12 agosto 2009

A Bedford in the "crater"

Traigo aquí el Bedford RL a 1/35 de Accurate Armour que tanto disfruté montando y pintando el año pasado, y que es motivo gráfico de la cabecera del blog. Típico "three-tonner" de la guarnición británica de Adén, 1964.
Artículo completo en inglés.
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I bring here the 1/35 Bedford RL from Accurate Armour I enjoyed so much building and painting last year, and graphic motive of this blog headline. Typical three-tonner of the british garrison in Aden, 1964.
Full article in english.

BEDFORD RL, the real thing

Some years after WWII the British Army decided to develope a whole new range of transport vehicles, due to the age and sorry state of most of the fleet as they were WWII veterans if not older. But with cold war warming up and all the branches in the Army needing money for their respective projects, it was decided to keep costs down and to develope a program that combined three groups of vehicles for their transport fleet. First group was composed by vehicles exclusively developed for combat use, the most capable, strong, impressive vehicles that could be designed and built at the time (at a price). Second one were vehicles based on commercial vehicles but modified with all-wheel drive and stronger components. Third one englobed purely commercial vehicles used for administrative work. From the first group, after testing lots of prototypes and new ideas, only a handful of designs arrived to the roads: the Leyland Martian, Alvis Stalwart, Austin Champ, Humber 1 ton, etc. From the second group, with nearly every commercial company making proposals, emerged a vehicle that would nearly outshine all the members of the program: the Bedford RL.

The Bedford RL was based on the commercially available S-type and started its development around 1950. The frame was strenghtened, and new axles and transfer case added to it. The prototype was tested at FVRDE (Fighting Vehicle Research & Development Establishment) in 1951, next year the chassis was standardised as the FV13100 series and entered production for the Army, RAF, Royal Navy and other Government services. It was a rugged, simple, robust vehicle, and also relatively cheap, built by thousands, exported to other countries and employed all over the world. It took over the fame from its predecessor, the famous QL from WWII, and was the standard three-tonner (uprated in 1968 to 4 tons) of the British Army for two decades and still more. First series were built with a six-cylinder petrol engine of 115 bhp and later ones with a six-cylinder diesel of 99 bhp. There were short and long wheelbase versions and was fitted with all kinds of bodies, with some slight changes in the cab along the years (even armoured ones).


Personally, the RL from Accurate Armour came as a real surprise when it appeared. Softskins are not the most popular subjects from model companies, even less british vehicles and far even less post-war ones. But AA is trying to level that and they have been releasing very interesting and nice kits in this class. The kit is made up of resin parts, a big and well-thought photo-etched brass fret, a very complete decal set and some brass rod. Resin detail is very fine and well reproduced, the grey resin quality has improved over the previous green one used these last years (but I will allways prefer the creamy, lovely one from their early days) There were some minor bubbles here and there but they are easy to deal with. My only real regret is the textured surface of the resin pieces: clearly the master parts got a primer coat before mould-making, but the resulting finish is too coarse. Wet sanding is the solution, but while some parts like the cab are easy to work on, others like the cargo body are nearly impossible to sand correctly. Building was in general very straightforward. When all the resin bits are glued together, it's better to drill a hole in two opposite wheels and pin the model to a foam or wooden base for safer handling. Take your time with the PE parts as a lot of them are small and quite delicate.

I just made a few corrections or additions to the kit. I roughened a bit the wooden seats and wooden "bumpers" in the lower body sides with coarse sand paper.The tilt supports were made with plastic rod taking measurements from the resin tilt included in the kit. Earlier tilt suports were very basic, this later version, more intrincate, has more appeal. I discarded and made new trafficators on the cab sides, with a tiny slice of rod as its center, and two sliced and polished sections of transparent sprue, front and back. New too were the headlights and trafficators in the cab, made with small sections of transparent plastic sprue, sanding them to a convex shape, then cutting carefully off the sprue and polished smooth. Fragile details like were wipers, mirror, etc. were added after painting was finished.


Aden is located in Yemen, in the north entry to the Red Sea, a very good natural port and for many years an strategic point from where to police the area and to control shipping into and out this vital route to the Suez Channel. For a long time the United Kingdom had a garrison in the area and when the capital (the "Crater" for the british) and the mountains erupted in revolution a lot of british units rotated in the area.

From the beginning of the project I wanted to paint my Bedford as one of these used in and around Aden. The sand and black scheme was very atractive and the possibilities of weathering very appealing. Before painting, I carefully washed the model in lukewarm, soapy water, with a smooth brush, and let dry well. The metal and PE pieces were primed with a very diluted wash of Tamiya putty in acetone, and added some putty textured with an old, hard brush over the lower areas of chassis, cab and body.

