Curt Pangracs’ M2A3 Bradley step-by-step build

07/16/2014 – Sorry it’s been over two weeks since my last update! I encountered a major disaster on this build, and I got busy with various home projects. First, let me say that this is a lesson I hope others can learn from. While assembling the turret, I noticed some wiring that I hadn’t wrapped with heat-shrink tubing. In my haste and ignorance, I tried to heat-shrink an area VERY close to the model with my heat gun, and severely warped the upper-half of the turret. Below are some pics of what I had done inside the turret, and the ugly result of my stupidity. The good thing? MENG Models is shipping me the tree I need to fully rebuild the turret from Japan at a cost of $10. The bad thing? I have to wait up to 20 days to get it! So, friends, please learn from my mistake…NEVER bring a heat gun anywhere near your polystyrene model parts, unless it is your intention!

Inside Turret
More turret
Still more turret
The Ugly Pt.I
The Ugly Pt. Deux

07/01/2014 – Here is the beginning of my turret build. This is the bottom-half of the turret. I will be doing a LOT of scratch building on this turret, but not as much as I could! I have learned to pick my battles! As with the hull, most of the custom stuff will be in the form of wiring. I will also be creating handles, levers, and other things not included in the kit. I have to figure out how to scratch-build hand microphones for the radios…

Initial start on turret bottom. I have to create an “un jam” handle for the M240 coaxial MG. This will stick out between the black CRT and the main gun shield.I decided not to take the time to fill the mold imperfections, as these areas will be invisible when the build is complete (I hope!).
Here is the base (in the hemostat jaws) and the wire rod that will be the connector between handle and base. I used some wire casing and slid it over the rod. I will attach the handle to this piece…

 

 

06/28/2014 – Well, it looks like I won’t be using the 3D pen until I master the bugger! However, I did get quite a bit done on the retro-wiring of the hull!

New hole drilled below the turret area. Also drilled one near the rear of the hull…

With the new holes drilled, I then set about cajoling the red LEDs, one for the driver’s compartment and one for the passenger area. The pictures don’t do it all justice! The thing is, I will now have to put this puppy on a base and run all of the wiring straight down through it, and fashion the switches so they are accessible to the viewer.

location of rear wiring hole…sorry for the crappy picture.
Driver’s compartment red LED!
White light
Passenger red light.
Passenger white light.

 

 

 


06/27/2014 – YAY! My 3Dsimo 3D Pen came in today! I look forward to using this to create wiring and other fancy stuff in the Bradley turret! Also, the other LEDs I bought came in, so look for more pics this weekend!


06/24/2014 – After some reflection on the build so far, and considering how cool this model is turning out. I have decided to order some more LED lights to add an option of red lights to the hull and turret, as well as add lighting to the driver’s compartment since I can run up to 10 LED’s off of a single 3volt watch battery. This means I will be retro-placing some wiring and another switch to give the option of red or white interior lighting effects! I also ordered some shrink-tubing to clean-up the wiring installation a bit. I know, bad time to make this decision AFTER putting the hull together, but hey, this is an adventure, right? I’ll continue adding hull armor over the next few days while I wait for the new set of LED’s to come in.


06/21/2014 – Well, that didn’t take as long as I thought! With the man cave essentially finished, I realized that I needed to go ahead and put in the seat belts and marry the two hull pieces, so I did! This model included some very small, rubbery pieces for the seat belts, an ammo belt feeder, and a “curtain”, which is in the turret. So, I went ahead and painted the seat belts, installed them, then put the two hull pieces together and completed final LED placement in the hull.

New “Man Cave”…
Detailed seat belts!
Seat belts painted and installed.
Hull glued and clamped. Not happy with the fit. really had to manipulated and cajole the pieces together, and there will be some filling and sanding, especially around the back hatch area…
Inside View #1. You may notice the gap where the upper and lower hull pieces just don’t quite fit right. I placed the LED as near to the actual interior light as possible.
Inside View #2 – as you can see, the LED does a pretty good job of highlighting detail!

According to the directions, I’m supposed to start adding hull armor, so I’ll start on that in the morning.


