Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Castle of steel and Dorchester, part 2: Building a better Telic 1 Challenger

While I think there are issues with the QRF Challenger 2's turret (see Castle of steel and Dorchester, part 1: QRF Challenger 2A1 review), it is a nice model which can make a relatively convincing rendition of an Op Telic tank.

Now just to put this statement in context, there was a time when I would whip out my ruler to check that a model was scaled correctly and refer to scale drawings to check that important detail wasn't omitted. And then bitch about it if there were errors. The trouble is that, unless they are drawn by very committed people who spend their time clambering all over museum exhibits, scale drawings are mostly one person's interpretation of what some piece of machinery looks like.

In light of this, I've converted to the philosphy of TLAR. I'm happy to fiddle with toys until I reach the point of This Looks About Right (though I will refer to as many photographs as possible to determine what looks right to me). If the US Army could get away with fiberglass VISMOD to make a Sheridan look somewhat like a T-72, I can surely get by with plasticard, filler and a file.

The hull was mostly left alone although I did trim some of the camouflage netting so it didn't get in the way of the rotating turret. The main addition was a couple of dust skirts cut from 10 thou plasticard as I think this really sets the Telic 1 Challengers apart from other uparmoured Challys such as the KFOR ones. This was simply cut to fit the model's armoured side skirts by trial and error and will attached once the model is painted. Part of the original side skirt was cut to expose the drive sprocket.

The turret was the one item which required the most work and although the result is far from satisfactory I reckon it looks somewhat more like a Challenger 2 turret than it did out-of-the-bag.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Castle of steel and Dorchester, part 1: QRF Challenger 2A1 review

My latest order from QRF included a Challenger 2A1 because nothing says "tank support" like a big Chally! QRF has four Challenger variants, with each of the Challenger 1 (Op Granby) and 2 (Op Telic) available in a plain vanilla or up-armoured versions. Three of these variants are unique to QRF since the only other 15mm Challenger, that offered by Skytrex and Old Glory, is a plain vanilla Chally 1.

Despite some minor quibbles (and one not-so-minor one about the turret's shape), the up-armoured Challenger 2 is a nice model of the "world's best protected tank" (cue dispute of this claim by fans of the Abrams, Leopard II and Merkava, not to mention Leclerc).

Please note that in my haste to start this model, I forgot to take photos of the out-of-the-bag turret so all of this post's photos feature a turret in the process of being modified by myself. I'll update this review if I buy another model but, in the meantime, there are some good photos of Challenger 2s with what I think are mostly unmodified turrets (though they look like they have been deepened with Milliput because mine came with cleaner lower edges) on the Big FoF blog: here and here.

The model is quite well cast and comes in 11 parts: hull, turret, main gun, two track assemblies, two external fuel drums, commander's hatch cover, roof machine gun and two smoke grenade dischargers. There may in fact be a 12th part which I have lost as the turret roof appears to have a locating hole for the fire control system's meteorological sensor but I'll simply replace it with some brass rod.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Cheap and easy DIY painting tray

A while back, I thought that a dedicated paint & modelling tray would be a good way to reduce some of the clutter on my hobby table and looked at the available commercial products. While there are plenty of choices out there (some of them pretty good), they tend to be a tad expensive for a souped up tray, especially if you have to factor in shipping.

Besides the price, I found that the main drawback of commercial paint stations or tray was the lack of flexibility: water goes here, paints and tools here and that's it. So I decided to make my own, trawled the forums to get some inspiration from other DIY paint tray and found one which came close to what I wanted on Dakka Dakka

Being something of a cheapo at times, I then headed over to the local equivalent of a dollar store to pick up a tray for conversion. What I found was a cheap bamboo tray that set me back something like 4-5 euros, was the right size (roughly 30 by 45 cm) and, best of all, had a bottom piece that was easily removed. Turning it into a paint station was dead simple and even my very limited woodworking skills were sufficient.

Friday, 8 February 2013

MJ Figures 15mm Panhard AML 90 review

Hidden away in their 15mm Falklands range, MJ Figures have a couple of AFVs, including a Panhard AML-90 armoured car. This alternative to Peter Pig's AML is rarely seen either on the web or on tables, so here is a closer look.

The model comes in 10 parts (turret, cuppola hatch cover, gun barrel, body, 4 wheels, 2 axles) and requires some assembly which is mostly straightforward. The casting quality is decent despite some pitting although some of the details will be lost during the necessary clean-up phase.

The main drawback is that the axles actually go through the wheels which means trimming and very visible gap in the wheel hubs.  On the other hand, the wheel/axle assembly is well designed and correct spacing of the wheels is easy. In addition, the front mudguards are much too large and need to be filed back. Replacing the smoke grenade dischargers with plastic of brass rod is probably best as these as prone to miscasting.