Bob Letterman

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(02) “Logistics” The Armor

August 24th, 2012 by admin

I have decided to consolidate all the threads involved with the large diorama, “Logistics”, into five specific threads. (1) The base and buildings, (2) the soft skin vehicles, (3) the armor vehicles, (4), the Rail road models and (5) the figures. This topic will eventually include ALL armored vehicles in the diorama.

(1)The M-32 B1
By Bob Letterman

Here is a frontal pic of the M-32 B1 I am building for the new diorama “Logistics”. The dio will have forty eight vehicles and 300 plus figures on an 8′ X 5′ base. The basic kit of this conversion is the Tasca kit with parts from the old Italeri M-32 and many photo-etch parts from Aber, Eduard, VP, and Trakz, plus some scratch parts and those from the parts bin. Click on images to enlarge.

Here is a rear view

and a view of the side.

Here are a few more photos, plus the last one base coated.

After painting, it sat with all the other vehicles for almost a year so the paint was really hard. These shots show the first wash and the first drybrushing. Many stages to go.

I will finish the crew before I go any further. Their step by step will be posted on “Logistics”, the Figures thread.

I finally finished up the M-32 B1 A.R.V. It took longer than usual, but it has been several years since I weathered a tank, so, the rest should speed up as I go along. Here is a 3/4 shot from the front.

Here is a close up. Note the eyeglasses on the crewman on the left. I hand painted the Mighty Mouse art on the turret, A long time since I did that as well. The image and the text can be covered with a dime.

An overhead view from the front.

A view as a human would see it.

From the right side. In the dio, this will be practically invisible to the viewer.

A close up of the rear. I added a lot of chains, cables, pulleys and stowage.

An overhead shot of the rear.

Finally, a side view.

It’s always good for me to get one finished. With another 47 vehicles to go, it’s a beginning!


(2)M4A3E2 Jumbo 76mm Upgraded

I still have 6 Shermans to build for the dio, one is already built, painted and weathered. Way back in the late eighties, I had built a lot of Shermans using the various VP update sets so we could feature them at trade fairs at the VLS booths. All of them have disappeared over the years except one. An M4A3E2 conversion. It had been carried from place to place, many of the parts lost forever, but somehow, it managed to survive. As I was going through kits, it caught my eye. Dusty and battered, wrong tracks, plus many other flaws, I decided to give it a full makeover. I have done that at other times in my life and have always been pleased at the outcome. It’s a satisfaction thing with me.

Somehow, saving an otherwise trash canned model always gave me some extra enthusiasm to turn it into something really special. You know, the ugly duckling thing! I decided to make it an upgunned 76MM version of the M4A3E2 and put it at the head of the 7 Sherman column. I took these pics to post here before I started tearing it down to begin the revitalization!

I’ll be adding a lot of PE and other resin updates as well as a few personal scratch additions.

I build in many sub components until painted, then assemble and weather. The Jumbo is ready for a base coat. This shot is of all the components and details including the 4 man crew and one of the tank riders. On all seven Shermans in the column, all will have tank riders and a four man crew, so there will be 53 figures in and on the tanks alone.

Here is the hull. I have replaced several of the stamped wheels with open spoke and solid ones.

The turret with new mount from Combat models, Eduard and Aber PE. I mostly raided my scrap box and my unused PE parts to detail this Jumbo. Also note the field modification mount for the .30 cal machine gun. This was a common practice in the 4th Armored Division in 1945. They repositioned the .50 cal towards the front and mounted a .30 cal directly on top of the gunners periscope. PE from Trakz and VP used for sights, periscope guards. O.D. plastic parts from Tamiya, Tasca and Italeri. I made the MG rack on the rear of the turret with spare parts and a scratch MG mount. I thought I would add a spare .50 cal. on this tank. The gunner will be loading .50 cal. belts into two ammo cases. When they began upgunning the old Jumbos from 75mm to 76mm main guns, they also traded out the mantlet MG from a .30 cal. to a .50 cal.

Here is the Jumbo with as much equipment as I could place on it without gluing it down. I scratched two kinda complicated towing gudgeons, added a PE hull MG, PE light guards and tie downs on the rear hull. I used Stucco, an Italian putty product that I prefer to texture the turret and transmission cover as well as used it for mud on the lower hull.

