Saturday 5 February 2022

M1 Abrams Tank


This I will be honest was a bit of a "risky buy" for me. I have recently started buying model making tools/equipment from Ali Express and have so far been really impressed with the price and quality of the things that I have bought. One evening whilst browsing the app I noticed a 1/35 scale Abrams for less than £20 delivered to UK. I am normally an advocate for "if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is"; but based on my experiences so far I thought why not give it a go? Around 3 weeks later the parcel turned up on my door and although the box stated the model was made by a company called WSN; I was surprised to see that the tank mould was stamped with Trumpeter as the manufacturer. I also have a large collection of resin stowage for this tank in my stash (an E-bay purchase) so the plan is to build this tank almost directly out of the box and add the stowage with lots of weathering to complete the model. I am also toying with the idea of displaying the mine rollers that come with the tank as being destroyed by an IED; saving the tank from destruction; but we will see as this already seems like a monster of kit compared to what I usually build. 


The Kit 

The kit is actually a lot more detailed than I first thought. There are as with almost every kit some inaccuracies however after reading a great many reviews and comparisons online I have decided to go ahead with an out of the box build with as little modifications as possible. I have made this choice because the differences that I have found are in my opinion negligible and also because I am adding such a large amount of stowage; it will cover a great many of the inaccuracies once completed.  The main body of the tank was relatively simplistic and had a very good fit. I was also really impressed with the way in which the anti-slip paint has been re-produced in the mould. Once the basic shell of the tank was completed I decided to spray the main parts in Vallejo black primer and while that cured; I worked on the smaller sub assemblies of the tank. There were a couple of sink holes in the main turret however; thankfully they were in a non anti-slip coated area and along with the main gun seam, were easily filled with some Perfect plastic putty. 






The mine roller assembly is a really involved kit in its own right. When compared to reference images its also a really accurate representation of the real thing. The only downfall is the injection marks which are on almost every piece. While this isn't a major issue to resolve; after filling around the 20th hole, it does start to grind your gears a little! I also began to add the various additional sections required to the main tank body as well as the turret. 







The additional parts were then primed and while that hardened I began on the fitment and positioning of the track assemblies and preparing the multiple resin stowage items ready for their own coat of primer



Painting the tank

I chose a black Vallejo primer for this model as I am planning on a very heavily weathered finish and thought black would be an excellent start for shade and if I break through the paint layers as I am weathering then the black primer will hopefully add to the finished effect. A green that closely matched the American standard colour was chosen as the base paint ( the correct Vallejo colour was ordered but still hasn't arrived in the post). The main body of the tank, the turret and the road wheels were all sprayed in this as a solid colour and 24 hours was left to pass before any additional colours were used. 



While the model hardened I then grabbed a large selection of colours from the inventory and started to paint the various stowage that I had and once dried assembled them on the turret in a rough order of where I'd like them on the finished model:



I like to do this at the earliest opportunity as I can adjust how I'd like each item placed and then alter/move them as I go along. Once I am happy with the placement I then take a few detailed shots (above) and when it comes time to place them and glue them down I have reference images that I can copy from. 

The next layer of paint was a Vallejo colour matched to the colours used in the Gulf campaigns. I wanted to portray this as being heavily weathered so I assumed that these paint finishes were quite rushed in the beginning and probably quite thin paint layers as well. I'm aiming for a tank that has seen one too many sand storms as well as a decent amount of use. I applied the paint in thin almost over-sprays in some areas and then a thicker, more solid finish in others. Once hardened (24 hrs) I then lightly sanded with a few different fine grades of sand paper to achieve a beaten and sand blasted look to the vehicle. The result of this can be seen below: 








The mine rollers were painted in a solid desert sand colour and did not receive an undercoat of green beforehand so that they appeared a little "newer" than the tank. Again this was chosen to provide more colour variation and interest to the finished model. Hopefully this will suggest to the observer that the rollers were fitted after the tank had been used a great deal in the desert environment. 

