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1/35 scale FDCV - Fire Direction Center Vehicle Hellenic Army


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1/35 scale FDCV - Fire Direction Center Vehicle Hellenic Army

polyester resin model by White Tower Models

As a result of a stupid bet I lost, I had to build and present a tracked AFV / SPG scale model or sing the "Panzerlied" in public. Considering that it’s more possible to watch Hell becoming frozen than me building a tracked AFV / IFV / SPG scale model, I had to accept that this stupid bet I lost, could be the beginning of my new era.

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I thought that building a modern AFV, would be more appropriate for me, because the WWII steel had never been my speciality. To be more accurate, I could barely spot the difference between a Tiger and a King Tiger - only if the King Tiger got the royal crown on turret. Otherwise, it’s all same to me.

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As an AFV scale modeling rookie, I (wrongly) thought that just because it happened to met few M-109s and the FDCV (in which I received the basic training provided for Hellenic Army Artillery young officers) during my days as a Hellenic Army’s School of Artillery cadet, I could easily build the model in scale. In the following picture, me as a Hellenic Army’s School of Artillery cadet, back in the mid 90ies. My brother in arms was really ugly and I had to fill pixels on his face.

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I studied the Hellenic Army’s FDCV 500 pages technical manual which is the best reference I could get before start the project. The FDCV received by the Hellenic Army under special order to cover the Artillery demands. The FDCV differs (apart from the obvious operational role) a number of external details from the basic M-992 FAASV - Field Artillery Ammunition Support Vehicle version, used by NATO militaries as a 155mm projectile carrier.

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The FDCV - Fire Direction Center Vehicle is a modified M-992A2 FAASV - Field Artillery Ammunition Supply Vehicle which has been reconfigured into a POC - Platoon Operations Center. The FDCV - Fire Direction Center Vehicle / FAOCV - Field Artillery Operations Center Vehicle is the command & control partner for M-109 series howitzers. Based on the M-109 family of vehicles, FDCV/FAOCV provides low-cost, survivable command & control for artillery operations. It is a highly mobile, maintainable and survivable platform that can set up in minutes. A flexible design includes up to four computer workstations, or it can be configured for manual operations. It supports multiple radio and computer systems and can be equipped with an optional antenna mast that greatly aids in command and control missions. The system provides the command element with the same mobility as the M-109A6 Paladin. If required, bolt-on armour can be added to protect the specialist personnel and equipment carried. The FDCV/FAOCV shares a common chassis, automotive controls and drive train with the M-109 family, greatly enhancing maintainability, and it is 80% common to the M-992 FAASV - Field Artillery Ammunition Support Vehicle, increasing battlefield survivability. This vehicle was highly rated during Task Force XXI, where it maintained a 99.3% operational readiness rate.

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The FDCV was been tested at the US Army School of Artillery at Fort Sill to prove the feasibility and function of the concept under field and NBC conditions. Two FDCVs replaced two of the six M-1068 SICPS belonging to the EXFOR artillery battalion (4-42 FA) in the TF XXI. The following equipment was carried in the prototype FDCV:

  • Mast system with OE254 antenna which is 11.28 m high when elevated,
  • Mast elevation control box & mast elevation control power unit,
  • Packet digital radio,
  • 4 x RT-524/VRC receiver/transmitter radios printer,
  • 9 stations of liquid cooling vest connect points,
  • Tactical graphics terminal & tactical display,
  • ANS 2000 land navigation system display,
  • ANS 2000 land navigation system heading reference unit,
  • M-13A1 filtered air system for NBC ventilated face pieces,
  • M-43 NBC detector, M-42 alarm and M-49 NBC collective protective system,
  • APU - Auxiliary Power unit,
  • 36000 BTU cooling/heating air-conditioner v Ventilation filter/blower,
  • PDP-1134 HEL computer & plotter,
  • CRT terminal, digitizer, liquid cooling vest control box, M-10 protective entrance, battery boxes & batteries; liquid cooling vest chilling unit, 4 extra personnel seats & additional stowage compartments etc.

A system is a standard reconfigured FAASV and a pair of "Pythagoras" lightweight computer units and associated equipment. "Pythagoras" is a microprocessor based artillery computer consisting of the main FPU - Fire Control Unit and six remote GDT - Gun Display Terminals. The system performs fire control at battery level and features easy and interactive operation, multiple preprogrammed menus and on-line transmission of firing data. Further development of "Pythagoras" includes full backwards system compatibility, single board computer architecture, multiple calipers and I/O serial communication port.

