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Scooby Doo Haunted House – Part 2

It’s time to start building my haunted house diorama. I’m going borrower-style here, using as far as possible stuff I find around the house and elsewhere. I begin with a rough sketch of what I’m trying to build.

The finished room will have just three walls – the front will be left open. The rear wall will be fixed in place and the two side walls will be removable. I guess what I’m trying to build here is a kind of miniature film set and the removable walls will allow me to more easily take pictures looking into the room from the eye-level of the Playmobil characters.

The starting point is an old noticeboard, 30cm x 40cm.

The walls will be 8.5 inches (215mm) high, which feels about right as a two-story structure for figures around 3 inches (75mm) tall. I drill out holes in the base and add six removable wooden dowels that will help to support the walls.

Next, I begin work on the floor. This is made from two layers of card, the lower one black and the upper yellow.

I’m planning to include secret areas and clues for Scoob and Shaggy to discover. The first is a secret trapdoor in the floor that will be hidden by a rug – the black card is used to suggest a dark area below the main floor.

Then, I use a black marker pen to add cartoon-style floorboards and the structure of the trapdoor. The trapdoor is held in place with simple sticky-tape hinges.

I also add steps leading down into a hidden area below the trapdoor – acrylic washes are used on pale card to mimic steps disappearing into the darkness. This is my first chance to see how the figures will look in-situ and I’m fairly happy with the result.

With the floor done, it’s time to start working on the walls. I begin with the wall on the left side that includes the front door. All the walls will be constructed by gluing thin coloured cartridge paper to thicker scrap card taken from a discarded box. Then, details will be added.

This is the completed left side wall with door, windows, skirting-board and ceiling moulding. All colours are either acrylic washes or felt pen to give bright colours and that cartoon feel and the details are cut out of thin card and glued to the wall. I don’t need to make the front door open so it’s just fixed in place.

With the characters in position it looks OK, though a little tall. That’s because this is the only wall that won’t feature a first-floor level.

Next is the fixed back wall which is created in the same way. The lower right portion of this wall will be hidden by the staircase and the lower left features an opening secret door that will be hidden by a dresser. The upper part of the wall will feature a non-opening door accessible from the first-floor level, but I’ll add that later when the first floor level is done.

And with the characters in place…

Then it’s on the third and final wall. This includes two windows, one on the ground floor and one on the first. 

With that done, the basic structure of my Scooby Doo set is complete.

In the next part, I’ll be building the staircase and the first floor and adding all the details.

Related posts

Scooby Doo Haunted House – Part 1

Scooby Doo Haunted House – Part 3 coming soon

Scooby Doo Haunted House

Zoinks gang! It’s time for a very different bit of modelling to start off 2022. I mentioned in my last post (a review of a set of 1/35 German infantry from 1914) that I was getting a bit jaded in my kit building. My jadedness (is that even a word?) was increased when I messed up a shadow wash while painting those figures and ended up dumping the all-black figures in the bin. Sigh…

So, I’m now going to attempt something very different indeed. It’s a kind of, sort of, vignette in approximately 1/24 scale featuring Scooby Doo and friends. No tanks, no military stuff at all, and not a kit in sight… This is just about nostalgia-fuelled fun. I hope!

OK, now that most of my regulars have gone elsewhere for their fix of regular military-themed kit-building, what’s this new project all about?

Background

Way back in July 1969, man first walked on the Moon. Which I, as a ten-year-old, regarded as surpassingly cool and exciting. But just two months later, something else happened that had a huge effect on my pre-teen self: the very first episode of a new kid’s cartoon series, Scooby Doo: Where Are You? launched on CBS. Produced by  Hanna-Barbera, the show featured a truly Gothic aesthetic supported by wonderful painted backgrounds (even if some of the foreground animations were a little creaky).

How can you not love this? Like most of the art from Series 1, this painting was created by Walt Peregoy, a background artist who had previously worked for Disney.

The show was produced in an attempt to create a non-violent kid’s show that would avoid the criticism that many existing superhero series were attracting from parent’s and media groups. The outcome was utterly formulaic: in each of the 17 episodes of the first series, the four teenage protagonists (Velma, Daphne, Shaggy and Fred) plus their Great Dane Scooby Doo would turn up at a new location in the Mystery Machine.

