Building the HobbyBoss GAZ-AAA with Quad Maxim AA Gun
BEFORE WE GET STARTED
You can read quick introductions to HobbyBoss, the GAZ-AAA and the Quad Maxim on my first look review, so I won’t rehash all that here. I’ll just say that I have always been attracted to the WW2 Red Army’s no-nonsense, “yup, that’ll kill things” approach to armor and vehicles. Add the wicked, steampunk vibe of four, count e'm four, Maxim machine guns, and this topic became too much for me to pass up. No more stalling, time to get my GAZ on.
STEP ONE: A shaky start.
Step one begins with the chassis rails. That’s okay, most truck kits do. But most truck kits give you clear attachment points and solid joins, guaranteeing that if you simply follow the instructions and put the right pins in the right holes, you will have a strong, square foundation for the entire kit. HobbyBoss does not do this. The instructions are vague, there are feint placement marks on the pieces, and the parts have very minimal contact points. I tried to tape the frames rails to my gridded cutting mat to ensure alignment, but the chassis tapers from back to front, so this was still just a guess. I ended up grabbing the cabin floor from a later step to use as a template, as it does attach to the frame rails with definitive pins and holes.
Here’s what I wound up with. Is the front bracket straight and located correctly? Are the pins in the back that will hold the suspension properly aligned? Are the frames evenly spaced? Maybe.:
STEP TWO: Uhm..okay...uh, what?
Now it’s time to dive into assembling the rear transmission housings. More vague instructions. More just plain guessing. Later I discovered that the pieces I am gluing down now interact with larger pieces later – and that’s a problem. For example, there are four TINY brackets (parts C1, C2) that attach to the axle assemblies. The parts themselves are barely recognizable as the hooks shown in the instruction illustration, and there is a good deal of guess work as to exactly how they fit. Later in Step 5 the brake lines(?) (parts G4, G5) didn't align with those hooks. I was forced to carefully remove the hooks and reposition them to support the brake lines. If for some reason someone holds a gun to my head and demands that I build this kit again, I will leave these hooks off and wait until Step 5 to add them, after I have installed the brake lines.
I had the same issue with the x-shaped brackets on the axle assembly (parts C8, C9). The fit on these parts is not great, and again I was forced to make some guesses about their exact orientation. These parts turn out to be VERY crucial, as they are the connectors for the leaf springs (parts C22, C23) that hold the entire rear suspension assembly together. If these are not exact, there is no chance in Hades of achieving proper wheel alignment.
I am going to continue showing you my building misadventure in real time, and these early photos are riddled with mistakes that will need to be corrected later. These are the result of following the construction sequence according to the provided instructions. Here are the finished transmission housings. At this point I was just happy to have all the necessary pieces cut from the sprue, cleaned up and glued where I thought they needed to be. “Surely it will be easier from here,” I said to myself. How adorably naive.
STEP THREE: WELL, CRAP.
This step should be no-brainer, just a few random details and attach the rear suspension to the chassis. Mine did NOT fit. At all. On closer inspection, I discovered that my chosen location for the x-brackets was a few millimeters off – it may as well have been a foot. I ended up pulling off the x-brackets and rebuilding the axle assembly in reverse order going from largest to smallest pieces as often as possible:
1) glue the leaf spring to the chassis at the one(!) attachment point - for some reason, HobbyBoss waits a few steps to add the top leaf spring. Why?! Go ahead and attach both top and bottom springs, making sure that they are aligned and level. Put the whole thing somewhere flat and let it dry for a few hours
2) glue the axle assemblies into place, attaching them to the leaf springs
3) attach the x-brackets to the axles/leaf springs
You'll see in the photo that some of the pieces are still not aligned as they should be, but after an hour of fussing, this is as close as I could get to making it all work out. I also need to point out that after I was sure the two rear axle assemblies were installed correctly, the provided drive shaft was too short. I cut out the original shaft and replaced it with a longer piece of styrene rod.
STEP FOUR: THE A-TEAM MAKES AN APPEARANCE!
