BackgroundThe TACAM R-2 (Tun Anticar pe Afet Mobil - Self-propelled Anti-tank Gun) was a Romanian tank destroyer used during World War II. It was built by removing the turret of the R-2 light tank and building a pedestal to mount an ex-Soviet 76.2 mm (3.00 in) ZiS-3 field gun in its place. A three-sided fighting compartment was built to protect the gun and its crew. Twenty were built in 1944, but only one is known to exist today. It participated in the Budapest Offensive and the Prague Offensive.
The arrival of Special Armourís 1:35 kit of the Skoda R-2 T.A.C.A.M. has coincided with an enforced period away from my workshop (which is focused firmly on aircraft kit building) and being reduced to tinkering on a tea-tray with just a few simple tools.
With limited chances to paint sub-assemblies and no reference books to refer, it makes for the perfect opportunity to find a silver lining in the proverbial cloud and indulge in a bit of a ďbus-man's holidayĒ by getting back to basics - and also tackling something totally different. For me, that means armour - and, if youíre going to do something different, then why not go the whole hog with a non-mainstream kit of an obscure subject.
Special Armourís kit arrives in a solid conventional box, with the main sprues bagged together and an etched fret packed with the decals. It comprises:
232 x grey styrene parts (plus 12 not needed)
13 x etched metal parts
Decals for 3 x vehicles
The first thing to stress is that Special Hobby arenít a mainstream manufacturer (yet) - although that is clearly their ambition. Theyíve come a long way since their short run origins, and their new Special Armour range marks a major expansion beyond their traditional aircraft subjects. The recent releases mark the current state of the art in that middle ground between short run and mainstream kit, so donít take ďTamigawaĒ precision for granted - and do be prepared for a bit of real modelling along the way.
That said, the Skoda is pretty impressive, with no real flash or sinkage problems to worry about. There are some irritating small ejector pin marks on items like the running gear, and cleaning these up will be the most time consuming part of prep if you choose to tackle them. Sprue attachments vary in size. Some are pretty hefty and I tackled them with a razor saw to be on the safe side. My only gripe is that a fair number of them are perilously close to rivet detail and life would definitely be easier if theyíd been positioned differently.
In terms of moulding, the only flaw in the sample kit is the sprue containing the 76mm gun. For some reason the runners are much thinner than those for the vehicle itself and the result is that the barrel is warped in the sample kit. Nothing disastrous, but it needs a little TLC to straighten it out.
Overall, thereís some quite nice detail - not as sharp as ďTamigawaĒ, but then itís unfair to expect that. It reminded more in style of Esci and Italeri kits that I built many moons ago.
A few Details
Whatís immediately apparent is that Special Armour have based the kit on the conventional tank version, just like the full-sized vehicle. Thereís no new top decking, so the kit is almost like a conversion in that you need to carve out the area where the turret would have fitted to install a base for the gun and its new armoured enclosure. Thatís fine - but the designers could have included scribed-in cut marks to make life easier. Instead, youíll need to work slowly and carefully, using the locators on the underside of the gun-mount as guides to cut by. This probably isnít a job for beginners.
The other problem that results from using the tank as a basis is that the interior of the hull is completely empty apart from some ammunition racks along one side. The lack of interior detail isnít an an issue for the tank, but is open for all to see with the self-propelled gun. It will need a fair amount of work to construct something convincing, lining the hull walls and floor, adding a transmission and controls, plus seats and some general ďgizmologyĒ to busy things up.
Special Hobby already offer a resin engine set as part of their CMK range - CMK 3020
and, more helpfully, a Pz-35(t) Skoda Lt vz.35 - interior set - CMK 3018
. The latter includes seats for the driver and front gunner, along with controls and other details to fill the area behind the glacis plate, but that still leaves the bulk of the fighting compartment crying out for attention. Perhaps they will issue a bespoke set in future.
The instructions have construction beginning with the drive and road wheels. The latter are mounted in 4-wheel bogies bogies.return wheels. Then a basic lower hull unit is built, and the wheels and return rollers added, ready for the tracks.
I have to admit I wasnít keen on this approach, so Iíve strayed from the instructions and largely completed the hull before considering the running gear. This is partly for ease of painting later, but also because I want to ensure the hull fits together square and true, and I really donít fancy doing this with the tracks in place. The downside is that it will make adding the multi-part track sections a little more awkward, but I think itíll be worth it.
The hull parts all go together neatly enough, and the SPG's new base for the 76mm gun and its armour is a good fit. The only point that seems peculiar is a gap between the bulkhead at the rear of the fighting compartment and the top decking. Presumably, this is a hangover from the original tank version, where the positioning wasn't so crucial. In retrospect, I'd shave the mounts off the hull sides and move the bulkhead back to fit flush.
Youíll need to drill out the hole for the gun mount, although the instructions donít show this (without it, the gun sits proud and catches on the roof. I shaved off some of the hull detail under the mount, such as hinges for the driverís hatch but, to be honest, it didnít really seem to change the fit much, so itís no big deal if you forget.
The gun barrel straightened out fine with a length of brass installed (a bit like a truss-rod in the neck of a guitar). The rest of the gun and its mount is going together without problems and will look quite effective when painted.
Construction's reached the stage where I really do need to get back to base so that I can throw some paint at the interior (I'm not going to detail it, so you can see it OOB) and the various sub-assemblies. Hopefully, I'll be able to upload some shots of the completed kit before too long.
Instructions & Decals
The assembly guide is produced in classic Special Hobby style as an A5 booklet with 31 neatly drawn stages. The sequence is pretty logical (although I left the wheels and tracks off for painting - perhaps thatís the aircraft modeller in me showing?Ö). Colour matches are given for Humbrol and Tamiya ranges, so you should have access to suitable paints wherever you live in the world.
Decals are included for a trio of vehicles:
1. Skoda R-2 TACAM, 63rd TACAM company, Ploesti and Transylvania, 1944
2. Skoda R-2 TACAM, 2nd Armoured Regiment, 1945
3. Skoda R-2 TACAM, 1943
The decals look very good quality, being thin and glossy with excellent registration and minimal carrier film.
Special Armourís Skoda R-2 TACAM is a good kit of an interesting subject. Itís almost best thought of as a combined kit and conversion set due to the amount of work involved. Itís certainly not a ďjust shake the box and itíll build itselfĒ model, so beginners will need to be a bit wary. Itís only real failing is the lack of an interior, which is really obvious as soon as you look at it closely. Obviously, adding the missing parts would have bumped up the cost, but I think most modellers would have liked to have at least the basics included.
Other than that, I can recommend it as an enjoyable build for anyone with a bit of experience with limited run kits.
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