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Hasegawa 1/72 Sd.Kfz. 162 Jagdpanzer IV L/48 Late Version (31151) Build Review

I begin with hull construction, and I won’t quite be following the instructions. I’m going to join the upper and lower hull before adding the tracks – the instructions suggest that the tracks should be added first. I want to paint the tracks separately and add them when hull painting is complete, so I also leave off the sprockets to make fitting the tracks simpler.

Main hull construction is simple as there are just five parts – the top, bottom, sides and rear. I begin by filling the hole for the MG port on the left side and adding the gun and mantlet. Joining the main gun barrel to the hollow tip is easy, but fit isn’t great and it takes so much sanding to get rid of the join that I’m concerned about ending up with a tapered gun. Personally, I’d rather just drill out the barrel.

The other parts of the hull go together well with no need for filler but I do notice something odd that has me scratching my head. When the rear plate is added, the hubs for the idlers and what I take to be the inner part of the hub don’t line up.

It looks to me as if the hubs and mounting pins for the idlers, which are attached to the hull sides, are around 3-4mm too low. It would be possible to cut these off and re-attach them higher, but I’m concerned that this might not be strong enough to resist being broken by the vinyl tracks. So, I leave it as-is. I just don’t know enough to be sure, but looking at photographs of Panzer IVs and Jagdpanzer IVs, this looks wrong to me.

The rest of hull construction is straightforward and everything fits well. The only minor problem is when I come to fit the small schürzen mountings, I discover that one is missing from the sprue. Initially, I assumed that this must have broken off while I was handling this sprue, but checking the photographs I took for the In-Box review (which I took as soon as I opened the package) shows that it was missing then. The missing part isn’t in the box or the plastic bag in which the sprues were packed, so I guess it just wasn’t supplied.

I can’t say I’m too perturbed. I’ll just use four mountings per side rather than five, but in over a year since I re-started model building, this is the fist time I have received a kit with a missing part. Incidentally, these are really tiny parts and the mounting positions are more a guide than a help. I didn’t quite enter full cat-startling-tantrum mode, but I didn’t enjoy this fiddly part of the build at all.  

With these parts added, that’s construction virtually done.  Or, at least I thought it was until I actually looked at the photo above. When I did, I could see that I had got the fitting of the plates on either side of the rear hull completely wrong! Why do I only notice these things in photos! I had fitted the rear plates so that they matched the angle of the rear hull behind them, but that’s clearly wrong. Instead, they should follow the angle of the hull side plates. I have to cut them off and re-fix before they look right.

I’m also leaving off the roadwheels, jack, exhaust,  spare track links and other bits and pieces at this stage to make painting a little easier. Now, it’s time to think about painting, and I’m keen to try something different. In late August 1944, some German tanks were painted with a new colour scheme – the Hinterhalt (ambush) scheme. This was applied at the factory rather than in the field and there were two versions. Both began with a base coat of Dunklegelb (dark yellow) overlaid with large irregular patches of Olivgrün (Olive Green) and Rotbraun (Red Brown). On one version of the scheme, a stencil of irregular circles was then created and dunklegelb was oversprayed through this on top of the green and brown areas. On the other scheme, small circles or triangles of dunklegelb were added to the brown and green areas and circles or triangles of green were added to the dunklegelb areas. Below you can see a Jagdpanzer IV L/70 in the Hinterhalt scheme.

This scheme was discontinued after less than three months, simply because it took more time to get vehicles out of the factory. I have not been able to find photographic evidence of a late Jagdpanzer IV L/48 with this scheme, but it is certainly possible and it’s a different and challenging paint scheme. It starts with several base coats of well-thinned Vallejo dunklegelb.

Then, I add some dry-brushed highlights.

 Then, it gets a simple scheme of lightened rotbraun and olivegrun with appropriate dots added. I can’t say that I’m entirely happy with the result, the dots look rather clumsy. I added them using a sharpened matchstick and I wonder if I did too many and made them too large? Oh well, I’ll continue anyway.

The next step is painting the tools on the rear hull and the roadwheel tyres. I hate painting roadwheel tyres and, with eight small wheels per side, the Panzer IV chassis is particularly challenging in 1/72. I finally get them done and add them to the hull. When attaching the painted roadwheels, and it’s notable that the individual wheels are a loose fit on the spindles, so some care is required to ensure all eight line up. I also add some fairly generic decals: a balkenkreuz on the rear hull plates,  a three-digit unit number on the hull sides, kill rings on the gun and a Panzer Lehr Divisional marking on the front.

Even the decals were a problem on this kit. Usually, I find that a minute or so of soaking in warm water is enough to release these from their backing. Here, each decal had to be left for at least ten minutes before it would move and even then, some of them cracked (that’s why there are fewer kill rings than provided). I can’t imagine why that is – the backing sheet does seem thicker than usual, but even so, loosening these took much longer than normal.

Then I add the spare track links on the rear and add a brown detail wash over everything. I also add some mud and staining to the hull close to the roadwheels and return rollers. There is nice detail here, and the wash helps to highlight things like the joints in the armour plate on the front on the hull.

The tracks get a simple finish – dark grey base, gunmetal highlights on the treads and a brown acrylic wash overall. These tracks really are lacking detail.

Then I add the tracks and sprockets to the hull, which fortunately isn’t too difficult. The tracks aren’t at all tight, which helps. Then, all I have to do is add the exhaust and tools, and it’s done.

After Action Report

This isn’t a terrible kit by any means. But I don’t feel it’s a great kit either, mainly due to some niggling issues. It takes quite a while to fill the left side MG port on the front hull so that it’s invisible on the finished model. The fit of the tip of the gun and the main part of the barrel isn’t great and also requires lots of sanding, which inevitably leads to a slightly tapered main gun. I think that the idlers and their hubs are set too low, and that looks a little odd from the side as well as meaning that these parts don’t line up with the inner hubs on the hull rear plate. The roadwheels are a loose fit on the mounting spindles, making it very difficult to get them to line up accurately. Accurately fitting the tiny middle schurzen mountings is tricky. The decals take way too long to separate from the backing sheet and the tracks are really poor.

Set against those things, surface detail isn’t bad, and this does look like a fairly accurate representation of the Jagdpanzer IV. It’s probably true to say that my biggest problem with this kit is the Hasegawa Churchill I built previously. Although that kit dates from 1974, fit was as close to perfect as you will find in 1/72 scale, the build was simple and straightforward and the whole kit just seemed sharper than this one. I probably expected this to be as good as that Churchill and, IMHO, it isn’t

So, would you be disappointed with one of these? Probably not if, unlike me, your expectations weren’t set unrealistically high. Though I’m afraid those tracks really aren’t up to modern standards…

Happy kit-building

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Hasegawa 1/72 Sd.Kfz. 162 Jagdpanzer IV L/48 Late Version (31151) In-Box Review

Hasegawa 1/72 Infantry Tank Churchill Mk. I (31127) Build Review

Hasegawa 1/72 Infantry Tank Churchill Mk. I (31127) Build Review

I have decided to build this kit as a Churchill Mk I of the 9th Royal Tank Regiment in 1942.

