Tag Archives: 1/76

Airfix 1/76 WWI Male Tank Mk.I (A01315V) In-Box Review and History

It’s time to travel back in time to 1967. The Dirty Dozen was entertaining moviegoers, The Prisoner was baffling TV viewers, the Monkees had a maddeningly catchy hit with I’m a believer and AIrfix were working on expanding their growing range of 1/76 AFVs.

New additions in 1967 included the German 88mm gun and the subject of this kit, the iconic British Mk I tank from World War One. Or at least, that’s what it said on the packaging, but back in 1967 accuracy was an optional extra in model kits. Is this really a Mk I tank, is it a Mk II or is it neither?

I found this kit on Amazon for just €6. That’s really not a lot of cash, in fact, I think this is the least amount of money I have paid for any model kit since I got back into model-making a few years back. But is this fifty-five year old kit, now sold as part of the Vintage Classics series, any good? Can we even figure out what it’s supposed to be? Before we look at this kit, let’s first take a brief look at the AFV that first introduced the word “tank” into the military lexicon…


The need for some form of armed, armoured vehicle capable of crossing trenches and broken ground became apparent almost as soon as World War One descended into bloody stalemate on the Western Front. Britain became one of the first nations to attempt to create such a machine, but perhaps surprisingly, this effort was led not by the British Army but by the Royal Navy.

Little Willie” was the first British attempt to create a tracked, armoured vehicle.

It was the Admiralty that, under the guidance of the First Sea Lord, Winston Churchill, first created the Landship Committee in early 1915, a group staffed by naval officers, politicians and engineers. Later, the Army finally became interested, the Landship Committee was reformed as the Tank Supply Committee and its naval members transferred to the Army. However, the tank they finally approved owed as much to naval design as to any contribution from the army.

Mother” (which is, a little ironically, a Male tank) the first prototype British tank. It was initially going to be called “Big Willie” which might have been much more appropriate… It was constructed from mild steel boilerplate, but it’s otherwise very close in appearance to the production MK I.

A rhomboidal armoured hull allowed the tank, which had tracks running all round its outer surface, to climb obstacles up to 5 feet high and cross trenches up to 5 feet wide as well as crossing ground churned-up by shell fire. The army lacked suitable guns, so these vehicles were armed with naval 6pdr (57mm) guns in sponsons similar to those used to mount secondary armament on warships. The 6pdr gun became the standard British tank weapon during World War One and tanks armed with these became known as “Male.” Tanks that were otherwise identical but provided with redesigned sponsons mounting machine guns were defined as “Female.

A MK I Male tank at the front in 1916. As you can see, it’s fitted with steering wheels at the rear and a wood and mesh grenade shield on the top of the hull. The rear steering wheels were found to be completely ineffective and were dropped on all subsequent marks.

Over one hundred and fifty examples of the original tank, which would later be identified as the MK I, were produced and used in combat for the first time in the battle of Flers-Courcellette, part of the Somme offensive in September 1916. Performance of the tanks was less impressive than expected, with many suffering mechanical breakdowns that prevented them from even taking part in the attack.

A MK II tank. No steering wheels at the rear and this one has been fitted with “spuds,” track extensions fitted on the outboard side of every sixth track plate.   

Subsequent versions included the MK II and MK III, primarily intended as training tanks and only manufactured in relatively small numbers, though examples of the MK II ended up being used in combat in 1917. The most produced version was the MK IV which looked externally similar but featured a number of improvements in armour, engine and transmission. Over 1,200 MK IVs were produced and these tanks took part in a number of major battles including Messines Ridge, Third Ypres and Cambrai.

A ditched MK II tank. No spuds on the tracks but this image gives a good view of the exhausts: there is no silencer, the three exhaust tubes simply vented through holes in the hull top and were covered by angled metal plates to prevent water ingress. You can also see the rectangular hatch in the hull roof used on the MK II – this replaced a smaller circular hatch on the MK I. The raised driver’s compartment is also stepped in horizontally a few inches back from the tracks – on the MK I this compartment extended almost to the inside edges of the tracks.

