Friday, November 7

Clayton's Build review of Bronco's new 1/48th scale Su-152 "Beast Killer"

When you think of the massive Russian tank the Su-152 "Beast Killer" as the Russians called it - you think of a big steel uncompromising brute of a thing which stopped the German armour in it's tracks across the battlefield of the eastern front during WWII. What would the tank look like in a smaller scale? Well Bronco's new 48th scale version is today's review build by our own Clayton Ockerby. See if this kit's presence still is as fearsome in a smaller scale..
Russian Self-Propelled Gun SU-152 (KV-14) 
[April, 1943 Production] Initial release
1/48th scale
Product number:  
new tool Plastic sprues
Waterslide decals
Available now from  Bronco’s distributors worldwide.

What's in the kit:
This popular soviet tank killer called “the Beast Killler” is not such a big but a “Little” beast killer. The not often 1/48th market gets plundered here by bronco who have kept the detail but made this at a smaller scale.

The sprues for this release..
There are simplified tracks and hull design, The only photo etch is used on the engine mesh and the clear parts are just the headlights. There are decals for two SU-152’s from the Soviet People’s army.

Headlights and a mesh grille including thread to represent the towing cable are included as well as two decal  marking choices
Although she is smaller this tank is pretty nifty – several things you would not expect on a smaller scale tank are included – slide moulded gun recoil action with a fully detailed breach for the gun, the hatches can be opened or closed and the running gear is very well detailed for this scale.

Onto the build...
Bronco's – Russian Self-Propelled Gun SU-152 (KV14)
(April, 1943 (early production)
Build by Clayton Ockerby

There is something about Russian armour I really like. Maybe it is the unrefined, lumbering design or the rugged lines. Maybe it was the way they performed against the odds? I am not sure what it is, but I am attracted to it. So when the chance to look at the new 1/48 Scale SU-152 from Bronco arrived I was more than happy to take a look.

I must confess I had initially thought this was a 1/35th scale kit and was a little surprised to find to was in fact 1/48.  I guess it makes sense that Bronco would extend their range of 1/48 vehicles.  I have build their AA Staghound in the 1/48th scale previously and was blown away by the level of detail in that kit. It was very fiddly and very detailed, but really built into an amazing little model, so as far as I was concerned Bronco had already got some runs on the board in this scale for me.

I like to do a little bit of research on the subjects before I build, so went about gathering some information.  I am by no means a ‘rivet counter’ and for me this hobby is more about the finished build or maybe trailling a new technique. That said, I do also want to represent something that was an actual vehicle and existed at some time.

This kit represents the ‘early version’ of this machine. From what I can gather the main differences between the early and the late versions is that the late version had ventilators added to the top of the armour to help the air flow in the cabin. There was also additional armour added just above the gun.
So in looking for references for my build it was about here I realized the box art on the kit (showing the number 1303) wasn’t actually an option for you to build as the decals supplied were only for 1304 and 1305.  To make matters a little worse I located pictures of the actual vehicle from the box art and it appears that is was a ‘late version’ and not the early version that the model is.
I managed to find some images for the supplied decal sheets, and they all seem to be the early model.
Now I’m happy to be corrected and am by no means an expert or even close to one on the subject of Russian armour, maybe the early versions of the tanks were upgraded in the field ?

I decided I would like to do something with some form of camouflage, so I went about finding some reference shots of this vehicle. I stumbled across this colour plate and it seemed to fit the criteria for me so I began on my journey.
On first glance this kit doesn’t look anywhere near as complex as the Staghound I had previously built. It actually came as a bit of a relief because I actually felt that model was probably a little over-engineered for what it was. (Still very nice, but overly complicated)
I really like the detail in the molded mesh grills over the engine. The single piece barrel is also an immediate stand out and is a real highlight.  The weld seams around the top armour plate seem to be a little heavy handed and first glance, but I get the feeling they will settle down with the painting and weathering. I also see the link and length track comes with the pre-molded sag in the tracks. All in all the model looks to be a nice compromise of ‘buildability’ and detail.

