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Italeri 1/35 SdKfz 139 Panzerjäger Marder III (6210) Build Review

It’s time to start the build of the Marder, and I’m a little nervous. I don’t own an airbrush and on previous 1/35 kits I have used acrylic spray-cans for the base colour. Despite what the instructions recommend, I’m going for overall panzer grey here to model a Marder in Russia in late 1942. I don’t have a spray-can of the right colour and I plan to brush-paint everything. Which of course brings its own particular challenges…

I begin with assembling the hull and almost straight away, it is clear that this kit has some fit issues. The first problem is that the rear right side of the engine compartment is badly bent. Now, I don’t think this is an issue with the kit itself, more probably in the way that this example has been stored, but it’s very noticeable. The picture above shows the assembled rear hull after I tried to straighten it out, but it’s still not straight. The second issue becomes obvious on dry assembly – the overall fit here just isn’t great, particularly round the rear hull. Compared to, for example, some Tamiya kits from the same period, parts just don’t fit together positively and a great deal of care is needed to avoid lots of unsightly gaps.

With the addition of some filler to the worst gaps, the hull is largely complete and it’s clear that there isn’t much internal detail here other than a couple of seats and a shell storage rack. I may add some helmets, gas-mask cases and other bits and pieces from the spares box to add visual interest later though, to be honest, the interior is largely hidden by the gun, mount and armour. The anti-slip mesh on the floor is quite nicely done, but it’s marred by some very obvious sink-marks and these are impossible to remove without sanding away the mesh. I paint the interior off-white, then add a layer of clear varnish and a wash of dark grey oil paint. This does enhance the detail, but it also makes the sink-marks very obvious.

Then, it’s time to work on the rest of the hull, though I’ll be leaving the upper guards off until the tracks are complete. The suspension parts fit well and without any major drama. Actually, most parts added to the hull fit fairly well, which is a relief. With the main hull done, I give that and the armour a couple of coats of well-thinned (to avoid obvious brush marks) coat of Vallejo German Grey.

Then, I rub with a household scourer to remove paint from details, high spots and edges.

Then, everything gets a very thin, lightened coat of Vallejo German Grey which leaves the highlights still visible.

Then, I add the decals and it all gets a coat of clear, acrylic varnish and then a wash of thinned black oil paint to enhance the shadows and some white streaks to give some variation to main panels. For some reason, the camera makes these look much more intense than they really are – they’re barely noticeable lighter areas, not white stripes! 

Then it’s time to start work on the gun and mount. The barrel is moulded in two halves and, though they have locating pins, fit once again isn’t great and it takes quite a bit of sanding and the use of filler to get something approximately circular and smooth.  

Overall, detail on the gun is quite good, but the location for some parts isn’t very clear and the instructions aren’t a great help. Once it’s done, it gets a couple of coats of German Grey.

Then I rub off the high spots and give it a final coat of lightened German Grey. And then a wash of black oil paint and some white streaking. Then I highlight the control wheels in a light gunmetal and add the gun shield.

The road and return wheels, idlers and sprockets get the same treatment and the tyres are painted in dark grey. Then it’s time to work on the tracks. I’ll be assembling these on the running gear and then removing them for painting. Assembly isn’t particularly difficult and the instructions are clear. However, I do note one odd thing – the instructions state that seven single track links should be used on the rear idler and six on the front sprocket, but if you do that, this is the result…

Happily, there are plenty of spare single track links provided, so it’s simple to add another on the sprocket on both sides. Then the tracks are removed and painted. I keep this pretty simple – a base coat of dark gunmetal, highlights picked out in a lighter gunmetal and then an acrylic brown wash to simulate rust and dirt.

Then, I add the painted tracks to the hull. I’m happy with the result and this wasn’t nearly as fiddly as some track-and-link kits I have built. Finishing the tracks is always a good moment during the construction of any AFV as it really starts to look like a tracked vehicle.

Then, I add the track-guards, the rear storage and some other bits and pieces. The deformation in the rear hull causes some issues when fitting the guards, but with a bit of fiddling, it doesn’t look too bad. There are also some very evident sink-marks on the upper surfaces of the guards, and I’ll try to cover these with spare track links. After some more varnishing and oil wash, the hull is pretty much done.

Then, the gun and mount are attached to the hull which is straightforward. Finally, it’s starting to look a bit like a Marder.

Then, the top and side armour panels are then added and that’s another frustrating experience. There is a complete absence of mounting guides on the armour panels or the hull to say where and how these fit. It’s just way too easy to get the whole armour construction too far forward (or back) or to find that it’s not straight – I managed all three at various points before arriving at something I could live with. It takes a fair amount of referring to photographs of real Marders to work out where everything goes and some care and attention to make sure things are the same on both sides.

And finally the last parts like the exhaust, tools, jack and spare tracks links are added. The final touch is the addition, from my spares box, of helmets, gas-mask containers and an MP40 in the rear stowage and the addition of a radio antenna. I left out the expended shell casings provided with the kit, partly because they look a little oversize and mostly because my attempt to mix a brass colour looked so horrible. Finally, everything gets a well-thinned coat of matt varnish mixed with a little Panzer Grey. This tones everything in and reduces highlights while still leaving them visible.

And that is the Marder done.  

After Action Report

Other than drilling out the exhaust and adding some rusty texture to the same part with Tamiya white putty and adding a couple of bits and pieces to the rear stowage, this build is straight out of the box. Like just about every other kit I have attempted, this has both positives and negatives. The biggest negative is poor or imprecise fitting, especially in the hull and upper armour though this also applies to many smaller parts – almost every time there is a part with pegs intended to fit in locating holes, they either don’t fit without sanding or the locating holes are not provided and must be drilled-out. The instructions aren’t always great either, and I had to refer to some pictures of actual Marder IIIs to be certain about where some parts fitted. That said, there is nothing here that’s a complete disaster.

