Meng TS-043 (76) W Sherman

The whitewashed Thunderbolt VI cover of Meng’s new Sherman kit got me interested. Ammo’s Sherman book has a color plate but I dunno where the author got his references from. Photos of finished work.

Sprue of turret, tools, PE and decals
Running gears and hull
Hull and tracks
Lower hull tub, clear parts, turret shell, suspension springs (in the box), tow cable, metal barrel and wires.

Tracks are typically the most painful and Meng’s offerings were some of the worst in terms work required. This time they have reached a new height.

First to reduce individual handling of parts I strive to keep everything on the sprue. The rubber parts are in upper and lower halves, and since they are aligned I’ll sandwich all of them on the sprues. So we cut off the track sprues like this.
Then we sandwich the sprues together. It requires a bit of planning to get the left and right gates to match up in opposite directions. There is a center division of chevron runs, the number of pieces aren’t equal on each side of the division, 14 and 15 respectively.
After I sandwiched them I ran TET along the seams between the top and bottom. I want to keep the innards of the assembly as glue free as possible, since you need to run some wire through them and you don’t want any possibility of blockages.
The side cuffs were another tedious piece of work with 3 attachment points each. I removed the bottom 2. With a very good side cutter there wasn’t much sanding work required here, fortunately. I sanded the blocks smooth then proceeded to painting them on the sprue, using tire black for the rubber blocks and a dark track color for the cuffs.

Now we link the blocks together. This turned out to be a nightmare.

The instructions have you put the track assembly into a jig that locked them in place, then you run brass wires through each axle.
The first thing to note is that the jig doesn’t hold the pieces very solidly, if you accidentally moved the jig the pieces will just fall right off, super annoying. This can happen a lot because the tracks are fitted very snuggly inside the jig, so you may be tempted to apply force somewhere to squeeze the pieces in place. I later use the following discipline: first I use tweezers to do a row of cuffs.

Then I add the other side of the cuffs one by one as I add the blocks. If you want the least amount of pain later, you want to sand the parts well so that they fit where they were supposed to. If they don’t, your wires will not get through and you’ll have no recourse!

The jig can hold 11 blocks and that’s what I do. There is the question of how do you join each 11-link subassemblies, we’ll deal with that later. After you get all the pieces in place, close the assembly with the top of the jig. It should align perfectly, otherwise it means your blocks may have misaligned. In the process of opening up the jig again, you will certainly pull up some blocks and its a pain to put them back together, so it’s best if you check that all pieces are placed properly before closing.

Now you perform this daunting task of running the wire through. This requires a lot of patience. The brass wires is very weak – I don’t believe it’s actually brass? If you get bending in it you have a much harder time inserting smoothly. This is particularly acute for the ends of the wire, where it wrapped around itself. And you need to push gently, because you don’t want the wire to bend. If you meet resistance, one of 3 things you can do: you can probe a bit and the wire may find an opening to get through, or you try inserting the wire from the other end of the hole. If everything were lined up perfectly, one of these two methods usually geta you through. The last method is for when nothing works, you just insert the wire from both sides to the point they’re stuck. This isn’t a good solution, as I found out later, that the track was kept together using single run wires that were pulling both sides of the cuffs to sandwich the rubber block in the middle. If you do that very infrequently it may be ok.

I ran the wire through to the end and clipped it off, rather than making a ton of measured segments. After you are done, carefully apply CA at the endpoints to keep the wires in place. If you use the duckbills like I do, I tried to apply the glue very carefully so that I don’t have overrun glue.
Instructions said 79 links per side, so I have 7 runs plus 2 blocks.
On each side.
After I’m done with all runs, I clipped off the ends of the jig’s bottom. This will allow you to assemble the track runs. I cannot imagine trying to run the wires without it!
Put a couple of cuffs in the middle of the jig and put two runs of finished runs on each side, close jig and run wires as before.
I want to close off tracks completely so that I don’t have to mess with this at the end.

I’m not sure if i was wasting too much wires at the beginning, but I ran out of wires at the end. It’s short by a lot so I think there wasn’t enough in the first place! The wire was 0.3mm I think, and I made do with 0.2mm. I also tried to use styrene rods but it was too weak to hold the full length of the track.

It took 8 hours just to do the wires. This is the second most difficult workable tracks I’ve work with, with the Afv Club’s T84 still in the trash.
I used TankArt’s recipe of Tamiya XF-62 with various shades of LifeColor olive drab on top. Decals went on and I usually sand the decal down to both roughen it for weathering and minimize the dreaded edges.
Then I used lacquer thinner chipping to create that olive drab worn effect.
Then I applied pin washes and filters to get a reasonable base coat. Since I am going to apply whitewash the effects are pronounced so that they have a chance to peek through.

