Running of the Bulls
by Jeff Junker and Phil Novak
Before World War I armies across the world were looking for new means to transport their equipment. Horse drawn buggies and carriages did not have the weight capacity or range that was needed. Therefore Germany made many prototypes for motorized vehicles during WWI. None of them were ever mass-produced, as problems with the steering systems were never solved. But in the years after World War I the Reichswehr developed 6 half-tracks, the 1,3,5,8,12, and 18 ton. The eighteen-ton was the heaviest German half-track ever to be produced by the Germans during WWII. Manufactured by Farzeug – Und Motorenbau (FAMO) it was able to pull, as its title says, 18 tons of equipment.
It was also equipped with a 7 ton winch, and a flatbed capable of carrying 2 tons. The most common variant was the F3 version (the one produced by Tamiya) and was primarily used for tank transport. This was a very valuable asset for the Germans as recovery in the railroad lacking Russian battlefields was very difficult, and the FAMO was one of the only ways tanks could be salvaged. Recovery was done by hooking tanks up to a drawbar and towing them back for repairs. Recovery was also accomplished by use of the Sd. Anh. 116 flatbed trailer. However as the war dragged on German tanks became very large and very heavy. For tanks such as the Tiger and Panther 3 half -tracks were used, although it could be done in a pinch with two. For tanks such as the Ferdinand 5 half tracks were necessary! But for the German army the FAMO or “Bull” as the troops called it, was one of the best resources available to them.
Building the Bulls
This is a close-up look at how two modelers – John Daniel and Phil Novak – approached building the Tamiya 1/35 Sd. Kfz. 9 Famo.
Having more models than time to build them, it takes something special for John Daniel to push a project to the front of the queue. The Tamiya Famo was such a model; it begged to be built. “It’s big, German, and has interleaved road wheels; it couldn’t look any more German than if you designed something from the ground up,” explains Daniel.
He painted the exterior with a base coat of Tamiya Desert Yellow, using Tamiya Dark Green and Red Brown for the camouflage pattern. The model was almost completely assembled prior to painting and no primer coat was used. Although he built it with the bumper, most Famo’s did not use one.
Stretched sprue was used to simulate the hydraulic lines on the firewall. A combination of stretched sprue and copper was used for the electrical wiring coming out of the junction box.
The engine block was given a wash of Burnt Umber and Black oil paint. Corrosion on the exhaust manifold was created using Rust-All.
Here’s a good example of the post-shading technique. Often a dark undercoat is used to let small details show through. Not in this case. A thinned down mixture (about 80% thinner, 20% pigment) of Burnt Umber and Black oil paint was sprayed around the panel lies to accentuate them and let the detail pop out.
The first thing the eye is drawn to in this photo is the dirty windshield. This was a case of an error being turned to advantage. The original plan was to use a wash of Tamiya Light Earth to dirty it up a bit. Unfortunately, the wash wasn’t thinned enough resulting in an almost opaque windshield. This was remedied by taking a toothbrush and scrubbing (just the brushing action removed the unwanted paint; no water or solvents were used). Novak suggests that when you attach the windshield wiper motors to the top of the frame, don’t forget they are there: They’re very small and would be impossible to find if they break off. Notice the tachometer and instruments; instead of using paint, regular fine-line roller-ball pens were used.
This view shows the load, which is predominately Verlinden accessories. The eagle on the crate is a Verlinden transfer; Accurate Armor makes the chain. There’s also a view of the windshield from a different angle.
Track color was a mixture of Testors Bronze and Gun Metal, with a little White added. (No records were kept about the mixture, so the formula will forever remain lost.) Rims of the wheels were painted Flat Black.
“I don’t think Tamiya, or anyone else, for that matter, has produced a kit which is engineered as well as the Famo. The only fault I could find, and others have made the same observation, is that the hood is too short to fit snugly; that’s not much to say about a kit of this magnitude,” continues Daniel. ” Anyone, from beginner to expert, could build this and get excellent results. It is that good, and despite all the whining about the cost, it is worth it for the quality of the experience of construction.”
Taking a slightly different approach to painting his Bull, Phil Novak primed it with Flat Black so no overall wash would be necessary. Testors Panzer Dunkelgelb 1943 was used as the base colors with Tamiya Olive Green (XF58) and Hull Red (XF9) providing the camouflage pattern.
After the model was completed it was oversprayed with a light mist of Floquil French Earth Brown (now extinct) mixed with a touch of dust. . “This mixture was put in the airbrush and sprayed at high pressure over the surface. A simple dusting is all that is needed- anything more will ruin the base color,” adds Novak
Unlike the “clean” finish of Daniel’s model, Novak chose to weather his. The mud (from Hudson & Alan) was mixed with water and slapped on to create the “caking” effect. The same mud was thinned down a whole lot and finger-painted onto the windshield. To simulate dust, put the mud on dry; it sticks really well.
The suspension was built straight out of the box and some 40 link per inch chain, dipped in Black-en-it was attached to the tow hook. Daniel cautions to take your time here: ” I would have taken more care with the front suspension and steering– maybe then I wouldn’t have broken it.”
Some additional thoughts were offered by Novak: ” When building the suspension be sure to make certain that the torsion bars all touch the ground. If they don’t, the road wheels will not touch the ground. Also watch out for the drive sprockets. Be sure that you make a left and a right. The tracks won’t fit if the sprockets aren’t correctly assembled. The tracks can also be a little tricky as they are made to be operable when finished. Keep any cement out of the joint so that they remain workable to achieve the proper look when finished.”
Note the oiling diagram on the tool door. It’s a water-slide decal that was super-glued with it backing still in place. The idea behind this was to hide the “knock-out” holes created during the molding process. The tool drawer is filled with accessories from the Tamiya photo-etch tool set for the Panzer IV.