Set against that, the suspension, running gear and tracks are well done, the gun is fairly detailed and simple to construct and I’m happy with how these parts of the kit look now that they’re finished. Brush painting any 1/35 kit is a challenge, but overall I’m fairly happy with how this looks now it’s finished. There aren’t too many obvious brush-marks and I feel that the highlighting of things like rivets, bolts and other high-spots adds to the overall effect. 

Compared to more modern kits, I’m aware that interior and exterior detail here is sparse and I do feel that this kit would benefit greatly from the inclusion of two or more nicely detailed, convincingly-posed figures (I know, it comes with two figures but frankly, you probably aren’t going to want to use either of them).

Overall, this was a pleasant kit to build. Fit frustrations mean that it wasn’t quite as relaxing as, for example, some Tamiya kits of a similar vintage, but I generally enjoyed building this Italeiri Marder and the finished model does look pretty much like the original. If you can find one (especially a version like this, with length-and-link tracks) I recommend this as a pleasant way to spend a few evenings. And that, after all, is why we do this…

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Tamiya 1/35 3.7cm Antitank Gun PaK 35/36 (35035) Build Review

Construction of the PaK 35/36 itself is very straightforward and the instructions show clearly what’s needed. Fit of, for example, the main parts of the loading section and breech is not great and some filler is need to avoid a visible seam on the top. Getting the forward part of the barrel absolutely straight also takes a little bit of care.

The wheels, chassis and stabilising legs are all added. I am leaving off the shield until I have finished basic painting.

I then do a basic assembly of the main parts of the figures. Quite a lot of filler is needed, particularly at the shoulders and where the legs join on to the torsos. At least the poses don’t look too bad. The shell that the loader is clutching in his right hand really does look a little silly – it’s just too small, so I cut it off and I will replace it later with one of the loose shells from the kit.

I have made a small base out of an old picture frame and I try placing the gun and figures on this, just to see how everything will fit. I am aiming for a muddy lane, somewhere in Russia in the Autumn of 1941, and I have used some strips of plastic card to suggest the basic layout.

Then, it’s back to the gun. First, everything gets a lightened coat of Vallejo German Grey (I find the base colour too dark).

Then some light chipping is added and the tyres get a coat of dark grey.

Then, the shield is added and everything gets a wash of dark oil paint. And that’s pretty much the PaK finished.

Next, it’s on to painting the figures. The faces and hands are done in an approximate flesh colour and then a wash of dark brown oil paint is added. Then tunics are painted in green and belts, collars and epaulettes are added in black – the Tamiya paint scheme suggest bottle-green for the collars, but by the time of the Russian Campaign most German Army uniforms featured black collars. I use a fairly light green for the tunics because I intend to add a wash of dark green oil paint which will darken the overall colour and provide some shadow detail in folds and creases.

I’m going for grey rather than green for trousers as this seems to have been fairly common. Again, I use a light grey acrylic paint and then add a darker grey oil wash to darken things down and add shadows.

Finally, boots are painted dark grey and helmets and pieces of equipment are added. Here’s the finished commander figure.

I try the loader and gunner next to the gun. Neither relates particularly well to the PaK, and I still think the hands on the gunner look like bunches of bananas!

Nest, the base. I make the muddy ground out of exterior filler and add some small stones and debris from my wife’s cactus garden (don’t tell her!). I press the gun and figures into the filler before it’s completely dry so that all will appear to sit in rather than on the muddy surface.

Then it gets painted with several shades of brown – it looks very dark in this photo for some reason and the overall effect is actually much lighter.

Then, I make some “mud” out of a mix of brown paint, coffee grounds and PVA glue and add this to the tyres of the gun and the boots of the figures.

Then the figures and gun are placed on the base, ammo boxes are added and a few empty shell-casings scattered around. And it’s done…

After Action Report

This was straightforward and simple build, something I really appreciate. As far as I can tell, the PaK 35/36 is a reasonable representation of the actual weapon.

The figures aren’t as bad as I had expected, but they’re not up to current standards either. The poses are OK, but there is nothing dynamic or interesting and the lack of facial expressions is disappointing. It took a fair bit of filler to get reasonable joins and even then, they aren’t perfect.

That said, I’m not too unhappy with the finished result. The poses mean that the faces are mostly in shadow and/or hidden, which, given my lack of skill at painting faces, is probably a good thing. And given that this kit is just so cheap, it’s a great way of practising if, like me, you aren’t sure of your ability to paint 1/35 figures.

If you simply want to build a kit of the Pak 35/36, or if you’re going for a diorama and you can accept the limitations of early 1970s figures, I can heartily recommend this as a quick and satisfying build.

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Tamiya 1/35 Walker Bulldog (MM155) Build Review

I began construction with the turret. The main gun is moulded in two halves, and it does take some careful sanding to remove evidence of the join. The upper and lower halves of the turret itself join on what would be a weld line on the original, and this continues at an angle to meet the top edge. It was fairly simple to sand a small bevel on the joining surfaces and add a small piece of plastic rod to replicate the weld.

Then I added the canvas blast-shield. I used tissue paper and PVA glue, carefully building up layers to achieve a suitably wrinkled look. I also added a small extension tube in front of the co-axial mg using clear plastic tubing, as that is what most photographs seem to show. It took several attempts to get a reasonable look, but I’m not too unhappy with the result.

I added the hatch and other parts to the turret and gave the canvas screen a quick coat of acrylic dark green, which showed up a couple of areas that needed further work. I also added a little filler to the rear of the turret to cover some small gaps.

