Dragon- 1/35 JS-2m ChKZ Production Type - Full Build
The 'first look' for this kit, showing what's in the box, is available here: IS-2 first look.
The IS-2 is a pretty simple vehicle in real life, so, the kit reflects that with a fairly low parts count and nothing really intricate with which to struggle. If you wanted to build it out of the box, you could probably finish it in one long day.
Where's the fun in that, though? This is a re-release (with some modifications) of a 1993 kit. So, I thought I'd make a few simple fixes to bring it up to modern standards.
It seems to me that the whole thought behind 'Orange Box' models is that they are really affordable. So, honest, I didn't spend an extra dime on this kit. (This is a lie - see below). Almost everything that needs fixing can be done by an intermediate-level modeler using ordinary materials.
A Little Background
Real IS-2s were built in a hurry in wartime factories that were focused on cranking out as many tanks as possible. This sometimes led to quality-assurance problems, such as flawed castings or sloppy grinder work, that might not have passed muster in a western factory. It sure makes for some interesting models though. I wanted to show some of that rough finish with my IS-2.
The basics are pretty straightforward with this kit. The lower hull pan, roadwheels, tracks and so forth all go together with no problems. Dragon's IS-2 magic tracks assemble very quickly and nicely. In fact, although they are not advertised as workable, they almost are. They do need glue but, they assemble very quickly.
Here's a set of links, not glued, just pressed together
Here is the same set; not totally workable but darn close
The only minor "gotcha" was a few links with some flash. There are no extra links so be careful not to lose any.
Three things to note about these tracks:
- These are alternating links; every other link has a guide tooth. There is nothing in their design that prevents the modeler from assembling them out of order, e.g. two toothed links in a row or two untoothed links in a row. This is not a flaw. It corresponds to the real tank. I have seen photos of real IS-2s with links out of order so, if you make a mistake, there is precedent. I'm not saying its "right" but it's not exactly "wrong" either ;)
- There are some knockout pin marks on the inner faces.
- All IS-2s of this vintage had spare track mounts on the lower bow plate. They were fitted at the factory to enhance protection for this poorly-protected area. So the mounts themselves are not optional, although the modeler could show the tank without any links mounted. Dragon is supposed to include sprue 'Y' for the mounts. This sprue was completely missing from my kit. I checked a new ISU-152 kit I have with magic tracks, and sprue Y is included in the bag holding the tracks. It wasn't in this kit at all. I used spares I had from an older Dragon IS-2 kit to finish this one.
Lower Hull Pan
The lower hull height problem was the biggest issue with the older editions of Dragon's IS-2s. The new pan is a partial fix; it is higher, and, out-of-the-box, fixes the height problem. However, it will leave some gaps. These gaps are visual, not structural. I added strips of styrene down the sides and across the bow to fix this. Again, this is purely to get the right appearance; the upper and lower hulls will mate fine even without these corrections, they'll just look ridiculous with the gaps showing.
Below, the hull side gaps filled. I haven't yet put a strip across the bow in this photo. I did, however, add texture along the hull sides. The texture is an acrylic gel that will be the basis of later weathering. It is easier to add now, before the tracks and wheels are on.
I decided to complete the suspension with some of the torsion bar arms deflected as if the tank were crossing rough terrain. This will require a base but, it shows off a feature that I like so I don't mind the extra work.
Below, the completed upper and lower hulls joined.
Upper Hull Improvements
The upper hull is extremely simple OOTB. The basic hull molding is completed by adding some lift rings, a rear plate, gun travel lock, headlight etc.
It can be improved in a number of ways:
1. I opened up the solid-molded air intakes on the hull roof. I boxed in the resulting open space and painted it black before adding PE screens. I had written eariler that I didn't spend an extra dime on this kit. Sort of....I happened to have a really old Airwaves photoetch set I picked up for something like $3. It is designed to fit the Italeri kit, which I have never owned. For $3 I figured I'd take a gamble on it, and, it fit the Dragon kit perfectly.
2. One bolt head on the rear plate was incompletely molded. Rather than try to fix that, I cut both that bolt head and one other off completely and then drilled out the hole for the bolts. I have gotten the impression that maintenance standards in the Red Army were pretty poor, so I think it makes for an interesting model to show a bolt or two missing from engine-deck fittings.
3. The headlight is hollow molded (nice) but the lens is solid plastic (not so nice). I painted the inside of the light silver and then added a clear lens I had in my spares bin. T-34s had the same exact headlight, and I always have T-34 spares.
4. The horn is solid molded. I drilled out the open end, and then painted it black using oil paint so it would appear to have more depth than it really does.
5. The Airwaves PE set I had also had a big piece of mesh for the air outlet. Most IS-2s didn't have mesh there, but some did, and I had the part, so I used it.
6. I cut off the rear fenders, which were frequently lost in combat or just from driving into things.
7. I re-textured the cast portions of the hull using Tamiya putty, and I added flame-cut marks to the edges of large rolled plates. When I do cast texture, I usually do several layers of work and check it with primer coats, which is why my in-progress photos have such a mix of colors.
8. Part A12, the top air outlet, has eight big knockout pin marks in very visible locations. In between the pin marks is a row of bolts. The easiest way to clean up this part is to cut off the bolts, sand it all smooth to eliminate the pin marks, then replace the bolt heads. I use hex rod to make the bolt heads.
9. The fuel cell mountings, parts B15, are not all that detailed. There are much better parts in Dragon's T-34-85 kits, so I used those instead. I left off the fuel cells completely because they were so poorly done. Resin replacements are available, but, I didn't want to throw a lot of money at this kit.
