Monday, 31 December 2012

Building a Rapid Fire! Finnish Army HQ - Part 1

As some of the more unique models are still on the way (some from abroad) I am starting my HQ build with what I have handy. The transport. My organisational inventory includes three trucks in my HQ formation – two medium (up to 3 tons) and one light (a 1.5 ton).

Above: A Finnish army Ford-Werke V8 1940 V3000 3-ton, 4x2 cargo truck. Some 24,110 V3000 trucks were produced by the German Ford factories at Cologne and Berlin between 1941 and 1946. Photo source: Wikipeda

Historically, WW2 Finnish army transport provision was eclectic. Ever short of transport vehicles the Finnish army took into use many commercial vehicles, but there were a few makes that were especially purchased for military use. Perhaps the truck which is most associated with the Finns – among war gamers at least – is the German made Ford-Werke’s V3000 3 tonner, and this is were I am starting my fleet.

The V3000 is reasonably easy to get hold of in Braille Scale form, mainly because it was also a pretty common vehicle in the Wehrmacht as well, and there are versions available whatever your budget might be.

Although you can buy an ‘out of the box’ model of this truck - from Hunor (#HUNO72024) for example, pictured above – these are quite niche and therefore quite expensive and so probably not appropriate for the average war gamer. However, there are a few more modestly priced options designed for the gamer that won’t break the bank.

Let’s start at the bottom (cost wise), if you go onto the Rapid Fire! web site and check out their own range of ‘ready to roll’ resin vehicles you will find a very nicely priced one-piece V3000 in ‘1/72’. At just £5.95 you can get a very good looking representation of the German Ford, but this is not a kit and has filled in windows and a rather unattractive central resin support joining the base to the chassis.

Above: This is the one-piece Rapid Fire! V3000, and it looks very neat for a solid resin moulding. When I received this I noticed that it was marked as being made by Valiant Models (although you will not find these for sale on the Valiant web store). Were it not for the fact that this ‘solid’ format model doesn’t match the rest of my multi-part plastic kits I would be very happy with the look of this model. 

If, like me, you are building you army from plastic kits then you may not appreciated the solid one-piece make up of this model, you’ll maybe want something that matches the rest of your kits. To get round this I am trying out the idea of chopping off the distinctive front end of the resin V3000 and mating it to one of my cheap Pegasus ‘German Army Trucks’.

It may sound a bit of a convoluted exercise, but if I do this I get the best of both worlds and it will just cost £10.45 – but, if you are clever and can make resin moulds you can copy your V3000 front end and create a small fleet of mock versions for a budget price.

Finally, my other option for making a (relatively) cheaper V3000 is to buy the Model Trans resin cab kit (6.10 Euro). This is actually a better-conceived take on the ‘cut and shut’ idea mentioned above. The cab kit is designed to fit onto the front end of the Roden or Italeri Opel Blitz, with a combined price of about £16+ this is still a little pricey but still cheaper than the Hunor kit.

Above: Here is the Model Trans Ford V3000 cab kit. I was a little disappointed that both of the cab roof supports were broken off and missing. I opted to buy the Italeri Opel Blitz (as it was on sale) to use as the chassis for this conversion kit and that means I will have to do some chopping about to make it fit.

So there you have it, three price options for the V3000. I can’t wait to compare my budget build idea to the more expensive Model Trans hybrid model.

This icon of the Finnish army should look great – hopefully – and provide the mainstay of my medium truck fleet. But aside from this I can build up my fleet with models of Citroen 45 and some Opel Blitz for the medium haulage and captured Soviet Gaz AA or Zil 12 trucks for the light transport. But for variety I can throw in some less well known commercial models, like the Citroen 25, Chevrolet or Dodge. But I will discuss my choices for additional trucks in a later post.

NEXT: In part two I will try putting together my cheap 'cut and shut' V3000. Fingers crossed!

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Stalin IS-3 background research

I've been looking around to see how others have coped with the 'classic' (50 year old) 1/76 Airfix Stalin IS-3. It has it's problems, so I thought if I could find a picture of one in a finished state I could assess how much work I actually have to do on mine. Well I found an example over at the Airfix Tribute Forum...

Above: With just some subtle weathering this example highlights what can be done with the Airfix IS-3 out of the box. This was produced by ATF member 'Real Thing' and I think he has done a wonderful job considering the age of this kit.

You can follow the complete build review of the above model here: Airfix 1:76 Joseph Stalin JS-3 Tank (A01307) Build Review

The builder lists the problems with this kit in detail, but I think you can tell from this photo that a good amount of simplification has gone on and the overall felling is one of an absence of character (I always think it is the small fiddly bits that add realism to a model). If I had to describe the finish effect in one word it might be - bland (no offence intended to the model maker, he has obviously done a very good job with what he had).

So what could a good braille scale IS-3 look like? Well I featured a model done by Barış earlier in the week, but I didn't show his finished model. Well here it is for comparison...

A bit of a difference eh? You can see more shots of his finished IS-3 here: Roden IS-3 Stalin **completed** (by Barış Bayar)

I can immediately tell the sort of small detail I would like to add to the Airfix model to give it a bit more realism - the turret grip rails stand out as does the AA gun and accompanying ring. My main worry at the moment is what to do about the Airfix's thick vinyl tracks. Hmmm.

