little model has been sitting on my workbench for more time than I dare
to mention. It is the Renault FT-17 tank - one of the most successful
tank designs in history:its basic configuration – crew compartment at the front, engine
compartment at the back, and main armament in a revolving turret –
became and remains the standard tank layout .
It was fascinating to discover that, although entering in combat for
the first time in 1918, the FT-17 was used by several armies and was
used in 1988 by the rebels in Afghanistan against the soviet forces!
back to the kit, I don't recall when I got it, but it is the RPM
offering in 1/72 scale. RPM has traded the basic kit under several
boxings, and mine is the russian version, but the parts for almost all
versions are there:
When I started the model I
didn't have any idea of which version I would do, except that I wanted
the Renault turret with the Hotchkiss 7mm machine gun. The parts are
not well molded, with several imperfections over flat parts requiring
criterious sanding, The detail oscillates from good on some parts
to terrible, unidentifiable blobs of plastic on others.
assembly itself was easy, comprising a few parts. I had to replace
rivets on areas where I sanded them off. I also replaced the rear axle
by a metal pin for a sturdy anchorage of the sponsons .
I detailed and scratchbuilt many items in the sponsons. While the idle and driving wheels are very good, the suspension wheels are terrible, so I replaced them by punched disks of plastic. I also replaced rivets and bolts...
when I took a better look at the rubber tracks - well, they were worse
than bad. Thick, and devoid of the characteristic details, they made me give up of them right away. I then
scratchbuilt three or four individual tracks. The plan was to copy them
in resin and make a link by link, workable track. It's been a while
since the last time I enjoyed doing rubber molds and resin copies, and
in this case I had to make sixty of them! Nope... I needed another
option. That was when I put the kit aside - for years.
One day, surfing on the internet, I found Modell
Trans Modellbau FT-17 tracked gear set (product MT 72005). They looked
nice and would save me a lot of problems with the halted project. So I
ordered one and resumed working on my little Renault. When the tracks
arrived it was a mixed batch: a single resin piece for each sponson
with nice details overall, but incomplete mold filling problems here
and there as well as some pesky mold marks which I found impossible to
clean. I did my best preparing the parts and filling holes with putty, but I also had to sand off completely a few
track links and replace them by plastic parts. I reasoned I could dirty
up the suspension enough to conceal the mold marks and small
imperfections that couldn't be corrected. So I proceeded with the plan...
This thing is small, less than 5 cm from tip to tail, so to speak:
the vehicle done, I started to think on the display base. I used the
aforementioned photo from the 1924 Revolution as a starting point, but
didn't want to make it literal (I wish I could...). The idea was to
pose the FT-17 going down a small bank.
I started making a
plastic box with the basic relief cut along the sides. Inside, plaster
impregnated paper was used and let to dry thoroughly. Then, water
diluted white glue was spreaded liberally and fine sand and small rocks
sprinkled over, trying to concentrate the larger rocks on the lower
area of the bank. At
this point I noticed that the balance of the scene was not good, so I
decided to add a length of a railroad track on the lower edge.
Fortunately, I found a UM Technics Railroad track on my not-sure-where-I'm-going-to-use-it parts box, and opted for cutting one rail off due to space limitations.
track was glued angled to the edge of the base, so I had to cut the
planks carefully. These items are not well detailed, so I spent some
time scribing wood grain marks that would help a lot later during the
satisfied with the overall appearance, I had to fill the underside of
the tracks with ballast. I used railroad modeling ballast in gray and
brown colors, but they looked too stark. So I washed it with a very
thin mix of dark brown oils and let dry before using. Adding a few
rocks of different color (dark brown, ligh gray) also adds a lot of
realism to the scene. The ballast was poured between the planks and
arranged with a brush handle. In order to hold it in place, I used a
small acrylic jig and then I flowed diluted scenic glue with a syringe.
Once dry, the jig was removed and I proceeded with a gentle drybrushing
over the ballast:
steps finished off the tracks: (a) I airbrushed highly thinned soot
color along the center of the planks to simulate stains; (b) The
same pigment mix used on the FT-17 was lightly airbrushed over the
lower bank in order to dirty up
the rocks along the borders of the ballast and equalize the chromatic
range of the scene; and (c) Humbrol's Polished Steel was rubbed on the
top of the rail with a cotton bud and polished. I also went back and
further dry-brushed more vivid green and yellow tones on the crest of
some grassed areas:
final touch on the base was the addition of a barbed wire fence. I made
the poles with two pieces of matchsticks. They were scrubbed with a
steel brush to highlight the grain and treated with black and white
pastels, using a method I learned from Brett Galland, of Sierra West scale models.
They just look perfectly weathered, old dry wood. I tried to use
photo-etched barbed wire, but it simply didn't look good to my eyes. In
the end I made it from fine wire by adding small knots also of wire
along them. They were painted in dark rust color:
poles were superglued to the base, and the barbed wire was fixed on
them using small pieces of wire inserted in holes previously drilled. I
posed the wires to look like if the FT-17 had just broken through the
Joefix grass tufts were glued on a few strategic places, small
vegetation added here and there, and a few dried leaves spreaded under
the bush. The base was done:
The final step was to glue the Renault in its place:
Some photos of the finished model: