Thursday, February 11

Build review Pt.I: Vosper MTB 74 with crew Italeri

Clayton Ockerby had been looking forward to building this - the  35th scale Vosper MTB 74 with crew in an updated kit from Italeri. Today he shows us the first steps of construction and gradual detailing of the kit to make it something special. See how he goes in Pt I of his build...

Build review Pt.I: Vosper MTB 74 with crew
Italeri 
No. 5624 
1/35th scale
Model Dim.: 65,5 cm
Box Dim.: 723 x 345 x 150 mm
There is something very cool about torpedo boats. They are fast and nimble with a hell of a sting. They are truly the wasps of the sea and as such present a really awesome modelling subject.

Italeri has gained quite the reputation with their line of 1/35 scale torpedo boats, many of which I confess to having in the stash. Various incarnations of the American Patrol boats, as well as the Italian M.A.S and the formidable Schnellboot, are on offer, but the subject of this review is the Vosper MTB. RC guys love the line because they are big enough to power and modellers love them because of the opportunities the scale presents to paint and weather them.

Italeri’s attempt at the Vosper came in 2011 when it released kit #5610. Then in 2014 they released the first boxing of MTB74, and finally, we have essentially the same kit but with the figure set included (or at least that is my understanding of the difference)
So, what makes MTB74 so special? MTB74 was a boat that was part of one of the most ambitious raids of all time, the raid on St Nazaire. Without going into too much of a history lesson, Italeri’s site describes the raid as follows:

"On March 1942, a British amphibious attack was undertaken by Royal Navy and Commandos against the large dry dock at Saint Nazaire, in German-occupied France. “Chariot” was the codename of the combined operation. The French harbour was, in fact, an important logistic point for the German Kriegsmarine in the Atlantic. The raid was conducted by some destroyers and by a motor launches flotilla that provides the transport duties of British Commandos. The operation was successfully done and the dry dock was damaged and unusable until the end of the war. A key role was assigned to the MTB 74. It had been specifically modified by Royal Navy shipyards to house torpedo tubes on its foredeck and to adopt specific engine silencers to reduce the noise. MTB 74 duty was to hit the anti-submarine nets and then to launch its torpedoes to block the lock gate. The MTB achieved its targets but on the way back it was hit and sank."
One of the things I love about our hobby is investigating the history of the men and the machines I am building, even if only on a surface level. If you ever get the opportunity I recommend looking into the St Nazaire raid yourself. YouTube has plenty of free documentaries and clips about the raid. The sacrifices and the heroics around this particular mission are quite extraordinary and make for a truly worthy modelling subject.
So here I find myself nursing the biggest box I have ever seen a plastic kit come in. It’s massive. At first glance, it’s clear to see why it’s so big. It is dominated by the hull section as well as the deck with the other sprues tucked towards the bottom of the box.
It was apparent there wasn’t going to be a lot of building required in this kit. The parts count was quite low, and everything seemed reasonably simple. The challenge in this kit was always going to be its’ volume and how I was going to go about painting and weathering it. This was CONSIDERABLY larger than anything I had tackled before…but it was something I’d been wanting to build for a long time, so with the greatest of enthusiasm, I sat down at the bench and started clipping and cleaning the pieces ready for assembly.

