An early Abrams – and a community’s value

  • 31 posts
  • Last reply 3 months ago
  • 1/35, Abrams, M1, Panda Hobby
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  • Boris Rakic said 8 months, 3 weeks ago:

    A while ago I posted some articles on iModeler showing my build of an M911 C-HET US tank transporter. This thing seems to have struck a chord with the former tankers in our community, and the articles got quite some comments, including photographs from the personal collections of fine gentlemen like Louis Gardner and Jeff Bailey.
    One of these pictures in particular got me thinking. It shows an early M1 Abrams in the winter of 1984/85 in Germany, with a field-applied white wash over the Forest Green base color. I must admit I never thought of building an early Abrams, as their plain looks and short time in service just did not float my boat. But this one was different. And seeing as Panda Hobby had released an M1 not too long ago, I thought I could give it a try.
    I contacted Jeff and asked him if it would be ok for him if I built that kit based on the picture he had provided. After all, it showed “his” tank, these things are somewhat personal to former service members (heck, I still remember the serial number of the first assault rifle that was issued to me 22 years ago), and I wanted to prevent future awkwardness.
    To say that Jeff was ok with it would be a gross understatement. Over the last couple of weeks we have been in regular contact, and he provided me with an incredible amount of information regarding his Abrams. Thank you, Jeff!
    Anyway, here is the progress so far. The Panda kit is nice, although it might seem a bit old-school at first glance. There are not too many parts in the box (apart from the single-link tracks that is), but what is there looks good.

    I have already assembled the tracks, and they go together nicely. They are supposed to be workable, but many of the end connectors are a rather loose fit and prone to fall off, so I glued each one of them in place on one of the track pads, leaving it moveable on the next one. The insides of the track pads show sink marks on roughly two thirds of the pieces. As only the bottom run of the track will be visible in the end, I had to fill just about 20 of the parts and assembled the track in a way that all the “good” pieces without sink marks would end up on the bottom run.

    The drive sprockets come in three parts each and correctly depict the lightening holes. When gluing them together, you end up with a visible seam which needs to be filled. Each road wheel consist of five parts, including a clear hub. Still thinking about how to recreate the lubricant on the inside of the hub…

    The hull suffers from shallow sink marks at the rear end of the sides, and the seam beween upper and lower hull shows quite a gap which needed to be filled – as the rearmost side skirt will be left off, this area will remain visible and should be taken care of. The removal of the last side skirt also means the rear fender parts needed to be altered. I cut away the lower portion on both sides and drilled small holes where the attachment bolts for these parts would go.

    So far the only area in need of work is the rear of the turret. The fit of the rear plate is a bit sloppy, and in order to fill the seams I had to remove all the detail molded onto that part. At the same time I filled the attachment slots for the fuel can holders on the sides of the turret, as these slots are not necessary and might remain visible otherwise.

    That’s the progress so far. With everything else going on at my workbench right now, it is a slower build than I would have liked, but I hope to get to the painting stage in the next two weeks.

    7 attached images. Click to enlarge.

  • Michel Verschuere said 8 months, 3 weeks ago:

    Great project Boris, looking forward to see this one grow!

  • Jeff Bailey said 8 months, 3 weeks ago:

    Ahhhh, yes! My old Panzer! Boris, @raikisan when this is all finished, I’d love to have a picture of YOUR model of MY old M1 on your recently finished M911 C-HET. (It’s a bit corn-fusing, isn’t it?>!)

    Jolly good, mein Freund!

  • david leigh-smith said 8 months, 3 weeks ago:

    Such a great inspiration for a project. I remember looking at those photos, they look a lot more in the past than they actually are. Got me thinking about time pre and post internet. Now we all have great cameras in our pockets. Days gone by in the pre internet age always seem to feel further back. I don’t know, world got smaller and people got busier. These are different days.

    All of which is to say that it’ll be great to see ‘Uncle Jeff’s Abrams on that (pretty amazing) transporter. A true ‘iModeler project’.

