t inadvertently fit the tracks upside down. It feels like whoever designed this kit was actually thinking about assembly. Top marks Tamiya!   

Then I paint and assemble the suspension parts. Assembly is straightforward and simple, For painting I used a base of Vallejo Russian Uniform, highlights in a lightened version of the same colour and a dark grey oil wash to bring out the shadows. All tyres are painted in Vallejo Dark Grey.

With the suspension in place, I can assemble the bottom track runs in the same way as I did for the top.

Then these are painted in a base of Vallejo Dark Grey, drybrushed gunmetal highlights and a brown wash. Then I fit the tracks, and it’s a bit of a stretch – perhaps one additional track link might have been useful?  That said, once in place, these do look like steel tank tracks, not rubber bands.

With the lower hull complete, it’s time to take a look at the upper hull. The seven parts that comprise the main construction, you guessed it, fit perfectly – no filler needed here at all.

I add all the remaining bits and pieces to the upper hull, other than the tow cable, tools and spare track links which I’ll add later. I guess you could argue that the front and rear light-guards are a little thick, but personally, I’d rather accept that than faff about with tiny PE parts.

I then join the upper and lower hull – no problems and everything goes together nicely. I am happy that I painted and finished the tracks before adding the upper hull and fenders – there is very little clearance between the top of the tracks and the bottom of the fenders and there is no way that you could add the tracks after the upper and lower hulls were joined.

Next, the turret, and there are no problems with basic construction.

The completed turret, minus the machine gun.

I mentioned in the In-Box review that I was concerned about seams on the rear of the turret, and in particular that the cast texture will make it difficult to hide these. One seam is particularly noticeable at the top of the rectangular panel that fits into the rear of the turret (arrowed above).

You can see on this photo of a surviving M4A3E8 that there shouldn’t be any visible seams on the upper rear part of the turret, though the lower seam looks OK. There doesn’t seem to be any option but to get busy with some filler and fine sandpaper, which is a pity, because the casting texture is well done and sanding will flatten this. I sand everything down and then try to recreate the texture with plastic cement.

I won’t really know if this has been successful until I get some paint on it, and that’s what I do next.

I start with several thinned base coats of Vallejo Russian Uniform – yes, I know, it’s a little light for Olive Drab at this tage, but once it’s finished with a wash of dark grey oil, that should bring it closer to the right colour. And the upper seam on the rear of the turret is no longer visible – hurrah!

Then both hull and turret get some dry-brushed highlights in a lightened version of the base colour.

Then I add the decals – I’m going for the version with the five white stars. The decals are dense, but thin – I use Vallejo Decal Fix and Decal Softener. It isn’t obvious in this image, but the decals do conform to the cast texture beneath.

Then, it gets a coat of clear varnish followed by a wash of Abteilung Oils Dark Mud, a dark grey. I let this dry and then carefully remove most of the wash with thinner – this darkens the base colour to something much closer to Olive Drab and leaves deeper shadow in the engraved surface detail as well as providing some colour variation and streaks on the hull and turret.

With that done, it’s time to add the last few bits and pieces – the tow cable, tools, spare track links and commander figure and a stretched sprue radio antenna. With those added, it’s done!

After Action Report

This really is a cracking kit. Fit and location of all parts is as good as you could hope for, detail is good and this builds into a pretty fair representation of a late model M4. Is it perfect? Of course not: things like the headlight guards are a little oversize, it lacks some of the fine detail of its 1/35 counterpart and it would have been nice to see some stowage items.

The link and length tracks are also a little fiddly to build if you want them to look good, though they’re easier than those found on smaller scale kits. Overall though, there isn’t much to dislike here. And the finished tracks actually look like tank tracks. If you have read other review here on MKW, you’ll know just how rare that is. This is a straightforward build that produces a pleasing finished model. What more can you ask from a plastic kit?

And what about 1/48 scale? Well, the finished kit is bigger than a 1/72 kit and, er, not as big as a 1/35 kit (you don’t get that sort of incisive analysis on other kit review sites, you know!). I mean, it’s fine. I don’t feel an overwhelming urge to build more 1/48 kits, but I wouldn’t rule it out either. If I’m honest, I do probably prefer the challenge of smaller scales, but I can’t think of any reason you’d be unhappy or disappointed if you chose this as an introduction to 1/48 scale.

