MINIATURE-ART - M1A2 ABRAMS

Modifications: Repainting
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Repainting the Tokyo Marui M1A2 Abrams

Note - I have been fortunate to have this webpage reviewed by Major Robin Gronovius, an Armor officer with the US Army. Major Gronovius' comments have been included within my text. As you read this webpage I will present history or information about the Abrams and describe its equipment and its uses. Bear in mind that in all cases of factual contradictions with published reference/modeling books, Major Gronovius is an actual operator of the Abrams Main Battle Tank, and as such I have deferred to his expertise.

If you are a model builder, sooner or later you will get the urge to accurize and detail any shortcomings to the plastic kit you are currently working on. Or perhaps you wish to personalize your model so it is unique and different from other kits out there. The Tokyo Marui M1A2 Abrams in my mind is no different. Essentially it is a robust large scale model with radio control features added.  Tokyo Marui has done their homework in researching the M1A2 Abrams and spent considerable effort on including accurate details on the model surface. Because of limitations in the plastic injection molding process, some details have to be simplified. Details are also simplified to make them a little more robust to be suitable for radio control purposes.

 

The Tokyo Marui Abrams is an early M1A2 variant produced in the late 1990s. It is slightly different compared to the newer M1A2 SEP, which has a bustle mounted Thermal Management System (TMS), a GPS antenna by the Commander's Independent Thermal Viewer (CITV), and internal Auxiliary Power Unit (APU).  

Initially, I chose to simply modify my Abrams by painting it in the more attractive European scheme used by some NATO countries. After a while, I decided to make the tank competition worthy, adding and refining the details for accuracy and fidelity.  All this has to be done without compromising its radio control ability.  About 2 weeks after purchase, I decided it was time to repaint my Abrams!

Paints-  M1 series of tanks were designed for conflict in Europe against Soviet forces during the Cold War, and appropriately enough most Abrams tanks have been painted in a three color camouflage developed with the West German Army for use in wooded and grassy areas. The actual paint is factory applied; alkyd based, and is resistant to chemical agents. Early M1A2 Abrams were painted in the European camouflage, although the majority, have been repainted in desert colors in anticipation of conflict in the Middle East.

In order to repaint my Tokyo Marui Abrams, the surface must be prepped. The factory applied NTC color camouflage is thick; there is a visible ridge on the edges of the black and brown colors over the tan base coat. The edges of the paint were sanded down with 600 grit sandpaper (emery paper) until the edges were smooth to touch. I left the underlying tan basecoat alone to act a primer coat; a separate application could cover up the surface details. In addition mold lines on the edge of the hull, and bustle rack were smoothed out as well. Filler putty was applied to the seam on the main gun tube. The tank was then polished with 800 and 1000 grit sandpaper to remove scratches and provide a key for the subsequent applications of paint. The entire model was then wiped down with dilute isopropyl alcohol to remove oils, fingerprints, and dust, and then wiped down with a dry tack cloth.

abrams-natopaints.jpg
Tamiya's excellent line of modern NATO acrylic colors

The brown, green, and black NATO camouflage colors are available as hobby paints. I used Tamiya's line of acrylics: NATO Green XF-67,  NATO Brown XF-68,  NATO Black XF-69. 

The camouflage pattern can be found at the following link:

 

US ARMY Camoflague Scheme Manual

 

 

All paints were applied by airbrush diluted with Tamiya thinner. The dilution ratio is paint, and Tamiya Thinner applied at 10-20 psi. You can use isopropyl alcohol to thin Tamiya acrylics, but adhesion will be affected, and sometimes dry to a granular surface.  

 

NATO Green was applied overall the entire model first as a basecoat. The model was then inspected for dust particles trapped on the surface; if any were found they were removed with fine tweezers before the paint fully dried. NATO Brown was then applied freehand by airbrush; alternately the plans can be enlarged, then cutout masks made and taped to the model for a hard edge to the camouflage. (You can darken the NATO Brown with a drop or two of black paint if it looks too bright.)

 

The model was inspected again for dust, and accuracy of paint application. Finally NATO Black was applied, and the model was set aside to dry overnight. I saved the diluted paints in bottles; they will come in handy when I touch up the overall finish.

Testors' DullCote was applied in several thin misting coats from a spray can over the surface of the model. It is important to allow the acrylics underneath to dry fully; otherwise the paint can soften and bubble off the surface. DullCote is lacquer based, and a heavy application can eat through most acrylics. The model was again inspected for dust and left overnight to dry. The process was repeated 4 more times, over a few days to ensure the camouflage colors were well protected under a layer of Dullcote.

                         Scroll down below to view images of the repainted Abrams:

abrams-right.jpg
A factory fresh Abrams in NATO tri-color, with only minimal scratches and streaking

abrams-rear.jpg
In this view, the shiny factory antennas can clearly be seen

abrams-top.jpg
The darkened Tamiya NATO Brown gives a better "to scale" appearance

abrams-left.jpg
The rectangular red object on the hull side is an external fire extinguisher handle

At this point, I was quite satisfied with the change in appearance in my Abrams. Pretty soon though, I was stricken with the "modeler's curse" and couldn't resist the urge to add accessories, weather the Abrams a bit more for a more realistic look, and add and refine surface details. I began to fancy entering the Abrams in a military modeling competition from which I have taken a decade long hiatus. Click on "Modifications" on the left menu bar or the link below to read on!

Modifications: Detailing Page1