logomed.jpg (13561 bytes)

 

Accurizing and Converting VM's Valentine to a Canadian Valentine Mk VII in Soviet Use

JP Morgan

"A Silk Purse from a Sow’s Ear"

Lately, the release of long-awaited plastic kits of specific vehicles only previously released in resin has increased substantially. Although beneficial to the wallets of modellers, many of these kits lack the detail quality that we’ve come to expect from the likes of Tamiya and Dragon. The VM Valentine falls into this category. Although the basic dimensions are acceptable and the model would be a decent scale representation of the actual vehicle if built straight out of the box, many details are oversimplified or missing.

The Mark of Valentine built from the VM kit is the Infantry Tank Mark III Valentine Mark II or perhaps a Valentine Mark IV (different engine), contrary to the incorrect labelling. Wanting to build a Canadian-manufactured Valentine Mark VII, I would have to make further changes beyond simple accurizing of the kit.

Background

With Britain unable to afford to send many of its tanks to Russia under the Lend-Lease program, all Canadian-built Valentines were allocated to the Russians. Montreal Locomotive Works (Canadian Pacific) produced 1,420 Valentines, Marks VI, VII, and VIIA. All but the initial 30 Valentines produced were shipped to the Russians under Lend-Lease, and these were barely distinguishable from the British-made Mark II and Mark IV. Canadian-produced Valentines were considered by the Russian Army to be the best Allied vehicles supplied to them during the war. Valentine Mk VI’s were the 1st Canadian production model. They were built using Canadian engineering standards utilizing a GMC diesel engine as well as a cast nose section and turret. Browning .30 Cal MG’s replaced the Besa MG’s after the 16th vehicle. The Mk VII was an improved Mk VI with different radios and internal changes. The Mk VIIA had jettisonable fuel tanks, studded tracks, and other minor changes.

The sole surviving Canadian-built Valentine Mk VIIA presently rests at Vimy House, the Canadian War Museum’s storage facility. Recovered from a bog approximately 180 km south of Kiev in 1989, it returned to Canada in 1992.

The Model

Starting with the VM Models Valentine IV Mk III kit, Fruilimodelissimo Valentine tracks, an Eduard Photoetch set and a Jordi Rubio aluminum gun barrel were utilized for this project. At the time of writing, I am not aware of any aftermarket conversion sets that address the VM kit’s shortcomings, so all other details were modified or scratchbuilt.

Suspension and Lower Hull

The suspension requires a great deal of attention. All 4 suspension brackets had huge sinkholes on either side of the return roller brackets which required filling. The flanges on the suspension brackets are not as prominent as they should be, so they were beefed up with .020 in strip styrene and carved to shape. Similarly, the suspension possessed less than half the required bolts, so the Historex punch and die set earned its pricetag. The coil springs were very poor, so I replaced them with coiled wire centered on aluminum tube struts. These springs were actually formed with square stock, but I felt that to replicate it would be more trouble than it would be worth. The tires needed to be rounded on their edges, and this was carried out with wet/dry sandpaper and a Scotchpad.

The construction of the remainder of the lower hull was straightforward with the exception of the cast nose, panel seams being carved, additional bolts being added, and some minor filling. The 3 inspection covers on the lower rear hull were removed, and the outer idler supports hollowed out to accept a track adjusting tool. At this stage I cemented the upper hull to the lower hull, so that the hull nose could be modified as one unit.

To prepare for the casting texturing, all the bolts were removed from the hull nose and glacis plates, all seams filled, hard edges were rounded, and the joint between the glacis and the vertical glacis was filled and rounded. The vertical glacis angles were changed, as thee should be a final ‘step’ on either side, rather than a continuous slope to the outer edges. Casting numbers were also added prior to the stippling, but they can be added later, depending on the desired effect. Photo references and the Vimy House survivor show a flat circular projection on the lower glacis plate, so this was added prior to the stippling as well.

Casting Texturing

The main identifying features of the Canadian-built Valentines are the cast turret and the cast nose.  The cast texture on the hull nose and the turret was accomplished by stippling a mixture of automotive spot & glaze putty, Tamiya putty, and Testors liquid cement on to the selected areas using a cut down Testors paintbrush. Drying very quickly, and bonding extremely well to the polystyrene plastic, additional coats are stippled on until an appropriate roughness is achieved. Using a worn out Scotchpad, the surface is smoothed slightly to achieve the desired cast effect, dependant on the roughness of the actual vehicle’s castings. Adjacent areas that are not cast can be protected with masking tape. This same technique was employed on the final drive housings, as well as the rusty texture on the exhaust pipe. Casting numbers were added to the turret, mantlet and glacis using MBS styrene letters and numbers lifted from sprue trees.

