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Da Vinci Tank


Do Modelers Dream of Plastic Sheep?

By Valentin “Chinaman’s Hat” Bueno

Retrokit's Da Vinci's Tank in 1/35scale

I swear I am the worst type of impulse model buyer. As I was buying the Probe Droid reviewed on page 9, I also noticed the 1/72 scale Da Vinci Tank. At $18 for such a unique model, it’s relatively cheap compared to many of the plastic kits now available. The kit is available from Retro Kit’s website: http://www.retrokit.net/

Retrokit's Da Vinci's Tank in 1/35scale

Leonardo Da Vinci was an Italian thinker, artist, mathematician, inventor anatomist, sculptor, musician, writer and engineer. One of the many things that he designed, but never built, was this wooden tank. It was powered by human powered via a hand crank turning four cog wheels sticking out of the bottom of the tank. If you notice, this is the first armoured vehicle with sloped armor.


The kit by RetroKit out of England is cast in dark grey colored resin. The kit consists of 16 pieces, upper and lower hulls, four half wheels, turret top, turret supports, and six cannon. The parts are cast to a very high quality; I could find only one tiny little air bubble in the upper hull. The parts have a very fine wooden texture and the nail heads are molded precisely.

Retrokit's Da Vinci's Tank in 1/35scale

What comes in the kit.

Unfortunately the kit is inaccurate. The kit’s instructions say that they “modified” the design. They enlarged the access doors, reduced the number of guns and raised them to the middle of the upper hull rather than being just under the upper hull overhang. Oh well, at least it still looks Medieval...oops I meant Renaissance.

Leonardo’s original sketch of the tank.

With so few parts to this kit, I should be able to build it in one sitting. The challenge will be getting the wood to look right. Of course I could be perverse and apply a WWI camouflage to it…..

Retrokit's Da Vinci's Tank in 1/35scale

Basic parts assembled


As this kit has so few parts, I couldn’t help myself from starting it right away. After the molding plugs were trimmed off of the upper and lower hulls, I fitted the two parts together and adjusted the parts to fit snugly. CA was the glue for this occasion as the kit is made from polyurethane resin.

The wheels were easily snapped off from the runner sprue and then added to the underside of the lower hull. The last main part to be added is the upper turret roof. These are held in place by three resin rods that fit into holes in the roof and into molded brackets in the upper hull top. Unfortunately, they don’t really fit all together. Since I was planning on adding a figure or two into the turret top, I left the part loose for now. I left the gun barrels off until after I painted this truculent turtle.

Retrokit's Da Vinci's Tank in 1/35scale

The belly of the beast.


After Da Vinci finished painting The Last Supper, God looked upon the painting and commented that half of it looked very vivid, and the other half quite dull. Leonardo explained that he was running out of paint, and had to use paint thinner to finish the work. At this, God became very upset, struck the painting down with a lightning bolt from above, and in a loud voice told the artist: “Leonardo, repaint, and thin no more!”

I’m sorry, as I started painting the Da Vinci tank, I remembered that joke. I just love lame humor. The tank was base coated with Tamiya’s Tan AS-15 from a spray can. After allowing this to set for a week (more out of laziness than to allow hardening of the paint) I gave it a sludge wash to highlight the groves between the planks of wood. Thin glazes of Dark Yellow and Red Brown were added randomly here in there to add to the “wood” look.

The nails, gun ports and door hinges were painted with RLM 66 Scale Black. The supports for the turret top were painted red brown as was the inside of the turret top. The floor was painted Scale Black.

Red, yellow and black colored pencils were used to draw in some of the wood texture. This is a technique I saw Glenn use on an all wood German rocket glider.

As this is an armor kit I painted the underside of the tank and wheels with…..MUD! (You saw that coming didn’t you?) I figured that paved roads in this time period were rare and that dust and dirt would eventually get onto the tank as it was driven/pulled along from battle to battle, assuming it ever went into battle!

I added a little thickened mud to the edges and to the wheels by dipping my brush into the paint and then into Mig Productions European Dust pigment powder.


I decided to put this thing on a base with some sheep blocking it from progressing towards the battlefield. The base itself is something I found at a jewelry expo I was attending with my girlfriend. I squashed a bit of two part epoxy putty onto it to create a slightly raised surface in the middle and around the base of a few trees I planted on one side.

The surface was painted wet on wet with Polly S Dirt, Deck Tan and Scale Black to give the ground some variation. In addition to this, I dipped the paint laden brush into some MIG Productions European Dirt weathering pigment and applied this to the surface also.

Sheep before and after cleaning.

Grass was added from scenic material (sorry I don’t remember what type it is or where it’s from as the label has long since abandoned me) using Tamiya Clear and Flat Base as a fixing agent. A hole was drilled into the base and into the tank near one of the wheels for a brass rod to hold the tank to the base. This will be hidden by the wheel and the sheep.

I bought a set of 60 Preiser 1/87 scale sheep. There were two types of sheep in the box, head up and head down. I also picked up a set of sheep with shepherd, and this set has lying down sheep included.

Each sheep had a nice big ejection pin mark on their left flank and mold seams down their backs and between their legs. So I put on a long DVD and started the long process of cleaning up the entire herd, and you know what, I started to fall ASLEEP! Falling asleep while holding a scalpel makes for a bug eyed wake up! I put the sheep away for the night and continued to work on them in small batches of five or so over the next two weeks

Much to my surprise, as I cleaned off the seams and ejection pin marks, the paint on the sheep came off. Now I have to paint all 60 sheep. That’s OK, I was planning on repainting a few to become the black sheep of the herd, like Sci-Fi modelers…..just kidding.

I used a loop of Tamiya Tape to secure the sheep to a piece of cardboard and blasted the entire lot with Tamiya Light Gray spray paint. The black sheep were painted with RLM 66 Scale Black lightened with light gray. The faces and legs of the black sheep were painted RLM 22 Night Black. The faces and legs of the other sheep were randomly painted with RLM 66, dark earth or neutral gray.

All the sheep received a sludge wash of dirt thinner dusting of MIG Productions European Dirt weathering powder on their undersides and legs. Remember, these guys sleep outside on the ground, of course they’re weathered!

Retrokit's Da Vinci's Tank in 1/35scale

I pooled some CA glue onto a glass sample dish (Thanks Brad!) and dipped the feet of the sheep into the puddle and then pressed them firmly into the grass. I was able to fit approximately 40 of the 68 sheep I had, so now I have some left over for airfield dioramas, hehehehe.

Likewise the shepherd and sheep dog were glued to the base. I replaced the cast resin gun barrels with Evergreen Styrene rod drilled out and added these to the model and that is it

Retrokit's Da Vinci's Tank in 1/35scale

What started out as a simple in the box review of a cool looking Da Vinci Tank turned into a full blown vignette of the tank, sheep and shepherd. You can never tell where you’re going to end up when you open the box of a new kit.

Retrokit's Da Vinci's Tank in 1/35scale