Friday, October 11

Build Guide - 1/35th scale M1A2 SEP V2 Abrams US Main Battle Tank from VOIIO

Andy Moore has progressed in his look at the new VOIIO 1/35th scale M1A2 SEP V2 Abrams kit to a point where it is built up and ready to paint. We were very interested to show you how this new company's model builds up and how to get the best out of the kit. See how andy put his together and what he improved (and what didn't need it) in the build guide of this kit...

In-Boxed: M1A2 SEP V2 Abrams US Main Battle Tank
Manufacturer - VOIIO
Kit Number - 01101
Scale - 1/35
Available now only on pre-order
Price: AU$79.95 from BNA Modelworld.

Product Link on the VOIIO Website

Previous parts of this story:

Today: Build Guide - 1/35th scale M1A2 SEP V2 Abrams US Main Battle Tank from VOIIO.
VOIIO's new M1A2 Abrams looked to be a very promising kit after delving into the parts in the in-box review. It was clear that the kit was designed to have a high level of detail, while still being as simple and straight forward to build as possible. Did that prove to be the case though? We'll find out in today's build review.
Most armour kits tend to start off with the running gear but, here, the first step is actually the rear hull panel. The basis for this assembly is a highly detailed single-part panel to which the remainder of the smaller details are attached. The louvres on the engine vents have been moulded as part of the panel, and look very realistic. Shame that they're then covered by separate mesh panels, although you do see examples of Abrams with the mesh missing, so you can choose to leave the louvres exposed if you wish.
Those mesh panels are very finely moulded and feature quite a few tightly spaced sprue gates, so use your finest snips for removal. The parts aren't super fragile, but it would be easy to accidentally break one if using a chunky pair of clippers.
With the mesh panels and other details in place, the rear hull plate looks nicely busy. The shrouds that cover the rear lights were left loose for now. Later on, they were temporarily dry-fitted during the main painting stages, then removed again to allow for detail painting on the lights, and to fit the clear lenses. After that, the shrouds were permanently attached using PVA to avoid damaging the paintwork.
With the rear plate finished, it drops into place on the bathtub style lower hull, after which it's just a case of adding a few details to complete this section of the build. The main parts to add are the suspension swing arms, and these drop into keyed holes in the lower hull. Although the small notches in the holes keep the swing arms in the correct general position, there is a little movement which could cause some slight misalignment. To ensure all the wheels sat squarely on the ground, I first attached the front and rear arms and used a straight edge to check they were level with the base of the hull, before leaving them to fully dry. The remaining arms were then added, and the lower hull was sat on a flat surface, making sure all the arms were touching the ground.
While the hull was drying, I moved on to the turret, and construction here begins with the barrel. I really like the way VOIIO have done this part of the build, with three tubular sections which simply slot together to form a fully detailed barrel. There are no awkward seams to deal with, just a slight mould line that's easy to scrape away. The sections are notched, so it's impossible to get the parts in the wrong orientation.
The mantlet is built-up next, and the barrel slotted into place. The whole assembly is then installed into the upper turret. There are no poly caps used here, and getting the mantlet into position can be a little tricky, although it fits perfectly once in place. The open channel on the mantlet needs to be rotated into position over the raised guides on the opening in the upper turret.
Once in place, the gun assembly is poseable to some degree, although the moulded flange at the rear of the mantlet prevents the barrel from elevating fully. There's enough elevation to give you some choice when posing the model though.
With the gun in place, the turret base can be attached, and at this point, I also added the upper deck to the main hull. With that done, it's really just a case of building up the smaller components and adding details. The model really does go together very quickly. It only takes an hour or so of assembly to get to this stage.
The front fenders are moulded as separate pieces which drop into place perfectly on the forward hull. One point to note though, the instructions have the part numbers reversed, although it would be impossible to accidentally attach the fenders to the wrong side as they simply wouldn't fit.
VOIIO have kept the photo etch to a minimum with this kit, only using it where it's really needed. One such area is the air intake on the left side of the hull. The PE here is very nicely done, with two-layer etching used to produce the raised details. The lower of the two PE grills need a single bend to conform to the shape of the hull, something that's very easy to do even without a bending tool.
