This is a 25-year-old kit that still builds into a decent model. I decided before I began construction to add a few details that are either missing from the kit or would add an element of interest.
Construction began with the lower hull and the running gear. These were assembled according to the kit instructions without any problems. The next step was the upper hull and the first thing to do was to enclose the fenders above the tracks. A lot of older Tamiya kits need to have this done. It was accomplished with some thin plastic stock cut to shape and glued in place.
Several details were added from a very old Verlinden update set. These included a wire mesh over the engine intake, resin air cleaners, brass and resin antenna mount, new covers for the stowage boxes, open front drivers hatches and brass headlight guards. Grab handles were replaced with brass wire. Small amounts of filler were used on some of the seam lines. Headlights were drilled out so that I could add MV lenses later. A piece of spring steel was use for the antenna.
The turret was assembled and filler was used on all joints, as the fit was pretty bad in this area. The hatches were replaced with resin parts, as the detail was better. A new bracket was made from brass and applied the rear of the turret. Finally the rear vision port was opened for visual interest.
The last piece to be assembled was the commander's 30 caliber machine gun. This proved to be a wonderful exercise as I built 3 different ones! The first one was from the kit. It was pretty primitive by today's standards but I thought with a little extra effort on my part that it would be ok. After spending a good hour or so cleaning up the parts and filling several sinkholes with CA, I decided that I would just put the Verlinden gun together. This one was resin with many brass details. This was my first attempt at one of these so-called super detailed guns. None of the resin parts fit together like they were supposed to. The brass parts were way over sized as compared to both the kit-supplied gun and the resin version. After a considerable amount of time I had the gun and cradle assembled. It was an improvement over the kit part, but I still was not satisfied. I grabbed a gun out of Tamiya's new Jeep kit and 15 minutes later had a wonderful miniature replica of a 30 caliber. The level of detail on Tamiya's new kits is amazing! After completing assembly, I decided to replace the Verlinden resin barrel with an aluminum one from Jordi Rubio as the Verlinden item was too short. I also shortened the hull machine gun as it was to long. The Stuart was now ready to be primed and painted.
Painting begins with a light gray primer coat. I have been using Tamiya new primer in a spray can. This stuff sprays on in a super thin layer and doesn't cover any surface detail. I normally do not use a primer coat, but I had brass, aluminum, resin and plastic and I wanted an even color to paint over. My first coat of paint was Tamiya Olive Drab mixed 1:1 with Tamiya thinner. I sprayed the entire model with this to get a good base coat. The Tamiya Olive Drab is very dark and needs to be lightened. As this vehicle was to represent a tank in operation in North Africa I faded each panel with a 50/50 mix of Tamiya Olive Drab and Khaki. This mixed color closer represents the faded OD color that I was looking for.
After the tank was faded I applied all of the markings on the vehicle. For these I used the new Archer Dry Transfers and they worked beautifully! The advantage of dry transfers is that there is no carrier film to deal with. The markings look painted on. I then proceeded to paint all of the small details such as machine guns, road wheels and taillights. The model was now ready for weathering.
Weathering begins with a very thin wash of artist oils. I started with Lamp Black mixed super thin(more like tinted thinner than thin paint) and applied this over the entire tank. This tones down the faded paint effect that was applied earlier. The next step was to apply a slightly heavier wash made from Lamp Black and Van Dyke Brown to the lower hull and running gear. After this had dried for about 20 minutes I then began to "pin wash" the raised detail and the recessed panel lines. This is accomplished by applying straight paint thinner to each panel and then using a very small brush to apply Van Dyke Brown, Indian Red and or Lamp Black to each detail. I use all 3 colors as this keeps the vehicle from becoming too monotone.
After this dries I add a heavy wash around the fuel filler caps and some portions of the running gear to simulate oil and fuel spills. After the washes are dry, the next step is to dry brush the edges and the raised details. This is mixed up from Yellow Ochre, Sap Green and Titanium White Artist oil paints. I like to use Artist Oils for this because of their thicker consistency. I use a very soft touch with this and only deposit paint on the raised areas and the edges of panels. This makes things like bolt heads really pop out! After this was done I mixed up a 50/50 mix of Tamiya Desert Yellow and Tamiya Flat Earth and thinned it about 80% with Tamiya thinner and applied it with my airbrush to represent dust and dirt. The last step was to apply Tamiya Buff with the airbrush to represent a fresh coating of dust. This was kept mainly below the fenders and on the running gear and tracks.
Not bad for an old kit! Despite the age of the Tamiya molds, this is still the only Stuart available (for now). I'll be waiting for Academy's Stuarts to hit the shelves this year and it will be back to the old workbench...