  • Boris Rakic said 8 months, 3 weeks ago:

    Thanks guys! This build has been a lot of fun so far, and I cannot wait to start painting it. Been thinking about putting it on a base with snow and all, but I have practically no experience with winter scenes apart from a test piece I did while ago. Looks like I am in at the deep end again…

    Jeff @mikegolf, I will absolutely do that! Let’s see if the C-HET can at least handle a 1/35 Abrams without breaking down 😀

    David @dirtylittlefokker, that’s so true. I’ve ben going through a load of photographs from the 70s and 80s the other day, looking for info on an elusive US camouflage scheme. And what little photos are there look like they were shot a hundred years ago, all grainy and blurry. Imagine how much material we would have if everyone had an iPhone back then. Instagram would be full of people posting their field rations…

  • david leigh-smith said 8 months, 3 weeks ago:

    You can imagine on Facebook, “oh, man, this plan to land at Normandy sucks…”

  • Boris Rakic said 8 months, 3 weeks ago:

    😀 Dwight invited you to the event “Battle of the Bulge” – George and 40,000 others are also going.

  • Boris Rakic said 8 months, 1 week ago:

    Some progress has been made. Yay! I started painting the hull, as parts of it need to be finished before the side skirts are installed. Going over the hull once again I noticed a weird issue: Panda molded the left fuel filler cap rotated by 90°. The flat part should connnect to the hinges, so I carefully reshaped this area and added a new flat part from thin sheet styrene.
    As I had the paint already in the airbrush, I went ahead and primed the whole hull, the road wheels and the side skirts with Tamiya Flat Black. Next came a coat of Tamiya Field Grey XF-65, a pretty good match to FS34079 Forest Green. It is a bit too light, but that’s fine as subsequent weathering will darken the color quite a bit. Spraying the road wheels was a breeze, as Panda provides a PE masking template with the kit. Quite handy.
    The turret will need some more time and work. First, every thicker part suffers from sink marks – it seems Panda has not yet managed the art of molding these parts without introducing blemishes during the cooling process. Filling these marks destroys detail which needs to be rebuilt afterwards, so I added various bolts and other stuff to the turret’s back plate and the smoke launchers.
    Finally, the baskets on the sides of the turret require some carful cleanup. I managed to break only one small piece, but you really have to take your time. Fit to the turret is actually quite good, and I replicated the weld marks with a small dab of putty.
    Next up will be the fun part: Figuring out how to add all the detail specific to this vehicle. This includes:
    – Scratchbuilding the Amber beacon light
    – Adding the velcro straps for the MILES system to the turret
    – Adding camo netting and tape to the gun barrel
    – Adding all the stowage, tarps and straps to the rear of the turret

    6 attached images. Click to enlarge.

  • Craig Abrahamson said 8 months, 1 week ago:

    Gonna be a beauty, I can tell. 🙂

  • Boris Rakic said 8 months, 1 week ago:

    Today I have been busy adding some of the additional stuff for the “Jeff Tank”. The Hoffman device (basically a sophisticated way to shout “pew pew!” on exercises) comes from an old Tamiya set, the wiring is 0.3mm lead wire fixed with small pieces of Tamiya tape. I was able to find the technical manual describing installation of this simulation equipment, which makes life easier. The velcro strips for the MILES laser simulation system on the turret’s sides and rear are again Tamiya tape.
    The camo netting on the gun barrel comes from Verlinden (I am pretty sure I bought it before the Berlin wall came down) and was fixed in place with diluted white glue. After this had dried for about an hour, I wrapped a long strip of Tamiya tape around it and again secured it with white glue. Painting this tape white later on will sure be fun…
    Finally, the commander’s weapon station with the .50 cal machine gun looks okay-ish out of the box, but the receiver needs some filler after assembly.

    6 attached images. Click to enlarge.

  • Boris Rakic said 8 months, 1 week ago:

    Thanks Craig! Really enjoying this one.