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One of the LCUs is loaded with BCS - Battery Computer System and the other is loaded with AFATDS - Advanced Field Artillery Technical Data System software. One of the stations is outfitted with a V2 Applique Computer and its associated situation awareness software. The FDO - Fire Direction Officer has a separate work station which will consist of a desk-like surface, storage for documentation, manuals, ancillary equipment, a map board, and a 21" flat panel display to a monitor either of the LCUs or the V2 applique computer. The work station has one VRC-89 SINCGARS - Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System with all associated hardware. The radio is modified to include the TF XXI SINCGARS SIP/INC - System Improvement Program capabilities and internet controller. The FDCV also has one VRC-90 and VRC-92 SINCGARS SIP/INC radios.

Since I had already brought myself into 1/35 “troubles”, I got the FDCV scale model directly from White Tower Models company, based in Thessaloniki, Greece. Mr. Christos Simitsis, who is the White Tower Models founder, produced some polyester resin scale model kits such as…

  • 1/35 scale Mistral A/A missile launching base,
  • 1/35 scale FDCV - Fire Direction Center Vehicle,
  • 1/35 scale Mercedes Benz 240GD G-wagen 4x4 vehicle,
  • 1/35 scale conversion kits for Leopard 1 A4/GR1/A5/V,
  • 1/35 scale Leonidas I & II IFV - Infantry Fighting Vehicle,

...and other scale products since early 1990ies. Today, almost 20 years after first public release of the 1/35 scale FDCV model, the White Tower Models continues to product very few kits & sell selectively mostly to friends. Mr. Christos Simitsis, named his White Tower Models company after the White Tower, which is the trade mark monument and museum, located on the waterfront of the city of Thessaloniki, Greece. Some pictures of mediaeval White Tower monument, as seen behind a statue of King Philip II, father of Alexander the Great - the most famous Greek ever.

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The 1/35 scale FDCV kit I got directly from White Tower Models company, was carefully packaged.

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The assembly instructions contained in the kit is actually a simple B&W printed A3 size sheet, folded to form a 4 page guide describes the building stages and also providing some B&W pictures of the real FDCV as well.

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The polyester resin pieces were carefully placed into sealed transparent bags. Careful inspection followed to spot any possible defects, cracks, gaps, etc. As expected, everything was normal.

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Unable to resist the temptation to compare the small details of the White Tower Models polyester resin kit with the Italeri’s M-109 kit. In the first picture the White Tower Models polyester resin kit (light green colored), and the second picture is the 1990ies era Italeri's M-109 kit (dark green colored).

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In similar way, I placed side by side and compare the tracking wheels. In the following picture, the left wheel (light green colored) is the White Tower Models polyester resin kit, and the right wheel (dark green colored) is from the Italeri’s M-109 kit.

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The following pieces are very fragile, so I carefully placed them on foam and stored them, till using on kit.

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The use of polyester resin, makes the kit suitable for advanced modelers - not for rookies. Considering that I have zero experience on tracked AFV / IFV / SPG scale models, the chances to complete successfully this project are… less than few! For this reason, I keep the right tool next to me and if something goes wrong, or polyester resin give me hard time, I decided to test the fast-moving hammer impact effects, onto polyester resin made scale model.

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CHAPTER I - Polyester resin preparation & cleaning

Since I had to accept that this stupid bet I lost, could compare like Hell become frozen, I should keep my promise before El Diablo himself got aware and switch on the heaters again. I really hate it. I even tried to avoid it by all means, I used every possible and impossible excuse, but the answer was “NO”! In short, I’m in deep sh!t and I have to complete building process. Pacta sunt servanda…

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While I was inspecting the resin pieces, I noticed some marks on the surface of polyester, which looked like raised stains as defects in the casting mold. Fortunately my scale modeling mentors trained me well and I was prepared for such situations. Obviously, these marks were the remains of the liquid chemical used in the preparation of polyester resin and it's not unusual in such kits. Keeping in mind that the polyester resin chemical composition is such that can be cleaned by nitrocellulose lacquer thinner, without harming the structure, I decided to use nitrocellulose lacquer thinner to clean up locally. The nitrocellulose lacquer thinner cleaning method described below and shown in the following pictures, should never be applied on plastic injection molded kits, because the results would be disastrous and your model will become like a chewed gum.

