Takom MAZ-537 Tank Transporter Build in 1/72 Scale Part II

MAZ537_11
Here is the chassis for the MAZ tractor. Internally I have added a printed resin engine to fill the space. Externally the molded-on grab handles have been replaced with wire and the boarding ladders have been braced with plastic stock.

MAZ537_12
Here is the cab piece in place, a really beautiful slide-molded piece. The cab is just posed for the picture, I left it loose throughout construction to be able to paint the interior and set the driver figure inside.

MAZ537_13
The tractor with the trailer. The PE is the best way to represent the mud guards at the front of the trailer, they are a little fiddly but not bad as PE parts go. I did not use the PE grab handles on the sides of the foldable ramps at the back of the trailer, preferring wire stock because it is round and can be set into holes so it won’t be knocked off. Along the sides of the trailer frame are tie-downs which are present in some photographs.

MAZ537_14
Basic camouflage colors. This is a scheme worn by a transporter of the Afghani Northern Alliance, I like the contrast between the tractor and the trailer.

MAZ537_15
This is a test-fit of the Trumpeter T-55. One thing to watch is to make sure the tank’s gun is elevated sufficiently to clear the spare tires mounted atop the trailer “goose neck”.

MAZ537_16
I covered the paint with Testors Glosscoat and then added markings from Star Decals sheet 72-A 1050, then shot everything with Future (Klear). Future is an acrylic and provides some resistance to the oils and washes I use for weathering.

MAZ537_17
Here the oils have been blended to simulate dirt and distress to the paint. The oils are relatively forgiving, they can be blended to achieve the effects desired or removed with a little thinner if you make a mistake. The engine and the floor of the cab are toned with oils.

MAZ537_18
Here are the tractor and trailer with a misting of tan “dust” and sealed with a flat coat. The MAZ is in the markings of the Afghani Northern Alliance. The figure is from Paracel Miniatures, which I will show in detail next week.

Takom MAZ-537 Tank Transporter Build in 1/72 Scale Part I

MAZ537_01
Here is the Takom MAZ-537 Russian Army Tank Transporter kit number 5004 released in 2019. Takom has also released the cargo truck version of the MAZ-537 chassis, but this boxing comes with the CHMZAP-524Z heavy trailer. I have become fascinated with tank transporters and there are now a few in the stash, like I needed another rabbit hole to explore!

MAZ537_02
There are five main sprues in the box. Molding is crisp and features sharp, finely engraved details. These are the detail parts for the MAZ tractor. Sprue attachment points are well located and my example had no flash on any of the parts. One odd thing is the sprues are square in cross section.

MAZ537_03
Sprue “E” contains the main parts for the trailer chassis.

MAZ537_04
More trailer parts on sprue “F”. These are mainly the folding ramps at the back of the trailer and the supporting structure at the front.

MAZ537_05
Sprue “C” is the frame for the MAZ tractor. Wheels for both the tractor and trailer are rubber. There is a small PE fret, most of these parts make sense represented in PE and so were used. The main cab is a finely detailed example of slide-mold wizardry and a real gem.

MAZ537_06
I started construction with the MAZ chassis, but there is no reason why the trailer could not be built first if you felt the desire, or in parallel while waiting for glue to set. The parts fit together well without any surprises, but pay attention to the part numbers as some parts are quite similar.

MAZ537_07
After the MAZ chassis I skipped ahead in the construction sequence to rough out the trailer assembly. I wanted to get an idea of the size of this beast – just under a foot (30 cm) long! Massive for a 1/72 vehicle subject, but that is part of the appeal.

MAZ537_08
Test fitting revealed that the area inside engine enclosure could be viewed from the rear. Not obvious at first but sure to be seen by inquisitive people with tiny flashlights. I found a Cummins diesel which could be sized to fit on Thingiverse and printed a copy to fill the void. I know this is not the prototypical unit for the MAZ but it will do well for the viewing angle. File here: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:3774206

MAZ537_09
Here is the resin engine mounted in the bay. The fan boxes in the cab are made from spare Academy B-29 bomb racks as are the side details in the engine bay floor. More spurious details but they will serve for what will be visible and prevent the see-through look at the cooling vents.

MAZ537_10
The cab piece showing some added details. I shaved off all the grab handles and replaced them with wire, a simple fix which enhances the appearance of the model quite a bit. I carefully “rolled down” the windows in the clear doors with a Dremel tool, and opened up the roof hatch so I could pose a figure there on the finished model. The replacement roof hatch was made from parts from the spares box.