The term “tank” was used as a code name for these new vehicles at an early stage, apparently because some suppliers were told that they were producing parts to be used in water tanks. Initially these vehicles were to be referred to a Water Carriers, but that was considered to involve potentially embarrassing initials that might lead to ribald humour in the ranks. Early British tank crews seem to have referred to their mounts as “Willies” (after the prototype “Little Wille”) but that term received surprisingly little official backing either. Instead “tank”, originally used informally, became the accepted term used to describe a whole new class of fighting vehicles.    

What’s in the Box?

Inside the end-opening box you’ll find just two sprues moulded in rather brittle green plastic, a set of rubber-band style tracks, a tiny decal sheet and a set of instructions.

The biggest surprise for me was that the mouldings here are fairly crisp and surface detail looks sharp.

I have seen it said that the bolt/rivet head detail on this kit is overdone, but to me it looks perfectly acceptable.

Even the vinyl tracks are reasonably detailed on the outside. There is no detail at all on the inside, but given that you won’t be able to see the inside of the tracks on the finished model, this shouldn’t be a problem. In some reviews, I have seen it suggested that these are rather inflexible, with some even noting that you’ll need heat to bend them to shape. In my example, these are typical, bendy vinyl tracks. It may be hard to find a glue that sticks to them, but I certainly don’t anticipate any problems getting them to conform to the shape of the hull.

The tiny decal sheet just includes just the name of the tank shown on the colour scheme, HMS Dragonfly.

The back of the box provides a suitably dramatic suggested colour scheme. Early tanks British tanks used a camouflage scheme designed by a well-known society artist who was also an officer in the Royal Engineers, Solomon J. Solomon. We don’t know a great deal about this scheme other than it probably involved four colours. Tanks were delivered painted in grey and their crews were expected to paint them in the field in something resembling the Solomon scheme. Photographs show tanks finished in a variety of multi-colour schemes, and in some the main colours are separated by wide black lines. Later, British tanks were simply painted brown – all became so quickly covered in mud that there seemed no point in applying colourful schemes.  

The instructions seem simple and adequate and include a brief history of this tank.

So, What’s Wrong with This Kit (and why)?

Back in the 1960s, Airfix did most of their research on AFV kits at the Tank Museum in the village of Bovington in Dorset. At some point and for unknown reasons, the Tank Museum received a sort of Frankenstein tank that was a MK II tank mated with the rear steering wheels from a MK I (though the MK II was never fitted with these wheels). This may have been used for a display at Chertsey during World War Two but when it was placed on display in the Tank Museum, it was mistakenly identified as a MK I tank, though it clearly wasn’t (the Tank Museum didn’t obtain a genuine MK I tank until 1969, after this kit was created).

The nice people from Airfix then turned up at the Tank Museum and climbed all over the display tank to create their kit of what they believed was a MK I. The instructions actually note that this kit is based on the tank on display at Bovington (though that Frankenstein tank has long since removed from display).

Stepped-in sides on the driver’s cab. Fine for a MK II, wrong for a MK I.

Airfix created a faithful recreation of the tank in the museum but this led to a number of problems with this kit. Notably, the driver’s/commander’s position on the MK I ran the full width of the gap between the inner running gear plates, where this position in the MK II was made a few inches narrower, stepping-in at the level of the vision ports. This was done to accommodate wider tracks, though these were never fitted. The Airfix kit has the stepped-in driver’s position from the MK II, not the correct full-width position from the MK I.

Rectangular hatch in hull top. OK for a MK II, wrong for a MKI.

The tank used in the display at Bovington had the rectangular upper hull hatch from the MK II, not the smaller circular hatch from the MK I. AIrfix included this rectangular hatch in their kit.

Part 47 in this kit is an exhaust silencer, and the instructions show this being mounted on the hull top. That’s wrong for both a MK I and a MK II.

The tank in the display was fitted with an exhaust silencer on the upper hull. However, this must have been added later because neither the MK I or the MK II had silencers – these were added to later marks but on the MK I and MK II the exhaust tubing simply exited through three holes in the hull top which were covered with angled plates to stop rainwater entering the exhaust system.

