According to the instruction sheet, the ZiL-157 truck was one of the most popular vehicles of the Soviet era with its excellent cross-country capability. It was designed in 1958 at the bureau attached to the Likhachov automobile factory in Moscow. Serial production began there and at Kharkov and Groznij. The artillery component of the BM-13-16 Katiusha was formed by 8 bilateral rail launch guides. The laying equipment, elevating and transversing were all operated by hand. The Katiusha was able to fire all sixteen of its rocket projectiles of M-13 (132mm) or M-82 (82mm) type fragmentation charges within 7-10 seconds.
There is some indirect evidence that this kit is in 1/76th scale since the chassis for the BTR-152 kit matches some 1/76th scale drawings and that same chassis is used for the ZiL-157; the basis of the BM-13-16. Direct evidence of the precise measurements for the BM-13-16 was not available to me. If the kit is in 1/76th scale, it is 2mm too short in length, so the individual builder will have to make up his mind as to whether this possible shortcoming is important.
The kit comes on five sprues of dark green plastic, three sprues of black plastic, one sprue of clear parts, eight separately molded wheels, cab, truck bed, chassis, and three brass axles. All parts have little flash and require a minimal amount of sanding. The kit comes in a colourful box depicting an action scene on the front and a profile colour scheme on the reverse side. The entire set of parts is sealed in a tough clear plastic bag, which reduces the risk of losing parts. The same kit has been issued by Omega-K.
The chassis and underside parts are all molded in soft black plastic. Care needs to be taken when removing these delicate parts from the sprue. I began with the axle and wheel sub-assemblies. I pushed the axles through the axle parts and into the wheel holes to ensure a correct fit and then glued these to the chassis piece without gluing the axles or wheels. The transverse drive parts have to be carefully attached to the axles. This took some time and I eventually reasoned that part 40 had to go between the chassis and the axle, otherwise it would just be hanging down too low. Once this was all set, I added the various exhausts, hooks and the remaining chassis components, all of which were sprayed Scale Black, including the wheels.
The kit's cab interior is somewhat sparse, comprising a bench and console, steering column and a couple of gear sticks. The instructions say not to use the two instrument panels, however, since the interior looked so bare, I glued them to the console anyway. Prior to assembly, I sprayed the bench Scale Black. The instrument panel was painted French Brown with black dials, and white specks were added to the dials to represent a display.
At this point, I had to select a base colour for the armour components, namely the cab, truck bed and rocket launcher. The instructions recommended olive drab, however, a close approximation to a picture I found was Polly Scale PC-10; a dark green-brown colour used for World War One Allied aeroplanes. I sprayed the interior and exterior of the cab with PC-10, and I also painted the wheels' centres the same PC-10 colour. I then glued on the cab seat and cemented in the rear window and front windscreens. The clear parts for this kit fit well but are somewhat thick, so I omitted the side windows (they are assumed to be rolled down), and the front windscreens were to be covered later by the blast shields. I then glued together the cab's upper (part 17) and lower (part 18) components.
Truck bed and rocket launcher
Constructing the truck bed and rocket launcher sub-assembly was the most difficult part of the kit. The support framework for the parallel rocket launchers is delicate and I took great care sanding off the various nibs and bumps, and dry-fitted all the components prior to gluing them. I had very few references available to me for this kit so I was essentially using the box art and the one or two pictures I had found on the web. I took care to ensure that the launching rails were parallel and had to use some filler on the attachment parts. Once this was assembled, I sprayed it PC-10. Finally, I assembled the window blast shield components, which I chose to model as covering the front windscreens, also sprayed PC-10.
Weathering - Part 1, oil wash and dry-brushing
The next job was to begin the weathering process. I decided that it would be easier to do an oil wash on the sub-assemblies before they were glued together. I made an oil wash using a small amount of Lamp Black oil paint combined with a large amount of Turpenoid. I also mixed up a similar batch made from Burnt Umber oil paint. After masking off the clear parts with Parafilm, I prepared the entire surface for the wash by brushing with Turpenoid, which I allowed to dry. I then applied the black wash liberally, making sure it went into the recessed parts. Once this was done, I sponged off the excess wash using Upstage's 'Eye Tips Double End Foam Applicators'. I repeated this process using the burnt umber wash; the combined colour washes provided a nice blend.
