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Saturday, 24 January 2015

WIP: Astra Militarum Taurox Conversion #1

"This kit requires some modelling skill to assemble." That's what it says on the Victoria Miniatures webstore for their 'APC Wheels and Suspension Kit' a.k.a. Taurox conversion kit. Sounds like a pretty standard disclaimer for a resin third-party kit, right? What they probably should have said was, "you may be tempted to rage-quit the hobby forever trying to assemble this thing".

So that was probably a bit melodramatic, but assembling the wheels and suspension was much harder than I expected—and this is just the first part of my quest to build a better Taurox.

Don't get me wrong, I love the many excellent kits from Victoria Miniatures, but this one has been difficult to work with for the following reason:
  • It comprises lots of fiddly little bits
  • The assembly of these bits is non-intuitive
  • It does not come with any assembly instructions
That last point is the big one—nothing came with the kit, and I could not find anything on the Victoria Miniatures website or Facebook page. Googling did not help either; it seems that no one else who has tried this kit has written about their experience yet (they could still be trying to assemble it—or recover from the trauma of their attempts). I really hope Victoria publishes something soon for the sake of modellers everywhere!

With all that said, I do think this kit is going to make my improved Taurox look great. Furthermore, now that I have unlocked the mysteries of its assembly, I think subsequent uses of this kit will be significantly quicker and easier.

Rear Suspension

I took one look at the breakdown of bits between the front and rear suspension and decided to start with the less complex rear.

After cleaning the flash off the drum thingy (I do not know the proper names of these components, I pay someone to fix my car) I noticed that one end was quite concave. I think this is indicative of the resin cooling too rapidly during casting, and contracting from the walls of the mould.

I filled the concave end with green stuff and smoothed the surface. Not a big inconvenience, but it was only the beginning...

I then noticed that the indents on either side of the drum thingy, into which the axles (I know that name!) are fitted, were not aligned—the misalignment was about one-third the diameter of the indent, which would have been pretty noticeable if assembled as-is. Taking a second look at the images on the Victoria Miniatures webstore (my only guidance in this assembly) it looks like their display model shows the same misalignment. This suggests to me that this was not a miscast, but a design error.

I noticed that there is a bit of flexibility in attaching the wheels to the axles, so the misaligned axles can probably be concealed by offsetting the wheels, but I decided to align the axles instead. I used a Dremel to drill a new indent into the side of the drum thingy, being careful not to break through the very thin resin wall and turn the indent into a hole.

I then partially filled the widened oval indent with green stuff, restoring its circular shape, to leave a clean finish.

Next it was time to glue the drum thingy to the undercarriage of the Taurox. While the front drum thingy fitted flush with the undercarriage, the rear drum thingy left slightly less than a millimetre gap. I considered cutting into the inside of the drum thingy to try and get it to fit flush, but I was worried about breaking the thin-walled component. Instead I just green stuffed the gap to leave a clean finish.

I then glued on the axles, but there was a corresponding gap between the top of the shock absorber (another name I do know) and the undercarriage. I had to fill that with green stuff too—maybe on the next Taurox I will try harder to get the drum thingy fitted flush.

That was not much fun. The next part was worse...

Front Suspension

Wow, lots of fiddly little parts. In fact, too many fiddly parts, since the product image shows four forks in the front suspension assembly but the kit was supplied with six.

I assume these were extras supplied for bits prone to breaking during assembly. I didn't think too much further on it—and didn't notice that in the product image, the two pairs of forks are subtly different in size. A critical mistake, as it would turn out—too bad there are no assembly instructions to warn against such mistakes...

When I tried to attach the drum thingy to the undercarriage I noticed that there were two tabs inside the component that prevented its attachment (sorry, I forgot to photograph this step). After some consideration, I decided that these tabs were just there to strengthen the component during casting and shipping, so I carefully cut them out. This enabled me to attach the drum thingy to the undercarriage.

Here is my first attempt at assembling the forks and axle:

Getting this far involved lots of swearing, fingers glued together, and general frustration. The two forks and axle do not lock into a specific position, they all have a fair bit of play in the joints. This means that all three fiddly bits have to be glued together at the same time, and delicately held together to set into a position that would later allow the front wheels to be attached straight and level with the rear wheels.

No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't get the axle straight—it was noticeably angled downwards. After breaking and re-glueing the joints several times, and incorporating tiny green stuff balls into some joints to improve positional flexibility, I just couldn't get the right alignment. I realised that there was physically no way to get the alignment right, because the two lugs on the drum thingy that the forks attach two were not themselves aligned.

I figured that I could compensate through shaving back the axle when attaching the wheel, so I decided to move on. There was another component left over that I hadn't used yet, so I set about determining where and how to attach this strut. Inspecting product images suggested that it also attached to the axle and drum thingy, in a square indent on the drum that was much larger than the cross-section of the strut.

I attempted to fit the strut but found that it was too long. I could think of no way in which the full length strut could be fitted, so I cut it down to size. I filled the indent with green stuff to make it easier to attach the strut, and give a cleaner finish.

It finally looked like the product images—success, despite the woeful lack of assembly instructions! Or so I thought, but the downwards angling of the axle was still annoying me.

I puzzled over the product image and finally realised my earlier mistake: the two pairs of forks were different sizes. While the kit was supplied with two short forks and four long forks, each side of the drum thingy was actually meant to attached to one of each length of fork—and I had used two long forks!

So after all that effort, I had to break down the front suspension assembly and start again, after cleaning up the glue and green stuff from the first attempt. Thankfully, now knowing how the components were meant to fit together, assembly was quicker and easier the second time around—if only there were assembly instructions that could have saved me from all those hard lessons!

Great success! The front suspension assembly was complete, and the axle faces were straight and level with the rear axles. Those struts had to be cut down even further to fit when the right combination of forks were used. I really don't know why those struts were designed and cast so long, unless you wanted to model the Taurox in a diorama driving over some really uneven ground with the axle titled at an extreme angle.

That's all for now, tomorrow I will tackle the superstructure of the Taurox conversion. I expect to have much less difficulty with that—say whatever you like about GW in general, or the aesthetic of the stock Taurox specifically, but they are great model makers. This is especially apparent in their recent kits, which go together very quickly and easily despite the ever-growing quantity of bits involved. I've already noticed with this kit that nearly all the mould injection points are in places that are concealed on the fully assembled model, making preparing this kit much faster than usual.


  1. Just got one of these kits myself. Your pictures will help greatly! Thanks.

  2. J. Michael Hurst25 January 2015 at 01:12

    What a nightmare, m8. Glad you saw it through. And thanks for the step by step - it will help many similarly lost souls. You should really flip the post to Victoria and ask them to get their act together. Below par for them.

  3. To be fair, I don't think any Victoria kits have assembly instructions, but damn does this one need them. When I finish the build I'm going to write a full picture tutorial to help my fellow modelers, and I'll send it to Victoria too.

  4. Sheesh that sounds like an absolute pain in the rear. Glad I dont own a taurox as I would def be pruchasingthis kit as the stock Gw one looks terrible with the tracks on.