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  1. #1
    HondoBob's Avatar
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    My First Tank - HL Panzer 3



    This is my very first RC tank, so I'll have to ask for the indulgence and forbearance fo the many Master Builders with this thread. You guys are my heroes! I won't have even started something like this without all of your insights and the assistance of Phil from RCTankWars.com and the greatfolks atRCCommand.com.

    BEFORETHEBUILD

    Ah Ha! Here's my new RC Heng Long 1:16 size Panzerkampfwagen III in all it's unmodified glory! (please expand the thumbnails for larger images)



    This little beauty is the S&S (Smoke and Sound) edition, which means it's sporting an RX18 controller, speaker, and exhaust-simulating smoke unit inside the hull. It roars to life with sounds recorded from an actual running Panzer in a French museum, it belches exhaust smoke proportionally with speed, and even shoots 6mm airsoft bb’s! The decals and overall model detail are pretty good.



    Pretty good simply isn't good enough for an avid RC modeler; I intend to do some cool mods to this pretty little tank and turn it into something of an RC Beast. Here’s my current shopping list:



    1) Replace the plastic tracks, drive sprockets and idler wheels with Hard Core Metal



    2) Replace the flimsy nylon/plastic gearboxes with tough Asiatam metal gearboxes



    3) Replace the injection-molded plastic track adjusters with Asiatam metal track adjusters



    4) Replace the silly air intake grill decal with a custom brass intake grill



    5) And then dress the beast up with a proper paint job (weathering, distressing, etc.)



    This should be one heck of a fun build!


  2. #2
    HondoBob's Avatar
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    RE: My First Tank - HL Panzer 3



    DISASSEMBLY

    Yep, this little RC tank is pretty good. You can hardly find a better starter tank for the price (about 1/5th the cost of a Tamiya). Today we’ll do some things not for the faint of heart and will cause just about anyone to say, “OMG, What have I done!?!”



    First we’ll take a peek in the battery compartment to make sure everything is kosher, and to ensure that the battery is out! Inside you’ll find a Tamiya-type connector and a white tag connected to the tank’s receiver frequency crystal. Leave ‘em in!



    I then went about removing the decals adoring the outside so I can have a blank surface when I get to painting. The decals come on a sheet, so don’t put them on if you intend to paint your tank! I put them on just to show how to take them off without damaging the surface (heh, heh). The secret: these aren’t really decals, they’re stickers! If they were decals we could remove them by reactivating the adhesive by applying water-dampened paper towels. Stickers have to be removed using one of the greatest inventions of all time: WD-40. Just spray on the sticker, wait a few seconds, and gently remove with a utility knife or modeler’s knife (I obviously prefer to use a utility knife).



    It’s critically important to remove all the little bits Heng Long provides to adorn the tank. There a quite a few. Some come off easier than others, so use a combination of caution, force, and patience. Even still, I managed to break the teeny mounting tabs of a couple pieces, but I’ll glue them back on after everything is painted – so no big deal.



    When all the bits and decals are finally removed, it’s time to clean all the oils and grime from the surfaces. I’ve always gotten excellent results just using a good quality non-streaking glass cleaner; in my opinion it’s better and easier than using dish soap and warm water.



    Finally, the fun part: opening the hull! All you need to do is remove all the screws on the bottom EXCEPT the three directly aft of the battery compartment. If you still remove them by accident, don’t worry; you can reattach the internal circuit board after the next step.



    Voila! We are inside the hull! There’s a whole lot going on in here. Pic 1: the overall internal guts. Pic 2: the venerable RX18 controller module. Pic 3: the smoke unit, receiver board (remember the crystal?), and the speaker. Pic 4: the plastic gearbox (to be replaced). Pic 5: the upper hull showing the turret gear and motor, the headlights, antenna connection, and the yellow airsoft gun inside the turret.



    With the hull open we can now remove some final bits like the spare tracks, rear exhaust cover, and front auxiliary armor plate.



    The turret and turret ring come off with the removal of two screws. I’ll take pity on everyone by leaving the turret wiring harness connected for this project (har).



    Those plastic wheels and tracks are driving me crazy! Off they come! The front drive sprocket is removed with a small Allen wrench (I used a 5/64 inch) and the rear idler wheel is removed with a small Phillips screwdriver. Take those off and the plastic track will come off intact.



    Plastic track adjusters just won’t hold up under the strain of metal tracks and wheels. Two screws will remove each adjuster; we’ll have to cut off the molded hull pieces at a later step in order to mount the metal replacements.



