Friday 5 December 2014

1/35 8th Army Quad Tractor Diorama


This project started with one of my 10th wedding anniversary presents off my wife Jayne who bought me a British 25PDr Field Gun & Quad Tractor model set produced by Tamiya. Hmmmm I thought to myself what can I do with this? I then remembered that I had the LRDG scene that I had produced and had not been happy with. I had originally intended to place this new kit into a larger re-worked diorama to include all three kits but unfortunately when I investigated this further I realised that the intended diorama would look too cluttered and would not be visually appealing. So after a few pleasant hours trawling the internet to see what other people had done with this kit I originally decided upon having the truck, gun & limber attached to one another in a towing position, being stopped on a desert road with the crew taking time for a cuppa and to have a chat with one of the locals on a camel. The figures are from the masterbox commonwealth AFV crew set (as seen in the picture below) I have started to use these figure kits a lot in my dioramas as the company depict their figures in more realistic and relaxed poses as opposed to just plain "action" poses that are a little bit contrived for my taste if you see this in every diorama. especially when you consider that most warfare is 90% boredom followed by 10% of shear terror!
Masterbox figure set purchased for this project

After quite a lot of consideration and a hiatus of the project for over a year, I decided to re-think my initial idea and split the kits up into two possibly three separate dioramas. This page being amended for the tractor unit dio.

The Build of the Tractor unit
First stages of the build and I have to say that I am very impressed with the kit. The quality of the moulding is excellent with very little clean up of flash marks. The detail for such an old kit is excellent and I am now feeling happier for deciding not to buy the etch sets for this kit. So far I have assembled the chassis for the tractor. I have also dry fitted the engine block and differential. Next stages for me are the primer coat for the chassis and to start detailing the engine itself. I am not going to go overboard as I have not decided whether to have the bonnet open or closed for the finished unit but I would much rather have a decently detailed engine that could be displayed if I decide to instead of being forced to keep the engine bay closed because it would be too difficult to detail it after the body has been built around it.

initial build of chassis

quick shot of engine before re-work
After a little research on the Internet for some suitable images of the engine, I realised that for a model manufactured in 1974 it was a very good representation of the actual block. the only real planned additions to this were the producing heads of the spark plugs, the leads and the distributor that is positioned at the front of the actual engine. Another interesting feature is that the leads for each cylinder Bank are fed through a tube which I will also replicate.

engine with leads & lead pipe added

completed modifications to engine

At this stage I have painted the engine block and head in dark green with the ancillaries in matt black. The leads are hull red with Vallejo black grey for the belt at the front of the engine and orange for the exhaust manifold. Weathering and a dry brush of silver will be added prior to mounting the block in the chassis. Its not the most detailed of engines that I have done but I am happy with the result and would happily display this tractor unit with the bonnet open in a diorama scene. Excuse the dry cracked skin on my hands but I have also been plastering the spare room as well !

Progress has been a little slow on this build at the moment due to decorating but I have now built up most of the chassis and applied a coat of primer, the seats have been put together and I decided to apply a small amount of Gunz Sango Mr Surfacer to the fabric section of the seats to add a little more depth and wear (see photo). There is also a mounted cable winch on the Chassis which I will add cable to and feed through the rollers on the rear bumper which I have drilled out with a pin vice. I am still in two minds whether have the top hatch open as this would mean scratch building a locking handle for the inner part of the hatch (starting to regret not having the etch set now). I have also filled the casting marks in the doors with Squadron green putty and added the strengthening bars to the door by using a little stretched spru. I will also be raiding the spares box for some "clutter" for the interior and exterior of the tractor in the way of weapons, kit bags and tarpaulin.
mock up of interior before primer
front section now added

main parts of the tractor unit now primered

Small modifications to seats and doors

Following painting the chassis in the base colour, I wanted to add the cable to the drum that is provided on the model. For the heavy duty tow cable I opted to use brass picture hanging wire that I purchased as a set from a local DIY store for around £1. It is a perfect scale and pliable enough to form around the drum and to feed through the front rollers incorporated in the rear section of the bumper. Once the cable was wrapped around the drum, it was fixed in place with some cyno to prevent it unwinding and the section of cable sticking out the rear of the bumper was cut to an appropriate length and bent to form a loop. A small amount of Lead foil was then wrapped around the cable to simulate the cable tie clamps seen on the life size vehicle.