I frequently see people asking how the external fuel cells were plumbed into the vehicle's fuel system. On these WW2 tanks, there was no such thing. These fuel cells are like big giant jerricans and the fuel must be manually pumped into the on-board fuel tanks.
This is A12, showing the bolt heads in the midst of the knockout pin marks.
The hull rear plate, showing the rough edges and two missing bolts. The black overspray on the deck is an undercoating that will be covered with PE later.
This shows most of the hull improvements. The white bolt heads on part A12 are visible.
The turret is also simple, like the hull. OOTB it can be finished in minutes - hours maybe, if you count the time spent sanding the gun tube.
The turret has three things I felt needed improvement:
* It is about 1-2mm too shallow. I added a strip of styrene between the two halves to make up the height. Once that is done, you'll notice the nose casting will fit properly.
* It lacks a few small details, such as weld bead around the ventilator and lift rings, and a stopper on the muzzle brake.
* It has a pebbled texture and lacks grinder marks. I added texture using putty, and grinder marks with a dremel tool and hot knife.
All of these issues can be fixed really easily.
Turret in progress, showing the new texture and height. The mold seam on the cupola still needs to be eliminated.
Coming along. I've added welds on the lift ring and around the cupola. The dark spot on the right of the cupola is a grinder mark. Note the seam on the cupola is gone now.
The white styrene strips used to correct the turret height are visible here.
Some folks might consider this turret grinder texture overdone, and maybe it is. I've found that the real turrets vary quite a bit on this detail. I've seen some that are pretty smoothly ground off and others that look like they were done by a drunken ten year old, so, take your pick. I like the rough look.
Below, I added cast texture to the housing for the ventilator, and then weld marks at the attachment points. The weld bead is just sprue with some texturing.
Weld bead around the front lift hooks. Also note the texture on the nose casting differs a bit from the main turret casting; just trying to keep it interesting.
The gun tube is old-school, split molded down the middle. There are aftermarket options, but, they add expense to what is supposed to be an inexpensive kit. Besides, I don't mind filling and sanding down a gun tube once in a while. Reminds me of my misspent youth. In addition to eliminating the seam in the tube, the muzzle brake should have a rough cast texture, a visible seam, and a small stopper on the top and bottom. The muzzle opening itself should be smooth. This gun is so big, and is so visible on the tank, that I like to spend a little extra time making the muzzle look good.
With the old-style two-piece gun tube, a bit of sanding and filling is needed. This is what it looks like after three iterations of filling, priming and sanding. I use ordinary Tamiya paint for primer when doing this.
Ah, the fiddly bits! Honestly there aren't many fiddly bits on this kit. No intricate PE to fold, no difficult assemblies....again, if you wanted to build this OOTB it is a one-day project. Even all these improvements are very easy to do.
Here it is, ready for the paint shop. Please excuse the sloppy patches of color, which come from my testing the appearance of the casting texture and priming the gun tube.
I install the inner set of wheels to get the tracks on, but I do the base coat of paint before adding the outer wheels. It's an easy way to get a good coat of paint on the inner wheels.
I use Tamiya paint, thinned with laquer thinner, for all my models. After a shadow coat of black in the recessed areas, and a dirt color on the lower hull, I used RAF Dark Green as the basic color. I lightened it with white, tan and clear yellow to modulate the basic coat. Next, I glosscoated with Vallejo gloss varnish, applied the kit decals, and added an oil paint wash. I just started using Vallejo gloss, and I love it. It sprays easily and has a very high gloss, perfect as a basis for decals and washes.
Here it is after the initial basic coat of paint, prior to any detail painting, gloss, decals or weathering
I used the kit decals for the 104th Guards Heavy Tank Regiment, 7th Guards Tank Corps. This unit had pretty colorful markings by Red Army standards, with red stars and polar bears as the unit insignia, and big names on many tanks. Many of their vehicles were photographed during the Berlin fighting, probably because they fought near the Reichstag. But maybe the colorful markings contributed.
The decals have to go over the very heavy cast texture on the hull and turret. To prepare for this, I gloss coated quite a big more than normal, applying three coats in the areas to be decaled. I also used a strong setting solution. The kit decals settled down perfectly and I have no complaints about them from an application standpoint. I do, however, question the layout of the text on the turret rear. I am skeptical that the turret rear was painted with the text arching the way the decal shows. I haven't been able to find a photo of the rear of this particualr vehicle to confirm this one way or the other.
Be aware that some of the decal / marking options would require some alterations to the kit. In particular, the colorful camouflaged tank from the 4th Guards Tank Army had the light and horn to the right of the driver, not the left as shown in the kit. Both setups are correct (the real tanks were built both ways) but for that set of markings, they were on the right.
...and here it is after the kit's decals were applied, with some initial weathering
After final painting, here it is on a simple base recalling the last days of WW2.
I gave my pros and cons summary in the first look, but to sum up: This is an inexpensive option for an IS-2. Out-of-the-box, it will build very easily into a beginner's model. More experienced or adventurous modelers can still get a lot out of this kit if they are willing to do some intermediate-level work. It is not up to today's standards without some additions and some work, but it can still be built into a very good model without spending a lot of money or attaining master modeler status. The fixes are all basic tasks we all know how to do.
I had a lot of fun with it. It's a simple kit even with the alterations I made, and with some relatively minor exceptions it is a good IS-2.
Pros: Inexpensive, basic kit. Can be made into an excellent model with some easy work. Interesting new markings included.
Cons: A few production QA problems: some flash, a missing sprue, cheap box, tiny instructions. Accuracy issues are partially corrected, but more needs to be done by the builder.
Thanks to Dragon USA for the review sample.
Reviewed by Danny Egan, AMPS Albany
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