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My good friend Demitris “Jagdpanther” Pravinos, who is a WWII German armoured vehicles specialist and dedicated scale modeller, sent me few hundreds cups (actually spray canister caps) he found and looked ideal to use them for mixing colours, modelling putty etc. Few drops of nitrocellulose lacquer thinner were just enough. Using a cotton swab, I spread the nitrocellulose lacquer thinner on target stain, rubbed and the chemical were magically dissolved, leaving completely intact the surface of polyester resin and the kit detail. The result can be noticed into following pictures. Same technique was applied to other parts of the kit where chemical residues observed treatment of polyester resin.

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Keep in mind that use of preventive measures, such as in disposable surgical gloves from latex, masks with similar filters to protect against possible fumes, etc. is always recommended during handling epoxy resins materials or resin powder contact. These nasty materials are not too very friendly to our health. Taking care of our health is a serious factor that should not be left to chance, not to challenge the lungs or the finger skin! I personally recommend to wear a coverall suit to protect your clothes and keep polyester or epoxy resin dust ‘n’ chips away. Some people might say “too much”, but nobody wants to convey polyester or epoxy resin dust ‘n’ chips and other dangerous carcinogenic filings found on our modelling bench in the family’s living room and into the arms of loved ones.

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Few small holes were spotted on the polyester resin kit, obviously due to bubbles created during the casting process. Fortunately, these small spots were observed only on the inside part of the polyester resin kit and these holes were not big enough to reach the outer side. However, because I didn’t want to risk any future unpleasant surprises, I thought as a nice idea to fill the area with epoxy filler. Keep in mind, that few months or years after casting, the polyester resin becomes fully polymerized and gets so hardened, that it’s easy to break like a glass. The possibility that the slightest vibration during scale model’s transport could create a crack starting from the point inside the bubble and leading to the outer surface of the model, is always present.

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These small holes were filled with epoxy cream. I prefer to use epoxy putty (or polyester filler with fiberglass grains for special purposes) instead of normal scale modeling putty, to close gaps or build new items, because:

  • It becomes solid rock within only few minutes or seconds,
  • It does not shrink and does not crack after months or years,
  • It can be poured to any shape that you want but you need to work fast because as soon as you mix it with catalyst cream approx 5%, you have limited time before becoming solid rock,
  • Additional layers of epoxy or polyester filler can also build up,
  • It can be sawed, sanded, drilled etc and is compatible with any type of scale modelling glue & any type of primer or enamel / acrylic paint with no problem at all,
  • It can be purchased at any good crafts store into 250ml, 500ml, 1lt (comes with a tube of catalyst hardener) or bigger canisters and if you can't find it, fear not and try your local decent hardware store and finally...
  • It is cheaper than dirt - estimated prices are £3 to £10 depending the canister size, the quality, if contains fiberglass grains for maximum strength etc.

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Keep in mind that the chemical reaction after mixing the filler with the catalyst hardener, produces some heat that possibly effect on thin plastic parts, so test it first before try it on your scale model. I don’t think that the produced heat is more than Fahrenheit 110°, but better watch out.

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CHAPTER II - Do you feel lucky?

Since I had the official technical & maintenance manual of the real FDCV - Fire Direction Center Vehicle in hands, I thought that it would be a good idea to open panels, hatches, doors etc and try to scratchbuild full interior, showing the crew working benches, the "Pythagoras" FPU - Fire Control Unit computers, the driver's compartment, both front & left side APU - Auxiliary Power Unit hatches, the engine & batteries compartments etc.

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Obviously, the idea to open hatches and scratchbuild full interior was a huge mistake. Unfortunately, because of my enthusiasm, I had already begun to rip the towing cable which of course was perfectly imprinted, but my modeling knife had an irresistible desire to cut-cut-cut!. In fact, I had already built from scratch a towing new cable, using telephone wire.

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Yeah, I admit, that I regret my previous choice as soon as the blade started to cut and remove the polyester. I had already crossed the "red thin line" that demarcates the controlled risk - I was playing with fire! I felt like gambling on Blackjack and asking the dealer to hit cards, while I already had a “21” in my hand!

