Construction Notes, Modeling project

Revell Kampfpanzer Leopard – Part 1: The Project

Although the Leopard 1 is my favorite AFV of all time, I only ever built one, the old Tamiya kit, when I was something like 12 years old. During all these years, I’ve accumulated a pretty decent amount of references on this vehicle and its many variants, but I never actually got around to building one (although I have many projects in mind involving it).

So after completing the Fulcrum, I wanted to get back to armor for a bit and decided it was about time to build a Leopard seriously. But which one? It’s always been the main problem. I won’t get into all the reasons why I find the Leopard so interesting, but let’s just say that it stands as a true symbol of the Cold War, the continuation of Germany’s relative competence in designing tanks, and one of the first true MBT. Plus it looks awesome.

So yeah, all variants of the Leopard are interesting, as my own inventory of kits will attest.

In the end, I decided to go with Revell’s. Now, I hear you all scream: “WHAT? Revell?!? This has to be the worst possible option!“. And, as we’ll likely confirm in the second installment of this series, you’d be right. Apart from Italeri’s 1A5 (not bad per se, just old) and Elite’s Dachs (a fiddly, warpy resin affair), all other kits on that stack are superior.

Yet, much to Revell’s credit, their kit is the only “recent” one offering the possibility to build an early variant from the first four batches, and it is also the only mainstream kit in existence that allows for building a Dutch tank straight out of the box.

Thus, from a subject matter perspective, it’s a viable option. You have a bunch of things to correct if you are into getting really precise and accurate, however, and the finer details of Leopard variants and batches can be confusing at times. As usual, good references help. Since I’m planning for a Belgian vehicle, here are the references that I am going to use.

As mentioned earlier, I’m getting serious with this build, at least for the construction part, and I decided to use a bunch of detailing sets to bring the kit to a more acceptable level of accuracy. Here are the sets I am going to use:

For the barrel, I wonder if I could get away with Barrel Depot’s M68 rifled Gun BD35009. It looks quite similar to the L7A3 without its thermal sleeve. This will need to be confirmed.

An interesting program, isn’t it?

Now, about those corrections, I could simply look carefully at Winnepenninckx’ book and infer what needs to be done. I will of course do that, but there are knowledgeable people out there that took the time to list a bunch of specific tweaks. Here they are if you fancy a project like this yourself.

Ok so with the specs of this project clearly set, let’s get going on the construction of this beast. This will form the basis of the second part of this blog.

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Modeling project

GWH Ukrainian Mig-29 Fulcrum-C

I recently bought Great Wall Hobby’s limited edition “Ghost of Kyiv” Fulcrum kit on a hunch. When I got the kit, I was so thrilled about the general shape of the plane I was seeing in the box that I decided to get started right away.

After the simple Spitfire summer project, I wanted to go a little further on this one. Still an OOB affair, I wanted to push finishing and experiment with Jarek Rydzy Rydzyski’s distressed pre-shading technique seen on the book he wrote with René Joyal, and that was the main purpose of this build.

The project went nicely. I would rate GWH’s kit as generally good. The base kit is from 2012, and while there were some surprising things, it went together well and any issues were dealt with relatively easily. I was surprised by the amount of mistakes in the instruction, though.

Honest Assessment

Things I’m happy with

  • Painting. Lots of pretty interesting learnings regarding painting into this build:
    • Distressed pre-shading, or “pre-shading texture” as Rydzyski calls it, is a pretty simple, and pretty fun technique. It yields good results with relatively quick execution.
    • I used Ammo paint from their Flanker set (AMM7280) and I experimented a bit with mixing it up with varnish and retarder. The result was quite interesting in that I managed to get a very sturdy, satin finish that was super easy to work with.
    • Painting a sky-blue fighter plane is awesome.
    • The Mig-29 is an incredibly cool-looking aircraft. Will build one again.

Things I’m okay with

  • Decaling went well. And it is much easier when said decals are of good quality. I’m starting to nail the technique not only to get good decal application but also in doing it at a good pace.
  • Landing gear. Didn’t prove too much of a PITA, but still, it amazes me just how sub-optimal any landing gear struts are every time. What’s so hard in getting that to fit snuggly?
  • Generally, weathering went well. But here again, I forgot one large segment (air intake left side)

Things I could do better

  • Jets are fiddly in the end. The further you get into a build, the harder it gets to manipulate, and the jig I’m using is not optimal. I need to get a better way to hold the plane at any angle.
  • Botched canopy. This is the single most important point I need to get better at. It’s not easy, but it’s pretty vital to get right, as it is one of the highlights of any plane, drawing your attention right away.