When the Mystery Machine arrives in town, bad things are going to happen…

They would encounter some sort of paranormal (ghosts, zombies, etc.) or cryptid (Yeti, sea monster, etc.) problem. The gang would uncover clues and set a fiendishly complicated trap (that usually failed) before finally discovering that the ghost/monster was really a baddie in disguise. Nothing startling really, but the atmosphere (at least until the final unmasking) was rather dark and scary for a kid’s show.

Another of Walt Peregoy’s wonderful backgrounds

There were jump scares, a brooding atmosphere of menace and lots of scary establishing shots. As a ten-year-old, I found some of the episodes genuinely scary. But here’s the thing: I love the horror genre, whether it’s books, movies or television. I’m certain that my enthusiasm for this began with Scooby Doo and I still retain fond feelings for the original couple of series (but not anything that features Scrappy Doo, OK?). You could argue, if you were so inclined, that these cartoons introduced a new generation (including yours truly) to the tropes of Gothic horror – from a creepy house on a remote island to an abandoned airfield, all were laden with dread and the unspoken promise of very bad things.

If you want to remind yourself about just how great the early episodes were, the YouTube video below provides the first five minutes of the very first episode of Scooby Doo: Where Are You? from 1969, What a night for a Knight.

The Plan

Jump forward over fifty years and I was in a toyshop in a large town. I was hoping they might stock model kits (they didn’t) and instead I found myself captivated by a new range from Playmobil featuring the characters from the original series of Scooby Doo. I grew to love Playmobil when my kids were growing up – the sheer quality and diverse design of everything they make really impressed me. The combination of Playmobil and Scooby Doo was almost irresistible, but my kids are now rather too grown up to appreciate these as presents and as yet, there is no sign of grandchildren to allow me to indulge my joy in train sets and Scalextric.

My latest kit failure made me think about this again. Of course, I could simply buy the Playmobil Scooby Doo Haunted Mansion, but where’s the challenge in that? Would it be possible instead to use the Playmobil characters in a home-made haunted house that reflected the cartoon aesthetic of the original? Could this then be used as the basis for a series of photographs that can be presented as a comic-strip or even a video? Essentially, can I make a new episode of Scooby Doo using these models?

That’s a lot of questions and I really don’t know the answer to any of them. I’m not even sure whether this represents revisiting my childhood or the first signs of approaching dementia. And I don’t really care, I am looking forward to something that’s a little more light-hearted than my usual modelling subject. There’s a fair bit of work involved, so I’ll be updating progress in several parts. If I ever get the comic strip/video done, I’ll post that here too. Let’s start by looking at the cast for my new episode.

The Cast

Playmobil offer all the main characters from the original Scooby Doo as well as most of the monsters/ghosts from the early series. The monsters are particularly nicely done, because all can be revealed as being other characters in disguise…

I want to keep it as simple as possible, so I went for set 70287, Scooby and Shaggy with Ghost. This provides the figures fof Scooby Doo and Shaggy as well as a third character who can wear a glow-in-the-dark ghost outfit. I would have liked to have the other members of the gang, but they are only available as a large set that includes the Mystery Machine.

Scooby and Shaggy are presented in the traditional Playmobil semi-cartoon style and the ghost is particularly nicely done with a separate hood (complete with eye-holes) that can be removed to reveal the person underneath. It really does glow in the dark too, and how many 1/72 tanks can you say that about…

There are also some accessories including a bag of Scooby Snacks, a flashlight, a burger and a lead (though I can’t remember Scooby ever being on a lead in the series).

The next step will be to start to create the haunted house set and I’m looking forward to it. What do you think? Am I losing my mind or would you also like to try something completely different in terms of model-building? Stay tuned for the next thrilling instalment…  

Related Posts

Scooby Doo Haunted House – Part 2

ICM 1/35 WW I German Infantry (1914) (35679) In-Box Review

It’s been a while since the last post, mainly because real life has managed to get in the way of my kit-building, as it has a nasty habit of doing. I also took a break because I was getting a little jaded. I had been focusing on 1/72 armour, and I came to realise that, while I really enjoy painting and finishing my kits, I really can’t be bothered with fiddly construction that involves lots of tiny parts (IBG Renault FT17, I’m looking at you…).

So, I wanted to try something a little different that involves simple construction but lots of painting. That’ll be figures, then. I did enjoy building a diorama from a Tamiya 1/35 Pak35 which came with figures, but that kit dates from the early 1970s and the quality of the included figures wasn’t great. So, I wanted to try something more modern to see how quality has improved. I also fancy a change from the World War Two period and I was therefore happy to find this 1/35 kit of figures from World War One at a local stockist for less than €10. 

