My Hooben T-55 Progress

This section is for builds that are not strictly Tamiya or Heng Long. For instance, replacing the electronics from a WSN or Matorro, or even a scratch-build.

Postby Marc780 » Fri Oct 11, 2019 9:46 am

I bought the "full option" T-55 from "Alen's RC" on Ali Express. I'm pretty sure I paid too much for what I got, and i confess I am a little bit red in the face to mention what i paid. I and I learned there are cheaper sellers - as a matter of fact for everyone that wants one of the "full option" kits (these include the transmitter and receiver and all the wiring and I can assure you it all works, and is very similar to Heng Long radio system) On ALI EXPRESS for 11/11/2019 they are doing a real sale with really lower prices ... so I bought another one. Sale price comes out to less than half what I paid for this one... from $445 to $356 sale price... you just put your tank in your cart and wait, you just don't pay til 11/11. anyway, you pick the tank you want, and put in your cart but don't pay yet until November 11.

I had wanted one of these tanks ever since I found out they made them but I was always put off by all the assembly work you must do to have a T55! But I finally decided to go all in and get the "full kit". This includes: motors with metal gears; metal barrel; metal idler wheels and sprockets; lighting kit; plus the Tx and Rx, i.e. the Hooben MCU (i.e. the "control box" everything plugs into, and which looks very similar to Heng Long) and the Hooben transmitter. My hope was by buying everything in one go the tank might work how it's supposed to without needing extra servos and the like.

When you buy a Hooben T-55, it is a "KIT" in every sense of the word, as it arrives as a large collection of bagged parts. To Hooben's eternal credit, most of the parts bags are really pretty well organized and labelled; that is, until you actually open one. At this point your tenuous parts system is in peril, unless you continuously keep track of them you will spend the most time on this kit just looking for the right part! I found that storing small parts in pill bottles, and stuffing in the little piece of paper with the parts numbers on it to be very helpful. And the best advice I can give you for making this tank, is that the FIRST thing you should do is to set aside at least 2 dozen boxes, jars, bottles for storing parts.
Organizing parts so you can find them when you need them, is one of the most important/time consuming chores you'll be doing throughout the entire project. The Hooben instruction manual is the only guide you get with it, and is a collection of line drawings, along with the occasional suggestion as to how you will piece it all together. Also,
practically every part requires some sort of hand-fitting, filing, sanding, drilling or re-drilling, re-machining and/or modification before it will function and this is just the nature of the beast.

I decided to start this project with the suspension system. The Hooben T-55 suspension system has more parts than a cuckoo clock and it certainly seems overly complicated. But once I had the tank, any concern about it being too difficult quickly proved groundless. Putting this tank together is not nearly as bad as it looks, once you have the parts in front of you. Even so, I spent lots of time reading other people's build logs and otherwise finding out how other people did it before ever picking up a tool.

Once I started to assemble the suspension I soon had it down to a system: Install the cast aluminum "wells" inside the hull and install the bolts; grease the suspension arm, then place the little metal cap and its spring (parts 1 and 2) in the well. Insert the suspension arm so its notch fits into the spring + the cap. Align all 3 parts so spring tension is pressing the correct way (i.e.downwards). While holding everything in alignment install the little wire clip (#4) to hold the arm in place. Repeat 9 X. Maybe the line drawing might cast some light on the topic
Image

There are additional parts to put together for the suspension arm assemblies (or whatever the nomenclature should be) on each corner. The function of these parts is to limit the downward travel of the suspension arms. However these parts are low-quality castings and very brittle. The end of one part did not fit into the other, so I tried filing it down until it did - but now the part was too thin, and it broke in half when I tried to install its screw! So now i had a problem. It is possible to get replacement parts directly from Hooben, but since they're presumably the same parts that broke the first time, what's the point? But, much to my surprise, somebody actually makes replacements for this (shabby) part after all! I sent away to Ludwigs-hobby-seite de for a set of 4 of these tiny arms... in the meantime I wanted to continue the build so I just bent a paper clip for a temporary fix.
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The tracks are assembled by hand, and this took me two solid hours. Each side is supposed to have 90 links, and assembling each link goes like this: start the pin by hand through one track link while holding its mate in alignment with it, using the same hand. Now using needle-nose pliers, or just your fingers for the tricky ones, proceed to maneuver, finesse, coax and shove the pin through all the holes to join both links. Repeat 179 times.

Some of the links go through easy and some are not so easy. Not all the pins go in easily, but I learned a little trick for the ones in which the pin does not go through easily on the first try: Shove a pin through the first set of holes, but use a pin on both sides; in other words just use two pins, one stuck in each side. Then try inserting the pin for keeps on one side or the other, until a pin goes all the way through.

