By early 1941, battle experience in North Africa caused both American and British military planners to reconsider their armored car requirements. In the spring of that year, the British Purchasing Commission came to the Americans with specifications for new medium and heavy armored cars. The American Armored Force Board concurrently developed a specification for a new armored, turreted, reconnaissance vehicle. These requirements were combined, resulting in three new armored car development projects:
Of these three armored cars, the T17E1 (designed by the Chevrolet division of General Motors) proved the most promising. When American planners decided to procure the M8 Greyhound light armored car, the T17E1 (now called Staghound) became an entirely British line. The T17E1 Staghound entered production in October of 1942, with 2,844 vehicles built through December of 1943. During World War II, Britain and the Commonwealth nations used Staghounds in Italy, northwest Europe, and India. After the war, a wide variety of NATO nations acquired and used Staghounds. As time progressed, vehicles found their way into armies all over the globe, with some seeing service well into the latter half of the twentieth century.
Quick Wheel produces a wide range of high-end painting masks for military vehicle wheels. With this product, they strongly enter the realm of resin upgrade parts. The upgrade set consists of 4 wheels, 4 hubs, a painting mask, instructions and advertising media (Photos 3 and 4), plus a page of reference photos (Photo 5). The wheels and hubs come in individual plastic bags for extra protection (Photo 2). The package also includes a stiff cardboard back to keep everything in place. The instructions and photo reference pages are printed in full color on heavy paper.
A quick examination of the wheels reveals that the resin parts were mastered using stereolithography. This process involves creating a part master from a liquid polymer resin bath. A laser traces a pattern on the top layer of the resin, curing it. A platform holding the part descends slightly, the top of the part is recoated with liquid resin, the laser traces another layer, and so on. Each slice of the part corresponds to a slice through the original CAD drawing. This process allows for the quick creation of very delicate and intricate structures. Stereolithography is not perfect. Since the process creates a part in layers, the edges show a distinctive stair-step pattern, with better machines making more and thinner layers to mitigate this effect. Lightly sanding the finished master mostly eliminates the stair-step effect, but also tends to soften or remove some of the finer detail.
In this case, I believe printed and sanded parts served as masters for more traditional resin casting methods. The wheels feature very sharp tread pattern with very evenly-spaced ridges. A light casting line runs down the center of each tire, but not all the way around the part. Sanding out these lines did not remove any detail. Bolts and tire labels look slightly soft, but still well defined (Photo 8). Strong evidence of stereolithography appears inside each wheel back as concentric rings, but a hub completely fills this area. Layer lines also appear down in the tire groves.
The bolt pattern on the combat rims matches photos in references (1) and (2) cited below, but the inner circle of bolts looks slightly too pronounced. The gap between the inner and outer bolt rims looks slightly too shallow as well. The recesses for the tire valves also look a bit slight. At the other extreme, the lettering on the tire rims looks too pronounced, but if you want it to stand out, this will actually work in your favor. The tread ridges seem very marked, but this may reflect a new tire of this type. They do not capture the slight step where each ridge meets the sidewall.
These tires are definitely weighted, each with a distinctive flat area and corresponding bulge. Some Staghounds do show this effect, regardless of the tread pattern. The Staghound wears 12 ply, 14.00-20, run flat, combat tires. Their super-thick walls strongly resist deformation, but the Staghound weighs in at 32,000 pounds. In some photos, the tires show very little bulge, while in others, they show as much or more bulge than these resin versions. You must decide what look you are shooting for and purchase accordingly. The set comes with two different tires, with the labels oriented to different positions and tread pointing in different directions (Photo 6). If you want all tread to face in the same direction, the tire labels will necessarily sit at the same position on a given side of the model.
According to the package, these parts represent post WWII balloon Michelin tires. Most WWII-era Staghounds in my photo collection wear some form of non-directional or road tire. However, I found two New Zealand Staghounds in reference (3) wearing tires very similar to these (the ridges have slightly less curvature). A long search yielded one more picture of the vehicle included on the kit’s reference sheet (see reference #4). I also found balloon Michelin tires of a very similar pattern with cross-hatching (see reference 5). The tires pictures in the included reference material (Photo 5) and reference #4 look very worn, so I conjecture the Quick Wheel tires may actually represent worn versions of the tires in reference 5.