    And there it is: a pile of pieces ready for some serious moding!



    OMG, Whathave I done!?!


  3. #3
    HondoBob's Avatar
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    RE: My First Tank - HL Panzer 3



    TRACK ADJUSTERS

    One of the most important upgrades you can make after metal gears and tracks is replacing the faux (fake) plastic track adjusters with the real thing . . . in metal. It’s also potentially the most frightening mod because it requires the permanent removal of molded hull features, and there’s no going back if the job is messed up. Having a steady hand, sharp eyes (or current prescription glasses), and good modeling skills are an absolute must.



    Remember these, the old not-gonna-do-a-darn-thing-to-adjust-track-tension plastic faux track adjusters? All they do is provide a fixed mounting point for the rear idler wheel. We’ve already disassembled these puppies just by removing two screws on each side.



    The right tool for this job is a rotary tool (mine isn’t a Dremel) with a cutoff bit. A good jewelers file set is also handy, though you can easily get by with a Leatherman file like I usually do. Here’s my dreaded implement of destruction and the new parts-in-waiting.



    This is where you need to steel your fearful heart: cutting the old track adjusters off . . . forever! Be steady, be confident, and just do it.



    There, that wasn’t all that bad, was it? Sure it was, though I was feeling a bit better after some careful filing to make the hull relatively smooth for the new components.



    Cutting and filing are just half the project; we also need to drill guide holes for the mounting pins and put the whole shebang together! I really appreciate Asiatam including a metal template for properly locating the drill locations. A paper template would suck.



    Once the three 2.5mm holes are drilled in the back it’s a simple mater of dry fitting the adjuster then using some CA (a.k.a. superglue) to permanently mount it to the hull. You can slightly increase the hole sizes to accommodate fine fitting of necessary (the key word is “slightly&rdquo.



    Just one more screw will serve as the pivot point for the new adjustable idler wheel mounting point.



    Now to do the other side just like this one . . .


  4. #4
    HondoBob's Avatar
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    RE: My First Tank - HL Panzer 3



    METAL GEARBOXES

    If the RX18 controller board is the brains of this RC tank, then the two gearboxes are certainly the muscles driving this beast. Since I’m going to upgrade to metal tracks and drive/idler wheels, I absolutely need to upgrade the Heng Long stock plastic gears with a nearly bulletproof set of Asiatam metal gearboxes.



    IMHO the very best RC tank gearboxes for the money are Asiatam 3:1 metal gearboxes. RCCommand.com has recently started selling some very custom all-steel gearboxes which have gotten rave reviews, but I’m not familiar with them (yet). I do know Asiatam’s reputation for ruggedness and quality, though sometimes the quality can sometimes slip a bit as it seems to have with one of my gearboxes. Still, it’s manifestly tough because it’s made from very high quality parts.



    Before we install metal we must remove the plastic. The standard Heng Long gearboxes are held in with three screws which secure the frames to three standoffs molded in the lower hull. Unscrew them and remove each gearbox.



    Properly breaking in the gearboxes and motors is very important (some would say critically important) to efficient operation of the RC tank. I say – Yes and No. Breaking in a motor is essential to ensuring proper conformation of the brushes to the commutator, while breaking in the gearboxes will help loosen things up and remove any burrs which might remain from casting. Asiatam gearboxes use a combination of cast zinc and cut brass gears, so break in should be minimal. You can read much more about it at the RCUniverse.com tank FAQ forum: http://www.rcuniverse.com/forum/m_5760954/tm.htm .



    See this little set screw? My 1/16th inch allen wrench is too big to fit! Since there’s no way in heck I’m going to buy a teeny-tiny allen wrench just to fit this set screw, I’m going to do a lazy shake-and-bake break in procedure. Experience RC tank builders may want to stop reading at this point – you’ll probably choke, scream, or cry.



    Since I can’t remove the set screw, this also means I can’t separate the motor from the gearbox to properly break them in. Instead I just applied a small amount of lapping compound on the gears and connected the motor to two D-cell batteries (C-cells don’t provide enough energy). I then alternated the polarities about every hour and reapplied lapping compound to the gears. I continued this process until the batteries were dead, which took about 12 hours.



    The old way to mount Asiatam gearboxes in a Heng Long hull was to glue custom standoffs carefully positioned to ensure proper alignment of the gearboxes when installed. Phil at RCTankWars.com has greatly simplified the process by offering his own mounting plates upon which both Asiatam and Mato gearboxes can be easily installed in almost every type of Heng Long RC tank. This plate is definitely worth every penny!



