In the mid nineties the Swedish army bought about 400 MT-LB and MT-LBu from former East German stocks. They were bought cheap at scrap value, then they were refurbished and modified to Swedish specifications. The Pbv 401 is the troop carrying version of a complete family of vehicles based on the MT-LB chassis. Other MT-LB variants used are recovery, command and ambulance versions. There are also trials undertaken with the Pbv 401 as a AT missile carrier. The Pbv 401 was however most of all meant to be a more protected type of transport for the regular infantry, that was until then transported mainly by trucks. The Pbv 401 might not be the most armoured vehicle around, but steel is better than tarpaulin when shrapnel begins to fly.
The SKIF MT-LB kit
The SKIF MT-LB is as far as I know the only injection moulded MT-LB in 1/35. There is a resin kit from the polish manufacturer Armo available also. The kit is fairly basic, details are a bit on the crude side. The lower hull consists of floor, sides and front plate. Included in the box is also a small fret of photo etched parts. These consists mainly of front windows, side window inserts, covers for the front windows and light guards.
Included in the kit is also an interior. Very basic, but could probably be made look good when spiced up a little. I didn’t have any good references on a PBV 401 interior at the time, and since I was not going to open up any hatches I let it be for this time.
The first thing I started with was building the box mounted on the roof over the troop compartment. For this purpose I had bought an Aber set of etched netting. Armed with this, evergreen plastic stock and the drawings bought from SPHF. The box is fairly basic. It is open topped with a separate roofed compartment to the rear accessible through an upwards hinged hatch. After I had completed the box I started on the rest of the kit.
While building the lower hull and attaching the upper hull, thankfully made in one piece I had the only fit problems. Maybe a more careful assembling of the lower hull could have improved this. The fit was not worse than a bit of sanding and use of filler could take care of it.
Before I glued the top to the bottom I did some modifications to the upper hull. The kit provides you with the front windows as photo etched parts. Even though I decided not to have an interior I didn’t want the windows to look painted on, or more exactly the drivers window, since I wanted to show the vehicle with “one eye opened”. So using my Dremel I drilled out the plastic where the window should be and I also removed the “glass” part of the etched window, leaving only the frame. This was a bit more tricky. The Eduard PE set does have a more good looking solution, and I will use it the next time. There are small portholes at the sides also. These are provided as PE inserts. I used them as a guide, copying them onto thin plasticard which I used instead of the PE inserts. Then I used filler and sanding to blend the inserts with the surrounding area. When this was done I drilled open the portholes. I also added a porthole on the right hand side of the infantry compartment as shown on the drawing. A porthole was also added to the right rear door. All windows and portholes was covered with transparent plastic from the inside.
Another thing I did before gluing the upper hull in place was replacing the small plastic bump acting as an air intake on the transmission cover with a (in my eyes) better looking intake made from plasticard.
The tracks that comes with the kit are moulded in black vinyl and looks like liquorice. Without hesitation I cheated and bought myself the Fruilmodel track set for the Gvozdika.
There has been complains about the wheels not having the right shape. I thought the looked good enough for me, although I might buy the Armo set of MT-LB road wheels the next time.
The roof hatches over the infantry compartment should be rotated 90 degrees so that they are hinged to the sides instead of to the front. I simply removed the hinge part on the hull and replaced it with a small disk of round styrene stock that I glued on to the hinges on the hatches. I then glued the hatches in place with the hinges facing outwards.
The mount for the antenna was created from sprue and styrene rod. The antenna itself was made out of a piece of a guitar string. At first I made the antenna “normal” in length, but when I saw the vehicles in real life I saw that the antenna was extremely long.
With the basic shape of the MT-LB finished it was time to add all the small bits and pieces that was lacking or found a bit crude. I made opening handles on the transmission cover, engine hatch and rear doors out of plasticard and a small bolt made with a hexagonal punsch & die set. Various grab handles were made of brass wire. The kit intake grille for the engine is crude to say the least, and on top of that it has the wrong dimensions. I replaced it with a frame made of plasticard and a grille of plastic strips. This is also a bit too crude. The Eduard PE set have a nice grille, but still has the wrong dimensions. Immediately to the rear of the air intake the exhaust outlet is located. On the kit this is represented by a thin line representing the two covers that flipps open by the exhaust pressure. I wanted to show the covers open displaying the grilles underneath the covers, so I drilled out a square opening and made the exhaust grilles of, yes, plasticard. The covers were also made of plasticard. I thought that the covers were automatically closed when the engine is not running, but seeing the vehicles in action I can confirm that this is not always the case.
The front mudguards were replaced by copies made of thin aluminium plate that was cut after measurements taken from the kit parts, then bent to shape. The strengthening ribs of the original part was replicated by pressing down on the part with a ball pen. When glued in place the mudguards looked very nice.. too nice in fact. One of the reasons I wanted to replace the mudguards with aluminium copies was that I would be able to give them the beaten up shape of the originals. The handling of the model during the rest of the building fixed the “too nice” part. The headlights and tail lights on the Pbv 401 differs from the original, so I had to make new ones from scratch. The headlights were made from sprue with the right diameter which had one end sanded into a hemisphere, the hemisphere was then cut of and the flat part received a lens and a rim, both punched out of plasticard. The blacked out light also had a half of a cylinder formed out of a smaller diameter sprue attached.
