Monday 1 June 2015

1/72 WWII - AMC SturmTiger

Thanks primarily to its enormous snout, the SturmTiger is one whacked out looking piece of hardware. Modelling interest in it way outstrips it's actual role in the war. I believe I read somewhere that less than 20 were ever built, let alone put into service (I'll have to check this and amend my guesswork at some point!). It wouldn't surprise me at all to learn that, in marked contrast, thousands have been built by model-makers and wargamers.

I've wanted to make one for a while, and finally ordered an AMC version of the kit, from KingKit. I went this route mainly 'cause it was pretty cheap! I spent some time over the weekend just passed building it. And whilst it isn't quite finished yet, I thought I'd post the work I've done on it so far on ye olde blogge.

First off, the box and its contents:

I really like the cover art, because, although it's not up to the standards of the best vintage Airfix or Esci boxes, it has a certain naive charm. And it's also just such an incredible looking beast, benefitting also from the added bonus of being done out in the famous 'ambush scheme'. AMC's slightly retro looking 'tubular' logo-font also appeals to me.

The instructions aren't the best, but nor are they the worst. There are some labelling mistakes, which you need to watch out for. But common sense makes them relatively easy to ignore. The Photo-etched elements of the kit actually came on two separate pieces, whereas in the instructions they're illustrated as a single item. The actual metal parts also contains a thin rectangular frame type piece not used or referred to in the instructions.

The kit itself is primarily made up of three sprues of what I'll call 'Russian Green' injection-moulded styrene, with the aforementioned pair of photo-etched frets, some rubber tracks (more on these later!), and the instructions. If you examine some of these pics carefully, you might notice that some of the plastic parts had already come away from their sprues. There are no decals supplied at all!

As per usual, the build starts with lower chassis construction and running-gear. The steel wheels in this kit look fine from the outside, but on the inner side, as the pic below shows, the mounting-holes aren't the neatest or most regular, in terms of being exactly central. The wheels all needed a fair bit of cleaning up, as did much of the kit as a whole. There's not huge amounts of flash, nor is it very bad (like the old Airfix Stug!), but there's enough for it to be a notably meditative chore.

The Drive wheels and idlers are not as nicely detailed as those in more expensive kits, such as the Dragon SturmTiger. This is most noticeable on the drive-wheels, which ought to be quite open, but are in fact solid. The idlers barely reach the 'male' nubs on the chassis as well, and are glued to the nearest road wheels as much as the suspension. But all in all the running gear went together easily enough, and looks pretty good.

As well as this coarseness re open detailing on the drive wheels, there's another design flaw in the running gear: above and below are pictures of the idler wheels before and after the removal of some redundant nubs that actually impede proper construction. Once these are removed the parts fit together as one assumes they were always intended to.

Speaking of flaws, one part of the chassis build that is noteworthy is how poorly some parts of the hull fit together. This first came to my attention when fitting the rear hull plate (pictured above). As you can see in the above image, there are some alarmingly big gaps and some pretty odd angles.

I'm not one of those modellers who's evolved a good way to address this (with rubber bands and gluing jigs/rigs, or whatever), I just glue the parts and then hold them together for as long as they require to bond! Sometimes this works okay, sometimes it doesn't. It produced what I felt was a tolerable result here.

I used some Revell filler applied internally (see below) to try and close the gaps up a bit. Once this was done, a scalpel and some very fine sandpaper were used to clean up. The toothbrush (second pic) is there to brush away any resultant residual crud.

After consulting the web for photographic ref, I decided to leave out the doodads pictured above. Are they air filters? I didn't see many - or perhaps even any? - StrurmTigers sporting them in the photos I perused. 

Next it was time to attach the rear engine deck, and then the very chunky casemate. Fit was once again rather approximate, if not quite as messy as the rear hull plate. This was to compound to some significant problems later on, once I got to the front of the vehicle.

I'd read a review of this kit online somewhere where the guy reviewing mentions sag in the roof of the casemate. I guess there may be a tiny amount on my model, but not so much as to bother me. What really did cause problems was the gun movement assembly (which is actually static), and, more than anything else, the junction points of the front hull plate with the chassis and casemate.

The front upper hull plate, just forward of the bulky casemate, needed some pretty savage surgery in order to get it to fit into its designated spot. Once in it left me with a plethora of issues that would need to be surmounted later in the build.

The tracks are a bit weird, as they're rubber-band affairs, but they're supplied in multiple parts, as if they were styrene link'n'length jobbies. This is odd, to say the least, because the attraction to styrene link'n'length tracks is that they glue easily, like the rest of the kit - which these don't; whilst the attraction of rubber band tracks is usually that they're one piece, and that they bend very readily. Having them as multipart tracks just seems downright odd!

I opted to glue them all together before placing them on the model, as I recently did on another kit with link-n-length tracks (but those were styrene). And then when I put them on the model, rather than having the single-link parts going round the drive-wheel and idler, as per the instructions, I placed those segments of tracks where they'll be less visible, on the top and bottom runs of track, roughly in the middle.

Cyanoacrylate glue, AKA Superglue, is helpful in a hellish kind of way. It's very useful, no doubt about it. But it seems better at sticking things together you don't want to glue, and very hard to use when two parts do want gluing. I may have to buy some of the gel form, and see if that is any easier to work with.

Next I drilled a hole for the MG, and fixed that in place.

Look at this mess at the front! The front hull plate,
casemate, and front mudguards are all over the shop!

Above and below are a series of pictures showing the way I approached the mismatch of parts at the front of the chassis/hull/casemate. I decided to resolve it all by - after having already butchered the front hull pate so I could actually fit it! - adding some plastic sheet to the front mudguards. I'm hoping that once painted up, these will look okay!