Project Specs

Great Wall Hobby Mig-29 Fulcrum-C “Ghost of Kyiv” Limited Edition #S4819
Foxbot Ukrainian Fulcrums markings #48076

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Modeling project

Tamiya Spitfire Mk. I

As the saying goes, in Québec we have two seasons: Winter and July. So in July (say, June to August), we tend to leave the bench alone and go outside. This is particularly true for those who ride a motorcycle: we only get about five months of nice weather.

However, I often try to get at least one project going, just to keep busy, experiment a bit, and learn a thing or two in the process, but the main point is mostly to be doing some modeling in the summer. I usually don’t go nuts much and often leave some glaring mistakes because the fucks I have are generally in short supply. I often end up going for the glorified paint mule in the end. The project I select for this purpose is invariably a simple, worry-free affair, and as you can imagine, it’s often a Tamiya.

So this year’s summer build has been as simple as it could possibly get: an old, straight out-of-box Tamiya Spitfire: the old 1993 Tamiya Spitfire Mk.I.

There isn’t a whole lot to say about this project, really. It went together easily and quickly, with no fit issues to speak of, the paint job went okay and the decals, which I somewhat botched, were brittle but adhered nicely.

As a true out-of-box project, I didn’t add any radio antenna string, nor did I add the red MG tapes that are usually seen on and around the MG openings. This build is very strictly made with only what’s in the box.

Overall, I’m surprisingly happy with the result for such a simple, basic project. I like the final look of the aircraft. The build is clean and that huge yellow-outlined roundel is just great. In the end, this summer project fulfilled its mission admirably.

With Fall now well settled in, it is time to move on to more ambitious projects!

Project Specs

Tamiya Spitfire Mk.I ref. #61032

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Construction Notes, Modeling project, Product Review

Joycraft F-16D Viper Toon

Last year, Joycraft launched a new series of products: fully 3D-printed aircraft kits. You may recall a review I posted here a while ago of a book from that company, written by master modelers René Joyal and Jarek Rydzyski.

When Joycraft announced its first kit, I jumped on it for a number of reasons. First, it was a fully 3D printed kit, and I wanted to see firsthand how they would go about producing that, Second, well, Joycraft is awesome and I was pretty sure anything it would come up with would be interesting. So I preordered a kit, got it, and built it. Here’s how it went.

What’s in the box?

The kit came in a super neat package, a work of art in itself (which apparently will change a bit in future offerings to make it more efficient). All the parts were neatly glued on a sturdy cardboard plate. Right away I could see that the definition of the print was pretty crisp.

Getting down to work

The first order of business was to clean the parts. Now, let me tell you right away, it looks much worse than it actually is. It took me about an hour to prepare all the parts down to basic cleanup so that I would only have to finish cleaning up each part more precisely once ready to put it into place.

You need to be extra careful, however, to avoid breaking parts. It’s not a huge deal, but this is not like cast resin, and certainly not like injected styrene. 3D printing resin is brittle and fragile. In the course of the project, I broke a number of parts that weren’t too complicated to fix, but it was self-inflicted pain nonetheless.

The Kit

The kit is a pretty cool design of a pretty cool jet fighter. I am not, myself, a huge fan of toon planes, but this one struck a note and grabbed my attention. Contrary to most toon planes I’ve seen, this one keeps the right ‘vibe’ of the F-16, and even though it is a vastly simplified version of the original, it keeps its awesome aerodynamics and signature lines. It comes with a centerline tank and two wing tanks, two AIM-9M, two AIM-120C, and two AGM-88. In other words, it is armed to the teeth.

In the end, I went for a more sleek loadout, but that isn’t exactly a voluntary choice. Rather, I was the victim of my own inexperience.

The kit is pretty well engineered. The cockpit is not only very detailed, but it fits pretty well without any issues to speak of. I didn’t take pictures of all the kit’s details, but the flight stick, the throttles, and a bunch of switches are all fully present. This level of detail and crispness makes it very promising for the future: a kit of this level of quality won’t require additions.

The instructions are pretty clear as well most of the time, and the decals are from Cartograf and are of excellent quality. You get two options in the kit: a Polish and a Greek aircraft. (I decided to add a fictional squadron insignia on mine and cut a Corinthian Helmet I found on the Internet. )

There are two things that aren’t quite awesome, though. The two-parts fuselage and the canopy. The former requires a pretty hefty putty job while the latter implies that your sanding and polishing chops are up there. I guess this had the benefit of forcing me to put those skills to practice. Joycraft told me that their next offering, the F-16I Sufa, will come with a one-piece fuselage.