This is one of a number of 1/35 scale figure kits released by Ukrainian manufacturer ICM in 2014 to mark the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War One. Other sets in the series include infantry of a number of other nations and from various periods during that conflict, tank crews and machine guns. This appears to be one of the most comprehensive collections of World War One figures currently available and it’s refreshing to find a manufacturer covering something other than ubiquitous subjects from World War Two.

I haven’t tried an ICM kit before, so I’m keen to find out if this offering is worth having or one to avoid. Let’s take a look…   

History

The Imperial German Army in 1914, like the armies of many other nations, was going through a period of transition in terms of equipment and uniforms.

A colourised contemporary image showing troops of the 106th Reserve Infantry Regiment in 1914.

Most infantry units used the 1910 Feldgrau uniform incorporating a grey tunic with red piping on the collar, front, rear and cuffs and exposed silver or gold buttons. The grey trousers also featured red piping on the outside of each leg. Soldiers were provided with a Model 1895 Tornister, a wooden-framed backpack faced in hair-covered cow or horse-skin and usually surrounded by a folded greatcoat and blanket.

A 1914 German uniform on display at the National World War I Museum in Kansas City, MO. The helmet cover at bottom left has the later green regimental number.

Boots were hobnailed, calf-length jackboots, usually in black for officers and brown for other ranks. The standard helmet was the Model 1895 Pickelhaube, a leather or enamelled tin helmet featuring a distinctive spike that also provided ventilation. In the field, the shiny helmet was usually covered with an Überzug, a close-fitting cloth cover. The regimental number was shown on the front of the cover for most units. Initially this took the form of red, felt numbers stitched on to the cover but from later in 1914 these were replaced with green numerals.

A modern recreation of the 1914 German uniform.

The standard infantry weapon was the Gewehr 98 rifle manufactured by Mauser. This is a very, very brief overview of standard German unform in 1914. Even to use the term “standard” is a little misleading: certain units (Guards Regiments, for example) had detail differences in unform and even some infantry regiments from various parts of Germany used different types of uniform and weapons at the outbreak of war.

What’s in the Box?

The box contains just three sprues, and two of those are identical! There is no PE here and no decals, which I for one find rather refreshing.

The main sprue contains the parts for four figures: one officer and three other ranks.

Detail is good and all the figures wear a pretty good representation of the 1914 uniform. There appears to be almost no flash at all. There are some moulding seams, but these seem to be minimal and often on areas that won’t be visible when the figures are completed. On each figure, the arms, legs, and head and neck are separate from the torso. Even each Pickelhaube helmet and spike are provided as separate parts.

The faces look good to me. They aren’t particularly expressive, but each is distinct and different with two displaying appropriate period moustaches. It’s interesting to compare these to the Tamiya figures from the 1970s which were the last 1/35 figures I attempted. These are just much, much better, particularly in terms of having detailed and appropriately sized hands – no bunches of banaas here! Overall, these figures look very good.

The other two identical sprues contain a wealth of weapons and equipment, though most aren’t appropriate for figures representing soldiers from 1914. On these sprues, for example, you’ll find eight examples of the later M1916 steel helmet as well as a heavy machine gun, an anti-tank gun, a selection of grenades and pistols and even an early submachine gun, but most of these just don’t apply to these early-war figures.

What you do get is sufficient numbers of the Gewehr 98 rifle to equip each of the three other-ranks with a rifle either with or without a bayonet. Though if you choose to show rifles with bayonets attached, you’ll have to remember to remove the handle of the bayonet from its scabbard. The bolts of the rifles are moulded as tiny separate parts though no slings are provided.

Some items display real artistry. On each backpack, for example, the folded greatcoat and blanket are moulded integrally. But each of the three is subtly different in how the creases and folds are shown. Nice touch!

The painting instructions are detailed but, in at least one respect, wrong! Model Master colour references are provided and correctly identify German Uniform Feldgrau for the tunic and Medium Gray for the trousers. However, the colour for the cover of the Pickelhaube helmet, blanket and bread bag are given  as “Pale Green”.

In truth, these items were light brown and washing and exposure to the elements usually rendered them as a light tan colour. That’s an important factor in the look of these early war German infantrymen and it does seem to be wrongly stated here. The box art doesn’t help either as it shows the figures only from the front and with tunic, trousers and helmet cover all in a similar shade of dark grey.     

