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Half scratch-built tank WIP!

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Hmm, but it is an extra tool to be handling while doing all this. I kind of like the ease of just holding or taping sheets of styrene together and brushing cement on the seam.




Some more work on the command superstructure. It's more or less finished now. Broke down the gun superstructure, it was off-square in all three dimensions, and it really started to bug me. Plus, this allows me to think over the interior layout of the tank more. As it was, the tank commander would be in a different compartment than the gun he was supposedly commanding... not a good state of affairs. I may decide to run the gun superstructure into the command tower after all.


Story time! I think for all of these side projects and sculpts I have stories for, I'll toss in a little blurb with each post. It was fun writing up Yvette. All of these are more or less spur of the moment though, typed directly into the comment box.



Though the Dover tank was considered a hopelessly obsolete design by most modern nations, with its high profile, slow speed, and limited firing arc, the military of Altia continued to maintain a small but significant force of them. Armament consisted of a low-velocity 105mm gun-howitzer, a coaxial 7.92mm machine gun, and a pintle mounted 13mm heavy machine gun as anti-aircraft armament. Their large gun, while too weak to penetrate heavy armor, often disabled enemy tanks through sheer explosive force, and thick sloped and angled frontal armor provided ample protection against enemy fire. Altian soldiers appreciated the warmth of the large raised rear engine deck through the snowy winter, and it was not an uncommon sight to see soldiers riding on top of a sandbagged engine deck as an improved pillbox, occasionally with an improvised bracket holding a mortar or heavy machine gun as well. In recognition of this, Altian Dovers often sported additional armor plates welded to the front and back of the engine deck. The unparalleled awareness offered by the commander's cupola, combined with a dedicated radio operator's position and multiple powerful radios, meant that they were often pressed into service more as mobile command posts and fortresses rather than tanks. One particular instance was the Dover tank that accompanied the now-famous cadets of the St. Sophia's Women's Military Academy...






So, uh, yeah. I bought another cheapo tank kit from the 70s, the Tamiya Panzer II Ausf. F/G (the A/B/C kit is much more recent, more detailed and accurate, and therefore more expensive. Though for what I'm planning on using it for, the more inaccurate the better, detail is nice but not necessary, and price is the primary concern). She's tiny sitting next to the Walker Bulldog, especially with the conversions I've made to it.


The breech and mount are resin parts from a Pak 43 kit from Verlinden I got a while back. Being naive and new to modeling, I'd assumed that all model kits were made of styrene, and generally easy to assemble with everything slotting together into holes and shelves, with nicely diagrammed instructions. When I opened up the box, and got nothing but a pile of flash-covered resin, photo-etched copper, and a sheet of printer paper showing two grainy historical photos of the Pak 43 and instructions that boiled down to "assemble like the picture"... well, it went unassembled.


Funnily enough, the hole I drilled to mount the barrel goes all the way through.  So you can see it smooth from breech to muzzle. I think I stared down it for a while.




The Percival self-propelled gun was an attempt to address the critical weakness the Altian military felt with the introduction of military aircraft. Having little capability of its own to field combat aircraft, they instead turned to designing a high-velocity 76mm 55-caliber anti-aircraft cannon, mated to a variety of obsolete light tank chassis. Mounted with the gun was a powerful carbon-arc searchlight. Little provision for armor was made, only a gun shield that protected the crew from frontal small-arms fire and shrapnel. At the end of the design process, the Altian army found it had created not only a viable anti anti-aircraft gun, but also a light, speedy tank destroyer that was able to hunt for, and destroy enemy tanks at night. Rumors persist of a specially modified Percival used by Her Majesty's Royal Knights, with a modified "black" searchlight, and special "night-vision" sights, but such reports are unsubstantiated at best...



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Smaller, more frequent updates, or larger, more comprehensive ones? You guys tell me!



Aww, look at the little baby panzer.


Anyways, not much build progress, mostly research. Dug up some obscure references to the German experimental vehicle "Versuchsflakwagen" and looked up stats for the Marder II.

