Author Archive: rapierfighter

Bugatti Type 35B – A Brief Overview

To my way of thinking, this is the car that established Ettore Bugatti’s reputation as a performance car builder. Initially produced in 1925, the 35 didn’t have an auspicious race debut. A hundred years ago tires didn’t cope well with speeds of 120mph so that first year of competition the 35 kept exploding its tires. Difficult to finish a race that way. In 1927 the tire manufacturer (Dunlop, I think but don’t quote me) solved the tire problem. Once the 35 had a set of shoes that would handle what the car dealt out, this car went on to become the most successful Grand Prix car ever fielded. Depending on which reference you read, it’s credited with between one and three thousand wins between 1925 and 1932 and dominated the Targa Florio from 1925 to 1929. That’s pretty impressive for a car that only had a production run of about 140 (hard to pin down exactly).

It was powered by a straight-eight 2.3 litre engine that put out about 138hp with a four-speed transmission. Both the shifter and parking brake handle were mounted outboard of the right-side driving position. The 35A was a decent car but only put out about 80-90hp. A slightly enlarged engine, up from the 1.5 of the Type 35, was built for the 35B (originally named 35TC) but the real game-changer was that it also came equipped with a Rootes-style supercharger used originally on the 35C on a slightly less powerful engine. Several innovations included an electric starter and that the brake drums were cast (in aluminum) as part of the wheel which meant that a tire change meant new brake drums (probably a good idea for aluminum brake drums). Extensive use of aluminum was used through the 35’s construction resulting in a car that weighed about 1650lbs (750kg).

The last recorded win of the 35B was the at the Monaco Grand Prix with Rene Dreyfus at the wheel. The last recorded with of any Type 35 was at the 1932 Australian Grand Prix with Bill Thompson at the wheel of a 35A.

A street version of the car was also offered, differing from the race car in that the only additions were a passenger’s windscreen, head and tail lights, and cycle fenders.

This car is so iconic that a Venezuelan company, Pur Sang, builds exact reproductions of them.


A Pur Sang reproduction:

Pur Sang 03

Bugatti Type 35B (Monogram) After-Action Report


Total building time 233.75 hours

Begin date November 10, 2021 – June 14, 2022



Kit #2234 Bugatti Type 35B Special Interest Series


1930 Bugatti 35B set #22

My opinion

For such a simple kit this one took a long time, much of that spent de-simplifying it. It frequently felt as if I was building a Faberge egg (arrogant, much?) from small pieces. I don’t know if it was the age of this kit (Scalemates tells me it is of 1978 vintage (even though it’s not a wine, though I did supply plenty of whine) or the particular formulation of the styrene but it was VERY BRITTLE and things just kept snapping; frame, body, various bits (which is what created the sensation of trying to build something out of egg shell fragments) all had to be repaired before they could be used.

The fit of the parts were typical of kits engineered in 1967, which was the first year this kit was on shelves and presented no profound difficulties, just plenty of practice making things fit. Detail was probably very good for 1967 and was not the typical you-assemble-a-plastic-toy kit of the time as there were no “working features.” (To me, that’s a feature.)

I’ve wanted a model of this particular car (what with being a throttle-jockey and all) for a long time and I’m glad I now have one in the display case. I do wish that someone would produce a new-tool kit of this subject (I wish Tamiya were reading this) with all the bells, whistles, PE, and resin that implies.

Bugatti Type 35B (Monogram) 1/24 Scale

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Bugatti Type 35B (Monogram) Build #8 – All the Tiny Details Remaining are Wrestled With Leading to Assembly and DONE

I started by checking fit on the scratch-built engine covers. Seeing that they didn’t exactly fit EXACTLY gave my blood pressure an unneeded boost:

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I don’t know how I managed that but I do know how to fix it. Before I did that I wanted to see how the covers these parts were embossed over did fit and these did not. I used a kit-supplied radiator hose (for the only thing it was good for) to see if somehow I managed to bollocks up the copy. Nope…the gap between the radiator and where the location pin ends is almost exactly how far off things are:

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I thought I was being so careful to not do what I ended (relatively speaking) up doing. Getting the dimension wrong. Clearly I put the radiator in too far forward, so my first thought was to pop the radiator free and reposition it. And then I realized that a) the plastic in this kit is brittle and b) no…listening to it creak as I started applying pressure was a Bad Idea. I resorted to the horrible kit I’d bought through eBay. That kit came apart with few problems, leaving me with a detached radiator. The gap I needed to close was about .030″ (.762mm) so I traced the shape of the radiator onto a piece of styrene of the appropriate thickness:

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I used a compass to transfer the thickness of the lip to the outline by tracing the outline with the pin of the compass and letting the pencil lead do the work:

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Then I traced the inner line with a sculpting tool that I could used as the guide for the panel line scriber that I was going to use to cut the inside away:

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The scribing was…well…scribing and I did my usual poor job of it. This time it didn’t really matter as I intended to sand and file the inner edge to a more accurate curve. That, at least, I could manage. I trimmed away sections of the bottom that I didn’t need, applied glue, and stuck the radiator into a vise to get everything to squidge together firmly. That filled the gap and, minor fitting aside, everything fit as I’d originally intended:

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After masking and painting the outside of the radiator, I used a section of 20awg single-strand wire to make better radiator hoses. The insulation was cut off the end of the wire after bending it to the desired shape and then I used Tamiya XF-85 Rubber Black (though one can also use Tamiya XF-69 NATO Black, I like the Rubber Black better) to paint the insulation and then regular aluminum foil as the hose clamps and glued them in place:

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The shifter is located on the outside of the car next to the parking brake. Two flaps of leather fill most of the opening in the body so I painted that. In the photo it shows I also painted the surround aluminum but when I looked at reference photos I saw that I should not have so that was rectified after the photo was taken:

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I dry-fitted the engine covers to see how the preshading worked…and it did what I’d hoped for:

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I did some touch-up painting on the interior where blue paint has sneaked past the mask and where the mask pulled up a little paint from the seat. I masked the interior and engine area again so that I could throw a coat or two of Tamiya X-35 Semi-Gloss Clear over it. (I’m not modeling a restored classic, all smooth bodied with gloss paint…I’m after a period racer.):

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Yeah…that’s the look I wanted. I liked it so much, I glued the front axle assembly in place:

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The spinners held the wheels on in place of lug-nuts, so obviously they’re separate parts. The kit molded them with a radius where they meet instead of a sharp angle. That needs to be addressed (the holes are the first step):

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After using a rat tail file to open the drilled hole, I used .093″ (2.36mm) tube to fill it and then added .062″ (1.57mm) rod to fill the hole in the tubing:

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While the glue was curing, I dry-fitted the steering arm and realized that its mounting point didn’t quite reach where it had to. I added some scrap styrene to fix that:

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Trimmed them down a bit, added a scrap of styrene where I’d gouged one, and started filing and sanding them down. Then I drilled the centers in back of the spinners to fit the axle stubs:

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With the front axle in place, I ran wire to replicate the brake cables:

The next logical thing to add is the front wheels/tires. I’d slipped the rear wheels/tires on to see how it sat. Poorly:

Considering how many times the frame broke (three…just on this one, that is) and the front axle assembly broke (twice), I wasn’t surprised that one of the tires didn’t touch the surface. To untwist the frame I added a styrene block to the right rear which did the trick and now all four tires touch:

Once the glue cured overnight, I cut most of the stub off and then recessed what was left. A quick coat of flat black paint and thought that block is in there, it can’t be seen.

One of the things I forgot to add earlier was the cleats that hold the leather hood straps located, so I used a set of resin castings from Tiger Model Direct (intended for 1/35 armor, but they’re the perfect size, so why not?):

I added both rear axle braces, rear brake cables, shifter, and parking brake…and didn’t take a single photo. Oops.

The cleats were painted and then I broke out the lead foil and started making the hood straps:

With those made I had the dimensions to start making buckles. The first set was too large so I made a mandrel (scrap styrene) and turned out another eight of them (I only needed two so I got to choose the pair closest to each other in size):

I have a bunch of later photos on my phone. Unfortunately, something went sideways and they’re all blurry enough to be useless. What I can’t show you is the absoLUTE fun I had feeding the lead strips through the PROFOUNDLY DELICATE cleats. I surprised myself when only one of them broke. I surprised myself even more by fixing it. The steering arm was added, the exhaust system installed, the engine covers glued on, the lead painted semi-gloss black, and then final paint touch-ups commenced.

And then it was done:

The Carpet Monster and the Interdimensional Portal

I really like modeling. Given how much money and time I spend on this hobby, that’s rather like saying the Pacific Ocean is moist in places. But I have discovered what I sodding hate about modeling. This aspect of modeling is most often referred to as The Carpet Monster.

Yeah. I get that. Even though my shop has no carpet, I get that. The worst thing I can hear during a build is, while holding (I thought) a tiny little part with tweezers I hear “tick.” And suddenly I’m not holding ANYthing. One of these days I’m going to total how much time I spend crawling around the floor with a flashlight looking for the end result of that “tick.” (“A lot” isn’t a number.)

Okay. So that’s just part of modeling. I get that, too. But here’s what I do not get. Do not get. After spending an hour moving EVERYTHING in the shop that’s movable, why can’t I find the sodding part?! Well, I’ve come up with a theory.

My shop (and yours, too, I’ll bet) (but I won’t bet much…I’m parsimonious) has an Interdimensional portal somewhere near the workbench. Here’s why I think that…

Okay. TINY part. “Tick” and it’s flashlight-time. At my age (72 as I write this), getting up from the floor doesn’t happen quickly or gracefully. In fact, once I’m Down There, one of my considerations is, “Do I really have to get up?” Well, yes. I do. If I don’t the cat will try to bury me. (And she does not deal well with frustration, so y’know.) Right. “Tick” and me and the flashlight get to spend some quality time on the floor together. Sometimes I even find what it is I just dropped.

Then there are those other times.

Right. Small part and no matter how many times I vacuum or sweep there’s a ton of crud on the floor. (If you know of a commercial application for cat hair, drop me a line…we could be stupid-rich!) The good news is that whatever crud is down there, it doesn’t look like the part I just dropped. That said…

I dropped a polyethylene pipette a few days ago. This pipette is NEVER out of my shop (because why would it be?). It’s about 6” (about 15.1cm) long and doesn’t look at all like floor-crud. Easy to spot, yeah? Uhm…NO. I could not find it. There was no reason I could not find it. It fell from the bench, hit the floor (I heard it and had a rough idea where it landed), and TEN SECONDS LATER I could not find it. I looked everywhere it could be. Then I looked everywhere it could not be. Result? Well, good thing I have more pipettes. Yesterday I was in the bathroom scraping the wool off my teeth (both of them AND the store-bought teeth) and when I bent over to rinse the resultant sewage out of my mouth, there…sitting on top of the sink, a sink that is at least 20’ (or just under 9.5m) away from the shop. And the pipette was sitting on the bathroom sink. No, even Michael Jordan couldn’t get it to bounce that far. So how did it end up someplace that (and this is an inanimate object) I didn’t put it?

My shop has an Interdimensional Portal right under the edge of the workbench. It’s the only theory I can cobble together that fits the facts. I dropped it in the shop and a week later it reappears in THE FREAKING BATHROOM.

This isn’t the first time something like this has happened. When I was doing the P-51 build I snapped the grip off the joystick. Flashlight time. No part found. Fine. I scratchbuilt one. Over the four and a half years that the P-51 kit sat on the shelf waiting for me to figure out how to fix what I’d royally screwed up that caused that kit to be shelved, I vacuumed the shop. It’s part of my ritual after I finish a build. Clean the bench and shop, airbrush into the ultrasonic cleaner, and sharpen EVERYTHING with a steel edge. I am thorough on those rare occasions I actually clean something. Shelves rolled out of the shop, everything on the workbench removed and that vacuumed, and in short (yeah…too late with that notion) the shop rendered clean enough that a quick wipe-down with alcohol and it’d be ready-for-surgery sort of clean. (I’m crazy…remember?) Never found the grip.