In addition, I think it is fair to say that while a cute little toon plane, this kit isn’t for beginners. Like I said, parts are fragile to prepare and handle, you need a solid knowledge of CA glue handling, and PLEASE DRY-FIT EVERYTHING.

Yup, this is why you don’t see my ship bristling with missiles. You not only need to clean the wing hardpoints locators, but you need to make absolutely certain they will slip-fit in those slits. I didn’t do that and, right at the end of the project, I started to try and wrestle them in, coming dangerously close to some catastrophic breakage. I deemed it safer to leave those ordnances alone.

Oh well, some more experience.

In the end, this project was a very satisfying change of pace. It wasn’t as simple a build as I had expected. It drilled home some basics that I, as an armor modeler, am not often required to put into practice. It was also an excellent demo of what 3D-printed modeling is likely to look like in the future, and I cannot wait to see what Joycraft will come up with for their next kits. I was so impressed with the quality of their kit that I ordered their Sufa right away.

Project Specs

Joycraft F-16D Toon

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Modeling project, Uncategorized

2K11A/9M8M Krug-A Ganef

My good friend Vladimir Bocanin is a prolific builder. On a good year, he finishes more kits in a month than I build in a year. Lately, he’s been running a massive backlog of unpainted kits. Something like fifty-two. FIFTY-TWO. Let that sink in. He builds mostly weird middle-eastern field-modded armor and technicals as well as Eastern bloc armor and the occasional modern NATO subject.

I’ve been bugging him for years now to let me paint at least one of his numerous unpainted-yet builds. In January he finally agreed to let me paint this humongous SAM launcher.

I’ve opted for a museum vehicle, inspired partly by a picture taken by Massimo Foti, though I made it slightly less distressed and weathered than I would have liked and kept it a bit cleaner. I also somewhat limited the weathering passes to get it done asap.

An interesting project on many counts, my thanks to Vlad for letting me have a go at one of his kits!

Project Specs

  • Trumpeter Soviet 2K11A TEL with 9M8M Missile Krug-A (SA-4 Ganef) (Ref #09523) built by Vladimir Bocanin.
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Modeling project

Tamiya M3 Stuart

This is Tamiya’s 2018 iteration of the M3 Stuart. A very nice kit, with some PE additions. I made it a ‘semi-fictional’ tank of the 1st Armored Division in North Africa. Tamiya’s kit depicts El Diablo, I chose to portray fictional albeit, dare I say, quite plausible, Hercules.

I had some trouble deciding exactly what vehicle to represent. My initial intention was to portray a vehicle States bound in the massive manoeuvers prior to America’s baptism of fire in Africa, but I unexpectedly discovered that a Late production M3 is a rather elusive variety since it’s got most characteristics of the M3A1 but not quite. It was not easy to get references on this specific sub-variant. Steven Zaloga’s Osprey book on the Stuart deals with El Diablo but I, unfortunately, do not possess this book, so I had to make do without it.

When I realized that most, if not all the references I had of North African Stuarts showed them with the fuel tanks add-on, and I had omitted to mount what appears to be the braces to secure them in place on the sponsons, I decided to go for an undocumented callsign 🙂 .

If you look carefully, you’ll also note that the last digit of Hercules‘ serial isn’t perfectly aligned *innocently whistling*.

References

Doyle, David. Stuart Tank Vol. 1 – The M3, M3A1, and M3A3 Versions in World War II, Legends of Warfare: Ground series, Schiffer Publishing, 2019, 112 pages, 9780764356605.

Collier, Richard, The War in the Desert, Time-Life World War II collection, 1977, p.177.

Prime Portal Armor

Project Specs

  • Tamiya M3 Stuart Late Production (35360)
  • E.T. Model PE set (E35-280)
  • Master US 37mm M6 gun barrel (GM 35-029)
  • The New TMD .30 cal. MG Barrels (AR 0378)
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Modeling project

Tiger Model AMX-10RCR

The AMX-10RC is an armored reconnaissance vehicle designed and produced since the early 1970 by GIAT industries (now Nexter Systems), replacing the EBR within the ranks of France’s Armée de terre. “RC” means “Roue-Canon”, literally “Wheel-cannon”, meaning that the platform is wheel-based but packs enough punch to take care of itself in case of contact with the enemy. The French call this “reconnaissance-feu”, literally “reconnaissance-fire”. Contrary to what is written on the box, the AMX-10 RCR is not employed in a “Tank Destroyer” role per se, although it can certainly destroy tanks.

