So far our M3 halftrack build is going well and it is beginning to take shape as one impressive tracked vehicle. We have encountered a few "bumps in the road" which can be traced back to the instructions. A number of the pictures are not clear but we did find it useful to download the instructions and open them as a PDF file. The pictures were actually clearer in the process. The area of confusion stems from the fact that the prototype, which is featured in the instructions, was amended before the final production began. Some of the mounting holes or part configurations that were outlined in the instructions did not appear in our kit. However, all of these issues were easy to overcome by proceeding slowly along with a few reference checks as well.
This page was last updated: December 6, 2011
RKD M3 Halftrack Build Cont'd.
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I was pleasently surprised to see how well the door panels aligned with the side body panel and door jamb. There is a lot of detail to be added to the doors but I wanted to make sure that everything lined up okay.
I have also added the jerrycan holder and have begun inserting 2/56 slotted screws whereever I see a hole that needs filling. Another very useful tip which will make a BIG difference in the overall appeaance of the halftrack is filling or treating the panel seams.
The gaps between the engine cowl and the side skirt is unavoidable where several steel panels are folded and come together. I use a small amount of JB Weld to fill in these seams and also provide additional strength to the panel. As the epoxy begins to cure, I then take a dental tool and press into the epoxy creating the appearance of a weld. Not too much is needed and don't overdue it but the end result is really worth as you will see on the gas tank below.
Here the battery box tank has been installed but not before we reinforced the interior seams with JB Stik and the exterior seams with the JB Weld two part epoxy. After it had cured, we ran it through the belt sander which provided a much "cleaner' look without unsighyly gaps between each panel.
We were having so much fun with this particular step that we decided to apply the same treatment to the gas tanks, interior gun racks and bench seat backs.
Be sure to grind away any primer or oxidation to the surfaces being joined before applying the epoxy. Once these have cured, we will clean them up on the belt sander, apply several coats of primer and olive drab and then installation in the interior compartment.
These shots were taken before the gun racks were installed along with the rear compartment back panel which has already been painted and the rear door has been mounted. Pictured below is the mine rack that has been secured to the side panel using 4/40 hex screws. Be sure to mount this before you install the gun racks. You will not be able to access the mounting fasteners if you dont.
The Interior and Exterior Sheetmetal
In this picture I have installed the armored windshield plate or visor along with the front bonnet (s). The fit is excellent and I did not need much in the way of adjustment to the hinges in order to insure a smooth fit. I did not use rivets on the front grill but used M3 X 6 hex or 4/40 by 1/2 inch screws for a more realistic appearance. Three more holes and I am finished with the hood.
I took this opportunity to fill in the seams on the bonnet for a cleaner look. In the future I may try installing a small piano hinge in order to achieve a folding engine hood but not this time. The edges were ground smooth and then a coat of olive drab was applied.
The rear body panel went on without any problem although it is easier to install the mine racks AFTER you have installed the rear body panel.
The rear door was mounted to the hinges and everything fit quite well. As you can see in the pictures, we have added more of the 2/56 slotted screws for greater detail. One embarassing mistake that we did not notice right away is the rear door is on backwards. We removed the back panel and flipped the mounting tabs over. We took the opportunity to mount the rear mudflaps. Ugh.
After hanging the rear door, we moved once again to the front end and began assembly of the front roller. The two resin end caps were glued to the PVC pipe, any seams were filled wtih auto body glaze and then painted with olive drab. The 1/4 inch steel rod was threaded through on both ends and capped off with the two resin spring assemblies. Easy.
The two front fenders were washed in soap and water before painting. We will install them later.
The resin cast seat cushions were washed in soap and water prior to painting. We used Krylon's Warm Brown paint and then dulled the finish with a matte clear coat. This color choice seemed to work well but you can always dry brush folds and creases in the "leather" or a black wash to even greater realism.
We used a two part epoxy to adhere the cusions to the front seats. The gun racks had two mounting holes predrilled in them so we opted to mount M3 X 6 screws to the backs of each cushion which then allowed us to screw the seat cushions to the rack. I am not sure if there is any real advantage to do it this way except that it makes for a secure connection between the seat and the sheet metal.
A lot has happened in this picture on the left. We have sanded and painted the second half of the bonnet cover, aligned it to the hood and secured the three hinges with 4/40 screws and nuts. The front fender has been added after drilling the mounting holes in the fender. It matched the predrilled holes on the chassis quite well.
