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Project: Desert Astra Militarum #1

It's been a case of all-hobby, no-bloggy for the last few months. The new edition of 40k has reinvigorated my motivation to build a...

Friday, 12 December 2014

WIP: Astra Militarum Chimera #1

Astra Militarum, Imperial Guard, Chapterhouse, Conversion

Here is a sneak peek at the first of my Astra Militarum vehicles: a pair of specially-modified Rapid Response Chimeras. These transports are built from a rare variant of the Chimera STC that exchanges the usual all-terrain track units for six wheels for better speed and handling on sealed surfaces—too bad these vehicles are being deployed to a desert world! Fear not, and trust in the infinite wisdom of the Departmento Munitorum...

I have used the Wheeled Conversion Kit from Chapterhouse Studios to build these guys. I really like the aesthetic of the assembled model, but using these conversion kits has honestly been my worst modelling experience ever. I would not recommend these conversion kits to anyone but the most skilled—and patient—modellers amongst us.

Astra Militarum, Imperial Guard, Chapterhouse, Conversion

This conversion kit seems to be designed for the old Chimera model (pre-2009) and it needed significant modification to fit the current version Chimera. I did buy these conversion kits over a year ago, and Chapterhouse could have changed the design since then, but the six I bought were all the same. If you look through the product reviews on the Chapterhouse webstore you will see contradictory comments like these:
"Well it looks good when finished, but was a bitch to put together. I did two kits using OLD Chimera kit and had to do a lot of work on the front glacia plates and to fit the sides to the hull. Guess they were designed for new kit."
"took me about 30 minutes to work the pieces to get the ideal fit - I was using an old school Chimera Hull mind you - then I put the tank into a vice for about two hours to keep everything really tight while the glue cured."
"had an older chimera kit to work with. I checked the fit before starting and with little wet sanding and filing to keep dust down the result were fantastic"
"VERY good Compatability with GW kit"
"I did however need to file down quite a bit to make it fit on the "newer" chimera hull"
"Compatibility with Chimera model= very easy"
It seems that other modellers using the current version Chimera have also had more difficulties than those using the pre-2009 model. But then some modellers have reported no problems at all—I suspect that they may have simply attached the conversion kit to the plastic hull without regard for aligning the outer surfaces for best appearance. If you are considering using this conversion kit, I recommend you do a Google Image search for "Chapterhouse Wheeled Chimera" first and check out some pictures of badly assembled models with horribly misaligned front armour!

Astra Militarum, Imperial Guard, Chapterhouse, Conversion

I spent a lot of time using my Dremel to grind out significant chunks of the conversion kit to allow for a better fit to the current version Chimera model (red circles). This generated lots of nasty resin dust so wear a mask and do this outside!

Once I could actually fit the conversion kit to the plastic hull with reasonable armour plate alignment, I then realised that this resin is really poorly cast; every single straight edge was warped to some degree, and I spent a lot of time green stuffing the joins to get a seamless finish.

The bumper bar piece was quite warped, as you would expect from thin rods made from resin, so some hot water reshaping was necessary. I consider this to be normal for working with resin, but it gets worse...

Upon closer inspection of the conversion kit pieces, I discovered that this conversion kit was, in fact, quite possibly my worst resin-working experience of all time—and I've worked with old-school Forge World kits, so I'd already had plenty of bad experiences! What should have been flat surfaces (armour plates) were covered in micro-corrugations. This unwanted texture would really show up poorly when painting the Chimera, especially if I used a wash or drybrushing, so I had to spend even more time scraping all those big 'flat' surfaces with a hobby knife to remove the texture. If you ever need to do this, then use a fresh blade on your knife; it needs to be universally sharp, without notches in the edge, or you will just add new corrugations to the surface.

This scraping revealed lots of holes from subsurface bubbles in the resin. After I stopped crying, I then spent even more time filling these holes with green stuff, and re-sculpting the sharp edges of the armour plates that were destroyed by the bubbling.

The final step was to prime the model with Tamiya Fine Surface Primer. This stuff smells nasty but is a great tool in the hobbyist's arsenal, because it is a true primer and it smooths over a lot of those lingering micro-imperfections in the surface. If you look closely at the pictures of my primed Chimeras you will see several discolourations in the paint—these are where I've sanded the primer back to take care of lumps in green stuff joins.

I really hope these vehicles turn out well as a finished product, because getting them this far has been a hellish experience. I honestly don't know if I'll build all six Chimeras as originally planned.


  1. Greggor Bloodsing12 December 2014 at 12:24

    Man, I have heard some horror stories about that kit. I have considered finding an old chimera on eBay, but It sounds like there are many more problems then just fit...

    Gotta say though, yours did come out looking pretty good. IDK bout making six, good luck mate.

  2. I have a third one under construction, but yeah I don't know how I'll go with building the other three! I'm actually considering running some Taurox to transport Veteran Squads, using the Victoria Miniatures wheel conversion kit so they match the Chimeras.