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Modeling project

Dragon T54E1

Like many armor fans out there, I’ve been playing World of Tanks, and like many modeling companies, Dragon took notice of the WoT craze and tried to cash in some of that enthusiasm by creating a couple of kits aimed specifically at the player/modeler. The T54E1 is one of those kits. It has this badass vibe to it that I find quite appealing, so I decided on a hunch to get one and build it as a quick side project.

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Modeling project

441 Squadron Mustang III

I wanted to do a plane for some time now, and I had this Tamiya Mustang III in the stash since forever. I’ve always found this particular box art to be totally appealing and it played no small part in finally pushing me toward the dark side.

It’s one of those projects that I started with only a vague idea of what I wanted to do. This is generally not a good way to start a project for me. I need to feel inspired in some way. I knew I wanted to create a Mustang with the Malcolm canopy, which gives it a super cool profile (even more than a D if you ask me!)

Looking around a bit, the project quickly evolved toward a Canadian aircraft. I sourced IPMS Canada’s excellent Mustang IIIs decal sheet along with their pretty interesting and well-made reference guide and I decided to do that weird D-Day stripes-sporting 9GS ship (The 441 got hold of their Mustangs right at the end of the war. D-Day markings were out of fashion by that time).

You’ll notice I’m not providing close-up shots of that build. Some things are better left seen from afar, hehe. More seriously, this project was a learning experience, and a good one, but it really ain’t perfect, to say the least, and I post it here merely as a milestone on the path of getting better.

No matter how this project ended up, I’m super stoked for more aircraft modeling and I’ve grabbed Trumpeter’s 1/32 Mustang III to quite possibly create a larger and, hopefully, better version of this very same aircraft.

Honest Assessment

Things I’m happy with

  • Painting. Still not perfect but I did obtain a pretty okay finish. I made my own mix since I didn’t have the exact colors on hand and it looks the part. Did a bunch of masking which worked out pretty well, too. Oh, and I masked and hand-painted the D-Day stripes to give them a rougher look.
  • Weathering. Could go muuuuch further but in this case it remained restrained but still somewhat meaningful.
  • Getting to the finish line. There were moments of discouragements on that one after I screwed the propeller,
  • I used foil for the landing gear’s hydraulic arm and I managed to pull it off not too badly.

Things I’m okay with

  • Decaling went well, despite the fact that the kit’s sheet went bad and I ended up with decal shredding all over the place. I managed to pull through using careful placement as well as falling back to stenciling the roundel using my portrait 2 cutting machine. I still have more silvering I care to admit but overall this is a good step in the right direction.

Things I could do better

Boy, where to begin?

  • Modeling aircrafts is pretty different than modeling AFVs. Duh! But hear me out. In broad terms, an AFV is a big chunk of styrene on which you slap a bunch of smaller parts. An aircraft is more like two halves of a shell that you prepare meticulously for the moment you’ll pair them. This means a lot of dry-fitting and a lot of small incremental adjustments to get that perfect fit. It can be tedious. I think I don’t dislike that but I do realize I need to approach this differently. More deliberately I’d say.
  • The cockpit was a humbling experience in that regard. Test fitting everything, then getting creative not only to make sure it would fit properly but that I’d be able to handle it while closing the fuselage was worrying (in a good way!).
  • Canopy masking, handling, gluing. All of that I need to refine quite a bit. It’s not easy to make a perfect canopy that sits where it should, remain clean, and has a sharp cut.
  • Wheels and landing gear. It was surprisingly tough to get a perfectly straight, sturdy and properly aligned set of wheels. I epoxied the wheels but I did the cardinal mistake of not having sufficient time to properly monitor the bond and ended up with a slight misalignment. Booo. And this is an absolutely basic thing to nail, just like tracks on an AFV. Nothing worse than an aircraft that doesn’t sit properly on its legs.

Projet Specs

  • Tamiya Mustang III (Kit ref #61047)
  • 3D-printed unshrouded exhaust stack (my own sculpt and print).
  • IPMS Canada Mustang IIIs decal sheet.
  • Eduard Propeller (for Eduard kit but easy to adapt to Tamiya’s; Kit ref #648487)
  • Aires P-51B/C Cockpit (Kit ref #4223)
  • Ultracast P-51 Radial thread (Kit ref #48134)
  • Scratchbuilt dorsal fin

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