06/17/2014 – Anyone who has ever been in a Bradley, or even an M113, knows that most of the “stuff” is attached on or near the ceiling. This is done to provide maximum working space inside the compartment. This means that it’s now time to get into the serious scratchbuilding! My first dilemma was creating the many radio and power cables present in the passenger compartment and turret. I didn’t have many resources, so I looked to the many excess electronics cables i have acquired over the years. Most of these cables include many smaller wires and other components inside that work quite well to represent the small cables inside an IFV. Although I’m sure they aren’t exactly “to scale”, I found some small wires that worked well, as they hold their shape quite well. This is important when recreating the coiled microphone and CVC (Combat Vehicle Crewman) helmet connections.

Various radio accessory cables. The cables not already black will be painted later.

To replicate the wire connectors, I used some Evergreen plastic rods and cut VERY small pieces, just to give the impression of connectors. There are aftermarket kits that replicate this very well, but like I said, I’m on a budget!

An example of “connectors” made with plastic rod. This particular piece is on an FBCB2 battle-tracking device in the passenger compartment.
An example of various other cables and wiring using scrap wire. I also decided to include a ramp lock release…
More cabling installed. I have also installed the periscopes and done some other painting
Still more “stuff” installed and most painting complete. Keep in mind that most of this stuff will NOT be completely visible when the model is displayed, however it will give the model a better sense of realism when viewed complete (hopefully).

You may notice the passenger handles placed around the cargo opening in the above picture. Some aftermarket kits, like the Verlinden set for the M113, includes plastic versions of these handles. I wanted handles, but had to develop my own way to do it. I decided to take a strip of brass foil I had bought years ago and make a large “handle” I could “slice” into smaller handles…

I took the foil strip and wrapped it around a plastic rod to get the “handle” shape, then super-glued the ends…
Clamping the ends…

Next, I cut handles from this stock piece. The only thing that hurt me was the fact that the super glue kind of filled-up the openings. This made it almost impossible to “open-up” the handle openings. I’m okay with the result, but note to self: get a soldering iron to attach metal-to-metal!

Not the “greatest” handles, but they’ll do for this build…

06/17/2014 – Anyone who has ever been in a Bradley, or even an M113, knows that most of the “stuff” is attached on or near the ceiling. This is done to provide maximum working space inside the compartment. This means that it’s now time to get into the serious scratchbuilding! My first dilemma was creating the many radio and power cables present in the passenger compartment and turret. I didn’t have many resources, so I looked to the many excess electronics cables i have acquired over the years. Most of these cables include many smaller wires and other components inside that work quite well to represent the small cables inside an IFV. Although I’m sure they aren’t exactly “to scale”, I found some small wires that worked well, as they hold their shape quite well. This is important when recreating the coiled microphone and CVC (Combat Vehicle Crewman) helmet connections.

Various radio accessory cables. The cables not already black will be painted later.

To replicate the wire connectors, I used some Evergreen plastic rods and cut VERY small pieces, just to give the impression of connectors. There are aftermarket kits that replicate this very well, but like I said, I’m on a budget!

An example of “connectors” made with plastic rod. This particular piece is on an FBCB2 battle-tracking device in the passenger compartment.
An example of various other cables and wiring using scrap wire. I also decided to include a ramp lock release…
More cabling installed. I have also installed the periscopes and done some other painting
Still more “stuff” installed and most painting complete. Keep in mind that most of this stuff will NOT be completely visible when the model is displayed, however it will give the model a better sense of realism when viewed complete (hopefully).

You may notice the passenger handles placed around the cargo opening in the above picture. Some aftermarket kits, like the Verlinden set for the M113, includes plastic versions of these handles. I wanted handles, but had to develop my own way to do it. I decided to take a strip of brass foil I had bought years ago and make a large “handle” I could “slice” into smaller handles…

I took the foil strip and wrapped it around a plastic rod to get the “handle” shape, then super-glued the ends…
Clamping the ends…

Next, I cut handles from this stock piece. The only thing that hurt me was the fact that the super glue kind of filled-up the openings. This made it almost impossible to “open-up” the handle openings. I’m okay with the result, but note to self: get a soldering iron to attach metal-to-metal!