Then, the turret got a coat of Vallejo spray olive drab.

Then I added the decals (I’m going for a tank of the JGSDF) and painted the canvas screen.

Next, I started work on the hull. The holes in the lower hull were filled using pieces of plastic card and Tamiya white putty.

I added the driver’s hatch and other parts to the upper hull and joined the upper and lower hull halves. Don’t forget to add the ends of the exhausts before you join the upper and lower halves of the hull – they insert from underneath. In retrospect, I should also have added some clear plastic to the interior of the driver’s vision slots – these are fairly large and obviously open on the finished model.

Then the hull got a coat of olive green and the exhausts were given some rough texture with Tamiya white putty and painted a rust colour – most photographs seem to show well rusted exhaust shields on M41s. I also added the decals to the hull at this stage.

Both hull and turret were given some light chipping before both were treated to a coat of clear varnish.

Then I added some shadows and general staining on both turret and hull with Abteilung Oils Dark Mud, which is actually a dark grey. I also applied a wash of dark brown oil to the canvas screen.

The Sprockets, roadwheels, return wheels and Idlers are all very cleanly moulded. I painted the tyres dark grey, a fairly easy task because there is a clear distinction in these parts, then these too were given a coat of varnish and a wash of Dark Mud.

The tracks were painted a fairly light gunmetal, the rubber blocks were painted dark grey and then a brown wash was applied to these, the running rear and lower hull.

Then it was on to final assembly. The only change I made was to replace the radio antenna with some thin plastic rod, though I kept the kit bases. With the addition of some streaks on the hull and turret using white oil paint, it was finished…   

After Action Report

I accept that this is not the most detailed or accurate 1/35 armour kit available, but, here’s the thing; I really enjoyed this build, far more than some other recent builds. Why? Well, it’s a simple and straightforward build for one thing. There is nothing challenging or complex here and very few tiny parts to be eaten by the carpet monster. Enjoyment is an under-rated factor in kit-building – after all, most of us do this for pleasure and relaxation and for me, this one really hit the spot.

Other than attempting to create a canvas screen round the mantlet and making a weld-bead on the turret, this is entirely out-of-the-box. I know, there are lots of other things I could have done including fabricating a tow cable, adding the strengthening struts on the side of the stowage boxes and other bits and pieces but you know what? I don’t care. I’m satisfied with the finished result and creating it provided me with several hours of pleasure. Add that to the fact that this is a very low-cost kit and you have something that is close to the definition of cheap and cheerful.

Despite its age, the parts in this kit are cleanly moulded, everything fits well and there is nothing complex or fiddly involved construction or painting. This is, in every sense, an old-school kit. You have to be prepared to either put in some time to make improvements or to simply accept this for what it is – a reasonable but not perfect representation of an M41. With those caveats, I heartily recommend this kit to anyone looking to while away a few pleasant evenings.

Now, all I need to find is a 1/35 Godzilla foot so I can build an appropriate diorama…

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HobbyBoss 1/35 T-37A Light Tank Izhorsky (83821) Build Review

The main issue for me in this build is the tracks. These are individual links (more than eighty on each side) and assembling these will be a challenge and means a slightly different approach to construction. Normally, I would paint the hull and things like roadwheels, suspension units and sprockets separately and before assembly. Here, I need all the running gear assembled and in place on the lower hull before I can begin to build the tracks.

I begin by building all four suspension bogies. These are not complicated, but fit is a little imprecise and it takes some careful alignment to get all the roadwheels lined up. Then I attached all four bogies to the lower hull and here I found the fit to be poor. There is a square lug on each bogie that locates in a hole in the lower hull. However, it took some careful propping while the glue set to get everything to line up.

The sprockets, idlers and return roller all fit well. Here is the complete suspension attached to the lower hull.

Then, it’s time to start building the tracks. The individual links are tiny – here are eleven on a 2p coin. I want to glue the complete track length on each side as two separate pieces that can then be removed for painting.

Each link must be carefully cut off the sprue and then sanded – not easy when they are so small. Engagement between the links is not particularly positive – the leading edges of each links engage with tiny slots on the adjacent link. However, a little too much enthusiasm when sanding can make the leading edges uneven which makes the tracks curve. You need to do this 174 times, so it’s not a quick process. At least there are plenty of spare links if the carpet monster gets a few.

I started with the straight run at the bottom and gradually added links up to the sprocket and idler, being careful to glue the links to each other but not to the sprocket and idler. I used AK quick-drying liquid cement which worked well. I was feeling quite good about this until I spotted that the tracks were upside down! After a few expletives, I found that it wasn’t too difficult to remove the tracks and turn them round.

Next, I started working on the upper run and here I wanted to add sag between the return rollers. To do this I used a little tape to create a curve on a piece of plastic card and assembled each of the three parts of the upper run using this as a template. These were then joined to form a single upper run. I did not join this to the lower run so that the tracks could be removed for painting. Here is the finished track on one side.

Building the tracks took way longer than I expected and it certainly isn’t perfect but, if I’m honest, it turned out better than I expected. It is certainly much more time-consuming than using rubber-band type tracks or even track-and-link sections, but, from the side at least, I think it looks better too.

Then, the tracks were removed and the upper hull was added along with the hatches, vents and other parts and PE parts. Fit here was generally very good and I didn’t need to use any filler. I left off the tools and exhaust which I will paint separately and the buoyancy tanks which I will add after the tracks are painted and assembled. One thing I did notice was that the hinged splash guard on the upper front of the glacis plate isn’t mentioned in the assembly instructions – it’s not there on one step and appears in the next, but fortunately it isn’t difficult to see where it belongs.