I start with drilling out both gun barrels and then move on to construction of the central section of the hull. Something that immediately becomes obvious is the superb fit of all the parts that make up the lower hull. This is as good as it gets and certainly as good if not better than the fit on any other small-scale AFV I have built.

No filler is required at all and everything lines up as it should. I construct the outer boxes that support the tracks separately, mainly because I want to paint some internal details such as the suspension springs before assembly. I also paint the inside of the front and rear hull plates and the sprockets and idlers in a slightly darkened version of the base colour.

When I finish painting, I assemble the outer boxes that contain the suspension – each comprises three parts: the outer plate including the outer faces of the rollers, a central part that includes the suspension springs and the roller axles and a small inner plate that includes the inner faces of the rollers. Fit is again great with one exception – the roller axles line up perfectly with the inner and outer faces of the rollers on nine out of the eleven rollers, but on the raised front and rear rollers, they don’t line up at all. This isn’t a massive problem – the suspension springs can be bent into the right position, but it’s odd considering how well everything else fits.

With that done, I join the boxes to the hull. The suspension springs are clearly visible, so I’m happy that I took the time to paint them before assembly.

The only parts left to fit off the hull are the exhausts, which I’ll paint separately. I do leave the idlers and sprockets free to rotate, because they engage with the tracks and I’ll need to have them in just the right position to get the tracks to sit correctly. There is nice detail on the sprockets at the rear, but unfortunately when these are in position, they can’t be seen at all. At this stage I also check the fit of the tracks and I’m delighted to report that they’re just right in terms of length, neither too tight nor too loose, so I’m hoping that fitting these won’t be too much of a chore.

Next, the turret. Again, fit is very good indeed with only a tiny amount of filler needed at the front on the join between the upper and lower parts of the turret. The inner mantlet is free to elevate.

I check the fit of the turret on the hull, and it’s fine. And that is essentially construction done. There are no problems here and nothing that is at all difficult.

Now, it’s time to begin painting. Finding the precise colour to use is not especially easy. From 1941-42, British tanks were painted in a base colour of Khaki Green No.3, which is a bit lighter than US Olive Drab. After a bit of research, I have decided to use Vallejo Model Color Russian Uniform Green 70.924, which seems at least close to the correct colour. It may be a bit light, but I’m hoping that oil washes will darken it a bit.  

I have used Vallejo acrylics before, but I do note a couple of odd things about this paint. First, it separates really quickly when you put some on a palette. To avoid streaks, you must mix it carefully each time you load the brush. Second, it rubs off really easily. Just gently handling the model results in patches of bare plastic that must be touched-up. I haven’t experienced this with any other Vallejo paints. Once I have an even coat, I give it a quick protective coat of clear varnish before adding some highlights by dry brushing with a slightly lightened version of the base green and I paint the tools on the rear hull and the jacks on the sides.

Then I add the decals. This doesn’t take long as only six are provided for the Mk I – three each of the identification numbers and the red squares denoting this as a tank of “B” squadron.  

After another coat of varnish, I use a heavily thinned wash of black oil paint. This gives me the density of shadow I want in nooks and crannies and also darkens the green and adds streaks and grubby areas to the hull and turret.

Overall, I’m not too unhappy with the final colour. It’s close to what I was hoping for and, I think, a reasonable colour for a British tank in 1942.

Next, the tracks. I give these a very simple finish of dark grey, light gunmetal highlighting for the treads and then a wash with a dark brown acrylic to finish. I glue them together using a two-pack epoxy resin, and this holds well given that they hardly need to be stretched at all to fit in place. All that’s left to add are the two exhausts on the rear hull, and it’s done.

After Action Report

This was simply a joy to build. Everything went together perfectly and with no problems. If you were looking for a first small-scale AFV kit, this would be a great place to start. OK, so the decal sheet is a little sparse, you’ll need to drill out both guns, the commander figure isn’t the best and tracks aren’t great, but they do at least fit and that’s more than I can say for many 1/72 and 1/76 kits!

Despite these minor drawbacks and other than the tracks, detail here is sharp and entirely adequate. Everything appears to be where it should and the proportions and sizes of everything look good.  

Other than drilling out both guns and adding some rough texture to represent rust on the exhausts, this is built straight out of the box. I enjoyed building this and I’m happy with the result. And I don’t suppose you can ask much more from a kit that cost less than €10!

This 1975 kit is highly recommended. And I’m rather looking forward to my next Hasegawa 1/72 kit. Come on, at that price, I wasn’t going to buy just one, now was I?

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Hasegawa 1/72 Infantry Tank Churchill Mk. I (31127) In-Box Review and History

Zvezda 1/72 Jagdpanther (5042) Build Review

I decided to build this kit in a slightly different sequence to usual, mainly because of the tracks. On the last two Zvezda kits I built, I was able to happily ignore the track construction until the hull was done and painted. However, the arrangement of roadwheels on the Jagdpanther is quite complex, so I have decided to follow the instructions and built the wheels and tracks on to the lower hull before working on anything else.

First, I completed construction of the lower hull by adding the suspension arms and other parts. This is all fairly simple and fit is good. There is good detail here, though none of it will be visible on the finished model. Then, I painted the roadwheels, sprockets and idlers. I also painted the tracks at this stage – nothing fancy, just an overall coat of dark grey, some dry-brushing with light gunmetal and some acrylic brown wash for rust and dirt.

Then, I began to assemble the wheels and tracks on the lower hull, and man, was that a pain! The first problem was when I tried to attach one of the rear idlers. This was the result.

I didn’t feel that I was using excessive force, but somehow I snapped off a corner of the lower rear hull including the idler mounting. I glued it back in place with a piece of plastic card for reinforcement and carried on. The next step was to add the inner blocks of eight roadwheels. That, happily is fairly simple. So is adding the next block of four roadwheels.

Then, you use one hand to hold the lower hull, your other hand to fit the tracks on to the tiny plastic pins on the inner roadwheels and your other, other hand to carefully bend the rest of the stiff plastic track into position. You see the problem! Both the previous Zvezda kits I worked on were of Russian tanks (a t-34 and an SU-85). These have just a row of double roadwheels with sturdy plastic pegs between the two sets to hold the tracks in place. That worked well.