Not the “greatest” handles, but they’ll do for this build…

06/15/2014 – I decided to drill a large hole near the lower-right corner of the engine access door. In the picture below, you’ll notice I have at this point installed the turret walls in the hull. The second picture shows a tube I scrounged-up to represent a line wrap. It’s definitely too big, but serves my purpose, and doesn’t look too bad considering it will likely be indistinguishable when the model is complete. The other pics show the progress of initial running of the LED wires.

Hole for LED lights.
LED light set-up ready for installation
Wire cover installed
LED initial installation and wire cover trimmed.

At this point, I had to decide how I was going to place the battery and power switch. Since this particular model will be static and not in a diorama, which would allow me to place the switch somewhere on the base, I decided to place everything on the bottom of the model when finished. To facilitate this, I placed more of the same tubing ised for the internal wire cover on the bottom. I will attach the battery holder and power switch as the very last step in the build. That finished, I continued placement and weathering of the hull interior…

Seats installed and weathered.

 

Basic hull components installed. Time to move onto the interior roof!

THE HULL INTERIOR (Lord help me!)

06/14/2014 – Well, now we get to the fun part(s)! Lots of scratchbuilding here, something I’ve never really done before, but hey, life is short! I must first say that, despite the plethora of parts included for the interior of this kit, there are some very glaring and obvious omissions that kind of pissed me off. First, there are only two small radio junction boxes molded into the upper hull. This is especially frustrating for those of us with any experience at all in IFV’s. Second, there are no decals for the fire extinguishers. Lastly, the TOW missile racks under the seats are empty, because none are included! Nitpicking? Yeah, I guess. I was under the impression that this kit was more detailed than it is. That’s my fault, but it still frustrates me. The pic below shows some of the major hull interior pieces in place…

Hull with major interior pieces in place.

Notice that I started to build the engine compartment? Well, after thoughtful consideration, I decided NOT to do the engine, mainly because I didn’t plan on displaying any part of it! So, if you were reading this mainly to look at the engine build, you can stop now… I have always used Tamiya “Sky” for my interiors for modern US IFV’s. It seems to match the actual color I remember. Other colors, like “mint”, seem to me to be entirely too dark. I went ahead and started the weathering process now, because I knew that me and my fat fingers and lack of steady hands would have problems later on. I did a wash of highly-thinned black and red acrylic. I would go over and highlight the darker areas later…

Initial weathering of hull interior.

After this initial weathering, I started to get into more details. I used this guys photobucket to help guide me along. He is building his as a professional display model, and he is using quite a few aftermarket products to build it. I figured it couldn’t hurt to use his work as inspiration for my own. Feel free to do the same! I figured I’d attack the driver’s compartment at this point. This part went surprisingly well, and I’m happy with it. However, it was at this point I decided I was going to use the two LED lights I had lying around! These things are VERY cheap! Only $2 each when you buy five, and you can select from three different tiny sizes. I probably could have bought some new, smaller ones, but these will work fine for this build. So, now I had to figure out how and where to use them…

Hull driver’s area completed but for a few small painting details.

 

THE CHASSIS

06/12/2014 – Like all good armor models, the chassis and roadwheels come first in the build. There are a few things that make this kit unique, at least for me. First is the use of actualy “torsion bars”, designed to be anchored inside the hull, and allowing for flex for each wheel.

Hull with base torsion bars heavily glued in place.
Roadwheel arms and torsion bars installed and ready for paint

In addition, each side includes actual shocks that allow for positioning of roadwheels in dioramas! This is evidence of the exactness of this kit.

Metal and plastic shock absorbers, two on each side.
Roadwheel arms with shocks installed.