“The coupler is a very beautifully done detail on the model, and great care during assembly will keep it operating like the real thing for many diorama possibilities. The poly cap that is in the body of the coupler isn’t meant to be glued, so don’t get any cement on the part. If you pay close attention to the do not glue symbol in the instructions you should be fine,” continues Novak. (The convoy light is by Aber.)
For my second Famo, I decided to turn the already big project into a huge project, not only by adding the Sd. Ah. 116 Trailer to the mix, but also photo-etch to the half-track. I used parts from both of Aber’s sets and I also used royal models detail set. Assembly went smoothly this time around, as I was aware of the pitfalls, and I was working from a mountain of references. The two most helpful were the Nuts and Bolts on the Famo, and the Allied-Axis Vol. 4. This time around, I spent more time trying to accurately detail the vehicle, and spent most of this time with the engine and firewall. Almost every part Aber provided for the engine and firewall was used. Some of the wiring gets complicated, but take your time and study the reference photos as well as the Aber diagrams and things will fall into place.
Painting took a different approach this time. First I coated the whole vehicle with Tamiya XF-60, dark yellow. I followed this up with 1 part Dark Yellow to 1 Part NATO green for the first camouflage color, and finished up with XF-63 red brown. I then mixed a dark grey and sprayed it thinly and lightly to the panel lines and seams. This gives a shadowy effect and eliminates the need for a wash. After that, I oversprayed the bottom of the parts of the vehicles with a dark muddy color to give a ground in dirt look.
The weathering process was finished off by using a weathering dust that magnetically clings to the surface of the model. Because it is dirt it looks like your vehicle has been running around on the Russian steppe. My first Famo had a heavy layer of mud caked on to the undercarriage, but this one took a different appearance, of a vehicle that was well-used, but not running through the swamps.
The trailer is one of the highlights of the Tamiya line, and is easily one of the most impressive tank movers ever produced. The Tamiya’s replica, although complicated, goes together nicely and with little fuss. Watch out for the steering arms on the bottom of the two bogies, they are rather easily broken. Use caution when screwing the steering linkages on the arms as too much pressure will break the arm. This is the only real hard part of the model. The rest is mostly putting the bed together which is a snap.
Painting is fairly easy, as most of the vehicle is broad areas. It was weathered in the same fashion as the Famo, so that they would blend when linked together. Tamiya’s StuG III G is loaded on the trailer. It includes Friulmodel’s wide Panzer III/IV track.
The Famo is a very interesting vehicle open to dozens of diorama options. For the most part the fit was excellent, but I was quite upset about how the hood had to be lengthened to provide a good fit. Since I am going to build it again (with the trailer), I’ve had a lot of time to think about what I’d do differently. First of all, I’m going to super-detail it using the Aber sets as there is some fine detail missing. Also I would try some different shading methods using an airbrush. Construction would stay the same, as I found painting the parts in the order I did to work perfectly. The only real changes would be to “tweak” it.
When you are assembling the front cab of the vehicle, it is wise to leave of the wire cutters and shovels that are under the seats. They are in a tight location, so painting them in place is a hard job. Once you finish painting the model then install them like usual.
Arriving in a fairly large box, Tamiya’s Famo is one of the most detailed kits I have seen in a long time. It fits together beautifully with very little trouble. All you really have to do is shake the box a little and out pops a kit ready to paint. The instructions are very clear and easy to follow.
With this said the kit, however, is not totally flawless. I had problems getting the hood to sit properly on the radiator and front cab assembly. The part seems to be a little too short to provide a good fit. The engine is very nice indeed consisting of around 19 parts, all of which are superbly detailed. The tracks are excellent reproductions of the real thing and yes, they are workable!
The coupler is another testament to Tamiya’s model making wizardry because it is completely workable, allowing for a wide variety of diorama possibilities. Also interesting are the tool drawers in the side doors of the cargo bay. They are totally breathtaking, especially when you add some tools from Tamiya’s photo-etched Pz IV set. Very nice!
A big surprise that is added is the figures. Tamiya has cleverly made one basic set of figures two by providing different arms to put them in different poses. The front tires are also nice (They’re like the Dragon Wagon’s) made from vinyl and are semi-pneumatic, fitting perfectly around the rim.
Finally, the draw bar is an intriguing piece of equipment as it too is operational. A word on painting – be sure to leave the cargo bed, front cab, engine, tracks and chassis separate for ease of painting. Tamiya suggests using the following colors: Green (X5), Red (X7), Gun Metal (X10), Aluminum chrome (X11), Semi-gloss Black (X18), Flat base (x21), Flat Black (XF1), Flat White (XF2), Flat Brown (XF10), Flat Flesh (X15), Khaki (XF49), Metallic Grey (XF56), Dark Green (XF61), Red Brown (XF64), and Field Grey (XF65)
Tamiya has come up with some good paint schemes and decal options for the kit. A VERY fine kit!
For Further Information on the Famo:
If you are looking for some good reference for your FAMO, look no further then Nuts and Bolts Vol. 12. This excellent publication has wonderful close up detail shots and is a must for superdetailing the Tamiya Kit. The book is written with a slant towards modelers of this vehicle and points out the details overlooked by Tamiya. Starting out with an excellent history of the vehicle, it explains its many uses and introduces its variants.
Also included are many 1/35 scale sketches for not only the towing version, but the artillery, crane, and 88mm FlaK variants. Color plates show some very interesting paint schemes, and a little history of that specific vehicle. A bibliography is also included in the book for further research. It is definitely a great motivator to start that Tamiya kit!
Photos by John Daniel, Phil Novak, and Bill Wolfe