Monday, September 20

Build review: Marder I on FCM 36 base in 35th scale from ICM Models

The improvised Marder I made from an FCM 36 base in 35th scale from ICM Models has been Paul Lee's main concern of recent times. He has taken on the kit, and also the matching set of acrylic paints from ICM in his build review...

Build review: Marder I on FCM 36 base
WWII German Anti-Tank Self-Propelled Gun
From: ICM Models
1/35th scale
Kit Number #35339
Model Size (Length X Height): 186 X 69 Mm
Number Of Parts: 245
Plastic injection moulded parts, vinyl tracks, waterslide decals with three choices.
Price: $55 USD / £40 GBP / €46 EUR from Hobbylink Japan
Product Link on the ICM Website
The Subject: The Marder I on FCM 36 base WWII German Anti-Tank Self-Propelled Gun
Finding themselves short on AFV’s, the Germans were forced to turn to captured stocks to try and bolster numbers. One solution was to mount anti-tank guns on top of obsolete chassis’ that were no longer suitable for front line combat. One of these vehicles is the chosen subject of ICM’s latest release, utilising the hull of their earlier FCM 36 kit, ICM now gives us the Marder I on FCM 36 base.
The Kit: ICM's #35339 Marder I on FCM 36 base
The box is the very well packaged ICM kit with the usual great artwork, inside there are 245 plastic parts, two vinyl tracks,  three marking choices and a coloured instruction sheet (see the end of the article).
Three choices are included in the decal sheets and marking template by ICM.

931st Assault Gun Division, 2nd Battery, France, 1943
Training Camp Of The Mobile Brigade "West", Summer 1943
Mobile Brigade "West", Second Battery, Maneuvers, Spring 1943
Building the kit:
Construction starts with the lower hull which is exactly the same as their earlier release of the FCM 36, with each of the hull sides coming in its own panel, and various details to be attached to it. The fit of these panels is pretty much spot on, with the odd fit issue caused by a bit of flash which was easily dealt with by a few swipes with a sanding stick.
The wheels and bogies are moulded in inside and outside faces, so they are not workable, but looking at the design, it doesn’t look like the real ones were workable either. ICM provides you with four lengths of vinyl tracks, of which two are needed for each side. The instructions do not tell you what type of glue is needed so I experimented with styrene cement which didn’t do anything so I ended up using superglue. I must say that these are the smallest connection points I have seen for vinyl tracks, but super glue did the trick.
Unlike the lower hull, the upper hull comes in a tub so you only need to glue on the various details so this step was a breeze. However, when I did a dry fit of the upper and lower hull halves, I found a 1mm gap at the lip where the upper and lower halves join, which I believe was possibly due to some minor warpage which I ended up having to fill with putty, which was the largest amount of putty I had to use for this kit.
The design of the kit means you have to glue the upper hull over the upper tun of the tracks so you cannot leave the tracks off for painting and then attach them at a later stage. For this reason, I chose to paint the lower half first to make my life easier for when I attach the tracks. 

Using ICM's Acrylic Paints in this kit. Set No#3003
German AFV WWII paint set (item#3003).
1 set / 6 jars / each 12 ml / 5 colors + varnish matt / water-based acrylic paint.
ICM has just released their own brand of acrylic paints, and have released individual sets to accompany their kit releases. Each colour comes in a 12ml jar and the instructions call for a thinning ratio between 40-60% so you're effectively getting double the amount of paint. In the jar, the paint is definitely very thick, and I would say that the consistency is similar to Italeri’s range of acrylics so I erred on the side of caution and was quite generous with water to thin the paint.
The paints are given ICM’s numeric code and generic names such as Middle Stone for the dark yellow and seems close enough to Dunkelgelb, although I don’t really get too hung up on the colour since the weathering, later on, will affect the shades. The instructions tell you to use gunmetal for the tracks, although I chose my usual preference of Mig Ammo’s brown track primer, dry brushed with Mig Ammo metallic steel.
After attaching the upper hull, construction then moves to the new parts of the kit, mainly the fighting compartment. The Pak 40 anti-tank gun is fairly nicely moulded with a one-piece plastic barrel, although the muzzle brake still comes in halves. The breech can only be built in the closed position, and there is no detail for the breech block on the left side of the breech and the safe and fire lever is missing, so I made one out of spare styrene strip and rod.
The fighting compartment is quite sparse with just the gun, ammo racks and a rack that I have not attached yet in this picture. ICM has chosen to use the hull roof of the FCM 36 as the floor for the fighting compartment, which results in a very shallow looking floor so the side armour plates look like they barely provide protection even at crouching height, however, photos of the interior of this rare vehicle are rare, and I couldn’t find anything to indicate how high the sidewalls should be.
An antenna is provided in the kit, so you would think there would be a radio in there, but the kit doesn’t give you one so I cut off the antenna and just left the antenna base. This photo might give a clue on the layout of the interior, however, looking at the position of the muzzle brake suggests to me that this is the self-propelled 105mm howitzer version rather than the Marder. 
However, while that picture shows the rack positioned at the front of the fighting compartment and the ammunition stored towards the rear, this picture shows that ICM has gotten the position of the ammunition on the Marder in the right place. 
Well on the right-hand side at least. One strange decision by ICM is the ammunition though. The racks have slots for 28 rounds of ammunition, however, the kit only gives you 26. While some people may prefer the in-use look, why only two rounds short of a full complement? I painted the shells using Mig Ammo’s Old Brass, and then found them sitting too high, but this is quite likely to be the result of the paint layers so I widened the holes using a 2.5mm drill bit.

The final fit of the armoured plates was easy enough and only small amounts of putty were needed at some joins but it was otherwise a painless experience. I used the ICM paints, in particular Middle Stone, Camouflage Green, and Saddle Brown, spraying them according to the thinning ratios with water, and was able to do the camouflage patterns freehand. I did find the paint did appear to have the tendency to separate in the paint cup of my airbrush, but nothing a good stir didn’t fix. 
The instructions tell you to prime the model before airbrushing, but I’m one of those that don’t prime and found the paint had similar adhesion issues that other acrylics have, in this case, particularly on raised areas that were subject to increased handling. There are barely any decals for this kit, but they went on easily with only flat surfaces to adhere to. I finally brush painted the MG34 with ICM’s German Grey, and dry brushed it with ICM’s Gun Metal, with the thick consistency making this paint ideal for brush painting, just don’t have too much paint on your brush.

The finished kit and final thoughts...
These vehicles were used on the Western Front around Normandy, so their service life was more than likely to be very short, so I limited the weathering to a brown and black all over wash, followed by a pin wash with a bit more black added to it. I lightly sprayed Tamiya buff over the lower surfaces, and misted it over the rest of the vehicle.
I haven’t built many models from ICM, but they sure have come a long way since the last one I did in the ’90s. This kit is head and shoulders above what I remember ICM kits to be, and definitely, a subject not often seen, considering how obscure the vehicle is. I’m not sure how readily available ICM paints will be outside of Europe, but I can say that they are at least the equivalent to any other acrylic paint out there, so don’t be afraid to give them a try.
Highly Recommended

Paul Lee

Thanks to ICM for sending this kit and paints to paint and review

Appendix: Instruction sheet: