I built a factory diorama for my T-47 Sheridan walking tank a few weeks ago. Of course, as the style of the build is alternate WWII, the workers in the factory are all female. As it’s Labor Day here in the US, it seemed like the perfect day to post this diorama, and celebrate the achievements of the American worker.
During WW2, the Grumman Corporation was the main builder of fighter aircraft for the United States Navy. At the start of the war, they built the classic F4F Wildcat. This was only the second US Navy fighter with then novel features such as a fully enclosed cockpit and a retractable undercarriage, but it was outperformed by the Japanese Navy’s A6M Zero. To counter this threat, the Wildcat was followed by the larger and more powerful F6F Hellcat.
Sydag has now built the ultimate Grumman prop fighter: the F8F Bearcat. For this Grumman fitted the Hellcat’s R2800 Double Wasp engine to a much lighter and smaller airframe. The result was a bit of a hot rod, with far superior performance. The aircraft also incorporated a bubble canopy, greatly improving the pilot’s view to the rear. Bearcats entered service too late to see combat in WW2 and, with the advent of jet aircraft, they were transferred to the US Navy Reserve, where they received the orange fuselage stripe visible on Sydag’s model. The aircraft were retired from US service in the fifties, but their performance made them an attractive choice for air racing and Rare Bear, a much-modified Bearcat, still holds several world records for propeller-powered aircraft. I obviously like the aircraft, but I like how it is presented even more, with part of a hangar as the backdrop and surrounded by maintenance equipment and aircraft parts, including a spare engine. The classic hot rod (the kind with wheels) is the proverbial cherry on top.
The Battle of Stalingrad continue to fascinate me. Stalingrad became a symbolic battle of the wills between two totalitarian dictators that manifested itself in devastating real-world consequences for over a million men and women who died on the front lines. For me, building LEGO models inspired by such a brutal battle isn’t about cool things that go “Boom!” Using LEGO to build vehicles, minifigs, and dioramas of historical events puts me in touch with aspects of history that I wouldn’t normally explore — I’m reading Antony Beevor’s excellent Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943 alongside my building process.
Back on the 71st anniversary of the end of the battle in February, I posted a small diorama titled Victory in Stalingrad, but didn’t post any of the actual vehicles or minifigs, since I was building toward a much larger diorama for BrickCon this October. I finally managed to take some pictures yesterday.
Not much has changed since February on my KV-1s Heavy Tank (“KV-1s” is the model of the tank, a faster and lighter variant with a lower turret), but I’ve removed the extra plate between the turret and the hull and added some ammunition crates on the rear deck.
The KV-2 Heavy Artillery Tank was based on the KV-1 chassis, so a LEGO KV-2 to follow my KV-1 was inevitable. The monstrous turret enabled me to build quite a bit more functionality into the KV-2, including a fully elevating gun, as well as hatches on the top and rear that both open.
It’s not very often that I come across an aircraft that I know very little about, but
Nikos Andronikos (dodgeyhack) has managed to befuddle me, by building a Australian Beaufort bomber. I know the Beaufort as a British WW2 aircraft that served with the Royal Air Force. What I did not know, however, is that Beauforts also served with the Royal Australian Air Force and were actually license-built down under in significant numbers.
So, the subject of the model is interesting in my book. Beyond that, the model is very nicely done. I like how the wings are angled back, to give their leading edges the proper angle. The camouflage works, which is no mean feat using dark green, and it has goodies such as a retractable undercarriage and an opening weapons bay. To add the proverbial cherry on top of his cake, Nikos has also made a render of the model that shows how some of the major bits go together.
In the thirties, before WW2, many aircraft were biplanes, powered by propellers and built using wood and canvas seemingly held together with bits of string. Not long after the war, all-metal jet- and rocket-powered planes were flying near the speed of sound. These rapid developments did not happen without a lot of experimentation. Some of those experiments produced decidedly odd-looking aircraft. Lino Martins (Lino M) is mostly known for building slightly wacky cars, but he has now built one of those wacky experimental aircraft instead.
The aircraft in question is the Vought V-173, popularly known as the Flying Pancake. It was built to test the viability of building a fighter aircraft using a low-aspect wing. This was expected to deliver relatively low aerodynamic drag, but with good low-speed handling. The concept worked, but the fighter that it was to lead to, known as the XF5U-1 Flying Flapjack (I kid you not), was overtaken (literally) by more modern jet aircraft. The idea may not have been a success, but as far as I am concerned, Lino’s model is.
When the neo-Nazi super-secret evil organization Hydra needs to get the drop on Captain America, they might almost have a fighting chance if they use this sweet mech by Eric Druon (Baronsat).