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Tamiya 1/35 British Universal Carrier Mk II European Campaign (35175) Build Review

As you’ll know if you have read my In-Box review of this kit, I am deeply unimpressed with the supplied tracks. There are aftermarket tracks available: MasterClub, for example offer workable metal Universal Carrier tracks in 1/35. However, here in Spain, these sell for around €40 and that’s three times what I paid for this kit! They also won’t work with the sprockets supplied with this kit, so I have decided that I will just have to live with the Tamiya tracks.

Before I begin construction, I do a couple of small and fiddly jobs. First, I thin out the armour plates in front and either side of the driver/gunner compartment. The side plates are simple because they’re flat – below you can see one done and as supplied.

The front panel is a little more difficult because of its complex shape, but with some careful sanding, it can be done. You will lose some internal detail, notably the handles for opening the covers over the vision slots. However, these aren’t particularly well detailed in the first place and only two are provided – there should be three. I’ll be re-making simplified versions once I’m done with sanding down the panels. This is what I end up with (as you can see, I have also added the small metal ledge to the right of the gun section which, for some reason, also isn’t included).

Then, I drill out the muzzles of the three Bren guns provided. This is very fiddly – I had to use a needle to make a guide hole before drilling and even then, I can see that one is drilled slightly off-centre. I’ll probably use that as the stowed gun where the muzzle isn’t quite so obvious.

With those jobs out of the way, I begin construction as per the instructions, but only to a certain extent. The interior of both compartments here is very cramped and I want to add lots of dirt and wear and tear when I paint. Yes, I know, most of this will probably be hidden by the figures and stowage items when this is finished but hey, I’m going to give it a try anyway. So, I construct all the internal parts into sub-assemblies and I’ll be painting the insides of these before I join them together.

All these parts get several thinned coats of Vallejo Russian Uniform – it take several coats to get a consistent finish because the plastic used here is so dark.

You can also see the new vision slot handles I have added inside the thinned  front armour plate.

Next, I paint the seats and seat-backs. There seem to have been two types of seat covering used on the Universal Carrier: brown leather and khaki fabric. I go for the leather version, just because it provides more visual contrast with the rest of the interior. I also paint some chipping on the interior on areas that might see heavy use. I keep this fairly restrained – I think you can spoil a model as much by overdoing the weathering as by leaving it out entirely.

Then, it all gets a coat of clear varnish, a dark grey oil pin wash and some dark vertical streaking on the interior panels. I then assemble the main hull parts – fit is superb and location positive for all parts and no filler or sanding is required.  

I know that my replacement interior vison slot cover handles are far from perfect, but I do think that the thinned front armour panels look better than the massively overscale originals. The small instrument panel also painted up nicely, though this won’t really be visible with the driver in place. Next, I begin assembling the rest of the hull parts.

Constructing and painting the rear hull takes some thought. You have a back plate, then the exhausts, then the differential, then another shallower plate that includes the tools and finally, if you choose to include it, a plate with a tow-bar bracket. If you simply construct all of this first, then getting at the various bits to paint and weather them will be a problem. I added the differential and painted it and the rearmost plate first, then I added chipping and a grey oil wash.

Then I painted the exhausts (I didn’t bother adding textures or drilling out the exhausts, because these will barely be visible once construction is finished) and added them and, last, I added the rear plate that holds the tools. I’ll paint that with the rest of the hull and add the towing plate last of all.

Then. It’s time to work on the suspension and running gear. I want to complete and paint this so that I can paint and add the tracks before I add the side skirt and step. Assembling the suspension is simple, though the finished assemblies feel rather fragile. I paint the base colour, add the tyres on the roadwheels, idlers and return roller and then give everything a grey oil wash.

The tracks are made of fairly inflexible, thick vinyl and unfortunately, they’re also rather tight. Getting them in place once they’re painted feels like it’s risking breaking the suspension, and there is no hope of showing any form of sag with these tracks. At least it’s possible to hide the join behind the side-skirts.

With the tracks, suspension and running gear in place, I can add the side-skirts and step on either side, and with that, I can complete the painting of the exterior of this kit.

It all gets several thinned coats of Vallejo Russian Uniform and some dry-brushed highlights and then I add the decals using Vallejo Decal Fix and Decal Softener. These are nicely dense and printed in-register.

Then, it all gets a coat of clear varnish and then a dark grey oil wash.

That’s main hull construction done, so I begin to add all the bits and pieces. I begin with adding the rolled canvas cover, stowage bag, tools and towbar to the rear.

