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Brick Tanks from COBI: Sorta like LEGO


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#1 gwb123

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Posted 10 March 2019 - 01:33 PM

So... anybody else out there like me?

 

Back when I was a kid, after many paint and glue disasters, I actually go to be halfway decent at the skill of scale modeling.  I even felt competent enough to take on something like this....

 

(The Battle of the Bulge cover art was too much to resist!)

 

To be honest, this was one I started, but never quite finished... but I had a fleet of tanks, planes, and ships, and got to the point where they didn't look half bad.

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#2 gwb123

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Posted 10 March 2019 - 01:35 PM

But then things happen... college, moving, Army, etc.

 

And then these two came along....

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#3 gwb123

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Posted 10 March 2019 - 01:36 PM

And then at some point, this is what you are building...

 

(I got to be pretty good with these as well!)

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#4 gwb123

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Posted 10 March 2019 - 01:38 PM

So you come onto the USMF / WMF, and you see all the wonderful work that people post and that itch to build something comes back.

 

But all your paint, brushes and X-acto knives are either gone or packed away.  What do you do?



#5 Proud Kraut

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Posted 10 March 2019 - 01:42 PM

JAAAAAAAAAA! So show us!



#6 gwb123

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Posted 10 March 2019 - 01:48 PM

Enter COBI, a model / toy manufacturer from Poland!

 

I discovered their wares, of all places, in the gift shop of the National World War I Museum in Kansas City.  One of their prize exhibits is a real Renault FT tank.  The Renault FT had the rare distinction of being used by France in both World War I and World War II and a host of brush-fire wars around the world.

 

https://en.wikipedia...wiki/Renault_FT

 

I thought long and hard about taking one home that day, but I balked at the price ($34.99) and it's toylike appearance.  I was afraid all my super detail friends would laugh me off the internet if I showed up with something like this. 

 

But the appeal stuck with me, and plus the wife an I make plenty of other Legos.  Analyst that I am, I even compared the price per brick to Lego and finally decided the price was not unreasonable.   I was going through a WWI nostalgia phase as well, and that sealed the deal.

 

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#7 gwb123

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Posted 10 March 2019 - 01:53 PM

So the box comes from Amazon.com, and this is what you get...

 

Basically most of the parts were in two large bags, conveniently marked #1 and #2.  That is a good thing because although COBI sells to every country on the planet, there is not a single word of instructions in any language printed in the assembly manual.

 

I naively assumed that once you opened big bag #1, the smaller bags would be numbered for each stage of construction.  Oddly they were all numbered #1 or #2.

 

Where to begin?

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#8 gwb123

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Posted 10 March 2019 - 01:54 PM

Luckily, I remembered my Lego Master Builder Training!

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#9 gwb123

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Posted 10 March 2019 - 01:57 PM

Well, good thought.

 

However, unlike Lego, and due to it's military nature, all the parts were green, black, medium grey (very close to black) and brown.

 

So the task was to first sort by color, and then by similar shape. 

 

Sound easy?  The grey and military green looked very similar in a certain kind of light.

 

Also, there were a lot of strange, custom shapes.  This was not a pile of straight bricks.

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  • AA 8.jpg


#10 gwb123

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Posted 10 March 2019 - 01:59 PM

Here is a tip for anyone inclined to build one of these (or any brick set).... always hold the bag up to a light to make sure you have gotten all of the pieces out. 

 

It is very embarrassing to later have to dig through the kitchen garbage can to find that one 1/4 inch connection joint that you are missing.

 

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#11 Proud Kraut

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Posted 10 March 2019 - 02:01 PM

Looking great so far!



#12 gwb123

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Posted 10 March 2019 - 02:03 PM

As noted, the instructions rely on drawings, which grey out the portions that have already been completed.  This can be a problem when you are trying to confirm you are placing something in the right place (three dots in, or two dots in from the front?).

 

Also, the printing is not quite as clear as LEGO... black, dark grey and green look very similar.  It is also sometimes hard to tell if bricks have been turned upside down when being connected to another brick.

 

There was a lot of trial and error.

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#13 gwb123

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Posted 10 March 2019 - 02:04 PM

As with any model building... it is wise to pull the parts you need as they are called up in the instructions, and lay them out for the next step.

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#14 gwb123

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Posted 10 March 2019 - 02:06 PM

The beast begins to come together.

 

I noticed while I was putting it together it seemed a lot more overbuilt than a typical LEGO kit.  I assumed this was to give a stronger final product.

 

Note the COBI trademark in place of LEGO on the dots.

 

You will also notice a bit of unevenness in the fit.  It's not a huge issue, but it is noticable compared to the tight fit you get with LEGO.

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#15 gwb123

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Posted 10 March 2019 - 02:14 PM

Given some of the fit issues, I was absolutely dreading assembling the tracks.

 

For some reason COBI insisted in having the builder assemble the treads with individual pieces.

 

There was actually a trick here... if you inserted the pin on one side of the tread, with a slight twist the second one popped right in.  There were 36 of these on each side per the instructions.

 

(Note:  Count your pieces before assembly.  For some reason COBI included 38 pieces... putting them all together would have made the track too long.)

