The Half-track models
"Dragon Models USA" U.S. half-track series was released nearly ten years ago as an M2A1, M3A1 and in various other configurations including: Infantry transport, M4 mortar carrier, M21 mortar carrier, T19 self propelled 105mm howitzer and an M16 multiple gun carriage. There are probably a few more that I missed.
Now in 2017, Dragon Models USA has released another version, with features unique to the IDF (Israel Defense Force) to commemorate 50 years since the 1967 "Six Day" war. Middle-Eastern military subjects are very popular with scale modelers and Dragon has taken their basic M3A1 halftrack kit and added some new parts to replicate this iconic Israeli armored vehicle.
I decided to build 2 versions of IDF halftracks because there are loads of "non-use" parts included with this version that can also be used to build a standard M3A1. I had an M21 mortar carrier kit that I'd picked up a few years ago but never built because the IDF didn't use this type. Building the two kits simultaneously is how this project is so far progressing. You can see in the following photos that the chassis assemblies are identical. Because both share a common chassis, I shouldn't need to diverge from the basic assembly instructions until I advance a few more stages into the build. So far very easy with fairly good detail to the parts. A few parts were unclear (C-13 for example !!) as to it's location, but a search on the internet for M3 Half-track photos helped me get them where they should go.
"AC Models" asked me to assist with reference photos of IDF soldiers and uniforms from the Six Day war. Andy Cairns (Mr. AC Models), would take advantage of the huge void in proper IDF figures from this time period. It seems that Dragon released a troop carrier without any troops and a huge opportunity missed to satisfy the demand for time appropriate figures to go along with these new vehicles. Andy Cairns is an amazing military figure sculptor and from what I had seen of his previous work, he captures figures in nonchalant or working poses that makes them seem very relaxed and realistic. I knew he would do this project justice. From the original idea (tossed back and forth on a Facebook group discussion) to the finished product, it couldn't have been more that a few months. I was happily rewarded with a Gratis figure set and I assured Andy that I would get right into the project when it arrived.
This photo shows the assembled figures as AC Models intended them to populate the half-track model. As this is basically a complete sculpture, a few of the figures meld against each other. For that reason, the half-track needs to be assembled before the figures can be positioned correctly. As I build the model vehicles, I'm also painting the figures with the French M64 horizontal "Lizard pattern" uniforms that many elite IDF troops wore during the 1960s.
Well , here you can see the chassis after painting. I actually painted both of the models but because of an unforeseen missing parts bag in one of the kits (The new IDF M3), I had to put that one off to the side until Dragon Models replaces the part. That may or may not happen, so I on't delay the proect any longer waiting. The painting was easy so far, Flat black primer overall and the select areas picked out with rust, steel, and then some of the IDF sand color. You can see the result here. Halftrack tracks, the full size are made of rubber with steel belts similar to the construction of a radial tire. Along the centerline of the rubber track you can see it is a rust color and that was typical of tracks that I had seen myself.
I assembled part of the cab section and cargo bed and I've fitted them here prior to gluing them down. So far the build has been easy and I would really love it if model companies, when they design an instruction sheet, would describe each part with the actual name, instead of just an assembly number. We could learn abit about the mechanical design of the vehicle as we build it, if we knew what the little bits of plastic are meant to represent. Just a suggestion.
I'll get back to work and update soon. Thanks for checking in. For those people that like facebook groups, go here. I am a regular contributor and there is an amazing amount of reference available in this group.
Here is a photo of the latest work done on the models. I'm a little closer to placing the paratroop figures into one of the M3 models. I painted the black and white ID stripes which was a common marking for IDF halftracks in the 1967 conflict and seen on these vehicles even into the 1970s.
The next step, after applying the base coat of paint (Testors Modelmaster Enamel "Afrika Dunkelgrau") is to lightly overspray the model with a very thinned sand color. This coat is nearly transparent. I try to lighten some plates more than others to give a variation in tones. After drying overnight, I randomly applied pinpoint sized dots of oil paint (black and burnt umber) at the tops of various plates. Next, I took a wide flat brush, barely dampened with mineral spirit and I dragged the brush over these dots and down the plate to give a streaked effect. This replicates the appearance of road grime on a light colored vehicle and has to be done with a very light touch so it's barely noticeable. I repeated this process until I was satisfied with the streaks. The light sand overspray will also streak away at the same time and that enhances the overall effect. Here you can see how it turned out.
I'm at the stage of the project where I can start (finally) with the figures. Some clean up of the castings and a primer coating of flat white enamel paint will get things going. The first figure will be the driver. I've decided to paint this one a little different than the rest. Reason for this is that (most of the time) sometimes the half-track drivers were reserve soldiers attached temporarily to a particular infantry unit but not always uniformed as the other regular soldiers. Often, reserve soldiers reported for duty with uniforms from the previous call-up. That's what I wanted to replicate.
I'll be working on more of the figures now and will show the progress in next few days.
I finally attached all the stowage and now to add the small parts that I would normally break off during painting. I've learned from past mistakes to leave little bits till the very end or they may be lost forever....All in all, this was a fun build of an iconic IDF armored vehicle and I enjoyed painting the figures as well. Together in a mob, the paratrooper squad fills the cargo area of this half-track model nicely and animates the model. My figure painting skill improved (slightly) overall and the French "Lizard" pattern of the camouflage uniforms was a challenge. I'm satisfied with the result. A good ending to the year and now I'll clear the bench for another project, starting sometime in January. Happy New Year !