Well, sort of “never.” While working on the M24, I dropped a part (easy to do with Bronco’s addiction to high parts count and DAMN the common sense!). Can you guess what I found sitting there in the open? Yup. The grip. FOUR AND A HALF YEARS OF VACUUMING AND SWEEPING LATER, there’s the part I lost years ago. (And remember…there’s no carpet for it go get lost in…just a bare oak floor.)


It had to have fallen into the Interdimensional Portal because if it HAD been on the floor, the vacuum would have long since consigned it to a landfill. An Interdimensional Portal that leads, obviously, to another dimension that is inaccessible to anyone but a modeler…and then only for deposits, because there are MANY items that I’ve never found.

I just wish Loki and Eris would pay attention to someone else for a change… (That would almost be worth sacrificing a virgin for.)

Bugatti Type 35B (Monogram) Build #7 – All the Tiny Details Leading Up to Paint

With the body buttoned up the next task is all the tedious, small, details. The first detail I added was the protective screen in front of the radiator. I used the old Scale Link (whose PE line has moved to octagonal PE mesh for that:

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No doubt you’ve noticed that the engine covers look like they’re in place. Well…not really. I tacked the kit-supplied engine cover in place to serve as a mask for the engine bay. That part will be replaced later on.

The racing version didn’t have the windscreen for the passenger. In racing form, that’s frequently where the rear-view was placed. I used .005″ (.127mm) copper shim stock to form the support. The white plastic (which on the actual car was part of the support) is also .005″ (.127mm) and the two fasteners are a couple of Archer Resin Rivets from set number AR88001:

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I also finished the plug for the unused attachment point for the tailpipes:

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And having put it off for as long as possible, I started running what were the safety wires on the actual car. I didn’t have a wire quite the size I was looking for and ended up using wire I took out of an old power cord of a diameter of .0065″ (.00026mm) and used that. I preformed the wire using a stub of the stretched sprue I used for the fasteners:


And then I got to do this. A lot:


Did I mention I did this a lot? And this was only one side…there are, obviously, two:


The photo doesn’t show it well, but I hit the wire with my go-to steel paint, Humbrol #27003. The plan (giggles) was to paint it “steel,” over-paint it with black (for shading) and then the color coat. The next step in that “plan” (giggles some more) was to use the acrylic thinner to wash away the black and color coat to expose the steel. Clever plan, right? No. Wrong. Even though the “steel” was enamel, the acrylic thinner lifted it off the wire and exposed the copper under the paint. Well, bugger. Okay…I’ll paint it “steel” later:

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While I was in a painting mood, I loaded the airbrush with Tamiya XF-16 Flat Aluminum and painted the prepared suspension parts (as well as the windscreen frame and radiator-mounted coolant temperature indicator):

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And for no particular reason I’m putting it here, the parts still attached to the sprue are the coolant hoses and fittings. Just below that is the 18 gauge wire with insulation that will become the new and improved coolant hoses and fittings:

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While I was fitting the exhaust system I noticed that where the pipes join was and unacceptable gap. .010″ (.254mm) styrene scrap filled those:

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And with that, there’s nothing left to do but load the airbrush with flat black and do the underside and halfway up the sides with white over the top and halfway down the sides:

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Then it was time to apply color which, being a Bugatti, was of course blue. I mixed a custom blend of Tamiya paints comprised of XF-8 Blue (5 parts), X-14 Sky Blue (2 parts), and X-2 Gloss White (1 part). (Handy tip…whenever you custom mix paint be sure to mix extra. It makes touch up painting SO much easier.) Looks good to me:

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Since I’m doing a racing version, it needs a number. Before adding decals, clear gloss had to go down first:

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And now we’re at the “later” referred to above regarding the color of the safety wires. So my first mistake was thinking I had to paint it…which I tried. Nope. Failed miserably. I thrashed and flailed for a bit before my brain rejoined the fray. Paint? Nah. Use a silver-colored pencil. Worked like a charm and was SO MUCH EASIER to do than paint was:

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Pretty much the entire time I’ve been working on the body (and stuff) the tires have been hanging over my head (metaphorically…I’m actually much taller). The kit-supplied tires are vinyl. I don’t know why (not being a chemist) but I’ve seen horror stories where the composition of that vinyl has caused the styrene of the rest of the kit to decompose. Oh. Yeah. And the vinyl is far too shiny. I painted the vinyl tires with Tamiya’s XF-86 Clear Flat on the sides and to act as a barrier between the vinyl and styrene I coated the inside of the tires where they come in contact with the styrene with Tamiya X-22 Clear Gloss (and hopefully that does the trick). And having let the clear gloss for the decals cure overnight, I added the number:


Next I get to wear and weather the body and maybe even start assembling.

Bugatti Type 35B (Monogram) Build #6 – The Cockpit Gets Attention, with PLENTY of Really Small Details to Provide Even More Diversity

Attention moved to all the small parts in the cockpit. Since I’m doing this car in racing form, some things will be different from the road car (you’ll see some of them later). Seeing as the cockpit is wide open and the things in there will be quite visible, I tightened up my notion of what will be acceptable. That started by cutting off the plastic steering column and replacing it with a section of a paperclip as well as replacing the molded-on section where the steering column mounts to the instrument panel and continued with the removal of an extension of the steering column that was incorrectly molded to the hub of the steering wheel; that’s supposed to be flat, so I scraped away the nub that had been molded on:

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As you’ve probably noticed in the photo above, I’ve preshaded parts with Tamiya’s XF-1 Flat Black. One that paint set up, I started misting a coat of Tamiya XF-16 Flat Aluminum (more about that later):


Most of these parts were clear gloss coated (Tamiya X-22 Clear Gloss) before being given an wash using Testors Enamel Gloss Black (yeah…those little square bottles). The Gloss Black gives the hint of an oily surface (which is what I wanted) and since Tamiya’s clear gloss isn’t all that “glossy,” I didn’t shoot another layer of clear of any type (the washed parts are on the left):


While I was masking the springs preparatory to painting everything else on that part Tamiya XF-16 Flat Aluminum, clearly I supplied too much force because the bloody spring broke…and was glued back together:

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There are a few features that are evident in the cockpit that the kit didn’t supply. One of those is a valve assembly for the auxiliary oiling system. I started to scratch-build it figuring, “How difficult could this be?” Perhaps someday I’ll stop asking that question because the answer is almost invariably “VERY.” This little thing required eleven parts to construct (fifteen, counting the oil lines made from .015″ [.381mm]) solder:


While that sat to let the glue cure, I started working on the seat. Since it’s not a street car (and ride-along mechanics stopped being a feature in racing crews), I replicated wear on one side of the seat by sanding the pleated surface down to replicate how horsehair padding compresses over time. I indicated wear with a combination of dry-brushing Tamiya XF-64 Red Brown straight from the bottle and then used brown and tan pastels:

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I added the instrument decals to the panel:

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I added the .015″ (381mm) solder to the valve body, fitted it roughly to minimize bending (and then paint flaking off) of the solder, and then painted it. I thought that Tamiya XF-6 Copper looked more brassy than I wanted, so I mixed two parts copper with one part Tamiya X-18 Semi-Gloss Black (to impart a more metallic sheen) and glued the assembly to its location under the instrument panel:

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There was also a fuel shut-off valve on the driver’s side, so I did that valve as well and painted it the same:

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Having fixed the broken spring, I finished masking and then painted aluminum:

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And now that I have these…:


…I can begin assembling. That started with attaching the instrument panel/firewall and attaching the lines from the pumps as well as the pump assembly to the frame and the ignition timing adjusting lever to the instrument panel:

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I had covered the floor with Bare Metal Foil, thinking that I was going to do the inside of the cockpit walls with it as well. I suppose I could have done that, but that foil is SO delicate that I’ve no doubt that I’d have spent a great deal of time replacing torn foil. So I painted the sides of the cockpit instead. Rather than totally waste the foil I’d already put down, I decided to overpaint it flat black for preshading and then mist aluminum paint over the black and add the scuff wear. Remember how speckled the instrument panel and other parts look from doing that? It seems that metallic paints use incredibly small metal flakes for the effect. If one is going to paint normally, those small flecks overlap and create the look of the metal. But it doesn’t do misted cover very well. So I decided to reverse the preshading process. I painted the (overlapping) aluminum with the intent to mist the flat black over it instead. I laid the frame over the floor pan to determine where the shadows would fall, which showed me where the wear would be. Since the wear marks would also be shadowed, the wear marks had to be put down first and then the flat black shot overall.

If you look closely, you’ll see where I lightly outline the wear patterns with pencil. To get a soft edge with the masks, I cut paper out in the shapes of the wear patterns and then used rolled masking tape to allow the masks to stand off of the surface:

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Then I shot the aluminum to get an even coat and then removed the masks, leaving the shiny aluminum foil to show through (you have to look closely to see the masked areas):

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Then the shadows were put down over it all:

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Satisfied with alignment and effect, I added the body. I glued the frame assembly to the upper part and then glued the belly pan/floor to that, stuffing some sprue and scrap styrene to finish filling the hole at the tail:

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The seat was added and jiggled into place:

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With the body in place, alignment problems emerge. This is where the steering arm goes through the side of the body to the steering box. But first I have to fix the alignment of the hole, so I squared the hole and glued a scrap of .030″ (.762mm) to fill the space (the speckles on the body are just sanding dust):

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I meant to add the leather drive strap for the tachometer before I added the body because it would have been so much easier to access that area had some fool (me) not put the body on before then. Fiddly, but I got it done:

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Then ensued very careful filing, filling, and sanding of that horrible seam where body and belly pan meet. The care was required because the line of louvers is right next to the seam:

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I think the office of this thing is certainly getting there:

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Next month I get to add all the safety wires to all those little panel fasteners I had to put back on.

Bugatti Type 35B (Monogram) Build #5 – Bodywork and More Bodywork, with Really Small Details to Provide Diversity

This month saw me dealing with two of my favorite chores (sarcasm)…scribing panel lines and lots of really small details. There aren’t many panel lines but the few that are there are surrounded by about 44 repetitive details that got sanded away so that I could start scribing. And the first thing I did on the first panel line I tried to scribe was to bobble the tool, which sends the line where I don’t want it to go, so then I get to stretch sprue to fill in the errant line so that I can do the line correctly next time. I used sprue from the kit so that colors match and in so doing give my ancient eyes a break:


I let the body sit overnight so that the glue had totally evaporated and the inserted run of sprue was of the same consistency as the surrounding plastic (which turned out to be quite brittle) (sort of like I am) before I sanded it down and tried scribing again. The second try went better:

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I’m sure this must be a common lament with any miniature builder. I don’t have enough hands. I ran out of patience trying to make two hands do the work of 173 hands during dry-fitting so to cut workload (and frustration) down, I glued the engine/transmission in place:

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With that firmly glued in place, I started to add the shaft that the clutch and brake pedals are on and discovered that for them to fit less incorrectly (because as my last post showed, I had to move the shaft rearward), I needed to hog out a channel under the bell-housing to clear the shaft (and since this car had a full body belly pan, that will not be noticed). Once done, the shaft and its pedals were glued to the frame:

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Since I was getting the pedals situated, I decided it was time to build the throttle pedal. I don’t know if it was because automobiles were less than 35 years old when this car was built but the throttle pedal is less of a “pedal” and more of a roller on the end of a shaft (must have made heel-and-toeing a genuine challenge). But regardless of its configuration, I needed one so I built it. The real challenge was cross-drilling a very small styrene rod so that the roller could be glued to the throttle linkage. I persevered, trimmed the rod, then drilled a hole in the foot-box and slid the linkage into place and glued it:

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In the process of dry-fitting the belly pan, I noticed the rotten fit here:

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I don’t know why that rubbed my rhubarb the wrong way…but it did. So as a calming measure for my delicate sensibilities, I stuffed some scrap styrene into the hole and glued it to the boattail (obviously, later on I’ll trim those chunks down and finish closing that hole, but for the present my tender sensibilities are assuaged):

