Tuesday 26 February 2019

Kit Review: Ace 1/72 Cabriolet

Currently building the bottom one of these two.

The first of my On Track purchases to be built is this 1938 model Cabriolet. I also have the very similar looking four-door saloon to look forward to, as well. These are the first of what I hope will be numerous cars and other vehicles that could be either military or civilian.

Working on the glazing.

I didn't photograph the first few steps. So we come straight into this at the point where I was working on the glazing. I also diverge from the suggested assembly by basically constructing the chassis and wheels and the body work as two separate stages. This is due to the fact that I'll need to paint the interior before putting these two sections together.

Getting parts organised.

The underside of the chassis, and the open-top body.

Short run injection moulded kits such as Ace specialise in are great in some respects, inasmuch as you can get kits of vehicles otherwise difficult to obtain, but less good in others, as in often suffering from excessive flash, or parts that don't fit together terrifically well. In this instance both issues are present. This is another reason to assemble in the two primary stages I've adopted, so as to keep some control over fit. 

I guess there's also a concomitant risk doing it this way of the two halves not mating properly. The biggest arse-ache so far has certainly been the fairly frequent need to heavily trim certain parts in order to get a viable fit. The bonnet, wings and bumpers were an area of particular troublesomeness. And they'll require some post-build plastic surgery to neaten them up somewhat.

My current batch of German vehicles.

As usual, my reluctance to reach for the airbrush means an ever-growing pile of unfinished vehicles. Above you can see three Krupp Protz, the RSO 175, and now this little staff car. There are also the three Elefant/Ferdinand, two M7 Priest, and the Quad, limber and gun... oh, and the Universal Carrier and gun. And that's just my current batch! Upstairs on my 'display shelves' I have dozens more!

The entire Ace cabrio' is about the size of the RSO cab!

The main thing for me, however, at present at least, is that it's fun. And it is fun. A great deal of fun! At times I despair of my ever attaining a level of skill and finish that will satisfy me. But on the other hand, if I just follow my whims and have fun along the way, perhaps that's reward enough? I do dream of creating little forces with which to wargame, in some manner. But I have no urgent timetable with which to comply. Should I have?


A 1938 model Opel Olympia in use as a Wehrmacht staff car.

First off, I decided to trawl the web to find out exactly what type this car is. I don't think that ipantpywheee, except perhaps on the box-art illustration, there is a mention that this is an Opel Olympia. There are loads still on the road,  including a good number done up in Wehrmacht colours and markings. This is handy, for reference, in addition to period photos, naturally.

A very nice surviving example. Interesting rear stowage!

Today I've had a bout of pure exhaustion. I get them periodically, possibly as a result of my underlying conditions, and/or the medication I'm on, etc. I slept from whenever I went to bed/sleep, last night (11-ish?), straight through to about 11.30... i.e. the best part of a solid 12 hours!

Having them got up and active, after a house-clearing trip to the municipal dump (these are never ending, and mostly supplied by the gradual removal of crap from our back garden; that's another story!), and some light shopping, I managed about an hour or two of reading before falling asleep again. This time just for a couple of hours.

One of many beautiful civilian style Opel Olympias still gracing the roads.

There's even one in the Tintin adventure, King Ottokar's Sceptre!

Images like this are helpful, re interior detail, etc.

I mention all this because - relatively unusual as such bouts of exhaustion are - it shows how even on an ostensible day off, a day when I might hope to get a bit of modelmaking or figure painting in, that's not always possible. I did manage about 45 minutes of very slow work on the Opel Olympia. And it's now finished, construction wise, save for rear-view mirror and windscreen wipers. They'll have to wait until the remainder of the model is painted, and the window masks have been removed.

Today it was mostly tiny detailing elements, such as number plates, rear lights (on ant like antennae!), the front bumper, door-handles (very fiddly!), and a scratch-built petrol filler cap. The latter self made because the supplied piece of styrene was hare-lipped to the point of unusable deformity. I might make my own rear-view mirror for similar reasons. And there are no supplied windscreen wipers. So I'll have fabricate them as well.

Here's how she looks today.

Filling some gaps with white Milliput.

Will need to trim or file the filler a bit once dry.

That's it for today.

Monday 25 February 2019

Show Report: On Track, 2019

'Twas a gorgeous sunny day.

I went to Folkestone with my buddy Paul yesterday, to On Track, at The Leas hall on the seafront. I didn't take any pictures of the countless superbly made models. Indeed, I didn't even really spend the time admiring them that perhaps I should have. All the effort expended on them, and I just walked past!

