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Just a wee bit late for Valentine's Day, it's a Bronco Valentine Mk.IX! I've been working on this thing since mid-January, it's the most complicated and (at $70 CAD) the most expensive kit I've put together to date. Prepare for lots of pictures and lots of words.
 
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This fucker has a lot of hatches, and thankfully, enough interior detail that you might want to show most of them wide open. 
 
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Driver's compartment, probably the most detailed part of the tank. You get the seat, all the levers, two Mk.4 periscopes, and the control panels. Looking at actual reference photos, there are still bits missing, but this is easily good enough. Sadly I can't get a good photo of the driver's station despite the deceptively large hatches. The driver's viewport also opens up, but you can't really see anything through it.
 
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The turret is less detailed. It contains the gun breech, three periscopes, and the radio set. The hatches here are smal, so it's harder to see. The turret ring is fully detailed, and the turret clicks into it and rotates freely, but the fit on the two locking pins is tight enough that I couldn't get it out again to show off the underside. Interestingly enough, one of the three turret periscopes is listed in a separate instruction step than the other four, but I can't tell the difference.
 
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Sorta artsy shot through the pistol ports. The pistol ports look like they can open and close after assembly, but I glued them in the open position since I doubt I could get them open again if they closed.
 
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You can see the tracks here, easily my favourite part of the kit. They click together and remain movable after assembly, although the pins are a wee bit too weak and the track can tear due to handling. Thankfully less than a dozen pieces broke during assembly, and a few glued in links scattered throughout the flexible track aren't that noticeable, I hope. Also, the springy suspension works very well with these tracks if you want to display it on some kind of rough terrain diorama.
 
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Trying to get a closer shot of the smoke grenade ammo box. The kit includes a decal sheet for these boxes, with these incredibly tiny and annoying to apply labels. I had to get them out of my water bowl with my left hand, since the shadow cast by my right made them impossible to see. 
 
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The transmission compartment, the only completely detailed part of the tank. For some reason, reviews claimed that the engine compartment is fully detailed, but the engine compartment is actually completely empty, without even a firewall to separate it from the fighting compartment. This was kind of disappointing, as all of the engine hatches can be glued in the open position and have interior details.
 
I have one complaint about the assembly process here: the fuel tank that has to be aligned with that hole on the right side is glued in about a dozen instruction steps prior, with no hint that it has to be aligned with anything or any markings on the compartment floor where to put it. Thankfully you can't really see it behind the radiators anyway, but it's a bit annoying. I decided to slap on a few figures for a "fuck it, not again" mechanical breakdown scene.
 
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The other side's smoke grenade box. For some reason it's a different shape. 
 
Side view to complete the set:
 
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Now, for the overall impressions. The kit has a shitton of parts, but not all are used in the assembly. There are four painting variants (two Soviet, two British in the desert) and each one has its own set of fenders. There are also two gun barrels included, two variants of upper front plates, two transmission cover options, two headlight options, and a bunch of optional bits to hang off the sides. You really need to study the manual carefully and figure out what your desired tank looks like, since a lot of the time there are zero hints in the manual as to which option matches what variant. This is probably heaven for Valentine enthusiasts that want a very, very specific kind of Valentine Mk.IX, but I'd rather they eliminate all this extra stuff and use the parts that freed up to spice up the interior a little more. At least put in a firewall or something so the interior doesn't look so barren.
 
The decals come in two sheets, one with the tiny stencil marks for the smoke grenade boxes, and one with ones for the tank. Since I was painting my tank to be a specific unit (16th Independent Tank Brigade) I used my own. The Soviet decals provided are rather uninspired anyway: one Guards unit (with improperly done Guards insignia, I might add) and "Unknown Unit" with a small and boring white tactical number. As always, the British desert options are much more visually interesting, both in terms of camouflage patters and markings.
 
The aforementioned manual is very high quality, printed on gloss paper in colour... but contains a ton of typos throughout. Bronco's English is not their strong point, unfortunately. Thankfully all the typos are in words instead of part numbers, and assembly is, for the most part, painless. The box also comes with a small poster of the box art included in the kit. 
 