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Once upon a long time ago, Finescale Modeler magazine ran an article about how to make ones’ own vacuum molder. For about 25 years it worked well enough. When I was given the Buffalo Model #15 electric grinder, I was also given a dental vacuum molder. That bugger works very well! It has a heating element over where the frame comes up underneath the element that worked as intended. Then when I turned on the vacuum, dropped the frame and the heated plastic over the form, it pulled down quickly and quite tightly.  My initial use of it was to pull some .015″ (.381mm) styrene over the kit engine cover so that I could trim most of it away and have the inner framework I wanted, which was then trimmed and fitted:

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I’m not thrilled with how one side (on the left in the lower photo) came out so it looks like I’ll be redoing that side, starting with redoing the aluminum first:

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At some point soon, I’m going to have to install the lines and valves for the auxiliary oiling system. I started that by drilling out some small styrene rod to make the valve bodies:

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Since putting off an unpleasant task never makes the task go away, I started adding back the body panel fasteners using stretched sprue. I taped the embossed paper in place and then marked locations with a needle pushed through the paper and into the plastic. And yeah…this will take some time:

2022-03-08 01

More than just “some” time:

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A lot of time:

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Having plenty to do around that tedious task, I started with the pump for the auxiliary oiling system. The main body of the pump is a cut down paper clip (because nothing says “metal” quite like METAL), as well as small bits of scrap styrene and Grandt Line bolts:

2022-03-08 04

The wheels of the Type 35s were cast aluminum and the brake drums were cast as part of the wheels (aluminum brake drums?!). I’m guessing that they were done that way to aid brake cooling (not to mention every tire change also freshened up the aluminum brake drums by replacing them) and as such, circumferential cooling fins were also cast on. There are three fins but this is a very small area and I’ve already impressed you with how poorly I can scribe lines, so I just scribed two of them…five times (the fifth wheel was for the spare tire I’m not using…I figured I’d use the best four out of five…the kit part is on the left below, the modified part on the right below):


Took some time, but I got one side done…then started on the other side:


The inside of the body was unpainted aluminum. To simplify painting tasks, I decided to try something that I haven’t used before; Bare Metal Foil. This stuff is THIN! Make sure the surface you want to use this stuff on doesn’t have anything on it that you don’t want to show through the foil (something like a cat hair) (no…don’t ask). Because of the complex nightmare that masking the parts above the floor would be, I used Bare Metal Foil on the floor, eliminating the masking problem completely.

Step one, cut out a piece slightly larger than needed and lay it in place carefully:

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Step two, burnish the foil so that it’s flat, working the wrinkles out (I used a cotton swab):

2022-03-20 02

The last step (sorta) is to trim the excess off using a SHARP blade. The least little dullness of your blade of choice results in the foil tearing (again, don’t ask). I used a new razor blade (the second time):

2022-03-20 03

Note the differences in the surface of the foil. These are areas of high(er) wear. I used 2000 grit sand paper and, believe it or not, a paper towel.

I dry-fit the upper body over the frame (after gluing the rear axle in place) to ascertain where the wear areas are and which ones would see the most wear. I also wanted to see how much Bare Metal Foil I would need to line the body (not much) and if the line I scribed inside the cockpit would show (they do not):

2022-03-24 01

Later in the build, each of those panel fasteners I put back on get safety wired. Oh the fun that will be.

Bugatti Type 35B (Monogram) Build #4 – More Frame Breakage and Repair, and Starting Bodywork

Having broken the frame again, I placed it to the side and distracted myself (and blood pressure) with Other Tasks. That all started with me going online to see if I could find another kit so that I could use its frame. As it turned out, this particular kit is rare. I found a couple online and if I thought I was taking a break for my blood pressure, seeing the prices they were asking only elevated it. I did, however, find an original-issue kit for a reasonable sum and eagerly purchased it. As it turned out, I was a bit too eager and I neglected to read the item description thoroughly. I opened the box to find out that the damned thing had already been built…and poorly packed as evidenced by how many parts broke off in transit. And saying it “had already been built” leaves out the part where it looked like it was built (and brush painted using those horrible Testors square enamel bottled paints) by a ten-year-old. Glue bomb. I suitably chastised myself…then completed the disassembly process that had been initiated by lousy packing until I had the frame clear of the shitte (you can see bits of blue plastic still stuck to the frame in the photo as well as where the plastic has been melted by tube glue):

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Most of the crap on this frame, particularly where the tube glue pitted the plastic, will not be seen once this is assembled, but the blue plastic had to come off so that I could fit the frame inside the body and the molded-in transmission was cut down:

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While I was dealing with the frame, dry-fitting showed me that the shaft locating the clutch and brake pedals were too far forward. I started fixing that by plugging the opening for it with scrap styrene:

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As mentioned in an earlier post, the frame of this car is a C-channel frame, and I’d intended to carve out a reasonable representation of it. In the process of doing so, I’d thinned the frame sufficiently where it broke twice. And though it galls me to proceed on without doing so to this frame, the notion of spending STUPID amounts of money to get a kit from the collector scene just for the frame galls me even more. So I’m going to leave the frame as it was molded and try to do my whining about it in private (that you read that just now indicates how well that’s going to work).

The engine/transmission had been roughed in, now was the time to get them more exactly located. And while I was doing that…bet you’ll NEVER guess what I did…:

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In the above photo, you can see the front of the transmission has had a spacer installed to make for a better fit to the engine (it’s the white plastic). While doing that, I discovered that there was a weak spot towards the rear of the frame. *snap* Placing the two parts (where once there was one part) together showed me how that happened (other than the obvious too-much-force-applied-to-old-styrene thing). When whatever kid assembled this kit using tube cement (yes…I’m going to beat that one to death), it had dissolved much of the structure which weakened it sufficiently for it to break off:

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Well, this frame has to work so I started by aligning it and gluing the broken section back on:

2022-01-31 04

I wanted the glue to completely harden so I decided to anneal some .010″ (.254mm) copper shim stock and bend it to replicate the mount for the rear-view mirror:

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Since I was working with shim stock, once the frame had set for a couple of days, I used .005″ (.127mm) shim stock to reinforce the outside weak area of the frame (.005″ (.127mm) because of a clearance problem fitting the body over the frame…it’s snug). I had room on the inside of the frame to use .010″ (.254mm):

2022-02-01 01

Once the superglue cured overnight, I drilled into (but not through…this area is weak enough already) the frame to set a couple of 22 gauge wires through the shim stock to buttress this area:

2022-02-01 03

Then the protrusions were snipped off and the outside areas filed flush (the inside pins were just snipped as there’s no fit problems nor will this area be seen after assembly):

2022-02-01 02

There will be some work on the body. It starts by sanding down the raised panel lines, body fasteners, and safety wires. Since the fasteners and safety wires will need to be redone, I’d thought I’d take a rubbing of what the kit has and use that as the pattern to replace the sanded-off details. The rubbing didn’t work very well, but pressing the paper down (embossing it, I guess) left a pattern that I’ll be able to use to replace the details. And all that starts by plugging the holes for the fender mounts I will not be using (as I will not be using the fenders):

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Then scrap paper was taped on and embossed, picking up the details:

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Before I could get into all that, I had to make a common addition that the kit didn’t provide. A leather pad was fitted over the edge of the cockpit and that needed to be built. Then sanding, scraping, puttying, more sanding, and then scribing occurred (on the inside where visible also):

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Putting back all those panel fasteners is going to be…fun.


Bugatti Type 35B (Monogram) Build #3 – Working With Really Small Details…and Then REALLY Give Myself Something to Do AGAIN

Having broken off the right front section of the frame, fixing that bit took my attention. I needed a section of plastic that was .050″ (1.27mm). To get that thickness, I used a section of .060″ (1.542mm) which I will sand down later and traced the section of frame rail I needed to replace. I had already determined that the part I broke off wouldn’t stay attached when glued (very small surface area for the glue) so I cut the damaged frame section back to an area that offered a greater surface area for the glue to work with, then I traced the profile of the undamaged section of frame to the new styrene:

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Once trimmed, I added a section of .010″ (.254mm) to where the cross brace meets the frame to replace the kerf where the frame rail had been sawed off:

2021-12-22 02

Then I used scraps of styrene of varying thickness to fill in areas that had gaps. I used the styrene scraps for strength; this time it had to look correct and be structural:

2021-12-22 03

Then I put the frame into the body to see how well things lined up (fairly well):

2021-12-23 01

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At this point I filed and sanded the profile of the new frame section to fit the profile needed more accurately and to bring the new section down to the needed thickness.

I started working on the seat that I had cut away the thermal blanket section off of. I added a strip of .060″ (1.524mm) to the lower front edge so that I had the material in place to create a more finished look for that section of the seat than the abrupt edge that resulted from removing the front of the seat left:

2021-12-20 02

A little knife and file work finished that area (not the best photo of the results, unfortunately):

2021-12-21 02

While looking at reference photos, I noticed that it was not at all uncommon for a partition to be added to the seat, evidently to keep the driver at the controls and out of the mechanic’s lap (before they stopped having mechanics ride with them during a race). I added .060″ (1.524mm) again by slotting the seat and then trimming the addition to shape (and though not evident, I also started adding “compression” to the padding by sanding down the areas where the drivers’ weight would cause the packing material…probably horse hair…in the padding to compress):

2022-01-07 06

I started adding additional details to the supercharger by adding Grandt Line bolts, 48 gauge wire wrap around the tubing connecting the supercharger body to the over-pressure blow-off port, and running a panel line scribe where the parts of the ducting connecting to the supercharger would show a seam when parts were connected:

2021-12-21 03

Then I started making the linkage. There are two linkage arms at each end of the blower body. I used .005″ (.127mm) aluminum foil to make the linkage levers. I drilled holes first and then used a straight razor blade to cut the foil around the holes. With the levers slid over the .010″ (.254mm) wire, a drop of superglue fixed them in place:

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After letting the superglue cure overnight, I trimmed the linkage shaft to separate the two arms, added the resultant lever shafts to drilled out styrene rod I’d added to the body of the supercharger, then dropped another .010″ (.254mm) wire across the levers. I glued them in place and then used a nail trimmer to snip the excess aluminum from the levers:

2021-12-26 04

The remainder of the throttle linkages will be added once the supercharger is added to the engine and then all that installed into the frame.

The race cars had a screen added in front of the radiator. I added a length of .015″ (.381mm) solder to the periphery of the radiator to serve as the screen’s mounting:

2021-12-26 01

Then I trimmed some stainless steel screen I have to fit over it:

2021-12-26 02

To my eye, the wires of the screen are too thick. I rummaged through my “stuff” supply and found a sheet of PE screen which was trimmed and fit (more trimming was done later than the photo below shows):


I had intended originally to drill out the ends of the exhaust pipes. Perhaps these type of pipes were used on road cars; they weren’t used (as far as my reference photos show) on racing cars. Luckily I had just enough of the correct diameter brass thin-wall 3/32″ (2.5mm) tubing to replace the solid plastic “pipes.” Even being thin-wall tubing, the thickness of the tubing walls needed to be thinned further. The unmodified tubing is in the center in the below photo. I thinned the walls to about .008″ (.2mm) using a very fine and pointed rat-tail file:

2021-12-21 01

I drilled out the ends of the mufflers to accept the round tubing:

2021-12-26 03A

Reference photos show the pipes ending under the body of the car instead of extending past it so brackets and hangers had to be made and the tubing shortened. The bracket closest the muffler was made from .015″ (.381mm) styrene and the hanger near the tips made from .015″ (.381mm) for the mount and .010″ (.254mm) for the bracket:

2021-12-26 03B

The shifter, one of the levers hanging out of the cockpit on the right side (the other, taller one, is the parking brake), is a gate shifter (Ferraris frequently use those, if you’re interested) (and Ferraris frequently use those even if you aren’t interested). The kit kind of vaguely attaches the shifter arm to the shifter “linkage” without one, so I had to make one. I used .010″ (.254mm) scrap to do so:

2022-01-02 01

I also added Grandt Line bolts to where the shifter linkage attaches to the transmission as well as the connecting housing under that section:

2022-01-04 04

Earlier Bugattis used cable operated brakes instead of hydraulic brakes. Many early cars did, Bugatti was just one of the last hold outs to make the switch to hydraulic brakes (“I build my cars to go, not to stop,” he’s credited with stating). The levers for those cables on the brake backings were molded to the backings and should stand off of them on a shaft. The first step was to carefully cut the levers away from the backing plates:

