I tend to go on at great length about engineering and fit of different model kits.
Now, a lot of people tend to bundle these together. But I view them as two separate things. Think of it a bit like the difference between a story and acting in a movie.
Engineering is all about the plan. The design. How something is supposed to go together. It’s, in essence, the story of the build.
Fit is all about execution. The plan is already in place. Now it’s a matter of doing. If engineering is how parts are supposed to fit together, fit is how well they actually do.
With most kits, there’s a breakdown. Usually because the engineering is making promises the fit can’t back up. You also have instances where the engineering is simply not builder-friendly. This is where you have parts that require four hands to get together, or places where you have to commit to something long before you’re able to test fit it with another assembly, only to find out down the road that you fucked yourself because you glued, I don’t know, part D38 in at slightly the wrong angle. Not that you could confirm the angles because you couldn’t test fit in the first place.
Tamiya gets it right
Thanks to the coronapocalypse, I’ve been working remotely since mid-March. And in that time, I’ve been going on what I call a volute-from-home adventure. Basically, when I’m thinking, or when I’m on conference calls, any time I’d typically be doodling or fighting the temptation to fall down the rabbit hole of the internet, I’ve instead been working on tanks. Mostly Shermans and Sherman-adjacent subjects. An Asuka M4A1. A Takom M31 recovery vehicle. A Rye Field Firefly Vc. All good kits, but all a bit sloppy in certain areas – a big one coming where the upper hull and lower hull join at the front glacis and transmission housing.
On most Sherman kits, the fit here is…fine. If you glue it. But it’s not great. And it is high enough up and prominent enough that you can’t hide glue work later on, after paint. So…you have to commit. Which can make loading the tracks later on a bit of a hassle.
Then, I started working on Tamiya’s Korea-era M4A3E8.
Tamiya does something rather different. Simple, but very clever from an engineering standpoint.
They have you install a little tab on the inside of the glacis.
See, what this little tab does is ensure that the glacis and transmission cover sit in perfect alignment. Versus the butt join or weird little shelf bullshit seen in other Sherman kits.
This one is very builder friendly, in that it allows you to easily build, test fit, geek out about how cool your Sherman is looking, and then pop the upper hull off to get at shit and make painting and weathering a bit easier and less a game of getting into nooks and crannies.
As for fit – this is it with minimal cleanup. Even with some high spots from the sprue gates that need flattening, the fit is very good. But that’s Tamiya for you.
A lot of times, good kit engineering isn’t a bunch of ambitious clever bullshit. Often it’s just a simple tab that helps hold your shit together so you don’t have to.