I spent years as 1:35 scale armour modeller before collecting "real" militaria took over. Back then, the man who almost single-handedly transformed the hobby via his much-copied techniques was the Belgian modeller, Francois Verlinden. I remember buying Tamiya catalogues back in the late 70s and 80s just to see his dioramas which were always featured therein.
However...therein lies a problem (which was always hotly debated whenever I attended modellers' meets) ie, the question of weathering. The wash-and-drybrush technique pioneered by Verlinden certainly does snap out the detail on a 1:35 model, if properly done. But...if you've ever been around tanks, they DO NOT look like that at all in reality. A Sherman has only to run for a few hundred yards across open country for its bogies and tracks to be covered with mud! Not much detail is visible beneath the goo! Likewise, upper-surfaces quickly become covered with a layer of dust and mud from the boots of the guys climbing aboard. As for rust...a WW2 Sherman/ Stuart/ Chaffee etc was a "new" vehicle..just months or weeks old at the time. New vehicles do not show rust streaks all over, as portrayed by many modellers as a part of the weathering process.
Then we have what we used to laughingly call "magnetic pack syndrome"...ie., tanks festooned with musette bags and every other appurtenance known to man! Yes, GIs loaded their tanks with gear, but, if you've ever been around real tanks, whatever is carried has to be tightly lashed down or it falls off after moving just 10 feet. Likewise, there are places (air vents/intakes/ exhaust mounts) where kit would never be stowed...and yet we see this all of the time on supposedly "realistic" models!
I used to know a guy..a superb armour modeller back in the days where if you wanted a variant you scratch-built it...no easy resin add-ons in those days! Whenever he built a 1:35 tank he used to mix up a sticky goo with modelling compound, add various earth shades to it and liberally applied it to the tracks and suspension etc. All the details disappeared...but arguably, his models were far more authentic than those of us who lovingly dry-brushed and highlighted every bogie-bolt and rivet! So, what's the objective...a realistic model of a tank, or a "pretty" impression of one?
I offer the above not as a criticism but (hopefully?) as the starting point of a discussion on the matter.
So true... I've been looking at Francois' stuff for years... certainly since I was a young modeller of about 12 or 13... the other big diorama nut was Shep Paine. I remember picking up the Monogram Armor and Airplane models and looking at the Dioramas he'd built. My all time favorites were the Sherman Screamin mimi and the TBD Devastator.
I agree that sitting on a diorama base, portraying a combat scene that mud and grime are a necessity. However, being in the army all those years, I never really took to building dioramas that much because of the fragility and the necessity of my having to move so often. What would break a model would be a disaster for a Dio. Having been infantry, and being both M113 and M2 Bradley crew, and even Humvee crew as an MP, I found that Mud and grime aren't the norm. At rest stops the crews would get out, check the track tension, and remove as much of the caked mud and gunk from the running gear as possible. Indeed, there are a lot of photos of crews doing just that. I've got pictures of me somewhere around here of me chipping the mud from the grooves of the M113 roadwheels at Fort Polk many years ago. Again, at Fort Hood, when I was deployed to Kuwait, and also in the field at Hood itself, there was a concerted effort to keep the vehicles as free of mud and gunk as possible. In the desert in Kuwait, we swept the upper decks and swept out the insides of the vehicle daily to keep the dust and dirt down. I lost a model contest at Fort Hood one year because my M2A2 Bradley "wasn't realistically dirty enough" even though it was acompanied by photos of the vehicle I'd modelled (my M2A2 in Kuwait). Oddly enough, the tank that won was an Israeli M60A1 that had a light coat of dust on the outside, but muddy footprints all over the interior you could see through the hatches. Another one of those inconsistancies that you spoke of.
I have a few references of Shermans in action, and its not often you see a tank totally caked with mud unless its being operated in a muddy field. Yes, there are those times where tanks took to the fields, but for the most part they tried to remain on the roads. Shermans were notoriously bad for bogging down in softer earth due to their narrow tracks. As early as North Africa we found that the narrow tracks and unusually high ground pressure would cause the shermans to bog down easily in soft earth or sand. This was why there was a concerted effort to widen the track and improve the floatation of the type. The initial resolution for this were the extended end connectors (duck bills) which replaced the normal end connectors during wet and rainy weather. The first attempt at this was intended to place a spacer between the bogie truck and hull to allow clearance for the inside track runs to mount the connectors on both the inside and outside of the track. However it was soon found that bent connectors on the inside runs weren't as easily replaced so the practice was discontinued. The widened track width between the tracks and use of end connectors on both the inside and outside of the track runs was referred to as the E9 suspension. After the difficulty of replacing the inside connectors was realized, it was decided to mount the extended connectors on the outside of the track run only. this was only a stop gap measure, but was used till the end of the war. The true resolution to this problem was the advent of the Easy Eight (E8) HVSS suspension with its 23" wide T66 track.
On the up side, Years ago I'd bought a Verlinden armored ammo trailer to use with an Italeri CCKW I'd gotten, but since has bought the farm. I still had the trailer after all these years, and had seen a picture of the trailer with some M4A3(75)s and had planned on using it parked as in the picture until I ran across a picture a few minutes ago of the very vehicle I'm modeling with this kit. The picture on page 32 of Concord's M4 Sherman at War (1942-1945) shows an M4A3(105mm) with the tactical hull number "58" from the 6th Armored Division driving through a village somewhere near the Ardenne, towing an armored ammo trailer. FORTUITOUS!!! The kit decals are for two specific tanks, Houston Kid II, and Number 58. I'd planned on using the 6th Armored's tank, as I liked the large numbers. As happy as I was finding this picture, I found that at the same time, my project just became a little bit harder... Number 58 is equipped with T48 tracks with Extended end connectors, which pretty much dictates I have to break out the AFV Club T48s I have. Individual link and end connectors... Individual links, individual end connectors, and individual extended duck bills. The AFV Club T-48 track kit gives you the option of assembling the track with or without end connectors. See the picture below. The Links are in the center section flanked top and bottom by the duckbills, and the end connectors themselves up the left and right sides. This is one sprue. Tracks for one tank takes SIX of these sprues. 168 Track pads, 336 end connectors and 120 duckbills.
Each track pad has a prominent raised circle on the roadwheel side that must be removed, each sprue attachment point must be trimmed away, and everything assembled. Its a long, time consuming process, but the results are amazing.
More to come...
EDIT: LUCK!!! I remembered I had an Academy M4A2/3 Marine tank with the Wading trunks and had a hunch that tank had the rubbery T48 tracks with the duckbills, and BINGO!!! I checked the kit and the tracks were indeed the T48 with the extended end connectors. The Tamiya M4A3 105 comes with T48s, without the end connectors, while their early release comes with T54 all steel track with extended end connectors. I think a swap is in order!!!
Edited by mpguy80/08, 18 April 2010 - 11:41 AM.