Would You Want One?                                                                                                   

Overall, these figures look very good. There is nice detail here and it all seems appropriate and plausible. The only thing that I can see which isn’t included are slings for the rifles. I quite like having a kit where I don’t have to worry about decals, but having said that, I can’t help but think that decals for the regimental numbers on the helmet covers might have been nice,

Of course, part of how the finished figures look depends on how natural and lifelike (or otherwise) their poses look, and that’s something that won’t be apparent until these are assembled. However, my first impression is that this would be a good place to start if you’re planning a collection of early war figures from 1914.

It’s lucky that these are good because surprisingly (at least, it was to me) there isn’t actually a great deal of choice if you want to make German infantry in 1/35 from 1914. Revell offer a set of German, French and British infantry from 1914, but these are actually just a re-box of these ICM figures. Emhar and others produce sets that include German infantry from World War One, but all appear to be from later periods.

MasterBox did a set of resin 1/35 early war German infantry, but those do not seem to be currently available. M-Model also offer several sets of resin figures from World War One that include German infantry, but all appear to be from later periods. So, as far as I’m aware, this appears to be your only option if you want a mass-produced, injection-moulded 1/35 kit of early war German infantry.  

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

Airfix Matilda Hedgehog (AO2335V) conversion to A12 Matilda II Mk I. Part 1: Suspension and Tracks

Time for something new here on Model Kit World. This is the first of an occasional series of conversion build reviews where I attempt to convert a kit into something a little different. These will be more detailed than my usual build reviews, showing a step-by-step guide to what I have done in case anyone else fancies doing the same.

In this conversion, I want to try to change an Airfix 1/76 Matilda Hedgehog into a Matilda II Mk I as used by 7th Royal Tank Regiment (RTR) in France in 1939/40. I would rather have purchased a base Airfix Matilda II, but it seems that kit is now discontinued. It seems that the only currently available kit featuring the Airfix Matilda is the Hedgehog variant, a version with a rocket launcher on the rear hull. Happily, this kit contains the complete original kit with an extra sprue for the Hedgehog launcher. The launcher simply fits over the rear hull and there are no new mounting holes or anything else. So, if you want to build a basic Matilda II from the Hedgehog kit, all you have to do is ignore the parts for the launcher (and find some new decals). Even the long-range rear fuel tank and mountings, which you can’t use if you fit the Hedgehog launcher, are still provided.

I want to convert this:

Into this, an A12 Matilda II of the BEF in France in 1940.

Although it isn’t explicitly stated, the Airfix kit probably represents an A12 Matilda II Mk. II or later. The most obvious visual change from the original version was replacing the co-axial Vickers water-cooled machine gun with an air-cooled BESA machine gun. Initially I thought that all that would be required was to create a co-axial Vickers machine gun and a new paint scheme. However a bit of research (and you do need to do a fair amount of research for any conversion) suggests that there are actually several changes needed.

Obviously, the co-axial machine gun mount will have to be changed to the Vickers style, which had its own external mantlet, as shown above.

All the Matilda IIs of 7th RTR in France had their suspension jacked up to increase ground clearance. This pushed the suspension bogies down so that the top of the bogies projected just below the bottom of the side hull plates. This is actually quite a striking change to the way that these Matildas looked and it’s something I will have to address. You can see what I mean on the photo above of a knocked-out BEF Matilda in France. 

All 7th RTR Matildas also had a large tail skid added to the rear of the hull. This was fabricated in the field to improve trench-crossing ability and was made from welded plates of steel. The exhaust silencer was moved inside this skid and the left hand exhaust pipe was re-routed to pass into the left side of this skid while the right hand exhaust was moved to the underside of the hull where it was routed into the right side of the skid. You can see the tail skid and the new exhaust arrangement in the image above of another knocked-out BEF Matilda in France.

The tracks provided with the Airfix Matilda are supposed to be the later tracks fitted to the Mk. II onwards. They aren’t very accurate, but the first models of Matilda II were fitted with a completely different style of track, which you can also see above. The Airfix tracks don’t look anything like those. Finally, all the first batch of Matildas had only a single headlight, mounted on the left side of the front hull. There are other detail differences, but at this scale, these are the only five visual changes that I’ll be trying to make to the Airfix kit.

I’ll be scratch-building most of the new bits, with a couple of exceptions where I’ll be using the Vickers machine gun mantlet and tracks from a previously completed RPM Cruiser Mark I. That’s in 1/72 scale rather than 1/76, but the difference is so small that I don’t think it will be noticeable.