  • Jeff Bailey said 8 months, 1 week ago:

    Hello, Boris! @raikisan
    The old Beast is coming along VERY nicely! Everything looks top notch. I see what you meant when you first told me about the back piece to the turret – you did a GREAT job replacing the bolt heads that had to be sanded off. What did you use – some of those Grant Line (not sure of the exact name) replacement bolt heads that Railroad modelers use so often? Whatever you did, it’s fine.
    Excellent job on the camo netting on the gun tube! There’s a rear sight & housing that’s moulded on to the Caliber 50 M2 machinengewehr receiver that needs to be removed. The hooded front sight (on the front end of the receiver) is OK. Some of our MGs had them, others didn’t. Mine didn’t. There IS a metal plate (under the sight that needs to be removed) that needs to be there, but if it’s gone, hardly anyone will notice. That metal plate is where the rear sight mounting fixtures would go, but those mount fixtures weren’t needed on the M2HB (HB = Heavy Barrel) we use/used on the M1 series of tanks. If you have an extra roadwheel (they often come in “detail” sets) you can add it on top of the turret. On the top left and right sides of the turret are 4 large bolt heads in a square pattern that nothing bolts to them. Those are for a lifting fixture that is only used at the factory. Therefore, we always loosened one of those bolts (with our 30mm socket, as I recall) that are simply used to fill the holes, put a roadwheel there & put the bolt back in place. That ended up being a great place to stash your Kevlar helmet, a couple boxes of MREs, the loader’s LBE (Load Bearing Equipment or personal weapon/ammo/first aid pouch belt) or any number of other things you often needed quickly when getting on/off the tank but couldn’t chance losing, and you didn’t want to take the time to put it in a sponson box or your ruck sack. The cable for the Hoffman device would need to be moved slightly if you put the extra roadwheel on top. Also, on the TC’s weapon station there is a mount for the power-traverse handle for the TC’s cupola. It should be bright silver. It’s visible in your picture as the piece of fixture right at the highest point of the photo, on the protective housing for the TC’s MG sight. (Confused??? Sorry!!!) It’s kind of small and is visible almost in the center of the photograph, just a bit to the Right. I’ll call you if you need more answers or clarification.

    Gee … aren’t you happy you asked me for a few details and suggestions? LoL!

    Again, splendid work my friend!

  • Boris Rakic said 8 months, 1 week ago:

    Jeff, mein Freund @mikegolf! Thanks for the additional info – I did miss the spare wheel on the turret, but now you mentioned it I can clearly see it. Interesting detail on the .50cal as well, will remove the sights right away.
    Your description of the power-traverse handle makes sense – being confused is my natural state of mind, so don’t worry 😀
    The one big thing still missing before I can start painting the turret is all the personal gear. It looks like you guys had all your stuff neatly (?) wrapped in a tarp behind the turret hatches. I would assume 4 sleeping bags, rucksacks (did you use medium ALICE packs?) and other small stuff. Apart from that you mentioned using three jerry cans, one plastic and two old-style metal ones. There is one jerry can holder inside the left turret basket, so I guess the other two cans were just placed wherever they fit?
    Thanks for all your help – trying to build one specific vehicle (instead of a “generic” representation) is quite the experiece!


  • Jeff Bailey said 8 months, 1 week ago:

    Hey, Buddy! @raikisan I’m glad you understood how I meant the TC’s Cupola power traverse handle. It IS sort of confusing, or it can be. It’s really easy when you actually SEE one, but trying to explain it can be problematic. I’ll add this: Except when preparing to fire, we seldom had the handle “up top.” Most TCs didn’t use theirs, anyway. I did. It required quite a bit of practice to get all the coordination needed to use the power operation of the M2 50 cal correctly. Most TCs didn’t care to take the TIME required to practice enough to successfully use the system to use it’s full advantages – and frankly, it COULD be done manually quite easily. Also, during the timeframe of that photo, I was the Gunner, not the TC. I was still an E-5 Sergeant, though I WAS still a Sergeant (or “Buck Sergeant” as we often said) when I did get my own tank. During the timeframe of the photo I was the Platoon Leader’s Gunner … therefore, I was the back-up TC. When the LT. {Lieutenant} was away, the Buck Sergeant could play! LoL! Actually, I MUCH preferred being the Gunner, as I got to do 98.5% of the shooting! And shooting is what I like and do best. But … as YOU know, I’m sure; added rank equals added responsibilities.