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At this exact moment, I recovered and remember my childhood hero San Francisco Police Department Inspector "Dirty" Harry Callahan asking (click HERE): "...considering that this is a polyester resin rare to find model that does not forgive mistakes and requires special attention, you got to ask yourself: 'do I feel lucky?'..."

Do you feel lucky? Well, do ya?

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If this was an aircraft or helicopter scale model, hell yeah, I would 100% try to scratch. But just because I am an AFV rookie and considering that polyester resin does not forgive mistakes and this FDCV - Fire Direction Center Vehicle scale model is quite difficult to find & buy again if something goes wrong, I chose something with low risk, such as “straight from the box” building. Maybe some of you might expecting a project from scratch with full interior and opened hatches, but it should be postponed for another time - perhaps after 30 years, when I am planning to build an AFV scale model again.

...thanks to Uncle Harry, I stopped cutting before ruining this beautiful polyester scale model.

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CHAPTER III - Chassis building & structure supporting

As long I decide to build the kit straight from the box, without interior details and keeping all hatches closed, I placed a styrene plastic sheet to keep driver's hatch isolated. The reason will be explained later.

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The HPX, is one of the most durable adhesive tape that can be found on the local market. It is vinyl reinforced multi-purpose pressure sensitive tape with a soft and flexible shell and pressure sensitive adhesive. It is generally silver or black in color but many other colors have recently become available. With a standard width of 50mm (approx 2 inches) & 0.30mm thickness, water resistant & withstand temperature ranges from Fahrenheit -40° to Fahrenheit 203° is ideal for special purposes. It is constructed from a rubber-based adhesive to help the tape resist water and a fabric backing to add strength. Keep in mind that US Military issued this hard duty adhesive tape to their personnel who keep it in their pack and use it in numerous cases, such as repairing scratches, temporarily taping holes on aircrafts or helicopters fuselage, ammo canisters sealing, repairing military equipment (including firearms) quickly etc. Click HERE for aircraft repair with adhesive tape example. In military circles, this variant is known as "gun-tape", typically olive-green, and also known for its resistance to oils and greases. It is also called "Riggers Tape", "Hurricane Tape", or "100-mph tape" - a name that comes from the use of a specific variety of duct tape that was supposed to hold up to 100 mph winds. Another version attributes this to the fact that soldiers often refer to something that exceeds expectations as "High Speed". The HEX tape is commercially sold as high-strength adhesive tape for sealing tire tubes aquifers.

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Before trying to connect FDCV’s main chassis, I stretched tape inside the two halves. As it is known, polyester loses its elasticity and becomes harder, several months or years after casting and vibrations could cause cracking. The polyester made models do not have the durability of plastic because the different chemical composition and molecular bonds of each material. Over time, polyester behaves like glass, although it has toughness, but any hard vibration could cause crack or even worse shattering. Placing HPX durable adhesive tape inside, would hold the spread of a possible crack in the future, provide the opportunity to fix and save the scale model. In all other cases, the polyester fragments would be lost. Placing HPX durable adhesive tape inside, is the first of few precautionary measures taken for the integrity of the material. The next and most important precautionary measure, will be described into following paragraphs.

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To be honest, I thought that when the time comes to connect the chassis two halves, I would face plenty of problems. Let’s not forget that this specific kit is made of polyester resin, rather than an injection molded Japanese plastic with excellent quality and factory mass production of tens of thousands of kits. This is actually a handmade kit, molded in silicon. After carefully cleaned from the polyester casting excess in contact points between the chassis two halves, I tried repeatedly to contact each other to be sure that I will not face any unpleasant surprises after applying super glue. To make the job easier, the chassis two halves dipped in hot water for 1-2 minutes to obtain polyester flexibility (which lasted for the few critical minutes) and to assist my effort to buckle one part into the other. That’s why the adhesive tape used and described previously, was the HPX product with high temperature & water resistance - if I would try a simple cheap tape, it would just come off as soon as the polyester kit parts immersed into hot water. Same elasticity effect on polyester could be achieved using a hair dryer and guiding hot air on selected spots. When the two halves buckled together, I dropped cyanoacrylate glue on all four corners and later secured the construction stability by applying two components super glue, across the chassis two halves contact line, using a wooden toothpick.

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I am not used to fill gaps with simple modelling putty, since I prefer a two-component epoxy or polyester putty. As mentioned into previous paragraphs, I mostly prefer to use epoxy putty (or polyester filler with fiberglass grains for special purposes) instead of normal scale modeling putty, to close gaps or build new items.