2022-01-04 01

More Grandt Line bolt had to be added to the front axle where it mounts to the springs and where the spring brackets mount to the frame. I also added bolts to what I assume are the oscillation dampers (mistakenly called “shock absorbers” in the US…the springs absorb the shocks) which also needed large slots in them filled (I also punched out a small disk from .010″ (.254mm) styrene to replicate the pulley used with the brake cable):

2022-01-05 03

While I was thinking of brake cables, I built the levers for the rear brakes that the kit didn’t provide:

2022-01-21 02

The starting crank was molded too thickly and in the wrong position. I cut it off and used 22 gauge wire and a drilled out piece of scrap styrene rod to make a replacement:

2022-01-04 02

There were what I assume were cooling vents as part of the sump. I started drilling them out and realized that I’d used too large a drill bit so the holes needed to be filled:

2022-01-07 01

The mounts for the windshield and the holes in the coaming were far too large. I started by filling the holes in the coaming (I’d also filled the mounting holes for the passenger’s windscreen):

2022-01-04 06

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The frames for the folding windscreens were inaccurate and out-of-scale. I annealed a piece of .010″ (.254mm) brass shim stock to drill, cut, and fold to make new mounting brackets for the frames that I trimmed (it turned out that the right brass bracket in the photo below wasn’t tall enough. I ended up using the left brass bracket and making a new on for that side):

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The windscreen frame was drilled to accept .010″ (.254mm) wires that the brackets would mount to (none of my period reference photos show that the angle of the windscreen was set by using large wingnuts so I removed them):

2022-01-07 04

It was worth the work:


Continuing work in the cockpit, I started making the clutch/brake pedal assembly as the kit’s part was wrong and out-of-scale. I started making the pivot shaft from a paper clip and the brackets for the clutch/brake pedal from drilled out styrene rods. The clutch pedal was made from .010″ (.254mm) shim stock and the brake pedal from .015″ (.381mm) scrap for the brake pedal arm and .010″ (.254mm) scrap for the brake pedal:

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I thought I was just humming right along. I had to go out of town for a week and was looking forward to getting back to work. Got home, unpacked and did all the stuff one must do to get back to where one was before the trip, and then got to the work bench.

The first thing I did was this:

2022-01-21 01

I broke the fornicating, sodomizing, tip off the OTHER frame rail! (See “Brain Fade” in “What the Hell Does That Mean?”)

Once I was done banging my head on the workbench, I aligned the broken part as EXACTLY as I could manage and then glued it. I’m going to go do something else today while the glue cures completely before I go back to it and see if the glue will actually hold this time (ask someone what the definition of insanity is…the answer is something of a cliche anymore) and, certainly expecting that it will not, I will make another frame rail.

::sighs again::

Bugatti Type 35B (Monogram) Build #2 – With No Particular Build Order, I Wander All Over the Place…and Then REALLY Give Myself Something to Do

One of the things I’ll need to fix is in the cockpit. From what I can tell, when Monogram’s engineers decided to tool up this kit, they’d used an example that had been modified from the original. Perhaps this is heresy (I prefer to think it’s rationality which, not to delve too deeply into religion, might be the same thing), but Ettore had his…quirks. The cockpit of the 35B was/is cramped. And into this cramped space protrudes the transmission right down the center of it. It seems that the transmission got hot. What does cramped have to do with it? There’s no place for the driver or mechanic to go to get away from it. It seems a fairly common, albeit later, work-around to cover the transmission with a thermal blanket in the attempt to moderate how much heat the driver and mechanic were subjected to. Monogram modeled it like this:

2021-11-19 07

That was cut off and later on I will add some styrene to the lower front of the seat cushion so that it looks less like a plastic edge and more like how a cushion would wrap around the seat frame:

2021-12-11 02

With the “thermal blanket” blob gone, I need a transmission to fill that space. I decided to use a chunk of Aves AepoxySculpt. The kit had a facsimile transmission molded to the cross members of the frame and for the Type 35, that seems to have been more accurate. Since I’m modeling a Type 35B, the one with the supercharger, the transmission is different. Once the AepoxySculpt cured overnight, I started carving away at it:


At this point I had a major cognitive disconnect. For whatever mistaken “reason,” I convinced myself (rather quickly) that I needed to 3D print this part. (For a more in-depth analysis of that nonsense, you can check this out: Old Dog, New Tricks, and 3D Printing.) I’m a bit embarrassed to say that it took me a couple of weeks to get my head out from where the sun should NEVER shine. I did (to whatever extent that’s possible). As you can see, symmetry required more accuracy:


Symmetry also required that I add putty to a few areas and the really nice thing about that is that this material will bond nicely to itself even if what it’s being added to has already cured. What fueled my excursion to Cranial Suppository Land (this time it was 3D printing…not that I think one needs to have their cranium up there to print 3D parts, it’s just not for me) was the fact that I needed the hollowed out area to fit over the bell housing of the engine. I doubted my ability (rarely a good thing, overall) to thin the sides out sufficiently without causing them to chip and break to uselessness. There was reason for caution, but not the cognitive disconnect I indulged in. Even being cautious, a few places chipped and broke away. One place I could superglue the chipped section back, but most required the addition of more putty. Perseverance won and I got it to fit over what it need to fit over:

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With the transmission slug in place, I checked fit and it’s okay:

2021-12-06 01

Then my (low wattage, incandescent) light bulb struggled to luminescence and I figured I should probably dry-fit some other things, so I started with the engine/body/firewall/instrument bits to make sure the engine cover(s) fit as well, and to get a general sense of what I’m going to do later on (yes…I know the “thermal blanket” is there…I don’t always present things here in the exact order I do them in…another indication of being crazy):

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Things fit and line up.

With that diversion out of the way, I set about transforming a lump of epoxy putty into a facsimile of a transmission by squaring things up, trying something new by going for bilateral symmetry, adding .005″ (.127mm) styrene, and a couple of sizes of Grandt Line bolts and resin screw heads from Archer Transfers. There is more work to do on the back of it (the square area) but I need the seat done and and the rear axle in position (dry-fit most likely) so I can align the driveshaft and shifter. The gray cylinder on top is the starter motor (yes…in 1927 this car had a functional electric starter) that I turned on the lathe from a section of sprue, and then added .015″ (.381mm) solder as the electrical feed and a strip of lead foil from a wine bottle (the car is French, so that’s appropriate) as the hold-down strap of the starter:

2021-12-09 01


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And for no rational reason, I decided now would be a good time to open the port in the engine cover that the over-pressure vent utilizes:

2021-12-09 03

In dry-fitting the instrument panel/firewall assembly, I noticed that the firewall didn’t extend to the belly-pan of the body. I thought I’d extended it sufficiently, but I’d only extended it to the bottom of the frame; it’s my assumption that it would go all the way to the belly-pan, otherwise engine fumes would fill the car. That meant I had to add more .040″ (1.016mm) to extend the firewall down further (and at some point later I will need to replace the oil line that flexed once too often and broke):

2021-12-11 01

I attended to mold seams and depressions of the body with the 3M Acrylic Putty as well as filing down where the filler cap goes for a bit more accuracy (I may take that further later):

2021-12-11 03

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There were also mold parting lines along the lower sides of the engine compartment that I sanded down (the black is from the permanent marker I use to indicate once I have sanded out the previous sandpaper scratches…it fills the scratches and once it’s gone, so are the scratches):

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The frame of the kit is molded with the sides “boxed,” as in, a box (how odd). The car’s frame wasn’t boxed, it was a C-channel, or more like a [ channel. I wanted to represent the [ channel so first I marked where I wanted to remove plastic:

2021-12-12 02

Then I realized that most of what I’d planned to remove would never be seen so I ignored what would be hidden and started cutting, carving, scraping, and cursing the moron whose I idea it had been to do this tedious task (yes, I used a mirror):


And then I REALLY started cursing when I snapped off the end of right side front of the frame just as I was finishing the task. Clearly I was spending more time patting myself on the back then I was on the task at hand that I hadn’t quite finished yet:


Let this be a lesson to all of you. Save the congratulations until it’s done done.

I tried gluing the end back on. These ends are a major source of support for the front axle and I wanted as much strength in the bond as I could get. So of course it snapped off again. There just isn’t enough gluing surface for the strong bond that I need. Well, bugger. Okay, okay…let’s buy another kit just for the sodding frame. Nice idea, were any available. Two hours of searching online and nothing.

That means that I’m going to have to scratch-build the right frame rail from just behind the right front engine mount out. The plastic frame is .050″ (1.27mm) thick so I’m going to bond .040″ (1.016mm) and .010″ (.254mm) to get the required thickness. The reason I’m moving so far back along the frame is for gluing surface. The frame is wider back there. I’m also planning on using two pins for structure.

I hope whatever you celebrate is good for you and yours as I am reminded that anything that drives me to drink, such as snapping a critical part off just at the end of a job, can’t be all bad.

Bugatti Type 35B (Monogram) Build #1 – Parts Layout and Getting Started

Since the first time I saw a photo of one, I thought the Bugatti Type 35 was about the most beautiful race car of the period. The ensuing decades have not changed my opinion. It’s gorgeous. I forget which particular Internet rabbit-hole I had been diving into when I ran across Monogram’s Bugatti Type 35B. It took a little looking to find an acceptably-priced kit (I’m not a collector and don’t give an intercourse if the seal has been violated or not and I’m not going to pay collector prices) but I did and now I have this little gem:

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The box contained these sprues:

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Right after the vinyl tires (gah), the first thing I noticed was all the chrome. (Okay, it’s actually aluminum, which worked to my favor shortly.) That’s got to go. I filled a tub with household chlorine bleach and immersed the chrome sprues for about ten minutes. That stripped the sprues to the bare plastic with zero harm to the styrene:

2021-11-11 01

These parts are supposed to be aluminum. I have paint for that, though I will be using BareMetal Foil’s “Ultra-Bright Chrome” for the outside of the radiator housing, which seems to have been polished aluminum. That done, I set the de-chromed sprues to the side and started with the third thing that caught my eye. The hood (or bonnet, if you prefer). I want to pose this with the right side hood open and I can’t do that without cutting the hood apart, something I would be totally comfortable doing. Then I realized that even if I did cut the hood apart, I’d still have parts that were not only far too thick, none of the louvers, of which there are plenty, would show up on the inside.

I used to smoke (what…you’re pefect?!). I mention that for two reasons. The first is to remind you that I am far from perfect (or even rational, too often). The second is because the cans of tobacco I smoked (I rolled my own…a better grade of tobacco and much fresher) came sealed with a disk of relatively thick aluminum foil (.004″ or .0039mm). I used another piece of this foil successfully as quilted padding for the inside of my Gemini build (::spits::) and it immediately came to mind. So while watching the idiot box (TV), I folded the foil tightly around the bottom edge of the hood, used scotch tape to hold it in place, and started embossing it:


I used round toothpicks sharpened to a relatively dull chisel tip and just stayed at it until I got here:

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I used a new single-edge razor blade to trim the aluminum from the plastic part (the hair is provided by Her Sacred Majesty, Mistress of All Time and Space, and Unrepentant Spider Bane…the cat):

2021-11-11 03

Truth be told, this was just a proof-of-concept task. Since it was successful, later I went back and did a tighter job with it. And, in case you’re new to this site, it’s at this point I mention my relative lack-of-sanity. For about five minutes I actually considered cutting out all the openings to all the louvers. I got over it. Paint will do. Reluctantly. With the concept proven, I only had to do it one more time. However, that was the last piece of that aluminum foil I had and it wasn’t large enough to use for the other side. I do, though, have more of the type, it’s just a little bit thinner:

2021-11-18 01

Being thinner, the aluminum settled down to the surface details tighter. I considered redoing the first side again with this foil, then I realized that the first side, being a bit thicker, would probably stand up to being displayed unsupported better. How much better? Dunno. I can always do another one with the thinner foil later. And speaking of later, later on I considered what color I was going to paint this beauty. Being built as race cars, the inside of the bodywork wasn’t painted. It was bare aluminum. Well, that’s already taken care of!