After this I moved on to the first of several scratch-built details: the gun ports. These were cut from sprue and filed down. I also wanted to detail the gun. After all, what a gun! Sadly there's no rifling, nor any of the many tiny holes around the front end of the barrel. What are these latter for? Cooling the gun somehow, perhaps?

After several abortive attempts at the inner barrel rifling, with super-thin transparent plastic film, I opted to use some thin styrene card. I ended up busking it, as trying to measure it all out was just driving me insane! In the end it took 6 pieces of plastic card, all cut (as accurately as I could manage) from a single strip of a roughly uniform 1.5mm width, with each length being just long enough to protrude at either end of the barrel.

I tried very hard to align the front ends of the plastic card strips, all cut at the same angle (see the yellow strip in some of the pics), with the front of the inside of the barrel, gluing them, and then bending them. In this manner I was able to attach four pieces to one half of the barrel (supplied as a two part construction), before afttaching the other half of the barrel. This left two more pieces to insert into the completed barrel. I knew this would be tough: it was a bloody nightmare!

At the point pictured above I've got all the strips into the barrel and I'm cleaning it up - snipping off excess plastic - card and slicing and sanding until it's all quite flat and flush.

Below is a simple drilling template I made to try and get the little ring of holes drilled equidistant (at least in terms of diameter!). The central hole had a paintbrush through it, and then I could rotate the template and drill repeated pairs of holes. In the second pic below I'v had to trim the template so as to see the other holes I'd already drilled, in an attempt to get the holes spaced equally around the circumference. this latter task was the harder to achieve. And, speaking as a frustrated perfectionist, I failed!

Above, the gun is pretty much done, to the best of my current abilities. So the next thing is to glue it into position. If I was building this kit again, I'd probably modify the angle of the gun, as it's in a quite steep mortar-like position as I've made it here. The next two pics show the rifling and the ring of drilled holes in situ.

Having attempted to improve the detail of the gun, it fell next to get into the kits photo-etched detail. Starting with the four corner doofers. What are these things called? and what are they for? After these I did some of the upper and rear casemate detail, including several hatches, and replacing the plastic handles with wire ones. Later on I did the same for the longer engine-deck handles, and also cut out vision slits in the driver's viewing port.

Then it was the turn of the rear engine-deck grilles. I had contemplated cutting out chunks of the body, so that these looked through to the inside of the body. But as the holes are quite big, and the inside is unpainted - and also 'cause I couldn't face too much more modification of the kit - I didn't bother. I did, however, remove some plastic hinges that would otherwise get in the way of the rearmost pair of grilles, which I then re-applied later on, using cyanoacrylate glue.

The ammo crane was hard work to assemble, and is the most involved and complex bit of photo-etched metal working I've had to contend with so far. The periscope like viewing port on the top hatch was relatively easy by comparison. Gluing the loop at the end of the crane/winch assembly was damnably difficult. I decided against even trying for anything akin to a bit of cable between this part and the end of the boom arm.

In the pic below are several other additions: an empty bracket above the jack at the back (based on a museum example), the two triple sets of cable stowage hooks, one set on either side of the upper casemate, and a handle on the winch. 

I got the size and shape of the handle from examining photos, diagrams and models. In this 'driving position the handle would catch on the casemate; but the whole boom arm rig swings out to the left to lift the ammo, at which point the winch handle ends up at 90 degrees, or thereabouts, to the alignment shown above, jutting out over the side of the vehicle.

And that's all I've done thus far. I need to add some of those large circular fixture nodules - the ones that appear in three pairs along the bottom edge of the casemate and the top of the lower hull (oversized rivet like studs?). Once they're added it'll be time to prime and base-coat this baby, and see how she looks with all the extras and mods I've done.

This was hard work, and isn't, truth be told, a brilliant kit. But it's such an interesting vehicle, and the challenges in the basic construction and modifications were all, ultimately, enjoyable to surmount. So I would recommend this kit, despite it's faults and shortcomings.

I'll have to build the competing brands' versions, and see how that affects my feelings for this kit. I imagine the Dragon model will probably wipe the floor with it, judging from pics I've seen on't web.


Today I took the plunge and went about making the large - chunky to the point of being oversized, I'd say - rivet-like nodules, which you see so prominently on the Sturmtiger's casemate and chassis. I got a bit of surplus sprue from the spares box, mounted it in a drill bit, and then used the drill to grind it down to a much thinner diameter on some sandpaper.

The drill loaded with a length of sprue!

The resulting thinned sprue.

14 individual 'rivets' that will adorn one side of the Sturmtiger,
shaped and cut from the sprue. Well, 13 actually; one remains
on the tip of the sprue, ready to be removed!

Once this had been achieved, I then used a couple of different methods to grind angles onto the upper/outer surface of each individual 'rivet', before slicing them off the sprue with a scalpel. Each 'rivet' had to be manufactured separately, one at a time, as I worked my way along the thinned down sprue!

How she looks before she gets her rivets.

I use this Tamiya tape, marked up, to ensure both
sides were positioned roughly the same.

The other side.

This was extremely labour intensive, and produced rivets that aren't exactly uniform in depth or shape. But I'm very pleased nonetheless. I had hoped to undercoat the tank in black today as well, but as I can't find the g'damn spray can, I'll just have to try and be patient! 

I did at least superglue the tracks into position, both above and below the wheels. The red plastic sculpting/shaping tools are there to keep things in position while the glue cures!


  1. Hi Seb,thats a lot of German armour that you`re busy working on. Beano Boy.

    1. Hi Paul. Yes, indeed! And there's even more in the pipeline: I just ordered some very funky looking Roden kits! However, a momentary break is forced upon production, by Waterloo 200. How exciting! Best, Seb