Vandra Ram II Canadian Sherman conversion - Build

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Postby lmcq11 » Sat Dec 23, 2017 11:30 pm

Hi,

My next project will be the building of the Vandra RAM II Early model Sherman conversion.

The RAM II was a Canadian tank built in Montreal during the war. It was based on the M3 chassis and given a rotating turret with a 6pd gun. About 2000 were build but were replaced with mainstream Shermans before combat started in Europe. They are known as the M4A5 by the Americans. They were used for training and later for the RAM Kangaroo APC.

Ok, its not a pretty tank but its unique and available. Plus the machine gun on the lower turret will be interesting to operate.

The current plan for the build is to have the following features;
- Vandra Ram II resin conversion kit
- Heng Long Sherman Chassis and PZ III gearbox (planned)
- Clark TK-22 (M4) controller card (new thing for me), hooked to my new Flysky remote.
- Mato T74 metal tracks/sprocket
- M3 suspension
- Clark recoil for main gun, with flasher (also new for me)
- Rotating lower machine gun turret using servo, with flasher
- Mato Sherman headlights (modified)
- Hatches will open manually

I will have the help of a couple of books, and also my old Verlinden 1/35 Ram II that I built 30 years ago and still have. The shape and dimensions look good compared to references so It will be handy.

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Verlinden RAM II


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Verlinden RAM II


Here are the Vandra kit main parts. I am used to build their conversion kit so I know what I am getting into. They are not too expensive but require a lot of effort to make them complete and accurate. But with references, basic skills and patience, they can be turned into great and unique models.

rsz_img_4460.jpg
Vandra Ram II conversion kit


The kit is coming with black plastic and resin conversion parts for the M3 suspension. After my experience with the Shapeways M3 suspension, I know that a lot of work is required to make the suspension look good and solid. I am planning to use these parts but they are unlikely to remain as they are once I am done with them. I am also unsure whether the resin connector for the rollers will support metal tracks or remain in place with glue. I'll see.

rsz_img_4463.jpg
Vandra Ram II conversion kit


Having built other Vandra kit, I recognise many parts such as the 3 part transmission over, air filter, engine hatch,

rsz_img_4470.jpg
Vandra Ram II conversion kit


It does not take long to notice that something is definitely wrong with the upper hull. According to my calculating, it is 10mm too high, yes one whole centimeter... The lower deck for the machine gun turret is at the right height, its the rest which is too high or going down too low. So, the plan is to butcher the kit and make it accurate the best I can. I think i have identified most of the corrective measures. They involve cutting the main hull horizontally in two locations (different between front and back) and remove the required millimeters, glue the thing back together, use the dremel to rebuild the joints, shape and redo the cast finish with putty. We can call this plastic surgery... Cutting tanks in half does not scare me. The resin is quite thick so I should be able to make the whole operation seamless. This will be a special ops that will require additional planning. The machine gun turret, front bins and side doors that are equally too high will be adjustment accordingly, turret at the top, doors in two places, bins at the bottom. The ring for the machine gun turret also need to be reduce by 1mm. SImple... well, that's the plan at this time. I am telling you Dean, this will be a nice looking Ram.

rsz_img_4474.jpg
Vandra Ram II conversion kit


rsz_img_4468.jpg
Vandra Ram II conversion kit


As for the main turret, it is at least 7mm too high. So, the plan is to remove the shaded area at the bottom of the top part (easy), and then glue to the turret base. It should then have the right height. As for the gun mantlet, it is strangely exactly at the right height and should fit the lowered turret more accurately. This is good news because cutting the mantlet would have been difficult.

rsz_img_4471.jpg
Vandra Ram II conversion kit


Some bump at the rear deck needs to be removed. I have not seen this in references.

rsz_1img_4478.jpg
Vandra Ram II conversion kit


The kit came with two half figures which look good.

rsz_img_4480.jpg
Vandra Ram II conversion kit


All measurements and corrective actions will be detailed more accurately in following steps. I question myself why Vandra does not use a ruler in their measurements. Maybe the extra mm in height are required because of some reason that i am about to find out (gearbox height, HL chassis fit, gun elevation ??), we'll see.

For now, let's enjoy Christmas with family.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Regards, Louis

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Postby hawkeye3guns » Sun Dec 24, 2017 6:59 pm

Hi I wish you all the best in your build and just wish these conversion kits was around when I scratch built my Kangaroo from photo's. That second machine gun turret was a bugger to make and the offset recess in the upper hull also.
Look forward to seeing the build. :clap:
DSCF2206.JPG
I based mine on a Mato lower and then scratch built the upper.
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Postby Ad Lav » Sun Dec 24, 2017 7:01 pm

Look forward to this - a friend of mine is restoring a Roo.
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Postby c.rainford73 » Mon Dec 25, 2017 3:10 am

This will be quite interesting to see built. Such a unique piece of armour. With your custom touches Louis it should be a stellar job and another intriguing build.

Carl
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Postby lmcq11 » Thu Dec 28, 2017 2:30 pm

Hi,

First, a short post on references being used, other than the web of course. Books on the Ram tank are rare.

Canadian armor in detail. Great book on Canadian WW2 Ram, Sexton and Grizzly tanks with pictures in color.

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Canadian armor in detail


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AFV no 13, Ram and Sexton


The Ram, by Paul Roberts, Canada Weapons of war series. Good book with black and white pictures, one graph page with 1/35 scale plan that confirmed the Verlinden measurements.

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The Ram


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The Ram


And the old AFV publication no 13 on the Ram and Sexton

Regards, Louis

rsz_img_5454.jpg
The Ram

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Postby lmcq11 » Thu Dec 28, 2017 3:02 pm

Hi,

As usual for a Sherman hull mounted with a 3 piece transmission cover, the transmission side covers need to be removed, and the gearbox and the plastic front section has to be grinded in order for the resin part to fit correctly.

rsz_img_5431.jpg
1/16 Vandra Ram Tank


The idea here is to lower the front of the upper hull as much as possible. I made it flush with the lower deck. In order to know exactly how much and where to remove resin material on the upper hull to fix its shape, the first thing is to make sure the base is set.

rsz_img_5439.jpg
1/16 Vandra Ram Tank


If you install the front part as it is, the upper hull will be like 3mm in the air. So, I completely removed the molded in slot, giving the result that you see above..

rsz_img_5437.jpg
1/16 Vandra Ram Tank


That little plate of the left needs a lot of work to be properly placed, the transmission cover needed a lot of sanding. See reference pictures on previous post.

rsz_img_5441.jpg
1/16 Vandra Ram Tank


After sanding, the transmission side covers are put back but further up front than before, requiring the hole for the shaft to be extended rearward.

rsz_img_5463.jpg
1/16 Vandra Ram Tank


Before determining the placement of the upper hull on the chassis, it is important to notice how much space is available in the back for the air filters. I always found the Vandra air filters to be oversized. I found in my spare box old Mato plastic air filters from an M4A1 that are smaller and seem of a more appropriate scale. I will use these instead.

rsz_img_5427.jpg
1/16 Vandra Ram Tank


Here is time to take care of the hull. My god, I never imagined it would be that bad. As mentioned before, it is 1 centimeter too high, and on top of it, it is not flat. So, major surgery is required to fix this. I have decided to Go for Broke on this one in an attempt to make it right. I am Not building a tank that looks like an humpback whale.

rsz_img_5460.jpg
1/16 Vandra Ram Tank


What a sorry looking tank. The shaded areas is where I will make incisions with the Dremel and slowly reduce the height, including taking care of the angle of the turret ring.

rsz_img_5456.jpg
1/16 Vandra Ram Tank


I will remove 7.5mm from the middle, and another 2.5 at the bottom to make it flush with the chassis. The top of the front hull will also get some Dremel treatment.

rsz_img_5447.jpg
1/16 Vandra Ram Tank


The front hatch section need to go down as a whole.

rsz_img_5446.jpg
1/16 Vandra Ram Tank


Ok, It's Dremel time. The next time you see it, it will either look like a Ram tank, or it is going to be in the garbage.

