Thursday, May 23

Build Guide Pt III: Meng Models 35th scale M911 C-HET & M747 Semi-Trailer (Tractor unit)

Andy Moore continues his build of the 35th scale Meng M911 C-HET & M747 Semi-Trailer kit - this week working on the base, chassis and structure of the tractor/ truck unit. A guide packed with construction, painting & weathering tips using AK Interactive materials this time. See how it is shaping up in the penultimate part of his build...

Build Guide: M911 C-HET & M747 Semi-Trailer
Manufacturer – Meng Models
Product Number – Stegosaurus Series SS-013
Scale - 1/35th 
Product Link & Distributors on the Meng Website
Price -  ¥20,000 - US$196 - £147 - €160 from Hobby Link Japan
It's been quite a while since I finished the first half of this build, the M747 trailer, and despite the painfully long delay, work has been progressing on the C-HET truck. High time then that we dived back into the build and give that trailer something to pull it.

The 911 build begins in a similar way to that of the trailer, starting with the chassis rails. These come as full length parts, that only require a few additional detail components adding before they're ready to be joined by a varied collection of cross-members and bulkheads. The rails have some ejector pin marks on their inner sides, but these can be safely ignored as they won't be visible on the finished build.

To aid the process of building up the chassis, Meng have incorporated an alignment jig into one of the kit sprues. The idea here is that you construct the chassis components, as seen above, then drop the completed assembly onto the jig which will hold it square until the glue has set.
That's all fine in theory but, as you can see from the photo below, the sprue itself is very flexible and rather than keeping the chassis rails square, it actually twists and distorts them to the point that you'd be lucky if you had two wheels touching the ground at the same time. To be fair, I think Meng intend you to remove all the parts from the jig sprue, then cut the jig section out and use it independently. That does mean finding somewhere to store all those parts, which aren't required until further in the build, and even then there's no guarantee that the jig will hold the chassis straight.
A far simpler solution is just to sit the completed chassis on a flat surface and let the glue dry. Sometimes the most basic approach is the best, and I ended up with a chassis that was completely straight and square.
With the chassis together, the next step is to add the suspension components. The rear axles are two-part assemblies that clamp over pins moulded to the ends of the swing arms. With careful application of cement, the axles and swing arms with remain articulated, but this is slightly moot, as the whole assembly gets locked in a straight orientation later on when the prop shafts are added. You can see here that I've started to lay down some dark paint, mainly on the inner sides of the chassis rails and suspension. This was just to provide some general shading as these areas are very hard to access later on in the build.
Here you can see the prop shafts installed and, as mentioned above, this has the effect of locking the  rear axles in a fixed position. You can see that the rear axle looks to be sitting at a slight angle here, but that is the correct position for it.
Flipping the chassis over, there are more parts added to the rear axle assembly that further lock it into place. The two tie rods you can see simply clip into place and make the whole rear suspension assembly very rigid. I think the main reason for initially having the articulated axles is to allow enough movement to get these additional parts into place.
Moving further forward along the chassis, you'll need to make a decision as to whether you want the pusher axle in a raised or lowered position, as different parts are used for each option. If you go with the lowered option, the two large pneumatic shock absorbers are provided in styrene, each made up from two halves. If you choose the raised position though, the compressed shocks come in the form of vinyl pieces which will need to be attached with super glue. To be honest, I don't really see why these parts couldn't have been styrene too, as they would have been easier to attach and would hold paint better.
The front axle features working steering via ball and socket joints in the wheel mounts. Although it works well enough, it does all feel quite delicate and later on, when the wheels were attached, they wobbled about quite alarmingly.
Once the front axle is mounted on the chassis, the tie rod clips into place to complete the steering system. Even with the tie rod added, the working steering feels very loose, and later in the build I accidentally broke one of the clips holding the rod in place. I was able to repair it, and the steering still works, but it remained very fragile. It would probably be best to choose a wheel angle on your own build and glue the hubs in that position.
There's no engine included in the box, although Meng do sell a separate resin engine set should you wish to go that route. Using it will require some surgery to the kit though, as the engine cover isn't designed to be posed open. What you do get with the kit though is a basic sump and gearbox part, which is more than adequate given how little you'll see of it at the end. I gave mine a coat of dark grey, followed by some light dry-brushing with gunmetal.
With the bulk of the chassis together, it was time to get some paint on. You'll remember from the trailer build that I'm going for a an ex-army vehicle in a worn and faded state. While the trailer was finished in NATO green, I decided to go with the Desert Storm sand scheme for the truck. The colour for that is CARC Tan, and I used the AK Real Color shade (RC079) to lay down a base coat. I painted the fuel tanks at this stage too, but left them separate from the chassis to allow me better access to the areas of the chassis behind the tanks. The mounting points for the tanks were masked off before painting.