    Our personal gear at that time was carried in a medium ALICE pack (ruck sack) and either a laundry bag or our duffle bag. The laundry bag is large enough for an extended stay “in the woods” but the bag’s material was simply cotton cloth and not at all water resistant like the canvas Duffle bag plus it could tear much easier. Slipped under the top 2 straps of our ALICE pack was our sleeping mat. It was made of closed-cell foam & rolled up and we called it our Tootsie Roll. Our sleeping bags [or “fart sack”] had its own bag and waterproof cover, so it was shoved into whatever space you could find, sometimes in the top of the Duffle bag. As you might be able to imagine, we’re running out of room for all the bags needed for 4 soldiers, what with each guy having #1) a Medium Alice Pack, #2) a sleeping bag roll, #3) the Tootsie Roll on top of the pack, #4) a Duffle bag or Laundry sack, and finally, #5) most of us had a Pilot’s helmet bag when we kept little things like snacks, extra socks, perhaps a book for the occasional “free time” (usually when you had to be awake & alert while on night watch … and supposedly NOT reading a book!) The Helmet bag was VERY handy and it also showed that you had “been around the block a time or two.” If you don’t already know what that means, that’s a long phrase that means you’re like Jimi Hendrix – Experienced! LoL! The MOST important things usually carried in the Helmet bag was your rain gear! (Rubber-impregnated cloth Jacket and trousers.) The wet-weather boots were also usually there, though they were often found elsewhere – like in the spare roadwheel atop the turret or shoved down between your Alice Pack & your Duffle bag or inside the turret if you didn’t have them ON – though we usually DIDN’T wear them constantly because of the mud that would cling to your feet, and you generally tried to keep the inside of the turret as clean as possible. The Loader & the Gunner had to clean up most of the mess inside when we finished our exercise and went to the washrack.
    Yes, most crews DID wrap most of their stuff in the tarp to keep it dry, but not always. I actually preferred NOT to wrap it all up because messing with the tarp was more work and besides, I had extra waterproof bags (which ANYONE could acquire if desired) so I didn’t have to fu … er, fool around with the dang tarp every time I needed something from my Ruck or Duffle!
    As I think about it, since that Panzer was one of the earliest ones, so we only had the one black Jerry can. Some crews had one metal one stashed wherever they could find the needed space. The metal cans were used for SAE 30 weight engine oil which was used as the transmission lubricant, rather than special Transmission fluid. As for the engine lubrication, since ours was a jet turbine engine, we had to use a VERY special and expensive fluid lubricant called Turboshaft. We would often have 4 to 10 each, 1-liter sized cans that we put wherever we could find the room. The engine used 17 liters of that lubricant, and some engines seemed to drink it! However, that usually only happened when there was a problem, as you can imagine. Turboshaft came in cans with pretty bright green colored cans. As I’m sure you can imagine, there’s a LOT of extra junque (that’s how to spell really fancy c**p) that we had to carry around – and that’s the reason that starting with the M1IP, (M1 Improved Product) they designed and mounted a bustle rack to put most of our junque in hanging off the back of the turret. Also, the M1A1s had more room on the sides of the turret, thanks to racks that were added on the sides. The whole rear of the turret basically had racks wrapped around it … and we ALWAYS wanted/needed more room, it seemed. Cots, a tent, and a camouflage net for example, or an extra tarp. We were issued a 2nd tarp during Desert Storm as well as 4 cots for instance … AND a camo net … which we used exactly once. Camo nets are kind of useful (if you stay in one place for a while) but they’re more a pain in the a$$! Besides, trying to hide a tank by using a tarp is about as effective as trying to hide a whale in a delicatessen! The cots were ok, but I hardly ever used mine. It was just one more thing that had to be done to get ready – and often in a BIG hurry! I usually slept on the back deck, right over the 2 vents on the Left side, where the heat from the engine was quite nice on those cold, windy nights in the desert … and Germany. Of course, that was NOT the place to sleep on a hot summer night, but we seemed to have a LOT more cold nights than hot! For example, when we got off the plane at King Kalheed (spelling???) airport in Saudi Arabia it was 36.1 degrees C. That NIGHT it was (- MINUS) 5.6 deg. C!

