Mirage Renault UE Stuka Zu Fuss
The Renault UE was a small tracked utility tractor that was in use by the thousands when the Germans defeated France in 1940. Always resourceful, the Germansí used many of these little tracked vehicles as munitions carriers, as well as a number being turned over to engineering units for use as light carriers. Still many others received field modifications that turned them into airfield security vehicles, mounting an MG42 in an armored box-like structure in place of the cargo bin on the rear of the vehicle. Another conversion and the subject of this model were to mount launching hardware on the sides of the vehicle for Wurfrahmen 40 rockets. These mounts allowed the UE to carry four 40cm rockets, and thus considerably increase the firepower of the German units, without costing them any of their own vehicles.
The Mirage kit of the Renault UE Stuka Zu Fuss contains the basic UE chassis that Mirage has released in several forms already, and is well molded in white styrene on three sprues. The Wurfrahmen 40 launches are molded on two sets of two identical sprues. These are also the same as those supplied in other Mirage/RPM kits. Overall the molding is good, and the parts are relatively flash free. The instructions are well laid out, and easy to follow. A small decal sheet is included which contains stencils for the rockets, as well as a couple of crosses for the tractor, these appear to be printed well enough.
Before starting construction, I looked over the parts to determine what extra work was going to be required. I had decided to build the kit pretty much out of the box, with only small amounts of extra detailing being done. The only areas I decided to do anything extra was the fenders and mudguards, muffler guard, and the center hub of the drive sprockets. Construction is straight foreword, and consists of building up the hull of the vehicle from flat plates. These all fit well, and in short order the basic hull of the vehicle was finished. The fenders and mudguards were thinned down from the bottom side using a sanding stick. Once these were thinned down they were added to the hull. The same was done to the muffler guard using a round file and sanding stick to also reduce itsí thickness.
The running gear was built up next, and this too went smoothly, though care needs to be taken, as the parts are small and fragile. Once both running gear assemblies were finished, and the glue set, they were added to the hull of the vehicle. The drive sprockets have no center hub detail, so I used one of the largest Grandt Line bolt castings I could find in the center of each sprocket to replicate this detail. I also built up the link and length track at this time too, but did not add it until the vehicle had been painted. The only difficulty I ran into here is that the teeth on the drive sprocket do not fit the holes in the track links. The easiest fix for this is to simply remove the teeth where the links come into contact with them. I really did not want to take this route, but the end result is not at all noticeable, and the track links fit very nicely around the drive sprocket. Also, be aware that Mirage gives you almost the exact number of separate links necessary, I only had two or three extra left when I was finished with the track.
The last item to be built up for the vehicle was the rear cargo box, and this too went together fine. I added a couple of latches to each side at the top, made from a small piece of strip plastic, and brass wire for the locking pins. With that the construction of the basic UE was complete, and I sat it aside while I built up the rocket launcher assemblies.
The rocket launchers and associated mounting hardware go together quite easily, though you do need to pay attention to make sure that you are building up right and left hand assemblies. The parts are 'generic', in that by reversing them, you can build 'handed' assemblies. Because of this, the mounting plates for the rocket crates have the graduation marks for setting the angle molded on each side. I removed the molded on graduations from the backsides of each plate before assembly. Once assembled, these too were put aside to be painted. It was quite obvious that trying to paint and weather the UE with the launcher assembly in place would be nigh impossible, therefore it was decided to paint and weather each separately and then combine them as a final assembly. The rocket crates are also best painted before assembly; these were painted while still on the sprue, first with a base of Model Master Wood, and then drybrushed with Model Master Leather for the wood grain. It was a simple matter to touch up the sprue attachment points later when the parts were removed and assembled.
The UE and rocket launcher assembly were both sprayed with Tamiya German Grey, and allowed to dry. Next both were heavily drybrushed with a lighter shade of Grey. This was done to for a couple of reasons; one: the drybrush would not reach into all the crevasses and recesses of the model, allowing those to remain very dark; and two: I wanted to replicate a vehicle that while heavily used, was reasonably well maintained. In the end I am fairly happy with the results I achieved. The whole vehicle also received one more drybrushing with an even lighter shade of the Grey, this time only hitting the raised details and edges.
The lower portions of the vehicle and running gear, as well as the lower edges of the rocket launcher assembly received a couple heavy washes of Raw Umber oil paint to give the impression of built-up dirt, dust and grime. I also added the muffler after painting it rust, and sprinkling it with baking soda to give it a scaly appearance. It was then given a couple of washes of Rustall, and then pastels were used to give it an uneven coloring.
Once the painting and weathering was finished, the tracks were added. These were painted Humbrol's Track Color, given several washes of Rustall, and then lightly dry brushed with Testors' Steel. These need to be added before the rocket launcher assembly was added to the vehicle, using small amounts of super glue. The assembly is quite fragile, and great care needs to be exercised to avoid damaging it during this phase of assembly. Once on, they are still very fragile, and I would suggest adding the vehicle to a small base to ease handling of it later on. The rocket crates and rockets can be added next. The rockets were painted a very dark Grey, before sliding them into the crates.
I decided to add some stowage items to the cargo box, so the parts box yielded a couple of Jerry Cans, a spade and a length of tow cable. I also added an aerial recognition flag, to add some color, this was hand painted on a piece of plane ole' aluminum foil using craft type acrylic paint. The aluminum foil is quite thin, and can be gently wrinkled and crinkled to represent the wrinkles present in the actual cloth flags. If done gently and with care, the paint will not flake off, thus allowing one some latitude as to positioning the flag realistically on the vehicle. Once positioned, the flag was given a very light wash of Raw Umber to give it a dusty appearance, as well as tone down the red and white somewhat.
The last thing left was to mount the finished vehicle on a small simple base, picked up in craft shop. The groundwork was built up, and a stump from Verlinden added. I also added a figure to the base with the vehicle to help give an idea of how small the actual vehicle was. An old Tamiya figure with the type uniform I was after was found in the parts box, his head replaced with a Verlinden item, and his pointy-toed shoes replaced with a pair of boots from a DML figure. Painting was accomplished with a combination of artists' oils and enamels.
And that's it, a very nice little kit that goes together very well, and builds into a good replica of the full sized vehicle. Recommended to those modelers who like building replicas of some of the lesser known and less glamorous vehicles of World War Two.
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