Next, the turret was assembled. Fit was good but a little filler was needed at the front edge of the hatch.

Then, everything got a coat of Vallejo spray olive drab, the tyres were painted on the roadwheels, idlers and return wheels and a little light chipping was added.

Then, the white cross was painted on the turret and everything got a coat of clear varnish.

The assembled track lengths were painted with dark gunmetal and lighter highlights on the internal horns and treads.

The tracks were added to the hull with a dark brown acrylic wash to represent mud and rust and Abteilung Oils Dark Mud was used to add highlights and streaks.

Then the buoyancy tanks were added. Finally, the tools and exhaust were added to the hull and the decals and machine-gun added to the turret. And that’s pretty much it finished!

After Action Report

Apart from the tracks, this was a fairly simple build. Fit is reasonable, though not great in places – getting the suspension bogies to line-up wasn’t easy, for example. There are no really tiny parts and the instructions are easy to follow.  

I found building the tracks to be a bit of a pain. No matter how careful I was, I still ended up with some links that just don’t line up properly with those adjacent – this is particularly noticeable looking from the front or rear. Engagement between the links is not great and it is just too easy to sand off a fraction too much when cleaning up the individual links – this, I think, is what leads to some not being straight. Viewed from the side, the sag is satisfactory and the tracks look all-right. I don’t think I would be inclined to tackle another kit of a tank this small using individual links like this though on a kit of a larger tank or where the engagement between links was more positive and didn’t rely on sanding for alignment, it might be OK.

Overall, detail is good and, looking at photographs, this appears to be an accurate representation of the T-37A. The detail is perfectly adequate and the PE parts are a nice touch.

If you have the patience and persistence to deal with the tracks, this can build into a perfectly reasonable kit of a little-known light tank. If you can find it, as I did, at a reduced price, I would highly recommend it.

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Tamiya 1/35 Panzerkampfwagen II Ausf. F/G (MM109) Build Review

As ever, I begin by drilling out the main gun and, in this case, the MG34 as well. Then I assemble the turret. Everything fits well with no need for filler. There is some nice detail here including the weld where the gun-mount is fixed to the mantlet and welds on the upper edges of the turret. This really doesn’t feel like a fifty-year-old kit.

I glue plastic card inside the lower hull and fill the holes from the outside with Tamiya white putty – which is good stuff generally, but it does shrink badly so it always takes at least three passes to get a completely smooth finish.

Then it’s on to the roadwheels. I want to create a battered looking finished kit with chipped and discoloured paint. I haven’t tried this before as it is very difficult to achieve on small-scale kits. I know what I have in mind, but I’ll be using the roadwheels as a test area to see how it works. First, I spray the roadwheels with the base colour using Tamiya TS-68 in an aerosol can.

Then I add chipped areas using a very light sand.

Then I add darker areas in the centre of the largest chipped areas using Panzer Grey.

Then I paint on the tyres using a fairly light grey and give everything a coat of clear varnish.

Then I use Abteilung Oils Brown Shadow to emphasize shadows and suggest dirt and grime and finally I add a wash of acrylic light brown to represent dust on the tyres. Here are the finished wheels, sprockets and idlers. I’m happy with the result and I’ll use the same approach on the rest of the model.

The turret gets the same treatment, with decals added using Vallejo Decal Fix and Decal Softener before the chipping, varnish and oil highlighting.

I add the various lights, boxes and other parts on the upper hull. Everything fits very well and no filler is needed.

The upper hull then gets a coat of the base colour with TS-68. I’m impressed with this Tamiya spray can – it gives good, consistent, dense coverage and, even though the can is small, there is plenty of paint left when I’m done – I would guess that I have used less than half the can. One odd thing – the AK clear acrylic varnish I use doesn’t like this paint. It takes at least two coats to get a consistent finish and the Tamiya spray paint seems to repel the varnish – I haven’t found the same issue with Tamiya brush paints.

I add decals and chipping to the hull upper half and then give it a coat of clear varnish before doing more oil highlighting with the same colour used on the wheels.

I assemble the parts of the lower hull and then paint it in exactly the same way, though I add more staining and dirt on the sides. Once everything is dry, I join the upper and lower hull halves and add the roadwheels, idlers and sprockets.

Then, it’s on to the tracks. These are painted with a dark gunmetal base and lighter gunmetal highlights on the treads. Then everything gets a brown acrylic wash to represent rust and dirt.

Finally, the tools, exhaust and spare track links are added to the hull. And here’s the finished model.

After Action Report

I found this an enjoyable and stress-free build. There are no tiny parts and everything fits accurately and well. It really is hard to believe this kit is very nearly fifty years old. Other than the need to fill in holes in the hull bottom, the fact that this was originally created as a motorised kit doesn’t cause any problems. I built it completely OOB with the exception of drilling the gun barrels and exhaust and using some Tamiya white putty to add rusty texture to the exhaust.

This builds to a pretty reasonable and fairly accurate depiction of a Panzer II Ausf. F. OK, I know, there are all sort of extras like metal gun barrels, items stowed on the hull and PE kits that could be used to improve it further, but even straight out of the box this is a very reasonable kit for not a great deal of money. The figures provided with the kit look perfectly acceptable, and I haven’t used them simply because my figure-painting sills are very rusty indeed.

I really enjoyed working in 1/35 as opposed to 1/76 or 1/72. The scope for showing weathering and wear during painting is much greater, and I’ll probably try another couple of 1/35 kits. Overall, this is highly recommended and, because the Panzer II was such a small tank, display space shouldn’t be a problem – this is not much larger than a 1/72 Tiger, for example.

