M4 (Tamiya) Build #5 – Assembling the Lower Hull is Mostly Completed and then Painted, Stained, and Worn, the Upper Hull is Fitted, and I Finally Get to Fit the Engine Into the Lower Hull

What drives the build changes as things move from the “pending” category into the “all done” category. The driver of this build has now switched to what needs to be done to attach the upper hull to the lower hull. I started by detailing and reworking the engine bay access hatches on the rear hull. I removed the molded-on retaining strap and replaced it with .010″ (.254mm) copper ship stock. The grab handle was replaced using 22awg wire (the holes are drilled over the hatch to show me where I need to add bolt heads, the holes on the bent tabs stay vacant) and as of this post these hatches are intended to be operational:

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Fitting the upper hull to the lower hull showed me there was a bit of work required to accomplish that. The first fit impediment was the box on the sponson next to the co-driver. It was too far forward and needed to be moved rearward:

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Once that box was moved rearward until it was in contact with the ammo rack, that part of the hull settled down correctly.

While I was mucking about with the upper hull, now seemed to be a good time (or maybe just not a bad time) to decide exactly where I’m going to replace the opaque plastic with clear plastic. I lightly scribed the outline (the actual execution of this replacement has occupied many hours of skull-sweat this month) onto the hull:

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Another question I’ve gotten is, “How do you know where the light falls?” Being lazy (and more than a little bit nuts), I figured out a simple way to do that. Use light. I used my cellphone (which is where these photos came from) to take a photo so that I can actually remember something for longer than five seconds:

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I added oil lines between the oil cooler and oil reservoir using .020″ (.508mm) solder:

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At this point I painted a few items that will need to be added once the “light splash” is added to the interior. The leather was distressed by using colored pencils and a wee bit of dry-brushing:

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And since I had the latex gloves on anyway, I loaded the airbrush with Tamiya’s XF-2 Flat White and did the light splash effects:

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Though recent Tamiya kits evidence excellent fit, t’weren’t always that way. Where the front mudguards “fit” the differential cover needed help. I added successive layers of .010″ (.254mm) styrene until I had more than enough and then sanded/filed them to a more correct fit:


I always try to add a pin-up to my armor models (the FT17 didn’t have one). This time it’s Jane (different Jane, Firefly fans):


And speaking of Tamiya, they made an excellent 75mm ammo set (#35191) that was beautifully machined out of brass (which takes care of what to paint the casings). For those of you this sort of minutia matters to, the shells with the silver stripe (and gun metal fuse housing, though that’s next to impossible to see) are HE (high explosive) and the shells with the solid OD green projectiles are AP (armor piercing). The only thing I did to these parts before painting them was a 20 minute bath in salted water to slightly oxidize the brass surfaces. To paint these things, instead of trying to mask off all those parts, I held each one by the shell casings (tweezers, obviously) and dipped the tips into a bottle of Tamiya XF-62 Olive drab (3 parts) and XF-2 Flat White (1 drop for scale color correction), and stuck the bases of the cases to double-sided tape affixed to thin cardboard to dry overnight. The next day, and completely unsurprisingly, I saw where I’d dipped some of them too deeply into the paint. Since acrylic paint doesn’t like to stick to metal bits, I used that characteristic and scraped away the overage with a fingernail. The next day I came back and applied Tamiya X-11 Chrome Silver with a brush. For the fuse casings I used my custom-mixed “gunmetal” of Tamiya X-18 Semi-Gloss Black (5 parts) and Tamiya XF-20 Medium Gray (4 parts):

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And then they were added to the ammo racks. Some rounds fit snugly (almost too much so) and some required a tiny dab of superglue to stay in place. I kept some rounds to add later to the ready-racks in the turret (and aren’t those primers fantastic?!):

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And then I added the auxiliary generator…Three hours of diddling, twisting, touching up paint, more diddling and twisting, until it FINALLY settled in where it goes:

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With that little nightmare accomplished, I added the fire extinguishers, seats, and instrument panel.