The Upper Hull

Strangely, the Eduard PE set concentrates solely on the upper hull, with no detail parts for the turret. Eduard does a good job at providing the modeller with scale thickness parts for the majority of the oversized kit parts. I used the VM kit’s fender supports rather than the Eduard PE ones; they are perfectly acceptable after being sanded thinner and with the addition of bolts and rivets. The jack blocks were cut from basswood, stained, and installed in the PE holder after all painting was completed. The driver’s hatches require hatch stops to be scratchbuilt with styrene, and the hatches themselves require modification. Styrene rod hinges were added, handles were replaced by brass rod, and the top edges were sanded to allow for the added hinges. Additional details on the hull front included adding electrical wiring to the headlights, replacing the marker lights with tiny MV lenses, adding additional armour to the driver’s headcover using .010in styrene and bolts, and the rearview mirror mount was scratchbuilt using copper wire and lead foil.

The VM kit fenders, both front and rear, have inaccurate zigzag patterns representing the rubber fender extensions. The front fenders require numerous bolts to be added along the zigzags, as the rubber extensions are bolted on. These zigzags need to be filled on the rear fenders, and the fenders need to be built up and re-contoured to a more rounded shape. All fenders were substantially thinned. Eduard thoughtfully included the small side fenders for the front. Rather than have these very thin PE parts hanging unsupported, and therefore susceptible to damage, I left the kit’s side fenders in place. Sanding heavily thinned them, and I cut them back so that they are not visible.

One prominent error on my Valentine is the headlights – Canadian Valentines utilized the same drum-shaped headlamps as on CMP vehicles, rather than the bell-shaped headlamps supplied in the kit. Unfortunately, This wasn’t noticed until well after completion. C’est la vie. Forewarned, go ahead and pilfer the headlights from that old CMP kit in advance.

Along the left side of the hull, tow cable support hooks were added to the muffler guard using sheet styrene that was carved to shape and bolts from the punch & die set. Careful bending of the PE muffler guard extension was required to ensure the same curve as the kit supplied muffler guard. The unique exhaust pipe of the Valentine was carefully hollowed out with a dremel, and was textured as previously described. The Eduard PE tool holders were installed, and the pitiful VM-supplied shovel was thrown out and replaced by one from the spares box. A suitable wingnut and washer were added to the pick head. Kit-supplied fire extinguishers can always benefit from PE, and this one is certainly no exception. The Eduard set supplied not only the retaining strap and buckle, but the mounting bracket as well.

The right side of the hull benefits from Eduard PE as well. All the toolbox hasps were carved off and replaced with PE items. PE tool brackets were added to the top of the toolboxes. The strip hinge on the rear toolbin was modified using styrene strip and rod to closely match the hinge on the forward bin.

Moving to the rear of the hull, numerous holes were filled, and bolts added. The taillight benefited from a red MV lens, wiring and additional bolt / rivet detail. As mentioned earlier, the rear fenders required re-contouring to a more rounded appearance using sheet styrene and Tamiya putty.

Engine & Radiator Covers

A prominent feature of the Valentine tank is the radiator covers; unfortunately VM dropped the ball here as oversimplification has been done to an extreme. A cheap dimestore toy would have more detail. Throw the radiator covers (part A4) away and scratchbuild them, or modify then as described here. I modified the radiator covers directly on the upper hull, which required some shoring up on the hull interior. The cover has a very thick border that must be removed on all 3 sides and rebuilt with thinner styrene strip, and must be notched along the bottom edge in which thin strip was cemented to create a flange. Thin but wide styrene strip is then added perpendicular to the top and side strip in order to form a wide flange on these sides. Rivets were placed around the first strips approximately every 1.5 mm. Hinges were scratchbuilt just above the corner bevel, and strap hinges were built at the bottom corners.

The engine deck got spruced up with less work. New lifting handles were fashioned from copper wire – bent to shape then flattened with pliers at the tips – and bolts. A spring-loaded latch was built with styrene and wire on the right rear corner. Testors liquid cement was liberally applied to select panels of the model, including the engine deck – the cement etches the plastic and creates a slightly different surface texture, albeit subtle.

