1/35 Tamiya Challenger 1, Part 1


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.

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Scaling Back…


Earlier this year, I abandoned 1/48 scale in favor of the larger 1/32 scale. For the most part, I’ve had no regrets. Among World War I and World War II subjects, 1/32 feels like the scale that’s seeing the most innovation.

But I can’t say the same about more modern aircraft.

After much deliberation, I’ve made the decision to go back to 1/48 scale – for modern aircraft only.

There are several factors that, taken together, make too powerful an argument for 1/48 over 1/32 when it comes to lawn darts and boring gray triangles.


Modern jets are big. Even the diminutive F-16 dwarfs basically every single-engine prop job. Larger twin-farters like the F-4 or F-15? They’re positively monstrous. Thanks to relatively manageable wingspans, my display cabinets could accommodate them, but only a few, since the sheer size would quickly eat up available room.

Consider the F-15. It’s 64 feet long with a 43-foot wingspan. In 1/32, that works out to 24 x 16 inches – longer than a 1/32 B-25, and wider than a 1/32 P-47. In 1/48, the Eagle works out to 16 x 10.75 inches. In other words, more or less similar in terms of footprint to a 1/32 Jug. That’s nothing to sneeze at, but it’s way more manageable.

Ultimately, 1/48 jets fall into my sweet spot of kits that fall between 10×10 and 18×18. Just like 1/32 props.

Kit Quality and Selection

Let’s face it. Once you get past 1945, kit selection drops. Fast. For anything flying after 1960, it’s extremely rare to be able to choose between even two manufacturers. Want to build a MiG-21? Get ready to suffer Trumpeter’s kit. An F-4? Congrats, you get to pay way too much for an old Tamiya kit. F-16? There’s an exquisite Tamiya, a selection of dated Hasegawas (raised panel lines) and a line of Academy Falcons that look far nicer in the box than they actually go together. Want to build a MiG-29? There’s Revell’s sad effort. Or there’s Trumpeter’s MiG-29K and MiG-29M, only one of which is even in operational service.

Drop down to 1/48, and the options explode outward…and are continuing to expand. Great Wall’s MiG-29s are exquisite. Kitty Hawk is surprising left and right with interesting subjects. Hobby Boss is releasing a new F-84F and A-6A Intruder. For $20, you can get into the very good Revell F-15E Strike Eagle or F/A-18E Superbug. If you want to go with a MiG-21, there’s Eduard’s huge lineup to wade into.

Aftermarket Options

Aftermarket for 1/32 jets is improving, but it still pretty much sucks compared to what’s available for 1/32 props or 1/48 jets.

Marking Options

The state of play for 1/32 jet markings – in the form of decals and masks – is abysmal. Props are golden…there’s more decal support, plus the steady trickle of books + decals from Kagero and the like. And…props tend to sport larger and simpler markings that can be reproduced with custom paint masks. That’s just not the case for modern jets, which more or less require decals for many of their markings. Decal support is critical, but really lacking. I would say, from a completely subjective, non-scientific poll that consisted of me clicking around various websites, that the decal selection in 1/48 is at least four times greater than what’s to be had in 1/32.


So. When it comes to jets, I’m planning a general shift back to 1/48. Because reasons. Agree? Disagree? Sound off below.


So Many Choices…

With the F-16 transitioning to the Shelf of Doom, I’ve got some slack space on the bench.

So what should I tackle next? I’m torn between a stupid number of possibilities…so I’m opening it up to public opinion to help me narrow my focus.

Meng Leopard 1A3/4

I very much prefer the lines of the older Leopard 1 to the new, super-slopey Leopard 2. And this new kit from Meng is definitely hot off the presses.

Trumpeter MiG-23MLD Flogger-K

The Flogger isn’t my favorite aircraft, but it’s said to be a very good kit, and would be a great canvas for camoflage and weathering.

Wingnut Wings AMC DH.9

Wingnut’s Christmas surprise! I’m absolutely smitten by the Lobster and Hellenic schemes.

Trumpeter AD-4 Skyraider

The Sea Blue Able Dog! This one would be built with the wings folded and packing a ton of HVAR rockets.

Trumpeter A-1H Skyraider

The later-model A-1H Skyraider. Like the AD-4, it’s a gorgeous looking kit, with a MUCH better decal sheet. I normally avoid kit markings, but the sharkmouthed USAF “Sandy” is a must-do. This one would be built wings out, loaded down with ordnance.

Meng T-90A

This kit looks like a piece of art, and I dig the T-90 for not looking like some variant of the Abrams.

Meng FT Light Tank

One of the most influential tanks in history, the FT more or less informed all future tank design with the turret-mounted main armament. When I build this one, it will be as a US FT in Patton’s 304th Light Tank Brigade.

Wingnut Wings Sopwith Pup

I’ve already built Wingnut’s wonderful little Pup. This time around, I’d be fitting one out as a night trainer.

So, which one wins out? Vote above!

Sprue Cutters Union #22 – The Stash

The Combat Workshop‘s “Sprue Cutters Union” is akin to a group build, only with blog posts instead of builds. Every week, a new topic will be tossed out, and participating blogs will each write their own post on that topic.

This week’s topic:

I’ll show you my stash if you show me yours…

Ah, yes, the stash. The mark of (just about) any modeler with more money and imagination than time.

At the moment, my stash is in a bit of a transition, as I’m offloading the vast majority of my 1/48 kits and even a few 1/32 subjects that I just know deep down I will never build.

