Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Wrecked Armor for Dioramas: Examine the Possibilities!

Modeling wrecked armor is hugely popular. Lets take a look at some different ways a blown out tank can be used to amplify your diorama or vignette!

I don't think there are many armor modelers out there who would not like to attempt to build a wrecked AFV of some kind, if they haven't already. As a matter of fact, the first tank I ever built was an Iraqi T-69 that had recently been blown out along side the road. Though it certainly wasn't my best effort, my fascination with rusty ruins has been with me ever since. 
A derelict vehicle, in any state, can add so much volume to a scene through context, composition, colors and textures, and are a great challenge for any modeler to hone their skills on. They can be a character in their own right, creating a story or sub-story just by sitting there. A wrecked tank is one of the most versatile elements of a diorama. Think about it. It conveys a sense of action, or previous action, terror, desolation, foreshadowing, and maybe even hope. 
Here are just a few references to get you all inspired to tackle some wrecked armor for your next big project...

Keep it Simple:
Perhaps you're not ready to go all hog wild, busting out the pigments and rust colors and buying resin interiors. No problem. There are plenty of ways to create the same story elements without having to nail the weathering or break the bank on aftermarket parts. Not all wrecks are the same. They don't have to be in a thousand pieces. Take these examples, for instance. You'll notice there is little visible damage beyond the cosmetic...

The tank above appears to be fine except for the penetration of the rear armor into the engine block. Never a good thing.

This tank has clearly thrown a track. Whether by hostile fire or from the rough terrain is unknown, but that is an element you can decide on your own.

Here you can see this Panzer IV has also thrown a track as in the middle of being repaired. For as simple as the wreck is, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see this would make a tremendously dramatic diorama. Which brings me to my next topic...

Directly Related:
Often times, the wrecks that we see in scale play only a supporting role in a larger picture, where the abandoned tank has little to do with what is happening around it. As the picture above shows, incorporating the wreck directly into the story line can make for an interesting story. Impressive are the dioramas that incorporate the wreck, and make it directly related to the action going on within it. Having a crew bailing out of a Sherman that is brewing up is intense. Or like the scene below, wounded soldiers being taken prisoner while their ride smolders behind them... 

Supporting Role:
As I was saying above, the wreck is not always the centerpiece of the story, but rather it can add a lot of intrigue by just being off to the side.

Here the Germans are rolling through a small town in the winter of 1944. Though clearly not the main character of the scene, the blown out Sherman lends more to the story than if it was not there at all. It conveys a sense of the situation the modeler is trying to get across. If it is the Battle of the Bulge, it implies that the Germans have been successful of late, as opposed to the next picture...

The main story here is a Soviet army advance across the countryside. The ruined Panther serves as a nice backdrop and some context as to the state of the situation. Here it could be implied that the Germans are losing.

The Trophy:
Of course, there is a simple, however, less dramatic way at showing viewers who is having the most success. With so many tanks littering the battlefield, it wouldn't be difficult for curious grunts to snap some photos of themselves with these monsters. It would be like David posing with Goliath after his victory, or a hunter with his buck. It is an oddly light-hearted celebration of human destruction...

Defeated Giants:
Speaking of David and Goliath...The Germans, and even the Russians, created some rather imposing armored vehicles. Showing a King Tiger or KV-2 burned out along side the road is so much of a contradiction to what they should have been. They were suppose to influence the battlefield, not become a casualty of it. It shows the futility that was late-war German resistance and foreshadows their eventual defeat...

If you want to get really daring, you could throw caution into the wind and really get into the nitty-gritty of wrecked armor modeling - pull out all the stops, break out all the weathering pigments and references, crack open the piggy bank and buy a full interior.
You've seen the simple, now see the downright insane! If you want to show the desolation of war, this is certainly one way to do it...

It is hard to imagine the power and force that is required to leave a massive tank in shambles like that. In these types of scenes, its all up to your imagination. If a Panzer can wind up in a tree, I'm sure you're good to go with just about anything. You could put any model like this on any diorama and it would steal the show. If executed correctly, that is.

How can there be hope after so much destruction? Well, not all wrecks have to support a combat-related theme. You don't need action and drama to tell a story (though I prefer it). So, how do you convey hope with a ruined tank? Its not that hard actually. We've all seen pictures of young children playing atop the old wartime relics. The fight has passed them by and they are left with some rather cool playground equipment. The time for war has ended, and the time to rebuild has begun. It is a simple contrast of war and peace...

The Lonely Centerpiece:
You don't even need people in the scene to build this kind of contrast. As a matter of fact, you don't even need a story line. Of course, at this point it isn't a diorama anymore but a vignette. Never the less, the model itself, and the context of its environment, possesses the story line, representing a history that has long since past...

That concludes our brief look at wrecked armor and how it can add different context to your diorama. Of course, you are not bound to these several instances. The possibilities are nearly endless when it comes to wrecked armor, this merely serves as inspiration! 
Next week, we'll take a look at the oft overlooked subject of wrecked aircraft!
Thanks for reading!


  1. Some excellent ideas and from my own point some devastating scenes showing what must have been human loss. I'm sure someone will get a fantastic idea from these, I'm inspired....

  2. Great post and some nice images! I agree, knocked out tanks are good modeling subjects.

  3. Your interesting article has given me quite a few ideas.

    Muchas gracias sir!

  4. Excellent post Jon, they can certainly getting you thinking, A lot of time for me, the first thing that springs to mind is what happened to those guys in the tank? what did they go through?

    1. That's one of the more troubling aspects of this hobby and I've made mention of it on the Facebook page before. But its stuff that is unavoidable, especially if you're an armor modeler. We build pieces of history, and equipment that have caused harm and death to people which should never be taken lightly. Never the less, thinking about what happened to those guys in the tank is usually something I try to avoid because it isn't pretty, I'm sure.

  5. Superb reading! With all this inspiration, I really need to look into getting myself cloned. The clone can cover at work, while I start fulltime modelling :-)

  6. Very interesting those photos, thanks for sharing this.

  7. Awesome piece, Jon. Great ideas backed up with good research. Love the photos and cannot wait for next week's follow-up.

  8. Glad you guys liked this piece! I'll try to produce a write up as equally inspiring for aircraft wrecks. Stay tuned!