Moving back to the turret, the side stowage bins are added, followed by the stowage rails. The rails are well moulded but quite fragile, and you need to take some care when cleaning up the sprue gates and the slight mould lines. One of the bars was broken on the sprue in my kit and, although easy enough to repair, did retain a bit of a bend – I think we can count that as battle damage.
The smoke dischargers are well detailed, but these are normally seen with canvas dust covers, so I wrapped mine with lead foil to simulate the covers. It's a simple modification, but one that adds a bit of personality to the finished model.
One area that's always hard to reproduce on modern  AFV kits is the coating often found on the sights and other optics. You can mimic the effect with transparent paints, but that never achieves the reflective quality of the real thing. For this build, I decided to try out a set of foil stickers produced by AFV Club which is designed to replicate that effect. The specific set I'm using here (AC35016) is designed for the Trumpeter Abrams, but it can easily be modified for use with other M1 kits.
The stickers are die-cut and ready to use but, as the set is designed for a different kit, some of the sizes are wrong. Mostly a little trimming was all that was required to get a good fit, but in cases where the sticker needed to be larger than the pre-cut one, I cut a new one from the excess border around the stickers. There's plenty of material to go at here, so there's no problem if you make a few wrong cuts.
From the sheet, the stickers have a blue tint but, once in place on the model, they have a more accurate red colouring. The effect does change depending on the angle you view from, and I wouldn't say they perfectly replicate the laser coating on the Abrams' optics, but it's far better than anything that could be achieved with paint.
The most fiddly assemblies in the build are the two rear stowage baskets. Like the bars on the side of the turret, the frames need to be carefully handled during clean up and assembly. Having said that, the parts fitted together very well, and the photo-etch bases dropped neatly into place to finish the bins.
The resulting assemblies do have a little flex to them, so it's best to use clamps when attaching the bins to the back of the turret. Once they're in place though, they're pretty solid and won't be easily damaged.
The glazing for the commander's cupola is moulded as a single piece which simply pushes into place from below. The fit is tight enough that it doesn't really need glueing meaning the glazing can be left out during painting then inserted at the end, avoiding a lot of fiddly masking.
Finishing off the turret is the 50 cal weapons station that sits ahead of the commander's cupola. This is quite an involved little sub-assembly made up from 22 parts, some of which are quite tiny. It's not a complex build though, and everything fits together well. It's best to leave it in separate sections though, to make painting easier. This is especially true for several of the marking options, which require some sections of the mount to be in different colours.
The 50 cal itself is a rather impressive single-part moulding with just the handle at the back as a separate piece. It looks very good straight from the box, but to sharpen the detail a little more, I drilled the holes in the barrel support a little deeper with a fine drill bit. The barrel itself already has an open muzzle, so no need to drill that out.
Tracks are always something of a bane for me, at least the indi link variety that takes so long to clean up and put together. It was something of a relief then to see that VOIIO had opted to use old fashioned rubber band tracks for this release. I know not everyone likes them, and they're never going to have quite as much detail as individual styrene links, but on a modern tank where so much of the track run is covered, I think they work very well. These took literally a couple of minutes to glue the ends together and they were done. One point to note -  these use the old style vinyl material, such as Tamiya used to use, not the more recent type that can be glued with regular styrene cement, so you'll need to use super glue or, better still, epoxy adhesive to glue them.
To finish off the build, I built up some of the stowage gear that VOIIO has included with the kit. These include petrol and water cans, ammo boxes, spare track links and road wheels, and those cool little drinks bottles that come on the clear sprue. What you see here is less than half of what's included in the box, so you can fully kit out your Abrams and still have gear left over for future use.
So that wraps up the assembly, and I have to say it's been a very quick and enjoyable build. I really like the way VOIIO has engineered this kit, keeping the construction as simple and straight forward as possible while still retaining a lot of detail on the finished model. The fit's been great all the way through, and I didn't encounter any real problems during assembly. Of course, this is only half the story as we still have to get on to painting and weathering, and that will be coming up soon on TMN.

Andy Moore

Thanks to the people at  VOIIO for sending Andy this Abrams to review & to build for you - you can find a link to their distributors at this link