The Turret

As it comes in the kit, it represents a British-made Mk II or Mk IV turret, but needs corrections to be that. To convert it to a Canadian-produced turret, the cast front was blended with the remainder of the turret, and the turret bustle had to be completely reshaped. The pistol port door was removed carefully, rotated 180 and repositioned, as it was molded on backwards. The vision port base was thinned substantially, and the armoured cover was thickened with styrene. Once satisfied with the basic shape, the turret was cast textured as previously described. Casting numbers were applied to the turret side and the mantlet. As the turret bustle had extended too far down on the turret originally, once it was reshaped the lower ring of bolt was continued around the back of the turret, using bolts salvaged from the turret prior to reshaping.

Prior to the installation of the turret roof, sheet styrene was installed along the front of the turret above the mantlet. This blocked off from below the front ventilator slots once they were opened up. A hole was drilled on either side of this ventilator for inserting lifting eyes. Rearward of this front ventilator, the molded ‘ridge’ was removed, and rows of vent holes were drilled, and a cover was scratchbuilt with brass shim and Grant Line bolts to replace it. Antenna mounts were reconstructed using styrene, using reworked portions of the originals. The hatches were detailed by adding bolts and styrene rod for the hinges. Using .010in styrene, the padlock hasps were replaced, as was the multi-hinged front hatch stay, the rear hatch stay, and the Commander’s vane sight. The Lakeman Anti-Aircraft mount (a spring-loaded contraption that supported a drum-fed Bren gun) was scratchbuilt using styrene rod and some .010 styrene with fine wire wound for the spring. Finally, the poor VM 2 Pdr barrel was replaced with a Jordi Rubio aluminum barrel, and the kit’s Besa MG was replaced with the barrel of a Browning .30 Cal from the spares box.

Tracks

The tracks in the VM kit are horrible. The fruilimodellisimo white metal replacement tracks are truly outstanding. The tracks assemble very easily using pins that are cut from wire supplied. Once 2 runs of 103 links are completed (about 2 evenings in front of the TV) , the tracks were treated to a wash of black enamel. The Valentine was fitted with manganese tracks, which didn’t rust, so don’t hammer the rust wash to them. Once fitted to the model, they were treated with a of white glue/water/dish soap solution which solidified them once dry.

Painting

Once construction was fully completed, a coat of Tamiya flat black was applied – this served as both a primer and a base coat. Any final problems visible after painting were rectified, and repainted. I prefer the black undercoat method – the entire model is painted flat black (or brown, if it is a desert scheme) then a dark variation of the final colour is applied only to the centre of panels, but letting some overspray colour the black somewhat. A lighter variation of the base colour is applied in a more detailed manner – that is, only the very centre of panels are painted, and the previous darker coat is allowed to be visible towards the edges. Once completely dry, the markings are applied (in this case, they were Verlinden dry transfers) and the model is dullcoated. After allowing the dullcoat to dry completely, subtle washes are applied locally to represent fuel spills, etc. Dark pastels are applied with a 0 brush around all joints, etc. Exhaust and cordite is simulated with black pastel. Depending on the weathering being done, pastels may be used, or airbrush. In the case of the Valentine, the suspension was dusted with a muddy brown using an airbrush, and additional dust applied using pastels.   Stowage was from the spares box, and the unditching beam was a twig from the garden.

Conclusion

Would I recommend this kit? But surely. Turning "a sow’s ear into a silk purse" was very rewarding, and it gave me as much pleasure as any model that I have ever built, and more. None of the modifications that I made to this kit were beyond the realm of most modellers, and those modifications rectify 98% of the kit’s errors. I now have a model of a rare vehicle – one of 1390 tanks built by Canada which was sent as aid to Russia early in WWII.

 References:

British and American Tanks of WWII Chamberlain & Ellis

Valentine IV (MV-02 & 05), Military Vehicle Workshop Series Allied Command Publications

Valentine Infantry Tank – Museum Ordnance Special #10 Paul Roberts

Valentine Mk III AFV Profiles # 6

Vindicating VM’s Valentine – Military Modelling Vol 28 No 12 Phil Dyer

Bellona Military Vehicle Prints Series 34

Blueprint for Victory William Gregg

Photos & measurements taken at Vimy House, Canadian War Museum

Main What's New Articles Reviews Gallery Think Tank Contests