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Scale Model Kits for 40K

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Historical Vehicle Kits for 40K Space Marine and Imperial Guard Armies


Why?

GW provides a good range of vehicle kits, however it can be a lot of fun converting historical kits. While they will not be tournament legal, they will give a distinctive look to your army, and save money as well.

This article looks at the following issues in choosing kits.

  1. Scales
  2. Realistic size of GW versus historical kits
  3. Style points that may influence choice
  4. Examples of well-known vehicles
  5. Examples of lesser-known vehicles
  6. Links to historical data
  7. Recommendations of available kits

Scales

Scales are normally specified in terms of their proportion, such as 1/35 or 1/72.

The scale 1/72 means that a part which is 72 feet long in real life, will be only 1 foot long on the model. This makes it easy to find out how large a model kit is going to be. Look up the dimensions of the real life item, and divide by the scale. It’s also easy to convert up from the model’s dimensions to the original item, or to a different scale model.

Wargame figures are traditionally expressed in terms of the height of the model from sole to eyes in millimetres. Classic wargame scales are 25mm, 15mm and 20mm.

The nominal scale of 40K is 28mm ‘heroic’. If you convert this to proportional scale, GW infantry models are supposedly about 1/60 scale. (A six foot tall man measures five feet eight to the eyes.) Other manufacturers sometimes describe 28mm as 1/56 scale.

If you take a GW figure and measure it, it probably does measure about 28mm to the eyes. However, the proportions of the figure are distorted. The head is enlarged, the legs are shortened and the accoutrements and the weapons are exaggerated. This is what’s called ‘heroic’ proportions and it helps give 40K figures a look to themselves.

However scales can be deceptive because the appearance of models depends partly on our psychological interpretation of the key features of the model.

if you put a GW figure next to a 1/72 scale figure, it looks absolutely massive.

If you put a GW figure next to a 1/48 scale vehicle, it looks rather large. But a GW figure next to a 1/35 scale vehicle looks ‘about right’ although it is theoretically a much smaller scale (1/60 compared to 1/35.)

Here is a table showing the dimensions of GW kits and some historical vehicle kits in 1/35 and 1/48 scales.


Historical vs 40K Vehicle Comparison

40K L (cm) W (cm) H (cm)
Landraider 17 10 7
Rhino 11.5 7.5 5
Predator 11.5 7.5 6.5
Baneblade 22.5 14 11
Leman Russ 11 8 7.5
Basilisk 11.5 9 4.5
Chimera 11.5 9 6


1:35 scale L (cm) W (cm) H (cm)
US M113 13.9 7.7 7.1
US Bradley M2A2 18.7 10.3 8.5
Soviet BA-10 13.3 5.7 6.3
British Centaur 18 8.3 8.1
Italian Semovente 14 6.3 5.3
French Char 1 Bis 18.2 7 8
Pzkpfw III 15.8 8.3 7.1
Fiat M13/40 14 6.3 6.8
Soviet T35 27.7 9.1 9.8


1:48 scale L (cm) W (cm) H (cm)
US M113 10.1 5.6 5.2
US Bradley M2A2 13.6 7.5 6.2
Soviet BA-10 9.7 4.2 4.6
British Centaur 13.1 6.1 5.9
Italian Semovente 10.2 4.6 3.9
French Char 1 Bis 13.3 5.1 5.8
Pzkpfw III 11.5 6.1 5.2
Fiat M13/40 10.2 4.6 5.0
Soviet T35 20.2 6.6 7.1




The M113 is the most useful vehicle to look at since the Rhino is based on it.

You can see that GW vehicles are rather short and wide compared to real vehicles. It is also clear that while 1/48 scale should match reasonably well to 28mm heroic, they are actually significantly smaller than the GW vehicles. It is often remarked that GW’s own vehicles are not nearly large enough to contain the models they are able to transport.

By choosing 1/35 scale you will get vehicles that match pretty well to the GW models in width and height, though they will tend to be longer.


Choosing an Army Style

There are five points to consider when choosing kits for your army.

What is the style of your army? SM are a bit more high-tech than IG whose vehicles basically look like tanks from WW1 or the 20s and early 30s. Do you want to follow these kind of styles, or go for a variant style? The galaxy is large enough to allow for a high-tech Guard army or half-track Marines.