Here, the complex arrangement of roadwheels means that the mounting pegs are tiny, and you are trying to locate the tracks on these while threading the lugs on the inner side of the tracks between three rows of wheels. Then, when you have finally managed that, and while holding everything in place, you must add the final row of four separate roadwheels, three of which also have tiny pegs that must locate into the tracks. But, as you are pressing these into place, you can’t see the pegs on the inner face of the wheels. And if you get them even a miniscule amount out of alignment, they snap off. Or at least, mine did. It took my thirty minutes of wrestling and almost my entire stock of swear-words to get the first side done, and even then, there was still a tiny gap where the tracks join on the bottom of the run. I finally sorted that out and retired for the evening.

The second side was just as challenging, but somehow I did end up with a lower hull with two sets of tracks that look sort of all right. But this was not a process I enjoyed in the least!

With the tracks and lower hull done, it’s time to move on to upper hull construction. Happily, this is very simple. Fit is generally very good and in a couple of places, on the rear plate of the upper hull and the inner mantlet, for example, it’s pretty close to perfect. No filler is needed at all. The gun and outer mantlet attach to an arm fixed inside the hull and this allows the gun to both elevate and traverse.

Then, you need to snap the upper and lower hulls together, and this is a one-time process. There is no test assembly here, once the parts are snapped together, they stay that way! Happily and once again, fit is good. There is a small visible gap at the front where the upper and lower hulls join which needs a line of filler and I needed a little more when I added the lower rear hull plate, but that may be because I snapped off a corner of the lower hull during track construction. The schurzen side plates also fit very nicely indeed. I’m leaving off the tools, tow-cables etc., at this stage to make basic painting easier.  

This kit does nicely replicate the squat, purposeful look of the Jagdpanther. With the bulk of construction done, it’s time to start main hull painting. First, it gets several thinned coats of Mig Jiminez Dunklegelb.

Then I add everything but the spare track-links, tow-cables and machine gun and add some fairly subtle highlights using a lightened version of the base dunklegelb.

Then, I add a fairly simple camouflage scheme.  I have had lots of problems with these in the past, especially with the contrast between the green and brown and the base dark yellow. I have tried filters to try to tone this contrast down, but they haven’t turned out too well, so here I’m simply using lightened versions of the basic dark brown and green, applied with a stippling brush. And it doesn’t look too bad, in fact, I’m happier with this than with most of my previous attempts at German camo schemes and I’m hoping that the final oil wash will tome things down even more. Before that, I add the decals and give everything a quick coat of matt varnish.

Then, it gets a pin-wash with dark grey oil, I add the last few parts, and that’s the Zvezda Jagdpanther done.

After Action Report

Having said previously how much I loved Zvezda tracks, I found the tracks on this kit an utter pain to assemble. This job was fiddly, time consuming and the amount of force needed to get things like the final set of outer wheels in place graphically illustrates just how fragile the lower hull assembly is at this stage of construction. Maybe I’m just clumsy, but it would be much too easy at this stage to break something critical. Having said all that, the finished tracks have more detail and probably do look better than vinyl versions in this scale.

Other than that, assembly was simple and straightforward and fit was very good everywhere. I do like the fact that the tools, tow-cables and other parts are provided separately, and this certainly makes them easier to paint and they look so much better than moulded-in-place parts. I did note on this kit that every part can be snapped into place without the need for glue – on previous Zvezda kits, some small parts did need to be glued in place.

Overall, this is certainly one of the most accurate and complete small-scale Jagdpanthers available. Perhaps it’s even the best? For me, the main question is, having built this, my third Zvezda 1/72 kit, would I tackle another? And the answer is,,, probably. The arrangement of roadwheels and tracks made this a challenging build for me, so I’m not sure I’d be rushing to buy, for example, a Panther or Tiger by the same manufacturer. However, I do still feel that these hard plastic tracks represent the best detailed 1/72 tanks tracks that I have come across to date. So, another Zvezda 1/72 kit? Yes, but perhaps something with a simpler arrangement of roadwheels…

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Revell (Matchbox) 1/76 PzKpfw II Ausf. F (03229) Build Review

I’m planning to build the tiny Revell 1/76 Panzer II pretty much out of the box, with a couple of minor changes. First, the main gun is just too long. A bit of checking suggests that at 1/76, the main gun on a Panzer II should project just over 11mm from the support ring on the mantlet. As provided, the gun is around 14mm long, and it looks wrong so, when preparing this part I’ll be making sure that I cut it to the correct length.

Second, this kit comes with a stowage box for the rear of the turret. Many Panzer IIs were provided with these bins, but most photographs of DAK tanks shows that they weren’t fitted. So, I won’t be using the parts for the stowage bin which also means that I’ll have to fill the mounting slot on the turret rear and fabricate a new pistol-port for this area.

OK, time to get started. I begin with hull construction and I immediately run into a problem. The hull comprises just five parts – the upper and lower hull, the sides and the rear plate. Fit is fine and I carefully follow the instructions which show the top of the rear plate being in-line with the top of the hull sides.

However, when I do a dry assembly to check fit, here’s what I get:

As you can see, there is a very noticeable 2-3mm gap between the top of the rear panel and the underside of the upper hull. This also means that the top of the box on the rear plate is too low – it should be level with the top of the rear hull. That can’t be right! It feels like I’m doing something wrong here, but I just can’t see what it is. The only simple solution is to mount the rear plate a few mm higher, so that it projects above the hull side plates. That makes it fit at the top though I lose the smooth transition to the lower hull plate.

With this fixed, I continue with hull construction and everything else fits well. I also make a new pistol-port out of plastic card so that I can use one of the ports provided with the kit for the rear of the turret.

Next, the turret. Fit of all parts is good with no need for filler. I use some Tamiya white putty to fill the mounting slot for the turret stowage bin, add an additional pistol port on the rear and cut the main gun down to a more reasonable length.

Then, I add the sprockets, idlers and return rollers to the hull (I’ll be painting the roadwheels before I add them) and glue the three parts of the diorama base together. And that’s pretty much construction finished! I can’t resist trying the completed hull and turret on the base, just to see how it looks…

Time to start painting. The hull and turret both get an overall coat of Tamiya Dark Yellow followed by the painting of highlights with a lightened version of the same colour.

Then I add the decals and paint the tools and other bits and pieces.

Then, it all gets a coat of clear varnish followed by a wash of dark brown to emphasise shadows and mute the highlights.

The tracks get a coat of dark grey followed by highlighting with a soft pencil.

The diorama base gets a base coat of Tamiya Dark Yellow followed by a couple of brown oil washes. The building is finished in stone with a darker grey for damaged areas.

