Monday, 8 June 2015

The renovation of a WWII ruin - old Matchbox scenic

While visiting a model shop, my Brother-in-law made a great spot in one of the display cabinets - a second hand plastic street corner scene for £2. I have been looking for some cheap but effective ruins that have a small footprint, to get my 1/72 project up and running.

Second hand diorama


Those of a certain age may recognise the scenic as being the Matchbox diorama that came out in the 70's with the 1/72 kit for the Sd Kfz 11, towing a Pak 40 and paired with a BMW motor cycle combo. The diorama and it's associated vehicles had since parted company prior to my purchase, but I could see the potential of the street scene alone, to once again have traffic rumble past on my table.

This post concerns itself with the some background to the original model and my attempts to convert it into a useful tabletop ruin.

To read the rest of this post, please hit the 'read more' tab.

A quick Google search revealed that Matchbox (later produced by Revell) had released the set as part of their series that included both the modedl kit and a diorama. The base of the scenic is stamped Matchbox 1977.

The box artwork for the kit

It rather takes me back to teenage memories, as I had the Matchbox Puma armoured car kit with a different street scene and I remembered being wowed at this novel idea of including a diorama base with the model.

There is a website called Bennos figures forum, which very nicely shows off the original model, painted to a real modellers standards. I have included a link to that forum in the Resource section at the foot of this page and would urge the reader to visit it for a closer look at his lovely handywork.

Image taken from Bennos figure forum - see resources at the foot of the post.

To get this item ready for a wargame feature, three things needed doing. The item had been painted with the exposed stonework being done in a flat brown and the plaster / render in a high cream gloss, perhaps a humbrol gloss, so that needed rubbing back to give a key for the primer. The diorama was only ever designed to be viewed from the front, so the rear just showed the exposed plastic innards of an injection mould. This would need filling in, so that the ruin looked acceptable from all directions. Finally as mentioned in Bennos figure forum, that eagle above the door is a problem for all settings other than Berlin, so that would need removing or covering up, plus I am not keen on the symbolism.

The scenic is only meant to be viewed from the front

I should point out that I am not a modeller, so this is not a 'how to' article. Rather it is just showing how an ordinary gamer can get an old disused scenic onto the wargame table and for it to look acceptable without too much effort.

Stage 1. Prep. All surfaces were lightly rubbed down with a fine sand paper. This was particularly necessary to break down the surface of the gloss enamel.

The bird needs to go

Stage 2. Building up. The first job was to build up the rear of the kit, so that it looked like it had solid interior walls rather than it looking clearly like a vacuum plastic mould. With the aid of a hot glue gun, the inside was packed with foamboard and then a filler was applied across the whole surface so that the inside now looked like a plastered wall.

A built up floor was put (stacked foam board) in because the front door is raised above street level, being accessed externally by three steps, which from the rear makes the doorway look like it is hanging in mid-air. On the front of the building the stone eagle figure was framed with balsa wood strip and then a cardboard facing panel was glued over the stone bird, so that the building now looked like it had a plain stone casement above the door.

That rear side filled in and 'plastered'

Stage 3. Primed. A coat of Vallejo black primer was brushed over the building. It covered the the keyed gloss enamel nicely. A 50/50 thinning of the primmer with water was used on the filler so that the brush glided across it with relative ease.

Stage 4. Adding texture. Some bits of cork and sand/gravel were glued (PVA) to both the inner and external floor areas to increase the sense of fallen rubble and light sand added to some of the original plastic rubble forms to give a sense of scattered fine debris.

The stone bird has been encased

A wooden lath from an old MDF kit was glued against a rear wall to represent a fallen roof or floor support. Once dry, these additions were all given a thinned coat of Vallejo black primer.


The rear is textured and dressed, the door now meets the floor


Stage 5. Block painting. The building is representing war damage and I noted that Benno's page had painted the building as though it was of a stone construction, with everything painted grey. I wanted to do it as a red brick building that had been faced to the front with a grey render and plastered inside with a creamy colour, so that the damage render revealed the brick structure. The middle part of the internal brick structure was given a deep grey line so that it gave an impresion of cavity brickwork.

For red brick, acrylic paint UA 606 of the camouflage series by Lifecolour seems to give a nice consistent effect. The inside raised floor was painted very dark grey as this was to end up looking like a thick concrete floor, dry brushing will later give us that effect.

The filler had caused the light plastic structure to feel a bit unbalanced, so some counter-weights were added under the road, using steel washers hot glued into place. With hindsight I think just 2 washers would have been enough,

counter-weights added


The road is a potential problem. The building itself suggests something substantial enough to sit alongside a tarmac road, however, as the original diorama was for a desert scene, the road is covered in track marks, suggesting a looser sand surface. This could have been skimmed with filler, but I quite like the texture and my other roads are brown, so I block painted the road brown intending to ink it to a more blacky / brown colour later.

Stage 6. Inking - Undiluted Army Painter Strong Tone (brown) went over the brickwork and road and then as a diluted mix for the interior plaster walls. Army Painter Dark Tone (black) diluted, went over the grey render on the building front, the fallen debris and the raised internal floor.

To dilute ink or paints, I have an empty Vallejo dropper bottle that has an 80 / 20 water to flow improver mix.

Stage 7. Dry brushing. Using the original colours, some of the brightness was brough back to the scenic and then a much lighter very dry brush went over the entire model using GW's Zandri Dust, just to give a worn look and add some extra highlights to the dusty part of the rubble.

The completed front

The stone eagle, which was too eye-catching before has nicely disappeared behind that casement and the raised internal stone floor and interior walls look totally integrated with the model. A small notice board has been added to the side of the doorway. The notice was created in a word processor by making three notices on a beige background and then shrinking it down before printing. The road surface does not particularly look out of place, so overall I am happy with the renovation.

Note the thin dark grey line drawn down the edge of the brick to give a cavity effect.

The completed back

The final effect has produced a really useful model, importantly it has a small footprint for my small table and can be used in several theatres and periods. For the original investment of £2 (everything else came from, my bits and bobs box and paints / inks) the life of this piece has been extended for another user and the modelling process was in truth quite enjoyable and certainly within the scope of the 'non-modeller'.

PSC Soviet infantry and an Armourfast T-34

The camera lighting has perhaps overlit these subjects as the shading effects are more subtle than shown here.

taking cover - looking down 3 steps onto the street

The piece looks like it might also work for 15mm. The doorway is a bit large, but I doubt that would matter for what was once clearly a grand entrance. The above figure is a kneeling 1/72 Soviet soldier from PSC.

The below shot reveals the biggest transformation in the model, showing the original vacuum look against the subsequent filled in version. It does now look acceptable from all viewing aspects.

The rear - before and after


Bennos figure forum LINK (nice collection of shots of the original model)

LINK (German site with splendid shots of all the kit parts)

Please check out my sister site, which has a more magazine style content LINK





  1. Good stuff!

    I'd be tempted to pop a pub sign or similar on the ex-eagle cornice :)

  2. Thanks. A banner "Under New Management" might be appropriate :-)

    Funny, while doing it, I thought of it as a bank - but a corner pub might make a better objective for the troops!

    1. If it's a bank you can always run a "Kellys Heroes" scenario ;)

  3. Very nice work, the final result is impressive!

  4. Great work Norm! I'd love to find a pristine unopened example of that old Matchbox kit, & have a go at building it. Regards, Seb

  5. Thanks Gents, I'm really rather pleased with it. certainly nice to do a bit of 'lite' modelling every now and then.

    Seb I enjoyed browsing around your blog, good blog theme and I particularly liked the tree posting on 28th May.



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