Turning my attention to the instrument panel, I realized that at best it was wrong. Other parts of this kit suggest to me that the engineers copied a car that had been modified from the original 1927 car and that several things were going to need attention:

2021-11-12 01

The switch panel above the two small gauges on the left simply wasn’t there in 1927. A clock was (when you see him, ask Ettore why…I haven’t a clue). The area in the center of the instrument panel was actually the back of the distributor and protruded further into the cockpit than the kit has molded. I decided to fix that first by cutting away the depression from the back, trimming down the lip around the resulting hole, and gluing it back in with more protrusion. And of course I didn’t take a photo of it. (Probably before the caffeine hit the remnants of my brain.)

The engine is moderately accurate but could use some detailing. From the left side of the photo below, I added a stub of styrene to the end of the driveshaft so it would meet the transmission. The long styrene tube replicates the tube that carried the ignition wires, which I replicated with .010 (.254mm) solder and the plugs are small stubs of stretched sprue (they’re there, they just can’t be seen easily). The forward engine mounts weren’t quite long enough so both sides were shimmed with .020″ (.508mm) scrap. The styrene tube above it and attached to the back of the engine is the shaft that runs from back of the camshaft to the the distributor and also is where the belt-drive for the tachometer is. The styrene tube lower on the side of the engine is a water pipe. Since there were gaps where it meets the forward support, I filled them with .010″ (.245mm) scraps and 3-M Acrylic Putty. There were gaps all around the bottom of the engine block where they meet the oil pan which were filled with varied thicknesses of scrap styrene and more acrylic putty. On the left side of the engine I added the tall filler tube and cap for the oil and the smaller, towards the front, filler tube and cap for coolant (the part that looks like a turbocharger housing is actually the water pump) using styrene rod for the tubes, and punched out discs and stretched sprue as caps for both fillers:

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The rear of the distributor drive shaft should socket into the distributor on the firewall, so I drilled that out so it would. The right side (of the photo) of the firewall has an oil reservoir and the filler tube and cap were molded to the firewall. For the body of the reservoir, that was okay. I redid the filler tube and cap using scrap styrene rod before using .015″ (.381mm) solder as the oil feed line and standard aluminum foil as the hold-downs for the oil line. The molded-on line on the right side below the oil tank will be removed later (“later” often means with me that I just overlooked it or, more likely, forgot). The left side of the firewall has the pulley and tensioner for the tachometer drive belt. As molded they were unacceptable, and since they will be foremost in the vision of the viewer, they needed to be fixed. I used a tap/die to punch out the discs (.040″ or 1.016mm) for the body of the pulley and the flanges were .010″ (.254mm) and stuck on a Grandt Line nut/bolt of what looked like the correct size. A note about the clear disc. When I have to align a disc to something and using opaque styrene would make that more difficult, I use clear instead. It makes alignment so much easier and once painted nobody can see that it’s clear. I used clear styrene of the same thickness on the part below the pulley, which is the tensioner arm, pivot, and belt bogey along with more Grandt Line nuts/bolts:


When I had the distributor cut away from the instrument panel, I drilled out the eight holes for the spark plug wires using .015″ (.381mm) solder for the wires and added them. Once they were glued in place (superglue), I glued the distributor back in place. On the left bottom side of the cockpit (as viewed from the cockpit), there is an arm for an oil-replenishment pump that the kit didn’t allow for. I carefully scribed a slot for the arm to fit into, then used scrap styrene to make the grips for it (it’s below the instrument panel and to the left). There is also an arm that allows the driver to retard the spark for easier starts, then advance it once the engine is running. I used .005″ (.127mm) copper shim stock to replicate it. I’ll add the oil pump arm once the instrument panel is ready for paint and installation (who knows…maybe I won’t break it off a couple of dozen times) (yeah, right):

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I glued the instrument panel to the firewall and then dry-fit them, the engine, and seat to the frame to see how fit was looking. Not too badly:

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Before I went any further, I wanted to remove the erroneous switches on the left side of the instrument panel and replace it with the “clock”. I used an .010″ (.254mm) ring I’d punched out for a different build without using, and a disc of .005″ (.127mm) as the clock’s face. Once under paint, I’ll use a VERY sharp pencil to draw in the lines and probably very thin sprue as the clock’s hands (the assembly was taped to the cutting mat so that I could stop chasing it all over the place). I will probably treat the other instruments with the paint/pencil regime:

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I started detailing the supercharger next. At the top of the supercharger in the photo immediately below is the manifold for the pressure-relief tube. It was molded solid so I drilled that out. At the bottom of the supercharger is the intake and carburetor, the intake of which also had to be drilled out. Then I started adding more Grandt Line nuts/bolts where these manifolds were attached as well as lightly scribing the separations between the manifolds as well as adding .015″ (.381mm) solder for the fuel line:

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There will be more work on this part, including the throttle linkage (that’s going to be like giving a gnat a Price Albert, assuming gnats had johnsons).

At the top front of the engine head is an elbow fitting where the oil line from the oil reservoir mounts, replicated with small styrene rod scraps:

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On the actual car, the transmission is right there next to people’s legs. I’ve read that it got HOT. The reason I stated earlier that I suspect the engineers had looked at a post-period modified car was because it appears as if a “thermal blanket” was molded in place around where the transmission would go:

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The whole section in front of the seat has to come off. That leaves me with nothing much to put there so I have to scratch-build the transmission. I was off to a roaring great start before I realized I was copying the wrong variant! Well, there’s another addition to my scrap styrene stock… I made a block of Aves AepoxySculpt and started whittling away at it:



At this point I hit my first major snag. The front of this part has to fit over the engine’s bell-housing yet still fit inside the cockpit properly. This epoxy putty is great stuff and has lots of uses…and this ain’t one of them. I have to thin the sides out so much that they’ll become too thin to withstand the forces even a sharp knife produce. They’ll just snap off. I considered using my nifty Buffalo Model #15 electric dental drill but the same limitation applies. I need the sides to be about .020″ (.508mm) thin. If you want to see where that took me, you can click on this link: Old Dog, New Tricks, and 3D Printing

It could be quite some time before I get back to this build, as perhaps you’ll understand after clicking that link and reading what you find there.

Old Dog, New Tricks, and 3D Printing

It seems I’ve been dragged to the Dark Side…3D printing. I’m approaching this new endeavor with all the grace and maturity that I’m known for. In other words, kicking, screaming, snot running from my nose, and my ear wax melting combined with a side-order of bitching VERY LOUDLY at any of my long-suffering friends who’ll sit still long enough (defined…by me, of course…as five seconds). So those of you who think 3D printing is the best thing since chimneys and indoor plumbing are probably wondering why I’m being so mature about it. Glad you asked. (Even though you probably haven’t…you’ve come here so you’re just being subjected to the unasked answer.)

I know that being 71 doesn’t strike those of you who are over that age as being all that old. That’s not how it feels from behind blue eyes (mine…when they’re not purple, which is the combination of blue and red). I feel old. Also, none of my immediate family, Father, Mother, or Sister made it this far. Father…three days short of his 50th birthday. Mother…60. Sister…54. My genetic inheritance isn’t especially long lived (with the occasional exception of the odd one out on both sides who just won’t die much before 90…I’m hoping to fall into that category but that’s not something one can count on). So I (like every one of you reading this as well as those who have no idea “this” exists at all) have no idea when They’re going to take our timecard out of the rack. I certainly know that each day we wake up is one day closer to our final blink. So given my genetic inheritance, I have less than no idea when The Day arrives when I turn in my timecard. All that said…

Okay, so I spent a few hours realizing that filament printers produce too coarse a product for me. Resin printers, however, seem to be the ticket. Well, hell…that was the easy part. The difficult part is waiting until I’ve paid off the chimney repair (caught it before it collapsed, which it was about to), the plumbing (I could write a post on those lovely events…and please note the plurality of that statement), impending maintenance costs of the car I drive as infrequently as possible, and of course the increasing costs of anything with a price tag. At the rate that’s going, I could afford one sometime around late spring or early summer (I’m looking at Elegoo’s Mars 2). Like I said…that’s the easy part. Here comes the difficult part and part of my reason for resisting 3D printing as long as I have.

All the software necessary to produce a file that can be printed that I have to learn. At present, and who knows what else is going to be needed that I don’t know about, I have three different programs that the file has to go through to be usable:

                Blender: This is where the object is designed

                Meshmixer: This is where the Blender file gets tweaked so it’s possible to print

                Chitubox: Where the file is tweaked and produced in printable form

Any of you who use, have used, or tried to use Blender know it’s a profoundly complex program that can do amazing things. You also know WHAT A STONE BITCH IT IS TO LEARN. Whereas I’m not a Luddite, I can see them from where I sit…and it’s close.

So why, after all this carping and bitching, am I even considering spending (but hopefully no wasting…I used my 20s for that) the time with it. What I’m working on now has shown me that to get what I want, let me emphasize that, to get what I want, it seems to be necessary.

I read a post from Joe, the person who runs Tiger Model Designs, about a modeler claiming his 3D printed model was scratch-built. I concur with his point in that no…it’s not. The computer and the printer did the work, the modeler did the design. Okay, yeah, sure. I can hear y’all saying, “Hey! Welcome to the 21st Century!” (Or maybe y’all aren’t saying that, it’s always possible it’s the voices in my head.) (And I’m certainly glad I’ve elevated ignoring advice to an Olympic-grade artform…and so are the people I haven’t…well, never mind that part.)

I have to learn to use (to a functional extent, anyway) all three programs just to print out a part that’s this tiny:


And while I’m in the kicking-and-screaming mode, let’s do the math to make this whole endeavor even more palatable…

If I could buy that part it might cost me $5. The model itself cost me about $40. Thankfully the software(s) required to print it were all free, but the printer costs about $450 before shipping.

For a $5 part.

Yeah, yeah…you’re right. Once I have the Infernal Device, I’m sure I’ll find other uses for it and there are models in the cache I intend on building that might also benefit from adding another skill to my set of them. But I don’t know that. (What I am doing is finding reasons NOT to go to the Dark Side…and I seem to be failing with that.)

For years I’ve been playing around with SketchUp in its various versions. For something like 15+ years. I already taught myself how to use that software! This is the design (for my present build, the transmission for the 1/24 Bugatti Type 35B) I did with SketchUp:

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From start to finish, it took me about nine hours. I was able to use a version of SketchUp that claimed to be able to produce the .stl file of that that the printer requires. I even believed it. (Naïve at my age…go figure.) Then I loaded it into Meshmixer. After more time diddling with it than the design took to produce I discovered that no…the “.stl” file SketchUp produced is NOT printable. That’s why I’m going down the Blender hole.

Blender. NOT INTUITIVE FOR BEGINNERS. I have already spent more time watching the tutorial YouTube video on how to use the fornicating program than I wanted to (and taking copious notes in Word so that “ctrl-f” will enable me to find what I’m looking for in these copious notes). I’m about 20 minutes into a video that’s almost an hour-and-a-half long. It’s the first video. There’s a second one for more advanced stuff that’s even longer. And while I’m watching and taking notes, how much actual building is going on?

Zero. None. Nothing.

Time, that commodity I’m running out of, passes. I really hope I can learn all these new tricks before I do, too.

Major Edit

No relation to Captain Obvious. That said…

I’m shelving the entire notion of 3D printing of any sort. I took that little lump of cured epoxy putty that was vaguely similar to the transmission I want for the 1927 Bugatti Type 35B I’m doing and made the sodding transmission. (You’ll see how it turned out in my next post in a couple of weeks.) Jeez…for all the fluff ‘n’ cluck I went through about 3D printing, wringing my hands over 3D printing, trying to learn the first (of three) suites of software to 3D print, I decided to get both my Big Boy Panties ™ and my training bra out of the laundry. I put the BBP on and nestled my man boobs into the training bra (less to nestle after losing 20 pounds…so far, I ain’t done yet) and just did what a modeler is supposed to do. Buy what they want and make what they can’t buy to get the results they want.