Then, I added the tow cable to the front. I found joining the string to the tow eyes extremely frustrating – the string is too thick to fit inside the hollowed-out part of the eyes. It took a lot of fiddling about and the use of some strong swear-words to get something that looked right.

Then I start to add the weapons, starting with the three Bren guns.

Then, the two Lee-Enfield rifles and the Sten gun.

And finally the ammo boxes, helmets and other bits and pieces in the interior.

And with that, construction and painting of this Universal Carrier is done. All that now remains is to paint and add the figures. These seem reasonably detailed, though you do have to be careful when adding the arms to the driver and the seated figure to make sure that these are in the correct position to rest on the bodywork.

I do my best with the painting of the figures, though the result isn’t really that great. When I paint 1/35 faces, they often end up looking insane, or gormless, or their eyes point in completely different directions. On a couple of memorable occasions, I have managed to achieve all three at once! The point I’m making is that if these finished figures don’t look wonderful, well, that probably isn’t Tamiya’s fault. They’re quite well sculpted with nicely defined detail.

With the figures done and a couple of antenna added, that’s it for this Tamiya Universal Carrier.

After Action Report

As I noted in the In-Box review, there is both good and not-so-good stuff here. The not so good includes a front armour plate that’s just silly-thick and tracks that are very poor. The over-thick front plate can be thinned, but you’re stuck with the tracks unless you decide to replace both those and the sprockets with after-market items.

Set against that, fit and detail are both pretty good and there are no significant problems with construction and virtually no need for filler at all. OK, the rivets look a little small and the 8th Army figures are really showing their age, but otherwise, this is a pretty reasonable kit for not a lot of money.

The three ETO figures aren’t bad and I like the fact that lots of internal stowage is provided. When it’s done, this looks satisfactorily busy, which is pretty important on a finished model where so much of the interior is visible. So, would you want one? Well, probably… If you can put up with the tracks (or if you’re willing to source alternatives) and if you are willing to modify or ignore the front armour plate. I can’t give this a totally unqualified thumbs-up, but it is by no means a terrible kit and it’s a pleasant way to while away those long evenings…

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First to Fight 1/72 PzKpfw I Ausf. A (PL1939-002) Build Review


I’m planning to build this pretty much out of the box, but I want to finish it as a Nationalist tank from the Spanish Civil War rather than a tank in Wehrmacht service in 1939.

From the time of its first introduction into German service until July 1937, all Panzer Is were painted in the Buntfarbenanstrich (multi-coloured-camouflage) scheme, a three-colour camouflage pattern consisting of earth-yellow, green and brown. The first batch of Panzer I Ausf. A tanks sent to Nationalist Spain left Germany in September and October 1936 and all would have been painted in the Buntfarbenanstrich scheme. So, I’ll be painting this in the three-colour camo scheme, which may be a challenge on such a tiny kit.

This image from Vallejo paints shows a Panzer I Ausf. A in the Buntfarbenanstrich scheme.

Panzer Is in Spain also had their turret hatches (or sometimes the whole turret top) painted white with a black diagonal cross as an air recognition symbol. On the front hull (and sometimes the rear of the turret too) they had the Nationalist red/yellow/red flash and on the lower front hull a three-digit identification code in white. That’s it. Everything needed to turn this into a Nationalist tank will be done during painting and by using some decals from my spares box.

The Build

Before I begin construction, I work on a pronounced moulding seam that runs all round the tracks. This takes some careful sanding – the plastic here is fairly soft and it’s all too easy to lose what little detail is provided on the outside of the tracks.

I briefly also consider drilling out the machine guns until sanity prevails. A 7.92mm opening in 1/72 scale is just over .1mm! I don’t have a suitable drill or eyesight for that so these will remain solid. I also consider adding a jack and fire extinguisher to the track guards, but I decide instead to build this straight out-of-the box.

Hull construction is simple: the upper and lower halves snap together and there are no problems adding the few bits and pieces. Fit is pretty good and no filler was required.

The upper and lower halves of the turret also snap together and again, fit is good.

And, after about ten minutes or so, that’s pretty much it for construction – the tracks and running gear are also a snap fit, but I’m leaving them off for the moment to make painting easier.

The main issue here is that this is just so hilariously small. How small? Well, here it is parked next to a 1/72 Jagdpanther…

Now it’s time to begin painting. And that will take rather longer. On the original, the base colour was earth-yellow with the other two colours being applied on top of that, so I’ll start with a few thinned coats of the base colour. I’m using a lightened mix of Vallejo Dark Yellow and US Field Drab to represent earth-yellow (which was a fairly light, yellow-brown). I have also added the white hatch with black cross to the turret.