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Dragon 1/72 Sd.Kfz.231 (8-Rad) (7483) Build Review

I want to build a clean, early version, so I won’t be using the Zerschellerplatte. I also won’t be using the pennant mounted on the mudguard or the width-sensing antenna as these often weren’t fitted and the versions provided with the kit are way too bulky.

I generally start any armour kit build by drilling out the main gun, but there is no need for this here as the slide-moulding technique allows the tiny bore for the KwK L/55 autocannon to be moulded open – hurrah!

Construction begins with the assembly of the parts of the turret and fit is very good indeed – no filler is needed at all.

Then it’s on to the drive, suspension and steering parts on the underside. These are very detailed and it’s a pity most of this won’t be seen on the finished model. The instructions are generally helpful, but it makes sense that you do a dry fit first. Essentially, you’re building two, four-wheel bogies, each with its own leaf-spring suspension, drive and differentials.

I painted everything before assembly, just because actually getting at some of these tiny areas later will be a problem. It actually takes a couple of tries to get the assembly right. I found the right order was to fit the leaf springs and connecting rods first, then the main suspension arms with differentials and prop-shafts, then the steering arms. It’s important to get the main suspension arm assemblies the right way round – there are tiny holes near each hub where the steering arms fit. On the forward bogie, these must face backwards and on the rear bogie they must face forward. It’s possible to assemble these 180˚ out of position – guess how I know that?

There is nice detail here, but I haven’t spent a great deal of time on painting because unfortunately, most of it won’t be seen when the model is done. I’m leaving the wheels off for the moment as I want to paint these before fitting.

Painting the tyres is the usual pain – the cocktail stick method is easiest, but as ever, it’s fiddly. I want to actually finish painting the wheels at this stage because they’ll be partly covered by the mudguards when assembled. Once the tyres are painted, the wheels get a coat of clear varnish before I apply some acrylic wash to represent dust on the wheels and tyre treads. I also paint the lower hull using Vallejo Panzer Grey, where it will be hidden by the mudguards.

I fit the wheels and I’m delighted that these sit nicely, with no gaps and no wheels in the air. However, the fit of the wheels on to the spindles is loose, so some care is needed while the glue is setting to make sure everything is aligned and straight.

Next, the mudguards. I have filled the holes for the width antenna and the pennant with Tamiya putty but otherwise it’s just a case of assembling as per the instructions. I also paint the mudguards and the various boxes and other items on the mudguards before assembly, just because this is easier before they are attached to the hull.

I then attached the various vision slots and other stuff to the upper hull before joining this to the lower hull. Either the upper or lower hull is slightly warped and the parts have to be clamped while the glue sets, but the final fit is very good. Then I attach the frames to the upper and lower hull. This is really fiddly and not made easier by the fact that the two holes on the left-hand upper hull just aren’t there. I didn’t notice until I started assembly, and I had to drill these out to get everything to fit. The tiny lamps and the rectangular plates that fit in the same area are also very, very tiny and I lost one of the lamps to the carpet monster.

When basic assembly is done, everything gets a coat of Vallejo Panzer Grey. I think the colour of this paint is good, with just the right amount of blue, but it has a tendency to separate once a small quantity is placed on a palette. If you don’t constantly re-mix, you get a streaky finish. This paint also seems to be very soft – any handling at all, even when it’s completely dry, takes the paint off high spots.

Then I add some fairly subtle highlights to small items that would catch the light with a lightened mix of the base grey. Then I add the two decals to the hull and to the number plates. Once this is dry, everything gets a coat of matte clear varnish and then it’s on to adding some depth to the shadows using Abteilung Oils Dark Mud, a dark grey. However, I’m not happy with the result, so I try again, this time with an even darker Prussian Blue oil for shadows and a lighter colour to give some streaks to the hull.  

And here’s the finished result.

After Action Report

This was a fiddly build. The model itself is tiny and there are lots of very small parts and getting all these in position and aligned takes time. Most of the detail (and almost the majority of parts!) are unfortunately on the underside of the vehicle where they won’t be seen.

However, the quality of moulding and the fit of parts is very good indeed. No filler was needed anywhere and the only minor issue I found was that the mounting holes for the sidebars were missing on the upper hull on one side. Overall, this is a very high-quality kit that builds into a decent representation of this iconic armoured car. If I have one small reservation it is that the tyres are moulded completely circular, and I can’t help feel that they would look better if they were moulded with a flat spot at the bottom, as done on many current aircraft kits.

There are other options available in 1/72 and I haven’t tried any of those but I can’t imagine that they are materially better than this. If you want to model an Sd. Kfz. 231 in this scale, I can strongly recommend this kit.

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Revell 1/72 T-34/85 (03302) Build Review

Before I start construction, I drill out the main gun and exhausts. This is tricky on the main gun, even using a 1mm drill; there is barely room to fit a 1mm hole in the end of the gun. Which kind of makes me wonder if the diameter of the gun isn’t perhaps a little underscale?

Turret construction is straightforward and all parts fit together very well. I sand a small groove either side of the join between top and bottom halves and cement in place a small piece of soft plastic rod to simulate the weld between these parts. I also attempt to add some texture to the turret sides, but this isn’t particularly successful.

Then I join the upper and lower hull parts. I was a little disconcerted to see that there was a pronounced gap at the front, but this is covered by a small piece that forms the nose of the front hull so it doesn’t matter. Other than that, all the hull parts went together very nicely and no filler at all was required here or on the turret.

I then fixed the fuel tanks and other bits and pieces on to the hull. Some of these (the grab handles, for example) are really tiny and I spent even more time than usual on my hands and knees on the floor when parts pinged out of the tweezers and off into the middle distance.

