Monday, December 15, 2014

Time out: Italeri M4A1 Sherman 'Calliope' 1:72 kit - part 1

A different set of challenge..

I was browsing through the aisle in one of the few remaining plastic model kit store in Sungai Besi and found an Italeri 1:72 M4A1 Sherman 'Calliope' tank.
This is a special kit that comes with a rocket launcher. Probably during the later stages of World War II.
There was an opened box, so, I inspected the contents and decided to buy it.
At RM49.90, this kit is pretty expensive. But, later, I found out that the kit retails at US$17.55 (RM61.31 excluding freight and tax) via an on-line store. 
So, that said, the 1:72 kit is cheaper here without any doubt.

A snapshot of the kit's box

The parts in the kit
Way I see it, the Italeri kit has been lying on the shelf for some time. The interior of the box was already moldy.
But the decals and instruction sheet seems to be unaffected by time and humidity.
When I laid out the kit, my challenge was to assemble the tank's hull which came in five separate pieces.
To get a solid undercarriage, the fitting must be precise. Any gaps in the seams has to be filled with putty and sanded smooth.
So, in terms of quality, I'd say that the Italeri kit kinda exceeded my expectations. As a matter of fact, I was really surprised with the engine detail on this little package.

The details.. 

There's a six-piece assembly required to build the tank's engine and it comes with an axle and a transmission box. 
If you prefer to kit-bash, you can do a cut-away to show the tank's interior. Once fitted with the upper hull, the details vanish.

The engine and transmission box

Lower hull assembly

Preparing for weathering
Assembling the hull was a nightmare. 
There's no margin for error as you might end up tearing the kit apart and building it back again.
I started by spraying the kit with a Tamiya spray paint (TS-5 Olive Drab). I don't have an airbrush system, so, aerosol spray would do. The rest of the kit was touched-up by hand with a brush and Tamiya Acrylic paint.
For the engine assembly, I used the Tamiya XF-84 Dark Iron arcylic paint to give it a raw and matt finish.
And with the Tamiya weathering master applied, the engine really stands out with two tones of metallic colour. In short the dark iron base acts as a primer to accentuate the colour of the engine and transmission box. 

Bogey and track assembly

Sherman tanks are built with a Vertical Volute Spring System (VVSS) with a set of three bogeys (similar to what you see on a train coach) and roller wheels.
These small parts comes in halves and has to be glued together. What's interesting is that the wheels are free-rolling in the bogey assembly.

Reference from a real tank's VVSS bogey

Details on the roller wheel
The completed bogey assembly and sprocket wheel
There's really no issue putting together the VVSS suspension. But, painting the roller wheels - is a bitch!
I started by using the Tamiya XF-1 flat black paint on the surface of the wheels (the real wheels have a layer of rubber on it) and found that there were ugly splotches on most of it.
Later, I individually painted the wheels to give it an even coat and touched up the mess with the Tamiya XF-65 olive drab acrylic paint. 

In some cases, modelers skip painting the roller wheels as seen in this reference 1:72 model kit by Dragon models. (reference from http://www.172shermans.com)
With the VVSS bogeys in place on each side of the hull plates, I glued together the lower hull to create the tank's undercarriage assembly.
It takes about 30-minutes for the liquid cement to set and a full day to cure. So, I worked on the weathering on the bogey and roller wheels. 
It turned out pretty good as the flat black paint brings out the highlights from the silver weathering cake from Tamiya's weathering master set C (Orange Rust, Gun Metal and Silver). 
Next, I worked on setting the tracks. It was a near disaster as the heat-bonding nearly melted one of the tracks.
I re-worked it a bit and managed to save the rubber track from completely wasted.
Slowly and gently, I fitted both sides of the tracks and noticed that the matt black paint that was sprayed on it was peeling off. 
If I had applied a primer coat, this won't be the case.
With the lower hull completed, I applied weathering on the tracks and called it a day.. 
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