1/50 scale (nominal)
In my continued quest for modern military vehicles in 1/48 scale I have a habit of scouring the wargames manufacturers websites. Much of what's available isn't of sufficient quality to be of interest. Scale perfection and accurate profiles are not generally the gamers' priority so vehicles tend to be basic approximations of the real thing.
That said, a number of manufacturers do make the effort to deliver decent quality kits and they are often around the 1/50 scale mark, which makes them good companions for my 1/48 scale collection. I recently came across a small Spanish wargames emporium and, quite randomly, they offer a model of a Supacat ATMP, which they claim is 1/56 scale (the 'standard' 28mm wargaming scale). However, the published dimensions of the model indicated that it was closer to 1/50 scale and on that basis I decided to take a risk on the model. It looked basic but reasonable in the photos and would cost me around £13.00, including delivery from Spain.
When the kit arrived, it lived up to my expectations - it was indeed a basic rendition of a Supacat, but fundamentally sound in profile. The main hull is a single moulding, to which are added six individual wheels and a three-part roll bar. The hull had been sprayed in some form of primer and looked very rough. However, it wasn't all that difficult to remove and the base hull was actually better detailed than I initially thought.
The question was how far to take the detailing and additions. I definitely wanted to add the steering handlebars and replace the roll bars with something more accurate, but what else could I do? The moulded treadplate on the fenders is both vastly overscale and the wrong pattern, whilst the wheels benefit from a little bit of tinkering, but the most significant change was to fit the 'cat with a Milan ATGW.
Work started with the handlebar steering system. The Barrage Miniatures kit doesn't provide any form of steering bar so one was fabricated using plastic rod and some scrap plastic carved to roughly the right shape for the steering column.
Moving back along the hull, a frame was added over the engine cowling in the centre of the vehicle. There are a number of different frames that can be seen on Supacats and this one was chosen because of the decision to fit my Supacat with Milan system.
The aforementioned treadplate was sanded away and replaced with panels of 4-bar treadplate from Accurate Armour. The sheet was cut at 45 degrees so that the tread pattern is 'diamond' in orientation. I also added a mesh screen to the front of the vehicle to tidy it up.
I remembered coming across several photos of Supacats carrying Milan missile systems a few years ago. They belonged to both the Green Howards and the Duke of Edinburgh's Royal Regiment (DERR) and were being used on exercise in Germany. It was immediately obvious when I rediscovered them that the changes would make the model very different from the standard load carrier.
The Milan unit itself would be easy to source - Gaso-Line offer it as an accessory item in their 1/48 scale resin range. The challenge would be the missile reloads as they are unavailable in plastic or resin. I was confident I could produce a single reload, but making multiple ones that looked identical was a much greater issue. Instead I contacted a friendly aftermarket producer who I purchase fairly regularly from. They said they would be willing to cast a number of copies from a single master and having agreed a price with them, sent off my completed master. I ordered several more Milan reloads than I needed for the Supacat because I have a couple of other projects that I can use them for.
The next question to resolve was the exact stowage pattern to use. Several of the DERR vehicles carried a pair of stowage racks on the fenders, each one able to carry four missiles. The Green Howards vehicles carried a series of three or four reloads strapped directly behind the roll bar in the centre of the vehicle. Ultimately I preferred the look of the racks on the fenders but I had to compromise slightly as I could only fit one rack due to the configuration of the kit.
Also fitted to the DERR vehicles was a large stowage box. I believe the box is part of the normal Milan shipping package and I did my best to fabricate something similar from scrap plastic, which was then carved and sanded to shape.
Being a wargames kit, the inner faces of the wheels are intended to glue straight to the lower hull. This didn't look right, especially as it made the wheel track look too narrow. Small spacers were added behind the wheels and a stub axle fitted to ensure a sturdier fit. A word of warning here. The rear pair of wheels have a different hub arrangement to the front two pairs so don't get them mixed up!
Paint options for the Supacat include overall green, green and black two tone disruptive or overall desert sand, depending on your chosen theatre of operations. Since mine was European, I had the choice of the first two and plumped for the green and black style. An initial grey undercoat was applied to all the parts, before a base coat of Tamiya Olive Green (XF58), lightened with a touch of white, was sprayed on and left to dry thoroughly. For a model of this size and configuration it was easier to hand paint the disruptive bands of black (XF85 Rubber Black)
Stowage consists of various items in resin and plastic, most if it from Red Zebra Models. The registration plates are home-produced decals.
That left a decision about what format the base would take. Many years ago I came across a photo of some British Paras crouched down by a German picket fence and that image stayed in my mind. I'd also seen a convoy of German Fuchs APCs parked up in a surburban German street, clearly on bin collection day as there were green 'wheelie bins' neatly placed at the end of each driveway. Again, this image stayed in my mind for many years.
The fencing is part of a 1/48 scale Tamiya accessory pack and the wheelie bin is a 3d printed item from Shapeways. Add in a scratchbuilt pavement and some simple groundwork and hey presto, I had a small scenic base on which to display my Supacat. I have yet to find any decent 1980s-era British infantry figures. The Airfix figures are too modern and many of the 28mm wargames figures are likewise too modern.