    Installing the gearboxes on the mounting plate can be a bit tricky, so here’s the location and sequence of the three essential mounting screws for each gearbox: 1st) front center, 2nd) rear center, 3rd) outside middle. It’s not easy but it can be done with a little patience.



    See? Both gearboxes fit and the mounting plate ensures proper alignment of the output shaft.



    I decided to lube the gears next, though some might want to wait to do this after connecting the wires. I use Moly Grease with molybendum, which stinks like proper grease should. A little goes a very long way, so don’t apply to much.



    This isn’t my best soldering job, so please forgive me for my sloppiness. I simply removed the left and right motor plugs from the RX18 board, cut them from the old motors, and soldered the black and red wires together (first making sure to slip some heat-shrink wrap over the wires before soldering). When the solder joint was cool I just slid the heat-shrink over it and applied heat from an old heat gun.



    Lastly I just tidied up the wires a bit and called it a day. Gearboxes are in! WooHoo!


  5. #5
    Bauer66's Avatar
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    RE: My First Tank - HL Panzer 3

    Welcome.
    Now for the Bad new's. Your HOOKED, No sence in fighting it just give in

    Your shopping list looks to be a great start. Check out the PZIII Metal lower from Aisiatam, Its awesome.
    AMA 547824
    Cub Brotherhood #194

  6. #6
    HondoBob's Avatar
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    RE: My First Tank - HL Panzer 3



    AIR INTAKE GRILLS

    I think the easiest mod to make on this tank is probably just simply replacing the inadequate air intake grill stickers with some proper metallic overlays. It’s just a matter of cut, position, and glue!



    Here’s the neat kit I bought from RCCommand.com to upgrade the intake grills. This looks, feels, and cuts just like brass so I suppose it just might actually be a laser-cut thin sheet of brass.



    The air intake grill overlay comes in two pieces: a uber-fine laser-cut mesh piece, and an overlay piece. Since I already removed the old sticker and cleaned the exterior with window cleaner, all I needed to do was cut the mesh piece free, then put a tiny bead of CA glue around the edge of the mounting surface, and then carefully place the piece in place with enough gentle pressure to ensure good contact without causing CA glue to ooze out the edges.



    I then do the same with the top piece, being especially careful not to smear CA glue on the uber-fine mesh upon which it sits. Yes I know the cuts aren’t perfect. I’ll do the detail trim when I prep for paint.



    Do the same to both sides and it’s done!


  7. #7
    HondoBob's Avatar
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    RE: My First Tank - HL Panzer 3



    PAINT AND FINAL ASSEMBLY

    The most challenging step I faced with this project was painting; I’m an engineer, not an artist! Still, this lil’ ol’ Panzer 3 just wouldn’t look right without some attempt to give it a modest make over. Here we go!



    First things first, I did what I could to mask anything I didn’t want painted like the headlights, machine gun, airsoft warning strobe, and the lower hull interior.



    I chose to apply a light coat of dark brown Krylon Fusion primer for plastic to give the lighter top coat some “depth” to its final color. I let it dry and cure for 24 hours before applying Krylon Tan Camouflage Ultra-Flat. Again, two light coats which were each allowed to dry and cure for 24 hours. I know this isn’t the historically correct paint used by the Germans in back in the 40’s, but it’s what I had. If you want to paint your tank gloss black with red, yellow, orange, and gold flames streaming down the hull, I say Go For It! Let the hardcore historical replicators do their thing, and I’ll do mine with a generous hat tip to their passion for detailed accuracy. I don’t have their painting skills.



    Next, I tried my hand at some very modest detailing. It’s been well over thirty years since I’ve done anything remotely related to modeling, so I beg your indulgence while I illustrate my fumbling efforts. The camera flash had a tendency to make the tan paint look somewhat grey, so please bear with me.



    My basic supplies are nothing more than some inexpensive art pencils, watercolor paints, brushes, a couple of Tamiya paint sticks and Sharpie markers. I won’t get the same effects as the airbrush masters, so simple will have to be the orders for the day.



    I mixed and diluted the watercolors to get a modestly contrasting brown for defining the edges of the hatches. I applied the thin mix in the contours and wiped then wiped the excess off. Diluting with mostly alcohol seems to help it dry faster and cover more evenly.



