Building the boxy fighting compartment started after basic hull assembly. I considered trying to mock this up in card or paper first. But I didn't bother in the end, preferring to busk it, one 'steel plate' at a time. I actually started by gluing in two pieces from the sprues that get rid of the stepped rear. Again, filling these with putty hasn't got the resulting surfaces as smooth as I would've liked.
After building the sides up, I added a rear plate, to bring the back of the box level with the sides. After this came a drastic bit of plastic surgery; slicing off pretty sizeable chunks of the sides, to allow for the angled facets on the front corners. This was a feature that was done away with fairly early on in the M7's evolution, to be replaced by a squarer front. The resulting internal space was slightly larger, and gun traverse could be made a little wider.
Before commencing on the bulk of the front armour, which involves multiple planes/facets, I had to build the gun, so as to be able to ensure the casemate would fit around it appropriately. I drilled some holes through parts of the gun that are voids, and even cut through between the barrel elements, and drilled out the gun tube. The gun is fiddliest bit of the kit, and some parts are tricky to align correctly/well.
Pictured above you can see the first plate added to the front, and some inserts on the fenders, to support the frontal armour. One of the pictures of a side view of the T32 is just about the right size to enable an almost direct transfer of angles and measurements, which was handy. But as the photo is flat and the model 3-D, certain adjustments have to be made.
The picture below shows the frontal armour nearing completion. There are eight 'plates' in all, six larger ones, and two small ones. There are also some internal plates, and in a few places I had to fabricate brackets to help support the various adjoining planes.
Once the bulk of the scratch-built fighting compartment elements were completed, it was time to add some internal detail, such as boxes, seats, fire-extinguisher, some plates that are probably the remnants of the trailing arms/legs of the gun, etc. There was also some more stuff to be added to the rear of the vehicle.
I decided to remove the outer driver's hatch detail from the kits original front glacis plate. This took a while, as the styrene here is quite thick. I cut the piece out, sanded it down, and glued it to the scratch-built frontal armour. Once the glue had dried I could add the hatch, in an open position, and cut out the vision port. The latter will be 'glazed' in the final model.
The final production M7 dispensed with driver's side ports. But the prototype has one, on the angled corner plate. Fabricating this was a little tricky. I didn't have anything suitable I could 'kitbash'. It's also smaller and different in design to the front one. Mine is made entirely from plastic-card.
One of the things I especially like about the T32 variant is that the plain boxy fighting compartment and rear deck are livened up by three handles per side (the drop-side version can only accommodate two tiers of handles), and lines of chunky rivets at rear.
Pictured above and below you can see the handles being prepared and then fitted. Despite painstaking attempts to line up the drill-holes for the metal handles, they came out rather higgledy-piggledy, and required some rough manhandling to get them to appear a bit neater. Being metal into plastic, I secured them with CA glue. Horrid stuff!
I'm having a lot of fun working on this!
I did all the rivets today. I thought about buying the decal type rivets you can get. But opted not to. Was that a mistake, I wonder? I've slightly reduced and simplified the amount of rivets. Trying to glue them in place in straight lines is hard work! Also added a few sundry doodads at rear, such as a handle, and a pair of unknown ting on't back of fighting compartment.
My buddy Paul gave me a couple of knives he'd adapted into scribes - thanks mate! - for scoring panel lines. I used these for the first time to delineate the rear deck panels. I should've done this prior to gluing and detailing this area. Then it'd have been a lot easier to do it accurately and neatly. You live and learn!
Went to the model shop in Ely, and bought some plastic card stuff, including an L-shaped angle profile, for constructing the ammo racks. I'm fabricating two of these. The real thing would take (I think) 15 shells. Mine will take between 8-12 'ish.
Got them built and installed. Might leave it there for now. The gun is sitting in the vehicle, but not glued. Need to leave it until the interior's painted. I reckon I'm pretty pleased with how it's come out. Painting it should be interesting.
YET ANOTHER UPDATE: