Thursday, September 29, 2016

Giant Pandas

The giant panda of central China is a member of the family Ursidae, its closest relative being the spectacled bear of South America. It has the curious distinction of being part of the order Carnivora, but having an almost exclusively herbivorous diet.

The pandas of Sichuan province have the typical black and white coloration we are familiar with.

Pandas of the Qingling Mountains in Shaanxi province however, can have brown and white coloration.

I've been on the lookout for 1/72 pandas for a while now, so when I saw a panda figure in a package of Safari Ltd. "Good Luck Minis" today, I went ahead and bought the set.

The average length from snout to rump of an adult panda is about 5', but they can reach up to 6'. The figure is over an inch long, so it represents a very large panda.

If anyone is interested, here's a link to the Panda Cam at my local zoo (unfortunately, they don't give any indication of when the camera is turned on).

Monday, September 19, 2016

Experimental Heavy Tanks

In the early years of the Cold War, a number of interesting experimental tanks were developed for the battlefields of that era. Most however, were never pursued beyond the prototype stage. For most mainstream model companies, these unique tanks have been too obscure to merit a release.

To fill part of this void, TOPOP, a Beijing based company that creates merchandise for various video game franchises has chosen to release three experimental heavy tank models as part of their Iron Fist line of diecast armor. These models were created in conjunction with the World of Tanks franchise, and represent Soviet, American, and Chinese heavy tanks from the WoT game.

I have the T57 and WZ-111, but not the IS-7. However, that may change if I can find the IS-7 for a low price.

The T57 was built on a M103 heavy tank chassis, and features an oscillating turret. Only a single prototype was built.

The model is mostly plastic, but it has a metal lower hull to give it a bit of heft.

The turret and upper hull have decent detail, though handrails and vision ports are the simplified style typical of diecast models. The turret is able to rotate about 45° to each side, and can oscillate up and down.

The wheels are also a bit simplified, and are attached to the hull on the reverse side by a rail that I presume is there to facilitate the mass production of the model.

The WZ-111 was based on the IS-2 and IS-3, but also had some design features of the IS-7 and T-10 tanks. The turret was still under development when the chassis was undergoing testing, so I don't think that any complete prototypes were ever produced.

The model has a plastic turret and upper hull, while the lower hull is made of metal. For some reason, the tank was dry-brushed in copper to simulate wear, making it look a bit unusual.

The details of the hull and turret are not bad, with the handrails on the side of the turret being actual plastic rods. Again though, the wheels are attached to the hull by means of a rail like on the T57.

The final model I want to present in this post is the Object 279 from the Russian Tank Collection. This tank was designed with four sets of tracks, CBRN protection, and a uniquely shaped hull that was supposed to reduce the likelihood of flipping over in event of a blast wave from a nuclear explosion.

The model itself is let down by the running gear which was not assembled particularly straight. This, in conjunction with the soft rubber material used for the tracks makes it difficult to arrange all four sets of tracks so they look like they are properly aligned.

The wheels only have detail on one side, with the back being featureless disks, but the tracks hide this deficiency, so it's not a huge issue for me.

The TOPOP models are better assembled than the Russian Tank Collection model and have much better paint jobs, but they are a lot more expensive.

For all three of these models, the main detraction is the running gear. The plastic rails used to attach the wheels of the TOPOP models are not too obvious from a distance, but I still don't like that they are there. Those of the Russian Tank Collection model on the other hand, are just poorly assembled.

Still, the T57 and WZ-111 are probably difficult to find in any scale, while the only other Object 279 that I am aware of in 1/72 is a resin kit that is probably at least four times the price of the Russian Tank Collection model.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Mlle. Soixante-Quinze

The Matériel de 75mm modèle 1897, aka the French 75 was a field gun used in conflicts starting from around the time of it's introduction, and all the way into WWII.

The first 1/72 models of the gun were in resin [and metal?], but it wasn't until the HäT versions were released that models finally appeared in plastic (albeit the rubbery stuff that HäT seems to prefer nowadays).

The two HäT sets include French and American guns with caissons, and differ only in the color of the plastic and the nationality of the crew.

When assembled, the abattage (wheel anchors) are fixed in the travel position, but few will probably notice this detail. The gun shield also seems to be at more of an angle than it should be.

The first injection plastic kit of this gun was from MAC, but it is pretty rough for an injection kit.

The model includes pneumatic wheels and a German crew, neither of which I have any use for.

Clean-up of the pieces and carving out the barrel rollers from the solid piece of plastic at the end of the barrel was made easy by the soft consistency of the plastic.

I found the assembly instructions to be somewhat vague because it relied mainly on one angle to show all the steps.

Pictures of the assembled model on the MAC website, were not very helpful, as it seems to be a different (prototype?) kit (different tow ring, different wheels, fewer/missing parts), and it had the gun shield attached the wrong way.

I was trying to figure out how part 7 was positioned, since the instructions only show it viewed from the rear of the model.

In fact, the only gun I was able to find with this feature (some sort of canvas bag) was from a display in the National Museum of the Marine Corps, so I'd suggest not attaching the part at all in most cases.

The body of the gun carriage is made of a nice firm resin. Holes need to be drilled into it for the metal axle rod and hand wheels. Some plastic pieces are also included for this part, but are not used in the build.

There should be a v-shaped notch here...

The front of the carriage forces the barrel to be in an elevated position. Some of the resin needs to be removed if the model is to be displayed with the barrel in a horizontal or depressed position.

No real location is indicated for the seats either (I may have attached them too far back?).

The metal axle needs to be clipped so that it protrudes by 7mm on each side, and a bit of putty is needed to fill in all the imperfections in the trail.

A really nice feature of this kit is that the abattage looks like it can be assembled in either raised or lowered configurations (I'm going for the later). A shield for the sight will also need to be scratchbuilt.

The most recent injection kit of this gun comes from First to Fight, and is identified as a "75mm wz. 1897 Schneider". From all appearances though, it is the Canon de 75mm Mle 1897.

The majority of sources I've looked at attribute manufacture of these guns to Atelier de Puteaux rather than Schneider. In addition, many sources attributing the guns to Schneider simultaneously claim that manufacture occurred at Atelier de Bourges, which was another state run arsenal.

It has a lot of very delicate parts, and care needs to be taken when cleaning them up. The abattage looks as if it is supposed to be built in the travel position, but I think it would be easy enough to convert it to the anchored position.

The model itself, is a lot smaller than either the HäT or MAC guns. If the two other kits are accurate in size, the First to Fight model has dimensions that range anywhere from 1/76 all the way down to 1/87.

I was so disappointed in the disparity in size, that I did not bother completing my build.

For the following comparison shots, the HäT parts are blue, MAC are tan, and FTF are green.

According to the stats given at Wikipedia,
the length should be 37.3mm in 1/72 scale.

The carriage and trail of the FTF kit is also a lot shorter (by about 8mm) and narrower than that of the other kits.

The trail is assembled from two halves, and will need a lot of putty to hide the seam, or it will give the appearance of having a split trail.