With the addition of the exhaust, and tarpaulin and the roadwheels, that’s it except for adding the tracks. It’s worth noting that the fit of the roadwheels on to the spindles on the hull isn’t great and some care is needed to avoid wonky wheels. There also isn’t much room to slide the tracks between the track-guards and the sprocket, but it can be done with a little wriggling.

I decide not to use the figures provided with the kit. They really are quite oddly proportioned when you look at them closely and I also leave off the decal for the building – I think it looks a little out of place on a ruined wall. And here’s the finished Panzer II:

After Action Report

This was another simple and satisfying build. The fit problem with the rear hull plate was strange – I haven’t seen it mentioned in any other review and I’m still wondering if I did something stupid (always a possibility) though I can’t see what it might be. Other than that, there were no problems at all here and once again, the Matchbox vinyl tracks are simple to join without the need for glue. They are also commendably thin compared to some vinyl tracks.

The diorama base is a nice addition that really adds to the finished model though I’m not so sure about the figures. OK, the quality of mouldings here probably isn’t up to the best modern standards, but I do think it’s possible to end up with a perfectly acceptable finished model of the Panzer II. The only possible issue is that this is a really tiny kit, which is a challenge if, like me, you have large, clumsy man-fingers. How small? Well, here it is hiding behind a 10p coin…

Overall, this is a pleasant way to while away a few idle hours and it’s always great to discover that another kit from my younger days really isn’t bad at all. For under €10, I don’t really see how you can go wrong with this kit.  

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Revell (Matchbox) 1/76 PzKpfw II Ausf. F (03229) In-Box Review and History

Revell (Matchbox) 1/76 M24 Chaffee (03323) Build Review

Revell (Matchbox) 1/76 M24 Chaffee (03323) Build Review

I’m going to be building this elderly kit almost straight out of the box. I know, there is lots of additional detail that could be added to this kit, but I rather like the sheer simplicity of it. I will however be making two small changes: I’ll be drilling out the main gun and I’ll be removing the side-skirts that cover the upper return rollers and the tops of the tracks. The main reason for this second change is that I simply think that the M24 looks better like this, and most wartime photographs show these tanks without the side-skirts. Apparently they tended to clog with mud in the wet and snowy conditions found in Europe during the Winter and Spring of 1944/1945. The second reason is entirely practical – If you make this kit with the side-skirts in place, you will need to assemble and paint the tracks and running gear early in the build. Removing them means that I’ll be able to paint the hull before I add the running gear and tracks, which is my preferred style of assembly.

Anyway, on with the build. First, the turret. And this assembles with no problems and no need for filler at all. The main gun (which I carefully drilled out – there isn’t any room to spare!) is a slightly loose fit in the mantlet, so a little care is needed to get it straight. Otherwise, this is completely straightforward.

The main hull assembly consists of just four parts – two sides and the top and bottom and, once again, fit is very good. Only a tiny amount of filler is needed at the sides of the hull nose.

Next, I cut the side-skirts off the track-guards. This isn’t difficult, it just takes a little care and a very sharp craft knife. Here you can see one before and one after.

Then, the track guards and other bits and pieces are added to complete the hull. Again, fit is great, though the instructions are a little vague about things like the placement of the rear lights – an arrow points in the general direction of the rear hull but there aren’t any pictures of the completed rear hull.

All that remains is to assemble the roadwheels, idlers and sprockets (all will be painted separately) and that’s pretty much construction of this M24 done. I do like a simple build and it’s difficult to see how you could have a simpler kit than this!

To begin painting, I use white for highlights and black for areas of deeper shadow.

Then, it all get a coat of Vallejo Olive Drab. This is a little light for a US tank (I know it doesn’t look that way in this photo), but I’ll be using a dark wash later so that should bring it back to approximately the right colour.

When this is dry, I use a scourer to distress the paint to reveal the white highlights underneath. On such a small tank and at such a small scale, this has to be done carefully if it isn’t going to look overwhelming.

The decals are then applied using Vallejo Decal Fix and Decal Softener. The decals are nicely dense, but they do seem a little thick. That gave a few problems on the white star on the rear hull which needs to conform to the grilles and other detail underneath. Even after several applications of decal softener, this still wasn’t perfect.

Then, the whole thing got a coat of clear acrylic varnish. When this was dry, I used a wash of heavily diluted black oil paint. This finds its way into tiny crevices and details and helps to give emphasis to shadows. The only thing you have to be careful about is not allowing this wash to form pools that will result in noticeable darker patches on large panels and on the decals.

Them it’s time to look at the tracks. This kit comes with vinyl tracks and, given some recent experiences, I wasn’t looking forward to this. Joining vinyl tracks is never easy and, if they’re short, stretching them into place can break the joint. However, the joining of these tracks is different. At one end there is a long locking tab and at the other, a slot. 

All you have to do is push the tab through the slot and, when tension is applied to the track, the joint closes up. It isn’t completely invisible but, if the joint is placed at the top of the track run, under the track-guards, I think it will barely show at all.

The result is a simple, elegant solution to the problem of joining tracks that needs no glue at all. Now, here’s my question: If Matchbox managed to get this right almost fifty years ago, why are we still faffing about with vinyl tracks that are almost impossible to join reliably? Other manufacturers please take note – if you must supply your kits with vinyl tracks, please make them join as simply and reliably as these!

I paint the tracks very simply – just a grey gunmetal base, light gunmetal highlights for the treads and a wash of acrylic brown for rust and dirt. Then, I add the running gear and install the tracks. And guess what – they’re long enough to fit without stretching! Top marks to Revell (and of course, to Matchbox) for providing useable vinyl tracks.

Finishing the M24 doesn’t take long, mainly because there are no accessories, tools or spare track links provided. So now, it’s on to the diorama base, and this is the only part of this kit where the fit is not so good. Here are the two halves of the base glued together.

A fair amount of filler is required to make the join less visible.

With this done, I give the base an undercoat of Tamiya Dark Yellow. I then use several oil and acrylic washes to give some colour contrast and visual interest to the base itself. I leave the edges in Dark Yellow, again to add visual interest.

With the addition of the sandbags, signpost and MG34 to the base and a stretched-sprue radio antenna to the tank, that’s this build finished.

After Action Report

This was a thoroughly enjoyable and stress-free build. This is a very nice little kit – everything fits well, the vinyl tracks are a delight to work with and I’m happy with the finished result. This M24 lacks some detail and finishing touches, but that certainly didn’t spoil it for me and you can of course add your own extras to turn this into something special. I like the diorama base. I think it adds to the finished model and, unlike some of the other early Matchbox kits, the base provided here is large enough to work well.

Going back to kits I enjoyed as a young man is always risky. What seemed like a great kit back in the early seventies can prove a bit of a disappointment when compared to current efforts. Memories of old kits can turn out to be more than a little rose-tinted. Not in this case! This was a tidy, well-moulded, well thought out kit back then and it still is now. This provided me with a great deal of enjoyment for very little money. If you enjoy building small-scale armour and you haven’t tried one of these old Matchbox kits, I thoroughly recommend the Revell M24.