Bloody, buggering, hell…

M3 Lee (MiniArt) #3 – Small Parts Get Added and My Tolerance is Reached and This Build Gets Benched for Now

The next item added to the engine is the ignition wiring loom. The kit didn’t make provisions for adding the ignition wires so I had to. The first part of that is getting the loom nestled into place and then using a fine Sharpie to mark where the wiring would break out of the loom (as an aside, most permanent marker marks can be removed with denatured alcohol unless the surface is porous):

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Then I used .035″ (.890mm) styrene rod as the break out points:

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The wiring loom was painted and the major engine parts glued in place. While the paint was drying (Tamiya TS-6 Matt Black) (no relation to Jack Black, thankfully…he annoys me), I drilled out sockets in the break outs .010″ (.254mm) to accept copper wires. I added lead foil to the exhaust manifolds to replicate the mounting brackets. Wear, chips, and basic color were added with a Prismacolor Argent (silver) #PC949 pencil (this is quickly becoming my go-to tool for subtle wear and precision chipping):

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Before I could begin painting the engine bay, I wanted to see where the light would fall and where the shadows would be. Since much of that space is filled by the engine (go figure), I dry-fit the engine into its place. With it in there, I very lightly delineated where the light would “pool” using very light touches of a white pencil:

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It was while I was trying to dry-fit the hull parts to act as light blocks that I noticed they didn’t fit correctly. In order for the fit to be less off, I had to break loose the right side of the hull and reposition it slightly. In the photo below, almost centered under the square opening for the pistol port you can see the light color where the panel had originally be glued. It took three clamps to get things to stay in position long enough for the glue to set up:

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Yeah…three clamps:

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While that sat, I decided to start assembling the parts for the sponson-mounted 75mm main gun. Though the barrel was slide-molded, the bore wasn’t centered well:

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I chucked the barrel into my lathe and carefully worked the outside of the muzzle so it was less obviously off center:

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Not thrilling but it’s about the best I can get. (Reminds me of my love-life.) (OLD memories, unfortunately.)

There were more “not thrilling” observations about to be made. Once I removed all the clamps and started checking fit on hull panels is when I realized that they’re not fitting well at all. Is it possible that I made a mistake when I glued up the sides of the lower hull? It’s always possible I made a mistake. (More reminders of my love-life.) (Actually, of my life in general.) In going over the hull closely, I can see no place(s) where I did (which doesn’t mean I didn’t, just that right now I can’t see them). But for whatever reason, not fitting is not fitting…and not remotely pleasing.

I sat there for several hours spread over several days before I finally realized that I didn’t want to fiddle with this thing’s fit right now. I am NOT good at trying to do what I do not want to do and since this thing is styrene, there is a limit to how much rough handling it can withstand (visions of hammers danced through my mind…big, steel, hammers).

Right. Everything got bagged, stuffed back into the box, and put back on the shelf. I don’t always bail out on a build but when I do, I always bail out for a reason. I have a temper and no temper is a “good one.” I reached this point doing the P-51 build, set it aside, came back several years later, and ended up with a nice build. I intend on the same thing happening with the M3 Lee. Later.

The Monsters

I encountered the phrase I used for this post’s title a year or so ago and when I discovered what it referred to, I thought, “My, how incredibly polite!” A Monster is one of those kits from the long-ago 60s and 70s.

Standards were so much different back then. It was a rare kit I couldn’t complete in one sitting (sure do wish I had a dollar for each glue fingerprint I left on them!). If I remember correctly (saying I remember anything at all, regardless of accuracy, is rather like trying to carry water in a colander), the first kit I built was back in the early to mid 50s (when I was something like four or five). It was a Grumman Panther F9F molded in dark blue, the pilot was part of each fuselage half; there was no cockpit. I don’t remember how many times I glued myself to it. It was easy to see where the decals went, that place was outlined by raised lines! But that glue-bomb started me on the builder path.

Standards were SO much different back then. When I decided that maybe painting the “model” would hide fingerprints forever embedded into the plastic by glue (Testors tube type), I bought nylon brushes and (also Testors) paint that came in square bottles. (My painting skill was substantially less than my gluing skill.) (And yes, it is possible to have something in the physical world that has a value of less than zero.) But accuracy? Does not compute. Fit? I thought that was something someone had which didn’t figure into things. They were build-them-yourself toys. The best ones had the most working features. Canopies that slid, landing gear that went up and down, you get the picture… They were played with until they broke (fix something?! You can do that?) and then out came the BB gun.

Model display was never an issue back then. Sweeping up plastic fragments didn’t require display space.

Life took me as it has taken so many others (all?) down unintended paths, and one of the major lessons from those paths was that “Time” really is a four-letter word! Puberty hit me, books took me many amazing places, then I got my driver’s license, then I learned how to drive, and then Vietnam loomed in everyone’s mind, and (amazingly) I found myself in my late 30s. (“Found” is relative, of course.) I had an itch to make something. Being more broke than I was dumb, I fell back on my childhood favorite, assembling models. I assembled Tamiya’s venerable M3 Lee. I used rattle-cans (Testors, of course) and ended up with something that didn’t look half bad (and no glue-immortalized fingerprints). The decals looked like crap, of course, because I didn’t know to use the clear gloss trick. And here’s when The Hook got jammed down into my gills.

“What’s behind those big side doors?”

And that all led to here. The Monsters.

IF there is a golden age of modeling, it has to be now. So many kits of SO MANY things, aftermarket bits (regardless of what your take on them is), ACCESS TO ONLINE REFERENCES. Not having to buy a $35 book to build a less inaccurate $20 model? Worldwide access to everything a modeler could want!

I dove back in after my brief involvement in the late 80s. Oh my freakin’ GAWD! CAD/CAM dies!! Fit that fit. Accuracy, more advanced finishes, you know the list. You probably use them daily. I loved (and continue to love) the fit of the new kits (even the ones that have reputations, usually deserved, for fit problems, because those STILL offer a universe-sized better fit than those Monsters), and all the tools!

And then I remembered how fondly I recalled some kits from my yout’. I was surprised to discover I could still get my hands on some of them! Maybe it really is Evilbay, but eBay (and my checkbook) has done me solid service enabling me to revisit a dimly recalled series of events through glasses a lot more red than mere rose-colored. Yep…this far off the map, there do indeed be Monsters.

But if someone really wants a B-24D in 1/48 scale, where’s the kit for it? Right. Monogram, mid 70s. Right. Fit, mid 70s. And these are the less toothsome of said monsters. But where else can I get that kit? Right. Monogram it is. And for that time, those 1/48 kits Monogram did of the B-17s, B-25s, C-47s, and so on, were not bad kits. That was the standard of the day, a standard that I suspect was because the dies were not cut with the computer precision of a computer. All those dies were cut by people. Yeah…the fuselage really had to be that thick because “that thick” wasn’t “that thick” back then. There was even thicker. So the Monogram kits didn’t look like monsters (and aren’t those the most dangerous monsters? The ones that don’t look like monsters?).

I have a few fairly well built recent kits. If I did that B-24D to the potential of the kit, I wouldn’t be at all happy with it. I certainly would not be comfortable displaying it next to modern kits. And that’s when the hook stuck in my gills thirty-some-odd years back tugged hard.

“Okay, so I fix it. All of it.”

Right. That’s why I spent 975 hours on the Testors SR-71. I had to fix all of it…and there was a lot to fix.

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A Monster, is what it was. I think a good definition for Monster is the kit that is, out of the box, only good as a BB gun target. Anything more than that, as in, a decent replica of the Real Thing, requires a lot of time and a lot of work. It’s daunting to even consider!

A banquet is pretty daunting to consider, too. “You want me to eat how much?!” Well, one bite at a time ain’t all that hard.

We all pretty much establish our building order. When I do an aircraft I usually start in the cockpit. However, in Life, when I have a multi-staged task, and the Blackbird was definitely a multi-staged task, I start with the most difficult aspect first if possible. The beginning of a project is when my enthusiasm is highest (a scary thing, I’m told) and frustration free. With the Blackbird, that was the nose landing gear bay and landing gear. It all had to be scratch-built. (Other options have since presented themselves commercially.) When looking at reference photos, I was again daunted. And again, I reminded myself (talk about the blind leading the blind) of a banquet and started taking small bites at it.

This kit is a Monster. There were two and a half years (I’m not a fast builder. All I can do quickly anymore is gain weight) of small bites, and there were a couple of large bites for added frisson. Eventually I achieved what I wanted and wasn’t displeased with the overall results. And it was a MONSTER that consumed hundreds of hours and two and a half years.

The worst monster was the Gemini capsule. So much so that if you’re interested, go check the after-action report on it. I ain’t gonna talk about it.

There’s something else that Monsters are good at. Teaching you to build. The engineers who created this kit won’t be there to help you…they weren’t there to help you, that’s what makes a Monster. You have to identify the problem (easy to do, as it’s a main trait of Monsters…problems). The obvious next step is to figure out (teach yourself) how to fix the problem. (Do that enough times and you could end up being pretty good at this hobby.) Often the problem isn’t that difficult to fix when looked at. This part sticks out here, that part shouldn’t be hollow, and a lip is missing from that edge. So you take it off, fill it in, and add it. Under paint, nobody will know. Don’t let that thing scare you. If you so totally screw it up, toss it and start another one. Having solved a problem often leads us to the next one, which gets dealt with in the same manner. When I started the Blackbird, I SUCKED at scribing panel lines. The kit was all raised lines and its overall length is just over 27″ (685.8mm). That’s a lot of panel lines and most of them had to be rescribed frequently due to sanding or other work. I no longer suck at scribing panel lines.

And that is the real reason to build a Monster. (That, and the hook still stuck in my gills.)

MiniArt #35321 Continental R975 Radial Tank Engine Review

MiniArt R975


Once upon a time, if a modeler wanted to add an engine to an M4, M4A1, M18, etc., the only aftermarket set I could find was produced by Tank Workshop (TWS). As with all things, time brings changes. TWS is up for sale (last I checked, dunno if it’s been sold) and isn’t (or wasn’t) answering emails regarding acquiring any of their items. So that source for the Continental R975 has dried up.

During my build of MiniArt’s #35206 M3 Lee Early Production (with full interior, including an engine and engine bay), the engine parts impressed me. I thought it would be a grand idea if MiniArt produced a stand-alone kit of just the engine. Then it occurred to me to check their website and check…and YES THEY DO! It was released in 2019.

I have a few more Shermans in queue and there are Tamiya’s #35190 Early Production M4, and a couple of M4A1s (both Asuka). I haven’t tossed the coin yet to see which of the three I’ll add an engine to, but thanks to MiniArt, now I can! (And yes…one of their R975s are on the way). The R975 kit #35321 has the same sprue layout as the engine provided for the M3Lee kit. I’m reviewing the M3’s engine as it’s the same as the R975 kit.

The engine parts are on four frets. The parts are nicely (and as you’ll see shortly, almost too nicely) molded showing excellent and comprehensive detail. The reason I say “almost too nicely” is because the kit also supplies oil, fuel, and an air-bleed line and they are very finely molded, AKA very thin. As they were packaged in the kit, insufficient care was taken to keep almost every of those very thin lines from breaking (all the parts were packed in the same cellophane bag). If you get this engine kit, before you remove any of these parts from their sprues, check closely to see if any of them have broken. It’s so much easier to glue the broken lines back together while they’re still on sprues, if only because gluing them on the sprues maintains their alignment(s). Hopefully MiniArt will package these fragile parts better in the stand-alone kit than they did in the M3 kit. DON’T use nippers to remove them from the sprues or you will break them. I used a very thin razor saw (RB Products) to remove the parts from the sprues.

The engine set supplies any part I could think of, mostly, including the wiring loom ring (if you want to add spark plug wires, you’ll need to add the stubs where they emerge from the wiring loom ring as they are not molded on. I used .025″ (.635mm) styrene rod to replicate them and to mount the individual plug wires, I drilled out the ends of the stubs using a .016″ (a hair larger than .381mm) so that I could use .010″ (.254mm) solder as the individual plug wires. They also supply both early (for M3s) and later (for M4s) air intake trunks and exhaust manifolds.