Cable wrapped around drum
Cable fed through front rollers

tow end complete

After a little more fettling and work I completed the initial build and paint of the chassis along with the interior section of the tractor unit. Mounting of the interior section to the chassis was very easy with no real problems to speak of and everything was left to set and dry overnight

Following the build up of the chassis and floor section of the tractor I have decided to add some of the usual bits of kit that you would expect to see in a vehicle of this type. After raiding the spares box and positioning them around the cabin its now time for the fiddly painting and addition of straps for the bags, packs and rifles for the cabin, then weathering and wear of the interior before mounting and fixing the cab body to the base. In case I forget to add a picture of this, I will also be weathering and wearing the interior of the cabin section before that is mounted as it would be embarrassing to see a well worn and weather beaten floor but beautifully pristine interior walls and roof inside!
pieces test fitted into interior

Main Body Details

Turning my attention to the main body of the tractor I decided to make a few additions, the first was removing the bolts on the spare wheel and drilling the holes that should be there with my trusty pin vice. I then added a locking bar that would keep the wheel in place during transport. A few captured German Jerry cans (which were prized by the Brits) will also be mounted onto a "makeshift" rack that I will eventually build. I also decided to discard the supplied canvas cover as it is too bulky and thick. I opted to use some verlinden lead foil which I could fold back to reveal closer inspection of the interior by giving the impression that one of the welded on canvas mounts has broken free of the main body. To imitate canvas I use a simple trick of applying enamel paint with a brush in a very thick coat, waiting a few minutes then using a dry brush, drag it across the still wet paint in opposite directions. This has the effect of roughing up the surface and leaving a less than smooth finish that resembles canvas. I also removed the kit handle for the roof door and replaced it with copper wire and added two more roof handles as seen on the real thing. With the bulk of the work completed on the tractor unit I will turn my attention to the gun and limber as I want to weather and age them together to ensure that the finish is cohesive with all three parts. The following photos are of the exterior work so far:

Interior Weathering

With the majority of the initial build of the tractor unit, gun and limber complete, I started to turn my attention to the interior of the truck. specifically the cab and contents. In the first instance the rifles, hats and packs were glued to various locations around the interior and then the dry brushing of silver and matt black was used around the cab and seats. I followed this with a wash of burnt sienna oil and once dry I use a large artists graphite pencil that I scrape into a fine graphite powder and by using white spirit as a medium I can wash this into all the nooks and crannys of the cab. the results of my labours can be seen in the next photo

The Base

I've decided on using some unusual materials for the base of this dio in the form of some dried Bark pieces that I picked up and allowed to dry fully from an unsuspecting flower bed! I arranged the pieces in a rough circle on top of some foam board and then attached them with some PVA glue and allowed to dry overnight. Some florist foam was cut and glued for the centre gap and then quick test fit with the tractor unit before some plaster filler mixed with some acrylic paint was poured into the centre of the bark pieces to the same level and again allowed to dry overnight. The plaster and the foam board was then given a coat of some revel brown enamel and the vehicle was again test fitted before some more PVA was added to secure some budgie grit onto the centre of the base. That's basically it for the base save for some washes of oil at the end to blend the various finishes into one another. Photos as always below:


Weathering the vehicle

I think that I will keep the vehicle in two parts so that I can separate the cab from the chassis once the dio is complete so I will weather the chassis as well as the main cab body being as it will not stay hidden under the model when everything is done. I decided to apply a dark brown wash over the vehicle and  in some places allow the brown to stay as quite a bold colour on corners etc. Once this wash had dried I then added the external items and clutter before continuing to weather the tractor. The wheels and tyres were washed over with a very light brown and then the rest of this wash was applied to the groundwork to provide a tie-in with the colours. At this stage I have also decided upon the figures that I intend on using from the masterbox set and these can be seen next to the vehicle progress shots below:

I think that I can now safely say that the desert tractor diorama is complete. Since the last update I have:
weathered the complete vehicle
added typical vehicle detritus in the form or kit and tarpaulins
oil painted the figures
finally decided on a title for the dio.

The following shots show the vehicle in its completed stage. The only thing really left to do is to allow the whole model to dry fully over the next week or so before coating with a matt varnish:

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