Regards, Louis

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Postby silversurfer1947 » Thu Dec 28, 2017 3:15 pm

It would seem that this is a very poor kit. A shame it is so inaccurate.
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Postby AlwynTurner » Thu Dec 28, 2017 3:33 pm

Unfortunately it looks like a reprise of the Vandra M7 Priest kit which was also inaccurate. It is a crying shame that a company that goes to all the trouble of making a kit can't seem to get the mouldings accurate, all it takes is a bit of research and testing. Instead Louis has to go to all the trouble of remaking the kit which is probably as much effort as a complete scratch build. 8O :'(

I hope your patience lasts out Louis.... :crazy:

Alwyn :thumbup: :wave:
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Postby lmcq11 » Thu Dec 28, 2017 7:15 pm

Hi, thank you Alwyn for your encouragements.

Here is a quick surgery update on the Ram.

Here the cutting process has started. To keep resin dust away, the heavy lifting was done outside in -24C (-10F) winter weather, which did not make it very pleasant.

rsz_img_5465.jpg
Vandra 1/16 Ram Tank


I earlier decided to use the Sherman Gearbox instead of the lower Panzer III. I have determined it is just ok. I hope I will not regret it later.

rsz_img_5467.jpg
Vandra 1/16 Ram Tank


Dry fitting of the various components.

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Vandra 1/16 Ram Tank


Looks better already.

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Vandra 1/16 Ram Tank


Man, it is starting to look like a Ram tank.

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Vandra 1/16 Ram Tank


Next big tasks are; try to get another mm, lower top front section a bit with a light slope forward, fine tuning everything, gluing parts at the remaining joints, reinforcement and plugging of the gaps with plasticard, reshaping the joints, filling with putty, redoing the cast effect.

rsz_img_5479.jpg
Vandra 1/16 Ram Tank


It is definitely not going into the garbage. I think it will be a good looking Ram.

Regards, Louis

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Postby c.rainford73 » Thu Dec 28, 2017 7:20 pm

Brilliant surgical procedures Mr Louis! I'm very impressed (as usual) and am following very closely with every precision cut

I thought it was cold here +7F, I applaud your courage to subject yourself to the elements to make such fine progress.

Hope you haven't lost any appendages

Keep it up!
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Postby Ad Lav » Thu Dec 28, 2017 7:51 pm

Such a shame it's flawed.

Send the photos to vandra model and tell him to fix it. A forum like this highlighting issues can't be good for his sales - the M7 and M10 are a little way off being accurate but do look thenpart.
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Postby midlife306 » Thu Dec 28, 2017 8:06 pm

Excellent work! I’m working on a Jagdpanzer IV resin kit at the moment, the problems I’ve encountered are trivial in comparison.
Your persistence in those temperatures must be applauded
Cheers
Wayne


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Postby lmcq11 » Fri Dec 29, 2017 2:11 am

Hi,

Ad Lav wrote:Such a shame it's flawed. Send the photos to vandra model and tell him to fix it. A forum like this highlighting issues can't be good for his sales - the M7 and M10 are a little way off being accurate but do look thenpart.


Vandra has talent is casting parts. I just do not understand why they make obvious mistakes that could be easily avoided. Although I am grateful for them producing kits that are not available elsewhere, things could be so much better if they could research their subject a bit more before creating them. I sent Vandra pictures of my M7, they were very happy and posted them on the Vandra Facebook site. I will do that with this build as well.

In this post, the Ram upper hull height has been trimmed the best I could with the time I was willing to put on it, and glued it back together. Overall, I managed the get it down by 8mm and make the turret ring horizontal.

In this picture, the turret top part was reduced by 7mm in height from the bottom and just placed on top of its base for the picture. You will also notice that I started the work to move the right hatch forward, by some 7mm to try to make it as per reference. The whole thing needed to be redone anyway. The left hatch is to remain where it is.

rsz_img_5522.jpg
Vandra 1/16 Ram tank conversion


Plasticard was put to fill the larger gaps and it was reshaped. There is no putty on it yet,

rsz_img_5529.jpg
Vandra 1/16 Ram tank conversion


Big putty job coming.

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Vandra 1/16 Ram tank conversion


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Vandra 1/16 Ram tank conversion


The whale body look is something I worked hard trying to get rid of, not easy. One major flaw that I did not correct (yet) is the driver position extending too much at the front by probably 1cm, it would have been possible but I did not think it was worth the effort. It would have demanded a rework of many armor angles. But now that I look at it on pictures, maybe after the new year holiday and with a cooler head, I will find the courage to redo it. We'll see.

