by James Gray
I originally wrote this one up as an in-the-box review for Internet Modeler. When I was done, however, I just could not put it back in the box! So construction started immediately. Refer for general comments to that review, which appeared in the December '99 issue of Internet Modeler.
I mostly followed the directions sequentially, and I won't bore you with "attach part 22 to part 16, and then to part 41". I will just discuss the areas where I diverged from the directions, or where there are problems.
The engine and chassis go together pretty well; however the chassis frame (part 4) is too long at the back and the rearmost member (part 9) fits in past the ends of the frame. After referring to the 1/35th scale ICM model GAZ, I cut the frame off flush with part 9. Installation of the forward axle/radiator (part 14) and engine is also straightforward. I left off the bumper until nearly the end of contruction since it is pretty fragile looking.
However, the rear suspension is the single greatest cause of problems for me in this kit. I suspect that the kit was originally engineered for the single-axle version, and that this twin-rear-axle version had less thought put into its construction. Anyway, part 17, containing the four leaf springs, is not well made; the ends of the springs are further apart than the width of the axles at that point. It did not help that part 17 in this kit was slightly warped. I accidentally broke part 17 (trying to get that warp out of it), and then I glued tiny square shims to the ends of the leaf springs so that the axles would touch both upper and lower springs. Then, since the two broken parts of part 17 left me with no gluing surface to speak of, I finally wound up mounting the ends of the axles to the chassis directly with styrene blocks. This was in part bad model engineering, in part it was the warped part, and in part it was my clumsiness and bad planning. I am going to do this kit again and I will be seeing if there is a better way to do it. As for this try, these blocks don't show unless you turn the model on it's back, and then you really have to know what to look for.
The cab is rather tricky, since it is composed of ten major parts, all of which have to fit correctly. I glued the floor on and let that set, then I glued in the seat back to the back of the cab, but all the other major parts (including the front axle/radiator) were glued together simultaneously with a slow-setting glue. I included the doors in making up this assembly, even though I did not glue them in place at this time, to make sure that they would fit afterwards. There was a slight gap when I was done at the rear of the hood, which I filled with a few applications of a thickish paint. There was also a gap at the rear of the roof, where the back of the cab attached. I filled this in and then I had to re-scribe it when I found there is a join here on the real thing! Oh well. Only after the cab was built did I install the gearshift levers, the dashboard, and the steering column and wheel. This was a little awkward, but it worked out OK and it was the easiest way to make sure that they did not get in the way while building the cab. This is why I left the doors unglued, so I could install these bits, and also at this time I installed small strips of thin plastic to form rims for the top of the windshield and both top and bottom of the rear window, to make later installation of the glass easier. The doors could, with a little reinforcement, be left open; a very nice touch I did not use this time. The gas cap (part 24) and radiator cap (part 13) were added now, since assembling the cab first helped make sure they were properly aligned. Be careful; these are the smallest injection-molded pieces I have ever seen! The headlights I left off until later, since these too were very fragile.
The bed was a little confusing at first before I realized that the two main members (parts 45 and 46) are not parallel, but converge towards the front end. I made sure that this assembly fitted the top of the chassis before the glue set.
I painted the cab prior to gluing the doors and painted the combined cab/chassis assembly separately from the bed. I used two coats of Humbrol's Deep Bronze Green, a color that I love. For one thing, it is very reluctant to make brush marks. However, it does "lift" easily, so don't stir the second coat around or the first coat will come up. After the second coat was quite dry, I then heavily drybrushed Pactra Light Olive overall. This provides an effect like a wash, where the corners and deep bits are darker. But I never had luck with washes, and this works just fine. The muffler and exhaust pipe I stippled with various tones of dark brown/red/orange, for rust.
I glued the bed on the chassis. There are four pieces (probably u-bolts) that hold the bed down (parts 19 and 20). These were the only parts short-shot in this kit; I have four kits and they all vary slightly; in the one I am working on now they are fine, but there is a bit more flash. I replaced them with lead wire which was easy to work with, no problem.
Then I had the fun of cleaning eleven wheels! You only need ten but there is an extra. The molding is great on the sidewalls; if you could read Cyrillic you could make out what was printed on the tires! On the downside, there is no tread. I imagine that molding a tread in this scale would be pretty tough, so I can't complain. I painted the wheels the same as the rest of the model so far, then carefully painted the tires with my own mix of almost-black. I drybrushed the tires with Pactra Hot Rod Primer. When they were all done, I popped the tires on the axles. It is set up so the wheels will turn. Big deal. I found out that the hubs looked unrealistic because of the compromises needed for this feature, and the wheels were not all flat on the ground, probably because of the problems I had with the rear suspension. They were not badly out of alignment, perhaps a millimeter, but it was not satisfactory. I broke off the wheels that were high and glued them back on (who cares if they spin?) at the right height. I also clipped off the "head" of the axles that hold on the spinning tires and glued a thin hub disk over the center of each wheel. Again, a detail I garnered from examining the ICM kit. I built up the big center nut and five surrounding nuts on this disk with several applications of white glue, and then I had to repaint the center of each wheel again. Now they look much better.
When the wheels were on it really started to look like a truck. Even more when I added the bumper. But there were still a couple of obstacles ahead. One of which was the headlights. They come as solid streamlined hunks, correctly shaped but totally opaque. I was considering MV Products lenses, but I could not really nuke out how to install them, and in the end I used a very old-fashioned technique; I drilled them out and glued a disk of tin foil inside. Then, with the holes facing up, I put Superglue in the holes, letting it bead up as high as I could get it to go. Eventually the glue shrank down about level with the front of the lenses, and while it lost a bit of the clarity and brilliance it started with, the effect is still very nice. Cheaper than MV Products lenses, too. After painting, the bar/headlight/horn (be careful with the tiny horn!) was installed. Finally, I put the equally tiny rear-view mirror on. Now, this is a part which will snap off in an instant! I know. Since most Soviet trucks seem to lack markings, I had no decals to mess with, and I proceeded to mask the headlights and dullcoat everything.
I wanted to do the final weathering with pastels, but I could not get the pastels to make a visible impression on all that dark green. The model DID look dusty but of course when the second coat of dullcoat went on the pastels became even more subtle. For subtle, read invisible. I shifted my ground and decided to fall back on the old standby, drybrushing. I used Humbrol's German Dunklegelb; it makes a dirty look but it is not so pale that it is easy to ruin the model with it. I drybrushed over this with Pactra Light Olive again to tone down the yellow, especially at the corners and edges. The tires got drybrushed lightly with Pactra Hot Rod Primer instead.
It was while working on the rear-view mirror that I broke it off; I forgot for an instant that it was there. Ooops. For once in my life the superglue set instantly and made an invisible repair, I don't know how. Anyway, while the mirror itself was still off I glued a tiny disk of tinfoil over the driver's side, to make a nice mirror. I cut out some 15 thousandths clear plastic to fit the windshield and rear window. I chose to leave the side windows rolled down. I learned you can't scribe and snap the clear plastic, you have to carve it to shape, otherwise you will get a visible flaw at the edge. Having the extra kits was a help. I could use them as templates and for testing the fit. The windows were set in place with white glue. Voila! Or whatever it is that Russians say when they finish something.
While there was some additional work to do on this kit, only the rear suspension was frustrating. I had a lot of fun on this kit and I really recommend it to anybody interested in Soviet armor in World War II; and it's a great airfield accessory, too.