Tuesday, October 20

Pt II: Build review - 1/35th scale AC-40-137A Soviet Firetruck from ICM Models - Chassis & running gear...

We have seen inside the box of ICM's new 1/35th scale AC-40-137A Soviet Firetruck. Today the build gets under way, with the chassis, engine, running gear and those tyres sharpened up and put together in a helpful guide from Andy Moore.

Pt II: Build review: AC-40-137A Soviet Firetruck 
Manufacturer – ICM 
Kit Number - 35519 
Scale - 1/35 
Price - £35.99 From Model Hobbies UK (it is hard to find not boxed as the Chernobyl #2 kit)
Product Link on the ICM Website

Previous parts of this story:

Today's article:
Pt II: Build review - 1/35th scale AC-40-137A Soviet Firetruck from ICM Models

Last time out, we looked through the box of ICM's new AC-40 firetruck and found a well moulded and nicely detailed kit. How well does it go together though? Well, we'll find that out today as we get the build underway. As you'd probably expect with a vehicle model, things get going with the chassis. The first job is to make up a couple of tanks and the various cross members, then the two chassis rails can be brought together. As mentioned in the in-box review, many of the parts have pronounced mould lines, and the rails were no exception. Clean-up, particularly around the leaf springs, took quite a while, but this isn't an uncommon task with vehicle models, and the work wasn't difficult.
I was surprised just how sturdy and square the resulting assembly was. It's always a worry with vehicle kits that feature a long chassis that parts may be twisted or warped, making it hard to get all the wheels to sit evenly on the ground. No such problems here as the parts all lined up perfectly with no tweaking or adjustment required.
The instructions call for you to add the fuel tank and battery to their respective mounts before installing them on the chassis. I chose to keep the tank and battery separate at this point, although the mounts were glued to the chassis rails. That way I could paint the insides of the mounts, and the tank and battery more easily, then drop them into place later in the build. In hindsight, this proved to be an unnecessary step as both the battery and fuel tank are almost completely covered on the finished build.
The front axle is a simple two-part moulding with fixed wheel mounts, meaning you can't pose the wheels in a turned position from the box. I always think a bit of turn on the front wheels adds a lot of personality to a build though, so I decided to modify the parts of the kit to allow them to be posed. To start, I cut the wheels mounts from the ends of the axle beam, and removed the short stub of the axle where they'd been connected.
Longer stubs were then glued to the ends of the axle beam using short lengths of sprue cut from the kit runners which, conveniently, were the perfect diameter. The wheel mounts had holes drilled on their rear faces the same size as the new stubs. The hole was then reamed out slightly to allow the mount to be glued at an angle on the stub.
The steering linkage also needed to be modified by cutting the ends from the track rod. The ends were then glued to the wheel mounts.
The hubs were then glued into position on the new axle stubs, taking care to ensure they were spaced correctly and that both had the same turn angle. Any gaps where the wheel mounts attached to the stubs were filled with Milliput which also helped to reinforce the joints. The original track rod was a little too short to use now, so a new one was made from wire and glued into place to complete the front axle.
The rear axles build up into nicely detailed sub-assemblies which are then attached to the mounting points on the rear of the chassis. Once they're in place, a few connecting rods need to be added, and this is where the small issue with the chassis rails that I mentioned during the in-box review crops up. The rods should attach between mounting points on the rear axles and the insides of the chassis rails, as seen in the instruction step shown below.
Unfortunately, those connection points aren't on the new chassis rails that are used in this build. The old chassis rails that are included as unused parts on sprue A do have the connectors though. Sadly, the old rails can't be substituted, as they lack other features that are specific to the firetruck. That being said, it's not a big problem as the rods can still be installed; it's simply that they don't attach to anything at the chassis end. Luckily, that area isn't really seen on the finished build, so just attach the rods to the axles and leave the other ends in roughly the correct position and no one will know any different.
Moving back to the front end of the chassis, the engine is next in line for assembly. ICM has moulded the main block in three sections, which does result in some annoying seams to clean up along the valve covers and the back of the block. Non of that really matters of course if you don't intend to have the engine on show.
Once cleaned up, and with all the additional detail parts added, the engine looks pretty nice though, and is a decent match to the V8 motor fitted in the Zil-131. Some of the details are a little simplified, so if you're going to leave the bonnet removable (which is possible with the kit), you might want to rework some areas and add a little wiring etc.
Before installing the engine, I gave the chassis a base coat of satin black with a few drops of grey added to slightly lighten the tone. I then mixed up a road dirt shade from various grey and brown Tamiya acrylics, and sprayed this in a patchy, streaky fashion around the chassis and suspension. This isn't a military vehicle, so I won't be going crazy with the weathering, but it's important to show that a vehicle has had some use.
I won't be leaving the engine bay open on my build so I didn't bother adding any further detail to the engine and simply gave it a basic paint job before installing it in the chassis. It's important to give it some paint though as parts of it will just be visible through the slots in the front grill.
With the chassis and engine taken care of, the wheels were next for attention. Although I wasn't going to permanently fit them until later, I wanted to get them ready at this stage due to the seam lines that ran around the vinyl rubber tyres which I felt were going to be troublesome to deal with. Initially, I tried sanding the seams off but this proved unsuccessful, leaving the tyre tread looking more ragged than when I started. I even tried freezing the tyres to harden the rubber before sanding but the results from this weren't much better. In the end, I went with a more radical approach, using a naked flame to soften the rubber around the tread. Needless to say, this had to be done with extreme care to avoid melting the tyres.
After softening the tread area for a couple of seconds, the tyre was gently rolled across a hard, flat surface (a piece of glass in this case), pressing the partly melted seam line into the tread blocks. I worked my around each tyre tread, re-heating them if necessary, until I felt I'd got them looking as good as I was likely to get them.
Although the results weren't perfect, it was a big improvement on what I'd started with. Some of the tread blocks ended up looking a little soft but, in a way, this gave them a slightly worn look, and anyway, it's a firetruck – maybe it ran over something hot... you know, like a fire.
For painting, I gave the wheels a coat of the same lightened satin black I'd used for the chassis. The tyres were lightly sprayed with Tamiya Rubber Black, since the raw vinyl didn't look very realistic. The paint layer would also make the subsequent weathering steps easier.
For the weathering, I mixed up a similar road dirt shade to the one I'd used on the chassis and sprayed this around the sidewalls and tread of the tyres. The same mix was thinned down to a wash, and brushed over the wheels to blend them in with the tyres and help accentuate the bolt detail. Some of the wash was also flicked over the tyres and rims to add more randomness to the weathering. Lastly, I picked out the tread blocks with the rubber black so they'd stand out from the dusty weathering beneath them.
A quick test fit of the wheels on the chassis showed that they were all sitting squarely on the ground which was a good sign, especially after the modifications I'd made to the front axle. The battery box and fuel tank were also dropped into place although, as mentioned earlier, they're almost completely covered by bodywork later in the build.
And that's where we'll leave the build for this instalment. Next time, we'll be getting the cab interior painted and installed, along with building up the rest of the bodywork before breaking out the red paint.

Andy Moore 

Thanks to ICM for sending this kit to Andy to Review and next up to build. You can see more about their models on the ICM Website