Coincidentally, I built another Valentine somewhat recently, and it ran me exactly half of what this kit cost, so a comparison is mandatory!
 
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The other kit is a VM Valentine MkIV. From the front, you can see the superior detailing on the headlights, far better gun barrel, and better tracks on the Bronco version. The VM version also has a much more basic driver's cabin with no interior details or opening hatches.
 
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Despite the lack of movable suspension, the VM Valentine's wheels are just as nice as the Bronco, aside from the drive sprocket. The VM muffler didn't have an opening, and also no photo-etched grille, but you can't see it on the Valentine anyway, since it's covered by a solid sheet of metal. The VM Valentine's engine hatch handles were also ridiculously brittle and all shattered when I tried to get them off the sprue, so I covered it up with all the extra track links. Seriously, they give you a ton of track links. The Bronco kit has like 6 spare links. Here you can also see the one thing that the VM kit does better: the shovel. The Bronco kit covers it up with a fuel tank, anyway, but I really like the molding on the VM one.
 
If you look closely, you can also see that the Bronco turret has a subtle rough casting texture, whereas the VM turret is perfectly smooth.
 
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Rear of the tanks. You can see the simpler engine compartment cover of the VM kit. The entire top comes in one piece, like we're all used to, compared to the Bronco one that has almost a dozen separate assemblies that make up the top of the hull, making painting the interior a bit of a pain. You can also see the added value of the Bronco kit here, as it comes with two fire extinguishers.
 
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Other side, showing off more of the tools that are omitted in the VM version, and also the pistol port in the turret, which does not open. 
 
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General side by side comparison. The two tanks are a slightly different colour for some reason, even though as far as I remember they were both painted with P3 Battledress Green, the closest colour I've ever seen to Soviet 4BO.
 
The verdict: is the Bronco kit better than the VM one? Definitely. Is it twice as good? I don't think so. Too many fiddly bits and the pain in the ass multi-part upper hull makes me think that I should have gone for the slightly simpler MiniArt Valentine. On the other hand, this is a Mk.IX, which I don't think anyone else makes.

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At last, my fascist box tank shelf is complete. Now if only I had a shelf full of big strong American tanks to balance them out :P

 

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Full size: http://i.imgur.com/Uhi1j1h.jpg

 

 

It's all boxed, and will ship on Friday, for sure, it's on my desk at work, ready to go!

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It's all boxed, and will ship on Friday, for sure, it's on my desk at work, ready to go!

 

Thanks man, I'll try extra hard to do a good job. Going to buy some photo etch tomorrow, maybe also these guys http://www.armorama.com/modules.php?op=modload&name=Reviews&file=index&req=showcontent&id=8066

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Cool, the M4A1 DV kit already has a ton of photo etch that came with it.  You may have to adapt the 17 pounder barrel a tad for the firefly, since it's for the tasca Firefly, not Dragon, but I don't think it should be to hard. Dragon does some nice Shermans, so they should turn out well, and it will be nice to see them built heh. 

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Another week, another tank. This one's a Dragon Tauchpanzer III Ausf. H. I recall someone asking for more progress shots, so here's the step by step. I'll post more detailed pictures of the finished product when my non-cellphone camera comes in.
 
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First, the primer. I got a nice rust coloured primer for chipping. Cover that with hairspray, I got that one for $4 from Shoppers Drug Mart and it seems to work fine.
 
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Here I painted the whole thing in Tamiya German Gray and worked it over a little with a wet boar bristle brush. Chipping is definitely a "less is more" kind of effect, and I ended up well on the "more" side. My excuse is that the tiniest scrub whipped up a froth that made it difficult to see how much paint I took off. Oh well, it looks okay.
 
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Next, a splash of colour. I highlighted the edges in P3 Bastion Gray and painted the wooden toolbox on the mudguard. I also added the photo etched vent covers now that the area underneath them was painted. These are the only PE elements in the entire kit.
 
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Next step is a gloss coat, decals, another gloss coat, and all the extra tools from the mudguards that I didn't add in before. In this kit's case, the right hand side Balkenkreuz is impossible to apply once you glue on the unditching beam and snorkel. Helpfully, the instructions tell you to put it on as soon as you glue on the side panel.
 
