The dinky little BA-64 armoured car is an iconic vehicle and when I saw a free model for one available on Thingiverse I decided I had to have one. It didn’t turn out to be quite that simple, but this is what I’ve ended up with:

The BA-64

The Soviets were always big fans of armoured cars, as their concept of warfare was one of continuous attack and required good recce. In the interwar years they (like many others) designed a number of large, ungainly armoured cars on truck and car chassis with dodgy offroad performance. When the Germans attacked in 1941 the old BA-20 hefffalump badly needed replacing, but luckily the Red Army had recently developed the GAZ-64 jeep due to combat experience in the Winter War and the chassis of this small and nimble vehicle could be turned into a small lightweight armoured car.

This was a real step-change from the armoured cars of previous generations. Being based on a 4WD chassis with good ground clearance and enough horsepower the new BA-64 could actually head off-road without instantly bogging. To be fair, many Russian and Soviet roads required a 4WD for much of the year anyway, and the road network wasn’t vast.

Superficially similar to the German Sd.Kfz.221 the BA-64 also went for a light machine gun in an unpowered open turret as its only armament. This was the AFV version of the Red Army’s standard DP-28 MG. The similarity to the 221 wasn’t a coincidence, the design team for the BA-64 had a captured 221 brought to the factory and pulled apart. The most obvious idea transferred across was the angled armour plates which made good use of internal space and improved armour performance. The armour was thick enough to provide good protection against small arms all round, although AP rounds and AT rifles remained a threat.

The respectable (by 1940s standards) 50hp engine meant the 2.4t vehicle had a power-to-weight ration of 21hp/tonne which is actually pretty decent. If you could get traction the BA-64 would go just about anywhere and they were light enough for the crew to self-recover from a lot of situations. That crew was only two men, a driver and commander, who obviously handled the MG as well. Although to be fair, if you’re having to use the MG in a recce vehicle you’ve probably failed your mission anyway.

Various versions of the vehicle were bounced around but ultimately the only major variants were ones with different armament such as the DShK HMG and PTRS AT rifle. Over 9,000 were built and saw extensive use not only in the recce role, but as liaison, light transport and commanders’ runabouts. It’s just one of those vehicles you’ve got to have in a Soviet army.

3D Printing

My starting point here was this model on Thingiverse. There are a few 3D models around but most seemed designed for video games not printing, and this one was a) free b) designed for printing. However, it wasn’t until I started getting it ready for printing that I realised that it was a complete mess. The whole rear end of the vehicle was an unfinished wreck, and it lacked quite a lot of important detail.

I’m only a novice 3D modeller, and so far I only work in the noob tool Tinkercad. But I wanted to see if I could take this on as a bit of a repair and modelling project. So I had a bit of a learning curve to climb here, but I think I’ve managed to get the hang of it well enough to knock this model into half decent shape. It’s still not ideal by any means. In my defence I found the original model was quite limiting. For example, I tried to repair some messed up parts by mirroring the better parts on the other side of the vehicle. But it turns out the original model was actually slightly asymmetrical, so things didn’t line up properly. Frustrating!

But I got it done, and the final result is on Thingiverse here.

If anybody with better skills than me wants to have a go at cleaning up some of the residual messiness in the model, be my guest. But where it is right now is good enough to throw at the printer and get a decent looking wargaming miniature, as you can see above.  I was very pleased to see that others have benefited from my handiwork, with at least one “make” being posted by another wargamer whose printed and painted their own.

When it came time to turn the digital into the physical it was a couple of test prints before I’d cleared up most of the issues, but I’m pretty happy with the result I’ve ended up with. One of the final steps was to scale the whole model up slightly. My first test print of the hull showed it was too small really. It was scaled for pretty much bang on 1/56, and next to a lot of 28mm figures it looked like a toy. I do tend to lean towards 1/48 over 1/56 for smaller models.

The final print here is still a pretty dinky vehicle, but then the BA-64 is supposed to be. When doing a bit of research I was amazed to read that there was an experimental troop carrier version which tried to squeeze six men into one! They must have had to find the six smallest men in the Red Army!

Besides cleaning up the 3D model I added a bit of extra detail to it. The front grill, driver’s front hatch and the rear wheel were all added, as was the machine gun. One thing I didn’t add was a crewman in the turret, because I knew I had a ton of spare heads in my bits box and that’s all it needs really. So that’s exactly what I did, then threw some green paint at it and picked out some Soviet decals from the big pile (never throw decal sheets away…).  So I’d say this model was about 99% effort in the pre-production stage and 1% painting. Would it have been quicker and simpler to just buy one from Warlord? You bet. But not nearly as satisfying, and now anybody that wants one can get a half decent free BA-64 off Thingiverse. A big, big shout out has to go to Thingiverse user  and CoC player Markopolo, who did most of the work on the 3D model. I just carried the ball over the line .