One thing that I really appreciate on this kit is that the sprockets, idlers and roadwheels fit onto separate parts that are then joined to the hull sides. After checking fit, I left these off so that I can assemble the tracks more easily before fitting everything to the hull sides. Adding the roadwheels takes a little care – these are not a tight fit on the spindles and you do have to be careful to get everything aligned and straight.  

Everything then gets a couple of coats of Tamiya Olive Drab including some highlights and an attempt at some basic colour modulation. Painting also clearly shows that the turret weld is visible.

Then, I add the decals to the turret using Vallejo Decal Fix and Decal Softener. This is quite challenging – the white cross on the turret top is made up of several separate decals and these do not fit precisely. Be prepared for some fiddling and touching up. I then give everything a coat of matt clear varnish.

Then, it’s on to the tracks. I paint these first, including the separate track links and I’ll touch-up them later. The inner surface gets a coat of fairly dark gunmetal and the outer surfaces and internal track horns are given a coat of lighter gunmetal. Then everything gets a brown acrylic wash.

The roadwheel tyres are painted with a fairly light grey. At least this is easy on this kit because there is good definition and distinction between wheels and tyres. I add an oil wash using Abteilung Shadow Green to pick out details on the roadwheels, sprockets and idlers and finally a brown wash to represent dust and dirt.

Then I assemble the tracks. The individual links are very small and there are fourteen each of two different types; with and without internal horns. These must be added alternately and the process of assembly takes some care. However, this is made much easier both because you can do this before joining the tracks and roadwheels to the hull sides and because the individual track links are accurately moulded and fit together positively. I have read some other reviews that note that, when assembled, there is a small gap left – all I can say is that I didn’t find that though I did use every individual link.

One small issue is the fit of the track links on the sprocket. On the T-34, the sprocket is at the rear and it doesn’t have teeth that engage with the track. Instead, the internal horns on the track engage into rollers inside the centre of the sprocket. All this is accurately modelled here, but I glued the sprockets into place before I started assembling the track links. This meant that on one side, the sprockets did not align with the track horns on the individual links. I got round this by cutting the track horns off on several of the links, but I now realise that it would have been better to leave the sprocket free to revolve until I had finished assembling the tracks.  

Then I give the turret and hull an oil wash using the same Abteilung paint used on the wheels and sprockets. I try to use this to give definition to the various grilles and intakes on the rear hull – it’s moderately successful but on reflection, I think that a darker wash here would have worked better.

When I’m done with that, I give everything a final coat of clear matte varnish with a tiny spot of brown paint added to make everything look a bit dusty. Then, all I have to do is add the spare track links, towing eyes, saw, tow cable and the small brown pieces on the right side of the hull (I don’t actually know what these are, so I follow the colour scheme and paint them rusty brown).

And here is the finished result.  

After Action Report

This was a straightforward build with no real problems. There are some very tiny parts and assembling these takes care. Getting the white cross on the turret to look half-way decent takes time – I almost gave up on this and used the other set of decals, but I like the way this turned out in the end.

I am happy with the way that the turret weld looks but less so with my attempt at adding texture to the cast side-walls. This looked all-right during construction but you really can’t see it on the finished, painted model. I would also have liked the option to model the driver’s hatch open, but this certainly wasn’t a show-stopper.

The process of building the track and link sections is tricky, but it is made much easier on this kit by having the sprockets, idlers, roadwheels and tracks in separate “pods” that are assembled separately and added to the model when complete. I do like the way that the finished tracks look and, to me, their appearance is notably better and more to scale than most rubber-band style tracks.

Overall, this is a very, very nice kit of the T-34/85. It’s accurate, nicely moulded and everything fits together well with no need for filler at all, though assembly is a little tricky due to some very small parts. The finished model looks like a T-34/85 and at this scale, that’s probably all you can ask. The fact that this is a late version also provides lots of scope for alternative post-war markings and colour schemes. 

If you want to model a T-34/85 in 1/72, I really don’t think you will find a kit that is substantially better than this one.

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Airfix 1/76 Tiger I (A01308V) Build Review

As with the Airfix Sherman I finished recently, I’m going for a fairly quick build here, but there are a couple of things I want to address. These are the lack of mudguards and a turret stowage bin and I intend to fabricate both out of plastic card.

I start by drilling out the main gun. It has been said that the gun on this Airfix Tiger is too thin, and that may be so, but it doesn’t look as silly as the gun on the Sherman, so I’ll use it as is.

Then I assemble the hull – this is in seven parts and it takes some care to get everything approximately lined up. There are still some minor gaps when I finished and these are filled with Tamiya putty. Hatches are added, being careful to get the orientation correct – this is shown accurately on the colour scheme views, but it’s wrong in the instructions.

Next, the turret, and again, fit isn’t great. Again, I use putty to cover the gaps, though I’m able to ignore the large valley at the rear because this will be covered by the stowage bin. I also add the cupola and hatches at this stage.

Then I make the front mudguards – these are very simple, with each comprising just two flat plates that follow the line of the front of the hull and extend almost to the edge of the skirts.

Then, rear mudguards and the stowage bin. These are a little more tricky, but not especially challenging even for my rusty-plastic card building skills.

The it’s the turn of the roadwheels, idlers and sprockets. The idlers and sprockets fit without a problem, but some care is needed with the roadwheels. Part of the problem is that the roadwheels themselves are a loose fit on the spindles on which they are located. Care is needed to ensure that they are straight and aligned. You also need to get the layout right – this is shown correctly in the instructions but wrongly on the side views in the colour schemes.