Now it’s time to think about the camo scheme. On the original, this was sprayed, giving feathered edges to the different colours but, given that I’m using a brush, I’m going for a hard-edged finish and hoping that on a tank this small it won’t look too odd.

I’m using Vallejo Russian Uniform and a mix based on US Field Drab for the camo colours. These are both considerably lighter than the original colours used, but at this scale I think they give a reasonable representation of the colours in the Buntfarbenanstrich scheme. I add dry-brushed highlights to all three colours. 

Then it’s time the paint the running gear, and this is fiddly because this and the tracks are just one part for each side. After adding the camo colours, I use grey for the roadwheel and return roller tyres, and then a darker grey as a base colour for the tracks. I drybrush gunmetal highlights and then give the tracks an overall acrylic brown wash.

The last bits of painting involve the exhausts, the shovel on the track-guard and the machine guns. The perforated shrouds for the machine guns are nicely done, so I begin with a black base colour, then I carefully add dark grey, leaving the holes in black and finally I give both some gunmetal dry-brushed highlights. It’s a lot of mucking about on very tiny parts, but I do feel that this adds to the visual appeal of the finished model.

Finally, I add a light-brown acrylic wash on the lower hull and running gear to represent dust. And that’s painting done.

Then, decals. These are fairly simple – a rectangular red/yellow/red Nationalist flash on the glacis plate, a thinner, longer version of this flash on the turret rear and a white three-digit unit code on the front hull. The hull numbers seem to have been hand-painted rather than stencilled and were often not quite straight. All decals used here are created by using left-overs from the spares box cut to size.

The, I give everything a coat of clear, matte varnish followed by a grey oil wash to bring out the shadows. The exhaust heat-shields get a separate dark brown wash to try to make the indentations on the plastic look like holes with the rusty exhaust beneath showing through. Perhaps this is overkill, but I do feel that it helps to make these look like thin metal shields with holes in them rather than solid parts.

And that’s it for construction and painting on this tiny kit.

After Action Report

The main problems here are related to the tiny size of this kit and its simplified construction. It’s a very quick build and there aren’t any problems with fit. Most of the work here is in painting, and that is a little more challenging. I generally don’t look forward, for example, to painting roadwheel tyres, but then they’re this small, and moulded as a single part with the tracks and suspension, it’s even more difficult.

It’s the same with the camo scheme. This isn’t particularly complex, but getting something convincing on this tiny hull and turret does require some planning and some care. The decals were also an issue, because I didn’t use those supplied with the kit. Cutting out and joining tiny fragments of decal to make the Nationalist flash on the turret and hull was not something to tackle until I’d had my first coffee of the day.

Providing a size comparison, here is this Nationalist Panzer I with two other 1/72 kits: a Republican IGC Sandurni by Minairons Miniatures (foreground left) and behind, a Zvezda Jagdpanther. You can see just how tiny these Spanish Civil War tanks were.

However, I’m fairly happy with the finished result. There is a particular challenge to building something this small, and a great deal of satisfaction if it turns out reasonably. Overall, there is little wrong with this kit, though I think it could do with more detail on things like items usually stowed on the track-guards, the tracks and the exhausts. However, given how scarce small-scale kits of the Panzer I are, your choice is very limited and I think you could do much worse.  

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Revell 1/35 World of Tanks T-26 (03505) Build Review


I intend building this kit as a captured Nationalist T-26 during the Spanish Civil War. If you’re building any kit as something other than straight out-of-the-box, you’ll need to do some investigation. The main question is: does this kit accurately represent a tank of this period? That question requires some research, and I believe that there are a number of minor issues but just three principal problems: the louvre over the rear deck, the roadwheels and the radio antenna.

Early Model 1933 T-26 tanks had roadwheels with thick rubber rims. Later versions had more complex steel roadwheels with thinner rubber rims. This kit comes with the later type of roadwheel. I have seen it suggested that all tanks provided to Spain had the earlier type of roadwheel, but I don’t think that’s true.

This image shows a restored Nationalist T-26 in a Spanish museum. You’ll see that three of the roadwheels (one at the front and two at the rear) are of the later type while the other five are the earlier type.