Next, we added the front grill louvers which really add a nice touch to the front end. We did not permanently secure them since they could be opened or closed to facilitate cooling.
Finally, we mounted the cast resin hub "cap" to the front tire/hub assembly. We used the belt sander to grind down about 1/8 of material in order to get a better match between the hub and the tire. We did not like how the hub cap extended so far out from the tire hence the decision to reduce its thickness for a better fit. Glue the cap in place and then apply a light coat of red oxide and olive drab to the inside of the hub.
We waited for a rainy day in order to tackle the track links for the M3. Assembly is straightforward but very time consuming. Each steel cleat must be bent for attaching to the rubber tracks using 4/40 screws and nuts. It takes a few hours to complete both sides.
Be sure to sand the two mated ends you are gluing together first. You will find that they will bond much better.
When you first attempt to mount the tracks to the running gear, they appear to be way too short to comfortably mounted. However, it was surprisingly easy if you mount the tracks to the front sprocket first, align them with the boogies, mount the tracks but remove the rear wheel fromt its axle first and then carefully stretch the tracks/wheel onto the rear axle. Make sure the steel cleats are centered properly in each of the wheels.
We have installed the front sprocket and rear idler wheel assemblies and have finished much of the exterior detail work using the 2/56 screws. We will be adding the tracks along with the rear tow hitch and rear mud flaps soon.
These two shots were taken before the M3 was displayed at a recent one sixth scale convention. Needless to say, the vehicle received quite a bit of attention being one of the only allied metal kits of its kind.
We will also be adding more of the interior detail pieces including the bench seats, headlight assemblies with brush guards and the door furniture. So far, we are really pleased with the way this kit has come together. So far, so good.
We have installed the door furniture which includes door handles, armored windows, door locking mechanisms etc. We have used the 1/2 inch 2/56 slotted screws to fill many of the holes on the exterior and are using an assortment of handles to detail the front bonnet, the doors, fenders and along the main cab of the halftrack.
During the detailing process, we noticed that one mudguard was higher than the other. We drilled out the mounting rivets, checked the alignment and remounted the piece with much better results. Whew.
In this shot of the passenger side door, we have added door latch mechanisms, filled a number of holes and added this scratch built map storage bin or holder. We wanted the door to look less cluttered by removing some of the 2/56 slotted screws and the interior door details really spruced things up.
This picture of the passenger side of the M3 shows the addition of the axe along with additional details added to the battery box, and the passenger side door. Once again, we filled several holes for a cleaner look to the door. We will be adding a mounting strap to the axe along with an extension to the lower running board. Its a small detail but a fairly easy one to apply.
Here we have started to install the armored headlight assemblies which are cast from white metal. This particular style were found on the earlier M3's including other variants such as the M16. We used JB Weld to secure the pieces to the styrene mudguard which is well designed but fairly thin. We also used a small diameter piece of solder to simulate the wiring conduit for the headlight which exits through the mudguard.
Here we have both of the headlamp assemblies installed with the exception of the lens which will be painted and added later.
After adding handles to the driver's side, we started on the tools and the tool mount brackets. After consulting our M3 reference guides on their location, we fabricated tool brackets from brass strip and used 1/72 screws to secure them into place. The shovel strap took a bit more work since the shovel actually rests on a portion of the pick axe so you have to be careful in order to insure a proper fit. The shovel handle mount was fabricated from a piece of 3/8 inch brass tube which was soldered to a brass strip, drilled out and mounted to the M3 side hull. The next step is for the tools to be painted now that the installation is complete.
Before we move to the passenger's side to repeat this process, we will focus our attention on the rear of the M3 along with some detailing of the side mounted battery storage box.
We have also started cleaning up and upgrading the interior steering wheel and shifter assemblies which were not in the best of shape. This particular build will not feature a great deal of interior detail but these components really needed help. We removed a considerable amount of resin material from each of the shfters and the steering wheel using our Dremel tool . It was not clear as to how the steering wheel shaft would mount to the dash/floor so we cut a piece of brass tubing slightly larger than the diameter of the steering wheel shaft. We then secured the tubing to the cabin floor using JB Weld which allows the wheel to turn freely.