Spacing also needs some care. On each side there is an inner row of four single wheels, then a row of four doubles then another outer row of four singles. The outer wheels have a collar that faces inwards and that seems to suggest that these wheels should be fitted hard against the row of double wheels, but this is wrong. The outer row of single wheels should be as far from the double wheels as they are from the inner row of single wheels. Getting satisfactory alignment takes a bit of fiddling around to avoid wonky wheels.

Then it’s time to start painting. Everything gets a base coat of dunklegelb (dark yellow) with some highlights added in a few places.

Then a camouflage scheme of irregular stripes of olivegrün is added as per the Airfix instructions. Decals are added when this is finished.

The tracks are painted with an overall dark gunmetal with lighter gunmetal highlights for the treads. Then, they get a wash of brown to indicate rust and dirt. The same wash is used to dirty-up the roadwheels, sprockets and idlers.

Then, everything gets a coat of matt varnish and it’s time to add an oil wash using Abteilung Shadow Brown. I also add the tracks, and these are a little loose. That’s probably better than being too tight, but it does mean that some superglue is need to make the top run sit even close to flat. You can see the before and after below.

Finally, I add the spare track-links on the front hull and it’s done.

After Action Report

As noted in the In-Box review of this kit, there are several things missing here. The lack of mudguards and the turret stowage bin look odd, and I have tried to address these here. However, this kit also lacks things like tools or a stowage box on the front hull, towing cables and exhaust heat shields. These do detract from its overall appearance. That said, the quality of mouldings here is notably better than, for example, the 1/76 Airfix Sherman released just a few years earlier which I reviewed recently.

Despite what it may say on the instructions, this isn’t a Tunisian Tiger; it’s a later model so one of the paint schemes (which isn’t accurate anyway) and one set of decals just don’t apply. Both paint schemes and the box art show rubber tyres, but that is wrong with this type of late Tiger roadwheel. The fit of some parts, notably the roadwheels, really isn’t great and it takes some care to get something that is close to accurate.  The tracks really don’t look very convincing at all.

However, it’s very cheap at well under half the price of some other small-scale Tiger kits, and if there was a “classic” category for kits, this would very definitely fit in it, being more than fifty years old. I built one of these as a kid (and I remember struggling with the roadwheels back then!) so for me, it’s a piece of nostalgia as much as anything else. However, judged purely on its merits as a kit, there probably isn’t a great deal to commend this compared to lots of other, more recent and better small-scale Tiger kits. Unless it brings back memories of childhood, you’re on a really tight budget or you have a particular attachment to 1/76 scale, it’s probably worth paying a little extra to buy something rather more accurate and complete.    

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I intend to go for a quick build pretty much OOB, but there are a couple of things I do want to do. The main gun provided with the kit just looks silly – it’s much too thin and I want to replace it. There are also two odd humps on the rear hull where the lifting rings should be – I’ll replace these things with something that looks a little more like the original.

I start with the gun. A piece of circular sprue of an appropriate diameter is cut, lightly tapered and drilled and I use this to replace the wimpy kit version. Not perfect, but an improvement.

I then start to assemble the hull. Fit isn’t great here – the hull sides seem to be slightly warped and even after using tape while the glue sets there are gaps between the hull sides and the front of the transmission cover at the front. A little filler is needed here. I also replace the humps on the hull rear with a couple of plastic-card plates and half-rings.

Assembling the cupola and hatches is a little tricky because location for the hatches isn’t great. It takes a bit of fiddling to get something without large gaps.

The lower hull sides are sanded to remove the sink-marks and part numbers. Then everything gets a coat of MIG Jiminez olive green. As has happened before with this paint, the result is a slightly glossy finish that’s darker than I was aiming for, but as I’ll be using a couple of coats of matt clear varnish, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem.  

Then, I paint the roadwheel tyres, a fairly easy job because the rubber tyres are proud of the wheel centres. Assembling the suspension is tricky, mainly due to fit issues. In ten of the twelve roadwheels, the hole in the centre was too small to allow the wheels to be fitted over the spindles on the bogies. I had to drill them out with a 1mm drill. There are also ridges and moulding imperfections on the spindles that attach the bogies to the hull sides – these have to carefully trimmed to get the bogies to fit. Even the sprockets don’t fit well – on one side the fit was fine but on the other, the spindle of the sprocket was too large to fit in the hole in the hull side – I had to drill out the hole with a 2mm drill.

Once the suspension was done, I added some highlights on the hull, suspension and turret then used a final thinned coat of olive green to blend everything in.

Then the decals were applied using Vallejo decal fix and decal softener – I’m going for British 4th Armoured Brigade markings. After that, everything gets a coat of matt, clear varnish which reduces the shine and lightens the overall colour.

Then, the tracks. The T-41 tracks fitted to some Shermans, which is what I think these are supposed to be, comprised thick rubber blocks with steel bars inside fitted between metal retainers and end-pieces. I used black and grey for the blocks and gunmetal for the retainers and end pieces to try to replicate this.

Finally, I used Abteilung Oils Faded Green as a wash to make everything look a bit grubby and to give some detail to the hull, suspension bogies and turret. I also painted the tools on the rear hull – not an easy job as they are not very well defined. Then it got a radio antenna and a final coat of matt varnish and I added the tracks – these are the usual pain to join, but they are a good length and fit well over the sprockets, idlers and roadwheels. This is the end result.

After Action Report

Overall, this looks OK, but it has some problems that make it difficult to recommend. Most experienced modellers are going to want something that is more accurate to a particular model of Sherman and that has sharper mouldings. However, even as a cheap beginner’s kit, this has some drawbacks. Notably, ten of the twelve roadwheels just didn’t fit on the spindles on the bogies – I think that would be a massive frustration for a young modeller.