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Just because this is a polyester kit and the material does not get affected and does not get damaged by the nitrocellulose lacquer thinner, I thought nice idea to follow something different. I tried spreading Humbrol simple modelling putty on the gap, and applied generous amounts of nitrocellulose lacquer thinner on Humbrol putty, to get it soften, turn it into semi-liquid form and smoothly spread it across the chassis two halves contact line.

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Finally, only few drops of nitrocellulose lacquer thinner on small amount of Humbrol modelling putty, was enough to create a liquid solution to spread with brush across the chassis two halves contact line.

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As noted before, polyester loses its elasticity over time and the slightest shock, bang or hard vibration during model transporting may cause a crack. To reduce the danger of such an unfortunate situation and as a part of precautionary measures to strengthen the structure of the polyester model, I decided it would be nice to fill the internal model with the material that should be:

  • Solid and able to occupy all the available volume inside the model, supporting internally the walls of the polyester model,
  • As light as possible to avoid model’s total weight increasing that could strain the wheel polyester arms,
  • Hard, but not completely rigid, that can absorb vibrations & shocks and able to transmit vibrations soflty, throughout model’s mass and not on a single point.

This material is called polyurethane foam. It is a unique industrial material which has excellent physical, mechanical and environmental properties and is mainly used as insulation material. It offers high abrasion resistance, tensile stress, impact resistance etc. The fact that the polyurethane foam material can be easily cut, sawed, sanded, drilled etc and is compatible with most types of scale modelling glue & any type of primer or enamel / acrylic paint with no problem at all, makes it a good choice for many scale modelling applications, as for example in diorama building.

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I got one polyurethane foam spray canister with the trigger & tube to inject the material, from my local hardware store. Because cleaning the plastic injecting tube would be quite difficult when the polyurethane foam begins to be polymerized after contact with air, I cut the plastic pipe and replaced it with a straw which I threw out after each use.

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Before channelling the polyurethane foam inside scale model, a preparation should be applied to achieve best possible results and to avoid any unpleasant surprises. I chose as the point from which will channel the polyurethane foam, the only opened hatch - the crew commander’s hatch. This is why I closed driver’s hatch, not to let polyurethane foam escape from there. Masking tape 50mm width, applied to cover the upper surface of the FDCV and protect it from possible polyurethane foam overflow.

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Injecting polyurethane foam needs full attention and should not exaggerate the filling quantity because it takes time that can reach up to 2 hours from the application of the material to swell and solidify. According to the instructions on the spray canister, the best results are achieved when sprayed successive small amounts of foam and wait to swell and partially occupy all the available volume inside the model. Considering that the expanding polyurethane can multiply the original foam volume up to 4 times, it would be very appropriate to inject small quantities, allow time to swell and since we are confident that it has solidified and will not change over its volume, to continue the process with successive small amounts of foam. To conclude the process, I began to inject small amounts of polyurethane foam, first in the more distant spots, such as the front left or front right under the engine’s compartment etc. After the 2-3 small doses of injectable foam placed in appropriate locations, I wait enough time (over 6 hours) to swell smooth polyurethane and cover the internal volume without endangering the vessel to deform or break (worst scenario) from inside out, under high pressure on walls. Then, I added 1-2 more doses of polyurethane foam to the rear part, being careful to inject small amounts and let the material to expand slowly or escape if necessary, from the crew commander’s hatch.

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As you can see into following picture, it seems I was lucky, because while material expanding, the polyurethane foam managed to find a way out and despite a little leaking from the driver's hatch. Although, the contact with air was quick and material became solid before escaping to the outside, covering the panel lines and kit details.

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After 3-4 small doses of polyurethane foam, with several hours stall time between injections, the material properly inflated and occupied all the available volume of the scale model’s interior. Because of wrong calculations during last injection, polyurethane foam escaped from the nearest (and only) way out - the crew commander’s hatch. Fortunately, this was the last dose and the excess was removed quickly with a spatula, while having established such a case, the protective coating of the outer surface with masking tape, proved thoughtful choice.

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After the last dose of polyurethane foam hardened, the excess material overflow from the driver's and crew commander’s hatches were removed carefully, using No 11 blade on modeling knife.

