Being a huge fan of the M-48/M-60 series of tanks I have been wanting to build an 1/72 Israeli Magach for some time. However, as with many other IDF subjects there is no Magach injection kit readily available in 1/72, so when I found the venerable ESCI “M-60 Blazer” kit in the local shop I knew there was no way back.
Model and photos by José Teixidó from Buenos Aires, Argentina
The story behind this Magach
July 6th, 1982. The truce between Israel and the PLO terrorists ran to an end when the IDF launched an invasion into Lebanese territory. The images from the IDF columns advancing and operating over the western coast strip of the Lebanese territory are well known thanks to the TV and press media.
However there was a less known aspect of this invasion, in the form of a second trust to the east flank, parallel with the Syrian border and starting in the Golan heights. This arm of the attack was led by Maj. Gen. Avigdor Ben Gal his 525th Division, and was known as the “Bekaa force” (in red).
His mission: occupy the eastern Lebanon to prevent a likely incursion from PLO reinforcements from Syria, and the total destruction of the Air defenses in the Bekaa valley within the Lebanese territory to ensure Air Superiority.
As opposed to the western trust the “Bekaa force” could not drive much speed into his maneuvers as the area lacked any sort of modern road system, the force had to resort to ancestral rural paths in a rocky and mountainous territory instead. It was literally impossible to advance in a straight line, and most of the times the columns had a painfully slow momentum next to rocky cliffs and thin dirt roads used regularly by shepherds and donkey cars.
The nature of the ground also made it perfect for the PLO or its supporters to mount RPG-7 ambushes which soemtimes slowed down the columns to a halt, as there was almost no possibility to overtake a damaged vehicle in this roads. They had to push the damaged tank to the side of the cliff and move on.
My model would represent a Magach as used by the “Bekaa force” on this rough campaign of the invasion.
Assembling a Magach from ESCI’s 1/72 M-60 “Blazer”
Maybe the biggest drawback on this ESCI kit is the running gears that are molded as a single solid piece instead of the pair of wheels they should be. So I started by grinding and filing a line in the middle to simulate two wheels.
Needless to say this was a CHORE to do, but it worth it in the end, as they are very visible in the M-60.
Next was the main gun. The kit provides a straight tube with no detail which is correct for the first batch of M-60 A1s sent to Israel. Some of these were rushed into service as they came, so the kit is fine.
However, I wanted to model an improved Magach so I had to create the thermal sleeve for the cannon with some scratchbuilding. The turret received texturing with some thinned putty as this part was a cast piece in the real tank.
The kit provides a shiny smooth mantlet with no detail, so using some kitchen aluminium foil and masking tape I created the mantlet dust cover.
The ERA blocks or “tiles” were also devoid of detail and some presented sink marks. They were filled and sanded smooth, and a few panel lines scored into them as per the references.
I found how these were installed according to pictures of the real thing. There are a few different configurations for the setup of these but absolutely none my references matched the instructions. So I had to go with the pictures.
Magach feature a steel bar welded at the sides of the turrets where the crew usually attach their personal stuff to. That part is missing from the kit so I had to scratch my own. The MGs where installed over scratch built scissor mounts/ammo boxes because the kit parts were just silly and totally inaccurate. The M2 received some grab handles in the back.
Some pictures show duar M2 .50 HMGs over the barrel, but I decided to go with a single. Another interesting field mod is a jerry can cut in half and welded to the side of the M2 as an ammo can. That is a detail I really wanted to have so I took a jerry can from my spares, hollowed it out and glued in place.
Painting IDF colors with Revell Aqua Acrylics
The model was painted almost exclusively using Revell Aqua Acrylics. I started the process with a Revell Aqua Tar Black (Teerschwarz 06) overall preshade. I found that since I discovered this Tar Black, I never used real black anymore for anything at all in 1/72 except for satin black radomes or stuff like that.
After that, I covered the tank with Revell Aqua Beige (Beige 89) straight first, then toned down with a drop or two of matt white. The color looks spot from the jar but I wanted to model a rather sun bleached and dusty tank so I lightened it a bit.
The idea here is to leave the lower sides slighlty darker and build on the lighter shade towards the top (where the sun would bleach the paint more) and in the center of the panels and parts. It has to be a subtle effect thought, if you see it at first as two different colors it is too much, but don’t panic!. You can “mist” the tank over with the extra thinned lighter shade and the effect will decrease back a notch or two!.
Some more detailing required…
Using a regular plumbing Epoxy compound (the cheapest kind at hardware stores) I sculpted the crew rucksacks, bags, sleeping bag rolls and a duffle bag. I detailed these parts with wire and masking tape strips. They were painted with a 000 sabre brush and several mixes of Revell paints.