So, if you choose to build this kit, you have three options:

  1. You can have some cheap fun by building this straight out of the box and just ignoring these pesky accuracy issues.
  2. You can build it as a MK I, using the rear steering wheels, but you’ll have to extend the driver’s position to full width, delete the rectangular hatch on the upper hull, leave off the exhaust and add a smaller circular hatch on the hull top. At least if you do this you can use the supplied decal and the suggested colour scheme.
  3. You can build it as a MK II. To do this, you just need to leave off the exhaust (and possibly add the plates above the exhaust vents on the hull top), leave out the rear steering wheels and fill the mounting holes. You’ll have to come up with your own colour scheme though. The MK II was used in action in 1917, so you could either paint it in overall brown (which was first used in that year) or something colourful using the Solomon scheme as these tanks first entered service in 1916. The MK II was actually taken to France for “advanced training” before a handful were rushed into combat, so, who knows precisely what colours they were painted in?

And if this all seems like a lot of mucking about to produce a very small scale kit well, as I said at the beginning of this article, back in 1967, accuracy was optional.

Would You Want One?

That depends on whether you are willing to accept the accuracy issues here and/or to attempt some modification to make this more closely resemble either a MK I or MK II tank. If you are, then this actually isn’t bad. Out of the box (and leaving out the rear steering gear) this isn’t a bad representation of a MK II tank and the sharpness, detail and quality of the mouldings is much better than some other Airfix tank kits from the 1960s. Airfix also released a 1/76 “WW1 Female Tank” in 2009, but this is identical to this offering other than for the addition of a new sprue with different sponsons and armament, and it therefore has all the same original accuracy issues.

If you don’t fancy this one, I’m afraid that there are few alternatives in small scale.  Several kits of this tank are produced in 1/72 by Emhar, first released in 1996. They produced three versions of this tank, the MK IV Male and Female and the MK IV “Tadpole” with an extended rear hull and rear-mounted mortar. However, all have problems. Armour is missing from all versions, the unditching rail is really from a MK V, the sponsons on the male tank are the wrong shape and the female version is armed with poorly detailed  Hotchkiss machine guns rather than the Lewis guns actually fitted. OK, these are less fundamental that the problems afflicting the Airfix kit, but these Emhar kits are not entirely accurate either.

The best currently available small-scale kits of this tank are the offerings from Ukrainian manufacturer MasterBox, first released in 2013. These 1/72 kits cover both Male and Female MK I and MK II versions and all seem accurate and nicely detailed, though they do use rubber-band style tracks. And that’s your lot. It does seem odd that the AFV that first introduced the word “tank” into the English language isn’t more represented in small scale, but at the moment and as far as I know, only these three manufacturers cover this tank in small scale.   

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Airfix 1/76 WWI Male Tank Mk.I (A01315V) Build Review – coming soon

Revell (Matchbox) 1/76 Humber Mk. II (03289) Build review

I’ll be building this Humber Mk. II straight out of the box. The only small change will be to use a flat file to thin out the outer edges of the mudguards a little – they do look rather thick. I do this before I begin construction with assembly of the lower hull. Fit is good, but it’s immediately apparent just how tiny this is: overall length of the hull is just 60mm (2.4”)!

I then add the upper hull. Fit here is also good, though at the rear some tape is needed to hold everything in place while the glue sets. Overall, this does a pretty good job of replicating the distinctively complex shape of the hull on this tiny armoured car and, so far, no filler is needed to fill any gaps.

There is very little detail underneath but you do have to be careful to get the axles aligned – these aren’t particularly well located.

Then, I add the last few bits and pieces to the upper hull. . There are some very small parts here (the caps for the suspension units, for example), but even with my clumsy man-fingers, I manage to deal with them all. I leave off  the wheels and tyres, tarpaulin, jerricans, etc. which will be painted separately and added later.

Turret assembly is simple and, once again, fit is very good indeed and no filler is needed. I do carefully sand the main gun barrel – it’s quite thick and has noticeable moulding seams.

