"The Dead of Winter:" A 1/35-Scale WWII Diorama
I mentioned in the buzz that I produced to honor my father's service in the U.S. tank corp. during World War II, that I once competed in scale-modeling contests in my pre-bifocal days. I really enjoyed it. It was a hobby that, for me, was a great escape from the trials and tribulations of modern society. I could get virtually lost for hours at a time, oblivious to the world around me. What you see here, was my all-time-favorite project. It took me 10 years to complete from start to finish, working mainly over the winter months, when indoor activities rule in the Great Midwest.
This 1/35-scale diorama, which is defined as a miniature, three-dimensional scene, depicts a late-war German Panther G that's been abandoned by its crew after suffering a mechanical breakdown. The Panther is often referred to as the overall best tank, fielded by either side, that saw service during the war. However, as the war wore on, allied bombing destroyed many manufacturing facilities that supplied the much-needed parts, which made repairs more and more difficult. One-on-one, German tanks were far superior to those of the allies, but their designs were also far more sophisticated, making maintenance and repair more challenging. Allied tanks, on the other hand, were more cookie-cutter in design and parts were easily interchangeable. Not to mention that U.S. production facilities could crank them at an amazing rate.
So, after researching the subject, I decided to depict another reality of war, maintenance and repair. The once mighty Panther, known for fearlessly stalking its prey, is left alone, abandoned, and covered in snow without a fight. "The dead of winter."
This diorama began like any other. I found and researched a subject, acquired the base model, added a bunch of aftermarket details for added realism, constructed a base, determined the season, and applied the required scenic environment. This Panther for example, has a turret that is molded from a block of resin, not the traditional styrene plastic. The zimmerit, which was a paste that hardened after being applied to the outside of the tank, is sculpted into the turret. With styrene, you have to apply a green putty, let it dry, and then sculpt the zimmerit into it yourself. The zimmerit was a defense mechanism. It prevented magnetic mines from being stuck to the tank.
Other aftermarket details include, a sculpted-resin rear engine deck. It was placed inside the base model after cutting away the styrene engine covers, which are lying on the ground behind the vehicle. The tracks are made of actual metal, not the plastic or rubber kind that come with most kits. They must be connected to one another pretty much like the real thing. If the kit is built correctly, the tracks will move like the real thing, too. The weight of the miniature-metal tracks also results in them sagging, just like the real thing.
Aftermarket additions simply add realism. They are not necessary and they can be quite costly, too. It took me years of modeling, often by trial and error, to develop the skills to compete at this level. I have friends who are professionals. They make a living from building and selling scale models. When a professional photographer snaps a photo of one of their models against a realistic backdrop, you'd swear you were looking at the real thing. Scale models have been used in motion pictures for decades, such as Star Wars. So, it's not always child's play.