Suspension

The first step is building new suspension bogies which can be placed lower than those on the kit. Here’s the starting point.

As you can see, the bogies are moulded-in parts of the hull sides. They’re also the wrong shape. This detail from a drawing of a BEF Matilda II Mk. I shows what I’m aiming for.

The first step is to remove the existing bogies and sand the inner hull side smooth.

Then, I make twenty bogie plates from thin plastic card. The ten that will go on the outside get bolts (carefully cut off a 1/35 kit) and lightening holes. Some of which are almost in the right place… The inner plates won’t really be visible on the finished model, so I leave them plain.

Then, I attach the rollers from the kit (minus the mounting spindles) on to the bogie plates and add a small mounting strip of plastic card.

Then, these are fixed to the outer hull plate, to which a thin strip of plastic card has already been added. You do have to be careful to replicate the location and spacing of the original bogies. It all looks a bit messy from the inside, but this won’t be seen when it’s complete.

From the outside it looks all right. Here’s one modified and one original outer hull plate.

Then, the sprocket, idler, jockey wheel and internal bogie plates are added and the inner and outer hull side halves are joined.

And this is where I end up – with two completed hull side assemblies with modified suspension bogies.

Tracks

I’ll be using the tracks from the 1/72 RPM Cruiser Tank Mk. I. These are visually much closer to the tracks fitted to the first Matilda IIs, and I think that perhaps they can be enhanced even more at the painting stage. The only problem is, these are hard plastic tracks that are moulded with the sprocket, idler, roadwheels and return rollers modelled integrally. Time to get the files out… Here’s the starting point.

First, I cut off the roadwheels, sprocket, etc.  

Then, I cut sections off the track and bend and file until they fit the Matilda running gear.

Then, I join and blend the sections and this is what I end up with. Certainly not perfect, but I think it’s better than using the inaccurate Airfix tracks.

Of course, this approach means that I’ll have to paint the tracks, rollers, etc. in-situ, but I can live with that if the result is better-looking and more accurate tracks.

And in the next thrilling episode, I’ll be tackling the hull and turret. See you then!

Related Posts

Airfix Matilda Hedgehog (AO2335V) conversion to A12 Matilda II Mk I. Part 2: Hull, Turret and Painting

Airfix Matilda Hedgehog (AO2335V) In-box Review and History – coming soon

RPM 1/72 Renault FT Char Cannon with Berliet Turret (72204) Build Review

I’m not by nature a giver-upper, dear readers, in fact persistence is one of my few positive personality traits.  But I came very close to abandoning this build. In many ways, this is a horrible kit. There are lots of tiny parts, fit is variable, mouldings aren’t particularly sharp, the plastic used is brittle and attachment to the sprues is very clumsy indeed which makes it virtually certain that you are going to snap a fair number of parts just getting them off the sprue. This isn’t a happy story…

I began by building the turret and the hull. Neither are pleasant experiences. Several parts snapped as they were being removed from the sprue, fit was pretty dreadful with many parts needing to be sanded before they will fit and filler needed to cover the worst of the gaps. It took more than ten minutes with a circular file before I could even get the turret to fit in opening in the hull. The finished items are pretty rough and more sanding and filling will be required.

Some of the mouldings are also incomplete. The circled area above shows a part of the lower hull that is missing, and I used the better of the two hull halves here. The others were much worse. This area will be hidden by the suspension and running gear, but still, this isn’t good.

Then, I start on the suspension. Assembling this is no problem, provided that you have the eyesight of a falcon and the manual dexterity of a brain surgeon. I have neither and I struggled. Part of the issue is that many of the parts are just stupidly small. Here, for example is one of the upper return roller assemblies. There are 15 parts here and yes, that is a normal sized matchstick.

Several of the mouldings aren’t great. Here, for example is one of the lower running-gear side plates. As you can see, three of the nine holes that are used to mount the roadwheels aren’t there at all and two are only partly formed. All the other three plates were similar, and all need to be drilled out, even the holes that are there because they’re too small to fit the tiny axles on the roadwheels.

Here are the upper and lower assemblies complete. It took some time to get to this point, but there are still lots of parts to add. Several other mounting holes were not formed and had to be drilled, and the location of parts like the main support for the upper assembly is not clear.

