Way back in 1974, when I was at the peak of my teenage kit-building mania, Matchbox released a new series of ten kits featuring armoured vehicles from World War Two. These were all in the Purple (i.e. cheapest) range and all were provided on two sprues, with each sprue moulded in a different colour: “No painting required!”. Even better, they all included rather nice diorama bases and many also came with figures.
I built several of these kits and loved them all. The diorama bases were a particularly welcome addition and something, as far as I know, not offered in any other low-cost armour kits of the period. However, there was one that I never did build back them: the tiny Humber Mk II armoured car. It didn’t seem to be as widely available as the other kits and I never saw one at my local kit stockists.
However, in 2005 Revell, having acquired the manufacturing rights to these classic kits, began re-releasing many of the original Matchbox kits under the Revell name. They were no longer provided in two-colour plastic and many have different decals, but otherwise, these 1/76 kits are identical to the original Matchbox releases from almost 50 years ago. Obviously, these aren’t up to the latest standards in terms of accuracy but I have already built two of these Revell re-releases (the Chaffee and Panzer II) and I really enjoyed both. So, it’s time to catch up with one that got away from me in the 70s: the Humber Mk. II.
In 1939 the British Army raised a specification for a light, fast armoured vehicle to be used for reconnaissance. The vehicle chosen was the Guy Light Wheeled Tank, manufactured by Guy Motors Ltd. Despite its name, this was a four-wheeled armoured car featuring a two-man turret armed with a 15mm BESA Cannon and a 7.92mm BESA co-axial machine gun. This design was found to be acceptable, but Guy Motors were unable to produce these in sufficient numbers.
The Humber Armoured Car Mk. I
Image: WikiMedia Commons
At that point, Britain’s largest automotive conglomerate, Rootes Group (known at that time as Karrier Motors Ltd), were asked to look at an alternative design that could be produced in volume. They took the existing upper hull and turret from the Guy Light Tank and mated it to a modified version of an existing 4-wheel drive Karrier Motors Field Artillery Tractor chassis. This vehicle was to be manufactured by Karrier Motors and was initially known as the Karrier Armoured Car, but there was concern about possible confusion with the existing Universal Carrier used by the British Army. So instead, it was given the name of another subsidiary of Rootes Group, Humber motors, and the new vehicle was identified as the Humber Mark 1 Armoured Car though Humber were not involved in its design or manufacture.
A Humber Mk II of the 11th Hussars – the first British vehicle to enter Tripoli in February 1943.
Image: WikiMedia Commons
Production began in 1940 with Guy Motors producing the upper hull while Rootes group provided the chassis and engine and turned out completed vehicles. Work began almost immediately on improving the design of the upper hull and in 1941, production started on the Mk. II version that featured completely new glacis armour and improved protection for the driver as well as a more powerful engine.
A Humber Mk. III in North Africa
Image: WikiMedia Commons
Subsequent models included the Mk. III, featuring a larger, three-man turret, and the Mk. IV which reverted to a two-man turret but was armed with a more powerful 37mm main gun. In total, over 5,000 of all models of this armoured car were manufactured until production ended in 1945. These armoured cars served with British and Canadian units in North Africa, Tunisia, Sicily, Italy and throughout the liberation of Europe.
What’s in the Box?
The 65 parts are provided on two sprues moulded in light grey plastic
Parts are sharply moulded with no apparent flash. This really doesn’t look like it came from a 50 year old mould!
Even the figure doesn’t look too bad and there are a few stowage items including jerricans and a rolled tarpaulin.
The decal sheet is, as you’d expect, small but printed perfectly in register.
The instructions are up to Revell’s usual standards, i.e., clear, simple to follow and with detailed painting instructions given within the construction steps. Two colour schemes/decal sets are provided. One is for a vehicle of an “8th Army unknow (sic.) armoured car regiment, North Africa, 1942-1943” finished in overall “Africa Brown Matt”. It would certainly be possible that a British vehicle in North Africa would have a single-colour finish (though other camo schemes are also possible) and these would have been painted in Light Stone or Desert Pink.
The other scheme is for a vehicle of the 8th Army in Italy in February 1944. This one features a two-tone camo scheme of “Anthracite” and “Khaki Brown”. This camo scheme is certainly possible, though it would have been a base of Light Mud (a green that is a little lighter than Olive Drab) with a contrasting pattern of Dark Olive Green or black.
Oddly, the decals for this scheme include red/white/red RTC flashes, unusual this late in the war, and four German crosses – the instructions don’t specifically mention it, but this seems to be a vehicle captured and used by 4. Fallshirmjager Division during fighting around Monte Cassino in early 1944, as shown below.
Would you Want One?
Whether you’d consider this kit or not partly depends on how you feel about 1/76 scale. As far as I’m aware, only Airfix and Revell still offer plastic armour kits in this scale, though the latest Airfix armour releases are now in 1/72 as are Revell’s own kits as opposed to these re-releases. There are also a few old Fujimi kits available in this scale if you can find them but the choice is limited. The two scales are similar, but if you put a 1/76 kit next to a 1/72, the difference in size is noticeable.
These old Matchbox kits are also getting rather old now and detail just isn’t up to modern standards. Personally, I don’t care about either of those issues. I enjoy building and painting these kits rather than displaying them once they’re done, so the difference between 1/76 and 1/72 isn’t a major problem for me.
I also really appreciate the simplicity of these older kits and I feel there is satisfaction to be had in turning one of these into an acceptable finished model. These Revell kits are also ridiculously cheap – I paid under €9 for this one. I don’t think there are any cheaper armour kits available: that’s around one third the price of a Dragon 1/72 armour kit. While detail here may not be as good, I don’t think these represent one third of the enjoyment of more recent kits! As ever, it all depends what you’re looking for…
There are, as a far as I know, no other Humber armoured car kits available in 1/76 scale. However, there are a few alternatives in 1/72. Hasegawa launched a 1/72 Humber Mk. II Armoured Car way back in 1975, just one year after this Matchbox offering first appeared. It’s a pretty decent little kit despite its age and comparable to this one in terms of detail.
In 2019 Belorussian manufacturer Zebrano launched a resin kit of a Humber Mk. IV that includes PE parts and is very nicely detailed. Czech manufacturer Attack Models released a 1/72 Humber Mk. III in 2021. It’s a plastic, injection-moulded kit but it also includes resin parts and PE and is also very nicely detailed. Both these recent kits are far more detailed than their older counterparts, but both will involve wrestling with lots of tiny parts and PE. If that’s your thing, you may want to go for one of these.