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With the method described in the previous paragraphs, I achieved to:

  • Fill the interior of the FDCV scale model with foam that can absorb vibrations and distribute throughout the mass of polyester,
  • Apply a hard duty adhesive tape across the inner surface, to hold united the shattered parts of polyester if ever broken.

The above protection measures, are not necessary (and possibly not recommended) for use on 99% of commercial kits marketed. The polyester material specificity however and the possible danger to break after few months or years, after losing its elasticity and becoming harder and inflexible (and therefore fragile), enforce these protecting measures to ensure better luck VS possible shock hits & hard vibrations during scale model transport.

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CHAPTER IV - Dalton brothers in chains

Goscinny & Morris who both created the “The Judge” story (based on real Judge Phantly Roy Bean, Jr life) into Lucky Luke comic, claim that bicycles & Dalton brothers, should work only in chains. While building this scale model, I found that AFVs, also use chains - yeah, I am an aircraft scale modeller.

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I have to admit that when I opened the model package and saw the tracks, I was disappointed - wrongly as it proved later! Yes, although the excess of polyester to be removed (normal and expected for such a polyester hand made kit). Being an AFV scale modelling rookie, I was afraid that I might accidentally break the track teeth in my attempt to remove excess polyester material or might damage the detail of the tracks.

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Nevertheless, the two single-piece polyester tracks cleaning, proved very easy. Using new No 11 blade on my knife, I tried pure and decisive cuts on track, along the teeth profile perimeter. Just to be sure that I wouldn’t accidentally remove “something” that would have seemed odd, I took the technical manual in hand and studied the chain close-up detailed diagrams, in order to understand how it is on real FDCV - after all, I have almost zero experience on AFVs.

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Using an old toothbrush, I carefully removed the excess casting polyester, previously cut with the blade. I found, that although the track teeth look very fragile, ultimately proved quite durable. Finally, I cleaned by removing small amounts of polyester, using a paper nail file which could easily enter between track teeth.

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The polyester used by the White Tower Models for casting, is a material which acquires hardness after several months or even years. The specificity of polyester, not only should not discourage the modellers, but use the material’s natural properties, to his advantage. Let us note that when the polyester parts sunk in hot water, even though they have produced some years ago, they get flexible for a few minutes. This time period is enough to connect the hard or marginal contact parts. As mentioned before, same technique with hot water used to buckle the two half FDCV hull shells, because I did not want to take chances and push the polyester pieces one against the other, risking a possible crack. In the following pictures, you can observe the single-piece polyester track elasticity and tolerances that can be purchased for a few minutes with proper preparation.

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With the FDCV scale model hull closed and the track chains cleaned by the polyester excess, I tried water sanding to ensure that connecting lines would disappear. The track chains were also slightly sanded on selected points, to get all the track teeth on the exact same level. When I was satisfied, I spray a primer light layer to prepare for painting and to highlight any deficiencies that had escaped my attention.

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As shown in the photo above, I use two different primer products for preparation of scale models before painting, depending on each case.

  • The first is the Hycote acrylic primer. Available in 2-3 different colours, shades of grey (for general use paint) and black (primer before painting with metallic paints Alclad II) and textures in matte or glossy. The price cost aprox 7 euros in local Greek market and spray canister contains 400 ml. IMHO, the Hycote primer’s main advantage, is that the chemical composition is such that it leaves the feeling that can be applied on model without covering details. It is very fine, it dries within minutes, but it’s rare to find.
  • The second is the Humbrol acrylic primer. If I am not mistaken, it is available in 2-3 different colours, shades of grey (for general use paint) and black (primer before painting with metallic paints Alclad II). The price is aprox 6 euros in local Greek market and spray and the canister contains 150 ml. While using, I noticed that the Humbrol primer is sprayed under higher pressure propellant, and this effect was observed in different spray canisters. When dry, leaves a sense of rough surface on the model, perhaps a bit more than I prefer, but I guess it’s perfect when applying primer on AFVs to be given a sense of cast metal. Humbrol primer is a good choice for general purpose primer, but I would prefer Hycote for fine results, without any spray paint grains.

Finally, regarding the price / quantity matter, the Hycote primer costs 7 euros in local Greek market for a 400 ml canister (1.75 euro per 100 ml), while the Humbrol product costs 6 euros in local Greek market for a 150 ml canister (4 euro per 100 ml).