So, in the last post I mentioned where I thinned out the opening around the engine bay to get “scale thickness.” What I got was another instance of where I over-clever myself into more work. On the M4/M4A1s, the sides of the engine bay come right up to and even with that opening. So that meant that once again, I over-clevered myself and did the work to fix my “cleverness” by adding scrap styrene and then finishing it down:

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While that glue cured…completely… I sprayed lit areas with clear gloss and used a black wash using oil paint to pick out details. Then I used pastels, Humbrol #27003 Steel, and a sliver-colored pencil to add wear and staining. Since I am (attempting to) model a relatively newly-deployed tank, I did not weather and wear the interior to the same extent I did with my M4A3 (and also added the spare periscopes to the stowage box over the transmission):

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There is another ammo bin next to the driver. Frankly, I can’t see how that bin could be opened without the forward door smacking the driver seat…and forget having enough room to get the round out. I also just don’t understand how the supplied parts could work…so I didn’t add them. The doors to the bin are closed and empty bins won’t show on that side (the other side that has the rounds in the racks are right where the clear panel will go so I added those there):

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With the crew compartment populated, my attention turned to fitting the upper hull. If you look closely at the following picture, you’ll see where the forward bulkhead and both sides of the engine bay don’t meet the upper hull:

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When I looked closer, I saw that this section of the upper hull really doesn’t fit. There are substantial gaps where there shouldn’t be gaps. First photo is with the flash, the second is backlit:

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To fill that gap I used .030″ (.762mm) scrap styrene to start filling the gaps:

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With the upper dimension of the added plastic in place, I added more of the same scrap to the sides:

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At this point I wondered if I needed to add more plastic to the engine side of the bulkhead so I dropped the forward engine cover in place to see if that section would even be seen. It won’t be, so I didn’t bother:

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A LOT of filing ensued before I achieved the effect I wanted. A trick I used that made this easier (relatively speaking) was using a flashlight to back-light the sides of the engine bay to see where the gaps were:

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Finally. Fitting the engine. It had been awhile since I last checked the fit of the engine. So it was with no small amount of trepidation that I put the engine in place and dropped (again, all terms being relative) the upper hull in place, dry-fit the engine covers that will be in place, to see if it still fit:

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YES! And the Sword of Damocles is returned unused to its celestial scabbard!

Before I could do more additions to the engine, I had to attach the rear mounting. Before I could do that, details had to be added, so details were added using .015″ (.381mm) solder:

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Then I did the starter (on the left) using .025″ (.635mm) solder and the generator (same diameter solder):

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And then I remembered that I had yet to paint the inside of the upper hull…which reminded me I still had a few bits to add before I could do that. Reference photos indicate that the fixed periscopes (no doubt in there to take the place of the direct-vision slots) weren’t fitted often, probably due to the periscopes in the hatches blocking any view out of the fixed ‘scopes. The now-closed-but-definitely-missed TMD offered the empty ‘scope mounts. Having a few of those on hand, I cleaned up and glued a couple in place. Also from TMD are the mushroom-shaped inner (passive) vents that were added:

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To finish the inside of the upper hull, it was painted Tamiya XF-1 Flat Black and then Tamiya XF-2 Flat White was misted over that. Because the empty periscope mounts are easily visible from outside, and therefore in more direct light, I shot those from above and through the hatch openings:

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While dealing with upper hull minutia, I added weld beads using Vallejo Acrylic Resin Putty #70.401 (which, if you need to apply weld beads is GREAT for doing that…best technique I’ve yet found to add weld beads) to the applique armor in front of the hatch hoods:

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While I was in the let’s-add-weld-beads mood, I glued the rear engine cover in place and added weld beads to it and the sides of the rear applique armor where it joins the upper hull:

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With all the additions to the engine bits done, the engine bay and associated parts were all hit with Tamiya XF-1 (with the exception of the generator and starter motor which were done with Tamiya X-18 Semi-Gloss Black to match the paint on the rest of the engine):

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The rear engine mount was misted with Vallejo’s #71.132 Aged White. Once it had set up, the mount was glued to the engine. Once the glue set, I added the starter motor, generator, fuel pump, and carburetor and connected the “wires” where they could be connected and routed the ones that couldn’t be connected (because…where?) to where they would disappear into the dark engine bay.  The hoses and wire insulation were painted with Tamiya XF-85 Rubber Black, with one wire being painted Vallejo’s Aged White:

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I used Aged White again to “splash” light into the engine bay (and neglected to take any photos of that). I came back the next day to see if the engine still fit into the only space I have for it:

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And yes…it does!

So. There. The engine is finally fit! Next post will (I hope) include where I glued it in and the remaining hoses and wires that still need to be added.


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