June 21, 2017

TRENCH RUNNER BUILD: Julian Conde Reviews & Builds the Thunder Model Case VAI Tractor

We welcome Julian Conde from San Paolo Brazil with his first review and build for us...


First of all, I would like to say it’s a great honor to write an article for MichToy. I’ve been a long time buyer and admirer of these guys, such great supporters of our hobby, I’m delighted to be able to be a part of their Trench Runner Staff for reviews, builds and step-by-step articles.

This is my first article...
I got excited when I saw images of kits from the new brand Thunder Model, they started with some great soft skin releases, and all the reviews looked promising. I decided on the WWII US Army Case VA1 Tractor (product # TDM-35001)

The box is very attractive and well printed. The kit comes with two sprues, rubber tires, decals, PE and painting instructions by Ammo of MIG.



The parts are flash free, very well formed and very delicate. The plastic has a soft but not brittle feel to it. Some parts like the steering column , pedals, suspension torsion arms and the axle pins (where you get the rear wheel to join the axle) are quite fragile. I should have replaced the rear axle plastic pin with a metal pin or brass tube. Now, in place and glued, looks ok, but very fragile. This is not a bad sign, the entire model is scale accurate and thin plastic is used for that achievement. 


Looks like a easy build, with just 2 sprues, but I wanted to make a more accurate model, so I took around 2 months to complete the model (plus base and figure), according to my schedule (not great amount of free hobby time). I added some wiring to the engine, based on photos and research, and also a headlight, common feature seen in these machines in war and after, it was field modified, so we can see the headlight in various supports and places. Looks like something a G.I. would do for convenience. There is no big secret, just a headlight, P.E. support and wiring. I used the great Elf Models Headlights, they come in various sizes, with separate parts for headlight, reflector, bulb and lenses. They are the best in my opinion, safe for some resin ones. Pictures to follow.

My first step, according to instructions is the engine. The engine and gearbox comes in two pieces (halfs), that are also the “chassi” main part. I used some general pics that showed the engine wiring just to make sure. I also have a good knowledge in engines and mechanics...



Next Step is detailing the engine with the photo etched parts provided and the wiring I added. I also added some rough texture on the exhaust and exhaust manifold intake, using some Gunze/GSI Mr. Surfacer 500 (Product #SF-285) and a hard old brush. I simulated the Belt for the fan and alternator. I used thin lead wire. That is almost not visible after build is complete. but that’s what we do,  modeling “behind the curtains”. Some bending must be made to the PE for the fan blade, so we get the proper angles for the blades. Piece of cake with a good PE bending tool. The wiring for the cylinders I used fiber optics. The distributor that comes with the kit is very fragile, so I built a new one with sprue and some punch and die bits. I added some all around punch and die details, looks missing by the pictures and the actual kit...

There are some bolts provided in the kit for the engine to gearbox joint, but since I was already punching, I made all of them from 03mm to 05mm plastic card. Some extra wiring was added to alternator and other parts...




The engine is quite detailed. Just some minor wiring and patience, it looks amazing, and since it’s well shown in the kit after assembly, is worth the work.

The PE Parts for the floor plates are quite tricky. Some extra attention and dry fitting must be made. They are fragile and hard to get to place. Careful placing is needed. The angles for the pedals also are up to you. They usually are not aligned, making it easy to make some used looking setup. The entire mechanical setup is quite tricky. If you dry fit enough and make sense of the instructions, you will be fine. The instructions manual could be a little more elaborate. They will work on that for sure for their next release which is a Scammel and they cannot be an easy build with a poor instruction manual. Either way, the PE parts have great detail and once in the right place are very nice. This is a “small build” but it takes care not to make a mistake. If you go by the book, it will look amazing.

All The parts were then primed for painting with Vallejo Gray Primer (Product #70601) . The rubber wheels (I hate them) are ok, but have some flash to sand off. And sanding rubber tires is not easy. Since the actual tire has a mold line it’s not that much of an issue, but in scale, looks like it can be a littler over. I would love to have always some DEF Resin wheels for every kit I own, but that is not a reality yet. They look ok, and hopefully won’t crack over the years. Headlight installed, some wiring and a support from spare parts PE. I also added a bigger spring on the seat support, the one in the kit is rather small. Made from copper wire.

I decided also to turn the front wheels a bit, so I had to make holes and pin the joints of the suspension, Almost making it workable to get the right angle. Once in place everything was glued. It helped making a stronger joint for the suspensions arms. Used metal pins cut to size for the job.

After the chassis is complete, you get to use the fuel tank as a holding place for painting. For me at least, was the easiest way to hold the model for painting. The fuel tank is barely visible after assembly.

Some Dry fitting below, with the Resin figure I chose, A OOP S&T Products U.S. Tanker, sculpt by John Rosengrant...

With hood in place...

The wheels still show some mold lines, but the textured mud and pigments will hide most of them. As mentioned before, the actual tire has those mold lines, so we just have to make it scale accurate.

The inner part of the rear wheel show some hard-to-get extraction pins. You can sand it off with patience. This is the only extractor pin visible after assembly, if I’m not mistaken. The inner part of the mud flaps also has some, but easier to sand it off and hide with some textured mud, and it’s well hidden after the wheels are in place...



I started the painting process with chipping in mind. So, base chipping color was applied, then some varnish (AK Interactive Ultra Matte Varnish (Product #AKI-183) to seal it off. Some AK Chipping Fluid (Product #AKI-089), then base paint with modulation (also AK). Chipping away…


Below you see some markings for the oil filter, and some PE placards added to the engine block and hood. Decals for instrument clusters also added :

After some drying time, sealed everything with AK Interactive Ultra Matte Varnish. Then started some wash with Vallejo washes to tone down the colors. Love to use those washes to tone down the base color, it’s my main tool for my own “modulation”





Then comes the markings. I always use Stencils. Just the dials are the kit decals, everything else is painted on with stencils. Used some placards, as mentioned before, from Eduard (PE). They are placed according to photos of the actual tractor I’ve found.



After, some rust and streaking effects

Next comes the messy Pigments part. I’ve used the pigments with the Vallejo washes to make a “texturized” wash, we now have this available in a prepackaged bottle, but this was a great idea I got some time ago. Works great. It helps stick the pigments, without affecting color result. It gets a very real finish, without repetitive patterns of dirt...



I the clean away the areas that are not supposed to have great amounts of dirt, like tire sidewalls. This is made with a cotton swab wet. You see a great result in accumulated dirt around the wheel ring, etc



Pigments applied over the kit, with some Textured Mud from AK Interactive (Product # AKI8024), it’s a great medium to add real mud texture. I never used pigment fixers, as they change the pigment color (for me) so I just place them and dip a drop of white spirit. The secret of pigments, is not touching them after applied. It will be there if you don’t mess with it...



Then, some oils streaks and wet spots...



Messy but looks great after...



Some final assembly before adding the final details, like mud splashes, rust streaks, oil and water streaks, some black smoke soot for the exhaust...



The base is made from epoxy,with some small rocks, foliage, and markings made from spare wheels and tracks. Used a tree trunk from Armand Bayardi. they are great. 



Below are some pictures of the base and figure painting process...



Final assembly photos below. It was a nice model to build. Can’t wait for some more Thunder Models releases. If they all turn out this way, it’s a new great manufacturer and we can look forward to every new release...




View Julian's Trench Runner Profile HERE
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