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Now, a subtle wash. Black on dark gray doesn't really show up much, but it's very noticeable on the fire extinguisher, for example.
 
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Time for wheels! 
 
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Link to link tracks. I noticed that the return rollers were misaligned just in time. I let the tracks dry like this and then glued them in properly so the track wasn't crooked.
 
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And almost done here, just need to apply a flat clear coat. The glossiness is more noticeable in real life than in this photo.
 
I think it's your best model to date Ensign.
 
Looks great' date=' you could put it on a competition.
[/quote']
 
Thanks! I think so too (except maybe that competition part) so I couldn't wait and took photos anyway.
 
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There's that sneaky Balkenkreuz I told you about.
 
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This old Tamiya figure I had lying around fits perfectly between the toolbox and mudguard mount, with the other leg being the perfect height for the turret platform. A match made in plastic heaven.
 
Now for my brief review blurb: this is a pretty simple kit. Not only is there no interior, but since they use the StuG hull with a big ol' box in the middle of their fighting compartment, there can never be one. That's a shame, since the PzIII has a whopping 5 hatches + miscellaneous ports that would be great for showing it off. As it stands, only the commander's cupola (which is fixed in the closed vision slit position) hatch can open. Boo. Normally that's forgivable, but there was a VM Aufklarungspanzer kit from the same year and for the same price right next to this one, and that one had a full interior. Come on, Dragon, at least try. You also have to work a bit with a knife while making this kit, since there is no opening for the machinegun in the front plate. Thankfully there is additional armour that goes over the front in this variant, so my fuckups with the knife are not visible. There are also several holes on the mudguards that need filling/sanding, even though that would destroy the non-slip texture. I avoided this problem by gluing the fire extinguisher over them instead of where it was supposed to go.
 
Now for the good parts. Speaking of parts, you get a shitload of spares. Dragon included a StuG sprue just for the tools, meaning you get a ton of various hatches, mudguards, etc. For some strange reason there is only one half of the 50 mm L/60 barrel. There are also many spare track links, with half a sprue (the kit comes with three) going unused. I decided to be classy and not deck the tank out with track "armour" this time. There are also two spare road wheels, but nowhere to put them on the main kit. I tried to make a cradle out of tracks to hang on the front tow hooks but it didn't really work out.
 
Tauchpanzers weren't exactly the most common vehicle, so there's only one markings scheme (18th Pz.Reg. 1941, USSR), but the decal sheet comes with markings for many other PzIII variants. Weirdly, the marking instructions omit the rear panel Balkenkreuz and tactical symbol completely, and there's an extra tactical number that should presumably go on the back of the turret/stowage bin, but is missing from the instructions. The decals are decent quality, with some clouding that disappears under a coat of gloss and a coat of flat clear varnish. 
 
Overall, it's a pretty decent kit, and probably the cheapest way out there to add to a PzIII to your collection.

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I've been butchering a K1A1 kit, unfortunately tiny plastic handles and me do not get on very well. So spot the paperclip:

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Sods law means the missing half of the handle turns up as soon as I glued that on, of course, but I can't be arsed to change it.

 

Here's the mark of a serious quality kit, I found this on a stug 3 model:

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The K1A1 is academy, and compared to the stug it's like lego - I can not bother trimming the flash, it's so small, and everything is really crisp

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I've been butchering a K1A1 kit, unfortunately tiny plastic handles and me do not get on very well. So spot the paperclip:

VATNK1C.jpg

 

Sods law means the missing half of the handle turns up as soon as I glued that on, of course, but I can't be arsed to change it.

 

Here's the mark of a serious quality kit, I found this on a stug 3 model:

44NPUQq.jpg

 

The K1A1 is academy, and compared to the stug it's like lego - I can not bother trimming the flash, it's so small, and everything is really crisp

No body will notice it under paint unless you fuck up

 

good job man 

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No body will notice it under paint unless you fuck up

 

good job man 

 

This bit is on the inside of the hull, so nobody will see that anyway. Also they didn't have to print the date, the sprue has that unmistakable classic Airfix look to it.