Finally, I got the whole assembly done for both sides, and I tried one of the tracks in place, using a drill bit in place of the rear spindle. At least the tracks aren’t too tight, because the whole assembly is very fragile.

Then, I join the two completed assemblies to the hull, and even that isn’t easy. These units don’t attach direct to the hull, but are attached via a fragile spindle that projects from the hull at the rear and a single equally fragile suspension unit at the front that fixes to the top and bottom of the suspension. It’s extremely difficult to get both joined so that they are even approximately in the right place. On reflection, I would have been better to have left the suspension assemblies off until I had finished painting, but I just work round that.

And with that, main assembly is done. And what long and a frustrating task it was! Each running gear assembly contains almost fifty parts, most of them tiny. Getting small parts off the sprues intact is a challenge, and several important mounting holes just aren’t there. In total, there are close to 150 parts on the hull running gear and turret on a completed model that’s barely two inches long. This was not a fun build. But, at least it’s almost done. Only the exhaust and tools are left off for the moment and I can finally begin painting.

I’m aiming for a Polish tank from around 1933. I start with a base of several thin coats of Vallejo Dark Yellow, which seems a fairly close match for the light sand colour used on Polish tanks.

Then I add a simple green/brown camo scheme using Vallejo Russian Uniform and Tamiya Flat Earth. It seems that Polish tanks didn’t use standard, defined schemes, so I guess this is plausible.

Then I do some drybrushing in highlighted versions of the base colours. I also use a permanent marker to add a black line between the camo colours. This only seems to have been done on Polish AFVs for a couple of years, and they had reverted to a more standard three-colour scheme by the time that the war began. I just like this scheme and I wanted to see how using the marker worked. It’s far from perfect, but I’m quite happy with the overall look when it’s done.

I’m not using any of the provided decals. None are appropriate for a Polish tank from the 1930s, and most images seem to show that Polish tanks of that period didn’t carry any markings at all. It all gets a coat of varnish and a grey oil wash which helps to deepen the shadows and make the drybrushed highlights stand out.

The last parts to be added are the tools and the exhaust. And while cutting them off the sprue, the axe breaks into two parts and the shovel into three. Which rather sums this kit up. Ambition is high and separate tools are good, but not if they can’t be removed from the sprues without damage. I manage to repair the broken parts and add them to the kit.

All that now remains are the tracks. These get a base coat of Vallejo dark grey, then light gunmetal highlights on the treads and then a brown acrylic wash. You do have to be very careful when fitting the tracks, because the whole suspension, running gear, sprocket, idler assembly is very fragile indeed. With the tracks on, this kit is finally complete.

After Action Report

If you enjoy sanding, filling, drilling and repairing parts so tiny that they’re barely visible to the naked eye, you may enjoy this kit. If like me you appreciate a simple build and good fit, then you may want to look elsewhere. This tiny kit includes something in the region of 150 parts in a finished model that’s barely two inches long. In some ways, that suggests a commendable quest for detail and accuracy. In other ways, it suggests that this is a complete pain in the ass to build.

As you can probably guess, I didn’t enjoy this build. Actually, I really, really didn’t enjoy it at all. Parts that are very difficult to get off the sprue without damage combined with indifferent fit and poor mouldings make for hard work, especially when the parts involved are so small. The finished model looks sort of OK, though the fact that it has such fine detail does make the fat tracks look a little odd.

I certainly won’t be rushing to buy another RPM kit, no matter how cheap, though I hear that some of their other subjects are better done and easier to build. I guess it depends what you’re looking for. I like simple builds and good fit so that I can focus on painting. If you enjoy the challenge of a difficult-to-build kit that requires lots of effort, you might just enjoy this one.

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RPM 1/72 Renault FT Char Cannon with Berliet Turret (72204) In-Box Review and History

Airfix 1/76 Cromwell IV Tank (A02338) Build Review

The way in which the tracks are provided in this kit means that I will be painting and assembling the tracks, roadwheels, idlers, sprockets and lower hull before I start painting the upper hull. As usual, I’ll be brush painting everything.

The lower hull comprises seven parts and assembles without any problems and without the need for any filler.

I attach the upper hull and add all the other bits and pieces to that, other than for the rear mudguards and the side-pieces for the track guards, which I’ll leave off until the tracks are complete and in place. Fit is great with one exception: Part ??, arrowed below. This part has two pegs that are supposed to fit into two holes in the upper hull. But the holes are too small (or the pegs are too big) and I had to use a 1mm drill to enlarge the holes before this part would fit properly.

