Cabin fever

The cabin and the controls

Last time I got just about finished with the framework, this time I glued on the last missing pieces. That included the steering system's attachments to the front wheels, both of which were three-piece monstrosities but attached very nicely to the wheel cores and as expected, locked them straight. That wasn't an issue as I wasn't planning on doing a diorama.

After all this tiny stuff it was nice to get to do some broader strokes, so to say. I assembled the seats to the cabin. Of course the pedals were tiny, but not problematically so.

You couldn't really tell by the photo, but the back wall of the cabin was built out of two pieces. Luckily the rear glass pane (and all the other glass panes int this kit) were to be installed from the outside, instead of being sandwiched between the wall pieces. This allowed me to leave all the windows off without a care until I was done with the painting. And I didn't have to mask them both in and out, either.

The driver received a very flimsy-looking steering wheel, a handbrake handle, the gear shift lever and the aforementioned pedals. That stick that was installed in front of the map reader didn't really say anything to me, but I assumed that it had something to do with the rocket launcher's controls. That or the Soviet view on user (driver) ergonomy was on par with the British one...

A ridiculous number of tiny knobs, dials and PE bits were to be installed on the dashboard. Luckily I had no fitting issues with them and each settled in perfectly. There was also a decal for the dashboard but there was no way in hell I was going to use it here.

A curious control box was to be installed on the middle of the dash, just in front of the middle beam of the windshield, I guess I could've built it open but I went with the instructions and left it shut. There was also a complicated setup that was installed on top of what should be the glove compartment, in front of the map reader. I assumed it to have something to do with aiming the rocket launcher itself.

At this point I decided that I'd assemble the cabin as far as I could without severly crippling my ability to paint its insides, so I was going to leave the doors and the roof off for a while still. My idea was to minimize the amount of shadows, considering the paintjob, but also to minimize the post-painting gluings. Maybe I found a good balance point and maybe I just cocked it up, we'd find that out soon enough.

Getting outside

At this point I was quite pleased with the two-part setup for the doors. Thanks to my strong pareidolia I was very amused with the right end of the inner part of the door, as I saw an amusingly horrified face.

Before anything was too far done I dry-fitted the doors into their slots (so I'd see if something was skewed wrong) and just for the fun of it I laid the whole setup on the framework. It actually worked nicely, this'd go well in the end.

I really have to say that I liked the emount of details in the Trumpeter kit, but damn, did it make my progress slow. While gluing the different handles and levers to the doors I was thinking that I had worked on the Ural truck for over a couple of weeks, on and off, at my usual pace. No, this was most definitely not a "shake the box and you've got an assembled model in your hands"-like Tamiya, not by a long shot. But what's more fun than a set that offers you plenty to do?

I guess the lightning bolt shapes in the doors were to make the beast a bit faster-looking?
I managed to get the front bits of the truck, or the engine compartment's walls for the general public and the front fenders with their lamps. I didn't glue on the engine grille as I thought it'd be better to set that one in place when its attachment points were ready. Of course the instructions suggested gluing the transparent bits on at this point but I'd leave them until I was done with everything else.

Along with the rest of this I also glued on the previously ignored snorkel piece and a couple of climb-on handles to the back of the cabin. The side view mirrors I left for a later, safer moment, as I assumed that the installation of the cabin on the framework might end up being more violent than necessary. This way these flimsy-looking bits would not be in danger of being cracked off accidentally.


The Truck Framework 1.0

On the unknown roads

Let's get this confession out of the way already: I have never had a clue of the mechanical side of cars (normal ones, vans, trucks of any sort, armored ones). Or I know the basics, that they typically have a motor, a gearbox and some wheels - if we're talking about a rear-wheel drive, there's also an axle taking space from the feet of the passengers. So if I keep talking complete and utter nonsense during this project, the reason is and will be that: I just haven't known any better ;)

Framework work

I started assembling the Ural 375D by setting up the ladder-like structure that forms the structure of the whole vehicle. Between two C-shaped steel beams I attached some support pipes / tubes and a monstrosity that I assumed to be the radiator. I started swearing about the instructions at this point already: the layout (or the placing of certain bits) wasn't too clear and I was on the second step.... The pieces themselves didn't "speak out" either.