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Vandra 1/16 Ram tank conversion


At least the Ram looks better than this morning and the risk factor has decreased significantly.

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Vandra 1/16 Ram tank conversion


rsz_img_5546.jpg
Vandra 1/16 Ram tank conversion


I will continue work after the new year.

Happy new year !

Louis

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Postby c.rainford73 » Fri Dec 29, 2017 4:19 am

What a wonderful transformation :clap: :clap:
Really enjoying this one. Have a great New Year!
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Postby Raminator » Fri Dec 29, 2017 10:09 am

I'm glad you salvaged it Louis, that was a major operation; a real credit to your skills and determination. I don't think I'll complain about my Juckenburg kit after seeing the trouble you've gone to here! Well I still will, but I'll do it quietly under my breath.

The Ram's a really unique tank, and it'll be right at home in your stable with your other fantastic builds. Looking forward to seeing more!
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Postby lmcq11 » Sat Dec 30, 2017 1:16 am

Hi,

I had a few hours this am before going to a family reunion so I looked at the Ram again. The extended driver compartment was really annoying me. I did not go this far to start cutting corners, I am going all the way and decided to crack open the upper hull again, might not be the last either.

In this picture, you can see that the driver compartment is extending way too much to the front in relation to the machine gun turret ring (compare to Verlinden kit), and the inclination of the lower plate is too steep. All I see is a Beluga whale head on my tank.

rsz_1img_5547.jpg
Vandra Ram Tank


I have decided to move back the hatch by 15mm in order to align with the blue print and Verlinden kit. The slope of the front armored plate will be corrected at the same time.

rsz_img_5551.jpg
Vandra Ram Tank


rsz_img_5554.jpg
Vandra Ram Tank


Glued the hatch more or less where it should be according to what I can see, without trying to be scientific. I interpret what I see.

rsz_img_5563.jpg
Vandra Ram Tank


Started putting together the new front hull made of a base of thick plasticard unto which expoxy and then putty will be used to recreate the joints, curves and the cast finish. The shape is complex, Vandra obviously had a lot of difficulty and seems to have lost itself in interpretations. But they should have used some markers to remain into specific boundaries. One or two mm in variance is not too bad, but 15mm, come on... it does not go unnoticed.

rsz_img_5561.jpg
Vandra Ram Tank


Fix one thing and 2 more issues stands out. In this picture, you can see that the driver compartment is way too large as well. I will see what I can do to reduce it, whatever it takes...

rsz_img_5567.jpg
Vandra Ram Tank


Regards, Louis

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Postby 43rdRecceReg » Sat Dec 30, 2017 2:47 am

Inspirational skill and determination there in abundance, Louis. :thumbup: Despite the risk of frostbite, your willingness to overcome some tricky flaws in the kit make this another worthy thread to follow. :clap:
I'm glad that your efforts are now beginning to pay off at last.
Roy.
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Postby B_Man » Sat Dec 30, 2017 2:48 am

This kit leaves a lot to be desired and I'm looking forward to seeing you work your magic on it Louis. I saw the photos of your incredible M7 on the Vandra Facebook page but Mr Vandra should be a bit more transparent and include a link to your build thread so the unsuspecting buyer can see how much modification and work needs to go into making one of those kits look like that.
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Postby Ad Lav » Sat Dec 30, 2017 9:41 am

For a fairly expensive conversion kit I am a little disappointed that it's that much off being accurate.

Having said that, you are doing amazing work.

I won't be buying one because of the flaws, I will enjoy the build! :)

I'll save my money for Nick Aguilar's stuff.
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Postby lmcq11 » Sat Dec 30, 2017 1:16 pm

Hi,

B_Man wrote: I saw the photos of your incredible M7 on the Vandra Facebook page but Mr Vandra should be a bit more transparent and include a link to your build thread so the unsuspecting buyer can see how much modification and work needs to go into making one of those kits look like that.


I sent Vandra the build link with the pictures, with comments that their kit was highly modified. They only posted the pictures. In any cases, their M7 is no longer available for purchase.

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