Trumpeter T-55 Build in 1/72 Scale

T55_01
This is Trumpeter’s T-55 tank, kit number 07284. It was released in 2009, a reboxing of the kit from the previous year to include the BTU-55 mine plow and Finish markings. I’ll be building mine as a machine from the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan so I won’t be needing the plow.

T55_02
The T-55 is a straight-forward design and the kit has relatively few parts. Everything is crisply molded. I was surprised that the 12.7 mm DShK heavy machine gun often seen mounted on the turret is not included.

T55_03
The running gear is as expected. The torsion arms are molded with the lower hull so that will make things easier. The tracks are the single piece rubber type which are resistant to glue. More difficult to work with but not a deal-breaker.

T55_04
The turret is well-molded with sharp detail. The grab bars are too thick, a limitation of what can be molded in this scale. I filled the mounting holes with Evergreen stock and superglue, the advantage this has over putty is it can be sanded right away.

T55_05
Photographs show that the T-55’s in Afghanistan were typically missing the fuel tanks at the back of the hull. I filled and sanded the mounting holes and made the mounting brackets from plastic stock.

T55_06
The driving lights are protected by brush bars, here made from wire stock. Photos show some of these guards mangled but they were always in place. The bottom of the hull is filled with BB’s set in casting resin to give the model heft.

T55_07
The grab bars were replaced with wire which is much closer to scale. This is a simple improvement which really enhances the overall look of the model. The fabric cover for the gun mantlet is made from Perfect Plastic Putty and Mr. Surfacer.

T55_08
The completed assembly prior to painting. The top run of the tracks should ride on the top of the road wheels. I pushed them down and glued them in place with super glue but it was a struggle.

T55_09
The Afghani vehicles sported some rather unusual and puzzling camouflage schemes. This is one of the more tame versions.

T55_10
The model was shot with a coat of Future (Klear) to preserve the paint during weathering and washes. Decals are from Star Decals sheet 72-A 1050. I used Tamiya black wash to bring out the details and oils for weathering.

T55_11
Here is the finished model under a layer of dust and Dullcoat. Markings are for a Northern Alliance T-55 from the “Zabati” unit near Bagram in 2001.

Marine Corps Tank Battles in the Middle East Book Review

DSC_7652

Marine Corps Tank Battles in the Middle East

By Oscar E. Gilbert

Hardcover in dustjacket, 312 pages, photographs, references, and index

Published by Casemate February 2015

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1612002676

ISBN-13: 978-1612002675

Dimensions:  6.1 x 0.9 x 9.1 inches

Like so many of the modern world’s current political problems, the on-going turmoil in the Middle East can be traced back to diplomatic missteps in the aftermath of the First World War.  Those decisions remain with us and are still costing lives on a daily basis over a century later.  In the first twenty pages of this book Oscar E. Gilbert traces the modern history of the Middle East which imparts on the reader an understanding of the basis for the conflicts which have plagued the region.  This chapter is concise and exceptionally well-written, it alone warrants the purchase of the book and is worthy of periodic re-reading.

The bulk of the book focusses on the use of Marine armor in Iraq and Afghanistan, both the M60 and M1 Abrams main battle tanks along with the lighter LAV-25.  The dominance of the better trained and equipped Marines during the conflicts with the Iraqi Army, even when outnumbered, are well described.  The use of armor in the drawn-out counter insurgency operations also offers many insights, such as the use of the vehicle’s impressive array of sensors.  Tactics used during the Battle of Fallujah illustrates the value of armor in clearing an urban environment, an arena where tanks are generally considered to be at a disadvantage.

The book is well researched and interspaced with first-hand accounts taken from interviews with the participants.  This is an engaging read, made somewhat more poignant by the recent decision to eliminate tanks from the Marine Corp’s inventory.  This is the second of Gilbert’s Marine tanks histories which I have read, and I can recommend them without hesitation.

Sd. Kfz. 9 FAMO Halftrack Dioramas in 1/72 Scale

I present three dioramas (or are they vignettes) featuring Sd. Kfz. 9 FAMO Halftracks in 1/72 scale.  The first is a Planet Models resin kit with Black Dog accessories.  The figures are mainly from Preiser set 72505, augmented with others from one of their Luftwaffe sets.  The crew has taken a break for lunch in the shade of a tree.  The dog is painted to resemble one of my own.