I pre-cut the tracks and will spray them in a Dark metal / rust colour. Here they are ready for the paint.
The suspension system and base is pretty basic and all went together well. There was a bit of play in the positioning of the wheel arms, so I am hoping all of the alignment works out when it comes time to fix the wheels and tracks to the model.
A nice little piece of photoetch detail. I can’t see how it will be very visible in the finished build, but I like what I see.  I do find it a little odd that given there was photo etch in the kit why there wouldn’t been an allowance for it to go on the top part of the tank where it would be most noticeable. 
Gun assembly was again straight forward. The molding on the barrel is really good and comes in one piece. It is a real highlight of the kit.
Some of the detailed finer parts are now fixed to the upper structure. These pictures also give you an idea of the look of the molded welds in the kit.  I am a little concerned some of these parts may become problematic during painting.
Details like the grab rails were soft and pretty tough to clean up. They look a little messy in the photos but I think a coat of paint and some chipping will hide any flaws in them.
Side rails and wheels are preassembled. The instructions showed some small parts to go on the guards at the front of the side rails however I didn’t bother with them. They were tiny.  Not sure why they weren’t just molded in. The wheels will be painted prior to fitting them to the model.
The engine deck presented the option to have the vents open or closed. The parts were very fine. I took the easy way out and sealed them closed. Notice the crisp molding in the mesh covers. I did find it odd that photo etch wasn’t supplied for these items. That said the molding is very good and will paint up well.
Side rails are now fitted to the top piece. A few more finer details are included over the structure. The instructions show a small PE tie down on the right hand side or the vehicle. I have to confess I did try to include this in the build but it was so tiny I just gave up in the end. Even if I have got it to stay of I suspect it would have vanished during the handling during the painting process.
Gun in place and spare tracks all fitted ready to attach to the hull. There are some tiny molded butterfly screws that sit on top of the spare tracks that add a nice piece of detail.
 Wheels were prepainted and had earthy tone pigments worked in them.  The steel look on the wheels was achieved using a cotton bud to polish in ‘Dark steel’ pigment. The effect is really quite convincing.
The tracks all fitted in place. I had a few minor fit issues, but nothing too drastic. The sags on the top parts of the tracks look great but didn’t seem to line up 100% for me with the wheels. Again, I am splitting hairs and overall they look pretty sharp. The same technique with the steel pigment was used on the tracks.
The top section of the model has now been attached.  The tracks and running gear are masked with some tinfoil and the model is primed in Alclad Microfiller. I also tried to make some dents and damage on the fuel tanks. I simply heated the plastic and poked at it.
A base coat of Vallejo Russian Green was put down first.  I then added two lighter tones of the colour but mixing white and Interior Yellow. The lightest tone was pretty much 50/50 of the Russian Green and the white with a touch of the yellow to warm it up a little.  
The paint was pretty heavily thinned to ensure some transparency in the paint. This helped to tie all of the colours together. Some vertical lines were lightly added to help give the illusion that the paint had started to weather and wear. Keeping the lines soft and random and with not too much of a contract from the base colour will help you achieve a good result.
Darker tones were now added to the places where natural shadows would fall. A mix of the Russian green and black created the darker tones.
Note the "Real Steel(TM)" masking on the tracks
The entire model was then coated in hairspray. I gave it a couple of coats in preparation for the weathering effect I wanted in the camo pattern.  A very basic Blutac mask was made for the camouflage. Vallejo Khaki Brown was put down and some highlights were added using a mix of the base colour and white.
Blu-tac masks removed.
With a wet brush and a toothpick the overlaid came pattern was carefully worn back. The effect will tie together better once we start adding washes.
I was a little unhappy with the contrast between the green and the khaki, so I went about strengthening the colours around where they met. This also softened some of the lines of the camouflage, but again this will come together better as we move on.

More scratching in the camo with the new tones over the top.
As I am not using the kit decals I needed to find a way to reproduce the number on the tank. I actually own a sign shop, so I cut some masks out us use for the numbers.  I know the majority of numbers you see on Russian tanks were pretty rough and hand painted, but I wanted to at least have something clean and legible to help better define the vehicle and create a base to weather over.
Number complete. 
An enamel wash to bring out some depth and detail on the model.  I used Mig Ammo, Dark brown for Green vehicles.
In order to simulate fading, wear and weathering I now applied small amounts of oil paint to the random surfaces. They were then blended into the base colour using a white spirit. I have also added a small amount of chipping. Hand painted with a fine brush.
Finer chips and wear are produced using the sponge technique. Remove the majority of the paint from the sponge and gently dab it around the areas you want to simulate wear.
More highlights and shadows are created by controlled spraying of a ‘true-earth product I have in my collection.  Lighter tones on the horizontal surfaces and shadows in the logical locations.
Working pigments into the crevices of the model now in order to simulate built up dirt. This is done in multiple tones and layers.
An all over coat of Alclad Flat to seal everything up.  You can see the subtle result of the pigment in this picture.
I still wanted to dirty her up a little more, so I have now started adding darker toned pigment. Russian Earth from Ammo. You may also notice some spilt fuel over the fuel containers. The gloss finish helps to simulate the spill.

Another coat of varnish – this time Alclad Matte. It isn’t as flat as the ‘flat’ is. I used this because the model was starting to get very dark, so I was hoping to not flatten all the contrast out of it.  The tracks, wheels and a few details also received a spark up with some Gun Metal pigment.
The kit supplied tow cable (or a piece of twine) is now painted and fit to the model. I have also added an aerial by using some fine gage wire. The fitting at the base of the aerial was created by tightly winding fuse wire around the base of the wire. At this point I have also tried to lightly blow in some brighter green and tan colours to help lift the contrast between the two colours.
I found myself going around in circles a little bit with the painting and weathering of this one. I really wanted to have some pop in the contrast of the two camouflage colours, but I found that as I was weathering it I kept moving away from my vision. I finally got it to a place where I was content with the paintwork.

Walkaround of the whole tank..
It terms of a model, Bronco have again created a really beautiful little kit. The model is finely detailed without being overly complicated or over engineered. The model builds up very nicely and is a beautiful representation of this Russian heavy hitter. 

...And in closer detail.
The vehicle itself was a very big machine, hence this in turn is a big model for a 1/48 scale kit. I have actually had people question me if it is a 1/35 kit. 

For the purists I can potentially hear a few complaints about the box art differing from the actual contents of the kit, but really, get over it and get into this kit. It is a little ripper. It built up well and was a pleasure to build.

Clayton Ockerby

Thanks to Bronco for sending this kit to build and review - They are available now from  Bronco’s distributors worldwide.