I broke the end pieces off several track links by mistake while doing this but fortunately, there are several spares included in the box. I already have a set of the Hooben metal tracks ready to go - but I'll be using the plastic ones for a while if not permanently, while I get the tank running. The metal tracks (cast aluminum no doubt) look great but they are, of course, very heavy.
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Next I fitted the front idler wheels, and here too there was a problem. The idlers are made of cast aluminum, and a bronze bushing (TE6) goes inside the idlers along with one roller bearing ("TE5") that goes in the inboard side of the wheel behind a circlip. The bearing well in the idler wheel needs to be 8mm wide to hold the roller bearing, no more no less... but, maddeningly, the bearing well is cast just a bit too small to accept the bearing! It is not a press fit, nor a friction fit, so I didn't try just pounding the bearing in since that would just ruin the idler and/or the bearing. The problem is they made the the hole in the idler wheel too small. So the only way the bearing will fit how it is supposed to, is to use a flute reamer and hone out the bearing well. Take care to only ream out the bearing well just a fraction wider (but no deeper) than it already is. And if a drill is used, the pointy tip will make the hole deeper - and now you'll have two sources for slop to occur because it'll make the bearing tilt and introduce even more slop into the works, from bearing cant.
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I realize that it may seem like I'm making mountains out of mole-hills and slightly over-dramatizing the effort needed to fix the many shortcomings in the design of this tank. And indeed most of the problems with building the Hooben T-55 to run how it is supposed to, are admittedly very minor ones and can be resolved by a reasonably skilled modeller pretty quickly. The problem though is that these issues are seemingly endless and seem to come one after another! So I will say that actually putting together one of the Hoobens will almost certainly require a significantly greater commitment from most modellers (of time, energy and money) than any other scale model I've ever seen (and I have been building scale models since the 1970's).

Anyway, I sent away for a fluted reamer, size 8mm, since this is the proper (but at $20, somewhat expensive!) tool for this job. IF I had access to a grinder though, I'd just grind the pointy end off a cheap 8mm drill until the tip is square (like a reamer). The aluminum in the idler wheels is soft as cheese and so even a dull and worn-out drill ought to do the trick. But lacking a grinder, the reamer was my only option to fix this problem.
(I am slowly but surely acquiring many kinds of tools plus many other supplies - pins, bearings, clamps, et. al. whose only use will be for building this tank! When I think about it I'm truly tempted to buy another tank, while I'm well equipped for building a T55!

Next, fitting the gearbox and testing the electrics and running gear.
Last edited by Marc780 on Fri Nov 08, 2019 11:55 am, edited 13 times in total.

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Postby General Jumbo01 » Fri Oct 11, 2019 10:00 am

Small bearings are available in just about every size imaginable so fitting one with a smaller outside diameter may be simplest/safest. Good ball race examples are very low cost on eBay.
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Postby Rad_Schuhart » Fri Oct 11, 2019 10:08 am

I am building a T55 too. I did not get the hooben electronics, are useless for me.
So far I installed bearings in all the wheels, plan is to install servo elevation, and both cuppolas will also rotate. I will use a 12 channel receiver to be able to trigger all the functions.

Appart from that I installed a track tensioner, and replaced all the screws with high quality ones.

I also have for sale an aluminium mounting plate for stiffening the hull, if you want it let me know!

Read the manual carefully, because is pretty bad and has several mistakes.
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Postby Rad_Schuhart » Fri Oct 11, 2019 10:10 am

General Jumbo01 wrote:Small bearings are available in just about every size imaginable so fitting one with a smaller outside diameter may be simplest/safest. Good ball race examples are very low cost on eBay.


The T55 wheels are bad casted, that is the problem. The hole should be a bit bigger, thats it. I enlarged it
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Postby General Jumbo01 » Fri Oct 11, 2019 10:14 am

The things we poor modelers have to live with! A good tool set is required then ;)

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Postby Marc780 » Sun Oct 13, 2019 12:12 am

Thanks for all the replies fellas! Regarding the aluminum plate, I have got one of those too, but I am not sure if and how I'll even fit it. Now that I've seen the inside of the hull I'm concerned how I am going to fit the rest of the works inside it, if I fit the aluminum plate that won't help the interior room.
This tank is a crash course in engineering, or more specifically RE-engineering. I have been working on it several hours a day, hoping to finish before my enthusiasm wanes! This is a unique and somewhat frustrating project, considering how bad the design on this is. For now I've just set myself the goal of getting the chassis moving and I don't even want to think how I'll make the turret work!