    Once the watercolor dried I then used a tan artist pencil to further define the contours and try to create an overall look of built-up desert dirt, mild corrosion, and overall wear.



    Coloring the rubber components of the road wheels was simple: I just blackened them with a Sharpie marker. The gloss will be reduced when I apply the final matte finish. I also used the Tamiya “Mud” paint stick to slightly dirty-up the wheels and hull skirts.



    To bring some color back to the tools which are molded into the skirts I used a standard number 2 pencil to color the metal bits and a light brown artist pencil for the wood handles.



    Applying decals to flat paint is tricky business. The only way I know to make them stick is to apply some form of gloss to the areas where I intend to apply the decals. The easiest method familiar to me from long ago is to lightly brush on a light coat of clear acrylic floor polish to the decal areas.



    I decided to try printing my own water-transfer decals for this project. It’s pretty easy so long as you keep in mind that any decal which might have white in it must be printed on white (not clear) decal paper. You also need to seal the decal sheet with an aerosol sealant. Kits are generally available from any hobby store or from Amazon.com. Sadly, my number decals didn’t work out as well as I had hoped, so I had to resort to using white dry-transfer numbers from a generic decal sheet. I’ll have to work on my decal cutting techniques if I want to do another tank like this one.



    Once the decals were on I applied a couple of light coats of Krylon Matte Finish to eliminate the gloss patches and provide an overall top coat.



    Painting and decals are done! With mucho mistakes! Now let’s get this puppy back together and see if I messed up any of the internals.



    One of the significant mods I made to ruggedize the Panzer was adding a 40mm laptop fan to the RX18 controller, with several openings cut in the cover to allow air to flow in and out. The weight of the Asiatam metal gears and Mato metal tracks/sprockets will certainly tax the FETs on the board. Cooling is cool. Of course, the trick is to figure out a way to squeeeeeeeeze the whole thing into the hull. I had to shave some additional plastic off the RX18 housing to fit the Heng Long hull space.



    At last, the final product! It’s not perfect by any means, and it’s not particularly pretty either, but everything seems to work. In fact, it seems to work a whole lot BETTER with the metal upgrades, track tensioners, and cooling fan. It’s a lot more fun to run this little Panzer now that the tracks don’t break, fall off, or the strip the old plastic gearbox. All in all, this was a lot of fun for an old timer like me. Plus, I don’t have to worry about crashing it unless I inadvertently drive it off the porch.



    Before:



    After:



    NEXT UPGRADES: RELOCATE ANTENNA! UPGRADE SMOKE UNIT! ELIMINATE HENG LONG “HICKUP” FIRING SEQUENCE! IMPROVE SOUND! INSTALL INFRARED BATTLE SYSTEM!


  8. #8
    BiggTony's Avatar
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    RE: My First Tank - HL Panzer 3

    Welcome!!
    You must have been studying up on this site for a bit! Kudos to you! I cannot wait to get my PIII!
    on a side note...you got more done on your first tank that I have with my two! How lame am I!?!!?!

    edit: This is a nice "how to" you should repost this in the FAQ as well since we don't have a moderator to sticky this.
    Need Tamiya 1/35 T72-M1 (model) instruction manual. Please contact me if you either have no use for it or can make a copy.

  9. #9

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    RE: My First Tank - HL Panzer 3

    Very good write-up! I really appreciate the detail you went into on the paint. I'm color blind, and you telling the colors used is a big help. Thanks!

  10. #10
    YHR's Avatar
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    RE: My First Tank - HL Panzer 3

    Great job. Excellent photo's on a really great first tank. The upgrades you chose were well thought out. They really help make the transformation from toy to hobby grade tank

  11. #11
    YHR's Avatar
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    RE: My First Tank - HL Panzer 3

    double post

  12. #12

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    RE: My First Tank - HL Panzer 3

    Excellent how-to. This could be a sticky!

  13. #13

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    RE: My First Tank - HL Panzer 3

    Nicely done! Check with Etoarmor for an accurate antenna.
    It has been said that politics is the second-oldest profession...it bears a great similarity to the first. -Ronald Reagan

  14. #14
    HondoBob's Avatar
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    RE: My First Tank - HL Panzer 3

    Thanks for the tip about a source for a antenna. I've been trying to figure out a way to make one that looks appropriate, but buying one will be far better. All suggestions, hints and help are greatly appreciated!