The first is essentially a Flak 88 mounted in an AA configuration on a Panzer III / IV chassis, which, importantly for me at least, validates the concept of a tracked heavy AA gun. I wasn't even sure if the concept was viable, and seeing that at least 2 vehicles were built and at least one served on the front in Italy really gives me some firm footing to build off of. The Marder II was essentially a 75mm L/46 cannon, mounted with some rudimentary armor on top of the hull of a Panzer II. Somewhat less powerful than a 76mm L/55, but it's a good ballpark estimate for what I could expect from this new SPG.


Can you tell I like my fantasy vehicles to have realistic stats?




Obviously Verlinden expected people to glue the carriage in one position, because the left side has no pin, and the left side of the mount has no hole. Some careful drilling with a pin vise, and a stub of brass rod, and I had my gun mounted. Looked up how exactly recoil buffers worked, and I think the cylinders look at least somewhat authentic. Slid the elevating gear into my circle template to find its pivot point, and discovered while the resin recoil mount was too big, the brass I-beam mount for the lower recoil cylinders was exactly in the right place. Some shaving and gluing and the gear was mounted firmly in place too.


Gun mantlets tended to be cast out of a single piece of steel in those days, and the crudity of the casts was evident in the textured gritty surfaces. So I spread a thin layer of Apoxie Sculpt all over, and taking a page from TaleSpinner's stone plinth, textured it with stippling from my plasticky model brushes. And then I sanded the sides into a flat plane


By the way, I use a two-grit whetstone to shape and sand my stuff. It's nice, flat, and long, and hard enough to polish up the sawn ends of metal tubing as well.

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So, been experimenting with rolling nice styrene tubes.




It seems the easiest way to get it to stay round is to take the thinnest sheets of styrene I have and roll it multiple times and weld it all together, so that structural weaknesses and therefore deformations are minimized. Also, experimented with my rivet technique, drilling holes, welding in some stretched sprue, and snipping it off with flush cutters. I think I rather like the look. Oddly enough, they basically are little miniature rivets, since they help pin the layers together. Clipped a little brass wire and bent it into handles for the searchlight. Apparently the technique for making an infrared light at the time was basically to mount an infrared filter... in front of a full-powered searchlight. Inefficient, but it works I guess.


Reference for the searchlight is coming from a mix of British AA lights and the Sd.Kfz 251/20 D "Uhu" (Owl) night vision halftrack. Referencing an awful lot of German experimental projects here.


The turret is meant to be closed, so using the bottom turret plate means I had to construct the turret basket. Same technique as the searchlight.


The gun is rather long, mounted on the turret. It's not a problem in terms of authenticity (a lot of WW2 tank destroyers have very long looking guns) but they all ran into a common problem: Driving cross-country, the barrel's long enough you might ram in into the ground and damage it. Or even if it was okay, it would need to be cleaned before firing, since dirt filling the bore would blow up the gun if fired. Common solutions were to either secure the gun in a lofted cradle while travelling, turn the turret 180 degrees, or both.


Well, it's not like I had a 1/35 76mm cannon gun cradle lying around–


Oh wait, I do.




The M41 had one mounted on one of the rear fenders, and, well, it's not like it'll need rear fenders anymore...

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How silly of me to add a recoil buffer to the 76mm, and forget about it for the 105mm. Also added the curved backside to the searchlight. I was thinking though: it doesn't really make sense for the searchlight to be fixed with the gun; it makes searching for fast moving aircraft difficult and complicates lead shooting. Rather, it should be independently mounted, so that it can search for targets, illuminate them for the gun, and the gun can lead its aim independently of how the searchlight is oriented. Also, how would a relatively poor country, with little in the way of industrial capacity, design the mounting for a searchlight? Some complicated hydraulic or electric mechanism seems too advanced for something like this.




What if you balanced it nicely, and then welded handles on the back so a crewman can shove it into position manually? Traverse will be handled probably by a set of bicycle-styled pedals.


Anyways, another one of my inspirations was the Canal Defence Light, basically a tank-mounted searchlight with a strobe function that'd blind and disorient the enemy. And all it'd take would be some simple shutters.




Took a simple press-cast of the back engine grille off the M41, traced a circle on the back, and shaped it with knife and whetstone into a circle. Now my apprehensions about the not-circular light are fixed, and it looks pretty cool to boot. Oh yeah, mounted the night vision sight to the gun.




