Friday, 3 February 2017


Honourable Lead Boiler Suit Company
1/48 Scale
£30.00 (plus postage)

Warthog is the latest in a range of dual-body all-terrain tracked vehicles purchased by the British Army over the past few decades. Previous vehicles of this type traditionally came from Hagglunds in Sweden (long since taken over by BAe Systems). Although designed for use in Arctic environments their low ground pressure means that they are equally useful in marshy and desert areas. The Warthog however is produced by ST Kinetics from Singapore. It is a modified version of their Bronco and was sourced by the MOD to replace the BVS10 Viking AATV being used in Afghanistan. It is a heavier, more robust vehicle than its Swedish cousins.

The Honourable Lead Boiler Suit Company (HLBS) isn't a company that will be well known to modellers, although if you're a wargamer it is likely to be more familiar. Amongst their wide range of figures and accessories are a series of modern AFVs manufactured to a 'true' 1/48 scale. It is important to mention this because modellers and wargamers have a different interpretation of 'scale'. Where armour and aircraft modellers work to a series of 'proportional' scales (1/72, 1/48, 1/35 etc), figure modellers (and by extension, gamers) generally work to scales that are defined by the height of the figure (nominally ground level to eye level). Popular gaming scales include 15mm, 25mm, 28mm and less commonly, 40mm. It is not easy to do a straight conversion from one to the other as gaming scales allow greater latitude in the interpretation of the physical size of the figures and vehicles. However, a very rough comparison would equate 20mm to 1/76 scale, 28mm to 1/56 scale and 40mm to 1/48 scale.

The two main body units are cast as single pieces and each track unit is also cast as a single item. The complex steering unit located between the two cabins is cast in brass to provide strength and rigidity (that's another two parts) and then there are the roof cargo boxes, mudflaps, machine gun cupola and shield, brass .50 cal MG and that is about it. The parts are well cast and the solid body units include a good amount of detail. The track units are also well defined.

Inevitably there are compromises to be had with a wargames model. The hull units are solid lumps of resin so windows will need to be defined with paint rather than glazing (unless you feel like some  major surgery); the track units have no detail on their inner surfaces and some of the detail on the parts is a bit chunky. The aim of this build was to refine the kit into a something more appropriate for the 'scale model' genre. What this meant in practical terms was to add detail in some areas, replace some of the parts and ignore problems with others.

Starting at the front...
There are a couple of features missing including forward lifting shackles and a distinctive grille/inset panel. For the shackle points, a 45 degree slot needs to be carved into the solid resin above each track run. Into this a small shackle point carved from 40x80 thou plastic strip was added.

The next element needs some more serious resin carving. The British vehicle has a cut-out in the lower front panel of the hull. Into this slot fits a plate with a slotted 'V' profile. The resin is easily carved so with a bit of care, the relevant area can be marked out and removed with a scalpel  and dental burrs before being tidied up with some sanding sticks. Next a panel of 10 thou card was carefully marked out with the profile of the grille and the slots cut out with a new scalpel blade to ensure a clean cut. The 10 thou panel can then be attached to the resin body with superglue.

The solid headlights were carved away and replaced with new units constructed from plastic strip, with stretched sprue used to create the bars across the front. The units were left off the model until the last minute to allow the headlamp lens and sidelight bars to be slid into the units after they were painted. Wing mirrors from an Airfix Landrover were salvaged from the spares box and fitted to new arms before being attached to the headlight guards. Also at the front of the hull there are a pair of mudflaps but they will be dealt with later in the build.

Above the front windscreens are a pair of sensors (part of the ECM suite). The kit provides them as moulded-on square lumps but they should actually be larger and rectangular in shape, plus they need to angle downwards. Once fitted in place, holes for the wiring were drilled for both the ECM units and also the smoke grenade launchers. The kit-supplied smoke grenade launchers had their tubes replaced with thin plastic tubing to give an 'empty' look.

HLBS provide a weapons station above the front cab mounting a .50 cal heavy machine gun. Closer inspection revealed that the shape of the turret had been simplified and the temptation to build a better example proved too much. Before tackling the turret itself a circular collar needs to be fitted to the cabin roof. It's 12mm in diameter and 3mm tall.

The real turret is fabricated from bulky composite armour rather than metal plate, so even in 1/48 scale, the side walls are quite thick. It has a roughly hexagonal shape when viewed from above, although it isn't that straightforward. The walls are also bent or curved in places and the various wall sections are different lengths. Construction commenced with a floor cut to something approximating the final size of the turret. The hatch opening , previously marked out on the plastic can then be cut away with a compass cutter. A second plate also needs to be cut, slightly smaller than the first one and then glued to the underside of the larger one.

The first two panels to be fitted were the main side units. Each was cut from 30thou (9mm high x 12mm long) card and then bent slightly in the middle to create a shallow 'V' profile. The forward edge needs to be cut back at a slight angle to accommodate the slope of the front armour panels. Next, the rear panel was created and glued into place (it should be vertical rather than canted backwards, but hindsight is a wonderful thing...)

