Sunday, May 22, 2011

These are a few of my favorite things... uh, TANKS!

So, an idea for a project has been brewing in my mind the last few days and I thought I'd put it here as a way to solidify a direction. Basically, the idea is to build a collection of model tanks based on a list of what I'd consider my top favorites. The major rule here is that each subject has to be pretty readily available in model kit form and preferably in 1/35 scale. Ideally, each model should be constructed with minimal amounts of aftermarket conversion pieces or major kitbashing. Several of these I already have in my stash and none of them are hard to obtain as of this writing. In more-or-less chronological order, they are:

French Char B1 bis
US M4A3E8 Sherman 76mm
US M41A3 Walker Bulldog
UK Centurion Mk. 5/2- Mk.6
US M48A3 (or possibly 'A5) Patton
Israeli Magach 6 (modified US M60A1 or 'A3)
German Leopard 1A5
*German Leopard 2A6- see UPDATE below.

The question is, which of the modern "big growlers" should I consider? It would basically be between some version of the US M1A2 Abrams and the German Leopard 2A6. I like both and each vehicle has its pros and cons. I might also skip the Magach 6 and build an Israeli version of the M48, modified to more-or-less 'A5 standards in the early '70s. Then there's the question of whether to go for a purely aesthetic "odd man out" choice and build something like the Japanese Type 90 or the current version of France's Leclerc.

*UPDATE- After giving it some more thought, I've decided to go with a Leopard 2A6 as my "modern big growler". The version I have coming to me is the Spanish 2E from Hobby Boss, although I understand that it's not a fully accurate 2E but based on the 2A6EX demonstrator. That's fine with me since I plan to build and paint it as a vehicle from the army of my fictional Republic or Aventine. Since Aventine uses the M240 GPMG (General Purpose Machine Gun- aka MAG 58), I'll need to replace the kit's MG3.

This is by no means an exhaustive list and there are many more favorites and side projects to consider. (Tamiya's up-coming M4A1 76mm Sherman as an Israeli M1 is a definite buy for me.) There's also the sci fi tank project that would include kits of Miyazaki's "Bad Guy Tank #1",  Kow Yokoyama's Nutcracker hover tank, the two tanks from the obscure anime feature Technopolis 21 and a Rhino APC from Warhammer 40,000 built from the current kit but painted and marked as a Rogue Trader-era Imperial Guard version (I usually remove all Imperial insignia anyway but that'll certainly piss off the die-hard fanboys who live and breath the current rules).

You will notice, of course, an absence of many of the usual "awesome" tanks that post-war revisionist historians would insist must be included. Most notable are the Soviet T-34 series and the German Panther and Tiger series tanks. In the post-war category, the Soviet T55 and T72 are also missing. To be honest, while these are all worthy subjects, none of them fall in to my "favorites". Sorry if that bothers you,  gentle reader, but feel free to post your own list of "Awesome Panzers" on your own blog and start building your own collection. These are the vehicles that I have come to like over the years for various, often aesthetic reasons, and they are the ones I would like to build.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Rambling dissertation on scale modeling.

I've been doing some research in recent days to try and decide whether I want to give model building another try. In addition to some real-world subjects I'm interesting in, I've also been considering a few "What If" (aka "Whifs")... alternate, proposed or just made up designs for tanks, aircraft, etc. With this in mind, I went to my blog archives and found something I had originally posted a couple years ago. With a bit of editing, it still feels relevant and still reflects my general views.

As I said in my introductory post, this blog is about my hobbies. Although it's my intention for now to focus on 1/6 scale action figures expect some occasional side steps in to my other areas of interest. Scale modeling being one of those....

I'll have to admit that nowadays, I'm more of a model kit buyer than an avid model builder. Of course, I intend to get around to building these kits eventually but it never seems to pan out. For me, some of the issue is that scale modeling seems to be the exclusive domain of *cue dramatic music* REAL DAMN SERIOUS MODELERS! The simple pleasure of buying a kit and doing a nice, clean out-of-the box build seems lost on today's RDSMs. You can't really be a modeler unless you are willing to create a painstakingly detailed, 100% accurate miniature replica of your desired subject. Building a kit out of the box or doing simple kitbashed conversions (taking parts from different kits to create a model) isn't enough. You must start with the latest, most accurate (and expensive) kit of your subject then pile on photo etched and machined metal, cast resin, scratch built and parts from numerous kits to make it "perfect". Then there's the finishing which requires layers of paints and art materials that must, when finished, rival the best photo realistic paintings you've ever seen. The old days of painting on the base coat, detail painting and some washes and drybrushing to weather and bring out detailing are no more. And while I'm primarily thinking of 1/35 scale armor and military vehicle modeling, no scale or subject matter is immune. Even sci-fi modeling, once a bastion of creative building, is in the grasp of this trend.

 I have a huge amount of admiration for people who are willing and able to do this kind of work and create these strikingly accurate and detailed miniatures. However, I'm a little dismayed by the attitude that some of them have that if you don't also do what they do, you are outside of the "club", so to speak. What seems odd about this is that, supposedly, people today have less time for leisure activities (something I doubt when I compare the lives of myself and my fellows to, say, my grandparents) and yet, there doesn't seem much leisurely about dumping hundreds of dollars (or whatever currency you use) and hundreds of hours in to a single model. Obviously, I'm not alone in this perception since there's a rather sizable market of pre-finished miniatures, often very reasonably priced, in a variety of scales and subject matters. It seems kind of funny to me that I can buy a reasonably accurate 1/32 scale M1A2 Abrams tank, completely finished and ready to be displayed, for less than the cost of a 1/35 model kit of the same subject. Of course, that does preclude the simple joy of build a model, which to me is the primary reason to be a modeler in the first place.