Sunday, February 28, 2010

Project: 1/1000 Refit Enterprise

The Enterprise has been an iconic image within the Science Fiction genre for decades. There have been many variants of the ship, from toys to model kits, and while all these attempts have been worthy in one form or another, the new Polar Lights (a sub brand of Round 2, specializing in Sci-fi, monster kits and the like, in the tradition of the old Aurora model company) goes into a league of its own. There really hasn't been a good quality mid-scale kit of the refit version of the ship in styrene, with Polar Lights 1/350 scale kit clearly on the large end, while a small scale (1/2500) version  was included in the 3-ship Enterprise set (including the Original version, as well as the -D version from Next Generation). There was of course the old AMT/Ertl 1/537 scale kit, but it was in an odd scale ("box" scale, or scaled to be of sufficient size to fit in a standard sized box), as well as having a lot of questionable details.

Polar Lights had put out a snap-tite kit of the Original series Enterprise, as well as a Klingon D-7, and launched the new 1/1000 scale (a nice compromise between size and detail). Both were received positively, not just because of their quality, but also because of their abandonment of the dreaded box scale. This gave SF modelers the feeling that they were finally a "respected" branch of the hobby (military, naval, and auto modeling branches had abandoned "box" scale sometime in the early '60s). Alas there were road blocks in the way: Polar Lights, which had aquired Ertl/AMT along with their collectable car lines, was aquired by Racing Champions, which had little interest in the injection molded SF kit industry, so the lines were cancelled and all of the classic Trek kits (along with a fair number of classic Star Wars kits as well) languished while RC concentrated on NASCAR collectable toys.

Hope emerged from Round2, aquiring a lot of the classic AMT and PL molds, and now producing kits of their own.

And it was worth the wait.


The new Polar Lights kit has been much anticipated, and not just by me. 1/1000 is close to being a "perfect" scale: big enough to hold good detail, but small enough that you can have an actual collection. 

Comparisons to the old Original fit of the Enterprise that had been released previously is natural. Although the Refit kit is a "snap-tite" kit, there has been no real compromise in detail, and in terms of construction is significantly better than the old kit, but with a similar number of options. Like the original kit, it uses an extensive amount of transparent parts, a nod to those that with to light up their kits. In addition construction is logical and almost effortless. This is the single best kit of the Enterprise on the market today in the "mid-range" scale, and far better than the old AMT kit.

Surface detail remains very good, and a respectable representation can be made from the kit.
 The biggest surprise -- a welcome one -- is the extensive decal sheet. Aimed at aiding modelers in portraying the correct "aztec" pattern of hull paneling, it represents these patterns as conventional water-transfer decals. While not an original method (aftermarket manufacturers have done something similar in the past), this is the first commercal kit to my knowledge that adds this feature. All of this comes on a set of three decal sheets!

If you could buy only one Trek model, this definitely should be it!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Project: 1/48 Jagdpanzer 38(t) "Hetzer" Progress.

Here's the progress on the Hetzer. As can be seen, major assembly is mostly done, and I've applied the first basecoat of Dark Yellow. In the background can be seen one of the camouflage schemes, a pattern often referred to as "Ambush." It consisted of alternating bands of Dark Yellow, Red-brown and Green, with dots of the other two colors on each segment (thus, the dark yellow segments would have dots of red-brown and green). This scheme was factory applied, and while it is very popular among modelers and wargamers, it was also fairly short lived, only applied during the Autumn of 1944, per all of my references.

As can be seen, the tracks and suspension have been fully assembled and "primed" black. I normally do not prime the model (or, if I do -- such as if the plastic is very dissimilar from the final vehicle color -- I usually use a neutral gray tone), tracks require a great deal of weathering. What I will do is paint and weather the tracks, then hand paint the wheels.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Project: KV-1 w/Applique Armor Progress

As can be seen, this model is almost done! Not much more needs to be done, except attach the return rollers above the suspension, paint the machine guns (2, one in the hull seen in the foreground, as well as a second in the rear of the turret), and finally the exhausts. On tanks like the KV-1, the exhausts quickly weathered due to engine heat and the fact that they are constructed of less durable sheet metal. Although there are a lot of different rust effects you can do with paint, I'm planning on picking up a set of Rustall, to get an authentic rust effect on the exhuasts. It will be the first time using this product, and I look forward to it.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Project: 1/48 KV-1 w/Applique Armor

When the Germans invaded the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941, despite the massive successes and battles-of-encirclement that occurred, there were nonetheless a few nasty surprises for them. One of which was the KV-1, a tank (along with the T-34) the Germans had no knowledge of before Operation Barbarossa.

A heavy tank, the KV-1 featured very heavy armor and a 76.2mm cannon in a fully rotating turret. Initial versions, like the T-34, mounted the 76.2mm L/35 L-11 cannon, with poor performance, but was later fitted with the 76.2mm L/40 F-34 cannon of much better performance.

This model depicts the latter, also with the addition of "Applique" supplemental armor around the turret and hull sides. A brutal weapon system, engage-able only through air-power or heavy anti-tank guns (such as the dual-role 88mm FlaK-18 or FlaK-36), this tank as well as its stablemate were ineffectively employed by a Soviet Army that had been gutted by Stalin's purges of the 1930's. Through superior tactics, the Germans managed to cope with this weapon.

Tamiya continues with it's 1/48 line, and like many of the other kits in this range, the KV-1 continues to feature a die-cast hull. This time, it is a bit better than many of the others, with decent detail. However, it still suffers from fixed torsion bars, limiting detail and modeler choices. As usual the tracks are of the "link-n-length" style, and are well molded.

I don't have a lot of Soviet tanks, and this is the first KV-1 in my collection. Nonetheless, it should look suitably impressive next to its German contemporaries, such as the early Panzer IIIs or IVs, or the Panzer 38(t)!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Project: 1/48 Jagdpanzer 38(t) "Hetzer"

As the war began to turn against Germany in 1943, a number of new weapon systems were developed by the Germans. One of these was the Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer, a lightweight assault gun/tank destroyer on the proven and reliable Panzer (38(t) chassis (in fact, a pre-war Czech design). It mounted the 75mm L/48 PaK 39 cannon in a limited traverse mounting, supplemented with a remote-control MG-34 machine gun. Although lightly armored for the standards of the day (50mm sloped), it was a rugged, successful design that survived post-war in Swiss service as the G-13.

Tamiya released the Hetzer kit early on, and still remains one of the better kits in the range. While still saddled with the cast metal lower hull, the detail is overall good, and at the time was the only Hetzer you could buy from Tamiya (later they would release a 1/35 scale version). Like most Tamiya 1/48 scale kits, it also has very well rendered "link-n-length) tracks in hard plastic. For some models, this is unneccessary (particularly US tanks which use "live" tracks), but on vehicles such as the ones used by the Germans, there should be a lot of sag, and that is well molded in this kit.

Although this is labeled as a "mid-production" variant, there are already after-market vendors offering conversions to later or earlier variants.

While the Germans manufactured a lot of equipment of questionable efficiency, the Hetzer is not one of them, and remained an effective vehicle throughout the war.