Of course, that hasn’t stopped me from snagging more kits! So…on to the stash.

We’ll start in the garage, around the bench. When I set up Bench Mk.II about two years ago, I recycled some Elfa shelving hardware to accomodate the stash.

Garage Stash Alpha

Garage Stash Alpha lives above my “Assembly Bench”, which, most of the time, is actually my “Cluttered with Crap and Unusable Bench”. This is generally reserved for smaller 1/32 kits – as you can see by the Wingnut and 109 boxes. The Hasegawas, being a bit bigger, get shoved on top.

Garage Station Bravo

Station Bravo is located high above and off to one side of my paint bench. It’s actually really a pain in the ass to get to, and generally entails precarious balance on a chair and hoping I don’t bash my head on the garage door track or accidentally knock my fluorescent light off its hooks and send it crashing onto the bench.

This may explain why I don’t build more armor.

Garage Station Charlie

Garage Station Charlie is mostly dedicated to larger kits – or at least larger boxes. Several Tamiy and Trumpeter kits reside here. And way, way up at the top, you’ll find the small collection of 1/48 kits I’m keeping around.

There are more kits in the garage, squirreled away in various nooks, but there’s no way of really recording them all without this post becoming crazy-ridiculous. So let’s move on to the Stash Annex, located in what we call the computer room, even though there is no longer a computer in it.

Stash Annex

The Stash Annex is generally populated by larger kits that don’t really have a place in the garage – for instance my HK B-25, most of my modern jet kits, Trumpeter’s Mi-24 Hind and 1/24 Bf 109G-10, and so on. And yes. These are on top of my display cabinets. I really should probably do something about that.

And the Rest

Not pictured here is my collection of aftermarket…stuff. Decals and resin and photo etch. This is because it’s all scattered. A lot of PE and resin resides with the applicable kits. Decals are generally separated and kept together in a little file box thing. There’s nothing particularly photo-worthy with either of these. But…they’re around.

Poland on Ice

Peter Finch - Network

I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to…well you get the idea.

My first go at a modern jet, a Polish F-16D built from Academy’s 1/32 F-16I Sufa, has felt cursed from the start, when the Eduard PE turned out to be such a bust. From that point, the only luck I’ve had with the kit has actually been with aftermarket components – namely the wonderful Wolfpack cockpit and Aires gear bay. Everything else has been a mess.

I’ve been pushing through since sometime in late October, but I swear, every single time I turn around, there’s another problem that pops up. Another thing that doesn’t fit or another technique that goes horribly awry.

And so, I’m done. In another time, I might push through. With more jets under my belt, I might push through. But this kit has been sucking the fun out of my bench time for nearly two months now, with no signs of improving. I mean, now that I’ve got the fuselage together, I have to deal with:

  • The exhaust butt-ring thing doesn’t match the shape of the rear fuselage.
  • The nose cone doesn’t match the shape of the forward fuselage. There are overhangs.
  • The engine exhuast looks terrible. There is no resin option for the late P&W engine.
  • Filling and sanding will be the mother of all pains in the ass.
  • The kit plastic has a weird pebble-ish texture to it. Not smooth like it should be.

How many more months would I be looking at before I could even contemplate paint? No. Screw that. I’ll revisit this one later, after I have a few other jets under my belt and have a better sense of what I need to worry about and what I don’t. And hopefully at that point, it will actually be fun.

Until then, the Polish F-16 is being relegated to the Shelf of Doom. Apologies to all who have been following along.

2013 – The Year in Review

The year is wrapping up and 2014 is just around the corner, so it’s time indulge in that time-honored tradition: the retrospective!

2013 has been a year of upheaval and, in some respects, a year of survival. A layoff, a new job, and a third kid have definitely contributed to what I can only call life’s relentless pace. Modeling has been a very welcome refuge, even as my tastes have shifted toward larger scales and my output has fallen off.

In 2012, I managed to polish off 11 kits. This year, I only saw 7 through to completion, but fully 6 of those were 1/32 and larger.

In 2014, I’m hoping to return to around 9-10 completions – something I think is easily attainable if I can stay away from the rash of false starts that have plagued me this year.

Anyway, on to the builds, presented here in the order in which they were completed:

1/48 Hobby Boss Messerschmitt Me 262A-1a/U4 – February (45 days)

1/32 Trumpeter P-47D-27 Thunderbolt – March (118 days)

1/32 Wingnut Wings Sopwith 7F.1 Snipe – May (71 days)

1/16 Panda Pz.Kpfw 38(t) – July (48 days)

1/32 Promodeller Messerschmitt Bf 109G-4/R6 – September (54 days)

1/32 Revell Messerschmitt Bf 109G-6 – September (44 days)

1/32 Hasegawa Nakajima Ki-84 Hayate – October (51 days)

1/32 Trumpeter Me 262A-2a, Part I


Part I | Part II| Part III

When the Academy F-16 build began running into roadblock after roadblock, I started searching about for something else to share the bench. And damn did I ever vacillate. Until I somehow stumbled upon this profile of a Messerschmitt Me 262A-2a:

It seems this particular specimen was left abandoned in a field in Austria after its port maingear collapsed.

I’m not sure if I’m going to try to tackle this sucker as a diorama setup yet, or just build it as is, but either way it’ll definitely be a looker. I’ve even got an idea of how I’m going to tackle all the puttied panel joints, but I’m going to save that until I start painting.

For now, on with getting this sucker off the ground! Continue reading