The box contents - it is a massive kit!
The main cabin for the controls of the boat were moulded into the single-piece deck section. Most of this area would be obscured early in the build, so would need to be painted prior to assembly. A coat of white was sprayed and left to dry.
The top section of the deck now required the two concave sections to be fitted. The Vosper in its’ original configuration had the torpedo launchers set further back on the deck, whereas MTB74 had them moved to the bow. These pieces are a reminder of where they used to sit. They would need some filler, but I chose to deal with that later.
The kit comes with two torpedoes. The bulk of the piece consists of two halves. These pieces were assembled and prepared for painting. The seam lines were apparent and would need to be addressed with a small amount of filler. Nothing out of the ordinary in terms of what you would naturally expect.
One of the unique features of MTB74 was the exhaust system that was rigged up in an attempt to make the vessel quieter on the water. Next, the four exhaust pipes and baffles are assembled. Basic construction was required as the pipe came supplied as essentially a single piece. The mould was less than perfect though and did require a reasonable amount of sanding.
The life raft is one of the key elements that are obvious on the deck of the boat. The grab ropes come moulded into to piece and looked a little sterile to my eye, so using a small chisel I set about removing them with the view to add some actual string/rope to the piece at a later stage to better represent the organic nature of rope.
The next sub-assembly was the torpedo launchers. Like the torpedos, the sections were moulded in two halves and glued together. The parts also incorporate some photoetch pieces that help give the part some finesse. Further detail would be added to these parts but filling and sanding would be required in order to hide the seam line running through the centre line of the part.
On to the hull, and 4 long, thin pieces are applied along the length of the hull. The rear plate at the stern was glued in place. I had to fight the urge of putting it in the pool to see it floated!
A number of pieces required to be painted in polished brass colour. For this, a couple of light coats of Alclad were applied.
Attention is now back with the wheelhouse. Whilst the interior is going to be a little difficult to get a good look at on the finished model, there is no doubt it will be somewhat visible and getting a glimpse of it will be high on the priority list of people viewing the model. Unfortunately, the back wall of the room is full of recessed areas and ejector pin marks. Whilst I don’t have accurate information as to what this actually looked like, it was safe to say I was going to be better off cutting a small piece of styrene sheet and covering it all over.
There was a fair amount of timberwork around the cabin. A very basic mask was applied with Tamiya tape and the parts were sprayed in Dark Yellow.
A diluted mix of Shadow Brown oil paint was then applied and gently removed with a flat brush moistened with white spirit. The idea being the oil paint left behind would simulate the grain in the timber. Given my time again I should have started with a lighter base colour, but this was the first time I had attempted this technique… so I put it down to a learning experience
The wheel and various handles are pre-painted and then glued in place. Instrument surrounds were supplied as part of the photo-etch fret. When combined with the decals it presented reasonably well. The only tricky part was making sure the decals sat in the correct position behind the etch. With the surround piece held loosely in place, I marked the dial positions with a pencil. This served as a guide to position the decals correctly.
Some of the smaller additions to the bow like hatch covers and ventilation pipes are attached through the appropriate locating holes. It soon became obvious that there were not enough holes or parts, and drilling would be required. Although there was no mention of this in the instructions.
After flipping the top section over, it because reasonably clear that all the locations marked with a ‘2’ would need to be drilled out in preparation for the parts to be attached to the top side.
With the holes drilled, the assembly could continue.
Moving from the bow to the mid-deck, vents, hatches and smoke discharges (?) are attached.
The stern and more of the same. It’s worth noting that this top section is attached to the hull with a number of screws. To hide the screws there are parts that will fit over the holes. I decided not to attach the top and bottom pieces together until the bulk of the painting had taken place.
Construction now heads back to the torpedo launchers. After some filling and a lot of sanding, they were given a primer coat to assess how they looked. They were now very close to being ready to fit to the deck.
The cradles that hold the torpedos include photo-etch legs. Bending these into position was incredibly difficult…even after annealing the parts and using an appropriate bending tool. So, prepare yourself for a bit of an argument with bending these pieces. There is a technique to it, but they were very solid and really didn’t want to fold.
The left and right wall sections of the wheelhouse have a moulded shutter roller section. I felt I would be better served to remove these sections and sculpting them with putty. Removal was taken care of quickly and easily with a smaller chisel.
A basic post shade was done on the internal faces of the cabin. It is purposely heavy as it will help add dimension and depth to the area when viewed through the small window sections.
The main mast section had a number of ejector pin marks that required filling and sanding as they were going to be quite prominent in the final model.
The torpedos are now painted in Stainless Steel from SMS. The will be a feature on the deck of the vessel, so I really wanted them to pop.
The brass propellors that were previously painted are now attached and the warhead is masked and sprayed black.
The wheelhouse sections are carefully assembled. There were some significant gaps that would need to be filled and sanded, but the section was taking shape none the less.
The windows in the wheelhouse will be one of the last pieces to be attached as I felt trying to mask them may have been problematic, so the openings were masked with tape to prevent any paint damaging the internals.

Some small photo-etch parts are applied in place with CA Glue.
The seat for the exterior controls is glued in place as well as the mounting blocks for the life raft.
Back to the hull, and the small PE surrounds for the portholes are glued in place as well as the stabilising fin. The clear parts for the portholes are to be glued from the inside, however, they have been left off and will be fitted after the painting has occurred to avoid having to mask them.
More PE detail at the rear of the model. I feared these would get knocked off when handling the model to paint, but surprisingly they were quite stable. Again, these parts needed to be attached to the styrene using CA glue.

