Building the 2nd Generation Ukrainian Antartic Snow Cruiser the Kharkovchanka 2

Maurizio Laudisa of Laudisa Model Works has been building kits from the likes of Airfix, Tamiya, Italeri, Esci, Fujimi, Hasegawa, Heller, Matchbox, and Aurora since the age of six. Today he takes us on a tour of the second generation Ukranian Arctic Snow Cruiser the Kharkovchanka

Over to you Maurizio

First-generation Kharkovchanka

Some of my best modelling inspiration comes from articles, photos, or videos depicting unusual and interesting vehicles and events with storied backgrounds. Such is the subject of this build, an enormous off-road vehicle, or snow cruiser, purpose-built for moving people and supplies across Antarctica and the South Pole. I first discovered it on a YouTube documentary, and researched it on-line by combing through whatever articles and photos I could get my hands on.

More than half a century ago, a column of tracked all-terrain vehicles designed and built in Kharkiv, Ukraine made an unprecedented crossing of Antarctica. On snowy ice pack and unforgiving terrain, these vehicles – named “Kharkovchankas” – covered 2,700 km in high winds and temperatures as low as –80o C (–112o F), eventually reaching the South Pole.

Two generations of Kharkovchankas (Ukrainian: Харьковчанка, “Woman of Kharkov”) were designed and built by the Kharkiv Transport Engineering Plant, and later manufactured by the Malyshev Factory, in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Based on the AT-T tractor platform (itself based on the T-54 tank), the first generation was manufactured in 1957-58, consisting of an elongated AT-T tracked chassis supporting a 220 sq.ft. rectangular superstructure that housed a small galley, toilet, oven, and eight beds.

In 1974–1975, a second generation Kharkovchanka was designed and built for Antarctic service. The largest design difference was moving the cab and engine in front of the massive rectangular body superstructure, as well as the addition of auxiliary power generation for electricity and heat when the main engine was not operating. Five Karkovchanka-2 came off the production line in 1975.


The second generation Kharkovchanka-2


These remarkable 35-ton vehicles were powered by a 995-HP supercharged V-12 diesel engine and could tow 70-ton cargo sleds behind them. Some remained in service through the 2000s, nearly half a century after they were first commissioned.

The build

While I found the history and design of both versions fascinating, I fell in love the second-generation: an archetypal Soviet machine, brutish and utilitarian, yet colorful and interesting to look at, almost beautiful in its own right – you could call it “Mad Max goes to Antarctica.”

I could find no model of the Kharkovchanka-2 but found an excellent starting platform for a conversion: the Trumpeter 1/35th scale P-40/1S12 mobile radar, kit no. 05969.



The kit provides the chassis, tracks, and driver cabin necessary, with everything else having to be scratch built. It is a beautiful kit out of the box, with great, crisp detail and an impressive radar assembly, so I was sad having to discard most of it for my build, but at least it greatly enriched my spare parts box.

From photos of the actual vehicles, each vehicle underwent its own field modifications and adaptations, so that each vehicle would be identifiable and quite unique. I chose vehicle number 3 for my project as it was depicted in a few quality reference photos.



I started with the individual links tracks, which were widened on the original with welded L-shaped, 75cm long steel bars to reduce the pressure on soft snow. Using Tamiya extra-thin, I cemented 1.5mm L-profile Evergreen strips on each link.



I then built up the driver’s cabin out of the box. The cabin has crisp details and includes some PE parts to attach radio equipment inside the cabin, grills, and engine cover tie-downs. I sprayed the interior with Tamiya XF71 Cockpit Green, while the exterior was painted with Tamiya XF8 Flat Blue and XF7 Flat Red, to which I added a couple of drops of blue to produce the deeper, more purply red seen on in photos.

I sprayed slightly lighter shades of blue and red to provide some color modulation, and I lightly weathered the interior using pin washes with oils diluted in white spirit. To add a bit of variety, I used a few clear bottles from my spares box and placed inside a cardboard box that I printed and folded.



I continued by dry fitting the cabin on the kit chassis, as shown below. This is pretty much the extent of what I used from the Trumpeter kit, as everything else had to be built from scratch.



From this point on, my build had to rely on photographic references for proportions and dimensions to be as accurate as possible and “look right.” I started by creating cardboard cutouts to confirm size, proportions, angles, and cutouts before committing to styrene.