Here’s another former Nationalist T-26 currently undergoing restoration in Spain. You can see that all the roadwheels here are of the later type. This images also gives a good view of the engine-deck louvre.

So, while many captured T-26 tanks in Spain may have had the earlier type of roadwheel, it certainly isn’t impossible that some were fitted with the later type. So, I’m going to go ahead and use the roadwheels provided with this kit.

The louvre over the engine deck is also an issue. The kit includes this type of louvre cover.

However, this was only developed after the Spanish Civil War because so many T-26 tanks were lost after improvised Molotov-cocktails were used on the louvre to disable these tanks. Tanks in Spain had earlier slatted-type louvres that looked like this:

This is quite a distinctive difference, and I’ll have to scratch-build a new louvre. Fortunately, the louvre is provided as a separate part on this kit, so replacing it shouldn’t be too difficult.

Finally, it does not seem that any Nationalist T-26 tanks were fitted with radios. A few captured Republican tanks did have radios, but these and the antenna were removed before these entered Nationalist service. All that was left were the stubs of the antenna mountings welded to plates on the turret which looked like this:

So, I won’t be using the radio antenna that comes with this kit and I’ll be modifying the mountings so that they look like the image above. That’s it for the changes needed, so it’s time to start the actual build.

The Build

I begin by assembling the hull. This comprises just six parts. It’s only when I’m assembling this that I notice that one of the main axles for the suspension bogies on the right side has snapped off. It isn’t in the packaging, so I’ll have to make a new one.

Fit is OK, but certainly not perfect. Tape is required to hold things in alignment while they set and some filler is required at the front. I then add something that looks a little like the slatted engine-deck louvre found on SCW T-26 tanks.

I add the rest of the bits and pieces to the hull. The driver’s hatch is a separate part and could be shown open, but the lack of any interior detail or a driver figures makes this a little pointless, so I show it closed. I do come across an issue that has me scratching my head when I try to fit the vent at the rear left of the engine deck. There are two raised lines on the hull (you can see them in the photo above) and the instructions seem to show that the vent should go inside these lines.

However, if you do that, it doesn’t fit – the vent ends up projecting to the right and rear of the engine deck, which is clearly wrong. But, if you put the vent on so that it goes outside these lines, it doesn’t sit properly – the right side is higher than the right. It takes a fair amount of filing and sanding before I get something that sits flat in approximately in the right place, and even then, filler is needed to cover a noticeable gap on the left.

I feel like I have done something wrong here, but I can’t see what it might be.

The next step is to assemble the roadwheels, suspension bogies, idlers, sprockets and return rollers. I do this because I want to build the link-and-length tracks, and to allow that, I need these parts temporarily in place. Fit isn’t wonderful with the bogies – some locating pegs would have been useful. It’s also worth noting that two different versions of the sprockets are provided with this kit – the correct ones to use are provided on the sprues with the tracks, not those included on the main sprue.

Then, it’s time to start on the tracks. This is fiddly – the individual track links are small, but at least they are cleanly moulded and they do fit together well. My plan is to construct the tracks on each side as separate upper and lower runs which I can slide into place later, once main painting and construction are done.

This is what I end up with, with the separate sections temporarily held in place with tape. The sagging on the upper run is nicely done, though obviously, you do have to make sure it’s positioned correctly so that the high points coincide with the return rollers. The tracks themselves have good detail, inside and out.

One thing I found was that, while the instructions claim that you need 7 links on the idler and 9 on the sprocket, I found that I used 8 on the sprocket and 9 on the idler. I also had to cut two links out of the section of track on the bottom run that spans between the idler and the rear roadwheel.  At least I now have complete sections of track for each side that I can add later.

I add the tracks guards, stowage boxes and other bits and pieces and, for the moment, that’s it for hull construction. I’ll add the exhaust,  tools and running gear later.

Now it’s time to make a start on the turret. I begin by drilling out the main gun, sanding off the moulding seams and mounting it in the mantlet.

That’s when I realize that no co-axial MG is included with this kit, though it is shown in the view of the completed turret in the instructions.

It’s not a major problem, and I replace it with a German MG-34 barrel from the spares box (captured Nationalist T-26 tanks often seem to have been fitted with these machine guns) but its absence seems a little odd. Main turret construction is straightforward, though the location of the two halves isn’t particularly precise and a little filler is needed on the join at the front.