Fit is good but requires patience to add a few parts. When adding the rocker arm covers, one part (Dn3) has a line that connects it to the adjacent rocker arm cover (Dn2). Glue the Dn2 part in place first! The line that connects the rocker arm covers is very thin and seeks any opportunity to break off. By gluing Dn2 in place first, when you add Dn3, you will not only have support on both ends of that line, it lessens (and of course never removes) the chances to snag it on an errant finger and snapping it off. You will need to diddle these rocker arm parts a bit once they’re glued on to achieve a good fit:

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The paint call-out would have you paint the crankcase gray. Don’t bother. Once the shroud, clutch,  front engine mount (the crossbar), and fan are in place, it’s impossible notice it no matter what color you  paint it:

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Overall, the fit is very good. Yes, you’ll need to diddle the rocker arm covers for a better fit, but it’s not difficult to do.

The exhaust manifolds require care to mount correctly. DRY FIT FREQUENTLY so that you have them aligned correctly and attached where they should be. On the actual engine, the manifolds have what look like sheet metal brackets that support the manifolds once in place and the kit doesn’t supply them or attempt to replicate them. I used lead foil to replicate them.

There are a few other parts you need to add if you’re after a really detailed engine. You’ll need to add the end of the throttle linkage to the carburetor (a small piece of wire, nothing involved as most of the throttle linkage lives under the engine and can’t be seen) and a fuel line to the fuel pump (again, I resorted to .010″ (.254mm) solder for that).

As of this writing, I haven’t completed the engine. Before I can add the generators, carburetor, and fuel pump, I have to add the rear engine mount. I’ve dry-fitted the remaining parts I have to add and the “very  good fit” continues with them. (You can go to “Behind the Scenes” to see how final assembly and installation into theM3 works out.) (Later…once I’ve gotten to it.)

I am very pleased with how this engine went together and even more pleased at the accurate representation of the R975 engine. Yes…there are some bits you could add. I mentioned the stubs on the ignition wire loom. There are also the throttle linkage to add and the fuel line where it attaches to the fuel pump. The linkage can easily be done with a short piece of straight wire as most of the throttle linkage lives under the engine and can’t be seen. The fuel line I did using .010″ (.254mm) solder after drilling out a hole in the fuel pump to socket it into. Doing both aren’t particularly difficult.

All said, it builds into a nice engine without too much difficulty and the results are definitely worth the effort, time, and cost. If you want to build a track that used the Continental engine, this is the answer. Heartily recommended!

M3 Lee (MiniArt) Build #2 – Whereupon I Get Back to the Workbench, Engine Parts Get Painted and Some Assembled

I had to go out of town at the beginning of June so I’d spent some dedicated time at the bench so that I would be ready to get back to work when I got back. Yeah, well, that didn’t exactly happen. What exactly happened was that I got back okay, and then did nothing worth noting for the rest of June, all of July and August, and just a wee bit in September (which is what comprises this post).

I picked up a couple of sets of Master-Model’s M1919A .30 caliber (7.62mm) barrels (two per set) part number GM-35-004, which are the earlier two-piece conical muzzle version. Whenever I do armor models that have machine gun barrels hanging out in the breeze, I use Master-Model’s product. They’re fantastic. As usual, I used Birchwood Casey’s Brass Blackening compound to darken them. I let them soak in the solution for an hour or so and took them out. They’re covered in something that looks like soot, but once that soot is buffed off, one ends up with these:

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Having already assembled some of the lower hull and interior, I hit the assembly with Tamiya’s XF-1 Flat Black. This is my pre-shading coat. Then I added the sides of the hull, the differential cover (there’s a gap where the gear covers meet the differential covers that should not be there, as the parts were cast as a single unit, so I used the white acrylic putty to close those gaps) and final drive covers (one on each side where the sprocket wheels attaches), and the bulkhead between the crew compartment and the engine bay (I also added a number of parts that will also be done in preshaded white). In my last post I warned that parts Db3 (of which there are two) should be added later than the directions call for. Parts Db3 are easily seen in the following photo because the replacements for the kit parts that snapped off and vanished are the only white parts (I used styrene rod) in the photo (I don’t count the acrylic putty as a “part”):


Some of the interior parts that were preshaded were then painted. The breech blocks were painted Humbrol Steel #27003, and everything else was painted Tamiya XF-62 Olive Drab (3 parts) and scale-color-corrected with Tamiya XF-2 Flat White (1 part). The radio is in the upper left, below that are .30 caliber (7.62mm) ammunition cans, a 5 gallon (18.93L) gas can and its handle, the auxiliary power unit (APU) at the bottom left, the 75mm cannon and the 37mm cannon to the right:


Next up I started cleaning up the parts (some very small and very delicate parts) for the engine. As I performed that task, I started dry-fitting things check for fit (pretty good) and then decided that I might as well start putting some of the engine assembly together:

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A suggestion when you (if you) start building either this kit or use MiniArt’s engine set for something else. Small and delicate parts can be (frequently) a tedious hassle. In assembling the rocker arm covers, I realized that one method of construction was (relatively) easy and would help support the DELICATE section that connects one rocker arm cover to the next. Part Dn2 should be added before part Dn3. This way having Dn2 already in position not only keeps the small section of Dn3 that connects the two parts supported, assembling in this order will help reduce the chance that this small section will be caught by an errant finger and sent flying, thereby ensuring that one spends a stupid amount of time trying to find such a small part (yes…speaking from experience) (and yes, the photo of the plastic part and the printed instruction don’t match…I flipped the part over, took the photo, and am just too sodding lazy to re-shoot the photo):

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Once I had all the rocker arm covers glued in place, I dry-fit the engine parts on one side to see just how much could be seen once all the parts were glued on. Short answer, very few:

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So once the parts are painted, using Tamiya’s rattle can lacquer AS-6 Matt Black, no details need be added (this is the side of the engine closest to the bulkhead between the engine bay and the crew compartment), and dry-brushing edges (or, more likely, using a silver colored pencil to do that) will be minimal and limited to the sections of the cooling fan and shroud at the top. The crankcase, which is the conical shape in the center of the engine, is supposed to be gray. As you can see, I could paint it paisley and NObody would see it anyway, so it stays black:

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I had considered using Tamiya XF-1 Flat black for the engine cylinders and heads and cooling fan but so little will be seen once this is placed into the engine bay that there’s no point to doing that. (I also like the AS-6 Matt Black because it’s more satin than matt and certainly more scale (to my eye) than the semi-gloss which appears to me to be far too shiny.

And that’s it for this update. Perhaps my sloth will now subside and next month’s post will be chock full of Modeling Glory ™ and clever repartee.


M3 Lee (MiniArt) Build #1 – Parts Layout and Getting Started

I’ve been wanting to build a model of the M3 Lee since I saw the Bogart movie, “Sahara,” when I was a kid (like thousands of others, no doubt). I had intended on using the Academy kit because it had an interior, but dealing with other Academy kits made me think that I was going to have to do some updating and changing to get the interior details a little less soft than I’ve found Academy’s kits to offer. To my delighted surprise, I found this gem:

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Not only does it come with an interior, it also has an engine and engine bay! I hadn’t even considered doing the engine on an M3 but now…

I was favorably impressed upon opening the box. The parts (LOTS OF THEM) are molded in gray styrene and are all packaged in one of what feels like a cellophane bag. The packaging leaves a bit to be desired, cramming everything into one bag (except for clear parts and decals, which are in one little bag with the clear parts fret and the PE parts which are packaged in a cardboard packet which protects them nicely). Opening the bag shows that some very small parts, some from the tracks, one that looks like a small engine part, had already broken off the frets. I fished them out of the bag and put them in a small container figuring that eventually I’d go looking for a part, not find it on the sprue and know I didn’t remove it, which would then send me to the little container (I wouldn’t have to wait all that long).

If you look at the back pages of the instructions, there are paint/decal diagrams for three Russian M3s, two captured Wehrmacht M3s, two US M3s , and one Canadian tank. When you look at the decals, you’ll see there are early US markings included:

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I prefer to get the tedious and/or odious tasks out of the way first. When it comes to individual track links, that’s generally the tedious task I start with.

::clears throat meaningfully::

I don’t know who engineered these tracks to go together this way. The copyright date of the kit is 2019 so this is a recent, current, MODERN, kit. Simple, effective, ways have been figured out how to assemble 79 track shoes and two track guides per shoe years ago. MiniArt decided to ignore all that.

Tracks. Lots of parts for tracks. The body of each link is molded in halves and the end connectors have the pins molded to them which in turn fit inside each link. I know many people don’t like individual track links, I’m one who does like them. What I don’t like at all was how MiniArt engineered the tracks to assemble. HATE IT. Instead, I’m using tracks from Panda. I used a set of Panda’s tracks on my M4A3 75 ( W ) Sherman which were easy to assemble… Since the M4 Sherman was based on the M3 Lee, I expected that these tracks will fit, assuming that MiniArt nailed the scale.  The Panda tracks that arrived are just as nice as the ones I used on my M4A3 build. They also fit the kit’s drive sprocket as if they were made specifically made for them. Panda doesn’t offer the T48 tracks, which were reversible once one side had worn down too far. What they do offer are the T51 tracks, which were thicker on the outside and not reversible. Yes, if you look closely at the tracks and know the difference, it’s evident. Otherwise they’re indistinguishable from the T48 track shoes. Yes, there are a total of 162 track shoes and since there are two track links per shoe, that comes out to 324 links. And yes, there’s a lot of tedious work to cut each shoe and each link from the fret and then remove the sprue attachment points, two per shoe and link. However, unlike MiniArt’s tracks, once the minimal seams and all sprue attachment points are cleaned up, they go together easily and (unlike Bronco’s tracks) they stay together. I modified the inner edges of the rubber blocks that will wrap around the sprocket and idler wheels by filing the edges round so that they would wrap around the sprocket and idler wheels tighter (the same as I did with the Sherman M4A3):


Each bogie has its own fret which contains all the parts to assemble one complete bogie. Road wheels are on separate frets.

The engine seems to be quite complete and superbly detailed. I won’t know how all the parts fit (and there are a lot of engine parts) until assembly time. The engine seems to be a kit of its own and I hope it’s available as a separate kit. [It is, kit #35321!] At present, the only other R975 engine available is Tank Workshop’s resin AM set and“available” is a relative term. The business is up for sale and the owner has stopped answering emails so “available” doesn’t mean much at this point (unfortunate…I liked his line of products and customer service). Just looking at MiniArt’s engine shows me that it’s a MUCH better representation. Comparing the two isn’t fair to TWS’s effort. A modern corporation had better produce something better than a cottage-industry offering! From my initial inspection, it would be a shame (bordering on criminal) to build this model in such a manner as to hide the engine; this thing begs to be displayed…and I will build it in such a manner that it can be. It appears to be sufficiently detailed that if someone wanted to hang the engine from a chain outside the tank, it wouldn’t require much more than the base, a hoist, and chain.

Looking over the other frets (and there are a lot of them, too…this thing has a high parts count!), I’m generally impressed with details molded onto the parts and for provisions for detailing parts that would be too difficult to mold as one part. (Protectoscopes are too often rudimentarily detailed in other kits, not so this time!)

And while speaking of frets right after the engine parts, a bit of a warning. If you’re doing this kit, be prepared to have most of the very fine lines supplied with the engine set break. No…I’m not talking about breaking them during the process of removing them from the fret. I’m talking about them breaking off the fret in the bag before you get to them…or even open the bag. ALL the frets are packed in one large bag (that feels more like cellophane than plastic) and boxes get tossed around during shipping. Of eight very delicate lines (probably oil lines), which were very nicely done, seven of them had broken. I found one of the parts inside the cellophane bag when I (carefully) removed the frets from it. It was in the bag totally broken off of the part it should have stayed attached to, as were a few other parts as yet unidentified whose location(s) I have yet to find. The rest of the broken engine lines were at least still attached which simplified gluing…just align the broken ends and a light touch with the glue brush does it.

If the fit is decent, this kit could build into a very impressive rendition of an early M3, once the errant belly hatch is closed over; early Lees didn’t have them (MiniArt provides a plug for the hatch hole):

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The Academy kit (also in my stash) suffers in comparison.