Lacking access to drawings, I discovered that if I sized a couple of photos at a specific zoom level on my computer screen, I could use them as an accurately scaled outline, which greatly simplified the job. Once I was satisfied with measurements and proportions in cardboard, I could finally cut styrene sheets with confidence.

To reproduce the raised riveting seen on the vehicle, I considered raised decals (I had used Archer aircraft rivet decals in the past), but was not comfortable applying the many rows and columns needed. I decided to use a “riveter” tool instead, which when ran across a styrene sheet, scores a line of small impressions simulating flush rivets. While testing the riveter, I noticed that if I used 0.015” (0.4mm) sheet styrene, the impressions would show as raised rivets on the other side of the sheet!

Furthermore, the pressure of the riveter over each row and column created creases in the styrene that looked like stressed metal, adding texture and realism to the surfaces.



With riveting completed, it was time to assemble the sides. I used 1-2-3 metal blocks (so called because each side measures 1, 2, and 3 inches respectively) to ensure that all planes were true and square. I recommend these blocks as an excellent modelling aid, especially when scratch-building. I reinforced the interior with styrene rod and tubing to increase rigidity and strength.



Once the superstructure was completed, I started on some of the roof accessories and the main access door into the living quarters. Once completed, it was time to dry fit everything together and check how the model was taking shape. I painted and weathered Miniart crates and oil drums for roof cargo and played with the composition until I had a good idea of the result I was after.



I realized that I had missed a small rectangular access panel on the lower right side of the superstructure. This had two manifold outlets which might have been used to resupply fresh water or cooking fuel to the vehicle living quarters. Cutting out a small rectangle from the styrene siding and creating this detail was trouble-free, and the results acceptable.



After constructing the roof rails with styrene rod, which I shaped and bent cold, I sprayed the superstructure with Stynylrez gray primer using my Iwata HP-CS airbrush.



I did not attach the superstructure to the chassis yet so I could paint it without having to mask all around it. I searched for the right kind of orange, but I was having trouble discerning the right shade of color, as there are many different oranges offered by several hobby paint manufactures. I decided that I could exercise more control by mixing my own, and settled on a mix of one part Tamiya XF7 Flat Red and two parts Tamiya XF3 Flat Yellow which matched color photos well. I first sprayed a gloss white stripe half-way through the superstructure, and after masking it, sprayed the rest orange.



After clear coating using Alclad II Aqua Gloss, I applied 3rd party custom-made decals based on artwork I had provided. I also printed my own yellow and blue stripes using transparent decal sheets and my inkjet printer. These decal stripes, which wrapped around the entire superstructure, were applied over the white stripe I had painted and masked earlier. Another gloss coat sealed all decals.

With the superstructure nearly finished, the final challenges were building the tall, almost nautical, mast housing a ground radar, and the clear dome used for navigating by the stars. I had already installed telescopic brass tubing anchored to the floor of the superstructure to securely insert and house the main brass mast.

I built the radar housing and its supporting platform from styrene rod and spare parts, then glued the sub-assembly to the brass mast with CA glue. I installed an orange light from spares on the top and fabricated two anchor points to attach reinforcing cables. Cabling was done using stretchy fine EZ Line, with the insulators simulated by a small dot of acrylic white paint. Finally, I wound up some lead wire along the mast to simulate electric wiring.



The clear dome had me stumped as I couldn’t find anything suitable and in the right diameter. I finally located some half-domes used for crafts in clear acrylic and of the correct size, which I ordered and used to good effect. I sprayed flat varnish on the inside of the dome to weather it a little and give it a more realistic scale finish.



With the superstructure completed, I could finally attach it to the rest chassis and begin weathering the entire model. I used various oil washes and fine paint spattering with a brush to break up the surfaces and provide visual interest. I applied AK Ultra Matte Varnish as the final coat. A base and a figure from Paracel added scale to the finished model.

I spent about 160 hours over 2 ½ months on the project, and I’m satisfied with the result. It is a unique subject with an interesting history that really pushed my scratch-building techniques and presented several problem-solving challenges.


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9 months ago

I am awed by the exacting detail. Thank you for such a detailed report. Absolutely amazing.
Thank you hobbydb for posting it .

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