1/144 Pre-Finished Armor Models
The realm of pre-finished models has exploded in the last few years, and some of the recent subjects are truly remarkable in their detailing and finishing. Whether it is 1/400 diecast airliners or 1/18 plastic armor, the prefinished model realm has something for just about everyone. In this first article in a new series, I will present some of the more recent 1/144 armor models available, with attention given to their various details, high points, and low points. The next article will detail how to take one of these models and refinish it, by adding or enhancing the kit parts and repainting it. The results can be quite striking, and open up a new world of modeling possibilities.
For this initial examination, we will look at two manufacturers: 21st Century Toys' Classic Armor series and Dragon's Can.Do Pocket Army. The Dragon series is well established and has a good selection of both modern and WW2 armor nearly two dozen subjects in all, while the 21 Century Toys series is fairly new and just beginning to grow, with six subjects covered. Both series are very inexpensive.
While these subjects have much in common, there are differences, some rather dramatic differences. The first thing that stands out is with the presentation of the two. The Can.Do kits come with a larger clear display case, with a detailed base. There are about three different core bases, and those three are painted up in at least two different variations, which provide quite a few options. The 21st Century Toys kits come in a simple display box with no ground work. This creates a cleaner presentation and leaves just the tank as the primary subject. Also, the 21st Century Toys kit comes with a solid locking key on the underside, keeping the tank firmly attached to the base. The Can.Do kits have no such feature, and as such they can slide around.
However, on that note, the Can.Do kits have what appear to be vinyl tracks, while the 21st Century Toys kits are all plastic. The vinyl tracks do give a bit of adhesion to the base, but it also opens up some question as to the durability of the pieces. In many cases, vinyl over time will interact with plastic and eat into it, which could cause a problem here. However, with a good sealant, perhaps that will not be an issue.
In examining the detail of both company's products (and remember, we're talking about a tank that is roughly one inch long here), the quality of molding is roughly equal between the two. This can be hard to discern, though, due to one other major difference between the two companies. While both have detailed paint schemes and accurate markings, the Can.Do models are also finished with some subtle drybrushing and washes to highlight the detail better. I am sure that with a quick wash and drybrush on the 21st Century Toys tank, the detail would pop out just as much.
In terms of accuracy, I have not taken out the micrometer on these guys and measured things out (and, given the scale, a micrometer is exactly what you'd need, too!), but overall they capture the look of the original quite well. Sure, some of the details like fenders and such are overly thick for 1/144 (let's be honest, in this scale, anything thicker than paper would be over scale), but it really does not detract from the overall high quality of molding. Out of the box, I would have to give an edge to the Can.Do pieces, with their display bases and subtle weathering, but only if you choose to not detail and refinish the model.
Between these two companies, the potential for 1/144 armor is great. While the predominant era of coverage is World War II, the modern armor in the Can.Do series opens up some possibilities for the Trumpeter 1/144 LCAC, for instance. With these you could pack that ship full with HUMVEEs, for instance. The 21st Century Toys tanks could make for an interesting addition to the Trumpeter LCM, as you could add a Sherman tank offloading. Of course, with both series, the possibility of pulling together a large tank battle diorama is quite possible, and unlike 1/35 or even 1/72, that diorama would not have to be very big.
In an upcoming issue, we'll see just what we can do to one of these kits with just a bit of extra detail and a new paint job. Stay tuned!