Further example: Dyzio - 1/72 JS-3 (IS-3) Polish Army - Trumpeter

The future of modelling?

Speculation over the possibilities of 3D printing for modellers is probably old news by now, but I'm still very excited when I see an example of what might be achieved. Take this absolutely fantastic piece which was featured on one of my favourite popular culture blogs (Boing Boing), it may be a fantasy figure but actually I think that fantasy subjects can be a lot more complex that real ones...

It is printed in white nylon and then hand painted. It is amazing to think that one day we might be able to print out exactly what models and model parts we want, something I appreciate as I struggle to lay my hands on some of the rarer vehicles that were in service with the Finnish army in WW2.

Of course, we should not forget that however 3D printers evolve over the next few years you will still require adept 3D designers to crete the software models first. I've tried to get into 3D design and I appreciate that it is an art in itself.

Above: My feeble attempts at 3D modelling. I created this Vickers tank some years ago now and found even this simple shape very time consuming and I haven't even added a lot of the smaller details.

Link: Shapeways 3D printing - Amazing Hand Painted, 3D Printed Miniatures

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Featured work - Barış's superb IS-3 Stalin

I Like the IS-3, it's maybe the menacing look or because I enjoyed playing it in the online tank game 'World of Tanks', but in any case I bought the much maligned Airfix IS-3 and squirreled it away in my stash box for a rainy day. Well, it's raining and with the Christmas holiday coming up this bit of inspiration from Barış over at the MiniAFV blog has really made me want to get the Stalin tank out and start building...

Now you may look at this picture and wonder what's going on, but this part of Barış's technique for rusting really caught my eye. He spots the out the rusty areas and areas for an extra highlight with red and white oils and then blends them in using a brush wettened with white spirit.

I definitely want to give this idea a try with my Airfix monster as the end result - check out his blog - is fantastic.

Link: Roden IS-3 Stalin **first page** (by Barış Bayar)

Now aside from the paining technique the Airfix kit will demand a bit of love and attention and upgrades as it has two very well known weaknesses - the inaccurate shape of the turret and the awful plastic tracks. You can read more about the Airfix IS-3's failings over at Matador Models (including suggestions on how to improve the kit).

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Rapid Fire! Radio trucks for a Finnish Army – Part 2

To re-cap, I was doing some amateurish research into the sort of vehicles that the Finns used during the later part of the Second World War for radio trucks. The Rapid Fire! game rules demand that HQ Sections be equipped with such vehicles and although I am only using these rules as a loose with which to provide a structured composition for my model collection these type of truck are interesting and novel subjects.

When I last posted I was studying a rare photograph of a column of Finnish radio wagons - as far as I know this is one of the very few photos of this type of vehicle from the period...

As it turned out this unit was a specialist radio intelligence unit and when I read up on what was available in English on the web I discovered that the Finns were very adept at intercepting and decoding Soviet transmissions. In fact, a great deal of their success - when you consider what a small army they had - was due to the fact that they often knew what the Red Army was up to so could utilize what forces they had very wisely.

So I could not resist the opportunity of including one of these vehicles as my HQ Section radio wagon. It just too interesting historically not to - but before I could I had to identify just what type of vehicle it was.

To cut a long story short, I got some terrifically useful help from the guys over at the Finnish section of the Axis History forum. A very nice fellow called Jarkko translated some information he had in one of his reference books on the period which showed that the Finnish Army had the following types of radio trucks in it's inventory during WW2...

- 18 Volvo
- 7 captured Ford (Soviet GAZ AA, AAA etc)
- 6 Ford
- 4 Steyer
- 1 Federal

(Source: 'Motor Vehicles of the Defence Forces 1919 - 1959' by Markku Mäkipirtti, page 157.)

It was then just a case of Googling these vehicle types from the period until I hit a match. Before long I found  a Volvo that matched the type in the photo - it was a Volvo B 12 Radio Bus...

Rather unfortunately there isn't a 1/72 model available for this, but looking at the simple boxy design I reckon that this could be a good subject for my very first scratch build?

Additionally, the information that the Finns did also have 7 captured Soviet GAZ AAs is good, as this model is easy to get hold of and I was already planning how to convert a similar vehicle (the Zis-5V) into a radio truck. And finally, for my Armour Battalion I will be equipping them with the Steyr 1500 Kfz. 17 Radio Car, again a very common 1/72 model.

So, there we have it, all my radio trucks for my Finnish Army (1943-44) chosen.

Next: Planning the Volvo B 12 radio bus scratch build...

Kit Noob's return

Without wishing to make a big deal about, yesterday I got some good news about my eyesight and after a year or so of operations it looks like things have stabilized where they are. As you can imagine for someone who is a designer any eye related medical problems are a bit of a nightmare and I have seriously been in the dumps for the past six months or so.

Now I want to get slowly back into doing my models I find I have completely lost the thread of where exactly I was and what I was planning!

So, Finnish Rapid Fire army collection. And more precisely, the HQ Section. Following this I have a rather large mob of transport to put together, consisting of light, medium and heavy transports.

Obviously I am going to have to take things slowly, but the HQ Section seems a very good place to start as it is a limited size. This will get me back into the swing of things and hopefully be fairly easy to complete.

Nice to be back!