Such is my hatred of masking that I’m leaving off the mantlet for the moment to make painting easier. And now, it’s time to think about the paint scheme. I’m using the Star decals set for Nationalist T-26 tanks which also includes several paint schemes. I have chosen this one, showing a tank of the Tercio de extranjeros (literally, regiment of foreigners, usually translated as Foreign Legion) in 1938.

By that time, Nationalist T-26 tanks were painted in a standard way. Most were painted in some combination of dark green, light brown and dark brown with red/yellow/red stripes on the mantlet and turret rear and the turret hatch painted either white with a diagonal black cross or black with a diagonal white cross as an air recognition symbol. There doesn’t seem to have been a fixed pattern for the camo scheme or colours and these were usually been applied by hand to give a hard-edged finish.

I begin by painting the mantlet and turret. Here’s the result after masking and painting the red/yellow/red stripes, painting the hatch white and giving it an overall base coat of dark green.

As ever, the results of my masking don’t look particularly great, but I’ll just have to live with it. Then, the hull also gets a base coat of dark green, using AK Olivegrun, but for some reason this goes on badly and it takes four coats to get anything approaching a consistent finish.

Now it’s time to think about the camo scheme. Nationalist tanks had irregular blotches of light and/or dark brown applied over the base green. There wasn’t a set pattern, so I decide on a two-colour scheme based loosely on a restored Nationalist T-26 at the military museum in Cartagena  in Spain.    

Then I add the decals to the hull. These come from Star Decals and they’re, OK, though not perfect. A couple of them broke up as I slid them off the backing sheet (including one of the Falangist Party symbols on the front mudguards) and the circular symbol that is placed on the hull front and rear is printed slightly out of register. Other than that, these are nicely dense and seem to be accurate.

I do some dry-brushed highlights then, everything gets a coat of clear varnish and I do an overall wash with dark grey oil. I also add some mud/dust on the lower hull, tracks and running gear.

With that done, it’s time to add the tracks and running gear. Happily, the assembled and painted tracks slide into place without any problems. Here’s the first side done.

There’s no doubt that link and length tracks can be tricky to assemble. But, when they’re done well (as they are in this kit) they just look so much better than vinyl tracks… All that’s now left to do is to add the exhaust and tools, and that’s this Nationalist T-26 done!

After Action Report

I’m reasonably happy with how this turned out. This really isn’t a bad little kit. Fit in some places is just average, though in the end, I used very little filler here. The lack of a co-axial MG is odd, but otherwise detail is acceptable, though it would have been great to have some internal detail and a couple of crew figures. The tracks really are pretty good. They may be a little fiddly to build, but I think the end result is worth it.

As a model of a Spanish Civil War T-26, it’s not perfect, but just about what I was aiming for. The decals from Star Decals really make a difference and their painting guide is very helpful if you’re trying to build something other than what’s provided in the box.

Overall, if you want to build a 1/35 T-26, you could do a lot worse than this Revell kit. And if producing a WoT model doesn’t appeal, well just check out the Star Decals site for lots of other options.

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Star Decals website

Tamiya 1/35 Type 97 Chi-Ha (35075) Build Review

I’m going to build this one pretty much out of the box, with a couple of small changes that I’ll explain along the way. The first thing I tackle are the odd gaps between the upper and lower hull that seem to be a feature of many of these early Tamiya kits. I have no idea why – perhaps it was to allow heat from the motor to dissipate? Whatever the reason, I’m planning to have the hatches open and the kit figures in place on this build and, as you can see with the upper and lower hull temporarily together, the gap on the left side is clearly visible through  the open MG operator’s hatch.

Fixing it is simple and only requires a couple of pieces of thin plastic card cut to shape, but this does seem an odd issue on an otherwise beautifully engineered kit.

I try the hull machine-gun operator in position, and it all looks good. I have painted the inside surface of the plastic card a dark grey so that hopefully it’ll disappear into the shadow of the interior. With that done, it’s time to continue with the rest of construction…

I start by assembling the roadwheels, sprockets, idlers and bogies. All the roadwheel tyres have distinct moulding seams on their circumference that need to be sanded – a bit of a chore as there are 24. The four single roadwheels and both sprockets are retained by plastic poly caps. There’s nice detail here – the front and rear single pairs of roadwheels have slightly different hubs compared to the roadwheels attached to the bogies, and that’s accurately replicated.

I then move to construction of the lower hull. No problems here. I’m leaving off the roadwheels, bogies etc. for the moment – the camo scheme extends down the sides of the lower hull and I think this will be easier to paint before these parts are in place.