I re-made the road wheels so the bearing will fit. Using an 8 mm drill bit, I found I had a real problem with holding the fragile road wheel still enough to drill it. No matter how I clamped it in the padded vise, the wheel would break loose and start spinning with the drill. Clamping it tighter was not an option. So finally I made the drill run in reverse and gently applied the drill, it would then sort of melt its way through the wheel, after trimming the plastic far enough to finally hold the bearing.
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Today I test fitted the motor and road wheels. After this I'm hooking up the power and going to see about getting the tank rolling under power.... i suspect my work on this tank will come to a grinding halt if the Hooben electronics don't work! Since I see not point in doing any more work unless and until the tank moves.
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Postby Rad_Schuhart » Sun Oct 13, 2019 6:17 am

Hi, yesterday I discovered the sprockets are offset and they will cause track throw. I see no other way to fix it than machinning the motor axles and remove about 2mm... What are you going to do?
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Postby tomhugill » Sun Oct 13, 2019 12:26 pm

Rad_Schuhart wrote:Hi, yesterday I discovered the sprockets are offset and they will cause track throw. I see no other way to fix it than machinning the motor axles and remove about 2mm... What are you going to do?


I think on mine I ammended the alignment by moving the wheels outward slightly rather than messing about with the drive shafts.
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Postby tomhugill » Sun Oct 13, 2019 12:28 pm

Rad_Schuhart wrote:
General Jumbo01 wrote:Small bearings are available in just about every size imaginable so fitting one with a smaller outside diameter may be simplest/safest. Good ball race examples are very low cost on eBay.


The T55 wheels are bad casted, that is the problem. The hole should be a bit bigger, thats it. I enlarged it


The old version with bushes fit but I think when they went to bearings they used some slightly different sized ones.
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Postby Ad Lav » Sun Oct 13, 2019 12:46 pm

Try my build for tips. They do run well and I had no issues once I fitted some upgraded bits from Stian.

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Postby Marc780 » Wed Oct 16, 2019 8:56 pm

I'm waiting for several battery electrical adapters now. The tank wiring only comes with a Dean's adapter and all my batteries are Tamiya connectors. All I have left to do before a test run of the transmitter and motors is to connect the battery, which I don't want to do until I have the proper battery adapter first.
The schematic is fairly straightforward and seems very similar to the Heng Long 2.4 Ghz systems. If it works with the same reliability as theirs that'll be great, even so I'm wondering what I will do if after all this the Hooben R/C gear I paid extra for does not work!?
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I got the "Hull reinforcement plate" for DKLM for $45 and thought I'd fit that in the hull now. There are some plastic moldings in the bottom of the hull, that serve no purpose except stick up and have to be ground away before the plate will fit inside. I couldn't use the screws that came with it, sometimes I wonder if these designers ever even examined the parts before they design them how they do. I replaced the screws that hold in the suspension blocks with longer ones. With the longer screws, the plate is a few mm off the bottom of the hull and not fitting flat, which is not possible anyway, due to the concave shape of the hull. I thought I'd paint the plate before it was installed too, couldn't decide between gray, black, or tamiya white primer and finally decided this dark green would hide fingerprints best.
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You can see the motor mounting plate in the image above and it is different from any other motor mounting system I have seen before. The plate mounts over stand-offs, just like the kind of stand-offs in our computers to hold the mobo away from the metal case. There are 6 stand-offs that mount in the floor of the hull, over which you place the plate and secure it with nuts. It works pretty well, especially since you can pre-mount one of the motors before installing the plate in the hull... but the second motor you have to mount the hard way i.e. ship-in-a-bottle type assembling. As luck and Asian engineering would have it one motor mounts roughly like it is supposed to using 3 screws. The second motor was a tougher proposition and only ONE of the mount screws lined up. So at least one more will need to be drilled, with their corresponding nuts getting glued in on the bottom of the plate.

One thing I learned pretty quickly, while assembling this tank is not quite as bad as I initially thought it would be, it will still require plenty of fitting and refitting. So now I never bother installing anything "permanently" as whatever it is, the part will be coming out again for more work at least one more time!
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Postby Marc780 » Thu Oct 17, 2019 9:48 pm

The adapter for the battery came so now there were no more excuses, it was time to hook up the R/C to see if the motors work! I haven't hooked up anything else for the tank yet, I figured if i can't at least get the motors to work with this Hooben system there was no point. The battery adapter that came with it was Deans, so I needed an adapter for Tamiya

I put the batteries and powered up everything, tried the R/C controls and nothing happened. The diagram called for binding, the only binding wire I had was Heng long which didn't fit. I just shorted the pins in the TCU (the square control box with the wires coming from it)for the binding cable with a screwdriver, pressed the controls, voila, motor spun!