I've been to Euro-Militaire a couple of times with Paul, and enjoyed it. But I thought I should try On Track, as it's more armour/vehicle focussed, whereas at Euro-Militaire it's more figures and all sorts, and a lot less armour, etc. And I'm very glad we went, as it really is much more up my street.

The Fujimi Kübelwagen plus mc/sidecar, my first purchase of the show.

The main reason for going was not to admire others' work, to buy more models, and - I hoped - a few related bits and bobs. And I wasn't disappointed. I had a list of things I was interested in, and was able to get a whole bunch of stuff I've been lusting after. I'd even gone to the trouble of raising some cash specifically as spending money.

The primary thing I was after was rear-echelon vehicles: trucks, cars, etc. I also wanted some vehicles of a similar ilk that could either be military or civilian. In addition to this there were some kits I'd seen browsing online that I was able to purchase. One, the Phanomenon Granit by Attack, was on my list. Another, the V2 and Hanomag SS100 transporter, by Takom, was something I'd only just noticed online, but really wanted. I didn't expect to be getting it at the show.

This looks like it'll be a lot of fun to build!

Two near identical staff cars, from Ace.

Most of my purchases were from Dutch dude Rob Tas of Tas Models, a thoroughly nice guy with an excellent selection of kits. Most of his kits at the show were 1/72, and there were a lot of German WWII models. And his prices were great. Paul bought a brand new Roden WWI truck and gun/limber kit off him for £10, which another stall at the show was selling secondhand for £27!!! This other stall also had a nice Vomag bus, and an Einheitsdiesel truck. I really wanted both, the latter being one of the vehicles on my wish list. But again, they were - in my view - overpriced. So I left them alone.

I also wanted some written and pictorial stuff, for reference. But I had to be careful: Avid Publications had £65 off me for just one book last time I was at the Leas (that was for To The Gates of Moscow, by Türk/Urbanke). I was primarily looking for stuff in the same area as I was re models, softskins, and suchlike. I'd seen online and was intrigued by a new book on German staff cars. Ironically they had copies on the overpriced secondhand kit stall. I had a look at it, but, along with a number of other titles on the Avid stall, it seemed too expensive for the amount of material.

Useful ref for truck building.

I did find a Nuts And Bolts title, pictured above, on German trucks, which, at £26.50, whilst far from cheap, seemed at least to be decent value, in terms of the quantity and variety of material. As well as beaucoup de contemporary photos, there are line diagrams, colour plates, and even model build examples, covering a wide and interesting range of German trucks. So I bought it, with a view to perhaps scratch-building some vehicles using it.

I would've liked to have bought a kit or two (their propaganda halftrack appeals, with the loud-hailers on the roof!), or at least some ancillary stuff (fuel cans, ammo boxes, etc.), from Model Trans Modelbau. But once again, high prices put me off. My most extravagant spending at the show was on two sets of resin Panzer crew, at £8.50 each, from Dan Taylor.

Einheitsdiesel with flak, and Phänomen Granit.

Fingerprint decals, inc. softskins markings, and Dan Taylor panzer crews.

One thing I was really hoping I'd find was a set or two of German WWII softskin decals. In particular the rectangular info markings that you see on the doors of trucks, RSO, and suchlike. Pictured above is a set I bought off a trader (who?) who otherwise specialised in Allied WWII materiel. Apparently Fingerprint, who made these decals, are now defunct. Dan Taylor said he's going to be bringing out a suitable set some time soon.

Anyway, Paul and I enjoyed the show. Paul only bought two kits, both WWI, and nowt else ('crept a couple of beers; cheers Paul!), whilst I bought quite a bit of stuff. Definitely a good show for those of us who like building mini-military stuff. They have a lot of 1/35 and other scales as well, and the various traders cover all sorts of eras.

But for me it was about having a big range of choice in 1/72 WWII, and German stuff mostly. And I was far from disappointed. Indeed, if I'd had more money I'd have splurged considerably more! Tas had the 1/72 Hobbyboss German super railgun, at £140... I'd love to buy/build that!

Book Review: Lake Ilmen, 1942 - Gonzalez, Sagarra

A fascinating if rather specialist look at a particular episode in the history of the Blue Division, a Spanish volunteer unit serving with Germany in Russia, 1942.

The story central to the book concerns the creation of a volunteer 'ski unit', who neither ski nor complete their original mission (the relief of encircled German troops at Zvzad). This mission involved the crossing of the titular Lake Ilmen, frozen solid in winter, and therefore a potential temporary route for either Axis or Soviet forces across what was normally an enormous watery obstacle.

