Not wanting to confine myself to the WWII period, I was looking for an original modern subject. Unfortunately, modern tank kits in the 1:16 scale are very few, so when I saw the first photographs of the T55-A kit from the Chinese brand HOOBEN, I did not hesitate. This tank, thanks to its exceptional longevity makes it possible to model a vast number of versions from many different conflicts. Eventually I decided to model the Iraqi Enigma version because of its futuristic shape, its rarity and for the pleasure of making the additional armour from scratch. After several weeks of research on the Web, I was finally able to begin its construction.
THE HOOBEN T55-A
The model has been designed and planned for the Radio Control, so it does not present the high levels of detail that static modellers demand. However it is here and it does capture the look of the T-55 so it makes a solid base to work on. The majority of parts are plastic with die cast parts for the suspension with all the running gear beautifully reproduced. The wheels with their separately moulded rubber tyres are handled well and the turned aluminium 120-mm gun barrel is superb. Photographs of examples preserved in the Bovington Tank Museum, the Mourmelon military camp as well as other places demonstrate that the Enigma version has been adapted from different versions of T55-A. The engine deck of the Hooben model determined thaT55-A version which served as a base for the version I would build which corresponded with the Mourmelon example. Even for this chosen version, my references showed that details differed from one tank to another, both in terms of the turret and the hull. Undoubtedly, the T55 is a vehicle that can be very difficult to identify. A large number of parts were required to modify the kit and match the preserved vehicle that I decided to model. Some were as corrections, and the others were new additions or details. A mix of Evergreen profiles and plastic card of different thicknesses, thread and wires of varied diameters scavenged from transformers or telephone cables, springs from lighters, elastic theard and aluminium sheet from food punnets were all used to achieve the build.
I was keen to leave the driver’s hatch open, so I made a scratch built driver’s compartment. Even if it means much of the detail inside is hard to see with the hatch open, adding some elements is better than a bare gaping hole, a very sad to look. I had to cheat on the height and the structure of the seat so that it would adapt to the kit, and so that the deep effect of this space is preserved. Unfortunately, after the top of the hull was fitted, much of this work is practically invisible.
The Additional Armour Panels
The armour panels had to be completely constructed from scratch using 1 mm thick plastic card and different Evergreen profiles. Having no precise measurements, I had to study the proportions according to the photos and this allowed their manufacture after a trial run using several cardboard templates. The welded joints were made with a pyrograph for greater realism. From one Enigma to another Enigma, it appears that there are differences in the construction of the structure, but the general concept and arrangement remain the same. The cheek armour on the front of the turret were repeatedly made until I obtained the correct look because these panels curve around the front of the turret the shapes are difficult but they are important in giving the tank its futuristic appearance. The frontal, side and rear boxes have rectangular shapes which were much simpler to model. The adjustment of both the girders on the turret counterbalance required more attention and many attempts were needed.
The structural supports for the side panels on the mudguards were made from plastic profiles. All the fixing brackets for the armour panels had their mounting bolts made using a Punch and Die.
The gun mantlet cover is supplied in the kit as a cloth for RC purposes. I discarded this and sculpted one from Magic Sculp and when dry the different loops and other details were added. The polished finish of the kit turret was reworked and I added a coat of Tamiya Putty which was then textured to give a more realistic cast appearance.
The first base layer was green TAMIYA XF 58 applied with an airbrush. The second is a mixture of TAMIYA XF 2 and XF 59 in equal parts, then all the model is worked over once again with a brush. A first very diluted wash with Humbrol Enamel Thinners mixed with shades of Humbrol Matt 33 and Matt 148 is applied to the whole model. Several dry brush passes with ochre and white oil paints are then made to lift and emphasise the details. The streaks are made with oil paints in different colours thinned with some white spirit. The chipped paint is added using Prince August 920 acrylic and are made with a sponge then reworked again in lighter tints to blend into the sand-coloured paint. A mixture of plaster, powdered light ochre coloured pastels and water is deposited onto the flat surfaces to represent deposits of dust. The surplus is brushed off so that it only remains in the recesses like actual sand and dust.
Other various effects of paint damage are made over this work to differentiate the recent damage form the older areas. These were made with oil paint and Humbrol enamel according to the desired effects. Finally a dusting of powdered pastels in pale tones gives the tank a more operational aspect. My lack of precision in defining the colours of pastels used is not due to the fact that I want to jealously guard the secret of mixtures I used, but each of us has their own perception and preferences for colours. The purpose is to explain the way I approached a very long painting process alternating between the washes, dry-brushing and dusting of powders.. To finish, the exhaust pipe is painted in powdered «soot».
IRAQ — FEBRUARY 1991 — OPERATION DESERT STORM
A T55 Enigma abandoned by his crew attracts the curiosity of the crew of a Bradley on patrol. The different objects scattered on the ground indicate that the tank has already been examined. Three figures from Verlinden Productions are painted using Prince August acrylics. The ground is a mixture of sand, wood glue, fine sand and water. The whole base was coloured with powdered pastels before being applied.
Different grit and stone was scattered into the fresh groundwork and then the tank is passioned before it dried. A wash of grey faints then applied to add some relief to the ground. Several colours in different sane shades were applied with an airbrush to break the uniformity of the ground. The vehicle and the figurines, finally sealed, undergo a last covering of dust with shades matching the ground.
The different objects on the ground are made from scratch with exception of the jerry can from Veriinden Productions and the Tamiya M1 helmet. They were painted Prince August and Tamiya acrylics