Image

The next chores will be tearing into the turret, and starting work on the upper hull - along with adding more screws to the motor mounting. I definitely needed to hear the motors run though, just to know for certain I'm not spending all this time and effort on a static model!

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Postby 43rdRecceReg » Fri Oct 18, 2019 9:46 am

Following with keen interest. :thumbup: The educational value of seeing someone confronted with problems, and finding workable solutions to them, is great indeed. :D
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Postby Rad_Schuhart » Fri Oct 18, 2019 10:28 am

Hi Marc, please tell us how did you solve the horrible sprocket offset. As stock, it is almost like the king tiger!
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Postby General Jumbo01 » Fri Oct 18, 2019 11:01 am

43rdRecceReg wrote:Following with keen interest. The educational value of seeing someone confronted with problems, and finding workable solutions to them, is great indeed. :D
I'm sure this is helping us all with our marriages :(


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Postby Marc780 » Sat Oct 19, 2019 12:28 am

Now the tank can move under it's own power, I turned my attention to the turret elevation and recoil mechanisms.
The barrel recoil is something I decided I can do without, even so since the capability is there it seemed a waste not to at least try to get it to function. The problem is the designers dropped the ball here since their line drawings do not completely match the parts you are given. Some parts such as suspension components and springs, you actually get one or two more than you need, other parts are missing. This is maddening, but not exactly unexpected, thus my low expectations for this kit.

The nuts that hold in the turret elevation mechanism were round head and needed to be the countersunk type, since the whole works gets screwed to a plastic piece, which in turn gets glued to the turret floor. So another trip to the hardware store to get the right screws was in order. If you build this tank, if you aren't on a first name basis with the people at your local hardware store you will be after.
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The way the barrel is attached inside the turret is puzzling, some parts have to be glued together with nothing to guide you how the orientation should be and its impossible to hook up things and test them until everything's permanently assembled. On a couple parts I realized I had glued the parts wrong and needed to hurriedly pry them apart before the glue set! Fast setting glue, like the JB Quick weld I was planning to use but haven't so far, is not what you want to use for most of this project. Except for parts that are more or less impossible to assemble wrong like the fender fuel tanks and the like.

Image

I'm almost to the point I can hookup the turret and test the function. As long as the gun elevates I'll be happy with that, but if it turns out the recoil function is flawed in any way I'm moving on to the traverse mechanism in the upper hull.
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Postby Marc780 » Sat Oct 19, 2019 6:21 am

Now i started work on the turret functions. This T55 has elevation and traverse of course, and it has gun recoil with an additional servo in the turret. The motors for the first two do not have the wires soldered on, so you have to do it. The gun recoil servo has an R/C aircraft type servo with 3 pins, so that just gets plugged in to 3 pins on part #9 "Pinboard" as it says on the schematic.
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After powering up and trying all the controls, all of them function, even the recoil. Now I can add them into the turret, finish up with the fine details and close up the top and bottom turret pieces. That's going to take a lot more work, especially since I noticed a few more parts missing - the roller units that the turret pivots on, for one thing.

I did find you can order missing parts direct from the Hooben site. I emailed them for what I thought was a missing part, but later realized was just a mistake in reading the schematic (#9 "PINBOARD" ) and they told me it is $30 for a replacement. They are not cheap but still, the parts are available.
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Postby Marc780 » Sun Oct 20, 2019 11:45 am

Rad_Schuhart wrote:Hi Marc, please tell us how did you solve the horrible sprocket offset. As stock, it is almost like the king tiger!


Sprocket offset? I haven't even gotten that far yet, right now I'm just happy all the motors respond to the transmitter! I guess that's something I'll deal with when I get to it? I'll probably search the forums to find out how others fixed the problem on similar tanks, although now that I know i have this problem to deal with I can't say I'm looking forward to it lol

...So I am ready to do a function test of the turret motors soon. The elevation and recoil servos need to be fine-tuned and made as perfect as I can get them before I seal everything up in the turret! But the design really seems to have not been thought through completely and calls for re-engineering by the end user (the unfortunate soul trying to build the tank, that is of course, yours truly).
Image

