The YW-531a was the first APC manufactured by Norinco for the PLA. It was designed in the early 1960’s and first appeared in 1964. It can carry a crew of 4 to 10 troops. The YW-531 was first used in the Vietnam War by the North Vietnamese Army (PAVN) and was in action again in the Iran-Iraq War.
APCs are usually armed with only a machine gun although variants carry recoilless rifles, anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs), or mortars. They are not usually designed to take part in a direct-fire battle, but to carry troops to the battlefield safe from shrapnel and ambush. Amor on APCs is usually composed of simple steel or aluminum, sufficient for protection against small fire arms and most shell fragments. Just about any type of anti-tank weapon can defeat the armor of an APC. Some APCs also come with NBC protection, which would protect its crew from radioactive fallout or the like.
What’s in the Box
Bronco has put out a really nice kit; you get 5 spurs of flash free parts, also (1) PE and (1) transparency. The packaging is top notch, each spur is individually wrapped and the PE and decals come is a ziploc bag. The instructions are printed in full color; they provide a nice Decal and Color Guide to help with painting of 3 variants; PAVN Armored unit in Saigon liberation 1975 (this is the version I did for this review), PLA Armored force 1995 and China’s 30thNational Anniversary parade (1979). The color guide has listings for Mr. Hobby, Humbrol, Hobby Color and Tamiya paints.
The kit has lots of small parts to build up the details on the outside; they also provide options for open and closed hatches. The down side is that all the details are on the outside, so if you open the hatches there is nothing to look at but an empty hull; i.e. no driver seat or controls.
The kit comes with a Type 54 Anti-aircraft Machine gun made up of 15 parts. The tracks are individual links, very well made; the molding is clean and crisp and they fit together nicely.
I like to clean the spurs with water and a very small amount of dish soap; this removes any releasing agents left behind. This process helps the paint adhere better to the plastic.
I simply pour water into a large pan and a few drops of dish soap and drop each spur in for a few seconds and then wash with clean water and let dry overnight. If you have hard water you may want to use distilled water.
I find that taking a few minutes to review the instructing can help you in the long run. I use to just jump in and start with step 1, but you can run into issues sometimes; especially with interior parts and painting them.
This kit starts with the wheels and suspension system. As I started to put the wheels together I noticed that the connecting links were kind of thin and caused the wheels to wobble a little off center. You will have to make some minor adjustments to compensate for this.
The hull plates fit together precisely and will not require much adjustment after the glue dries. A quick sanding and a spray of Mr. Surfacer 1000 evened the seams out.
Next I added the rear door and PE parts for the Shovel, Fuel Can and Anchor points.
The Tracks: Whiles that’s all drying, I started the process of cutting the individual track links from the spurs and cleaning them up. Bronco has done a nice job with the links so this does not take that much time. The links snap together so they have full motion. A quick paint and weathering, then they are ready to be assembled on the model.
The next steps involved the machine gun, this is one of the focal points of the kit so some care should be taking during the assembly and painting of these parts. You want the maximum effect here. I like to drill out the barrel a little to give more depth. Clean the parts as much you can of any seams and then paint and assembled them. Later you can add highlights.
The finders were next: They use PE for the attaching points. If you wanted to you could cut each panel at the seam to give them a more battle worn look. The PE parts here would help give that realism if you chose that route.
The rest of the kit was assembling all the rest of the PE and small parts that build up the exterior details.
The instructions tell you how to create an antenna by heating up a piece of the scrap spur and stretching it. But I decide to scratch build one out of wire.
The kit comes with some string for the tow cables, but I decide to use some real wire instead.
Painting and Decaling
The first thing I do is give the parts tree a quick coat of primer or the base color.
For this build I used Tamiya Color Acrylic (XF-65) Field Grey for the base coat.
After all the parts are added to the body and the final paint layer is done, I then add a layer of Future to seal the paint. Let dry overnight then it’s time for the decals.
For some folks the decals are the hardest thing to get right. It’s one of those things that can make or break the overall look and feel of your project. A mistake in this area can set you back. Here are a few simple steps I use to give that extra realism.
Once the future has dried over night, it’s time to prepare the decal layer.
A quick spray of Clear Gloss Coat preps the surface for the decals so they will adhere better.
Let that dry then start applying the decals. I like to use a Decal Setter/Softer.
I put a little on the area where the decal goes then apply the decal; this gives the decal a wet surface to float in while you position it, and starts the setting process.
When you have finished applying the decals, let them dry over night.
That final step is to Seal the decals by spraying another layer of Gloss Clear Coat, but this time use a deferent type of paint other than the previous layer; like a Clear Lacquer or Acrylic. (The Oils I like use for weathering will flow better on a slick surface.)
This has a twofold effect one is the seal the decals and hide the borders around them and the other is to change the type of paint layer so that you can use washes and filters.
If you don’t do this step your decals will show the borders and look raised up. The washes will also flow around those borders and make them stand out even more.
I use a variety of products and techniques. I like to use a combination oil paint or water colors for washes and some pastels for the rust and dust effects. Also use a carbon pencil to highlight worn areas. Whit Decals on and a layer of gloss coat has dried, now is a good time to do your oil washes. After the washes I like to do some light dusting around the rust areas; anchors and door hinges. Then apply the flat coat. After that has dried then go back and finish up with dust streaks, rust build up. The last step is to use the carbon pencil and add some wear points to surface areas like doors and hatches.
Over all a very nice kit, all the parts fit together with minimal adjustments.
Much of this build deals with lots of small parts to build up the exterior. I found myself chasing down tiny parts after they flew out of my tweezers. So be careful.
The small parts are well worth the effort to bring that realism to the kit.
I would like to thank Bronco Models and IPMS/USA for the opportunity to conduct this review.
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