I found these tanks carried an IFF cloth on the top and some also carried a canvas serial in the back of the bustle rack. I decided to add these details using regular kitchen foil and tie them down with thin cooper wire.
The IFF flag was painted with an MM bright orange from their car line, and the serial canvas was painted with revell colors. A lot of other minor details where brush painted at this stage, like the cannon markings, muddle, running wheels, ammo boxes, etc.
The decals in the kit depict only one unit for a very early Magach with a hand painted “2” at the sides. This wouldn’t work for me so I resourced to the excellent Condor Decals 72004 General IDF Markings. This set is a must for braille scale modellers with an interest in IDF modeling. A lot of serials and possibilities in that sheet for almost any type of modern -and not so modern- Israeli Armor.
The model was clear coated with Tamiya Clear and then was decaled over that. Decals went great and managed my abuse when placing them well (specially the side chevrons). The one in the canvas conformed incredibly well to the rather weird texture.
Weathering a desert tank
A pin wash with oils, specially in the grill area to enhace detail is always welcome in rather plain schemes like this.
Once the wash was dry, I flat coated the model with Tamiya clear + their flat base in preparation for the pigments of pastel powders.
I used no less than 4 different shades of pastels (white, sand, burnt sienna and light earth) ground to fine dust. As seen on my Jagdtiger built, I tried to give the vehicle a general light dust coat and I tried to go lower and darker with each following stage. You will see on this shot below that I used a sand colored pigments on top, while the lower or under sides got a slightly darker shade of the same basic color, and maybe a bit more “caked” with matt varnish for texture. This represents dry dust or earth as exposed to the sun and wind on the upper hull, and the fresh and a tad humid dirt on the lower side of it.
On the running wheels and the tracks I matt varnish to “cake” the pigments a little and give them more body and texture. Don’t try to do it all on the same session, I usually span this into a couple of days (a weekend). That way you start, then relax ,then come back with a fresh eye and correct or improve the previous layer of dusts. I used a mix of black and gray dusts over the engine exhaust grille.
And yet more details!
I’m cheap, if you haven’t figured it out yet I use a lot of household and regular artist supplies if I can. As such whenever I get to an artist store I keep an eye out and an open mind to consider rather unorthodox stuff that I can use to improve my models.
During one of these visits to a local store I found out these Bijouterie supplies that looks a lot like reflecting panels. These comes in several colours and shapes and they are dirt cheap so I bought quite a few of these. I sliced some and replaced the vision blocks on the turret cuppolas.
Using 0.3mm lead for a mechanical pencil painted with silver/copper I simulated the amunition cases from the MGs and I glued them one by one to the turret roof using Cyano glue. The same was used for the ammo belts on all 3 MGs painting every third or fourth with a red tip.
Antennas and the tie downs were done with aluminium wire and cooper wire. Another detail I wanted to add that I saw on a lot of Magachs used in Lebanon, is the barbed wire roll. Allegedly these where used at night to set some sort of perimeter around the tank.
I did so with thin cooper wire glued with cyano. It was then painted in place and some rust added with pastel chalks.
Modeling a rocky desert base for my Magach
I wanted to put my model in a base to help convey the idea of the type of terrain it operated on. After looking at a lof of pictures, I decided to replicate the rather rocky and dry areas typical from where the “Bekaa force” operated in 1982.
I used a commercially available photo frame as the base. Removed the glass from it and started building right over the background of it.
The core of the base is low density foam cut to shape with a heavy cutter. It was then covered with a layer of epoxy putty.
Before this putty has dried (I used the 10 minutes one, that should give you an idea of timing, this is fast, fast, fast!) and while it was still tacky, I inserted rocks I picked up from he local park on on the fresh compound. That usually is enough to glue them permanently to the base. Right after that, I covered the base with talcuum. That would remove the tackiness from it so I can texture it properly.
I pressed a brush on the surface and textured the ground. I also pressed the tank over it to mark the tracks on the ground (the area where it had traveled) and in its final location I pressed on so the tank seats well conveying the idea of weight.
I then removed the tank and left to cure. About an hour or so later, this was rock hard and totally cured. I then painted it using Revell Aqua colors and weathered it with the same set of pastels used on the tank.
A final touch was cutting the hairs from an old brush and glueing them as bushes here and there with cyano. It helps if you dip the brush in a mix of green and barley color and leave to dry first.
The base was then mounted into the frame and the tank was glued in place with gel cyano.
All in all a cheap model with an even cheaper base that doesn’t look too bad. In fact, last year I took it to a local Hobby Contest and scored a Silver medal for it!.
I’m really proud of my little Magach and now I’m looking forward to start the much better Revell M-60 kit!!!