I then added the inner halves of the roadwheels, idlers and sprockets to the lower hull. The tracks fit over these and are retained in place by the outer halves which are fixing in place after the tracks. Some care is needed when fitting the sprockets as these must mesh with the gaps between treads on the tracks, so dry-fitting and adjustment is needed before the inner halves of the sprockets are fixed in place.

With the inner wheels in place, I try a dry fit of the tracks, and they look pretty good. 

Then, it’s on to the turret. The armour plates on the sides and rear are separate parts, but fit is generally very good. The only issue is where the mantlet and front plate join the turret. Here, there’s a distinct gap.

This is odd, mainly because fit everywhere else is very good, but I don’t think I messed up construction, so some filler will be required.

The completed turret sits nicely on the hull once it’s done. The last bit of construction before I start painting is the main gun. And it’s a bit of a faff. The barrel and one half of the muzzle come as a single part with the other (and very tiny) half of the muzzle as a separate part. This means that the muzzle opening is open without the need for slide moulding, but fit and location of the half of the muzzle isn’t great.

Careful sanding is required to get something that looks even approximately right. Once the muzzle half is added, I notice that the opening at the front is too small and clearly not circular, so I end up having to drill it out anyway!

Time to start painting. First, the tracks get a coat of Vallejo dark grey, followed by dry-brushing with gunmetal and a wash of acrylic brown. I also paint the lower hull as well as the inner and outer halves of the sprockets, roadwheels and idlers. I’m using Vallejo Russian Uniform as the base colour. This is initially a little light, but previous experience suggests that once it gets a coat of varnish and a dark grey wash, it should look all right.

Then the tracks are pushed into place and the outer halves of the wheels are glued into place – this also holds the tracks in position.

I did find painting the roadwheel tyres difficult here. Hell, I always find painting 1/76 roadwheel tyres challenging, but these were even more fiendishly difficult than usual. The main problem is that the small outer lip of the wheels is barely defined at all, making it hard to follow with a brush. It takes several attempts before I get something I’m moderately happy with. I also highlight the hubs and bolts with a lighter version of the base colour.

Overall, I like this method of track construction. It’s easy and straightforward and even I find it difficult to get it wrong. OK, so I still feel that the tracks could have had more detail, but in general, this isn’t bad. With the tracks in place, I add the small side-pieces at the front and rear of each track guard. There is no clearance at all between these and the tracks and on one side at the front, I had to sand down the outer edge of the track to get this part to fit properly. Fortunately, this isn’t visible once the side piece is in place.

Then, the upper hull is painted with several thinned coats of the base colour and some dry-brushed highlights are added using a lightened version of this colour.

Finally, the decals are added (but not the white stars – as noted in in-box review, I don’t think these were used on the tank from 7th Armoured Division for which decals are provided) and I add some chipping in Vallejo German Grey on exposed edges and around hatches. I also paint the tools on the rear hull and the hull and turret machine-guns and then give everything a coat of clear varnish.

Finally, it gets a wash with dark grey oil paint to bring out shadows and make everything look a bit grubby and well-used. And that’s it done.

After Action Report

This was a straightforward build with no major problems. Fit is generally good, the instructions are clear and I do like this method of representing tracks. Detail is generally very good and this ends up looking like a Cromwell, which is about all you can ask for at this scale.

Getting rid of the join where the tip of the muzzle is attached to the gun is fiddly and filler was needed at the front of the turret roof, but otherwise this was a relaxing and enjoyable build. If you want to build a 1/76 Cromwell, this is the only choice, so it’s lucky that it’s a decent kit.

I would have liked to see some more detail on the tracks and perhaps a few items of stowage for the rear hull and a commander figure might have been nice, especially as the turret hatch can be shown open. But overall, these are pretty minor niggles. It’s nice to see an Airfix tank kit that’s up there in most respects with modern kits compared to the older 1/76 offerings from this company which are looking rather tired now. I just wish other small-scale armour kit manufacturers would take this method of producing tracks and add more detail…

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IBG Models 1/72 A9 British Cruiser Tank Mk.I with 2 pdr Gun (WAW011) Build Review

The order of construction here is dictated by the way in which this kit is presented. I want to paint the wheels and tracks before attaching these to the hull. That also means leaving off the track guards until the tracks are painted and attached.