It's always a good idea to keep checking references as you progress through a build, but I don't always listen to my own advise and, as a result, often notice things later in a build that I could have added at an earlier stage. That was the case here, when I spotted a couple of cables running from the back of the battery box, situated directly behind the left front wheel. Fortunately, these weren't at all hard to add at this stage. I drilled a couple of holes through the mounting bracket and inserted short lengths of aluminium tube. Copper wire was then threaded through the tubes, with the ends secured behind the battery box, and the opposite ends hooked over the top of the engine sump.
Back to the painting now, and to increase the faded look, I went over much of the previous CARC Tan with Iraqi Sand, which is a much paler sand tone. This colour was applied mainly on the upper areas of the chassis, leaving the CARC in the less exposed nooks and crannies where the paint would be less prone to fading.
As with the trailer, I wanted the truck to show signs of heavy use and abuse. Paint chipping was the next step in this process, and rather than go straight to a metal colour for the chips, I started with AK acrylic NATO Green, as this would be the underlying colour to the CARC Tan. The chips were applied with a combination of brush and sponge.
With the paintwork finished, I got on to the washes, initially with Neutral Grey (AK 677) used as a pin wash to start to define the details on the chassis. After that, NATO Tanks filter (AK 076) was used to add some subtle shading to the paint finish, accentuating the fading effects that had been applied during the painting stages.
For the fifth wheel coupler I wanted a heavily worn look, so here I base coated the parts in a very dark rust brown tone and, once dry, followed this with a couple of coats of hairspray. The top coat of sand was sprayed using Tamiya paint, thinned with water to aid the chipping process, leaving the upper surfaces of the coupler in the rusty base colour. The chipping was done with a stiff brush and warm water.
Now it was time to really go to town on the weathering, using a selection of rust and dirt coloured washes. These were applied quite heavily in corners and around raised details. Essentially, anywhere that grime and dirt would accumulate. In addition, the washes were used to add streaks and stains to the chassis sides.
For the running gear, I mixed a thick paste using an enamel wash, oil paint and pigment. This was daubed quite heavily over the axles, prop shafts, and generally around the lower frame. The exact materials used here can vary depending on the final look you're after. If you want the grime to look old and crusty, use a regular enamel wash and more pigment. If you want something that looks fresher and more oily, use a glossier wash like Fuel Stains (AK 025). Likewise, the colour of the pigment can be altered to give different effects.
Before the grime layer had dried, I stippled dry pigment over the running gear to increase the texture, and give the look of machinery that hadn't run in some time. Again, this step can be varied or omitted altogether depending on the effect you want to achieve.
The fifth wheel coupler was weathered in a similar way to the running gear, this time using Engine Grease oil paint from Abteilung 502 (Abt.160). This was an effect that had to be built up in consecutive layers, alternating oil paint and enamel washes with applications of dry pigment.
All that remained to complete the chassis were the wheels. My initial plan for them was to use hairspray chipping in a similar fashion to the coupler. However, I ultimately decided that the deeply recessed design of the wheels would make that chipping method harder, so I switched to a more straight forward process. The wheels were base coated in a 50/50 mix of CARC Tan and Iraqi Sand, then the chipping applied with a combination of brush and sponge, using a dark brown acrylic. One of the front wheels was finished in NATO Green to look like a replacement.
Before the tyres were added to the wheels, the slight seam line running around the centre of the tread was sanded away with a coarse sanding stick. By lightly pinching the tyres, the centre is bulged out slightly, making the seam removal a little easier. Once the seam was gone, the rest of the tread was given a light sand to impart a used look to the tyres.
The tyres were then pushed into place on the wheels, securing them with a bead of PVA around the wheel rim. The tyres were given a light coat of matt acrylic varnish to seal them and provide a key for the subsequent weathering. The first step in that weathering process was to brush a heavy coat of pigment, mixed into a paste with water, over the sidewalls.
When the paste was dry, a stiff brush was used to partially scrub the pigment away. Despite only being fixed with water, the pigment will adhere to the matt varnish coated tyres very well, so you don't need to be too delicate with this stage. Once I was happy with the look, another light application of matt varnish was misted over the tyres to further fix the pigment in place.
I switched to enamel washes for the next step, using Rain marks (AK 074) to add a dusty look to the tyre tread. This was applied with a loaded brush, allowing the wash to seep along the tread lines in exactly the same way as applying a panel line wash.
The remainder of the weathering was carried out with a selection of earth and dust coloured washes and pigments, applying them in different combinations from one wheel to the next. The aim here was to create a unified look, as if all the wheels had driven through the same conditions, but still keep some individuality and randomness to each one.
With the wheels fitted, this stage of the build was complete. As mentioned above, the front wheels and steering was a little wobbly and delicate, but otherwise the chassis is a very sturdy and well engineered construction. It's also remarkably well detailed, especially as much of the structure is partially obscured once the upper body elements are added. We'll be getting on to that aspect of the build in the final part of this review, but in the mean time, I'll leave you with some shots of the finished chassis.
Stay tuned for the final part coming soon

Andy Moore

Thanks to MENG for supplying this trailer and truck for Andy to review and to build for you - with more of this as it is completed in the next few weeks...