FAMODio_21

FAMODio_22

FAMODio_23

FAMODio_24

This scene is the Revell FAMO towing an Italeri sFH 18 Field Howitzer, both very nice kits.  The cargo is mainly Value Gear in the bed and Black Dog tarps on the fenders.  Figures are a mix of Preiser and modified artillerymen from the Italeri kit. Value Gear here: http://valuegeardetails.com/UniversalStowage72.html

FAMODio_25

FAMODio_26

FAMODio_27

FAMODio_28

I have recently developed an affinity for tank transporters (like I needed another rabbit hole to climb in) so there will likely be more like this scene in the future.  This is the Trumpeter FAMO and transport trailer with a Zvezda Panzer IV.  Figures are from the CMK set designed for the FAMO and a few from Caesar, Value Gear stowage in the bed again.  I like the casual poses, particularly the bored guy on the back of the trailer.

FAMODio_29

FAMODio_30

FAMODio_31

FAMODio_32

Build links and more finished pictures here:  https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/?s=Sd.+Kfz.+9+FAMO

Sd. Kfz. 9 FAMO Halftrack Base Construction in 1/72 Scale

FAMODio_01
I never know what to call these – bases, dioramas, or vignettes. The modeling definitions differ from what is described in the dictionary, and IPMS has imposed rather arbitrary criteria of their own for show categories which has resulted in some humorous anecdotes. Personally I think basing a model adds a lot to the presentation but I am usually so eager to start the next build that I skip the base entirely and move on. This time I decided to resist that impulse. Here is the start – a 4.5” x 12” (11.4 x 30.5 cm) section of Oak trim from the hardware store with some strips glued in the corner to vary the terrain.

FAMODio_02
I also picked up some spackle to shape the groundwork. This type really is lighter than you would expect, likely microballoons are part of the mix.

FAMODio_03
The spackle is spread over the base and smoothed. After letting it set up a bit I made tire tracks by rolling some spare wheels over the road area and then added track marks by pressing the model into the mix. I also made sure to press the model into the groundwork where it will be located in the final scene. The dirt color was mixed from several old bottles of acrylic paints – at last I found a use for them. There is a crack in the spackle despite what the label says, fortunately in a place which will be covered by weeds.

FAMODio_04
These trees are made by twisting the wire in lamp cord. This was my first time trying this method, I found it an enjoyable exercise. I printed pictures of bare trees so I could be reminded of what I was trying to achieve. The solder on the trunk of the tree to the right didn’t work well, the copper wire dissipated the heat too quickly. In the end I used CA to bond the wires which did work.

FAMODio_05
Here are the trees after two coats of Mr. Surfacer 500, a coat of RLM 02, and wash of Tamiya black wash. I applied all that with a brush, I think it would go better with an airbrush next time. These trees are roughly 4” (10 cm) in height, more or less.

FAMODio_06
I made a few smaller trees as well, these are roughly 1.5” (3 cm) or so. The “foliage” is from Woodland Scenics, commonly used by model railroaders. I have accumulated quite a variety of their products over the years, fueled by a combination of clearance sales and my over-active ambitions.

FAMODio_07
Here is a corner landscaped with various Woodland Scenics turfs and bushes. The brighter green grass tufts are another model railroad product from Bachman, these are the 6 mm size tufts.

FAMODio_08
The vertical element of this base is provided by one of the larger trees. When trees grow in isolation they tend to spread out their branches like this one, in groups they grow higher but more narrowly

FAMODio_09
Preiser figures are really nice but hard to find, I’ve had this set for awhile and have been looking for a good excuse to use it. There are twelve figures in this set and an abundance of head and equipment options so it will not be difficult to make each figure unique.

FAMODio_10
An assortment of figures pinned to sprues and primed for painting. These are a mix of Preiser, Caesar, CMK, and modified artillerymen from the Italeri howitzer kit. Figures are difficult to paint well in 1/72 scale so I have been haunting wargaming blogs and boards looking to pick up some tips. No substitute for practice though!

FAMODio_11
The finished scene incorporates vehicles and figures onto the base. I prefer figures in casual poses, it is much more common to be attending to basic maintenance or daily routine activities than charging into combat. I have made a base for each of my three recently completed FAMOs, each with trees of different heights and various numbers of figures to give the IPMS judges some fun deciding if they are dioramas or vignettes!

Zvezda Panzer IV Ausf. H in 1/72 Scale

This is the Zvezda Panzer IV Ausf. H in 1/72 scale, kit number 5017 released in 2018.  I replaced the hull Schürzen with sheet plastic and I added Zimmerit made with Mr. Surfacer 500.  A nice kit and loads of camo schemes to choose from.  Decals are from Kagero Top Colors 32 and depict a Panzer IV from the 116th Panzer Division in Normandy, August 1944.  I found the mixed camo patterns of the hull Schürzen and the rest of the vehicle interesting.