    You’re right about getting all the details for a specific vehicle! Funny thing, remembering all these tiny details has helped me remember a LOT of things I had forgotten. It’s kinda cool and I’ve really enjoyed sharing information with you – VERY much! Can you do a Skype call? Instead of paying big bucks for 3-hour phone calls, Skype is free. I spent about 1.5 hours with Alfredo Coelho the other day. The only problem was having the call dropped by the carrier signal many times. I probably had to re-connect with him FIFTEEN TIMES – maybe a few more times – during that one “call.” BUT, we would re-connect very quickly, so it was bearable … and free. Free is good! LoL! My Skype contact number is the same as my main e-mail: [email protected]. It’s about 07:45 now, and I STILL haven’t slept, so I’ll talk with you another time soon, OK?

    Adios, Muchacho! So long! Auf Wiederhoeren. Be cool. Ta ta. Bye bye! Toodles! Auf Wiener Schnitzel!


  • Boris Rakic said 8 months ago:

    So, where were we? Right, the hull. Before adding the road wheel and side skirts, there is some muddying up to do. I mixed up a slurry of Mig pigments (European Earth and Russian Earth), pigment fixer, and fine sifted soil from a park around the corner. This was applied to the whole lower hull, the running gear and the insides of the side skirts, just to make sure I woudln’t end up with any visible clean spots. Some of the mud was removed from the road wheels with a brush dipped in odourless thinner. The tracks got the same treatment, and the guide horns and sides of the end connectors got a rubbing with gun metal pigments. There are various tools available for this, like rubber brushes or cotton buds, but I prefer to use my fingers (insert “yo mama” joke here).
    Attaching the road wheels can be a bit tricky. The axle stubs for the first two wheels on each side are almost too small in diameter, resulting in a wobbly fit of the wheels. The rest of the axles however are too thick, especially with a coat of paint on them. I had to sand them a bit to actually get the wheels on. The track on the other hand is easy. Just wrap it around the running gear and fix it with two end connectors.
    The side skirts require some patience to get them straight. I started with the front skirt on each side and worked my way back, aligning each part with the one in front.
    Based on Jeff’s comments I was able to scrap some old packs and bags from the spares box. No idea from which manufacturer they are, but the molding is rather soft and honestly not too appealing. I painted them anyway to see how they would end up looking. Yeah, no. I guess I will have to order some replacements.
    Anyway, I decided to not get stalled and finish the turret instead. The amber beacon light was the last missing piece – the clear part comes from an old Italeri M923, the rest is styrene rod and sheet.
    Finally, it’s all starting to come together. The turret and side skirts received the usual black primer coat, followed by Tamiya XF-65 Field Grey. And here’s a trick I tried out for the first time: Tamiya XF paints are dead flat and can sometimes produce a slighty chalky finish, even when thinning them with Gunze Levelling Thinner. A while ago I read that mixing in a dash of Tamiya Clear Gloss X-22 helps, and indeed it does. If you compare the hull (pure XF-65, followed by a gloss coat) with the turret (XF-65/X-22 mix), you won’t notice a difference in surface texture – and that mix sprayed even nicer than the pure paint did.
    That’s the progress so far, next up are the decals and some detail painting, before we enter the scary world of hairspray and white paint…

    7 attached images. Click to enlarge.

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