Whether you go for something that is similar to the GW originals or something a bit different -- you may want to choose vehicles that are not easily recogniseable as historical. To some extent the appearance of a vehicle can be disguised by modifications and wargear, and to help this along you could choose vehicles from the smaller armies such as Japanese or Italian.

GW vehicles are built in families on the same chassis (Rhino, Razorback, Predator, Vindicator.) You should choose vehicles which have some sort of common features to make them look like a family. The running gear is often very characteristic, and a number of armies used one basic chassis for a variety of vehicles. The basic PzKpfW 38 -- a WW2 German tank captured from the Czechs, was used as a tank, and as a chassis for two different self-propelled guns.

The Land Raider is larger than the Rhino, and the Leman Russ is larger than the Chimera. Similarly, you should choose a model for your ‘counts as’ Leman Russ, which is proportionally larger than your ‘counts as’ Chimera.

Finally you have to choose models that are available. However much you like a vehicle, it’s no good if there isn’t a company that makes a kit for it.


Mixing and Matching Kits

By choosing a vehicle family you can get access to kits depicting the different vehicles built on the same chassis. You will often find the same vehicles in kits by different producers. This can give you spare bits in a kit which you can use for detailing your scratchbuilds. If the kits from different makers vary slightly in dimensions, this can depict vehicles produced by different forge worlds. As long as you pick all the same scale, the kits will be largely compatible.


Well-known Vehicle Families


German tanks of WW2

PzKpfw 38 series The PzKpfw 38 was a Czech tank produced by Skoda. It had not entered service when the Germans invaded Czechoslovakia and they captured many undelivered tanks along with spares, designs and tooling. The Germans continued to produce the tank until the middle of WW2. As tank gun size increased, the small chassis was unable to support a turret large enough to take a big gun. The chassis was used instead for a variety of self-propelled guns. There are different kits available using the same basic chassis.

The characteristic feature of the 38 series is the four large road wheels without any return rollers.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panzer_38(t)


PzKpfw III and IV series

These were Germany’s main tanks of WW2. The model III fought into the mid-war in various marks and variations such as self-propelled guns. The model IV became the more important model in the later war period, because it could carry heavier guns, and was also used for SPG chassis.

Both tanks have a classic look with near-vertical, rhomboidal armour plates, rivets, and small road wheels.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panzer_III http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panzer_4


Tiger series

Another German tank of WW2 this was a much heavier and more powerful vehicle than the Pz III and IV. 
The armour design is somewhat similar to the Pz III/IV series and makes for a good family resemblance.

The only variant of the basic Tiger was the Sturmtiger assault gun.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiger_I http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sturmtiger

Later in the war the Germans put together their knowledge from the Tiger and the Panther and produced the Tiger II. This combined the armour thickness and gun of the TIger I with the modern armour design of the Panther, and looks rather like a Panther on steroids.

The Tiger II was also used for the Jagdtiger self-propelled anti-tank gun.


Panther series

A very well-known tank which was also produced as the SPG Jadgpanther. The many overlapping road wheels and well sloped armour make it easily recogniseable. Compared to the Pz III/IV and Tiger I it is a more modern looking design.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panther_tank


Russian Tanks of WW2

Before the war the Russians produced a couple of multiple-turret designs, the T35 and T38. These are available in kit though the T35 is OOP and hard to find. They would make nice super-heavies.

The key Soviet designs though were the T34 and KV. Both of these fought throughout the war in a variety of models as tanks and self-propelled guns. The KV is the more old-fashioned looking design, with smaller road wheels and less well sloped armour. Later in the war the Josef Stalin models were introduced. These have a frying pan shaped turret.

  1. T35 -- Pre-war design with one large and two small turrets
  2. T38 -- Pre-war design with one large and four small turrets
  3. T34 -- Classic early war design which was used for multiple variants
  4. KV1 -- Classic early war heavy tank, used for multiple variants
  5. KV2 -- KV chassis with a huge turret with 155mm gun
  6. T34/85 -- Later war upgrade of the T34 with a larger turret and 85mm gun
  7. SU100 -- Self-propelled gun on T34 chassis with 100mm gun
  8. SU120 -- SPG on T34 chassis with 120mm howitzer
  9. SU155 -- SPG On KV Chassis with 155mm howitzer

US Tanks of WW2

The Sherman is the classic, and the same chassis, with six road wheels on three bogies, was used for the M10 and M36 tank destroyers. Many models of Sherman were made with differences to the body shell, the turret and armament.

