R/C Tank Combat

Tank #T057

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Type: JgPz 38(t) Hetzer Armament: 75mm
Built: April 2008 Armor: 60mm
Builder: Phil Palmer Rating: 40/3
Status: Operational Battles: 6
Owner: Phil Palmer Points Earned: 7,500
Call Sign: unknown Points Given: 7,500
  • Scooter Motor Drive
  • Clam-shell Design

    I have a confession to make- before this project I have never made anything out of wood more complicated than a cupboard. Nevertheless as you can see I finally built a working tank, to my own design. So this article is not so much "Tank Building for Dummies" as "Tank Building By a Dummy". Nevertheless, if it encourages you to have a go I will be satisfied.....

    Before I decided to build this tank, I tried for some months to build a walking robot soldier to 1/6th scale. The intention was to build a model soldier who could mix it with the tanks on this site, firing paintballs by way of a bazooka, or an overarm throw. This design was promising and has a unique knee action to increase the stride, but it was rather delicate and absolutely, definitely and positively would not cope with rough grass. Various wheeled and even tracked designs followed, mostly looking more or less like a small tank with a head on the top, but nothing that looked remotely workable.

    Click Photo For Enlargement (222 Kb)

    Click Photo For Enlargement (116 Kb)
    While this was going on, other builders in the UK were getting on with real tanks, so I decided to get in on the action. To get it done quickly, I decided I'd roughly follow Joe Sumner's Tank #010 (see http://www.rctankcombat.com/tanks/T010/) and in particular download his plans.

    The Hetzer is a handsome beast and has the advantage of being constructed of a small number of flat pieces of armour. I reckoned that dispensing with a turret would make the tank a lot easier to build, as well as leaving plenty of space inside for everything. That at least was right.

    I was very proud when I finished the basic hull shape. Little did I know at the time that the only part to remain substantially unaltered by the end would be the lower hull sides and the suspension.

    Click Photo For Enlargement (236 Kb)

    Click Photo For Enlargement (252 Kb)
    This was the basic concept- a "clamshell" design that would allow easy access to the tank's innards. The mudguards were later removed- they looked good but I needed more space for the tracks. You can see the roadwheel suspension here- no springs, the wheels simply pivot in pairs on the axles. I eventually had to narrow the wheels to fit the track.

    Next we needed some motors and gears. Rather than a 2-stage gearbox like most tanks in the hobby, I opted for a single drive belt system. This was for simplicity of building. The original scooter I took the motors from had a pulley this size, so I hoped that as the tank would have more friction but less weight, it ought to work... This is also why the drive sprockets (on the outside of the tank, which turn the track are so small; if they were larger I'd need bigger pulleys, or a gearbox, to get the ratios right.

    Click Photo For Enlargement (103 Kb)

    Click Photo For Enlargement (121 Kb)
    For the motors I bought two 100W electric scooters, costing about 34 each. I reckoned this was good value, as not only would I get the motors and the drive belts, but also the batteries, fuses, switches, wires, not to mention some spare wheels and bits. The fuses turned out to be too weak and too poorly-made, but everything else worked out pretty well.

    Looking ahead a bit, after testing the tank I discovered I needed a lot more track tension, and a lot more bracing to stop the tank pulling itself apart. Compare this picture with the last one. The motors are on adjustable mounts to enable me to adjust the belt tension. The pulleys are covered with elastic bands which give good traction, but tend to break. The front end of the tank is very hard to work in now.

    Click Photo For Enlargement (118 Kb)

    Click Photo For Enlargement (98 Kb)
    Going back a bit, having installed the motors I turned my attention back to the upper hull. The real Hetzer has a distinctive and curvy gun mantlet, and after trying various alternatives I decided to use a simple "dormer window" design. I first made it in cardboard, and then in wood- a system which worked very well.

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