And then it’s on to the upper hull. Again, no problems and everything goes together easily and without the need for any filler.

The upper and lower hulls are then joined with no gaps and no need for filler. Construction so far is a pleasure: good detail, few tiny parts and fit is as close to perfect as you’re likely to find. I don’t see how you can ask more from any plastic model kit!  

I then add the Hull MG operator’s hatch after adding some detail to the interior. I leave off the exhausts, tools, tow-cable, etc., and I’ll add these once I’m done with painting.

Then, it’s time to start on the turret. I begin with the main gun, which comes in two parts, with a separate muzzle which incorporates an open bore. Fortunately, fit between these parts is very good and it’s possible to sand the join without compromising the distinct shape of the muzzle.

The first part of turret construction goes without any problems and fit is great.

I complete turret construction and notice that the AA machine gun mount is clearly located in the instructions (I claimed in the In-Box review that it wasn’t), so I decide to include this after all. I also incorporate some additional detail inside the main hatch. I leave off the radio antenna at this stage to make painting easier.

It’s time to begin painting. As usual, I’ll be brush painting everything and I’m going for the four-colour scheme incorporating the irregular yellow cross – it looks a little challenging, but I hope it will be visually striking. After some testing and experimentation, I’m using Mig Olivegrun Opt. 2 for the base green colour.

Then, I add the lighter of the two browns, using Vallejo US Field Drab.

Then I add the darker brown using Vallejo Flat Brown and the yellow cross. I paint this first in pale grey before overpainting in yellow, otherwise the yellow doesn’t really show up at all. It’s a bit wibbly, but I think it will do. And given that the original was simply brush painted, I don’t suppose it was perfect either!

Next, I use lightened versions of all three main colours to dry brush highlights on the hull, turret and running gear. Then, I add the decals and give everything a coat of clear matte varnish. Oddly, this seems to darken the lighter of the two browns, but not the other colours.

Then I add a dark oil wash to bring out the shadows and this, in conjunction with the highlighting, really brings everything up nicely.

I then do an overall watercolour wash with additional dust/mud streaks on the sides and on the roadwheels, etc. I then add the roadwheels, idlers and sprockets onto the hull and that gives me a chance to try fitting the tracks. 

They’re a good length and they join cleanly but once they’re in place, it’s clear that the inner guide teeth don’t fit inside the gap between the two outer, upper return rollers. I checked the instructions, and I think I have assembled these correctly, but there is no way to get the tracks to sit properly on the rollers. As shown above, this just looks wrong. I’d also like to show some sag, and that takes a little head-scratching.

In the end, I cut off two of the inner guide teeth where the tracks pass over the outer rollers and I glue a couple of pieces of curved plastic on the underside of the inside of the tracks. These are invisible once the tracks are in place and help to give at least the impression of some sag on the main runs. I also glue the tracks down to the return rollers once they’re painted. This is what I end up with. Certainly not perfect, but I think I can live with it.

Time to work on the remaining bits and pieces. The exhausts get some rough texture and some paint to represent rust. The tow cable, tools and jack get added to the rear hull and the radio antenna and the AA MG are added to the turret.

That’s about it for construction. The last step is assembly and painting of the figures. They do have prominent moulding seams that need to be sanded, but they are both generally well sculpted and only a tiny amount of filler is needed to smooth one shoulder joint on the commander.

I give them both a fairly simple paint job that follows the instructions.

And with the figures in place, I declare this Tamiya Chi-Ha done!

After Action Report

This is a fairly typical early Tamiya tank kit: it’s well engineered, fit is as close to perfect as you’re likely to find and it builds into a reasonable representation of the subject. Kit-building just doesn’t get much easier or more satisfying than this.

OK, it isn’t perfect. The gap between the upper and lower hull is odd (and common to several other early Tamiya kits) and it can clearly be seen through the open hull MG operator’s hatch so it does need to be fixed. Both that hatch and the turret hatch lack internal detail and again, that’s probably something you’re going to have to work on if you want to show these open.

The tracks are well detailed and join easily, but they’re made of fairly inflexible vinyl so if you want to show sag, some creativity will be required. But that’s pretty much it in terms of drawbacks. Otherwise, this is simple to build and there is nothing here that would challenge even a beginner kit-builder.

Overall, I’d give this one a big thumbs-up! And, like many of the early Tamiya kits, you can find this one for not very much money at all. Go for it!

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