The only question for me is: which one next? The Matchbox A34 Mk.1 Comet was a nice kit and it too has been reissued by Revell. But then I always liked the Panzer II Ausf. F and it too is available as a Revell offering as is the Wespe. And Revell have also recently re-released the Matchbox Humber Mk II armoured car…  I think I’m going to be busy for the next few weeks!  

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Revell 1/76 M24 Chaffee (03323)  In-Box Review and History

Forces of Valor 1/72 Panzer III Ausf. N (87011) Build Review

If you have read the in-box review of this kit, you’ll know that it’s not the highest quality of kits. You may therefore be wondering why I’m even bothering to build it? The answer is: I learn something from every kit I build and in this case, there is something particular I want to test. Specifically, I haven’t been happy with the two small-scale kits of German tanks I have built and attempted to paint with a camouflage pattern. The colours just look  too stark in terms of contrast and I want to try experimenting with filters to try to reduce that contrast. And that’s really what I will be focusing on here. But, to get something to paint, I first have to finish the build…

I will be attempting to make a couple of small improvements to the kit. First, I separate the conjoined blocks of roadwheels into separate pairs of roadwheels. The blocks look really nasty to me, and it only takes ten minutes or so to go from this…

To this.

The I fabricate some replacement schürzen for the hull using thin plastic card. These are still a little thick, but they are better than what was provided with the kit.

Then, it’s on to construction. The hull goes together with no problems at all and no filler required. Fit is good, in fact, many parts snap into place with no need of glue.

The turret isn’t quite so good and some filler is required for a couple of gaps at the bottom front and at the front of the rear stowage box. There is also a minor issue with the hatches – these are only designed to be open. If you want them closed, some trimming and filler is needed to get a good fit.

Now that it’s done, the upper schürzen mountings do look very thick. So, I quickly make some new ones out of thin plastic card.

With basic construction done, I decide to do a quick check of the tracks. These are vinyl tracks, but they’re thicker and less elastic than most I have come across. I add a couple of roadwheels for a dry fit (I’m leaving them off to paint the tyres more easily) and I add the tracks, just to check that they’re long enough. And here’s the result:

As you can see, the tracks are about 10mm too short! Initially, I was tempted just to stop here. Two out of the last three tank kits I have worked on have had too-short vinyl tracks, and I’m getting rather bored with it. These are even worse – they’re relatively thick and strong and so short that there’s a good chance that the joint will break or the rather flimsy rear idlers would snap if they are joined and then stretched to fit. After some rumination, I decide to go ahead with the rest of the build without even trying to join the tracks. I’ll leave the open section on the top run where, hopefully, it will be hidden by the schürzen.   

Next, the painting. I begin with an undercoat of Mig Jiminez Dunklegelb base, then I highlight using Dunklegelb shine and give it all a final thinned coat of the base shade. Then I apply a basic camouflage scheme using Mig Olivegrun and Shokobraun. There is no standard scheme – these camouflage colours were applied in the field and they range from carefully thought out and meticulously applied schemes to something that looks as though it has been done by tossing buckets of paint at the vehicle.

However, the contrast between the camo and base colours is too great. I want to try to use a filter to tone this down. The question is, what colour do I want to use? I have painted a scrap of card in the same colours as the kit and I use this for testing. I try very dilute mixes of oil paint and thinners with dark brown, ochre and a mix of brown and titanium white, but none give particularly satisfactory results, mainly because they all pool badly. Eventually, I use a dilute mix of acrylic white and clear varnish to tone everything down and make it look dusty. Then, I overpaint with a filter of very dilute dark brown oil to emphasize shadows.

Frankly, the result isn’t great. The brown wash works well enough, but I clearly I still have work to do on the filter. It has toned-down the camo contrast but at the expense of a blotchy overall finish. I may consider buying a ready-mixed filter and trying that in future.

All that then remains is to paint the roadwheel tyres , the tools and some other small bits and pieces. I also paint the tracks and discover an odd thing that I have seen on other vinyl tracks – they accept paint, but strangely the original colour of the vinyl seems to show through when the paint dries. I painted the tracks a dark gunmetal with lighter gunmetal highlights but when dry, they look black with lighter highlights. On another kit I might have tried again but on this one, I’m just keen to get finished and move on.

So, here is the completed Forces of Valor Panzer III. At least with the hull schürzen in place, you can’t see the gaps in the tracks!

After Action Report

I didn’t enjoy this build and the principal reason can be summed-up in one word: Tracks! I think you know what I mean! With the provided tracks, this kit is basically unbuildable. When I discovered that, I was tempted to abandon this build without finishing it. I persevered only because I want to use this as a test-bed for new painting techniques. The paint job turned out pretty badly, and that certainly isn’t the fault of this kit. However, while otherwise this might be a good kit for a beginner, the fact that the vinyl tracks are just way too short could only cause disappointment and frustration.

I can’t say I’m especially happy with the finished model. The mouldings are a mix of very good and not so good. Some of the fine detail is nicely done but the odd and overscale hull schürzen and the very thick turret schürzen mountings, for example, look very strange. Construction is generally straightforward and fit isn’t bad at all in most places.

I didn’t notice until I parked it next to some other 1/72 kits that this kit is also too large. On the original Panzer III, the hull was 2.9m wide, excluding schürzen. That should equal a whisker over 40mm wide in 1/72. However, this kit is actually almost 46mm wide – its hull is close to the width of a Tiger tank in the same scale and it’s noticeably larger than a T-34. On its own, this isn’t too noticeable but next to other kits in the same scale, it just looks wrong.

This isn’t a dreadful kit, but neither is it particularly good. With so much choice covering the Panzer III in this scale, it’s just very difficult to see why you’d choose this one. There are cheaper and easier to construct small-scale tank kits for beginners and there are much more accurate and detailed kits for not a lot more money for more advanced builders. Sorry Waltersons, but for me, this is probably one kit to avoid.    

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Forces of Valor 1/72 Panzer III Ausf. N (87011) In-Box Review and History

Heller 1/72 M4A2 Sherman Division Leclerc (79894) Build Review

This is a longer build review than usual for the simple reason that this is a complex and detailed kit. So, sit back, relax and fortify yourself with your chosen beverage and let’s see how the Heller M4A2 turned out.

