Updated: October 7, 2022
'Tis time for a new spatial challenge. Having completed a 1:1 re-design of the FREMM frigate, using visual clues only, I needed a fresh idea to stimulate my cranial glands. I sat idle, wondering, until a combination of two factors fused into just the right sort of inspiration. One, I wanted to go back to an old concept and improve it. Namely, I've done a number of tracked armored vehicle designs in the past, but always elegantly skipped a most crucial element - the tracks themselves. So I thought, I ought to have a new model done, and it should feature a complete, fully detailed set of tracks.
Two, with that in mind, I still wasn't quite sure what the model ought to look like. Something futuristic? A vehicle more like a snowmobile rather than a tank? Perhaps an engineering vehicle? Then, Wifey had a wild idea and she uttered an almost precognizant name for me design: Slavster. And thus, a brilliant concept sparked in my brain, and today's model was born. To wit.
Part tank, part bulldozer, part combat engineering vehicle, wholly fictitious. I decided to create an armored vehicle that would draw from some of the worst and yet coolest elements of tracked vehicles from our real human history. In a way, Slavster has been loosely inspired by the likes of that giant tank in Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade, the pre-WWII Soviet BT-7 tank, as well as the 50s American Ontos and Sheridan.
In a nutshell, Slavster is a tank, sort of, with a large bulldozing scoop in the front, a set of doomsday-like metal warning-cum-decor skulls on the front glacis (which were also fun to design, teeth and demonic eyes and all), a 160mm snub-barrel bunker-busting cannon, a chunky turret laden with goodies including a pair of unguided rocket launchers on the side, two AT missiles, and a turret-mounted 12.7mm or 14.5mm anti-aircraft cannon, and to wrap it all up, figuratively and literally, of course, a majestic set of tracks.
Let's talk details ...
I spent a lot of time trying to make the Slavster as detailed as I could. Let us indeed begin with the tracks. I made every piece by hand. Each track segment has two plates, plus a connector joint and two pins. There are roughly 100+ of these on each side. I had to individually angle the segments to follow around the circumference of the track system, including the weird vertical displacement and all.
Next, I spent time modeling the roller wheels, the suspension, all of it. Quite fun, I must say. Then, I invested a fresh chunk of minutes working on the scoop, including the teeth for digging and the hydraulic arms and levers. However, that wasn't enough for a sinister front end, so I added five skulls, Mad Max style. They weren't too difficult to make, and they aren't too lifelike, but I still tried to add a human-like spin, so they would look menacing. There are two eyes sockets, the nose socket, the lower jaw is a separate part, and there are a total of twenty-eight teeth in each skull, properly sized and angled. The eyes also included tiny red lights, which should presumably glow in the dark and sow terror with anyone who actually sees them. Or something.
The front lights are protected by metal grids, and the driver's visor is also shielded with a fully detailed mesh. The glacis also includes stuff like spare track segments, engine bay doors, engine air intakes, and big rusty exhausts. On the right side, there is also a mini-crane, which would be used to load ammunition and tools into the turret, or perhaps help with the engine replacement.
Speaking of the turret, that was my next objective. You get the cannon and the coaxial machine gun. But the more interesting elements abound elsewhere. The two 18-tube rocket launchers fire 57mm unguided ordnance, and are aimed by turning the turret around. Like the main gun, their purpose is to help breach fortifications, bring down obstacles, and intimidate the enemy.
Because the main weapon isn't useful against other vehicles, I armed the Slavster with two AT-3 Sagger wire-guided ATGM. And to make stuff extra-retro, there's a large IR lamp, which is used for night driving and combat.
I am quite proud of the big anti-aircraft machine. Not only is it rather detailed, including a fully modeled muzzle brake and flash hider, I painstakingly arranged the bullets into the ammo box. An exact count of 100 of them. So if you were to actually open the box, there are 100 rounds inside, neatly slotted onto an ammo belt, which then rests folded and all. Fully modeled.
The top view also shows the turret hatch and hinge, and a little bit of the interior. But then, pay attention, you can also see the shovel and the axe and the spare roller wheel, all part of the engineering arsenal, as well as the fuel canisters, and a whole bunch of handles, designed to facilitate access to the top of the rather bulky and ungainly Slavster.
Since Slavster doesn't have a nice ballistic profile or any advanced armor, I added a set of chain balls on the back of the turret, similar to what the Merkava tanks have. These are designed to protect the weakly armored arc and detonate any shaped-charged projectiles, as well as deflect rounds from the all-too-obvious shot trap. You do have to admit it's a nice touch.
The rear of the vehicle threatened to be boring, so I made sure it wasn't. I broke the sagittal symmetry, and added a large, heavy door on the left, which is used for the crew to get in and out. On the right, there is a 82mm mortar, with a bipod and all. It is permanently connected to the chassis via a hydraulic arm, which is then used to lower and deploy the mortar when needed, and later on, retrieve it into the travel position. Notice the lever to control the arm, as well as the mortar tube cap, which should help keep dirt and rain out. Hue hue.
More pictures ...
I started by making the Slavster look a bit old and used, like any self-respecting armored vehicle should be. The dented, scratched steel texture works really well, I must say. It creates a sense of wear, and perhaps even makes the vehicle look extra sinister. Next, I did try a few other colors, mostly drab and olive greens, plus sand, and those work reasonably well, too. I didn't model any terrain just yet, because I felt, with the extent of detail that went into the Slavster, a simply background prop wouldn't do. So there's a fresh challenge right there.
I believe this is my most detailed model yet. Not in the amount of detail, but in the density. Some larger designs easily have more stuff, but the Slavster is all about accuracy on a small level, so much in fact that SketchUp started stuttering ever so slightly while panning and zooming. Indeed, at some point, it becomes a matter of raw computational power. Technically, I could have added every single rivet and screw, but there's a fine balance between OCD and fun.
Hopefully, you will find joy in this wee armored vehicle. There is no grand sense to it, it's not meant to be realistic, but it is meant to be quirky and crazy AND with a full set of tracks, mind! Mission accomplished. Now, my next task is to figure out what else I could do, without bringing my computer to its knees. I had in mind a whole futuristic 29th century city or some such, but I also realized, me being me, I wouldn't be able to go with a detail-light design, and the whole thing would slow down to a crawl at some point. Anyway, that's for later. For now, enjoy, do drop a line if you wish, and see you soon.