I begin with construction of the hull. There are no particular problems here, though there is an error in the instructions. If you look at the image above, you’ll see that I have fixed part K15, the mounting for the middle return roller, as shown in the instructions.

However, that’s wrong. If you put it there, it not only doesn’t line up with the roller, it will stop the track guards fitting in place. The correct location for this part is lower and further to the rear, arrowed in red on the image above.  Everything fits nicely with no need for filler and other than this minor issue, the locations for all parts are clear despite the instructions being rather brief. Some small parts, the headlights, for example, are tricky to remove from the sprues without damage. The plastic is rather soft, the attachment points are thick and you do need to use a very sharp knife. I leave off the exhaust and tools so that I can paint these separately.

Next, the turret, and again, fit is good and construction straightforward. Surface detail and especially the rivets are very well done. The only odd feature is that the Commander’s hatch is square while the opening beneath is circular, but that’s a feature of the original too. The hatch can be fitted open or closed, though because there isn’t a figure or any internal detail, I’m going for closed. The radio antenna is way too thick, so I cut it off the base and I’ll replace it with stretched sprue at some point.

I construct the MG turrets too, but I don’t add them to the hull yet. I think that painting these and the surrounding hull will be easier if I keep them separate for the moment. I do drill a small hole in the base of each and mount them on screws to make handling easier while I’m painting them.

That’s as far as I can go with construction until I have painted the tracks and lower hull. I’m using Vallejo Russian Uniform for the base colour. It isn’t a precise match for Khaki Green G3, but it’s probably close enough. I’m brush painting as usual and there is some very fine surface detail here, so I’ll be building up several coats of very thinned paint.

The suggested paint scheme in the magazine shows the camo extending to the lower hull, under the track guards, to the roadwheels, but I’m not convinced. Looking at wartime photos and images of the A9 in The Tank Museum in Bovington, it seems more likely that the dark green camo pattern was only applied to the track guards and above.  

For painting the tracks, I begin with the base green, including highlights. Then I add dark grey for the tyres (and the idler has a rubber tyre as well as the roadwheels) before starting on the tracks. These are painted a lighter grey, then highlighted with gunmetal and given a final acrylic brown wash. Once everything is dry, the tracks and lower hull get a coat of clear varnish and then a wash of dark grey oil to pick out the shadows.

Once they’re painted, I add the track guards to the lower hull and then fix the tracks in place (and you must do it in that order, if you fit the tracks first, it isn’t possible to get the track guards on). Painting the one-piece tracks and running gear is more challenging than working with separate parts, but overall, I’m not unhappy with how it looks in the end.

Next, everything gets a couple of thinned coats of the base colour followed by some drybrushing of edges and details with a lightened version of the same colour.

Then I add the camouflage pattern using a dark green I mixed using Vallejo Dark Grey and Olive Green and following the detailed 3-view drawings in the magazine as a guide. Once it’s done, I again add drybrushed highlights using a lightened tone of the same colour.

Then, I paint on the tools on the track guards and the lens on the turret spotlight and add the shovel and crowbar on the right side of the hull. I also add the decals, and these are commendably thin and densely printed and they go on with no problems using Vallejo Decal Fix and Decal Softener. Strangely, there are spares on the decal sheet – there are three of the blue squares for the turret where only two are needed and two of the 1st Armoured Division rhinoceros where only one is needed. I suppose it’s always good to have spares.

Finally, it all gets an overall coat of clear varnish followed by an oil wash. I use a dark grey overall wash to highlight shadows with a few spots of white to show streaking and bleaching on the hull and turret. All that’s then left to do is give it a final coat of clear matt varnish, then add a stretched sprue radio antenna on the turret and fix the exhaust to the rear hull and put everything together.

After Action Report                                                                                                          

This was a satisfying and simple build.  Fit was good, there were no real problems and I rather like the look of the completed model. Detail is sharp and the camo scheme didn’t turn out too badly either.

Don’t let the fact that this is described as a fast-build kit put you off. Yes, the tracks, roadwheels, etc. come as a single part, but detail is generally good. Apart from the tracks themselves of course, and how many small-scale tank kits have I said that about?

This is a fairly cheap kit, but IMHO, it’s as good as or better than many other more expensive kits. The provision of the magazine is a nice touch and it does give some interesting background to the development and use of this tank. And it’s great to find a decent model of a little-known British tank. I haven’t tried any of the other IBG World at War series, but if they’re as good as this little A9, they should be well worth looking out for.     

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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 on 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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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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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.