Here are the crew members, I will actually cover them in depth in the fifth thread on this diorama, Logistics, the figures. Three are from Custom Dioramics and the fourth from Warriors. Various arms and heads were used to pose them. Custom Dio PE was used for straps, belts and eye glasses.

Various equipment to be added after painting and weathering. Three MGs, two fifties, one will be mounted on the rear of the turret, and the main .50 on the turret mount. Both are Tamiya, upgraded with Eduard and Aber PE parts. A Combat Series .30 cal. cast brass, with an Aber pintle. Eduard prepainted ammo cases, and various Custom Dioramics bedrolls, kitbags and rucksacks.

More equipment, Formations antennae, Eduard fenders, Elefant tow cable, Minimeca lenses and modified VP hatches with Trakz periscopes.

The MG components.

The crew shown in place with the tank rider at the rear.

I really like using PE glasses. Before they were available, I used to make them out of microscopic wire and what a pain in the butt that was. I’ll cover more of those in the figure thread.

I base coated the Jumbo. Here are two shots with base paint Olive Drab.

Here are some pics of the Jumbo after weathering, detailing and adding the 8 figures. The crew has the insignia of the 4th armored division, while the riders are of the 79th Infantry Division.

For effect, I set the Jumbo on the base it will eventually go. I cleared the color and added a sepia tone. This is how it would have looked in WW II photographs. I now have two of the Shermans finished, only 6 more to go.

Still have five more Shermans to build, but that is all that’s left of the 48 vehicles for the diorama.


Well, I’ve made some progress on the five Shermans left to fill out the column. As these will be the tanks under the command of Colonel Creighton Abrams, most had to be modified. In February of 1945, a directive was passed down to upgrade all the Shermans in the 4th armored division including the 37th Tank Battalion and Combat Command “B”, with armor taken from the glacis plates and side hulls of destroyed Shermans and Panthers. A kit was devised and the maintenance crews began the job of up-armoring. First, the .50 cal. was moved to the rear of the loaders cupola, and a .30 machine gun was mounted on the commander’s forward periscope cover. The .30 caliber that was mounted in the mantlet adjacent to the tank’s main gun was replaced by a .50 ca. machine gun.

Then, armor plating taken from the destroyed tanks were made on a pattern to fit the full glacis plate and to extend further down over the transmission cover. Two rectangular slabs of armor with about an inch of spacing were added to both sides of the hull. Finally, a three piece armor addition was made to fit each side of the turret.

No doubt that Patton had something to do with this as he hated sandbag armor. General Bradley observed some of these up-armored tanks while on a visit to Patton’s HQ and was so impressed, he began having some of the armored divisions in the north upgraded using a similar method.

I’ve been able to complete three to the ready to base coat point. I have added not only the additional armor, but parts from the scrap box, lots of PE and the additional weapons ordered by the directive. Two Shermans on the diorama, an M4A3E2 Jumbo up-gunned to a 76mm, and an M32 B1 ARV were completely finished earlier. There will be a total of 7 Shermans in this column, so, now, I only have 2 more to build. I made a pattern for the additional armor and it is or will be added to the M4A3E8, the M4A3 76mm, and the M4A1 76mm Shermans. I had quite a job locating an M4A1 cast hull with the armor added, and managed to find one. The same pattern was used, they simply made extensions to accommodate the rounded hull. The other two are from the Dragon M4A3E8, Thunderbolt VII kit which has the armor included. I used one of those, slightly modified to make the sets out of white plastic for the remaining three.

Here is the first conversion, the M4A3E8 76mm.

Then the second conversion, the M4A1 76mm.

And the third, the Thunderbolt VII.

Finally, all three together.

I have already started on the last two. Sometime next week, I’ll get a base coat of olive drab on these three and let them harden for a few months.

It may not seem so, but I am making headway. There are only three more vehicles to build. Of course, one of them is a railway gun, but what the hell. 29 are finished and 14 are base coated and ready to weather and finish.

Got some base coats on the three Shermans. I’ll let them harden for a couple of months and then begin weathering. I still have several softskins to weather and a railroad gun to finish building and paint,

The first of the Shermans is an M4A3E8. All of the Shermans in the diorama will be CCB, (Combat Command “B”) of the 4th Armored Division and had the modifications, added armor and armament,

This one is an M4A1 76mm. It also has the modifications.

And this kit Dragon’s Thunderbolt Seven came with the modifications.