I think there are definite advantages to building aircraft models on a larger scale, certainly when it comes to details of the shape. However, It’s always a joy to see what Peter Dornbach (dornbi) can do with LEGO on a smaller scale.
During World War II, the Allies fielded approximately 50,000 M4 Sherman medium tanks. But ignoring the hard lessons that the Soviet Red Army learned about German armor on the Eastern Front, the United States and its Western allies delayed production of better-armored tanks with bigger guns until very late in the war. That bigger, better tank — one that could go head to head against German tanks — was the M26 Pershing. However, only 20 Pershings saw combat, between February and May 1945.
American 3rd Armored Division veteran Belton Cooper argues in his 1998 book Death Traps that this delay in fielding the M26 Pershing in favor of the existing M4 Sherman cost thousands of lives on both sides by delaying the end of the war in Europe for six months. As much as I love the Sherman for its iconic “tankiness,” I was inspired while reading Death Traps to try my hand at a Pershing as well. (I was also running out of Technic chain link for narrower tank treads until my first batch of Brickmania Track Links arrived, so I was forced to use the wide LEGO tread pieces if I wanted to build anything.)
After more than a decade on the web and a dozen LEGO events, one of my failures as a builder is that I tend to build first for static display and photography rather than functionality, and it takes a couple of iterations before I go back and give my models a bit more of an interior life. I’ve tried to improve this over the last year by adding internal details to my vehicles like a removable engine in my Shermans. But I still struggle with tank guns that elevate and depress properly. I’ve now addressed this shortcoming with my latest tanks, including this Pershing, my Soviet KV-1, and a couple of my newer Stuarts. Given differences in turret design, the challenge has been that each tank has required a different solution to achieve an elevating gun, ranging from guns that pivot on Technic pins to ones that go up and down on simple hinge bricks. It probably shouldn’t be this hard…
Strangely perhaps, my favorite detail on my Pershing is the set of stowage boxes on the sides, which are half-stud-offset in two directions to leave half-stud gaps between the boxes and a half-stud lip at the edge of the tank. You can see this best in this comparison shot, which shows just how much lower and wider the Pershing is compared to the older Sherman — a difference that made the Pershing simultaneously harder to hit and more agile on rough terrain.
Finally, here’s a quick little build I tossed together to showcase some of the rarer BrickArms elements that I’d picked up around BrickCon last year — an original American version of the M3A1 Scout Car that I posted last summer in Lend Lease program Soviet livery.
I managed to pack all of the following custom elements into this tiny little armored car:
- BrickArms M2HB .50 caliber machine gun (prototype)
- BrickArms M1917 .30 caliber Browning machine guns (x2 prototypes)
- Citizen Brick US Army Ranger torsos
- BrickArms brodie helmets
- BrickArms M1 Garand rifles (x2 overmolded “Reloaded” version)
- BrickArms M1917 printed crate
- Citizen Brick diamond plate tiles
For those of you curious what “overmolded” means, it’s an injection molding process in which a second color of plastic gets injected on top of another, bonding the two together. Will Chapman of BrickArms has been experimenting with the technique for a year or two, with absolutely beautiful results. But don’t expect to see this in large quantities anytime soon — Will hand-injects each batch in his secret laboratory. Josh and I had the privilege of visiting the BrickArms workshop last year, and learned first-hand just how labor-intensive the overmolding process is. Nevertheless, some of the overmolded items are available for sale from BrickArms resellers.
71 years ago today — on February 2nd, 1943 — the Red Army defeated German forces who had occupied Stalingrad more than 5 months earlier. Nearly half a million Soviet men and women were killed defending their city from Nazi aggression. The Battle of Stalingrad is arguably the turning point of World War II — a horrendous loss for Hitler and the Third Reich that weakened German forces and led ultimately to Allied victory 2 years later.
Although I haven’t had as much LEGO time over the last six months or so, I’ve managed to keep building. Spurred on by the new Brickmania Track Links, I finally got around to photographing the dozen or so models I’ve pumped out since BrickCon in October. The buildings and minifigs in my diorama of Stalingrad were part of the “Operation Brickarossa” collaboration last year, but my KV-1s tank is new.
Compared to smaller and stranger tanks I’ve built, the KV-1 was relatively “easy” and I don’t have a whole lot in the way of build notes. One recent change to my building methods is to try to include more functionality from the start. Admittedly, I failed to do so on the turret hatches, but this is one of my first tanks to include a gun that elevates and depresses properly.
With several hours of photography and editing out of the way, I’ll be posting the rest of my models on Flickr, along with write-ups here. In particular, check back for full reviews of the new Track Links, BrickMania kits, BrickArms items, and more.