Once the oil wash was dry, I dry-brushed the PC-10 coloured parts with a mixture of white and PC-10. My objective was to highlight the edges and the prominent parts of the structure, which combined with the wash, gives the model more depth of appearance. I dry-brushed the chassis and edges of the launcher rails with Burnt Aluminum. The wheels received a similar wash and dry-brushing treatment. I then gave the wheels a dry brushing of medium grey and sand around the tyres' edges. The two spare wheels were given less weathering treatment
The kit contains sixteen rockets, all on a sprue, so I had to sand off the mold lines on each rocket. There are also sixteen separate cross-fins for each rocket. I sprayed the rockets Scale Black while they were attached to the sprue. I then removed them from the sprue, sanded them and touched up the paint job. Removing the mold lines on the rockets took a considerable amount of time. I painted the two bands on each rocket Engine Grey, which added some break in the rocket's appearance and camouflaged the excessive sanding job I had done, which had created some misshaped rockets.
Eventually the rockets were ready to be glued onto the launcher rails. I turned the launcher sub-assembly upside down and proceeded to glue on the underside's row of rockets, making certain that they were in a straight row. All was perfect, except when I turned the sub-assembly back over, I realized I had glued the entire row of rockets to the wrong end of the rails and they were now pointing down ready to be fired into the ground behind the truck!
I rapidly removed the row of rockets, cleared up the glue mess with sanding and repainting, and glued the rockets into their correct position. I then glued the upper eight rockets on the other side of the launcher rail. I realized that I could have left off the rockets entirely, (they could have been launched two minutes ago), with no penalty but for some reason, I thought the model would look better with them. I noticed that the Katiusha BM-24-12 ICM kit has only twelve rockets, however, ICM have seen fit to mold each of these in halves! When I build that kit, it will definitely not portray the rockets.
Combining the sub-assemblies
I now had the cab, chassis and launcher/bed subassemblies ready. Unfortunately, when I attempted to dry-fit the cab and the bed on the chassis, there was insufficient room; either the front or the rear wheels would have to be moved towards their ends. After a mild panic, I decided to move the front axle forward a touch. This required me to detach the entire front axle and the transverse drives; a fair inconvenience, especially as it took me two tries to get it right, and a concomitant [EDITOR's NOTE: yes this is a real word, I looked it up - RNP] amount of paint touch-ups to cover up the removal marks. I also noticed from my sole reference photograph, albeit of a ZiL-151 Katiusha that the kit's truck bed sat too low, so I glued a couple of strips of Evergreen plastic onto the chassis to lift the bed about 2 mm. This process took a fair amount of time, however, once completed, the cab, truck bed and chassis fit well enough.
The decals were slightly problematic being over-delicate but not especially thin. Possibly, I should have applied a coat of liquid decal film prior to use. I painted a layer of Future on the surfaces to be decaled. I then applied the decals and I was able to cover up their thickness and slight silvering with the various weathering materials.
Final details and weathering part 2- pastel chalks
Once the entire kit was assembled, I proceeded to use black and burnt umber pastel chalks to complete the weathering job. I ground up small amounts of these chalks into a small ashtray and applied them to the kit in liberal quantities using a stiff brush. I removed the excess by blowing it off or sponging it away. I then gave the entire model a coat of Testors' Clear Flat, however, in retrospect, I think that does not provide a sufficiently dull flat appearance. Next time I will try Polyscale clear flat. I then painted the headlamps aluminium, glued on the headlamp grilles and painted the side mirrors silver.
Most armour models look better on a base. I purchased a simple circular wood base from a local art supply chain store. I stained the wood base and when that was dry, I coated it with polyurethane. I finished it by adhering a piece of Tamiya diorama material sheet to the top surface.
I recommend this kit, however, there are a few minor drawbacks.
First, I would replace the clear parts since they are thick and it seems possible to replace them with thin transparent Evergreen sheet.
Second, I am not certain the spare wheels look realistic. Their obverse side has only a sort of spout with a hole and the central part is not removed as one might have thought would be the case for a spare wheel.
Third, the rockets are a lot of trouble. Admittedly I was incompetent, however, my advice is to leave them off.
Fourth, the builder had better ensure that the front axle is moved forward a couple of millimeters, otherwise the parts will not fit on the chassis without the wheels bumping up against the wheel guards. This latter problem is possibly caused by the manufacturer trying to use the same ZiL-157 chassis for too many kits.
The same chassis appears in about eight kits. In general, however, this is a great kit. The parts are well molded, the wheels being separately molded meant they required no sanding whatsoever, and there is plenty of detail to catch the eye. One possible enhancement is to purchase the photoetch aftermarket set from ExtraTech, which would be most useful for its headlamp grilles to replace the slightly thick ones in the kit.
Keith Goodman was helpful in explaining how the chassis components were arranged. Also, Matt Bittner was helpful with encouragement and armour weathering tips.