The set comes with two styles of hubs, two each for the front wheels the back. With the wheels mounted, hub details match photos in references (1) and (2). The four bolts on the forward hubs look slightly too large. With wheels off, ribs on the front of each hub match reference photos, but details on the back do not. This may preclude the possibilities of a wheels-off diorama.
I did not find any mold misalignments, air bubbles, or voids on the resin parts. The resin feels very light and generally smooth. I detected some roughness along the tread, no doubt an artifact of the stereolithography printing process. But I saved perhaps the best part about these wheels for last: there are no casting plugs. None. With these wheels you do not need to worry about obliterating any tread detail, or cracking a part, or sawing off your finger. The parts will benefit from a small amount of cleanup and sanding, but that’s about it.
But wait, there’s more! This set includes a high-end painting mask designed specifically for these wheels, bulge and all. The mask consists of two layers—a thick foam layer to grab each wheel, and a thin, sticky layer to mask each tire. The thin layer flexes, conforming to the bulged shape of each part. I usually mask wheels with a circle template, but that method suffers from two shortcomings: first, I often cannot find a circle that exactly matches the tire I want to mask. I get as close as I can and touch up afterwards. Second, a circle template cannot effectively mask a bulged wheel, as the bulge prevents the template from nestling down around the hub; the airbrush shoots underneath the template and paints into the void. Quick Wheel masks prevent both these problems.
The mask will accommodate stock wheels in the Bronco kit, offering some reuse potential (Photos 14 and 15). The thin masking layer tends to deform with each use, so use it sparingly.
I started by lightly sanding one Quick Wheel tire and hub set. This removed the seam around the tire and eliminated the rough feeling along the tread (Photo 10). When mounting the wheels onto the model using Quick Tac, I discovered that all four hubs use a generic back pattern that fits both front and rear axels on the Bronco kit. Make absolutely certain you put the right hub on the right tire in the right position before you glue anything! The parts look dimensionally correct in the wheel wells when mounted on the model (Photo 11).
I painted one wheel as a test of the masking system. After sanding out a wheel and cleaning it with a degreasing dish soap (Dawn), I painted it Model Master Aircraft International Black Enamel (Photo 12). Approximately one hour later I mounted the wheel in the mask. As you can see in the photo, I did not perfectly align the tire! Next, I painted the hub Model Master Sand. When removing the mask, some of the black paint chipped off. The sticky side of the mask grabs more strongly than Tamiya tape, but in fairness to the mask, I painted on a cold, damp day. Adequately dry parts should not exhibit chipping. My example illustrates the critical requirement for accurately lining up the part in the mask and the high tolerance of this product.
With this offering, Quick Wheel steps boldly into the realm of resin upgrade parts for military models. The castings are very well-done, crisp, detailed, and completely free of plugs. In terms of accuracy, the parts have a few shortcomings. The separate wheel hubs offer the opportunity for a wheels-off Staghound diorama, but they lack accurate back detail. The wheels, though crisply cast, show signs of stereolithography printing and need some cleanup. The tires may represent worn examples, in which case the tread ridges stand out too boldly. But light sanding and painting will resolve most of these issues.
1) Armored Car
, R. P. Hunnicutt; Presidio Press (2002); USA; ISBN 0-89141-777-X.
2) The Staghound: A Visual History of the T17E Series Armored Cars in Allied Service 1940-1945
, David Doyle; Ampersand Publishing (2009), USA; ISBN 978-0-9773781-6-6.
3) Armor Camouflage & Markings of the 2nd New Zealand Division; Part 2: Italy
, Jeffrey Plowman; Model Centrum Progres, Poland; ISBN 978-83-60672-02-0.
4) PRÓSZYŃSKI MEDIA website
(in Polish, but has good photos).
5) PRIME PORTAL website