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For only 12 euros, I bought a new SkyTronic minitool product which operates from 0V to 12V voltage and contains 60 different parts including drills from 0.4mm to 1.5mm diameter, cutting discs, abrasive brushes, etc. According to the manual, it spins up to 16 000 rpm and is compatible with various calibers shaft head. The only modification I did, was to remove the factory cable and install spiral cable (which I find more practical) that I connected with the 0-12V voltage dimmer adapter on my workbench.

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I cut the track wheels from the polyester tree and sand each one of them, by using the high speed spinning minitool. As soon as all the track wheels were trimmed as required, they were placed on exact position.

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CHAPTER V - Main model building & detailing

Following the simple assembly instructions, I placed each polyester item on place using two-component cyanoacrylate glue for best results. The model parts are molded in such way that no putty is needed to fill any gaps - just cut the polyester from part’s tree and glue it on spot.

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Checking the parts carefully, I found that the the items dimensions (including thickness) was extremely accurate on scale. As you can see, by checking the following pictures, some polyester parts of the model is so thin, you can actually see in through them. That specific feature makes the model very realistic and accurate on scale, but special attention is needed while handling the polyester parts, as it is quite possible to break.

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The driver’s hatch release handle, have been detailed according the diagrams found into FDCV’s TM - Technical Manual. I glued it in "CLOSED" position.

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As soon as all the details, hatch covers, handles, fuel canisters etc were fit & glued on FDCV, I spray a primer light layer over the model to prepare for painting process and highlight any deficiencies that had escaped my attention so far.

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I used ordinary gauze cloth, taken from the first aid kit, cut it to shape and place it on FDCV upper surface, to simulate the camouflage net. Water based white glue for wood, which becomes transparent when it dries, is just the right for the job. So, I opened a 500 grams canister bought for 2€ only, pick a small quantity, add just few drops of water with a syringe into a small metal container to make the right mixture and finally I formed the gauze net with a wet brush, into the desired shape. Because the mixture is enriched with water based glue, the gauze net becomes hard when the water dries.

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CHAPTER VI - Applying paint, wash & weather effects

The first FDCVs, received by Hellenic Army and entered active duty, on 1986. Until 1990, more than 20 vehicles were in Greek service. They were painted with the CARC - Chemical Agent Resistant Coating. This paint is specially formulated to reduce the vehicle's IR image reflection. When the FDCVs were received by the Hellenic Army and by the mid-1990s, did not have national markings on the side of the vehicle. What I'll try to display, is an FDCV scale model as they appeared during the early 90ies period, few years after first entrance in service. The following two pictures, kindly given by Mr. Christos Simitsis / White Tower Models, show an FDCV as presented during the October 28th 1990 National military parade in Thessaloniki, Greece.

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The scale model carefully washed with liquid soap and warm water to disappear leaving oil traces, fingertips etc. As long as the model was already light gray primed, using free hand airbrushing, enamel black paint preshading lines across the panel lines & details.

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I believe that the basic CARC FS34079 “Leaf Green” colour, can be simulated with the Humbrol's H116 or Gunze Sangyo's GSH309. Because I had something different in mind and I was hoping to present more than one color tones on model's surface, I tried the FS34094 "Bronze Green" which is available by Life Color as UA303 acrylic and also got the UA706 and UA210 by Life Color too, for the basic CARC color fading and darkening mixtures.

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Using the SLC - Scale Lighting effect Calculator program, I placed as basic colour the FS34079 (RGB code 62x68x54) and set parameters such as 1/35 scale, appearance of model’s surface in a scale from a “new - just painted” level to “old - paints are fade” level, according to what I had in mind, etc. The program, draw results (for example RGB code 84x90x77 which is close to FS34094) as suggested 13% scale lighting paint for the model, considering the scale effect and the mid-weathered appearance I set as data. Offcourse, the high lighted or intentional faded areas, will be enlighted more, using sand tones.

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Here is the way of US M-992 FAASVs are painted, as presented into US Army's TB 43-0209 (pages 252 & 253) and TM 9-2350-267-10 Technical Manuals. As noted before, the Hellenic Army's FDCVs are not 3-tones camouflaged - they are painted with one colour only (FS34079 “Leaf Green”) known as CARC - Chemical Agent Resistant Coating, specially formulated to reduce the vehicle's IR image reflection.