 

 

I've been butchering a K1A1 kit, unfortunately tiny plastic handles and me do not get on very well. So spot the paperclip:

 

 

Sods law means the missing half of the handle turns up as soon as I glued that on, of course, but I can't be arsed to change it.

 

Here's the mark of a serious quality kit, I found this on a stug 3 model:

 

 

The K1A1 is academy, and compared to the stug it's like lego - I can not bother trimming the flash, it's so small, and everything is really crisp

 

Looking good! Airfix 1:76 is hot garbage. The SA scale models thread did a contest to see who can do the best with their shitty IS-3, that thing is completely missing any muzzle brake detail at all on one side and one in three kits came with missing parts. If you're looking for cheap and easy 1:72nd kits, I recommend Pegasus, they do quick-build wargaming vehicles and you usually get two for ten bucks. New Zvezda stuff in 1:72nd is great too, although their wargaming vehicles are in 1:100 scale.

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Russian bias, guide my hand on this Kolobanov KV

 

Finished another tank, and this time I get to take photos with a non-shitty camera! What a difference it makes!
 
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Zoom! Enhance!
 
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Even though it's a really old kit, it reproduces these hidden welding seams and roughly cut armour plates very well. 
 
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Thankfully the gun comes in one piece with a hollow tip, and the mold lines are easy to remove. Much better than even some more recent kits.
 
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I thought I may have gone a little overboard on chipping here, but it turned out pretty well.
 
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I'm very impressed with the detailing on the kit, for the most part. Even though it's from roughly the same era, this is a much better looking kit than the Jackson. There are some places where the details are lacking (the fender supports should be hollow, the inner road wheels have no detail on them at all, the exhaust pipes aren't hollow), but that's forgivable given the kit's age. Now... here are some less forgivable parts.
 
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The Jackson kit had filler parts for the final drive holes that had the vertical struts to fill the gap from the axle. This kit doesn't have them, so I had to fill them myself. Thankfully this area is hidden behind the drive wheel for the most part, so I didn't have to add the final drive case mounting details.
 
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The figure included with the kit is uh... not good. It's also dressed in the post-1943 uniform, and this is supposed to be an early war tank.
 
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This is the biggest offender: the tracks. These are the worst vinyl tracks I've ever seen on any vehicle ever. Even the Tamiya T-34 vinly tracks have some details on the inside. These guys? None. Smooth other than the guide horns. I replaced them with Trumpeter vinyl tracks, which are almost as nice as most link to link tracks that I've seen.
 
As the inclusion of the wrong crewman implies, this kit isn't super great historically. They call the tank KV-1B, which is one of the German designations, but then the kit shows a plain jane KV-1, which is a late 1941 model, as opposed to a 1940 model like the "B" index would suggest. Oh, and even though the manual calls it "model 1940", the F-32 gun wasn't used on KV tanks until January of 1941, and the applique armour wasn't added until the summer of 1941. Speaking of applique armour, it would be preferable to make it so the tank can be assembled with or without it, but you're out of luck. Even though there were many KV tanks of this type with either only extra armour on the turret or no extra armour at all, you are in for a lot of sanding and filling if you want to assemble the kit without either, and then you'd have to get parts like the tow cable holders (the cables are included in the kit, but the holders are not) separately. Curiously, the driver's plate without applique armour is included. 
 
The decals are similarly ahistorical. There are three variants: "Strike the fascist scum!", "Victory will be ours!", and one for an unidentified unit. I've never seen the unidentified one, a simple triangular symbol, but "Victory will be ours" is not only printed wrong, but the application of the decal on the left side is shown incorrectly. Curiously, the Tamiya 1:48th scale kit of this tank includes the correct decal. It's weird that this kit was not fixed. "Strike the fascist scum" is printed correctly, but was applied to a vehicle with turret armour only, which this kit cannot be assembled as. Since none of the options were that great, I decided to assemble tank #864 driven by Zinoviy Kolobanov in his famous battle where his company ambushed a German tank column and wiped it out without taking any losses in return. Sadly, the exact modification of his tank is also unknown. I used decals from the Tamiya T-34 1942 production kit, since thankfully it gives you lots and lots of spares.

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