Construction part 1
Building kicks off with the idlers (29), which have some minor but awkward flash inside the quite complex dished outer section, then combining two halves to make up just eight outer road wheels (30) followed by the sprockets (31), which thanks to having only nine teeth, are easy to tidy up and assemble; thatís step 1.
In step 2 weíre fitting the suspension units into recesses on the lower hull; in photo 32 Iím using the unbending and dead flat edge of a glass file to ensure full contact while the cement sets. There is then a vertical join line to be eliminated just in front of the idler axle, although it will be fairly unnoticeable later on. The rear plate (33) includes the ends of the hull side plates, so we have a non-authentic joint that cuts across what should be one thick plate, but this is simplification to allow an easier build. Photo 34 is the final drive covers going on, nothing much to say there, then the exhausts are added (35) and despite being moulded in one piece, the detailing is quite decent, including the end of the pipe featuring the vertical bar across the opening.
The inner road wheel units are assembled in step 3 (36). Apart from taking care to distinguish what are the removable injection tabs, virtually no clean-up is required as the sprue attachments are not on the wheel rims. Step 4 attaches these wheel units to the hull, but they can be kept separate for painting purposes, and in fact I skipped over steps 4, 5, 6 and 7, moving straight to step 8, where we start by joining the gun halves (37). The fit is good, and that lifting ring is on one barrel half only, so with plenty of cement added it was put aside for 24 hours. The turret base (38) fits into the superstructure perfectly and is virtually invisible when assembled (39). Ringed in this photo are the modifications to the lifting rings, where the tabs have been drilled and carved out, and the loaderís hatch handle, which was removed and replaced with copper wire. The slightly rough cut edges of the armour plate interlocks were enhanced a little.
From step 9, just the three parts of the IR device (40) are assembled (41). Taking the hull, the engine deck was modified in a similar way to the turret, with the hatch handle tab replaced with wire, and the corner lifting hooks drilled and carved to look more like hooks (42), with the hull front hatches also receiving wire handles (43). This 1/72 version lacks the six bolts around the gun mantlet sleeve that are a feature of the 1/35 version, and hence the photo on the box top, as well as on Michael Rinaldiís original kitbash. I had some Grandt Line bolts that just happen to fit perfectly, as shown in photo 44, coated with black primer. The final modification at this stage was to hollow out the perfectly flat fronted hull periscopes so that I could add in separate lenses later (45) though part of me wishes that following the black primer I had simply stuck on a rectangle of masking tape, to be removed at the very end Ė much simpler.
Photos 46-49 show the major parts being primed black, then with a light coating of the base dark yellow, and a preliminary pin wash (50, 51). Now the inner wheel units are added to the hull (52, 53) making sure that they are perfectly vertical in photos 54, 55, in which you can see the idlers and sprockets have also been added.
The instructions are to add all the wheels, then the tracks, before adding the hull top, so this is what I was going to do, apart from the outer row of road wheels, hence the pre-painting. Itís been a long time since I used rubbery tracks, and my Ė misguided Ė plan was to pre-paint and weather the tracks, then join them around the wheels. Things turned out bad in four different waysÖ I used white spirit while painting the tracks, which made them softer and stickier; the linkage joining the tracks didnít work; when flexed, the paint cracked off; on trying to attach them, the idler axle bent. This was all quite depressing, and if it wasnít a review sample Iíd probably put it to one side and buy resin tracks (for example from OKB Grigorov). However, for about the same price as resin tracks, you can just buy another complete kit, so thatís what I did.
So what follows is the second attempt, and what Iíd recommend for this kit. As before, donít add the outer row of road wheels yet. Cut off the idler axle, drill it out and replace it with a length of steel pin glued in with CA, then give it several hours to set, then glue on the idler and give that 24 hours. Now cement the hull top on. When the hull top and bottom were assembled, I had a gap right at the front (56). I still donít really get why it was this big, but convinced I had done something wrong I turned it over to check the location of the two parts, but as can be seen in photo 57, it is located correctly. Looking at these parts from the back up kit, completely unpainted, the gap is much less (58), but to close it up there is still a need to press the top part onto the bottom, and even then there is a gap at the plate interlocks (59). I can only assume that the not too perfect fit was made worse by the thickness of my paint. My solution was relatively simple: plate it over with a thin sheet of styrene; photo 60 shows it primed, with the wheels masked off.