What I found most interesting about this book wasn't so much this failed and rather minor seeming action, but rather the broader contextual picture on the one hand, and the more personal biographical insights on the other. The broader picture concerns a sector of the Ostfront, and an element within that (i.e. the Spanish), not usually paid much attention in books on Barbarossa.

Blue Division soldiers at Lake Ilmen, 1942.

If this stuff gives an interesting and different macro-view, then at the more micro-level learning about the Spaniards involved, and even to some extent about their pre- and post-WWII lives is fascinating. Unsurprisingly these men were drawn from those on the right during the Spanish Civil War, who felt that they were simply carrying on and extending the fight against Communism that had begun in their youths at home.

Hitler's Germany made much of the 'heroes' of Lake Ilmen, awarding over 30 Iron Crosses. For propaganda purposes they even claimed the original operation had succeeded in its stated goal, which simply wasn't true. If we're to believe the Spanish accounts presented here, the men of the Blue Division got along with local civilians better than one is accustomed to hearing about in this infamously brutal war.

Franco's Spain celebrated the achievements of the men this book covers, whereas modern Spain by and large seeks to expunge such things from contemporary public life. Leaving aside the still fraught ideological aspects, and looking at this as a purely military episode, I personally found this a fascinating and informative read.

Whilst this may potentially a bit too specialist for the generally interested WWII reader, I found it an easy and compelling enough read to make it well worthwhile.

Friday 22 February 2019

Book Review: The Americans On D-Day & in Normandy - Brooke S. Blades

Another excellent title from the very useful Images of War series. The pictures are terrific, as one would hope they would/should be in a series with such a title. The text is pretty good. At first I wasn't too sure, re the latter, as in places it's very dense with unit numbers and movements. But overall the text is actually pretty good.

Blades treats the subject to a mixture of chronological and themed chapters, starting with preparations in England, and then moving via airborne troop drops to the beach landings. So far so chronological, but then comes a chapter titled Soldiers, Prisoners and Civilians. The action then moves further inland, before we're given chapters on the wounded, the dead, and the battlefields then and now.

There are some minor issues with the text, like references to characters (usually the photographers) by one single name, with no other contextualising info. And at times the density of unit/movement info can get near headache inducingly opaque. With so much to cover this could've been a mess. But it works pretty well overall. And the pictures are fab.

The best of these Images of War books are really great resources for wargamers, modellers and military history buffs when, as here, they're packed with great photos, accompanied by illuminating text. The pictures are admittedly all black and white - and the US was one of the few participants, alongside Germany - to make frequent use of colour film in WWII. But it's really nice, as well as useful, to have such rich visual material as this to hand in print form, as opposed to trawling the web for it.

I'd definitely recommend this to anyone with more than a passing interest in the U.S. role in D-Day and beyond.

Wednesday 20 February 2019

Kit Review: 1/72 Hauler Radschlepper Ost, Pt. I

This kit arrived with the mail today, from Hannant's. Including postage, of approx. £3, this kit cost just a few pennies less than £33! I think this makes it the most expensive 1/72 model I've purchased thus far.

The contents of the box.

Hauler, a one-man show from the Czech Republic, make resin kits, photo-etched detailing sets, and all sorts. This'll be the first time I'll have made one of their kits. There's a lot of grey resin parts, plus decals, clear plastic for windows (and even for the dials of the dash display... impressive!), and some photo-etched stuff.

I've had a look through all the parts, and the kit looks really great. I'm looking forward very much to building this bizarre vehicle. I actually bought a 1/35 kit of this quite a while ago (another brand that's new to me, Riich, or something like that!?). But that's sitting up in the attic, in a big box of 'pending' models. 

Damn! The rear axle broke during clean up. [1]

All the resin parts trimmed and cleaned up. [2]

Only one major bummer during the prepping stage of the resin parts. The rear axle broke whilst I was removing it from its 'sprue', or rather the residue of the casting. I tried supergluing it, but it just kept breaking again. In the end I had to remove the damaged section altogether. I wound up replacing it with a chunk of styrene sprue. Shaping that and supergluing the various parts together was a real pain. But I'm hoping it's gonna be alright come assembly time. That'll be tomorrow now, as it's late, and I'm very low on superglue, and I'm doggone tired!


This looks like a good read. [3]

This odd looking vehicle was one of the numerous projects that Ferdinand Porsche was involved with during WWII. Skoda manufactured them. Despite poor performance in trials Hitler ordered about 200 be made. Apparently most of them were never used. And of those that were, they ended up being used in the Western and not the Eastern front! One issue was hefty fuel consumption, which with Germany's shrinking Reich and raw materials supply issues, didn't help its cause.

Damn... another axle breakage!