I have mentioned in past HobbyBoss reviews that at times it feels an “A-team” of engineers magically appears, providing a fun building experience and breath-taking results. This A-team showed up for Step 3: the engine goes together smoothly and even the tiny details can be added easily. The result is a stunning engine that probably only needs a little additional wiring to be perfect (I’m not Mr. Goodwrench – it’s got plenty of tubes and hoses, that’s all I know). Take a second and admire that delicate fan belt – really nice (ignore the mold seam on the...er...starter(?)...it's gone now).
Learning from the first few steps, I waited to install the foot pedals (parts A62, A63) until the engine was mounted in the chassis and the floor was installed to assure that the pedals were placed properly. Since we’re talking about the footpedals, it’s worth mentioning that they are a mixed bag. The pedals themselves are extremely chunky and out of scale – but HobbyBoss does include some very nice PE details to dress them up. None of this matters if you close up the cab – no one will ever see them.
This step restored my faith in HobbyBoss and I was anxious to press on.
STEP FIVE: MEH, OKAY.
Another “easy” step: just add the engine and brake lines. The engine was a drop fit. The brake lines were fussy but fell into place. Remember those little hooks from Step 2? Mine were not in the proper location. I had to remove them and reposition them so they met up with the brake lines.
I will admit that if someone can manage to assemble the chassis correctly on the first try, the results will be spectacular. HobbyBoss’s heart is in the right place, but execution let them down.
Here is my finished chassis. Note that I have added several upper body parts to help bring everything into alignment. I'm glad all of my work to this point will be under the truck. If I see any judges walking toward this truck, I'll have to slap their mirrors out of their hands...
At this point I decided to pause, meditate and start from scratch. Deep breath - in through the nose - out through the mouth. A new step. A new beginning. Let’s go.
STEP SIX: CAUTIOUS OPTIMISM
My new strategy moving forward was to be sure to install the largest pieces first, whenever possible. Step 6 is all about assembling the front suspension. I am happy to report that ignoring the recommended construction sequence and moving from largest to smallest was a success! The steering is not operable, but with a little care, the wheels can be positioned in the turned position. I did this step in one sitting so that pieces could be positioned accordingly before the glue fully set. Be sure to include piece A28, it is tiny and very easy to overlook, but it's vital to assure that the tie rod will fit properly. I added the tie rod (piece A33) last to assure that both wheels were turned at the same angle.
The muffler goes together without any hassles, and the addition of a delicate PE clamp is very nice. I drilled out the end of the exhaust pipe and textured the surface of the muffler by stippling it with liquid putty.
An easy step at last. I think I'm getting the hang of this kit.
STEP SEVEN: MOVING ON!
This step adds some final details to the suspension. Fender brackets are also supposed to be added, but following my new “largest to smallest” approach, I decided to wait and glue these to the fenders and apply the whole thing as a single unit.
You also assemble the tires now. These actually go together relatively easily. I had to spend a little time making sure that the rims were seated properly, but the end result was very nice. I’m still not in love with vinyl tires, but I have to admit they look the part. Note: I painted the inner rims of the double wheels with AMMO’s 4BO Green lightened with a little Tamiya Flat Yellow before gluing them together. I am leaving the wheels off of the truck until after painting. I did test fit them and they fit very well. Welcome back, HobbyBoss A-team. Here's a shot of the finished tires, coated in plastic construction dust for that “weathered effect.”
STEP EIGHT: FINISH THE CHASSIS!
Remember in Step Seven when I decided to wait and install the fender brackets WITH the fenders? It was a huge success. I attached the brackets to their designated spots on the fender parts (M13, M14) before attaching them to the chassis. They fit very well - just be sure your fenders are perfectly level, or it throws off the geometry when you go to add the side panels and hood over the engine compartment (yup, my fenders were slightly off - I had issues later). At this point you also install the large wood planks that hold the bed to the chassis. See those slots on the top of those planks? Grab a file or knife and open those up a millimeter or two so that the bed drops into place later. The rest of Step Eight adds a few more random details to the chassis and engine compartment.
