RPM 1/72 Renault FT Char Cannon with Berliet Turret (72204) Build Review

I’m not by nature a giver-upper, dear readers, in fact persistence is one of my few positive personality traits.  But I came very close to abandoning this build. In many ways, this is a horrible kit. There are lots of tiny parts, fit is variable, mouldings aren’t particularly sharp, the plastic used is brittle and attachment to the sprues is very clumsy indeed which makes it virtually certain that you are going to snap a fair number of parts just getting them off the sprue. This isn’t a happy story…

I began by building the turret and the hull. Neither are pleasant experiences. Several parts snapped as they were being removed from the sprue, fit was pretty dreadful with many parts needing to be sanded before they will fit and filler needed to cover the worst of the gaps. It took more than ten minutes with a circular file before I could even get the turret to fit in opening in the hull. The finished items are pretty rough and more sanding and filling will be required.

Some of the mouldings are also incomplete. The circled area above shows a part of the lower hull that is missing, and I used the better of the two hull halves here. The others were much worse. This area will be hidden by the suspension and running gear, but still, this isn’t good.

Then, I start on the suspension. Assembling this is no problem, provided that you have the eyesight of a falcon and the manual dexterity of a brain surgeon. I have neither and I struggled. Part of the issue is that many of the parts are just stupidly small. Here, for example is one of the upper return roller assemblies. There are 15 parts here and yes, that is a normal sized matchstick.

Several of the mouldings aren’t great. Here, for example is one of the lower running-gear side plates. As you can see, three of the nine holes that are used to mount the roadwheels aren’t there at all and two are only partly formed. All the other three plates were similar, and all need to be drilled out, even the holes that are there because they’re too small to fit the tiny axles on the roadwheels.

Here are the upper and lower assemblies complete. It took some time to get to this point, but there are still lots of parts to add. Several other mounting holes were not formed and had to be drilled, and the location of parts like the main support for the upper assembly is not clear.

Finally, I got the whole assembly done for both sides, and I tried one of the tracks in place, using a drill bit in place of the rear spindle. At least the tracks aren’t too tight, because the whole assembly is very fragile.

Then, I join the two completed assemblies to the hull, and even that isn’t easy. These units don’t attach direct to the hull, but are attached via a fragile spindle that projects from the hull at the rear and a single equally fragile suspension unit at the front that fixes to the top and bottom of the suspension. It’s extremely difficult to get both joined so that they are even approximately in the right place. On reflection, I would have been better to have left the suspension assemblies off until I had finished painting, but I just work round that.

And with that, main assembly is done. And what long and a frustrating task it was! Each running gear assembly contains almost fifty parts, most of them tiny. Getting small parts off the sprues intact is a challenge, and several important mounting holes just aren’t there. In total, there are close to 150 parts on the hull running gear and turret on a completed model that’s barely two inches long. This was not a fun build. But, at least it’s almost done. Only the exhaust and tools are left off for the moment and I can finally begin painting.

I’m aiming for a Polish tank from around 1933. I start with a base of several thin coats of Vallejo Dark Yellow, which seems a fairly close match for the light sand colour used on Polish tanks.

Then I add a simple green/brown camo scheme using Vallejo Russian Uniform and Tamiya Flat Earth. It seems that Polish tanks didn’t use standard, defined schemes, so I guess this is plausible.

Then I do some drybrushing in highlighted versions of the base colours. I also use a permanent marker to add a black line between the camo colours. This only seems to have been done on Polish AFVs for a couple of years, and they had reverted to a more standard three-colour scheme by the time that the war began. I just like this scheme and I wanted to see how using the marker worked. It’s far from perfect, but I’m quite happy with the overall look when it’s done.

I’m not using any of the provided decals. None are appropriate for a Polish tank from the 1930s, and most images seem to show that Polish tanks of that period didn’t carry any markings at all. It all gets a coat of varnish and a grey oil wash which helps to deepen the shadows and make the drybrushed highlights stand out.

The last parts to be added are the tools and the exhaust. And while cutting them off the sprue, the axe breaks into two parts and the shovel into three. Which rather sums this kit up. Ambition is high and separate tools are good, but not if they can’t be removed from the sprues without damage. I manage to repair the broken parts and add them to the kit.

All that now remains are the tracks. These get a base coat of Vallejo dark grey, then light gunmetal highlights on the treads and then a brown acrylic wash. You do have to be very careful when fitting the tracks, because the whole suspension, running gear, sprocket, idler assembly is very fragile indeed. With the tracks on, this kit is finally complete.

After Action Report

If you enjoy sanding, filling, drilling and repairing parts so tiny that they’re barely visible to the naked eye, you may enjoy this kit. If like me you appreciate a simple build and good fit, then you may want to look elsewhere. This tiny kit includes something in the region of 150 parts in a finished model that’s barely two inches long. In some ways, that suggests a commendable quest for detail and accuracy. In other ways, it suggests that this is a complete pain in the ass to build.

As you can probably guess, I didn’t enjoy this build. Actually, I really, really didn’t enjoy it at all. Parts that are very difficult to get off the sprue without damage combined with indifferent fit and poor mouldings make for hard work, especially when the parts involved are so small. The finished model looks sort of OK, though the fact that it has such fine detail does make the fat tracks look a little odd.

I certainly won’t be rushing to buy another RPM kit, no matter how cheap, though I hear that some of their other subjects are better done and easier to build. I guess it depends what you’re looking for. I like simple builds and good fit so that I can focus on painting. If you enjoy the challenge of a difficult-to-build kit that requires lots of effort, you might just enjoy this one.

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RPM 1/72 Renault FT Char Cannon with Berliet Turret (72204) In-Box Review and History

One thought on “RPM 1/72 Renault FT Char Cannon with Berliet Turret (72204) Build Review”

  1. you have more patience than me!! i would have binned it in anger. so full marks for perseverance. dont be put off RPM kits though – the Staghound they do is excellent – i can recommend it!!

    Like

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