AFV Club Achilles Build Report 3: Decals, Details, and Track Issues

With World War II aircraft, I feel like I’ve found a pretty satisfactory build process. Obviously each bird has its own small variations, but for the most part, the process is at least similar.

Not so with armor.

The Achilles has been a logistical nightmare for me. A confused series of subassemblies that can’t come together until this part is painted, or that part is detailed, or what-have-you. Keeping track of all of these different assemblies and steps has felt somewhat akin to playing chess, where you’re always having to think three, four, five moves ahead. But slowly, surely, the tank destroyer is moving forward.

In this build report, I’ll cover off on the decals, some of the detail work, and an extremely frustrating discovery regarding AFV Club’s vinyl tracks.

Decals

I’ve bounced around considerably when it comes to painting and markings on this Achilles…but I finally landed on a vehicle serving with the British 93rd Anti-Tank Regiment in Italy in 1944. I’m very much still finding my feet when it comes to armor, and so I figured I’d keep it simple again, with a plain green paint scheme. The 93rd Anti-Tank includes a few colorful markings, and big ol’ stars on the sides of the hull, so hey, why not?

I also decided – rather than glossing the entire vehicle, to try brushing Future over the areas where the decals were going, then went a step further by using Future to set the decals, rather than traditional decal setting and solvent solutions. This worked really well at killing any decal silvering, but the areas that were treated with Future were still readily apparent after a coat of flat clear was applied. Next time, I will be glossing the entire vehicle.

Details

I’ve been doing a lot of work with the turret detail. Drybrushing, adding some 17-pounder APDS ammo, various straps and other details. It’s been slow, meticulous work, and it’s still in progress, but it’s also looking pretty great. Really can’t wait to the strapwork on the turret sides once they’re all weathered up.

This is also an instance of subassemblies playing hell with logistics, as I have to complete all the interior work before I can lock down the gun and forward turret plate. Ugh!

In terms of detailing, the Tasca M2 is also mostly wrapped up.

Still plenty of more work to be done, both in the interior, and on the outside – I’m still waiting for the exhaust, the pioneer tools, and a few other random goodies that’ll be dotting the outside.

That and…

Tracks

The Achilles comes with AFV Club’s vinyl T51 tracks. On whole, these are well detailed, or as well detailed as possible for tracks sporting big, flat rubber blocks. Unfortunately, they are way too short.

The first time I tried to test fit them, they snapped where they join. So I attacked the link with Gator’s Grip glue (excellent shear strength) and tried again. They snapped again, this time in a much less favorable location.

Gah!

Considering how far these things have to stretch, I really don’t trust them now that they’ve been so compromised, so I pulled out a pair of T49 tracks I’d purchased for and never used on my Tamiya M4 Sherman.

They’re too short, as well…

What the hell, AFV Club?

I understand that VVSS (Vertical Volute Spring Suspension) vehicles ran taut tracks, but you could easily get that tautness by making the tracks 2-3 millimeters too short, not three quarters of an inch! The amount that the rubber bands have to stretch causes worries not just regarding the long-term durability of the tracks (under that kind of tension, how long until the join fails?), but also regarding the suspension itself.

Rather than break yet another set of rubber band tracks, I’ve decided to pick up a set of Friul metal tracks instead.

I’ve been looking forward to trying my hand at Friuls for some time now, and as a bonus, these will provide me a few extra links that I can slap onto the hull as spare track (something I couldn’t do with the vinyl T51s, since the parts for the spare track look terrible).

Since I’m very nearly to the weathering stages of the build, and I can’t really break into the weathering until I have the tracks completed, I’m going to have to call a work stoppage on the Achilles for the next week or so.

When I return, though, it’ll be all about weathering the mean 17-pounder.

Overall Impressions Thus Far

While I really like the subject , I’m not at all won over by AFV Club’s kit. It’s needlessly fussy in areas. The prominent ejector pin marks on exposed surfaces offer a pointless headache. The vague fits are frustrating, and the short tracks are, in my opinion, inexcusable.

I have every intention of finishing this kit and hopefully making it look pretty damn cool, but it will probably be some time before I tackle another AFV Club kit, especially with the wondrous variety available from Dragon, Tasca, Tamiya, Bronco and Trumpeter.

4 thoughts on “AFV Club Achilles Build Report 3: Decals, Details, and Track Issues

  1. Doogs,You crepy ahead of me on my own AFV M10 build [ Had to spend the weekend helping sis move to Martha’s vineyard,poor girl ].I’m about to assemble the bogie’s on the suspension & noted that my M-10 has what appears to be Vinyl ,black airbags,for lack of another word where I would expect springs.In your photo’s of painting before assembling,I didn’t see them.If Your Achille’s had them,did you leave them black ?Other U.S. tanks w/ that suspension that I’ve built ,I always painetd them O.D. w/ the rest of the components.You obviously do more research than I,was I wrong then or is AFV wrong in them being black ? Thanks for the head’s up on the track shortage dilemna,perhaps I can prevent that by positioning everything before a drop of cement is placed on the suspension. keith r.

    • Keith…I didn’t paint the spring packs…worried about reactions with the vinyl. Besides, they’re pretty much not visible once the bogies are installed.

      Good luck with the bogies…they do fit together pretty well, but they’re a bit fiddly in the process. I found working on the two “lower” pins and the return roller helped get things started in the right direction.

      Also, good luck with the track. Sounds like the M10 comes with the T49 cleat tracks? If so, I’d be prepared for them to be too short, since that’s the exact track I tried the second time around. I’m sure it’ll work out. I’ve seen built M10s and Achilles’ with the kit tracks installed, so it’s definitely me screwing something up…

  2. Thanks,Doogs,on the assembly tips for he bogie’s.I forgot to mention How good it’s coming along.I think you made the right choice w/ the Fruil tracks.I love those tings & If I had the financial resources,They’d be purchased with every AFV i buy.Just the weight of them always seeems to give the right sag [ not usually a concern with U.S. stuff, but also the way they take to weathering & wear appearance.I just wish they werent so pricey.I know most folks automativally purchase metal barrel’s & P.E which have there merit’s ,to be sure.But give me those Fruil tracks anyday [especially when compared to Dragon’s sometimes “Not so magic” tracks.If wishes were horses….. Thanks,again, keith r.

  3. Great looking build so far Doogs. The ammo looks pretty amazing. This whole track thing is a nightmare. Keep us informed re the Friul tracks.

    Looking good on the ipad by the way! Cheers, Ian

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