The first step with this particular kit is deciding which of the three tanks for which decals are provided to model? That will then allow me to decide which of the alternative parts to use. After some research, I decide to build Brive la Gaillarde, an M4A2 of 3ème Escadron, 12ème Régiment de Cuirassiers. This tank was used by Division Leclerc from its initial landing in Normandy on Utah Beach on 1st August 1944 through to the end of the war. After some Googling, I find a wartime photograph of this particular tank:

This photograph clearly shows which glacis plate, transmission cover and tracks to use. I haven’t found a clear photo of this tank that shows the running gear, so I’ll go with what the instructions in terms of which roadwheels, idlers and sprockets to use. With that decided, I can confidently begin the build. 

I start as per the instructions by assembling the lower hull and the suspension, sprockets, idlers and roadwheels. No problems with assembly and fit and location of all parts is very good.

Then, it’s on to the upper hull. Again, I follow the instructions and add things like the rear lights and brush-guards. I notice that Heller helpfully provide a painting guide for the rear lights.

However, there is a problem. Each rear light is approximately the size of a gnat’s eyeball. Here they are next to the head of a match:

I have a feeling I’ll be skipping this part of painting… Anyway, assembly of the rear hull proceeds without any major hitches. The fit on the rear deck and rear hull plates is wonderful. You will need to drill out a few holes in various places, depending on which tank you are building, but these are clearly shown in the instructions. The instructions note that You must also carefully cut away half of the bolts on the upper edge of the rear hull plate. It’s only when I have done this that I realise that you can’t actually see these on the finished model because they’re hidden by the rear stowage box.

The fit of the glacis plate is less impressive and there is a distinct gap on either side. A little Tamiya white putty is used to fill these.

The instructions suggest leaving joining the upper and lower hull halves separate until the tracks are in place. However, a quick dry assembly shows that there is also a distinct gap between the front edge of the glacis plate and the upper rear edge of the transmission cover.

This will also need to be filled before painting, so I think I may assemble the hull before painting and add the tracks later. Fortunately, there seems to be sufficient clearance between the track-guards and return rollers and sprockets to allow this.

I join the upper and lower hull halves and then fill the gap between glacis plate and transmission cover using more Tamiya white putty . This isn’t easy – you need to get a very thin line of filler into the gap but without covering the bolt detail on the transmission cover. I finally get something that just about looks acceptable and move on to completing the upper hull assembly.

The rest of the bits and pieces are added to the hull. Everything fits well and, as you can see, I have decided to go for open hatches. I leave off the tools and other accessories at the moment to paint these separately.

Then, It’s on to the gun and mount. The barrel comprises two parts, with the hollow tip moulded separately.

When it’s glued in place, it’s obvious that some sanding and filling will be needed conceal the join.

With  some careful sanding and the use of a tiny amount of Tamiya putty, I get something that looks fairly smooth if slightly tapered.

Then, the turret. Fit is great with no filler required anywhere. Some parts, such as the antenna base and the lifting rings are tiny and need careful handling and placement, but overall, no complaints.

The finished turret looks very good indeed. It’s a mini work of art in itself and, as you can see, I have gone for open hatches here too.

And that’s pretty much construction done. One thing I did notice that isn’t included here are the towing shackles on the front of the hull. I was thinking of adding a tow cable when I noticed that there is nowhere to connect it to! This does seem a little odd on a kit that is otherwise so detailed, and I improvise something out of the spares box – they look a little oversize, but I can live with that.

With that job done, it’s time to start painting. First, the hull and turret get a light base coat of white, followed by dark olive drab in areas of deep shadow under the track guards and on the rear hull. The inside of the hull and turret get a coat of black, to make sure that nothing of the interior will be visible through the open hatches and then it all gets a coat of clear varnish.  

It gets a top coat of Tamiya TS-28, Olive Drab 2. Then, I distress the finish with a scourer to bring up the highlights and then give it a coat of clear varnish mixed with a little Mig Olivegrun.

Next task is to add the decals using Vallejo decal fix and decal softener, and that’s not a five-minute job. French tanks had lots of markings and they are all replicated here – there are twenty decals on the hull alone! I was disappointed to note that some of the decals are badly out of register – that’s a surprise on a kit that otherwise exudes quality. Otherwise, the decals go on well with no silvering or other issues. I also paint the inside of the hatches, the turret and hull machine guns and the roadwheel tyres before giving everything another coat of clear varnish.

Then, it’s on to an oil pin wash using dark grey to bring up the shadows.

Then, I join and paint the tracks. I keep it simple – a dark grey for the rubber blocks, lighter gunmetal for the metal  parts with soft pencil highlighting and then an acrylic brown wash for rust and dust. Then, I put them in place and I discover that they’re so short that one of the joins immediately pulls apart.

OK, in the hope that someone from Heller (or any other tank kit manufacturer) is reading this, I have a message for you: if you must provide your otherwise finely engineered plastic kit with crappy, unglueable, vinyl tracks, MAKE THEM LONG ENOUGH! Please! Because, if you don’t then the fragile joints break when you try to stretch them into position. And that makes me cross, which makes me shout at my cat, and he’s a sensitive soul. This is just so frustrating – I mean, this is generally a very fine kit indeed, so, why spoil it with too-short vinyl tracks? OK, rant over. I’m calm now. Really. Almost.

With the tracks finally wrestled into position (and the cat off in a sulk) all that remains to complete this kit is to add a stretched-sprue radio antenna the tools and other bits and pieces to the hull and turret. And there are lots of these including jerrycans and kitbags.

And that’s the Heller M4A2 (finally!) finished.

After Action Report

Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first. Some of the decals with this kit were badly out of register, which is disappointing. The vinyl tracks are, as usual, resistant to every known form of glue and they’re too short. Which is very irritating indeed. No tow cable or shackles are provided. Things like the brush-guards over the lights are too thick.

Other than these drawbacks, this is just an outstanding kit. It’s well-engineered, accurate and complete. In fact, I really don’t see how you could have a better representation of an M4A2 in 1/72. This very completeness provides its own problems – you will be dealing with very tiny parts, and these aren’t always easy to paint or to position accurately. I never did paint the tail lights and I was delighted to note that you can’t actually see these on the finished model because they’re covered by the jerrycans stowed on the rear hull. There are lots of options too, and it takes some research to be certain which to use. But at least you’ll have a good stock of unused parts for your spares box when you’re done.

For myself, I found the complexity here a little daunting. Dealing with things like accessories is simple in 1/35, but it’s more of a challenge in 1/72. The last tank kit I built in this scale was the tiny IGC Sandurni from Minairons, which has just three main parts. You could make many arguments that this is a better kit. It’s certainly a much more detailed kit yet, overall, I enjoyed the experience of building the IGC Sandurni more than this one. But that’s purely my own personal reaction. Overall, I think the finished kit here looks all right. But for my next 1/72 tank, I’ll be looking for something a little simpler!    

