Revell (Matchbox) 1/76 M24 Chaffee (03323) Build Review

I’m going to be building this elderly kit almost straight out of the box. I know, there is lots of additional detail that could be added to this kit, but I rather like the sheer simplicity of it. I will however be making two small changes: I’ll be drilling out the main gun and I’ll be removing the side-skirts that cover the upper return rollers and the tops of the tracks. The main reason for this second change is that I simply think that the M24 looks better like this, and most wartime photographs show these tanks without the side-skirts. Apparently they tended to clog with mud in the wet and snowy conditions found in Europe during the Winter and Spring of 1944/1945. The second reason is entirely practical – If you make this kit with the side-skirts in place, you will need to assemble and paint the tracks and running gear early in the build. Removing them means that I’ll be able to paint the hull before I add the running gear and tracks, which is my preferred style of assembly.

Anyway, on with the build. First, the turret. And this assembles with no problems and no need for filler at all. The main gun (which I carefully drilled out – there isn’t any room to spare!) is a slightly loose fit in the mantlet, so a little care is needed to get it straight. Otherwise, this is completely straightforward.

The main hull assembly consists of just four parts – two sides and the top and bottom and, once again, fit is very good. Only a tiny amount of filler is needed at the sides of the hull nose.

Next, I cut the side-skirts off the track-guards. This isn’t difficult, it just takes a little care and a very sharp craft knife. Here you can see one before and one after.

Then, the track guards and other bits and pieces are added to complete the hull. Again, fit is great, though the instructions are a little vague about things like the placement of the rear lights – an arrow points in the general direction of the rear hull but there aren’t any pictures of the completed rear hull.

All that remains is to assemble the roadwheels, idlers and sprockets (all will be painted separately) and that’s pretty much construction of this M24 done. I do like a simple build and it’s difficult to see how you could have a simpler kit than this!

To begin painting, I use white for highlights and black for areas of deeper shadow.

Then, it all get a coat of Vallejo Olive Drab. This is a little light for a US tank (I know it doesn’t look that way in this photo), but I’ll be using a dark wash later so that should bring it back to approximately the right colour.

When this is dry, I use a scourer to distress the paint to reveal the white highlights underneath. On such a small tank and at such a small scale, this has to be done carefully if it isn’t going to look overwhelming.

The decals are then applied using Vallejo Decal Fix and Decal Softener. The decals are nicely dense, but they do seem a little thick. That gave a few problems on the white star on the rear hull which needs to conform to the grilles and other detail underneath. Even after several applications of decal softener, this still wasn’t perfect.

Then, the whole thing got a coat of clear acrylic varnish. When this was dry, I used a wash of heavily diluted black oil paint. This finds its way into tiny crevices and details and helps to give emphasis to shadows. The only thing you have to be careful about is not allowing this wash to form pools that will result in noticeable darker patches on large panels and on the decals.

Them it’s time to look at the tracks. This kit comes with vinyl tracks and, given some recent experiences, I wasn’t looking forward to this. Joining vinyl tracks is never easy and, if they’re short, stretching them into place can break the joint. However, the joining of these tracks is different. At one end there is a long locking tab and at the other, a slot. 

All you have to do is push the tab through the slot and, when tension is applied to the track, the joint closes up. It isn’t completely invisible but, if the joint is placed at the top of the track run, under the track-guards, I think it will barely show at all.

The result is a simple, elegant solution to the problem of joining tracks that needs no glue at all. Now, here’s my question: If Matchbox managed to get this right almost fifty years ago, why are we still faffing about with vinyl tracks that are almost impossible to join reliably? Other manufacturers please take note – if you must supply your kits with vinyl tracks, please make them join as simply and reliably as these!

I paint the tracks very simply – just a grey gunmetal base, light gunmetal highlights for the treads and a wash of acrylic brown for rust and dirt. Then, I add the running gear and install the tracks. And guess what – they’re long enough to fit without stretching! Top marks to Revell (and of course, to Matchbox) for providing useable vinyl tracks.

Finishing the M24 doesn’t take long, mainly because there are no accessories, tools or spare track links provided. So now, it’s on to the diorama base, and this is the only part of this kit where the fit is not so good. Here are the two halves of the base glued together.

A fair amount of filler is required to make the join less visible.

With this done, I give the base an undercoat of Tamiya Dark Yellow. I then use several oil and acrylic washes to give some colour contrast and visual interest to the base itself. I leave the edges in Dark Yellow, again to add visual interest.

With the addition of the sandbags, signpost and MG34 to the base and a stretched-sprue radio antenna to the tank, that’s this build finished.

After Action Report

This was a thoroughly enjoyable and stress-free build. This is a very nice little kit – everything fits well, the vinyl tracks are a delight to work with and I’m happy with the finished result. This M24 lacks some detail and finishing touches, but that certainly didn’t spoil it for me and you can of course add your own extras to turn this into something special. I like the diorama base. I think it adds to the finished model and, unlike some of the other early Matchbox kits, the base provided here is large enough to work well.

Going back to kits I enjoyed as a young man is always risky. What seemed like a great kit back in the early seventies can prove a bit of a disappointment when compared to current efforts. Memories of old kits can turn out to be more than a little rose-tinted. Not in this case! This was a tidy, well-moulded, well thought out kit back then and it still is now. This provided me with a great deal of enjoyment for very little money. If you enjoy building small-scale armour and you haven’t tried one of these old Matchbox kits, I thoroughly recommend the Revell M24.

The only question for me is: which one next? The Matchbox A34 Mk.1 Comet was a nice kit and it too has been reissued by Revell. But then I always liked the Panzer II Ausf. F and it too is available as a Revell offering as is the Wespe. And Revell have also recently re-released the Matchbox Humber Mk II armoured car…  I think I’m going to be busy for the next few weeks!  

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Revell 1/76 M24 Chaffee (03323)  In-Box Review and History

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