  15. #15

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    RE: My First Tank - HL Panzer 3

    the maker is tank-modellbau.de. Etoarmor is a US vendor.
    It has been said that politics is the second-oldest profession...it bears a great similarity to the first. -Ronald Reagan

  16. #16
    Pah co chu puk's Avatar
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    RE: My First Tank - HL Panzer 3

    WOW! Nice build on the pzk III. The antenna problem bothered me too. I looked at lots of old pix and came up with this solution.

    I bought a whermat tank crewman from tamaya and cut off a section of the sprew connecting the parts from the frame. I selected a section with a 90 deg bend and a flat face then cut it off as close to the frame as I could. I then found some stiff wire the correct leingth and drilled a hole sized for the wire in the flat face. After the wire was glued into the plastic sprew piece I glued a small nut, 1 mm, over the wire for looks.I filed down the other end till itfit butI did not glue the antenna assmbly into the tank so I could fold it down if I wanted to.

    Total cost about $0.10 and 20 min. or so. Oh, and you get a tank crewman to paint and pose.
    [img]my documents/tank pix/DSCN2870[/img] [img]my documents/tank pix/DSCN2875[/img]

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  17. #17
    Pah co chu puk's Avatar
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    RE: My First Tank - HL Panzer 3

    OK, so it looks like my pix did not come through, you can see some antenna pix in my galery.
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  18. #18
    HondoBob's Avatar
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    RE: My First Tank - HL Panzer 3

    I LOVE this idea!  Thanks!  I'm going to get started on this and post some pics when it's done.  You Da Man!

  19. #19
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    RE: My First Tank - HL Panzer 3

    Welcome Bob,

    Nice job on the Pzr III. I see that you are in Arizona, but I had to look up where the heck Hereford is! Wow you are way out there.

    Anyway, have you run across our club in Phoenix yet: Desert Armor Korp?

    (www.desertarmor.com)

    I know it would be a long drive but we have members that drive from Tucson and California every event. Our next event, a night battle, will be on Saturday, May 22 and we have a special indoor event coming in July in Tucson. For more info shot me a PM or contact our CO Ethan, at the website.

    Doug
    Man will occasionally stumble over the truth, but he usually manages to pick himself up, walk over it, and carry on.

  20. #20
    Pah co chu puk's Avatar
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    RE: My First Tank - HL Panzer 3

    I dug around in my parts bin and found the part I used to make the antenna mount.

    It's the 3 sprews that hold together the " X " and " Y " sections of the WWII german infantryman by Tamiya. You get three tries to get it right. The kit is fun in it's own right.

    I added a better pix to my gallery, still can't figgure out how to post a pix in the thread itself.
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  21. #21
    HondoBob's Avatar
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    RE: My First Tank - HL Panzer 3

    Doug - Yes, I've seen the website for Desert Armor Korp up in Phoenix; I'm very impressed!  Though I might not have my little Pz3 fully up to IR battle specs by then, I intend to travel north to Tucson to see your July event.  I think I'm starting to catch the tank bug.

    Pah co chu puk - Thanks for the pics and the terrific idea!  I"m going to make an antenna following your design and make an internal load coil to electrically extend it to the proper wavelength so I can permanently replace the stock antenna mount Heng Long mounted on the rear deck.  The new side antenna will physically correct and electrically functional.  Woot!

  22. #22
    Pah co chu puk's Avatar
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    RE: My First Tank - HL Panzer 3

    Very cool. Let us know how you do it. I would love to do the same to my tank.
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  23. #23

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    RE: My First Tank - HL Panzer 3


    ORIGINAL: Pah co chu puk

    Very cool.* Let us know how you do it.* I would love to do the same to my tank.

    Pah co chu puk,
    Pretty cool antenna mod. Have you thought of taking the additional lenght of the original HL ant and making an internal ant that connects to your side ant to make up for the rest of the original ant length? That way you don't have the RC ant on the exterior. Tank looks good as well. Thanks for sharing.

    Jim

  24. #24
    Pah co chu puk's Avatar
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    RE: My First Tank - HL Panzer 3

    The pzk III is too beat up and abused to put much more effort into it.  It is a trainer for the kids now because the airsoft gun is dead so it is safe.  I want to get an IR pzk III and fix it up better for myself but that is still in the future. 

    I do intend to work out some antenna solution that looks good and works for RC.  I want it to fold down loke the real ones.
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  25. #25
    Panzerfaust77's Avatar
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    RE: My First Tank - HL Panzer 3

    Fantastic build and post! Great job!
    \"To a New-Yorker like you, a Hero is some kind of weird sandwich!\"


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