The last few months have been tough ones. After finishing off the Hasegawa Ki-84 toward the end of October, I hit a rocky patch marked by an ultimately losing battle with Academy’s 1/32 F-16I Sufa kit. The Trumpeter Me 262 lives on, but I’m currently stuck waiting for some materials before I can move it into the painting stage, so I’ve opted to go for a nice, simple build in the interim.
And there is nothing more simple and straightforward than a 1980s-vintage Tamiya armor kit.
I’m not a huge fan of modern armor – the M1 Abrams bores me to tears, and the Leopard 2 and Challenger 2…meh. But for some reason I absolutely adore the original Challenger 1. Like all proper British designs, it manages to look at once both sleek and rough around the edges. And it has (had) more going for it than just its looks. Despite a generally poor reputation, the Challenger kicked all kinds of ass in Desert Storm, where it matched and even exceeded the US Army’s vaunted Abrams.
While it’s greatest exploits took place in the desert, I’ve chosen to go with the traditional European camoflage, and to attempt something I’ve thus far shied away from – setting this tank on a base. My inspiration comes from the picture below, of a Challenger cruising down a muddy track through a snowy field.
The base will come later, however. First, the tank needs building. I’m not going to bother with the individual steps or go into detail here – Tamiya kits of this vintage are remarkably fast builds. Wherever possible, I stuck to my favorite armor construction method of welding parts together from the inside to avoid leaving any glue marks.
The build progressed rapidly, with the only real cleanup taking place where the two halves of the main barrel joined up.
I also left off some bits…the pioneer tools, the cupola machine gun, the spare tracks and jerry cans destined for the rear of the tank, and the handful of clear bits that I’ll fit far nearer to the end of the build. All of these will be added after the main camo work is done.
In the past, I’ve always built the hull, built the turret, then painted, and added the running gear nearer to the end.
This time around, I’m going to go in a different direction, and fully finish out the tracks and wheels before I close up the hull. But there’s no reason I can’t give everything a decent base coat first.
To begin, I primed the tank with Gunze Mr. Finishing Surfacer 1500.
Next, I painted the tank with a mix of XF-65 Field Gray and XF-67 NATO Green. This seems a better match than the “Dark Olive Green” called out in the instructions.
The green was applied heavily thinned and in a patchwork fashion, using the black base to create some baked-in shading.
Tracks and Wheels
With the Challenger base-coated, I moved on to the tracks and wheels. The tracks I primed (again, with MFS 1500), then painted with a thinned mixture of Tamiya XF-52 Flat Earth and XF-82 Ocean Grey. The metal portions of the tracks were further treated to Vallejo Umber Shade Game Colour Wash, while the wheels got some Vallejo Dark Green Wash. The rubber track pads and rubber portions of the wheels were then painted with Vallejo Black Grey.
Here’s a test-fit of the tank with the running gear and side skirts fitted.
Next up, I’ll be weathering the wheels, tracks and sides of the lower hull before closing things up and dealing with the rest of the tank. But first, I need to get my base started so I can color-match between the mud on the tracks and on the ground.
Stay tuned for some novice base building in Part 2!