Once these main panels had been fixed into place, the rear corner panels and the shorter front panels   could be fitted. The basic shapes were cut by eye and left oversize. Each was then carefully trimmed and sanded until it was a snug fit. Small amounts of filler soon sorted out any minor imperfections. The gun shield is again quite thick so 30 thou card provided the raw material. Measurements from the resin original were transferred to the card and the whole shield cut and bent to shape. A basic gun mount filled the front of the turret and then a range of smaller details were added to finish it off.

The most distinctive elements are the wire cutters. These were gently shaped from sections of 10x60 thou plastic strip and made as identical as possible. The front units (on the gun shield) are made up of two 'hooks' each, whilst the rear pair are a single 'hook' with a plain lip to provide strength. The rest of the detail is strengthening ribs and bolt supports.

A brass casting of a .50cal MG is supplied but it lacks finesse. The spares box produced a Tamiya example which was cleaned up and had a new ammunition tray built to house a modern .50 cal ammo box (sourced from Red Zebra, a small UK aftermarket producer).

Moving back along the hull an error became apparent. The rear doors are located far too close to the cab doors. Either the rear doors are too large or there is a fundamental error in the dimensions of the forward hull unit. A decision was taken to ignore the error and the door handles were added.
These are simple strips of plastic sanded to a more tapered profile. Next came the two engine exhaust vents which are square-section tubes that mount underneath the overhanging rear roof panel on the left of the vehicle. Also fitted at this stage was the external fire extinguisher hand pull and its associated guard. The overly thick rear mudguards were carved away and replaced with new panels made from 15 thou plastic. Again, mudflaps will be added but that comes later.

Finally, there are three radio aerials and a satcom 'cruciform' aerial to be added to the roof. HLBS helpfully provide indications of where these go, but the aerial mounts themselves are not provided. The three mounts were constructed from thin brass tube and plastic tube. Short sections of the plastic tube were slipped over the brass tube and superglued into place. Then the ends of the plastic tube were sanded to a taper. By cutting the brass tube slightly above and below the plastic part, you are left with a visible collar above it and a suitable 'pin' with which to attach it to the model (via a pre-drilled hole). The aerials themselves are very thin brass rod. (Albion Alloys provide a huge selection of brass rod and tube, including packages of different sizes that will fit inside one another - perfect for this type of task.).  The cruciform aerial was very much a item built by guesswork. It took a couple of attempts before a good, evenly dimensioned cross was formed. 

Hydraulic Steering
The core of this type of vehicle is the hydraulic steering and drive assembly that connects the two separate cab units together. The HLBS kit offers a two-part brass casting to represent this complex system. Inevitably, some of the technical detail has been sacrificed in the interests of keeping the assembly robust. It would be necessary to build a completely new assembly from scratch to accurately replicate the real drive system, so a decision was taken to improve the kit parts instead.

The kit offers a single umbilical hose to connect the two units where the real vehicle has multiple hoses. The brass hose was therefore sawn off the assembly. This clears the way for the addition of another hydraulic ram above the main shaft unit. At this point a decision was also taken to build a  ram similar to the brass examples. Although not entirely accurate, it would at least ensure consistency. Similarly, the rear part of the steering assembly needs an extra ram mounted above the main shaft.

The next step is to prepare the multiple umbilical cables that link the two cabins. Again, some simplification was made as it is unclear where each of the hoses connects. Several of the hoses are fed through a single, larger 'cable tidy' (like an oversized version of the type used for computers and IT equipment for example). It is wise not to install the cables until right at the end of the project, after most of the painting has been done, but there is no harm in taking the time to check lengths and working out how each cable will drape between the cabins.

The Rear Cabin
A number of changes were also made to the rear cabin. On the front slope, a rectangular area was carved out to receive various pipes and cables for the steering unit. In addition, a length of 20x40 thou strip needs to be added to create the ridge that runs up the joint between the two front plates.

Moving onto the roof, the forward stowage bin and ECM platform has a fundamental error in that it sits flat on the roof when it should be raised on legs above it. The moulded, corrugated hose that connects the unit to the main rear cabin makes this adjustment difficult unless an alternative material can be found. After searching through the spares box, a set of flexible rubber 'oxygen hoses' from MDC was discovered. The set offers two diameters of hose - 1.5mm and 2mm. In an ideal world, a 2.5mm (or even 3mm) hose would have been a better match, but the smaller hose would suffice. The kit hose was therefore carved off the main unit and replaced with a length of the flexible rubber hose.

The stowage bin is covered in a fabric weatherproof cover - wine bottle foil is a good material for this type of work as it is thin and flexible, whilst being robust enough to hold its shape once bent. A perforated heat guard was added to the front from scrap photo etch sheet.

The ECM platform that sits above the stowage bin has two ECM 'beer can' aerials fitted and the whole upper surface is covered with small square mounting plates for further aerials. Unfortunately, some of these are not very 'square' so in the end, the two moulded aerials and the small squares were all removed to leave a smooth surface. Before doing this however, the locations for the various aerials (x5) were marked with small holes drilled into the resin. The two new 'beer can' aerials were cut from plastic tube, whilst the other aerials were constructed in the same way as those on the front hull unit.