Completed turret with commander in position to check fit. The main hatch comes as a single part which you must cut in half if you want to show it open, but the join is clearly scribed and easy to follow. It’s only while looking at this photo that I realize I have glued the mantlet on upside down – the heavy machine gun should be in the centre. Oh well, at least it’s easy to fix…

Overall, main construction is straightforward and aided by very good fit – I didn’t use any filler here at all! Now, it’s time to think about painting. I have decided to go for the Italian scheme, so I begin with several light coats of Vallejo Russian Uniform over some white highlights.

Then, I add a contrasting camo scheme in dark green, following the instructions.

Then it’s time to paint the tools, headlights, main gun and other bits and pieces. Some of these are very small, so some care is required, but they do add visual interest to the hull.

And then I add the decals, though I leave off the German crosses. That means just four decals – the RTC flashes on either side of the hull and the “Isle of Ely” marking on either side of the turret.

Then I add the wheels and everything else except the tarpaulin. And it’s starting to look like a Humber!

Next, it all gets a coat of clear varnish and then dark-grey oil wash. I add the commander figure and the tarpaulin and that’s the Humber done.

Now, it’s time to take a look at the diorama base. I start with basic flat colours – light brown for the main part and grey for the road and a darker brown for the puddle at the bottom of the shell-hole.

I then add some oil washes, some gloss varnish for the water and add the submerged tyre and other bits and pieces.

Finally, it’s time to see how the Humber looks on this diorama base.

After Action Report

This was just sheer fun! If you want an unchallenging, simple build, you won’t do better than these reissued early Matchbox kits. Fit is great, there is very little flash and there are few tiny pieces. Of course, the corollary is that detail here just isn’t as great as current kits. For me, that isn’t a problem. I’m very happy to swap some fine detail for ease of building. You may feel differently.

I really like the diorama bases that these kits are provided with. I feel that they really add to the finished model and I simply can’t understand why no other manufacturers followed Matchbox’s lead in this. Surely this can’t be too difficult so, how about it Airfix, Dragon, Zvezda, et al: what about giving us some diorama bases with small-scale armour kits?

This is the third of these reissued Matchbox 1/76 kits that I have built recently, and all three have been absolute crackers. Everything fits and, though they’re fairly simple, all three have built up into rather nice finished models. These kits are also as cheap as chips so, what are you waiting for? Grab a piece of kit-building history that’s also still worth spending your time on!

Now, if only Revell would reissue the old Matchbox M16 Half-track, the Hanomag Half-track and the Panzer III!

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Revell (Matchbox) 1/76 Humber Mk. II (03289) In-Box review and History

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.

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Airfix Matilda Hedgehog (AO2335V) conversion to A12 Matilda II Mk I. Part 2: Hull, Turret and Painting


I start with the simple changes needed to the upper hull, which I’ll be doing before I glue the upper hull piece to the sides and rear. On the front, the left-hand mounting hole for the headlight needs to be filled and sanded flat.

On the rear, the exhaust stub on the right-hand side needs to be cut off and sanded flat and the right-hand cut-out in the rear hull should be filled.

Neither is particularly difficult and this doesn’t take long. I also add a little filler on the inside of the curved driver’s access hatch because there are some gaps there.

Then, the upper hull is joined to the rear, sides and base.

Now, I can start building the rear skid. This is what I’m aiming for.

By referring to several photographs, I am able to work out the overall dimensions of the skid. By my calculation, at 1/76 scale the skid should be 12mm wide, 9mm deep, should project 10mm beyond the rear of the upper hull and the angle of the top and bottom surfaces of the skid should be at a slightly steeper angel than the rear hull deck. Something like the sketch below – when I’m building something completely new, even something as simple as this tail skid, I find it helpful to start with a drawing of some sort. The overall length of the skid side plates and the angle of their front edges won’t be known until I see how it’s going to fit to the rear hull, so I’ll make them oversize and cut them down as required to fit. As long as the rear edge of the completed skid ends up projecting around 10mm from the rear edge of the upper hull and at a suitable angle, I think it should look OK.