Next I started building the first surprise of the kit: the engine! I was actually a bit shocked to find a detailed-looking engine straight out of the box. Judging by the angled pieces on top I thought that it's a V-8 to top it all (wikipedia confirmed my guess). I did remember that the Kraz trucks (KrAZ-255 which were given to move some field guns) that I had seen and heard go by had a very fuel-hungry V8 petrol engines, but I guessed that the Ivan used those kinds of engines quite a lot in general.

But I digress. While looking at the round bits that can be seen in the front of the motor I was pondering if I should fetch some thread or play with masking tape a bit to set up some narrower or wider belts as a detail. Then my eyes picked up the PE# markings in the instructions - they had provided photoetched bands. What in the Empire?

The gearbox was a simple box. Attaching these two into the truck's framework was a show of its own but with some swearing I got them settled in nicely.

That huge block that had appeared behind the gearbox was some sort of a power-transferring thingamagick, as some axles were going to be inserted into it going both forwards and backwards. My guess is that it had something to do with the front-wheel drive / six-wheel drive, but how was it called for real? No idea.

Next I got to build something that had to do with the differential locks or whatever those were called again but as far as I knew those things allowed the L/R wheels to spin independently or forced them to go in sync (and the point and usefulness this I learned from the relaxing and amusing Spintires). There wasn't much to say about the plastic bits, they settled into their places pretty decently, the only parts that gave me some business were the axles, mostly because they went over and under random other pieces and the instructions weren't too clear on the routes.

More mystery pieces in the photo below (going from the wheel axle bits towards each other to the center of the cradle). I guess those tiny, flimsy bits were just for some support or something, if nothing else.

After these I built some rack-like bits. One of them was the fuel tank and the other one a mystery box.. My money was on either a generic toolbox or a handy setup for some external electric connections. But this was guesswork and I wasn't curious enough to actually as google for the secrets of the Ural.

The front axle had a similar bin for the differential system, just like the rear ones. This one required an axle for the drivetrain and again my biggest issue was to figure out which route the axle was supposed to go over, under and between the other pieces.

After all that was done I got to build the cores for the wheels. There wasn't anything strange about the four rear wheels but these front wheels were more special than that. First of all there was a free-moving bit to be sealed between the inner and outer halves. Then the inner half needed some pieces, two of which I assumed to be related to the brakes and the third one was very obviously for the steering bits to attach to. Those caused me a bit of worrying as I couldn't know at this point if it was impossible to say if they were set at correct angles. Of course I could always force them in place later on, but I much rather avoided that.

Had I been planning on a diorama I'd praised the articulation possibilities of the front wheels even more than I did. Of course fooling around with them was amusing, but I just assumed that they'd end up being locked tightly straigh ahead in the end. Which wasn't that much fun, if you asked me, but having them actually articulated... urf. That'd been hair-rising.


Project II/17

The indirect fire is the best fire

I have always liked rocket launchers, they're just awesome devices. Years ago I've built three Nebelwerfers (15 cm NbW 41;30 cm NbW 42; Panzerwerfer auf SWS) and wanted to look at them from a different angle this time. For a long while I meant to get a classic Katjushka (BM-13) but the more I thought of it I wanted a more modern unit instead. I've witnessed 122 RakH 89 rocket launchers live (Chech RM-70) but I couldn't get a hold of a model of one - yet. They're bulky, but they look awesome. Still, I had to settle with some older hardware, a Soviet BM-21 rocket launcher built on an Ural 375D chassis.

Bits and pieces

The Trumpeter box revealed two matfuls of pieces mixed with some PE bits, a minuscule offering of decals and a set of large rubber tyres. All these would eat quite a bit of time. I also didn't think of checking if the set contained anything to full the forty tubes, or was it supposed to represent a post-firing state. I assumed the latter.