On the left side of the roof are two parallel bars which should be a towbar. A new one was fabricated from plastic rod of similar diameter (1.5mm), with towing eyes and shackle points carved from plastic strip. The long, single tube on the right side had the ends reamed out and a crossbar fitted at each end to better replicated the one on the real vehicle. It should also be noted at this point that all the lifting eyes on the roof were also replaced with thicker, more in-scale examples carved from plastic strip.

The kit-supplied rear stowage bin is simplified and the rear angle of the box is too shallow. The front is also incorrect. The box also sits on a metal frame that overhangs the rear of the vehicle. To sort this out a new box of similar overall dimensions was constructed from plastic card.

Moving round to the rear door, the window aperture is square, when it should be rectangular. To correct this, the lower section of the window frame was carved away and a new lower frame added from plastic strip. The related light bar just below the window (to illuminate the rear number plate and convoy marker) also needs to be removed and replaced with a new one just below the revised window.

HLBS supply all the required mudflaps as thin resin pieces but they look better if constructed from wine bottle foil. The largest items are those fitted to the rear of the front cab, with smaller mudflaps fitted elsewhere on the vehicle, all of which were attached using cyano glue.

The HLBS kit provides the track units as four cast items - two each for the front and rear cab units. There is good detail when viewed from the outside but the inner faces are solid resin and lack any detail whatsoever. This is another of those areas where a compromise was accepted. Short of building the units from scratch, the level of detail was never going to be fully realistic and once painted and fixed into place, the existing track units would look pretty good.

Well, there's only one paint scheme and it's overall Desert Tan. That said, it's actually a really nice colour to weather and work with so there are compensations.

The first stage is to give the entire model a good undercoat. Halford's Grey primer, straight from the rattle can is ideal. Once it had dried, there were a few small blemishes that needed filling and re-sanding, before a second coat of primer was applied. The track units were then sprayed Flat Black. Although not their final colour,the black forms a very useful base for the lighter grey shades to be added later.

The main body and all the other sub-components received an initial coat of Tamiya XF-57 Buff. It's not a perfect match for British Army Desert Tan but by the time it's been glossed, weathered, washed and dry-brushed, it won't really matter. The paint was allowed to dry thoroughly before weathering commenced. The whole vehicle enjoyed a wash of thinned oil paints to bring out the detail. Varying mixes of Burnt Sienna and Lamp Black can be applied to different areas to vary the tonal values. Over this initial weathering layer went the gloss varnish in preparation for the decals.

No markings are supplied in the kit and whilst  it would be possible to source some from one of the Airfix 1/48 scale kits, most of them would be incorrect for the Warthog. There are also no aftermarket decal sets available as far as is known, so this left a choice of using incorrect markings or creating accurate markings from scratch.

Whilst it isn't something that everyone will have the time or patience to achieve, the latter choice offers the opportunity to create a truly unique model. Clear and white decal sheet suitable for use with inkjet printers is available from various online retailers (typically in the 50p per A4 sheet price range). Where the markings are a strong, plain colour, particularly black, the clear decal sheet is really good. However, where there are multiple colours used, the white decal sheet is better.

Some knowledge of a computer graphics package is helpful, but the software doesn't have to be expensive. In this case an old version Paint Shop Pro was used, but there are other very good programmes freely available for download off the Internet.

Photos of Warthogs were scoured so that suitable registration numbers could be copied. A quick question posted on a well known AFV modelling forum revealed that the correct font for UK registration plates (civil and military) is called 'Mandatory'. This is available as a free, downloadable True Type Font (TTF) via the Internet, so you can install it on your computer and use it whenever you want. 

A number of other markings are commonly seen on Warthogs, mostly warning stencils and temporary call signs. Copies of these were made too. In fact, markings for a whole series of different vehicles were created, including a set of 'T' markings seen on a small number of development or possibly unarmoured examples used for demonstrations and exercises in the UK. This latter option was chosen for the model since it would help to explain the lack of bar armour on the finished example. It also appealed as it would provide a visually different option to a typical vehicle in Afghanistan. Once the markings had been applied, some final weathering was added before a couple of thin coats of flat varnish finished off the process. The headlights fitted and the side and rear lights picked out (if you do it before this point, the flat varnish will kill the glossy finish of the lights). The last few tasks were to glue the track units the body units, wire up the hydraulics and glue the cupola in place over the front cab.

A simple scenic base helped to set off the completed model. A figure from one of the Airfix sets provides a sense of scale and context.

Overall this project provided a welcome change from the usual assembly of a plastic kit. Whilst resin kits are nothing new in the modelling world, modern vehicles in 1/48 scale are rare and modern British examples rarer still. The fact that this kit is aimed at wargamers shouldn't put people off. Whilst it's not entirely accurate, it remains a very good representation of a Warthog straight out of the box and offers a great opportunity to add even more detail if that takes your fancy.

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