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From CARC paint manufacturer's brochure (page 5) found in HERE it is clear that "…MilSpray CARC touchup, creates no IR image…".

Also, in page 2 you can read: "...Key to survivability in combat is avoidance of enemy detection systems and IR homing weapons. CARC coated vehicles and equipment have signature-reduction properties that diminish the effectiveness of existing and emerging enemy detection and targeting systems. While infrared reflectivity is one element of signature-reduction, other characteristics and their particulars are considered classified information. Infrared Signature (IR) management is one of the least understood, yet most important attributes of the CARC camouflage system. Each of the colors in the camouflage system contains a special pigment package that camouflages vehicles and equipment when they are in their intended theater of operation. As an example, the 383 green color in the camouflage pattern, has an IR signature equal, or less than, that of chlorophyll. When viewed in IR, the vehicle will blend in with the wooded environment and will not create an IR signature that could be used by enemy weapons systems having IR homing technology. IR homing weapons systems can be found in MANPADs and many shoulder fired missiles…".

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The first base very diluted acrylic color was sprayed with no problem as a light layer and let dry overnight. As seen on the pictures, the black enamel preshading lines, are visible under the first applied color setting a base for the weathering process.

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As soon as the previous very diluted Life Color acrylic paint layer dried, a second (very diluted also) and later a third FS34094 "Bronze Green" (aka Life Color UA303) acrylic layer sprayed over, so the final result will become dark enough, that can be considered as into a realistic tonality & lighting color range, while the black enamel preshading lines, are still visible under the applied color layers. Minor corrections were made in 1-2 spots with a fine brush. The result was sprayed with Humbrol enamel gloss varnish coat, to prepare the surface for water transfered decals applying and washing. Once satisfied with the result, the model was sprayed with Humbrol enamel matt coat, to seal the paint, the water transfered decals and the washing results.

Keep in mind that this FDCV scale model, represents a vehicle as it was during the early ‘90ies period, when no national markings were paint on the vehicle’s side. Also, keep in mind, that during this specific period, the bronze plaque in honor of St. Barbara, which in the manners, customs and traditions of the Hellenic Army protects the Artillery, was not installed yet!

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CHAPTER VII - Display base & grass

I found nice idea to place it on a display base, simulating a field area covered with grass. From my local store, I bought a 20x30cm polished wooden picture frame.

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I add some grams of plaster powder and few drops of water with a syringe into a soft rubber cup to make the right mixture. Materials like plaster, start as a dry powder that is mixed with water to form a paste which liberates heat and then hardens. Unlike mortar and cement, plaster remains quite soft after drying and this characteristic make plaster suitable for the job. Keep in mind that adding salt into wet plaster mixture, reduce the plaster's hardening time and adding vinegar into wet plaster mixture, extend the plaster's hardening time. When the first layer of thinned plaster applied on the picture frame, a glass were pushed against the plaster to form a flat basic strong cast.

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I left it few hours to get harden in order to be sure that the cast wouldn't break when I would try to cut it into desired shape. Meanwhile, I took the soft rubber cup which I used to make the plaster mixture, squized it to break the last hardened plaster left inside, so it would be easier for me to clean it afterwards and prepare it for any future mix. That's the reason this soft rubber cup were used for.

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Before the plaster cast got harden, I formed the field area into the desired shape to be suitable for the FDCV scale model. I used my airbrush to paint it. After the polished wooden frame was covered with masking tape, different acrylic paint layers were applied on the plaster surface. First, mat black colour covered the area and then a dark and light earth colours, spraying from different directions and angles. Later, the field was drybrushed on selected areas using sand tones.

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As for he grass & plants, I used three different ways:

  • From my local hobby shop, I got different colours of static grass, empty them into a plastic box and make a mixture.

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  • Found into my garden perimeter, I collect few natural stuff, cut and placed into plastic box for such use.

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  • From my local super market, I got a small wicker broom. If you look closely, you’ll find some very interesting stuff for scale modeling use and dioramas building.

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Water based white glue for wood, which becomes transparent when it dries, is just the right for the job. So, I opened a 500 grams canister bought for 2€ only, pick a small quantity, add just few drops of water with a syringe into a small metal container to make the right mixture and finally I applied on the desired areas to be filled with grass & plants, using a wet brush. Because the mixture is enriched with water based glue, it is easy to correct possible mistakes.

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