I actually enjoyed building what would normally be a boring chassis build for an armored vehicle. I found myself “bouncing” the roadwheel arms a little too much. Kind of creepy now that I look back on it… The next step is even less fun than a boring chassis build…roadwheels and sprockets. This was even more frustrating, as the drive sprockets are 4-piece affairs, and I couldn’t keep from breaking the outer sprocket ring! Luckily, the use of strong liquid cement often fixes anything made of plastic! I went ahead and finished all wheels and even weathered them now instead of later. As I mentioned, this is an experiment, and I’m doing quite a few things in an unconventional manner. For the record, I am using Model Master FS33772, Modern Armor Sand for the external paint on this build. Some will argue against this, saying that other sand variants are correct, but I can tell you from experience (as well as knowing the manuals on painting the real things), that a range of painting options is available, and sometimes just depended on the availability of the color. Suffice it to say, i have been in units that had no less than three different camo paint schemes across its many vehicles. Don’t sweat the small stuff!

Roadwheels and sprockets completed with weathering.

Finally, I wanted to share my tips on painting roadwheel rubber. I made these videos a year or so ago. Nothing groundbreaking, just the way I’ve found to do this easier, without masks and such. Painting Roadwheels Part I Painting Roadwheels Part II 


 

INTRODUCTION

I am a native Californian and 20-year retired Army medic. My wife of 25 years is also retired from the Army. We have two sons, 18 and 15, both born and raised right here in Leavenworth. We have called the First City home for the last 19 years. I have worked in the Simulations Division at CGSC since retiring in 2003, first as a contractor, then as a DA Civilian. I have been building models off and on for the last 44 years, but I am far from “expert”. My first model was the Red Baron Dragster, and it was a disaster! I just enjoy the build. I really got into it starting in 1987 while stationed at Fort Stewart, GA, with 2-7 Infantry. There I used to build “custom” armor pieces for the guys in my unit, and even a few display pieces for our CSM and the battalion HQ. Only recently (2000 or so) I started getting into highly-detailed models, especially external weathering and detailing. It wasn’t until last year I decided to start doing vehicle interiors. I quickly realized how expensive aftermarket kits for interiors can be, and how little of it can actually be seen, so I have relegated myself to either stealing tricks or inventing them myself to get the desired details. With two kids to help get through college, I need to save as much as possible! Again, it’s all about the “build”. I either display my models at work or, more often than not, give them away to people who will enjoy them as much as I did building them. Here are a few pics of some of my previous builds:

US Army M60A3, 2-68 Armor, Baumholder, FRG, 1983
US Army M60A3, 2-68 Armor, Baumholder, FRG, 1983
Stryker MEV (Medical Evacuation Vehicle)
Stryker IFV (Infantry Fighting Vehicle)
M113 Ambulance Interior in-progress
M113 Ambulance Interior Complete (with interior LED lighting!).

Over the next few weeks, I will try to chronicle my build of the Meng M2A3 Bradley with BUSK. The link is to a review, so I won’t review this kit. Let’s just say that this kit is the biggest and most involved armor kit I’ve ever built! The good things for me are the inclusion of many “aftermarket” parts for detailing that I would have had to purchase separately and at much higher cost, and that I was able to find this kit for $65 delivered, and that’s about $20 cheaper than anywhere else I could find. I got it in an eBay auction, so I will share a link from an eBay auction. You may be able to grab one as cheap. I will say, though, if you can afford this kit, you will NOT be disappointed! So, sit back and (hopefully) enjoy the build as I do all the work! I will share tips and techniques, some I am trying for the first time ever, so don’t hesitate to add your own ideas on improving the build. I will be posting the opening pics and comments soon…

3 thoughts on “Curt Pangracs’ M2A3 Bradley step-by-step build”

  1. Curt, I’m looking forward to following your build. I have a BMP-1 that I’m doing (ok, it has been in a box for two years) but this will motivate me to start on it again.

    1. No time like the present! Although I am mid-build, I have been given the go-ahead to start designing and creating my “Man Cave”, which will include a new modelbuilding set-up! I have quite a bit done already with the Brad, so it shouldn’t extend the build-time much. Having a blast with this build!

  2. Discouraging after all the work you’ve done to see that mis-shapen turret but I’m glad to see that Meng is willing to help. The interior looks great– the color in particular seems to be a great match to that odd Bradley/ M113 interior color.

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A plastic modelers club located in Leavenworth, Kansas