You may also see in the image the big ejector pin marks in the side of the hull. These will need to be sanded before the paint can be applied.
The model was always going to need to be painted in stages because of difficulties masking the pieces if it had have been assembled. The rear deck and front of the deck, as well as the launch tubes, were treated with a coat of Light Admiralty Grey.
The deck sections were masked using a roll of Blu-Tak and the main grey colour in the scheme was achieved using a mix of the Light Admiralty Grey and Ocean Grey. Colour matching was all done by eye, but if I had to guess I would say it was about a 20:80 mix. Weathering will change everything anyway, so this really just serves as a base coat to get the scheme in place.
The darker grey in the scheme is now sprayed using the same masking methods as previously. The Blue Grey was used. To lighten the German Grey as well as giving it a slight blue hue.
I had initially missed the fact that the sections of the deck under the torpedo launchers needed to be black, so it was luck I noticed right be for I was about to assemble the parts. A very basic mask was made using Tamiya Tape and the black was applied. Some tidying up would be required, but again, this was just about getting the basic colours in place.
The tools around the deck were painted using Vallejo acrylics and a fine brush.
The torpedo Launchers can now be glued in place.
With the moulded parts removed in an earlier stage, I replaced the blinds using a mix of lead sheet and tissue paper. I had initially planned to sculpt this using putty, but after several attempts, I just gave up. Turns out rolling bedrolls and tarps is one thing but trying to roll tiny blinds with my sausage fingers was just way out of my league.

Unfortunately, they didn’t turn out as well I had have hoped, but I suspect with some paint and a few weathering techniques they will look OK.
I wanted the exhaust pipes to be subject to some heavy weathering. In reality, they would have been exposed to heat and seawater and would have suffered. It was important to have clear access to the underside of the pieces, and if they were attached to the deck of the model that would not have been possible, so they were painted as stand-alone parts.

The chipping was applied using acrylic paints and a sponging technique, and the rust and heat staining was applied using a thinned mix or red-brown lacquer paint. They will still require an oil wash once the actual weathering starts, but they have the foundation painted and are now applied to the model.
The exhausts are attached to the deck. The holes and the locating pins didn’t actually line up…so I’m not sure if I had done something wrong, but in the end, I clipped the pin off the end of the pipe and used CA glue to ensure it stayed in place.

You can also see the details around the exterior controls of the boat have been fitted and the life raft has had its rope replaced with a fine string.
The lower section/waterline parts of the hull were painted in black and then masked with tape. I have managed to go through the whole bottle of the Light Admiralty Grey, so I went to the back-up – Light Grey from MRP. It was very close in colour. The sides and rear received a coat of the light grey.
I’d been debating as to how I would replicate the camouflage on the hull. It is a clearly sharp edge, so trying to use Blutack wasn’t going to cut it, and hand painting over that mass of plastic would be a nightmare. I finally decided to apply masking tape to the hull and map out the pattern using a pen. The instructions only give you suggestions for the starboard and rear, but the box art shows the port side. In saying that, from reference images I have seen of the actual subject, I don’t believe the box art is correct, but for what it’s worth, do your research and make up your own mind. I probably met the box art and the obscured images somewhere in the middle. It was going to be somewhere in the zone, so that was OK with me.
Using a sharp scalpel, the mid-grey sections were cut out and removed. The same mix as the deck was then applied (except I was now using the MRP light grey through necessity… it did the same thing)
Masking was then reapplied and recut for the dark grey sections, and the dark grey mix was set in place. With the masks removed, the scheme was starting to come together. Some touch-ups would be required, but I was very happy with the overall colours and the way they were working together.
At this point, I am going to take a bit of a break from this one and call part 1 of the build complete. It is really deceiving when you open the box and look at the part count as to how much time and effort goes into a kit like this. Obviously, there is a heck of a lot of surface area that requires paint, but it is very easy to underestimate exactly how much you will need and the time that goes into the preparation and application.

There is also a lot of time required in filling and sanding seam lines, especially on the torpedos and the launchers. Generally speaking, similar to the requirements on an aircraft kit, but the contours on the launchers especially make for a bit of a mission, but that’s modelling, right?

Careful planning of pre-assemblies and painting is required to ensure the painting process is a smooth ride.

With the majority of the heavy lifting now complete on this kit I am now looking forward to finalising the assembly and getting to some of the painting and weathering steps that will start to bring this beast to life. But I am now faced with a bit of an issue…how the heck am I going to photograph this thing? It doesn’t fit on my light table…
Stay tuned for part II here on TMN...

Clayton Ockerby

This special edition Vosper 74 is available from Italeri directly from their website or many distributors worldwide
See more of Clayton's work on his excellent website Workbench Hobbies.