And here’s my cat, Clarence, wondering whether my next kit will involve too-tight vinyl tracks. He likes to watch me kit-building, but he doesn’t like shouting. And no, it isn’t an optical illusion – he really is cross-eyed. Readers who remember kid’s TV shows of the 1960s may even be able to guess why he’s called Clarence.

So, Heller, Airfix, Trumpeter, et al. Enough already with the too-tight vinyl tracks. For Clarence’s sake, please, give us something better.

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Minairons Miniatures 1/72 IGC Sandurni Tank (20GEV001) Build Review  

Minairons Miniatures 1/72 IGC Sandurni Tank (20GEV001) Build Review

It’s time to start the build of Minairons Minatures IGC Sandurni tank. However, considering that this kit consists of just three parts plus a machine-gun barrel, perhaps “build” isn’t quite the right word? Anyway, I’m planning to attach the tracks and suspension units to the sides of the hull later, to give me better access to the top of the tracks for painting.

Therefore, the only job to be done before starting painting is to open out the lower part of the suspension units. Resin casting means that there is a thin film of resin on the inside of the wheel/track/suspension assembly on each side. I think the finished model will look better is this is opened out, so with drills and fine files, I cut away the film of resin between the wheels, tracks, sprockets and idlers. This isn’t difficult, it just takes a little care to ensure that the main parts aren’t damaged.

With this done, I begin painting with a sprayed undercoat of olive drab. After this, all painting is done with brushes. One thing that is clear, though it doesn’t particularly show up in these photos, is that the resin hull has a slightly rough texture that nicely replicates unfinished steel.

I add highlights in white to pick out raised detail and emphasise things like the rivets on the suspension cover plates.

Then, I apply a thin overcoat of Mig Jiminez Olivegrun. One thing I like about these Mig paints is that they are translucent, so the highlights beneath show through, but they are muted and blended. Then I paint the roadwheel tyres, and not that’s not a job to be tacked if you are suffering from coffee shakes! Though, to be fair, the moulding here gives a clear distinction between wheels and tyres which does make things easier. I then paint the tracks – all I do at this point is to paint the tracks overall dark gunmetal with lighter gunmetal highlights on the cleats and edges. I also add the decals on the hull. I notice that the large decal on the hull front is showing some signs of silvering despite my having used Vallejo decal fix and decal softener, but fortunately this isn’t too apparent.  Then everything gets a coat of matt clear varnish.

Then, it’s on to oils. The tracks get a wash of black oil to emphasise recessed areas and the hull, running gear and suspension cover plates get a pin wash of dark green to bring out shadows. I add some light chipping and wear at the edges of hatches and other parts and the tracks are completed with an acrylic brown wash to suggest rust and dirt. The hull machine gun is painted and fixed in place using a two-pack epoxy resin glue and the side-pods are fixed to the hull using the same glue. The location for these parts is only average, so some care is required while the glue sets.

Then everything gets a final coat of clear varnish that’s it done!

After-Action Report

This kit is a very quick build and paint. The whole job can be finished in a weekend and, do you know what? That’s really satisfying! I am fairly happy with the finished IGC Sandurni and I think this is a very worthwhile kit if you are in the mood to tackle something completely different.

The main issues here are related to the tiny size of this tank. How small is it – well, here it is next to a 1/72 Revell Tiger.

You see what I mean? Next to the Sandurni, the Revell Tiger looks gigantic! Making a kit with so few parts and so small isn’t really about construction, it’s all about painting. The size of this kit does make elements of this painting a challenge, and my painting skills certainly aren’t the best, but it’s possible to end up with something that looks decent and will stand out as an interesting curiosity in any 1/72 armour collection.

I highly recommend the Minairons IGC Sandurni for a quick-fix of modelling satisfaction. And as for resin kits, well, again the fact that parts are provided as complete assemblies does make painting a little tricky, but if the moulding is as clean and sharp as it is here, then it isn’t really much more difficult than painting any 1/72 kit. Do you fancy a complete change? Then this tiny kit may be the answer….

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Links

Minairons Miniatures web site.

Trumpeter 1/72 Russia KV-1 M1942 Lightweight Cast Tank (07233) Build Review

It’s time to start the build of the Trumpeter KV-1 and normally at this stage of a 1/72 kit, I’d be thinking about drilling out the main gun. Happily, slide moulding means that isn’t necessary here. Hurrah! Unfortunately, instead I have to consider what to do with the nasty, too-tight vinyl tracks.

If you have read my in-box review of this kit, you’ll know that I was unimpressed by the vinyl tracks provided with this kit. They are not only impervious to glue, they’re rather short. I joined both using a needle and thread but, when I tried a dry-fit, one was so tight that it snapped off the idler. So, before I even begin assembly, I have to think about how to stretch the tracks. In the end, I keep it simple – I place two screws in a block of wood with the tracks stretched between. I’ll leave them in place for several days in a warm room in the hope that this will stretch them a little.

Then, it’s time to start assembly. I begin with the turret, and everything fits nicely with no filler required and only a little light sanding needed where the turret halves join. The gun mount and mantlet are fixed in position and can’t be raised or lowered. That means that you have a main gun that is elevated rather high, but I can live with that.

There are no problems adding the various bits and pieces to the upper hull. I’ll be leaving the upper and lower hull parts separate until later, when I have fitted the tracks, but a dry assembly shows a good, positive fit with no notable gaps.

Then I add the running gear to the lower hull. Again, everything fits nicely with no major drama. One minor issue is that the attachment points of parts to the sprues are rather thick. This, combined with the fact that the plastic of which they are made seems rather brittle, led to my snapping some small parts when cutting them from the sprue. This isn’t a major problem, but some care is required.

Then, it’s time to begin painting. I’ll be following a different approach for the upper hull and turret and the lower hull. For the lower hull, I begin by giving everything a coat of Tamiya TS-28 Olive Drab 2 from a spray can. This seems a good match for Russian green.

Then, I paint the upper part of the hull and the sprocket with Vallejo matt white, also from a spray can.

Once that’s done, I paint the roadwheel and return roller tyres with dark grey.

For the hull and turret, I paint in a different order. First, everything gets an overall spray coat of Vallejo white.

Then, I mask and add the small areas of Tamiya TS-28 and add the turret decals and paint the machine guns and exhausts before giving it all a coat of clear varnish

Then, it all gets a pin wash of dark grey oil paint to pick out shadows, highlight the intake mesh screens and to give everything a grubby, well-used look.

I do the same thing to the turret, lower hull and the running gear and then, it’s time for the tracks.