The next phase was a combination of painting the tracks in a dark brown, followed by a light coat of rust then grey/black for the pads and while that hardened I began to think about weathering the tank. For the tracks I had bought some Vallejo environmental colour washes and I used the rust wash in various layers/positions on tracks. Leaving that to dry I then used some spray masks from Alexan models to apply the fender markings used to identify allied forces vehicles in the Gulf along with unit markings. I also chose the name of the tank from a choice of a few provided on the mask sheet. 






Once the paint was fully hardened (24 hrs) I then lightly sanded over it for it to match the rest of the wear and tear on the tank surface and then I added the stowage on the rear of the turret permanently. The finishing touches for the build were filling in the windows with some UV curing resin instead of the clear plastic insert sheets provided with the kit and then coating the entire model with some airbrushed matt varnish:



Yet another 24 hours later and the finishing can begin; For this I chose to use the fantastic Vallejo environment washes and the AK weathering pencils (review here). I also made the decision to leave off the mine rollers from the front of the tank. This is simply down to a logistics issue I have; no space and the length added is simply too much for my display shelves. I did however decide to keep the tank mounts on the front as this shows the additional functionality of that tank as well as adding some more interest to the finished model. I also added some "sand" to areas of the tank. This is some kiln dried and ground earth that I get from the university that I work in. Its used for research and when finished they dispose of it. Every so often I grab a pot or two before it goes in the skip. 







While the tank was allowed to dry for at least 24 hours I began on the base. Normally I use one of the many picture frames I buy from Ikea on clearance however I didn't have one that matched the footprint of the Abrams. I decided on a simplistic base for this model so opted for a piece of MDF cut to size with some wood trim glued around its edges. Once painted and gloss varnished I then liberally applied some Mod Podge to the base and to that I sprinkled liberally the same "sand" as I had used on the tank body. To fix the tank to the base I then drilled through the floor of the tank and the base where I then fitted an extra long M2 bolt. 




The figures

The figures where resin items bought at the same time as the tank on Ali-express and I must say the quality of them is excellent. They were primed in the same black primer as the tank and then a coat of light brown was airbrushed onto them for the uniform and a coat of green airbrushed for the helmets. The rest of the paintwork will be by hand but the airbrush gave a great brush mark free start for them:



The rest of the colours were added by hand but I will also point out that I used my mini grinder and a fine bit to carefully grind out the "glass" from the goggles so that I could paint the bottom of the holes I created in the same colour as the helmet and then fill the holes with some UV clear gel. This gives a great effect to the goggles that I haven't been able to replicate with any other method. 


Finishing the model and final thoughts. 

Normally for the display I add a descriptive plate for it and sometimes a cap badge if possible. I had planned on doing something like this for the Abrams as in my opinion the Challenger display with cap badge looked really good. Here's the link if you haven't read that article. Just scroll straight to the bottom for the finished shots. While digging around the internet to look for what would be the most suitable cap badge I discovered an article that discussed that the US marines are disbanding their entire tank capabilities. The Abrams that I have made looks identical to the Marines deployed tanks in the Gulf war and after a quick search on E-bay I was able to find a US Marines Retired pin badge that I think will provide a fitting context to what will become a commemorative tank model for the now retired Marine Corps tank battalions. 

 This pin badge was mounted to the descriptive plate and then that in turn mounted onto the front of the display base. The completed figures were also added to the tank; staring off into the distance and that's another completed model! I have to be honest here and say that when I initially ordered this model I had expected the same troubles that I experienced with the Airfix Challenger (link here in case you didn't click on the link above above). In reality I didn't face any issues at all. This was a superb kit and one that I thoroughly enjoyed making. I have a Trumpeter AS90 1/35 kit in the stash that I have been putting off building for almost 8 years. Its a thumping huge model but if the quality of that is the same as this Abrams I might dig it out in the very near future! The name plate is a simplistic printed design that's glued onto some black painted balsa sheet. To this I added the pin badge:




This was the last piece of work left on the to do list for me aside from the finished photos in my portable photo studio. Finished shots are below and as always I'd love to hear your comments below and follow my web-site for more scale model builds from the bench! 



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