Recently, I started building the new I Heart Kit M3A1 Lee for the Plastic Posse Podcast’s M3/M4 Group Build.
Before we get into it, yes, I Heart Kit is a stupid name for a kitmaker. Whatever. It’s an imprint of Trumpeter and everything in the box screams Trumpeter, from the sprues to the instructions to the bags to the little insert of releases. Why the imprint with a stupid name? Dunno.
Anyway, as I went into the M3A1, I had thoughts.
Since COVID remade the world and set me to working from home, I’ve found that chucking together armor kits helps me work in a number of ways. It tamps down Zoom anxiety and helps keep me from getting distracted by the glories of the internet on long calls. It helps me background process concept ideas and clears my mind when I’m trying to crack a particularly tricky bit of copy.
As a result, I’ve built a lot of tanks since March 2020. And a lot of them have been of the volute suspension variety.
So when I started the IHK M3A1, I’d already banked some pretty recent experience in VVSS suspensions, and I’d learned a few lessons.
First, I always fuck myself with the suspension bogeys. The fit is always there, but not there enough to hold them in place with any kind of handling. So I glue them. And then I can’t work around them later for paint and weathering.
Second, mounting live-type tracks is a huge pain in the ass. Holding the tracks taught while securing them? Not enjoyable in any way.
The I Heart Kit Problem
Overall, the IHK M3A1 is a damn pretty okay kit. The only real complaint I have is the absolutely asinine approach the kit takes to tracks, but I rarely use kit tracks anyway, so I’m not really put out by that.
One place where it does frustrate, though, is its dinky bogey mounts. These consist of two little pins, and kind of a U-shaped collar. Plenty if you’re gluing them, but they won’t even support the lower hull and stand on their own.
This was unacceptable, so I decided to have a go at making a more workable solution that would give me a secure fit, but also let me pull them on and off as needed.
That’s right. Magnets.
I’ve used magnets before to secure ordnance to aircraft, or in a more extreme case, the entire engine and cowling of a 1/32 P-47 to the fuselage.
But I’ve never used magnets with an armor build before.
So here’s what I did.
First, I drilled six 5mm holes in the lower hull, between the tiny little bogey mounting holes.
Second, I cut some strips of metal roof flashing and superglued them to some square styrene tube.
Third, I glued two 4x2mm neodymium magnets to the backside of each bogey, using the holes drilled in the lower hull as placement guides and installing them from the inside.
Fourth, once those magnets dried, I used THEM to help locate the flashing inside the lower hull, and glued that shit down tight.
The result? A surprisingly strong hold for the bogeys that keeps them in place, but also 100% removable.
I also got sick of the sprockets slipping off all the time, so after checking that I had some clearance between the end of the sprocket mounts and the inside of the sprocket itself, I glued two magnets on each side, one of the mount, one buried deep inside the sprocket wheel itself, and magnetized yet another part of the running gear.
Aside from ease of painting, what’s the point of this exactly?
Well, I discovered the true utility of this magnetic silliness today when I was trying to mount up the Masterclub T41 tracks.
My first attempt, with all the running gear in place and me placing the final end connectors in situ, was about one link too long, but I couldn’t go any shorter and actually close the loop.
The result was a very noticeable slackness between the rear bogey and the idler.
After fretting about this for a bit, I decided to rip everything off and mount the tracks with just the sprocket and idler. Then I shoved the bogeys back into place, starting with the front, then the rear, then the middle. Once I worked them to their mounting plates, the magnets helped them find their way home, and the result was a much better looking track profile.
Stupid? Yes. Effective? Also yes.
As far as I’m concerned, magnetizing VVSS bogeys is now standard operating procedure for my future builds.