Fitting the tracks isn’t as difficult as I had feared. Their time on my home-made stretching rack has made both significantly longer and I am able to fit them without risking snapping off the sprockets or idlers. For some reason, this photo makes the tracks look unpainted, but they aren’t – I used my usual scheme of a dark gunmetal base followed by lighter gunmetal for highlights and an overall brown wash, all applied before fitting. As you can also see, the track on the far side is now quite loose, but that’s OK because I still have plans for the tracks.

With these safely fitted, I join the upper and lower hulls and the turret. I also add spare track links and the tow cables and it’s immediately obvious that these cables are a little long and, because they are made of the same glue-resistant vinyl as the tracks, I can’t simply cut out a small section and reglue. They don’t look terrible, just a little odd.

The heavy KV-1 tracks have characteristic sag, and the last job on this kit is to try to model this on my newly stretched tracks. I use a few small curved sections cut from a transparent plastic bottle and insert these between the tracks and the track guards.

This approach only works where you have broad track guards close to the tracks, but these small pieces of plastic are essentially invisible from most angles once they’re in place on this kit. With that job done, the Trumpeter KV-1 is finished.

After-Action Report

Ninety percent of this kit is great. All the plastic parts fit well, are cleanly and sharply modelled and seem to be accurate to the original subject. Parts like the mesh intake screens perhaps could have been better executed, but overall the main construction is very good indeed.

Then there are the tracks. Now, I have several other reviews where the tracks on Trumpeter KV-1 kits in 1/72 are either not mentioned in terms of length or where it is noted that they are rather long and a little loose. That certainly wasn’t the case on this kit, but perhaps I was just unlucky? If this came with length and link tracks, or flexible tracks that could be glued or even vinyl tracks that were long enough, it would be absolutely superb.

But it doesn’t. And because of that, this is a little hard to recommend. If you’re confident about your needle and thread skills and willing to stretch the tracks before putting them in place, you can end up with a very reasonable result. Otherwise, you may want to look elsewhere. However, having spent so much time moaning about the tracks, I’m not too unhappy with how they turned out here. The join is still fairly obvious but at least they do have some sag so perhaps this isn’t such a major issue after all?

I guess it all depends what you want and how much time you’re willing to put in. I think there is the basis of a really cracking kit here, but it may take a little work to realise that potential, especially in regard of the tracks.  

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Zvezda 1/72 Soviet Medium Tank T-34/76 Model 1943 (5001) Build Review

First chore on the Zvezda T-34/76 is drilling out the main gun and with that done, it’s time to start on the hull. There is actually very little construction involved. The headlight and antenna base are added as are the toolboxes. I’ll be leaving off the tow cables to paint separately. The exhausts must be fitted to the rear of the upper hull and, just as on the Zvezda SU-85, there is a small but noticable gap on either side that needs to be filled. 

After complaining that the fit between the upper and lower hull on the SU-85 wasn’t great, here it’s very good indeed. No filler needed and only a quick swipe with a sanding stick though unlike the SU-85, the exhausts aren’t moulded open here.

Then, it’s on to the turret. There are no fit problems with the mantlet, main gun or turret base, and no filler is needed but the hatches have a moulding seam and some distortion once they’re cut off the sprue and they do need a fair bit of sanding to make them flat.

It’s only when I try fitting the turret in place that I realise I have made a mistake in construction. I glued the turret base in place in the upper hull. Then, the turret snaps on to that part. However, it won’t rotate because I have glued the base in place. If I had just pushed this into place from the inside and then snapped the turret on from the top, it would have then revolved. Note to self: read the instructions! At least by glueing the base in position I can keep the turret separate for painting and snap it in place at the end.

I also fit all the roadwheels and the inner halves of the sprockets and idlers – the outer halves will have to wait until the tracks are fitted and I’ll be painting these separately. These wheels fit much better than the same parts on the SU-85 which were a very tight fit.  

It all then gets a base coat of flat white, and then it’s time for the main colour. When building the SU-85, I confidently said that just about any colour of green will do for a Russian tank from World War Two. Protective Green 4BO, the standard green used on Russian AFVs, certainly varied in colour both as it was applied and due to weathering and fading. However, I felt that the SU-85 ended up just too dark, so this time, I’m mixing my own base colour for brush-painting.

After a great deal of experimentation, I come up with something I’m fairly happy with. It’s very light at this stage, but I know that adding varnish and oil washes will darken it quite a bit. One problem quickly becomes apparent – once the two hatches on the turret roof are sanded to make them flat, they fit so closely and flush with the roof that they virtually disappear under the paint. I distress the finish with a scourer to highlight worn areas.

Then I add the decals to the turret and paint on some light chipping and then it all gets a coat of matt varnish.

Then, it gets a dark grey oil wash to bring out shadows and some white oil streaking to give some visual interest to flat panels. 

Then I paint the roadwheel tyres and exhaust and the tracks get the usual dark grey undercoat, with highlights added with a soft pencil, then a coat of clear varnish and some brown acrylic wash on the tracks and roadwheels to simulate mud. Assembly of the tracks is a little fiddly, and might have been better done before joining the upper and lower hull halves. I didn’t do it that way because I want to paint the tracks separately and I was concerned that the upper/lower hull join might need filling and sanding. In the event, this join was fine and I could probably have painted the upper and lower hull separately and then joined them once the tracks had been added. Isn’t hindsight a wonderful thing?

The upper and lower runs are anchored on to pegs on the inner halves of the idlers and sprockets as are the curved end sections. Getting these all neatly in place with the upper and lower hulls joined is tricky, but the end result isn’t bad at all. Overall, I rather like this method of creating the tracks. It’s also nice to see that the upper run isn’t completely straight – it does incorporate a little sag.

All that then remains is to add the tow cables and a radio antenna and the Zvezda T-34 is finished.

After-Action Report

I’m still struggling to get a good representation of Protective Green 4BO. I think this is better than the darker green I used on the SU-85, but my brush painting is still far from perfect.

The kit itself isn’t bad. Fit is generally very good and I do like the tracks. The snap-together nature of this kit doesn’t really affect construction and the fact that I ended up with a non-rotating turret was entirely up to my failing to follow the instructions. I also managed to snap off and lose the headlight to the carpet monster and I was forced to make a replacement.

However, as a kit, this is pretty good. Perhaps the surface detail isn’t quite as sharp as some newer kits, the turret hatches could be better defined and maybe this would have looked good with some tools, spare track links and other bits and pieces of outside storage, but in general this is a good representation of a T-34/76 early Model 1934.

These little Zvezda 1/72 armour kits are good value and simple to build, which makes a nice change from some more complex 1/35 kits I have built. I don’t feel that this T-34 is quite up to the standard of the same manufacturer’s SU-85, especially in terms of the sharpness of the detail, but it certainly isn’t terrible. This makes a pleasant and relaxing way to while away some lockdown hours and there isn’t anything here that would challenge most kit-builders.

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