Construction begins by assembling the lower hull bottom and all the pieces that comprise the interior. My initial intention was to follow the kit’s directions, as I’ve never done a MiniArt kit before. That notion didn’t last past step one (page 6), when I started assembling the interior parts. Most of the interior is painted white as usual. There are details that get painted other colors. Without even being very conscious of it (probably in the morning…all I’m conscious of is the location of caffeine and the state of my bladder in the morning) I just departed from the instructions. The interior of this tank seems to have been full of stuff. I wanted to get as much of the interior that gets painted white assembled as I could. I’m not certain at this point how much of that I can do (well, I can do it, it’s just the order of assembly that’s uncertain).

Speaking of directions, before I go any further, a warning.

Attach parts Db3 (there are two) AFTER you’re completely done adding the interior parts. Otherwise you will get the repeated opportunity to break them off, crawl around on your workspace floor looking for them, and then reattaching them. A LOT.

Having that warning out of the way, the first thing I started with was the transmission. Then I did the raised floor sections that go on either side of the transmission, the control levers, the driveshaft cover, and glued the escape hatch plug in:

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Then I attached the rear of the hull bottom to the front of the hull bottom. Once I made sure that the bottom was level and straight, I set the assembly aside overnight so that I had a solid assembly to start populating with lots of delicate parts. The following day I finished puttying the hatch plug to invisibility, added the driveshaft cover, then used the driveshaft cover to help me align the transmission/differential assembly:

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Be careful when assembling, particularly when attaching the transmission/differential housing to the front edge of the hull bottom. Actually, be careful when attaching the transmission to the differential housing! The vertical face of the transmission should be perpendicular to the underside of the differential housing and that can be a little difficult to see. When that assembly is attached to the lower hull bottom, the underside of the differential housing (one of several parts with a nicely rough surface texture) should extend straight out from the hull bottom.

Also be very careful when detaching and cleaning up attachment points for the many control rods that comprise the driver’s position. I snapped pretty much all of them and I was careful (clearly just not enough…it appears that my razor saw is going to get a workout!). The steering levers can also be a bit of a pain. I broke one, fixed it, and when adding them realized that I should have glued them to their attachment points much later in the construction sequence (like just when their subassemblies were being glued to the floor). I had to snap one off so that both levers were installed at the same angle (thankfully, the raised floor sections in the driver’s position hid the minor surgery).

Also difficult to see is the exact attachment point of part C17. There is a ridge on top of the driveshaft cover. The shorter side of C17 should attach with that ridge inside C17. Sometimes the exact placement of a part can be difficult to ascertain; look at later images because they will often be quite helpful about where parts earlier in the recommended sequence go. (Thankfully MiniArt’s directions will show all the previously installed parts and their locations, unlike some manufacturers who shall remain unnamed [Bronco]. Oops…that just slipped out. I’m so embarrassed.) In the following photos, the driver’s seat is just set in place for illustration:

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Things inside needed to be painted, detailed, etc., before the outside(s) go together. I’m at that point where getting things ready to paint is what’s driving the build. There is, of course, flat white. There is also OD Green, steel, leather, flat black (both for pre-shading and coloring parts), and rubber black. (And while all that goes together and ultimately gets painted, I really like the details provided by the kit, particularly the 75mm breech!):

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The turret basket on the right in the above photo is for the top turret and was comprised of three pieces. Since what’s driving the build at this point is getting things ready to paint for the interior, I wanted to do that as well.

And there are more interior parts…


M3 Lee – A Brief Overview

The M3 Lee is the tank that it seems history has, if not forgotten, not been much interested in. Given its place in history, its descendant, the M4 Sherman, gets all the press. That’s a pity because without the M3 Lee, the M4 would not have been the tank it was…for better (mostly) or worse (yeah…that profile).

It’s not a new observation to state that the US was not at all prepared to fight WWII at the start of 1940. During the interwar years from the end of the Great War (subsequently termed WWI) and the start of WWII, the world’s economic state after the Great Depression meant that funding for another Continental war (or much else) wasn’t available. The state of America’s military had not advanced a great deal from WWI, particularly in armor. This state was not only technically but doctrinairely as well. Congress did not allocate funds to develop anything called “tanks.” The way military procurement worked around that was to term its armor as “combat cars.” Armored, tracked, and armed vehicles are not “cars,” they’re tanks, to my way of thinking but it’s obvious that Congress was clueless back then as well as today. The M1 and M2 series of tanks weren’t very good tanks, and they were very small tanks, but that’s what the US Army had so that’s what they worked with (as the war seemed more immanent, to train against medium tanks it was cheaper and easier to paint a big “M” on the side of the “combat cars” and treat them as if they were medium tanks).

Doctrine also affected the design of these tanks. Nobody was aware of the impending Blitzkrieg (nor was the US aware of Pervitin, which certainly added the “blitz” to the krieg) and the US did not see tanks as a separate tactical branch, subordinating armor to the infantry as it had been during WWI (and in fact had been developed for as evidenced by its trench-busting genesis). According to prevailing doctrine in the 30s, armor was to support infantry (a concept that reversed itself by the end of WWII when infantry supported tanks, particularly with the US Marines in the Pacific Theater).

Even in that role, US armor of the 30s was inadequate. Infantry tanks are best illustrated by Germany’s PzKpfw VI, the Tiger tank. It was heavily armored and mounted the largest gun (until the M26 Pershing, which used a 90mm gun of questionable effectiveness), and Britain’s Matilda. The Matilda’s armor was difficult for Panzer IIIs and short-barreled Panzer IVs to penetrate (everyone had problems with the Tiger’s 88) (even the Wehrmacht, but of a different sort).

Cruiser tanks were intended to operate independently of infantry as mechanized cavalry. Cavalry’s role was to exploit breaches of the enemy’s lines and raise havoc and mayhem behind the enemy’s lines, emphasizing speed and maneuverability over thick armor. Cruiser tanks weren’t expected to withstand incoming fire while moving at a walking (or running, if I’m the infantry) pace. They were less armored than infantry tanks, which allowed them to be faster and more maneuverable.

America didn’t have an infantry tank. (I haven’t seen any evidence that the US Army intended on having infantry tanks.) They had “combat cars,” and when it was decided that something larger than the M1/M2 series of “combat cars” and light tanks, respectively, was needed, Ordinance came up with the M2 Medium. It was armed by one 37mm anti-tank gun in a turret (which was a creditable anti-tank gun in the early to mid-30s and useless against armor by 1941) and machine guns every place they would fit. The M2 Medium also used the vertical volute suspension system and live tracks. What the M1/M2 combat cars/light tanks and M2 all had in common was an aircraft radial engine for motive power. The M1/M2 used a Continental R670 engine rated at 250 hp, the M2A1 Medium used a Continental R975 E2 engine rated at 400 hp. Using an engine originally designed for aircraft, the radial, resulted in a trait shared by both the M3 and M4 tanks. A high profile.

When WWII started, and particularly in the North African campaign, the first US tanks to be committed to action were M3 Stuart light tanks, armed with the 37mm anti-tank gun used in the M2 Medium. (By that time, as an anti-tank gun, the 37mm was useless…armor thickness had passed it by, unless the opponent was Japanese armor.)

The M4 medium tank was in planning stages and problems were encountered with producing a turret large enough for the 69” (175cm) turret ring that could handle the recoil of the new 75mm medium velocity gun. Rather than wait, because who knew how much time would be needed to solve those problems, it was decided to design a better M2 Medium using as many of its parts for the new tank as possible.

The M3 Lee was the result (once again, named by the Brits, probably because there were already enough different types of vehicles running around with an M3 nomenclature, because evidently no one was aware that there were many numbers that could be used, not just “3”). It used the same engine as the M2A1, the Continental R975, as well as the same suspension and track design. The most obvious difference was the 75mm main gun mounted in the right sponson (with limited traverse due to the mount). There was also a small turret on top with the obsolete 37mm gun as well as the Ordinance tradition of adding machine guns any place they would fit. There was a small cupola on top of the small turret with a .30 caliber (7.62mm) M1919A4 machine gun, another .30 caliber (7.62mm) coaxially mounted next to the 37mm, as well as two semi-fixed (adjustable in azimuth only…traverse was adjusted by turning the entire tank) .30 caliber (7.62mm) M1919A4 machine guns in a fixed mount in the bow to the left of the driver. The M3 Medium was a stopgap measure to get something in the field that could toss big enough rocks at the German tanks to discommode them (which it certainly did, leading to the PzKpfw IV being upgunned with a long-barreled, high velocity, 75mm gun). Having a turret on top of the already tall hull combined with its main gun being mounted in the right sponson meant that the M3 Lee couldn’t take advantage of hull-down defilade (fancy word for “hide behind a hill with just the gun poking over it”). Much of the tank was exposed when using terrain as a defensive barrier…meaning that the terrain didn’t provide much defense.

However, 6258 of these stopgap tanks were produced in several different variants. As useful as the M3 Lee, and the later M3 Grant with the larger 37mm turret used by the British, was, its real utility was as a test and development chassis for the impending M4 Medium tank.

With the exception of Ford’s GAA engine used in the M4A3 series of Shermans, every engine used in the Sherman had been installed in an M3 Medium first and bugs and problems were resolved there. Welded armor, which required a different type of steel than riveted armor, was first tested on the M3A2 Medium (12 produced). The M3A3 tested the GM 6-71 diesel engines (322 built). The M3A4 tested the Chrysler A57 Multibank engine (with a stretched hull to accommodate the longer engine, which was the same modification to the M4A4), as well as removing the side doors from the upper hull (109 built).

In addition to engine tests that were incorporated into the M4 Medium line, the M3 Medium was also the initial platform for the M7 (See? Other numbers than 3!) Priest (105mm howitzer Gun Motor Carriage) that saw widespread use (over 4000 encompassing three variants), M12 (155mm Gun Motor Carriage), M31 series of tank recovery vehicles (TRV), and the M33 (developed from the M31TRV with the turret and crane removed) as a Prime Mover tractor for artillery.

It seems that history has treated the M3 Medium more dismissively than it deserved. No, it certainly wasn’t a great tank with thin armor, a high profile, and a main gun with limited traverse due to its mounting in the sponson. But it was what Ordinance could get into the field quickly. It was mechanically reliable and served as one of the evolutionary steps (perhaps even the foundation) that led to the M4 Sherman tanks. At the time of its introduction to combat its 75mm gun was more than adequate (as well as for the first M4/M4A1 Sherman) against the Panzer III and IV.

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M3 Lee

FT17 (Meng) After-Action Report

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Total building time 108 hours

Begin date February 17, 2021 – May 21, 2021



Kit #TS-011 – French Light Tank (Riveted Turret) FT17

E.T. Model

Photo-Etch set #E35-199 French FT-17 Light Tank (Cast Turret)

My opinion

This is my first Meng kit and on the basis of this one, I would try another kit from this manufacturer.

I think they took a shortcut (what a surprise for a corporation!) with this kit. From what I can tell, it’s their TS-008 kit only without the sprues containing the engine parts…and unfortunately some interior parts. If it’s your intention to build this kit with all the hatches closed then the missing parts don’t matter. If you want to model open hatches then you’ll have to flesh out the commander/gunner’s position by doing something for the mine rack and ammo rack, as well as the rear bulkhead of the fighting compartment.

Had the missing interior parts been supplied, this would have been an OOB build. I think I was fortunate in finding the AM PE set that I did, even if it’s for the cast turret variant. What I needed was the mine rack and ammunition rack. There were a few more parts that were nice to have in PE, though I didn’t use everything I could have. PE is very good for some things and not so good for other things.

If you build by following the provided instructions then you shouldn’t have the problems I encountered, which were largely self-inflicted. Figure out a better way than I did to align the sides of the turret and don’t out clever yourself with the gun the way I did. From what I can tell, fit was good and things went together well (unless you out clever yourself, too.)

At 108 hours, it’s the quickest build I’ve done since I started keeping track of time (in 1991). I’m pleased with a model of the first type of tank the US Army used in combat. This model is marked as a tank from the 2nd Platoon, 1st Company, 344th Tank Battalion, 304th Tank Brigade of the US Army (American Expeditionary Forces) as deployed at Verdun, October 1918.