The instructions

A bit surprisingly the painting guide was very simple. A solid green frame with rubber-black wheels. I was thinking of doing something a tiny bit more entertaining myself.

The instructions were a handy booklet. The first proper page revealed a very interesting and nice detail: this had a modeled engine. I had really not expected that kind of a thing straight out of the box and was very pleased.

As my experiences with Trumpeter's ground-bound models have not been filled with the perfectness of pieces fitting together, I was somehow suspicious of how easy this build would be and was therefore mentally preparing for some swearing and fighting. Of course my memories may be from old kits and the reality (considering when this set was manufactured) may disagree, in which case I'd openly admit being wrong and prejudiced.


Project I/17

Leopard 2A6M

My Project Assistant felt like she needed a new tank to paint. Naturally we went for a bit of model shopping, that wasn't quite as successful as I had hoped for. In the end we popped by the local supermarket's toy department as our last hope. I started reading out the names of the five kits. The word "Leopard" had barely escaped my lips when she had already grabbed the packet and was declaring "I want this one". Daddy's girl.

The eagle-eyes among the audience may have noticed the left edge of the box and how it carries the name logo of Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, the company that manufactures the actual big cat on tracks. I assumed that this Revell kit was properly licensed and therefore a very decent model.

Quick assembly

I didn't rush with the build but spent a few evenings on it. Most of the tiniest and flimsiest details I skipped altogether as I knew that she'd be playing with this and those would most definitely not survive such life.

Revell's idea for the tracks was itneresting: two long bits per side were to be softened up in very hot but not boiling-hot water and then quickly bent into shape. Want to guess how well that worked out? I replaced the useless pieces with a more play-durable approach: tactically opposite and offset strips of masking tape of a handy width. Of course these tracks weren't true to scale in their thickness but they settled in beautifully and they'd also survive being driven around the floors, sofas and whatnot.

First I measured good lengths of tape, dry-fitted and fine-tuned a bit. As soon as the tracks (bands?) were just the way I wanted them, I dabbed a bit of wood glue onto all the contact points of the roadwheels etc so that my tracks wouldn't fall off accidentally.

Slow painting

The model was primed simply white. After this I released it to my subcontractor, who also happened to be its owner.

As the muses were not too reliable, the painting process was shot around the calendar and took three sessions. But there was no sense to try to force or coerce a four-year-old to do anything like this when she didn't really find it interesting enough. I just asked occasionally "would you like to paint your tank today?" Just like the delightfully positive Bob Ross said: "Painting should never be hard work. Painting should be fun."

From some angles the tank looked as if the driver had gone at full speed into a patch of blueberries and kept rolling there with great happiness. The excited painter sometimes mixed all the paints together and was a bit confused when the result was brown instead of a custom rainbow. I guess it'd been fun to paint rainbows etc that easily but paints don't quite work that way. We'll be iterating this discussion a bunch of times in the coming years...

And these were the paints that were used in this, should I say unusual, painting process:

VMA 71065 Steel
VMA 71111 UK Mediterranean Blue
VMA 71094 Green Zinc Chromate
VMA 71085 Ferrari Red
VGC 72013 Squid Pink
VGC 72014 Warlord Purple
VGC 72008 Orange Fire
VMC 70733 Orange Fluorescent

All systems ready

When the artist had done with all her last touchups and modifications on the patterns at the last moment, it was done at last. I checked repeatedly if she wanted any decals to be used but the answer was consistently a stern no. To finish everything up I applied a layer of matt varnish to make it maybe a bit more durable for the playtime adventures.

I just have to quote the artist herself: "This is a fire tank. It brings fire. In the colours of the rainbow!" A rainbow-like set of more or less concentric arcs did appear on the rear deck of the tank at some point, but you wouldn't know it if I didn't tell you that. Or you couldn't tell it even then. Of course I was very pleased with the Flammpanzer idea, she indeed is daddy's girl :)