That was yesterday, Feb 19th (the day my sister and her daughters arrived at my mum's, on a short visit from Spain). Today is wednesday the 20th. And work continues on the RSO. I made a right mess of the wheels. I only noticed that the front and back wheels are differing thicknesses after attaching a non-matching pair at the rear. Fortunately I hadn't glued them on. 

Getting the wheels on at all was tricky; all four required fairly extensive cutting, filing and fiddling in order to make them fit. Eventually I got them all in their proper places, and even had the tread in the right orientation. Which I hadn't on my first attempt. 

I made nicer sticks/levers/knobs, whatever, for the cabin.

And now I've made a start on the photo-etch pieces. I decided not to use the gear shift lever, etc. Instead I made my own, from stretched sprue. Much nicer, being fully rounded. The photo etch parts are both too flat and too delicate.

Gear shift lever etc. in situ.

All the underside chassis stuff... looking good!

Working with resin kits and superglue is, I find, quite tiring. More so than constructing standard styrene stuff. So at this point, i.e. now, I've decided to take a brief break. Have a lie down even! Before doing so, I took a snap of the model with upper bodywork parts resting in position, but not glued, so as to see how the model's coming along. I like it!


A couple of Milicast figures give a sense of scale.

Another short round of work on this kit is snatched. The chassis and rear body are mostly done now. The Milicast resin figures in the pics above and below help give an indication of the large scale of this vehicle. The partially painted figure below might be the driver.

Getting ready to add some inner cab detailing.

Cab floor and pedals added. Other parts prepped.

Some of the photo-etched stuff is great, being robust, or not too exposed. But some of the finer detailing is extremely delicate. The u-shaped footholds, for example, whilst lloking great, are very easy to knock off or bend out of shape. This makes handling the model tricky. I might have to come up with some kind of solution, to enable me to handle it for the forthcoming build steps.

Cabin glazed, adding dashboard detailing.

The photo-etch over clear plastic on the dash looks great.

Close of play on day two. Cabin not glued on yet.

I finished modelling at 2am! Having snatched the final hour or so after our guest went up to bed at about 12.30am. As usual, glazing the cab was a right pain, and the resulting 'glass' is dirty/messy/opaque. In this instance I glued it in place using superglue gel. Today - I'm writing this the morning after - I'll start work on painting the cab interior. 


[1] The little grey disc in the upper right area is the styrene sprue replacement part.

[2] In this pic the repaired rear axle is looking ok. The split resin segment I cut out is just to the right of the fixed axle, in the bottom right quarter of the photo.

[3] Saw this at the Bovington Tank Museum shop. Should've got it there and then! Going to On Track  down in Folkestone this saturday. Maybe I'll see/get it there?

Monday 18 February 2019

Kit Review: 1/76 Revell M7 Priest, standard build

I actually started this kit before I began the second one, which I converted into the T32 prototype. But I got majorly sidetracked by the latter! So, this evening, having finished the build of the T32 type, I went back to the standard out of the box build, and finished constructing that.

This gives me an opportunity to review the Revell kit in a slightly more standard manner. The first thing is that it's 1/76. I prefer 1/72 simply because that's what the vast bulk of my mini-materiél is. Still, at least 1/76 is close enough one can mix them together with little cause for concern.

Another thing to remark upon is the quite swanky colour booklet of instructions. This seems a bit odd and overdone given that the kit itself feels quite vintage. Nevertheless, it's a nice touch. I suspect the kit is an old one. Poss' a rebadged kit from a line that was formerly part of the Matchbox catalogue, or some other similar series? I do remember Matchbox kits, and poss some Esci as well, having little diorama type bases, such as this comes with.

Here are all the sprues, together with rubber-band tracks and decals. I won't be using the diorama base, or the figures, which aren't all that good. The ammo for this vehicle is something that, being too small (short, length-wise), along with the figures, detracts from the quality of this kit, as are the moulded on low-relief tools and other parts, such as the frame for a tarpaulin.

Assembly begins. I like to gather the parts for several steps, clean them up, and go to it. The result is a slightly quicker build (unless you get waylaid by conversion fever!). With the lower hull assembled, I prep the upper hull, etc.

And that's how I then left this model, whilst working on its elder cousin. Then as pictured below, I gathered all the remaining parts, and set to it with a will. This allowed me to jump from part-built to finished, construction wise, in one fairly short sesh.

And to finish this post, for the time being at least, here's a comparison of the two vehicles. In olive drab, the T32 prototype. And in grey styrene, the 'standard' M7 Priest, with machine-gun pulpit, and angled front glacis plate meeting the sides at (kind of) right angles.