Take a look at the drawing (the one helpful thing that Hooben engineers include with the tank... the line drawings are excellent for the most part, even if the parts shown don't always match with what comes in the box!)
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The problems with making the barrel recoil function work are becoming a real issue (If anybody with this tank has any tips on how they overcame them I'd like to hear them!) The part "TF4" is a simple bronze bushing that gets glued inside the plastic part "TF2". The plastic barrel extension "TF3" is supposed to slide backwards and forwards inside the bushing when activated by the servo "TG3". The drawing tells you (in the detail to the right of it) to glue the bushing inside the rearward part of TF2. But the bushing is too big to fit there unless you drill it out, won't work that way, and the only place the bushing will fit is in the front part of TF2. Moreover you really need two bushings to properly support the barrel extension otherwise the barrel droops too much. It seems the designers once again have made something that does meet the bare minimum requirements (since yes, the barrel will recoil) but needs a whole lot more refinement - which the designers have just left for the end user to fix.

Another example of poor design work here is evident. Notice the 3 plastic parts in the lower drawing called "Y4". These are 3 plastic blocks parts glued together onto the barrel extension. They are obviously meant to function as a guide or "track" so the barrel doesn't twist laterally as it recoils. But the fit is much too loose for it to function that way and they do nothing to keep the barrel extension from moving to the right- so i deleted those parts. Even worse, the barrel extension fits so loosely inside TF2 that it droops noticeably. I figured if I had another bushing like TF4 I could bore out the rear hole on TF2 and glue it inside. But after yet another trip to the hardware store (Tom and Betty are doing fine, the oldest kid's in little league now) there was no bushing, not steel, nor bronze nor aluminum, even close to the size needed. Although I can always make my own bushing with JB Weld (it dries hard enough to be machined) I'm getting very close to just gluing the parts in place. The parts fit is too sloppy, the barrel flops around and droops too much, the barrel recoil is very cool but impractical as is, and the whole functionality can easily be done away with.

Anyway today I began gluing some of the many parts to the hull and turret, since there are a lot of them. I use 3 kinds of glue: Gorilla super glue gel, Gorilla clear, and Tamiya thin cement (the kind with the bottle and brush). The Tamiya works best for gluing small parts that aren't stressed. I use the super glue for gluing things fast, then i reinforce it by brushing the Tamiya glue around the edges. I use clamps wherever I can, which isn't often, since the irregular shapes and fragile plastic don't offer many opportunities.
Image
As you can see, this tank is a lot of work! I am going to have to go back and re-do many things and I can't say this tank is even close to being finished. I want to do a test run with everything hooked up, the tank running and with the turret attached to the hull. I can tell this tank is going to require a lot of fine-tuning and will never really be "finished" - but that's clearly the nature of "THE BEAST" (which by the way, is the title of the best - not to mention only - movie starring this T55 tank ever made!)
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Postby Marc780 » Mon Oct 21, 2019 10:19 am

I'm getting closer to finishing the turret functions and closing it all up. I did a function test on the elevation motor and it worked fine.
I was still not even close to fixing the barrel recoil function. I hated the amount of play in the barrel, it flopped around too much and there's no way to fix it to where I'm satisfied. As a last resort I cut shim material from a soda can and tried shimming the barrel at both ends to reduce the huge amount of play.
Image
The shims got most of the play out, but after that the servo wouldn't pull the barrel back and forth. Since I'd never be satisfied with the function, I gave up, gave in and glued the barrel solid. So although I didn't like doing that, I felt i could do nothing more with it.

I glued on the front and back hull plates. I really should have waited to prime the hull since I had to scrape off a lot of paint before gluing. I also glued on a lot more of the small parts onto the upper hull, the fuel tanks, tool boxes and other stuff. The next chore is to hook up the lights and turret IR searchlight.
Image
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Postby Rad_Schuhart » Mon Oct 21, 2019 10:31 am

Marc780 wrote:
Rad_Schuhart wrote:Hi Marc, please tell us how did you solve the horrible sprocket offset. As stock, it is almost like the king tiger!


Sprocket offset? I haven't even gotten that far yet, right now I'm just happy all the motors respond to the transmitter! I guess that's something I'll deal with when I get to it? I'll probably search the forums to find out how others fixed the problem on similar tanks, although now that I know i have this problem to deal with I can't say I'm looking forward to it lol



Yep, before working on the turret I think you should focus on that first, lol. The sprockets are offset. I mean, are not aligned with the roadwheels, so it will cause throw track every 10 seconds, lol.

I planned to shim the wheels, but one shim is not enough, and two makes the roadwheels to bee too out, and the grub screw wont have enough flat part to fit.

Anyway considering doing that puts the wheels outside the fenders (and it should NOT be like that) the only thing we can do, is to machine the motor axles and remove 1 or 2 milimeters...

And yeah, recoil is a pain, lol
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