We decided to clean up the upper edge of the main compartment by using JB Weld once again and filling the seams. Our finishing sander made quick work of the excess epoxy. This small detail really makes a big difference to the overall look of the M3. We did not want the edge to look too perfect but filling these and other gaps is worth the trouble. We will flip the halftrack around and start on the passenger side detailing next.
The rear tow hook assmbly arrived in 7 pieces and was in pretty bad shape. Pictured to the left are the tow hook components after they had been glued back together and rough sanded. There was a lot of excess resin material that had to be removed along with numerous air bubbles.
We also noticed that there is a "hub" on the tow hook shaft that could not be found in our M3 references. We use the M3 Halftrack books by Patryk Janda, Volumes 1 & 2 because of their amazing attention to detail and color shots of restored M3's and a number of M2/M3/M16 variants. Highly recommended. We decided to remove this feature which would allow for a more flush fit on the M3.
This picture illustrates the tow hook after it has been cleaned up using our trusty Dremel and a cone shaped grinding tool. We removed the resin cast nuts and replaced them with M3*16 screws. The "hub" on the mounting shaft was removed after this picture was taken in order to accomodate installation. The mounting shaft diameter had to be sanded down as well in order to install the tow hook.
We had to enlarge the mounting hole on the sheet metal panel behind the rear in order to install the hook. Using our Dremel with a steel cutting bit we were able to snugly slide the tow hook into the mounting hole. The good news is that it looks great...the bad news is that it is too large and prevents the rear hatch from opening. OMG.
We looked at different ways to correct the problem from redesigning the tow hook to cutting an inch off the rear hatch and welding it to the body. Doing so would change the configuration of the M3 and undermine accuracy. We opted to keep the tow hook as it is but to allow for it to swivel when the rear hatch is opened.
The next detail we decided to tackle was the rear door latch or locking mechanism. Visible from the outside, this feature consists of two rods connected to a locking swivel mechanism in the middle. These being held in place by six brackets- four on the rear and two on the rear door. Ours would be partially functional in keeping the door shut but would not be intended for frequent use.
We originally tried using a combination of brass and plastic tubing for the latches but did not like the final product. Instead, we opted to use an all brass construction which ultimately was easier to work with and yielded better results. We opted not to make a center swivel mechanism in the interest of time and the complex nature of the feature.
We bent thin strips of brass, cut them to size and then drilled them out for the mounting screws. The door latches are longer than those mounted on the rear panel.You can also see the handles we installed prior to this step.
We will then use brass hex jeweler's screws to secure each latch to the rear panel. We took two pieces of .125 brass rod and cut them to size, tapering the ends with the belt sander for a smooth fit. The idea is for the brass rods to secure the rear door by sliding into the door mounted fittings. They were mounted with an offset of about 1/16 inch to allow the rods to move past each other when in the open position.
Even though this feature was not requested by the client, we thought the rear end would look odd without it. We felt as though we achieved our desired look and the setup does keep the rear door closed. We sanded smooth any unfinished edges and applied a base coat of olive green.
We decided to focus our attention on the interior of the halftrack starting with the main compartment. During its initial construction, the bench seats were formed by folding one larger sheet of steel with cutouts for what appeared to be storage bins. We didn't like the finished look and decided to resurface the seats using pieces of 1/16 aluminum cut to size.
Pictured to the left are the two bench seats that have been "resurfaced".
We permanently secured the aluminum sheet to the bench seats and test fit the seat backs. The seat backs will not stay in place without being secured to the main bulkhead but this represented a bit of a problem. Attachment points were hard to find and the interior compartment wall has a nunmber of nuts and screws protruding through it. We decided to bolt the two seat back components together and then secure the assembly using M3 screws through the side exterior sheet metal as well as to the right of the Driver's seat. We repeated the process on the passenger side.
One of the annoying structural details associated with the installation of the gas tanks and rifle racks/storage compartments is fitment. These assemblies do not sit flush against the main interior side panel due to the mounting screws from the mine racks and the 2/56 detail screws and nuts. Once the gas tanks were secured to the interior, we could not help but notice a large gap or seam along the top edge which detracted from the overall look. We used a combination of JP Weld putty along with a narrow brass strip to fill in the gap. After it was painted, not only was the ugly seam gone but it really added a more finished look.
We are going to focus now on the driver's compartment and adding a few interior details.