My painting method is quite chaotic, I do not have fixed receipts and like to test and try colour mixes and techniques on each new model. I make base coats and camouflage mixes in a Tamiya jar by eyeball, and directly in the airbrush cup for the filters, etc. I know I'm not an example to follow, but this is the way I work. For the basic colour I usually don't adhere to available ones. The diverse manufacturers, atmospheric agents, application methods, etc, always affect the official colour and that allows us to obtain still more variety in every model.

The sand colour is a mix of Tamiya Desert Yellow with small portions of white, yellow and orange. It was applied in two layers and to get more chromatic variety, I gave smooth filters by airbrushing the same base colour very, very diluted and adding alternatively small amounts of white, yellow, orange and brown, working on different areas and trying to get contrast and variety between them. Over that I airbrushed filters with orange and yellow transparent colurs from Tamiya, very diluted in its solvent.

The next step was painting by hand the black stripes with Humbrol Nº 33, first defining the edges and then filling up the interior. I let dry well for a day and repeated with a second layer.

On the rear axle, the central casing was painted white, as an ingenious light under the chassis iluminated this area at night and worked as a blackout/distance-keeping aid for drivers in convoy work.

For the shadows, first I dampened with Humbrol solvent the zones to work and next gave several very diluted Humbrol dark brown washes around details, panel lines, etc.

Now it was time for the paint chipping. It's a very important phase, and as with every other effect, we must try not to overdone it, it's the total sum of all effects that will give the correct final look. I started using a small, tiny piece of foam (just the type in which airbrushes are packed in) pinned in tweezers to "tap" into the surface and get irregular shapes. It works very well but don't go over it, select the areas to paint, control the shapes and use as less paint as possible. And remember allways to combine it with the brush or the effect wont' look Ok, this technique it's just an add-on to the brush, it doesn't replace it.

I made small scratches and chipping with several Humbrol greens over the sand areas to imitate the original factory-applied Bronze Green, and with sand colour over the black ones to imitate the Light Stone under. This treatment was applied to the most prone areas for that: door and bumper edges, inside the cargo body, etc. On the cargo floor the effects were stronger and combined with drybrushing, almost leaving no sand colour.

For the oxides I employed mixtures of black, red and yellow from Humbrol, varying the proportions for the old, dark oxides or the new, brighter ones. Sometimes I have applied them as little chips in concrete spots, sometimes almost drybrushed, in other cases diluted for stains, or combining the techniques for very battered areas. Over the oxidized areas small filters of the same colours were given to unify the tones.

On areas that suffer continuous rubbing and get a shiny metal finish, I used two methods: small touches of Humbrol Gun Metal and Steel Metal Cote (slightly polished with a rag when dry), and graphite powder (obtained sanding a pencil) applied simply by rubbing with the finger. For the graphite, a little advice: soft pencil graphite holds very well over the paint but sometimes can result too dark, for that reason over the soft pencil you can rub over with hard pencil powder, which is brighter but of smaller adhesion over the paint.

For the dust, first I gave controlled washes with Tamiya Buff and Light Grey heavily diluted in water, when dried the acrylic pigment leaves a very real dust effect. After that I turned to pigments, combining different sand and earth colours on different areas, applied directly with a brush or diluted in turpentine, the secret here is to get the effects as less uniform as posible: play with the amounts, the colours and the shapes.

Some grease, oil and petrol spots and stains were distributed in wheels hubs, axles, transmission, etc. Where fuel and oil get mixed with dust and sand, I applied by brush some brown and orange pastel dust, fixed with a pair of drops of turpentine spirit. Over that I airbrushed black Holbein ink diluted in alcohol, which once dry gives a very nice matt dark grey finish, just like the "caked" real mix of grease and sand. For areas with fresh oil, I applied touches of a mixture of diluted Humbrol black, brown and bright varnish, varying the proportions here and there, and added also some splashes of the same mixture with a hard, old brush, rubbing it against a toothpick. Try also this technique in the undersides of the vehicle, you will be amazed how well it works for imitating the typical dirt in this area.

Glazing for the cab was made carefully cutting the acetate provided in the kit. You will need some "convincing" for the curved windows in the rear. Patience, good music and no coffee!

The decal markings from Accurate Armour are well-printed and offer a wide selection of vehicles. I choosed the red and yellow tactical sign for a RAC unit, and the famous "arab dhou" marking typical for the Aden garrison. The decals received the usual treatment: bright varnish over the zone where they are going to, Micro Sol, decal placement, Micro Set, bright varnish again, and finally water diluted Micro Flat to finish.

Time now for an ice-cold tea?