STEP NINE: I’m including Step Nine because it is literally a line drawing of the finished chassis. Nothing to do, just admire your work. After the battle it took to get here, it’s well-deserved.
STEP TEN: INTERIOR DECORATING
This step was an easy one for me because I had already installed the cab floor (and the seat - I needed a morale boost) back in Step One. The rest of Step Ten involves adding shift levers, tow hooks, brackets and fussy things like that. I think it's only fair to mention that everything fit perfectly. You also install the dashboard and instrument cluster, which includes two of the best, smallest gauge decals no one will ever see. Speaking of things no one will ever see, HobbyBoss included a tiny button (Part A31) that goes on the floor of the cab - it's an incredible attempt at a microdetail that will never see the light of day. It is cool to know that it's there.
STEPS ELEVEN & TWELVE: BODY BUILDING
I’m throwing these steps together because they assemble the actual cab. Before I put things together, I gave the interior a quick airbrushing of AMMO's 4BO Green mixed with Tamiya Flat Yellow. The seat was based and shaded with Vallejo Saddle Brown and German Camo Dark Brown. The levers and instrument cluster were painted Vallejo German Tanker Black. The door handles were painted AMMO Steel. I also threw a little bit of pigment on the floor just incase anyone REALLY tried to look through the cab windows.
I also added the clear windows at this point. HobbyBoss engineered these well. Locating the parts was easy and there is a generous amount of overlap between the clear windows and their frame, making it super easy to glue them cleanly into place.
As far as putting the cab together goes, I installed the back wall and front windshield section first, followed by the roof. Finally, I added the doors. Since the glue hadn’t set yet, I was able to coax the different parts into place untll I had all the parts aligned as close as they were going to get. The fit is...okay...but there's a decent amount of work to do to make this one contest-worthy. I did add several small shims from thin Evergreen strip to clean up to of the more egregious gaps. Not a deal-breaker, but worth noting.
Adding random details around the body is a regular event in every step – pay attention to be sure you catch them all.
Finally, it's time to close in the engine compartment. HobbyBoss gives you the option to open the hood, but the hood pieces are relatively thick. I chose to button everything up. Unfortunately, the fit wasn't spectacular. I had to use superglue and accelerator to bully the parts into alignment. The good news is, if you're careful, the final result looks very nice – keep reading, you'll see what I mean in a second.
STEP THIRTEEN: FINISHING TOUCHES
Step 13 adds all the extra detail goodies to the cab. Here are the hightlights: HobbyBoss provides delicate PE to make the rain guards over the doors. These are extremely hard to keep straight, but fit snugly in place with a little adept tweezer work. You'll have to roll the ends of the PE bumper into shape, but if you anneal the PE (hold it in a candle flame until it shifts from brass to a purplish color), it bends easily around the appropriate diameter of wire. The headlights are nice, include clear lenses and even have the bulb molded in. The attachment points for the headlights are almost nonexistent. I knocked the passenger side lamp off multiple times. I recommend leaving these off until the final step.
STEPS FOURTEEN - SIXTEEN: MAKE YOUR BED
There's really not much to say here. These three steps handle the bed and the fit is actually really good. One quick note: when you add the sides (parts W9, W7), front (part W11) and back (part W6), you will need to open up the hinges on the bed (part W3) with a sharp knife blade. It really only requires a hair-width cut on each inner face, but otherwise the sides don't drop into place. Also, I waited to add the ammo boxes because I just had to replace the molded handles with straps made from Tamiya masking tape – and I wanted to paint them separately anyway. Overall, the bed is spectacular with nice to-scale woodgrain, crisply molded details, delicate tiedowns, etc. The bed left me wishing that HobbyBoss had dialed in the entire kit to this level of modeling fun.
Finally, at the end of this step, it all comes together. Now you can see the window masks that HobbyBoss provided. They are sized to the actual window piece and do not account for the fact that the outer window surface is smaller. I just had to quarter the mask and each section fit perfectly in place. Again, I am really impressed with how HobbyBoss handled the clear parts in this kit.