Bit the bullet, welded the cupola on top. Also constructed and welded a radio basket to the back, and a hoop antenna a la T-35 or Type 97 Chi-Ha on the rear as well. That radio aerial will be one of two protruding from the basket. In terms of body work, welded the replacement fenders in, and corrected an 1/8" too long section on the rear engine deck that was pushing it all out of square. Regaining the urge to work on this again... it was a bit frustrating with everything looking like a weird broken tank with junk welded on top, compared with the much more limited Panzer II conversion which is coming together much more quickly and nicely.


Oh yeah, I added a pistol port to the side of the superstructure, where the crew ladder will go. A lot of WW2 tanks had these; the idea being that you could shoot at baddies trying to climb on your tank with your pistol through these armored shutters. But it's also a bit of extra side visibility, so...


Hmm, I seem to not be keeping my promise about story time. But posts come so quickly when building stuff instead of painting.

Edited by djizomdjinn
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Probably going to slow down somewhat for the next two weeks, due to priorities. Thanks, guys, for the comments! They help a lot, just in general keeping my motivation up.


So, I figured the hull of the SPG is just a bog standard Pz. II... a bit too recognizable for my taste. Besides, here's a good place to show shared design DNA between the two vehicles!




So there's now sloped front armor and the driver has the same sort of angled superstructure.




The searchlight stand and bicycle pedal traverse mechanism. The pedals really turn too! Though they don't spin the stand of course. Need to add the seat still.


Story time!




So tell me, what was the most dangerous crew station on the Percival?


Oh, the searchlight operator, for sure.


Could you elaborate?


You've seen the photos of the Percival, yes? Well, the searchlight operator is sitting on a steel pole 5 feet up in the air, with a tiny seat, feet on the pedals to traverse the light, and and hands on the handles to elevate the light. The gun crew at least has the frontal gun shield to protect them; good against bullets only, but still something. Because the light needs to point forwards too, the gun shield does not cover the light, and therefore the light man. You could hear the bullets whizzing past as they shot at the light, and many times they would hit it. It was a good thing the reflector was armored, since it was the only piece of cover we got!


This was not the worst part though. In order for the light to turn, it had to be hollow, yes? For the pedal gears and drive rod? Well, that meant in winter winds the light would sway back and forth. We were always scared of falling off.


But surely five feet isn't that bad a fall?


Five feet off of the turret deck, yes. But you must remember the tank hull is another five feet, so it was ten feet in total to the ground. Also the pole was mounted at the rear of the turret, and when the gunner turned the turret, you had to be holding on, or you would fall off. Also there were many things we stored on the rear deck, like tools to repair the tracks, or to clean the gun barrel, and spare ammunition in heavy boxes, and landing on that you could break your head open. The man before me fell off to the side and broke his arm, that is how I became light man.




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Now that rush period is over, I can get back to work on these...




One big change, lots of small ones.


The big change, of course, is the gun shield. Also the gun is now attached to the turret. The gun shield will be expanded somewhat later, since right now it only protects the gun and not any of the, you know, crew.


The one small change that is out of shot is the reversal of the idler wheel and sprocket, for a rear-sprocket drive to match the heavy tank. A bit more of that shared design DNA I was talking about.


So, where to start. I did some research on traverse-and-elevation mechanisms for WW2 guns, and sights, since I couldn't exactly figure out how it worked .What I came back with was... for the Flak 88, one guy is looking through the sights, and has his hand on the traverse wheel. A second guy can't see anything, and just has his hand on the elevation wheel. He gets yelled at by a) the first guy, or b) a third guy, off to the side using a parallax rangefinder on a separate tripod. And all he does is match the dial pointer to the numbers they give him.


Seems... terribly inefficient, crowded, and slow. So I looked at the QF 17-pdr, where the guy looking down the sights has access to both wheels in front of him. So much simpler. Those wheels are cast from idler wheels using oyamaru / instant mold. It's great stuff, much better than the silcone putty I was using beforehand.


Speaking of the sights, instead of being mounted on a giant cantilever and which basically forces the gunner to tilt his head higher and high, I realized I should have been looking at heavy AA gun sights, where the scope is tilted via a series of mechanical linkages, but the eyepiece stays in one spot. (Those linkages are fairly complex though, and I don't think I can model them. So I just mounted it on an extended pivot pin drilled through the gun carriage.)

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