About the Company
Croco Models is a small model manufacturer from the Republic of Latvia. They've recently begun developing small kits of rare vehicles, and various model building accessories. This is the second model of their offering and is of the M-76 otter which was a USMC light amphibious vehicle and this is the first time this subject has been offered in any scale.
Designed by the Pontiac Motor Division in the early 1950’s as the T46, this vehicle began life as the intended replacement for the Studebaker M29 Weasel. This amphibious cargo carrier was designed to carry cargo or up to eight troops over shallow rivers and swampy terrains and would become the M76 also known as the Otter. Development started in the late 1940’s with the less than enthusiastic US Army watching on. The Army soon lost interest in the project, but the United States Marines, who have a habit of accepting vehicles which the US Army disapproves of (for example the M103 Super Heavy Tank), became interested. Production would start on the M76 Otter in the mid-to-late 1950’s
What’s in the Box?
The box comes with a total of 86 white resin cast pieces, the main upper and lower hull have been separated and situated in a small 4 inches by 2 inches cardboard box and the rest of the smaller pieces have been placed in two small zip lock bags. The instruction sheet is a single sheet of printed paper showing parts layout and assembly. No color callouts or decals are provided so it can honestly be up to your imagination.
To be honest this is probably one of the most labor-intensive and difficult kits I have ever had the pleasure to build due to the quality of some parts and small size. I don’t think it was so much as poor planning but not so great casting methods and materials used, the parts on my sample were very heavy in flash and air bubbles and sometimes you could not make out the little bits and pieces from the bottom of the bags and what was indeed flash trash.
To start the upper and lower hulls were not in bad shape at all and only required some micro drill bits to clean up the attachment points and mounting holes. After cleaning up the hulls I set to construct the interior which consists of 4 pieces total, the driver and TC seat, the cab wall, and a solid piece of resin white block which I assume is the “transmission” cover.
After the lower hull was built it was time to build the upper hull. Since a lot of my pieces where either broken, missing altogether or disintegrated I did what any modeler would do and improvised, I use copper wire to replace grab handles, sling attachment points and spots where you would tie down cargo, next I used a few references from the internet to see that the viewports on both sides where large wire-meshed windows, I used a rotary tool and burring bit to remove the material and used a fine rat file to clean up the holes.
Ladies and Gents this is where the build took its toll on me and seriously made me relax and take a few days off, I also contemplated airborne shenanigans and decided to just step back and think about how to approach this issue…. The tracks are casted in resin and are extremely, and I mean EXTREMELY brittle and do not take kindly to any sort of heat or bending. The drive wheels and suspension arms are also a point of contention and just seemed to disintegrate and turn to powder when I attempted to clean them up and trim them for use.
Instead of criticizing and not finish the build I really wanted to complete this build and present a decent model. I used a donor kit to take parts from… an Italeri 1/72 Elefant Artillery piece and basically cut the lower hull to pieces to use the suspension arms and road wheels…when compared to the otter the Elefant had the closest resembling features and also had comparable track width. Not only did I have the lower hull completed now the styrene pieces gave me more confidence I wouldn’t have any more issues with the kit at all.
Once the upper and lower hulls where completed I commenced to cleaning up flash and minor imperfections in the tools, propeller used to traverse water and the large fuel storage tanks mounted on each side, and water cans. I used Zap slow-cure CA to get all of my parts aligned and in place then let them dry for an hour.
The tracks from the Elefant where my saving grace and since they came in sections they allowed me to still work on the hull and fix any other fit issues I may have had, I used Tamiya thin cement to secure them and that was the end of the build
For finishing, I decided to go for a faded, dingy and grimy look that one would expect from the humid hell known as Vietnam. I took this opportunity to try yet another new product on the market, AK Interactive acrylic paints. I initially used Model Master flat black on the interior and then used AK interactive RC024 which is “Olive Drab Faded” and let that dry for a few hours after 3 nice coats.
After letting the paint dry I used Micro Scale Kristal Clear to make all the windows on my otter… amazing stuff and I still laugh and smile when I see what a toothpick and that bottle can do, after letting the clear dry overnight I used just a couple decals and the black serial numbers from the Elefant to give it some life even if I did just create a what if build.
I used the weathering pigments from K4 which is a Chilean based paint and weathering company to detail and weather my otter and give it that rusting and dirty look from that Vietnam humidity mixed with the clay-like mud often encountered.
Croco Models is like any other model company was at some point and time in history, trying to plant their foot in the ground and gain an identity. I loved the fact they are choosing odd subjects that have never been reproduced in any scale before, do they need a little work …absolutely but I feel as the more we support them as we do the rest of the modeling community they will support us and bring quality subjects we will grow to love and build. This model is not for the faint of heart or those with very minimal patience and experience, non-the less let’s support these guys and be prepared for what they release in the future.
I want to thank the people at Croco models Leonid Shilin and Sergei Kulakov along with IPMS and the review corps for entrusting this new subject to me and allowing me to return the favor with a completed model and newfound patience on taking on a challenge.
Add new comment