Tuesday, May 20, 2014

How Takom's KV-5 ruined a man

So you think you a bad week last week? It probably wasn't as bad as Mark Muller's week. Here's his story, and I promise that most of what you're about to read is true.

On January 12, 2011 Mark woke up on a snowy morning and said to himself, "Self, it's about time I scratchbuild another model." You see, Mark is an award-winning modeler. He's won Best of Show at three AMPS conventions and Best Armor at the 1999 IPMS National Convention with a scratchbuilt Soviet armored train. He's one of those rare modelers who takes the hobby to levels that most of us can only dream of thanks to a unique engineering and problem-solving mindset.

So Mark lay there listening to the sound of sleet hitting the tin roof of his shanty and the barking of his four beagles from the barn out back and wondered to himself, "Self, I wonder what I should build. It should be something where I can use parts from other kits, to make it just a little bit easier on me. And it should also be obscure enough so that those gosh darn rivet counters won't grill me on the details."

"Most importantly," he said out loud to his wife (who, by the way, knows about as much about plants as Mark does about armor), "It should be something that we will never, ever, ever -- not in a million years -- ever see in kit form."

His heart racing at the possibilities, Mark got out of bed and ate his usual breakfast of Wheaties, two bananas, and a kale and brussels sprout smoothie. It was while watching an old episode of Three's Company and thinking what it would be like to live with two twenty year-old women that the subject hit him. "I'll scratchbuild a KV-5! It's cool as heck, it never made it beyond the design phase, and most modelers won't even recognize it." Mark called his friend Graham and joked, "There's a better chance of our seeing three kits of the Object 279 than our ever seeing a KV-5," and the two laughed harder than they had the first time they watched The Flying Leathernecks starring John Wayne.

Over the following years Mark gathered what reference material he could find, which amounted to simple drawings and one-page summary of the tank's concept, which he somehow translated from its original Russian. That may be the real magic of this story!

Anyhoo, Mark was eventually able to begin building his next masterpiece. The only commercial parts it contains are roadwheels and suspension arms from Trumpeter's KV-2, drive wheels modified from an IS-2, Friulmodel track, and eventually two T-34 engines. Everything else is scratchbuilt and, get this, features armor that is scale in thickness! The model is no secret to modelers in the Columbus, Ohio area. Mark has been showing it to friends and fellow modelers, using it as a tool to teach simple and complex scratchbuilding techniques. (Mark is always eager to share what he's learned.)

Fast-forward a couple of years to last week, May 16 to be precise. Takom announces its upcoming KV-5 in 1/35 scale. And the following day Trumpeter announces its kit. What would you do?

I spoke with Mark on Friday evening, and he's taking it all in stride. Because he's using his model as a teaching aid, he said he's in no hurry to finish it, predicting its completion later this year, probably well after both the Takom and Trumpeter kits hit the shelves. Most of us would be seriously bummed out to be in Mark's position, but he's interested to see how his kit compares to the two commercial offerings. He's particularly curious to see if the models are based on drawings made for the World of Tanks video game. He's already noticed a couple of subtle differences.

Here are a few photos of Mark's KV-5. I hope you enjoy it. I can't wait to see it finished!

So there you go. I think you will agree that Mark Muller officially had the worst week ever. 

My thanks to Mark for his allowing me to share his story. I've been fortunate to call him a friend for nearly 25 years, and he is truly one of the nicest and most generous modelers I've ever met. Thanks also to Graham Holmes for the photos.


  1. Shit happens! So I've been told.
    It always seems to curse those with killer projects.
    I would still complete it! I would have more respect for the modeler that completed it and entered it in scratchbuilt than one who entered a stock kit.