Dorvack +++ 1:24 PAM-72PD "Krembo Halo" powered armor suit with R8 “King Crab” battle claw (Whif/modified Aoshima kit)
Every now and then I feel the urge to dig one of the Dorvack PA kits from the pile - and it's the time to succumb to the drive. It's a PAM-74, from a re-released (2008) Aoshima twin combo kit.
Even though the Dorvack PAs are rather simple kits, they need some skill because the parts do not fit THAT well. However, you have to keep in mind that the molds were created in the early 80ies, as a quick merchandising shot for a new "Real Robot" TV series that were all the rage in Japan at that time, even though the series eventually flopped. The designs are older than Yokoyama Kow's Ma.K./ZbV3000/Maschinenkrieger stuff, which they actually inspired!
However, this time I did not want to build the PA OOB, but rather create a personal variant with the help of some Kotobukiya Gunpla Builders accessory packs. These sets are quite cool stuff, crisply molded, and they are intended for customized mecha kits. However, the parts can find good use in other projects, too – not only mecha (check my recent vintoplan build, into which two tiltrotor packs went).
In fact, I used parts from two different sets for the build. One set contains thruster packs and battle claws with three blade-fingers (reminiscent of the Gundam MSM-07 Zugock) in 1:144 scale. I used the latter to replace one of the PA's hands as a close combat weapon, since the original PAM-74 lacks a separate, empty right hand. You can even choose between two different blade designs (round and square) for the claw. The set also contains various adapters so that the new combat hand can be easily attached to various (Gundam) kits. Very clever, even though I had to create my own adapter for the PA’s hand attachment point.
The other set is intended as an accessory for 1:100 Frame Arms mecha models. It contains a boxy missile launcher with an openable cover (and six missile heads inside) plus a radar dish antenna. I actually used two of these sets for a pair of launchers on the PA’s shoulders.
The kit and its assembly:
My idea behind this conversion was a predecessor for the PAM-74 series, of which two authentic models are available. The PAM-74 appears to be an artillery support variant, primarily armed with mini missiles – lots of them! It carries three mini missile launcher arrays on its shoulders that hold a total of 75 rounds, plus more in an optional hand-held twin launcher (resulting in 105 rounds!). The other kit, the PAM-74AM, seems to be an anti-aircraft system, which carries six additional missiles on its back, cramped in between the standard mini missile launchers and additionally armed with a laser that replaces the right hand.
My approach now would be an AA variant with a smaller number of bigger missiles, and I wanted to add a sensor array for target detection and weapon guidance. The Kotobukiya Frame Arms set was a perfect starting point for the AA equipment, also because of the proper size of the parts! The "crab hand" from the Gundam set was a late conceptual addition, since I had to find a solution for the missing right hand.
Work on the PAM-74 basis started as usual with the assembly of the major components. Arms and legs were built OOB. The modification of the torso was more thorough. As an initial move I erased the triangular "cheeks" on both sides of the visor, sanding them away, and I modified the vertical visual sensor slit with a lens array, reminiscent of the PA-58N. The new visor arrangement came from a PA-36K kit.
Then the original missile launcher boxes had to go, and I had to create a mount for the new launch boxes and the dish antenna, which would be placed between them. This turned out to be trickier than expected, since the connectors and adapters from the Kotobukiya sets became the limiting factor, and I wanted to place the new equipment in a fashion that it would be moveable and look plausible.
After several trials I somewhat lowered my ambitions, since the parts and the space only allowed the missile boxed to be attached to the shoulders, even though I had to omit the original shoulder guards – but the new launchers can move freely between a horizontal and an almost vertical position, and their position looks plausible, too. The dish antenna had to be mounted in a fixed, upright position instead of being foldable for a march configuration. Nevertheless, the antenna itself can be moved in two axes, so that it complements the launchers in “action poses”.
After the attachment points were settled, the whole rear section was re-sculpted with styrene sheet, 2C and NC putty. At first, I considered more open, mechanical parts, but eventually went for a smooth hull, since all the new parts protruded well from the PA’s hull. This looks in fact very good, and I might build a similar PAM-74 conversion in the future, just without the extra equipment as a normal “foot soldier” variant.
Painting and markings:
The paint scheme is fictional/personal and was created as a compromise between the PAs authentic, partially very bright and colorful liveries and the attempt of creating at least a weak camouflage effect. I also wanted a kind of retro style that would match the look and feel of the series, with a “late Seventies” spirit.
I eventually ended up with a brown livery, using Humbrol 9, 10 and 41 (Tan, Service Brown and Ivory) as basic tones - these are rather decorative than camouflage tones, but despite their brightness, I think that the livery would probably work to a certain degree in a desert environment?
In order to add some contrast, I added a bright orange box to the PA’s chest and the missile launcher parts were painted in dark grey (Humbrol 67), which was also used on the fingers and the blades of the close combat hand/claw.
After basic painting of the major, semi-finished components everything received a weathering wash with a mix of black and dark brown, then the whole kit received a dry-brushing treatment, adding visual plasticity and creating a worn look that would add some seriousness to the colorful PA - after all, it is a military equipment item!
The decals come from the OOB sheet, and, once applied, a final, additional dry-brushing session was done. After a coat of matt acrylic varnish, dust and dirt were created with an artist mineral pigment mix. The pigments were applied dry with a soft brush and also partly mixed with matt varnish in order to simulate mud crusts, esp. around the feet. Beyond the weathering effect, this cheap trick also easily hides some flaws in the finish. ;-)
A quick build. Thanks to many PAM-74 kits built and converted in the past, most inherent flaws could be avoided. The kit itself went together with relatively little problems, the whole thing is a rather simple affair. The paint job was more troublesome, since the glossy Humbrol enamels take ages to dry – but the flashy colors made the effort worthwhile, IMHO.
With all the new/additional equipment in place, my conversion looks a little head-heavy, but the whole affair works overall well. I am also positively surprised how good the PAM-74 actually looks with all the original missile launchers removed – an idea that has been earmarked for a future build.