DSC_7551

DSC_7550

DSC_7549

DSC_7548

DSC_7518

DSC_7519

DSC_7520

Tigers in the Mud Book Review

DSC_7302

Tigers in the Mud, The Combat Career of German Panzer Commander Otto Carius

By Otto Carius, translated by Robert J. Edwards

Softcover, 231 pages plus documents, appendices, and index; illustrated

Published by Stackpole Books, 2003

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0-8117-2911-7

Dimensions:  8.9 x 6.0 x 1.1 inches

Otto Carius began his war as a loader on a Panzer 38(t) in the 21st Panzer Regiment at the start of operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union.  Sadly only the first few chapters are devoted to his time with the 21st Panzer Regiment.  The narrative mainly focusses on events after January 1943, when Carius returned to Germany for officer’s training and eventual assignment to Schwere Panzer Abteilung 502, a Tiger unit.

There Carius was a platoon commander in the 2.Kompanie.  He was often right in the thick of the action, as the Tigers were used to bolster defensive positions against attack or to counter Soviet penetrations of German lines.  The Tigers were almost always outnumbered but seldom out matched, their superior armor making it quite difficult to put one out of action permanently.  But with the armor protection came weight, and the Tigers had to be driven carefully to avoid becoming mired in unsuitable terrain or suffering mechanical failures.  Both problems were common.

While scouting the terrain for his Tigers Carius’ motorcycle was ambushed by Soviet infantry and he was shot several times, his life being saved only by his speedy evacuation to a field hospital.  During his convalescence he was awarded the Oakleaves to the Knights Cross by Himmler.  Subsequently he was assigned to the 512th Battalion in the West which was equipped with the massive Jagdtiger tank destroyer.  By this time the war was coming to an end and the situation was hopeless for Germany.

This book is regarded as a classic account of German armor on the Russian Front, and rightfully so.  First-hand accounts are very interesting, Carius writes well and recounts a detailed description of life in a Tiger platoon.  The time in the 21st Regiment’s Panzer 38(t)’s is only given the most basic recounting which is a shame.  The reproductions of award documentation and after action reports are an interesting bonus.  Carius is highly critical of how poorly Germany treated its former soldiers after the war, he alludes to this several times throughout the book, something which I had not considered – sad, but not entirely surprising in retrospect.  A very interesting memoir which I recommend highly.

DSC_7303

Sherman in the Pacific 1943-1945 Book Review

DSC_5875

Sherman in the Pacific 1943-1945

By Raymond Giuliani, twenty color profiles by Christophe Camilotte

Hardcover, 144 pages, heavily illustrated

Published by Histoire and Collections May 2015

Language: English

ISBN-10: 2352502837

ISBN-13: 978-2352502838

Dimensions: 12.3 x 9.2 x 0.7 inches

This book is a photo essay of all US Army and USMC M4 Sherman operations in the Pacific War, from Taupota, New Guinea in October 1943 through the invasion of Okinawa which was secured in June 1945.  The photographs are arranged by operation, with each section introduced by a map and a brief paragraph giving an overview.  The author then lets the photographs tell the story.

The photographs are, in a word, spectacular.  They are the crème of the crop, sharp and in high resolution.  Often there are several views of the same Sherman showing the vehicle from different angles or at different times.  They are reproduced in large format on glossy paper, and the pages are piled full of pictures.  This is a modeler’s dream with crew stowage and modifications being clearly seen, and the vehicles are shown in many situations which would make excellent inspiration for dioramas.

The captions are well detailed and provide insight and context to what is seen in the photographs.  There are several instances of some awkward translations in the captions and while these make the descriptions read a little clunky they do not prevent the reader from grasping the meaning.  A minor (but avoidable) fault which I found easy to adjust to.

Interspaced among the pictures are twenty color profiles of M4 Shermans and the M32 recovery vehicle, which are displayed along with the photograph(s) which inspired the artist.  These are quality renderings and the photographs of the particular subjects only enhances the artist’s credibility.  This is a nice standard which I wish more artists and decal manufacturers would follow.

Overall this is an outstanding treatment of the subject and a valuable reference for anyone wanting to model these vehicles.  If you can find a copy pick it up, you will not be disappointed!

DSC_5877

DSC_5878

DSC_5876