The early war Lee/Grant has similar running gear with three double bogies per side. The light tank M3 (Stuart, or Honey) has the same look though only two bogies per side. The Lee/Grant was also used as the basis of an SPG.

In the late war the Chaffee and Pershing were introduced and are worth looking at because of their relative obscurity compared to the Shermans.

  1. M3 Lee/Grant -- Sherman style road wheels, with a sponson mounted heavy gun and a small turret
  2. M3 Stuart/Honey -- A light tank with four Sherman style road wheels
  3. M4 Sherman -- The classic. Multiple variants were produced during and after the war.
  4. M10 -- A tank destroyer with a heavy gun in an open turret on Sherman style road wheels
  5. M36 -- Another tank destroyer similar to the M10 but with a different turret and gun.

British Tanks of WW2

British tanks divide into two overall groups -- the “Infantry” tanks (Matilda and Churchill) and the “Cruisers.”

The infantry tanks were designed as slow and heavily armoured vehicles to accompany and support infantry. They have multiple small road wheels and lots of riveted armour and look very Imperial.

The cruisers were faster and more lightly armoured. The running gear was the Christie type of suspension usually with five large road wheels per side. The armour was not cleverly designed and was often disposed in vertical or near vertical plates. This makes it look very Imperial and it is easier to add new armour using plastic card.

Since there were many similar models and variants, it is a good area for mixing and matching.

  1. Matilda -- An early war Infantry tank
  2. Churchill -- A mid-late war infantry tank. Multiple variants were produced
  3. Crusader -- An early war light cruiser tank
  4. Comet -- A mid-war cruiser
  5. Centaur -- A similar mid-war cruiser

Obscure Vehicles

Italy

Commonality of national origin is seen in the armour design, the running gear and the bow machine-gun barbette. All were manufactured by Fiat. These Italian tanks are practically unknown unless you are a western desert war aficionado. The armoured doors on the hull sides underneath the turret are an obvious place to put Imperial style sponsons.

  1. Semovente M41 75/18
  2. Carro Armato M13/40
  3. Carro Armato M14/41

France

French tank development stopped in 1940 for obvious reasons. Their operational tanks were all pre-war designs. The use of cast armour rather than rivetted, gives French vehicles a common style that’s different to other European tanks. The running gear (when visible) consists of small road wheels on bogies sprung with large coil springs.

  1. Char 1 Bis -- A large tank with a turret and a hull-mounted heavy gun. It has vertical sides and tracks that run around the top of the hull, like most Imperial vehicles. This allows big sponsons to be attached easily.
  2. Somua S35 -- A medium tank with a tall profile somewhat similar to the Char 1 Bis. The turret is very similar.
  3. Renault R35 -- A light tank with a similar profile to the Somua S35.

Post-war Vehicles

The tanks on the Allied side continued in service into the 1950s. Some late war designs were the first of families of related vehicles, for example the M26 Pershing was developed into the M48 (used in Vietnam) which was further developed into the M60. The Soviert equivalent was the JS / T52/64/72/85 series.

Tank design did not change dramatically until the invention of Chobham composite armour by the British in the 1970s. Chobham armour is much more effective than steel against many attacks. It has to be constructed in large flat plates for best effect. This led to the next generation of tanks having a boxy appearance. Typical examples are the US M1, the UK’s Challenger and the German Leopard 2.

In my opinion, post-war tanks are generally too easily recognised and too sensibly designed to be good for 40K.

Another class of vehicle is more useful. The Armoured Personnel Carrier (or Infantry Fighting Vehicle) started to appear during WW2 in the form of the German Hanomag halftrack, the US M3 halftrack, and the British Bren Gun Carrier.

The success of these vehicles caused many countries to design more powerful versions often giving them turret weapons. There are tracked and wheeled vehicles and the basic chassis is often used in several different fighting modes with suitable changes of outfit. For example, the US M113 appears in the following versions:

  1. M113 -- Basic APC thought to be the inspiration for the Rhino
  2. M113A1 -- Fire support vehicle with an armoured car turret fitted
  3. M113A2 -- Modernised version
  4. M113 ACV -- Vietnam era version with extra machine guns and shields
  5. M113 ODS -- Modern desertised version with extra armour and fuel tanks
  6. M163 -- Anti-aircraft version with turret mounted 20mm Gatling cannon
  7. M981 -- Artillery forward observer version with a roof mounted camera system
  8. and others such as a mobile command post

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