The references for Thunderbolt VI are rather sparse. It was whitewashed at some point, both Meng’s cover art and Mig’s Sherman Miracle book has dirty whitewashed renditions of it, so I used them for reference. I forgot to mention that perhaps it’s my fault, but Meng’s drive sprocket did not go in well into its slot. Maybe the polycaps inside were screwed or something, but I ended up cutting off the insertion pin for it to go in properly.

I used hairspray chipping for the whitewash with Mission model’s FS 36495 very light grey as the whitewash color so that I can later use mapping to increase opacity. I like the fact that I’m still experimenting a bit, this time relying less on the chipping itself for the effects, but rather use a lot more artist oil to control how the final whitewash will appear. I wish I didn’t use lacquer thinner chipping earlier on the decals though, they couldn’t take it well and was somewhat messed up, hence I had to do some hand painting to fix them. Here is how it looks after initial chipping.

Additional lacquer thinner chipping on the turret.

After that I used mapping to adjust the hue and white areas. I found that with whitewash the olive drab can substantially reduce in hue because of the white remnant paint, making the vehicle more monotone, so I added the hue back with oil. I also experimented with alcohol chipping because certain areas, perhaps because I didn’t spray HS well, was difficult to chip with water.
Meng’s cast surfaces were good, but I think you can certainly increase the unevenness still. Cast surfaces are more interesting to weather, I really like how the top of the turret took the chipping action.

In Mig’s book the whitewash was quite dirty. That’s a nice look so I decided to render the vehicle as running around spring mud with the whitewash worn out quite a bit, and splashed mud sparingly appear.

I have a love-hate relationship with figures. Finding the right figures often takes forever, and some of the older figure kits I have have faces that just don’t work. One silly secret I have found is that the sculpt is half of the final product… if you have a subpar sculpt the face is very hard to render into something nice, whereas with a great sculpt you can even get something reasonable with a wash.

I picked up Dragon’s US Tank crew NW Europe 6054. I thought I’d have a driver and commander, otherwise the Sherman tends to be too busy and takes attention away from the vehicle. The “lean-over” guy I thought could serve as the commander but the pose was just too rigid for it, so I ended up using the guy with the mic. This figure is one of those where the faces were pretty poor, so I ended up replacing it with a resin tanker head. Its face has a likeness of Tim Robbins I thought…

I wanted to do a vignette mud base with freshly melted snow. As with my Panzer IV I built a styrene frame and glued it on a plaque, after which I applied a thin layer of sculptamold, and made the two grooves to accommodate the tracks. This time I used Vallejo’s thick mud paste to create the surface of the vignette. It works well but if you apply it with a brush, the brush is a goner. The paste is quite sticky so you can use a bit of water to shape the surface.

After that I applied some pigments for tonal variations as well as Ammo’s heavy mud products for touch ups. Finally the white pigments go on thick for melting snow on the road side.

Forgot to mention that earlier I added the Alliance tool belts to the relevant tools. They’re easy to use. The tow cable coming with the kit again is horrendous. I used a steel cable from ETO models. The cable eyelets have depressions but if you want to anchor the cable deeper you may want to drill out the depressions further. I also tied down the antenna with a piece of Uschi rig.

Abrams’ Shermans often don’t have a lot of stowage. From one of the reference photos there was a configuration with a front glacis plate plank and a box, so the rest is guess work on the back. I made a plank from styrene sheets and created some wood grains using Mr. Dissolved putty. I have a hard time finding an appropriately sized box as in the photo, in the end the Tamiya US Tank crew’s box appears the best size. I opted to go for some sacks and jerry cans from Tamiya’s US accessories kit (Meng only gives you two jerry cans which is really not enough), as well as a nice stowage piece I picked out from Value Gear.

The stowage is finally painted and weathered with oils and pigments. I didn’t notice it in the beginning but it appears that Meng’s jerry cans are more accurate than Tamiya’s in their accessories kit, where Meng has raised rims while Tamiya has grooves. Since I’m just stuffing them at the rear rack I decided I’ll use the Meng’s to bookend the bundle.

I had a long debate on whether I would add the driver figure that I had already painted, because I wanted one hatch closed for diversity and it was a huge pain to insert him due to my installation of the turret and tied antenna. It was indeed a huge hassle but I added him after all so that the tank matched the reference photo closer. Another pain point was the tow cable, I wasn’t sure whether to tie it to the differential cover or hang it over the plank. After studying the reference photo I think the latter is the right configuration, so I had to redo the cable which was quite a hassle.

This kit has taken me a lot longer than anticipated, but I had a lot of fun doing my first serious Sherman. i hope I brought out the unique characters of this Thunderbolt VI of Abrams’ ride.

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