Other than the fit issues, this is a quick and simple build, and sometimes, that’s rather nice. The main gun provided with the kit is horrible, but it isn’t difficult to replace. Perhaps the best thing is to simply accept this as what it is; a kit from nearly sixty years ago when standards and expectations for small-scale models were lower. What you’ll end up with is a piece of Airfix nostalgia rather than an exemplary Sherman kit. If you are willing to accept that, or perhaps to use this as the basis for building something better, then this is inexpensive way to while-away a few hours.

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I started by painting the tyres on the roadwheels, not a job I enjoy. I mean, it isn’t technically difficult and, in my experience, it is something best done fairly quickly and in a Zen like state of calm. Though it does help if you have the eyes of a hawk, the dexterity of a neurosurgeon and the speed and accuracy of a striking cobra. Having none of these things, I find it quite challenging and any calm tends to have disappeared by about the time I get to the second wheel. I finally get all forty-eight wheels done and, as ever, the result is sort of OK. Does anyone know of a better and stress-free way to do this on 1/72 tanks?

Then it’s time to assemble the wheels and tracks. The instructions are delightfully vague about this stage of construction. For the roadwheels, it’s important to note that some inner wheels have a longer shaft on one side. The difference is small, less that 1mm, and they can be fitted with the longer end facing either in or out. 

The arrowed row of roadwheels can be fitted either way round – this matters!

The instructions give no clue which is the right way round and I only noticed this when I did a dry assembly of the roadwheels and discovered that I couldn’t get them to sit properly on the lower track runs – one of the inner roadwheels was fitted the wrong way round compared to the other three, causing misalignment with the raised flanges on the inner side of the tracks. It’s best to take some time to be certain you understand how the roadwheels go together before final assembly – because these tracks are hard plastic there is no give and you have to get the alignment of the roadwheels, sprockets and idlers exactly right.

Next, the tracks. I know that some modellers won’t attempt these Revell track-and link kits precisely because of the tracks, so I’ll talk in a little detail about what I found. For assembly, the illustration in the instructions simply shows the parts on one side coming together, but there is no clue as to the best order in which to do this and the illustration shows six single links being used at the front and five at the rear, but you will actually be using more than this – a total of forty-eight single track links are included.

I started by painting the main sections of track with a base of dark gunmetal, highlights of a lighter gunmetal on the treads and a wash of brown to show dust/rust between the treads. I also painted the single links at the same time, while they were still attached to the sprue. I’ll touch up the ends once they are removed from the sprue, fixed in place and the ends sanded down.  

After a great deal of thought, I decided that the best way to make progress would be to fix the single links on to the sprocket and idler before fitting these to the hull. I used superglue and it takes a bit of care to get the links straight and some experimentation to get the right number of links on each – I found that I needed ten links on the sprockets and six on the idlers.

I also found a fundamental problem with the sprocket on the first side I attempted. The inner and outer halves of the sprockets are keyed so that they join precisely. However, on mine, the teeth on the inner and outer sprockets didn’t quite align. That’s a major headache when you come to attach the single track links. In retrospect (always a wonderful thing) I should have checked this alignment before I joined the sprocket halves. I could then have cut off the key and joined the two halves so that the teeth aligned precisely. But I didn’t so I had to work round this issue. On the second side, the sprocket teeth aligned perfectly, which made fitting the links much easier.

Gluing the track links to the rear idlers was easier, mainly because there are no sprocket teeth to match and horizontal alignment is fixed by the fact that the flanges on the inside of the tracks fit precisely to the idler.

When all the single track links were attached, I glued the sprocket to the hull, then the upper track run to the sprocket and roadwheels, then the idler to the hull and finally the lower track run to the roadwheels. This the result. It’s a long, fiddly job, but I think the outcome is reasonable.

I finished off by adding the front and rear mudguards and giving the hull and turret a coat of varnish then an oil pin-wash to highlight details. I left off the Fiefel filter trunking and tow cables while I was doing this. They will be added last. I also painted the inside rear of the hull black – I realised that the grey plastic was visible through the open grilles on the rear deck.

The final step is adding the tow cables, filter trunking, spare track links and the hull MG 34 barrel and giving everything a final coat of matte varnish. And it’s done!

After Action Report

This is a level 4 kit; “for the more experienced modeller.”  No kidding, this certainly isn’t a kit for a beginner! No locating holes or guides are provided for many small parts including the smoke dischargers, Fiefel air filters, the small ventilator on top of the turret or the headlights. The colour scheme drawings and the photograph of the completed kit on the front of the instructions do show where these things are supposed to go, but getting them attached in just the right place isn’t always easy.

The roadwheels and particularly the tracks are fiendishly difficult to assemble and to get proper alignment and the instructions could give a great deal more useful information. I learned from this as I went and by the time I had finished, I just about knew what I was doing. I’m already looking forward to attempting my next kit of this type.

However, set against these apparent negatives, there are some very positive things about this kit. It has very good detail and is generally accurate for a Tunisian Tiger. If you are willing to put in the time and effort, it builds into a really nice model. The tracks provide a good example. Building and painting these takes substantially more time and effort than using rubber-band type tracks. However, in my opinion, the end result is notably better. These do look like metal tracks made of individual links that have weight and substance and not, well, like rubber bands. This challenged my slowly re-emerging kit-building skills, and I know the end result could have been better. But I also felt that I learned and improved during the build, and that’s always satisfying.

I guess the most important point when considering whether I can recommend this kit is the question; would I choose another Revell kit of the same type? And the answer is an emphatic yes! I enjoyed the challenge of building something a little more difficult and I’m looking forward to applying what I learned to another kit. Despite being more than twenty years old, this really is a very good quality kit and, if you have the time and skills, it can be built into a 1/72 Tunisian Tiger that’s as good as anything else out there.

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