Building Tamiya’s T-55A
by Phil Novak
For being one of the most widely produced tanks in history, I’m glad Tamiya made a decent kit of it.
Tamiya’s kit is a beauty, and with all of the painting options, I just had to build one. After some deliberation I decided on an Afghanistan T-55, and once I saw the Warriors crew I was sold. I enjoyed every aspect of this kit and loved building it.
Building the kit was pretty straightforward. My additions were Friulmodel tracks, Friulmodel DKSH-M Machine Gun, Trakz corrected roadwheels, Aber engine screens, and a couple of pieces of Eduard photo etch. In retrospect I shouldn’t have really bought the Eduard etch set, as I acquired it late in the build and ended up only using 5 or 6 parts. If you decide to get it for your T55 get it before you start.
Enhancements that I did make from scratch are:
1 Replacing the turret grab handles with new ones fashioned from wire
2 External fuel tubing made from lead solder and tinfoil
3 A new exhaust shroud made from tinfoil
4 Replaced the kit headlight guard with one soldered out of brass,
Probably the hardest thing to do was the fuel tubing, mainly because it is hard to follow where it is supposed to go. Once you get it mapped out it is really a simple job. The exhaust shroud was easy, just take a piece of foil and burnish it around the kit part and presto, you have one that looks better than any commercially available one. I took it easy on this one, just followed the instructions and replace/added what I wanted to.
I started the painting process by painting the whole thing flat black. I used Tamiya XF-1 thinned about 50/50 at around 15 to 20 psi. For all painting I used the Iwata Custom Micron B airbrush and the Iwata Smart Jet Compressor.
Once the black primer coat had dried I sprayed Dark Green (Tamiya XF-61) over the whole thing. I allowed this to dry before painting the camouflage with a mixture of XF-55 Deck Tan and XF-57 Buff. I never get the camo pattern down on the first try, so there was a little going back and forth with the Green and Tan mixture, neatening up and refining the pattern. When I finally had gotten it the way I wanted, I added a coat of X22 clear to give it a semi gloss look and protect it from the weathering process.
When this thoroughly dried, I thinned down some X10 Brown to almost a wash, and put it in the airbrush. I then sprayed around the panel lines and along the camo pattern. This tones down the camo, and gives a ground in dirt look. The next step is to add thecolor washes, mainly a dark brown mix applied to the vehicle in layers. Also some darker mixtures can be used in certain areas, where you want the detail to really stand out. I use enamel and oil paints for the washes because of their superior properties for this sort of work.
Once I’m happy with the results I let the model aside for a few days in order to get a good hard dry on those washes. I then sprayed a light tan mix on the lower hull to simulate dust that has accumulated on the tank. With this dry the paint chipping can begin. There is no easy way to explain how to do this, it is a matter of a really small brush, a little time and some practice. The Arabic numerals were painted by hand with Vallejo acrylics.
I then set out to make the tank look as if it were covered in a gritty sandy dirt. To do this I used MIG Pigments. I mixed Europe Dust and Beach Sand together, and added Tamiya thinner to form a paste. This was then slathered onto the tracks and running gear. It looks pretty bad when you first put it on, but after it dries it looks better. After it was dry, I used a stiff brush and knocked the excess of leaving a nice buildup in the recesses. Then with some more use of the pigments on the exhaust and fuel drum holders, I called the model complete. The figures are from the Warriors range, painted with Vallejo acrylics for the clothing and Model Master Enamels were used as skintones.
Photos by Phil Novak