 

Despite my concerns, the tracks fell right into place, even with that one final one that made it one continuous tread.  And both sides rolled very nicely when done.

 

While this is all very nice, the tracks in no way resemble the broad flat plate tread pads actually used on these tanks.  In retrospect, these look more like something you would find on a Panzer II.

 

https://en.wikipedia...wiki/Renault_FT

 

The distinctive towing chain in the rear was also assembled link by link.

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  • AA 22.jpg
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#16 gwb123

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Posted 10 March 2019 - 02:18 PM

A few more steps, mount the turret, et Voila!

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#17 gwb123

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Posted 10 March 2019 - 02:20 PM

Profile views..

 

The markings are pre-applied to the pieces.

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#18 gwb123

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Posted 10 March 2019 - 02:21 PM

Additional views...

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#19 gwb123

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Posted 10 March 2019 - 02:26 PM

So the big question is how do COBI models scale with LEGO?

 

The figures appear to be roughly these same type, although the COBI figures are not as solid.  You could argue that as either good or bad.

 

Plus the COBI figures seem to have more of a doll like appearance (not that LEGO figures look entirely human, but for some reason over time we have accepted that!)

 

The COBI figures are also a stereotypes.  The Allied figures are all either smiling or very determined looking.  The German figures all look like they have the unrelenting urge to destroy something.

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  • aa 54.jpg


#20 gwb123

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Posted 10 March 2019 - 02:29 PM

As far as vehicle size, that's hard to determine.  To me, having seen a Renault FT at the National World War I museum, I think it is a bit oversize, even compared to the figure that came with it.

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#21 gwb123

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Posted 10 March 2019 - 02:31 PM

However, if need be, you can always wargame the vehicles using your wife's carefully assembled LEGO holiday village.

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#22 gwb123

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Posted 10 March 2019 - 02:35 PM

So....

 

Authentic as a model kit?  No, not at all.  Missing from this model is the distinctive commander's hatch or coupela, the treads as previously mentioned, and other details.

 

Advantages:  No glue, no painting (although I am sure someone out there will take on the challenge). If you work on it the night before and realize you made a mistake the next morning you can simply take it apart and start over. 

 

Plus, I am sure someone is out there kit bashing these into some kind of World of Warcraft custom vehicle.  It's all in how you arrange the bricks!

 

Fun:  I thought so. 



#23 gwb123

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Posted 10 March 2019 - 02:38 PM

Next project:

 

Since I never finished that Monogram Panzer IV...

 

I would be remiss if I did not mention that one thing that COBI has done well is to offer a wide range of vehicles, especially a wide variety of WWII German selections.

 

They also offer planes and ships, as well as civilian sets.  I did not find the aircraft to be quite as convincing, but for your favorite 10 year old who is prone to play with his creations they may be good enough.

 

And that is a good point to consider.  If you read the histories of the three major US model companies (Revell, Monogram and Aurora) they all debated in their early years whether there offerings should be toys or detailed models.   COBI's sets move back towards the playable toy aspect.

 

But if super detailed model crafting no longer fits your time and lifestyle, these are an alternative for keeping your hands busy.  Just like with reenactors... from five feet away, they don't look that bad at all!

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  • COBI Panzer IV.jpg


#24 gwb123

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Posted 10 March 2019 - 02:50 PM

Postscript:

 

There are other companies out there that make such military model sets out of bricks. 

 

One is Brickmania, which advertises that they use authentic LEGO parts.  LEGO for its part, and with memories of WWII, has sworn never to make military based models.   My personal opinion is that Brickmania is no more authentic in its models than COBI, does not seem to have a consistent inventory available, and is about twice the cost per kit.

 

https://www.brickman...ld-war-ii-kits/

 

If you shop on eBay and Amazon, you will find other companies that make such kits from all over the world. If find a kit you like, make sure to see if there are multiple listings for the same thing.  Sometimes there can be quite a bit of difference in the price, depending on the vendor.

 

On eBay and Amazon, you can find occasional listings for Oxford Block, which despite its Anglo name is from South Korea.  They have a really neat looking WWII era "Dragon Wagon" tank recovery and transport vehicle.

 

On eBay and Amazon, you can also find SLUBAN, which I believe is from China.  While less expensive, the level of realism also looks to be diminished:

 

https://www.amazon.c...nd-games&sr=1-5

 

 

Xingbao is also from China:

 

https://www.amazon.c...ames,152&sr=1-2

 

 

https://www.ebay.com...5EAAOSw22lb8Ybr

 

 

There are also some very odd listings on eBay from an unnamed company from China:

 

https://www.ebay.com...1kAAOSwvoFajLKX



#25 Proud Kraut

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Posted 11 March 2019 - 12:09 PM

Gil, this is an awesome thread. I wasn't aware of the existence of so many different military brick models. I'm definitely thinking about adding one of these "kits" to my collection (of course not the $ 1,750.00 B17 Flying Fortress I found on the Brickmania website you linked to). You have built a great tank, thanks for sharing!

 

Lars


Edited by Proud Kraut, 11 March 2019 - 12:10 PM.



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