STEPS SEVENTEEN & EIGHTEEN: THE COOL PART
These two steps walk you through assembly of the quad Maxims. Again, construction is very straight-forward, if not a little fussy. My only gripe is that HobbyBoss chose to locate their notoriously large sprue attachment points on the tiny muzzles of each of the Maxim guns. It is next to impossible to remove the extra plastic without jeopardizing the shape of the muzzles. Once I had the muzzles cleaned up as best as I could, I drilled out the ends for a little more realism. The only two components missing are:1) any hoses to attach to all the plumbing around the water jackets, and 2) a gunsight - even though the illustration on the box lid shows one. Still, it builds up into a decent representation of this nasty weapon.
PUT SOME PAINT ON IT!
Once all the subassemblies were, uh, assembled, it was time to paint. I started by giving the truck, gun and wheels a coat of brown primer from Ammo’s outstanding A-Stand line. (Check out my review of these primers here.) This was followed with a base coat of Ammo’s 4BO green, right from the bottle. Next, I added Tamiya’s Flat Yellow to the base color, and made several passes of post shading, adding a little Flat Yellow with each coat. Finally, I mixed Vallejo 4BO Green and Buff to make an even lighter tint of the base color. This was carefully brush painted to emphasize smaller details, including metal brackets, rivets, etc.
With base coating out of the way, I applied light chipping, using a piece of sponge and Vallejo’s Dark Rust and Old Wood for the metal and wooden portions of the truck respectively.
Turning to my oil paints, I rendered tonal variations to the base color by randomly applying tiny dots of beige, orange and umber oil paint on the different surfaces of the truck and gun. Then I gently wiped them with a brush DAMPENED with white spirt until the dots were blended into the base color. I used a poking, stippling motion on horizontal surfaces, and drew the paint up and down vertically on vertical surfaces.
At last, I sprayed an ULTRA-LIGHT layer of Tamiya Flat Earth and Light Grey to anywhere that dust and dirt would naturally accumulate. Once this had dried, the oil paints came out again to add more dusty, dirty tones to the vehicle.
A quick note about the wheels/tires: The wheels were treated to the same painting routine as the truck itself. The tires were brush painted Vallejo’s Dark Rubber. Finally, they received the same dust and dirt treatment as the rest of the truck.
The quad Maxim was base coated along with the truck. The guns were painted (carefully avoiding the water jackets) with Vallejo German Tanker Black and then finished with Wilder’s Gun Metal pigment, applied with a small silicone brush. All ammo cans were painted with various green, dark grey and khaki shades from Vallejo. These were finally chipped with a Berol Silver colored pencil.
And...at last...it’s done. Whew.
By some grade-B miracle, only one wheel floats – but it will take a decently rugged base to accommodate it.
The delicate PE bumper is amazing - and looks even better with a few bumps and bruises.
SO WHAT DID I THINK?
I have to be straight-up honest – after the first several steps, I was preparing to drop the hammer on this kit (literally). Instructions were vague, the fit was questionable, and the building sequence was nonsensical. But slowly, gradually, HobbyBoss found their groove. While the instructions were still only suggestions at times, construction was logical and pieces actually fit together with only minimal effort. But what won me over was the detail - thoughtfully executed hooks, brackets, textures and more create a really nice miniature version of the real thing. I saw the potential in the kit and could not wait to see the final result. For all my efforts, I feel like I walked away with a model that may not make a lot of noise at competitions, but can definitely play a supporting role in a dio, and look amazing doing it.
Recommended for Advanced builders with a lot of patience and maybe a little alcohol.
Thanks goes out to Model Rectifier Corporatoin for this review kit.
Reviewed by Matt Deck
If you liked this review, consider joining AMPS. Your annual membership
includes six copies of AMPS's magazine, Boresight,
and helps to support our ongoing reviews.
Click here for more information about joining AMPS