From the workbench: Converted plastic mechs

A number of months ago I sat down one evening and hacked out a bunch of conversions of the inexpensive plastic mechs sold by EM-4 Miniatures, and this week I finally got around to photographing them. These are by no means finished, but I thought I'd share some of the possibilities hidden in these 20-year-old miniatures.

Formerly packaged and marketed as "Steel Warriors" and distributed by several other companies, these remain some of the most affordable figures that are near the the Battletech scale (1/300 or 1/285). The 5-figure box sells for about $4 on the EM-4 website.

For a review of them, check out this article from Reviewing Wargames, from which I've borrowed a couple of photos. Each box contains sprues with parts to build 5 mechs using 3 basic chassis (small, large, and chicken walker) and a variety of arms. Bases are also included.

Though there are many options for assembly, here's what they might look like when built "stock."

Nice enough, but there's even more potential there. Here's what I came up with and how I got there.

Small Body Mech 1

  • Fins removed from both shoulders 
  • Gun removed from hand/wrist of right hand 
  • Gun elongated on the left hand 

Small Body Mech 2

  • Shaved cockpit canopy off; upper torso rotated 180 degrees. 
  • Upper barrel removed from each arm (formerly double barrel arms) 

Large Body Mech 1

  • Shortened the barrel of each cannon arm to look more like a cannon and less like a laser.

Large Body Mech 2 

  • File away cockpit 
  • Cut body at waist and rotate 180 degrees
  • Instead of mounting missiles on regular pegs, I moved them back a bit

Here's a shot of the "back" of the mech showing where I filed the cockpit away. I'll probably find some little greeble to glue on there, though it's not terribly bad looking.

Large Body Mech 3 

I'm particularly fond of this one, as it is very reminicent of the classic Rifleman mech design from old school BattleTech.

  • File away cockpit, cut at waist and rotate 180 degrees

Large Chicken Walker 1 
This mech's torso is interesting because either end looks like it could be the cockpit.

  • Cut off cockpit 
  • Reverse body section so rear faces forward 
  • Shorten cannon arm a bit for variety 

Large Chicken Walker 2 

  • Cut off rear protruding section (the part used as a cockpit in the mech above) 
  • Glue two random bits on that area (in this case the shoulder part of a double cannon arm)
  • Saw off the rear pegs where the legs are usually attached 
  • Attach legs to forward pegs where arms are usually attached 
  • Attach two barrels to flat front of leg shoulder area 

Though the mechs come with either 25mm round or hex bases, I prefer the look of the battletech-style lipped 30mm hex bases. These are also available from EM-4 for the ridiculously low price of £1 GBP for 10 bases. The larger size is nice, and the lipped edge makes your basing/ballast/flock look very tidy. The mechs have little pegs in their feet, and it's easy to carve or drill an appropriately sized hole in the base. Just keep the feet elevated a bit so they will rest nicely on your basing material. Here's a view seen from the bottom of the base.

These miniatures were easy to cut, file and assemble. The plastic is a bit harder than regular polystyrene, but it glues just fine with superglue or my favorite plastic cement (Plastruct Plastic Weld). Even though I don't play BattleTech, I had such a good time with these, that I'll probably come back and convert another batch.

Maybe someday they'll even be painted!

-- Karl, Chicago Skirmish Wargames club member

6 responses to “From the workbench: Converted plastic mechs

  1. Not normally my bag but you've sparked an idea off for another of my projects. Thanks for posting these up.

  2. Nice way to get the most out of your miniatures

  3. Nicely done. I've been wanting to order some of these. With your conversions, it expands the range with a lot more models.

  4. These are great OB, I like the large chicken walker 2 the best, they will look good painted up, I like these cheap plastic mechs, useful for conversions, this is what I did with mine. I did mine as more a 15mm heavy power armor.

  5. Thanks for the kind word's folks!

    I've seen your work via TMP. Your conversions and paintjobs are really impressive and take them in a whole new direction.

  6. Cool stuff! I've been inspired to start converting some of mine, using bits from a variety of sources as well as the root kit.

    Perhaps I should do a painting competition to promote MechaWar?

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