The lights were mounted on a small L-beam made of styrene and was then glued to the hull of the vehicle. I then made the guard around the lights from thin aluminium. The turn indicator on top of the assembly was taken from a HKCW Strv 122 conversion set, which generously provides four lights when only two is needed. The brush guard in front of the lights was made of brass wire that was bent to shape and the ends were soldered together. The brush guard was then attached to the hull and light assembly by the means of small aluminium brackets. Very tricky work. Last but not least, I added the plate on which the reflector is mounted. The plate was also made from thin aluminium plate.
The rear light assemblies were a bit simpler. The rear lights are looking like standard german AFV rear lights and could probably be scavenged from a leopard kit or so, but I choose to make them out of plasticard. The lights are placed on an L-shaped mount, and I added a couple of electrical wires on the back.
To spice up the detailing a bit more I made the brackets that is supposed to hold the amphibious gear when it is in use. I don’t know whether this equipment is used by the Swedish army, but the brackets are there. They are located on the front mudguards, around the air intake and exhaust and a pair of them adjacent to the rear doors. I made the brackets out of tiny bits of plasticard and small bolts. They are probably a bit overscale, but they add some more detail to the model, and they look like the moulded on brackets on the front plate, which makes for some kind of consistency.
The towing cables included in the kit consists of two-piece shackles that is supposed to be glued around a vinyl wire. I replaced the vinyl with a wire made out of thin lead wire instead since I wanted to be able to shape the wire so that it would look heavy.
Swedish vehicles on manoeuvres normally sports SAAB BT 46 simfire equipment. This was to be no exception. Normally this equipment consists of four reflector/kill light units mounted on the turret roof, but I was going to build a vehicle I had seen on a photo that was a bit different. This vehicle sports a strange mount of some kind on the top of the turret, and the reflectors had been moved back to be mounted above the storage basket on the rear roof. The BT 46 units were made of plasticard, laminated to get them thick enough, then sanded to the slightly rounded shape. Each unit is supposed to cover about 90 degrees so that four of them covers a complete 360 degree circle. I drilled three shallow holes in each unit to represent the flashing kill light and two reflectors. The units were then glued onto a cruciform mount. I then made a mount for this assembly out of square styrene stock that I glued onto the stowage basket.
The thing on the roof of the turret looks like it could be a mount for an external Ksp 58 (FN MAG) machinegun, but I have not had this confirmed. My theory is that they for some reason when the picture was taken was unable to use the integral Ksp 95 (PKT) machinegun together with the BT 46 laser equipment and used an externally mounted Ksp 58 instead. On the pictures the PKT machinegun is removed and the opening for it is covered with a yellow plug.
I made the “mount” out of styrene strips and small bolts.
Swedish army vehicles are nowadays painted in a three tone hard edged angular pattern consisting of dark green, light green and black. The pattern is standardised so all Pbv 401 should have pretty much the same pattern.
I started with the dark green. I used Humbrol 149 which I had used on my Strv 103. I was not entirely happy with the colour. It appeared to pale. What the heck I thought and continued with the light green, Humbrol 80 hoping that the colours would look OK together. They didn´t. So, armed with a load of helpful advice from my friend Mirko I started to remove the paint with the help of caustic soda. It worked very well. The main catch being that the caustic dissolved the super glue used to attach the PE and aluminium parts.
The second time I used a mix of green consisting of Humbrol 149 and Humbrol 75. This time it looked better. The tracks were painted in a chocolate brown colour and several earthy shades of pastel was dusted on. Then I used sandpaper to bring out the metal on the worn parts on the outside of the tracks. The inside where the road wheels makes contact to the tracks was dusted then rubbed with graphite powder.
When I had finished the camouflage pattern on the Pbv it was time for weathering. I had seen on several pictures that the front mudguards often are a bit chipped. I replicated chipping using a sandpaper carefully scratching and sanding away colour. I also added larger chips using silver colour. I have also seen chipping where the black camouflage colour has chipped away, showing the dark green base coat underneath. I added some dark green chips on some of the light green and black patches. During exercises Swedish vehicles are often marked with their radio call signs consisting of a two letter combination, for example E A (Erik – Adam or Echo Alpha in English). The marking is often done with masking tape. To make this on my model I thought about using fine strips of masking tape, but this proved to be too thick. I then thought that maybe I could find thin rub down lines to emulate the taped on callsigns. I could not find any suitable dry transfers, but instead I found a very thin, very narrow chromed tape. I taped a strip on to my cutting mat and painted it in an off white colour. Then I cut the strip to suitable lengths and created the callsign.
Something that appears on just about every Swedish AFV is the small brush used for wiping mud and dirt of the boots of the crew. I made mine by measuring a real brush of the same type (had one in the garage), made the plank on which the strands are attached out of a piece of plasticard. I made the strands by pressing a paintbrush against the plasticard piece (which I had prepared with superglue) then I simply cut the strands at the desired length. I painted the plasticard piece in a wooden colour and I dipped the strands in a very diluted red that was soaked up by the brush making it look like the real one that has red nylon strands.
I attached the brush to the front right mudguard just behind the light assembly as seen on photos.
Now it was time to add traces of mother nature. From the start I thought I was going to make a fairly clean vehicle. But inspired by the vehicles I saw at the P4 exercise I dusted the entire vehicle with a liberal amount of dried mud. To further enhance the illusion of a really dirty vehicle I added caked mud with the help of some filler. Then I painted some strategic areas in a dark brown colour representing mud that is still wet. I also added washes of dark brown on some areas for the same reason. Finally I carefully scratched away the brown mud on some areas where the layer of dirt has worn off when the crew has climbed aboard etc. I also added some scratches running along the hull to simulate the scratching of branches. I also polished well used handles and edges of hatches were constant handling by the crew have made the colour coat less flat.