I then build the basic structure out of pieces thin plastic card. The curved section is created by wrapping a strip of plastic card round a circular pen of the correct diameter, then placing this in very hot water. When it’s cool, it retains the curve. Here’s the finished skid, trimmed and ready to fit. You’ll note that, to get the correct angle, the front edges of the skid are actually vertical, not angled as I thought they would be.

I then add a couple of internal stiffening plates which can be seen on the original and mount the skid on the rear hull. I also try the re-routed exhaust in place, and it fits fairly well. I won’t fix it in place yet to make painting easier. The exhaust on the opposite side will emerge from under the hull and enter the opposite side of the skid.

I add the last few bits and pieces to the hull, and it’s complete.


I begin by attaching the Vickers mantlet from the IBG Cruiser Mk. I to the Airfix mantlet. I re-shape the Airfix mantlet to a more rounded shape and the new Vickers gun fits well. I also use the 2-Pdr. barrel from the IBG kit because it’s better detailed than the Airfix version.

I then assemble the turret and add the mantlet. Fit is pretty good with only a dab of filler needed at the bottom corners of the mantlet cover.

I then complete the turret with the minor addition of a spotlight on the commander’s cupola.

And with that, construction of the BEF Matilda II Mk. I is complete apart from the exhaust, some final sanding of filled areas and the addition of a couple of rectangular plates on the rear hull to cover the location points for the long range fuel tank which wasn’t used on BEF tanks. That really wasn’t very difficult at all, was it?


All the tanks of the BEF were painted in what was then the standard British tank scheme – a base of Khaki Green G3 overlaid with a hard-edged disrupter camouflage pattern of Dark Green No.4. I begin by painting the interior of the tail skid (and on reflection, this would have been better painted before it was fitted!), the inside of the mud-chutes on the hull sides and the rollers and running gear in a darker shade of the base colour. Then, the whole thing gets several thinned coats of Vallejo Russian Uniform, my go-to colour for the green used on early-war British tanks. I then add the disruptive camo pattern using a mix of Vallejo Dark Grey and Olive Green.

I then add drybrushed highlights on to both camo colours and paint the tools and spare track links.

Then it’s time to consider the decals. Obviously, I don’t have appropriate decals for a tank of 7th RTR in 1940, so I’ll have to do what I can with decals in the spares box to make something that’s representative of a 7th RTR tank in 1940 rather than recreating a specific tank. I add the white recognition squares that were painted on all BEF tanks – these are applied on the hull front, sides and rear.

All 7th RTR tanks had names beginning with the letter “G” (because G is the 7th letter of the alphabet) painted on the hull rear and on one or both angled plates on either side of the hull front. I’m going for “Goat” which was one of the 7th RTR tanks in France. I add the War Office Census numbers (the letter “T” followed by four to seven digits) on the angled hull front. I mock these up as best I can, though the WD number is incorrect for this particular tank – I just didn’t have the appropriate tiny white numbers.

All early war British tanks also carried a standard civilian number plate – it’s on the right rear trackguard on the Matilda II. These were black with white lettering, and I just don’t have small enough numbers and letters to add here, so I just place some white numbers as a representation. I may come back to this if I find appropriately small white numbers and letters.

The tracks are the next problem. The tracks fitted to early Matilda IIs were a standard and distinctive Vickers design with each link comprising a single stamped piece with an open area consisting of two linked crosses, as you can see below.

The IBG tracks are the right overall shape, but they completely lack the open areas in the centre. I spend a lot of fruitless time thinking about how to modify the tracks, but in the end I settle for the simplest solution. I paint the tracks a fairly light grey, than I draw the on the open areas using a black market pen. I then overpaint with a thinned coat of dark grey. This is the result.

The darker areas don’t show up particularly well in this photo, but they are there and just about discernible on the model. Then, I finish off the tracks with some drybrushing in light gunmetal and then give them an overall thinned acrylic brown wash. Then, I paint and add the exhausts. The re-routed exhausts fit fairly well.

Then I give everything a coat of clear varnish before the last step – a wash of dark grey oil to bring out the shadows and make everything look a bit grubby. And that’s it done…

After Action Report

It’s been a very long time since I attempted a conversion, and I’m fairly happy with how this turned out. The plastic card suspension bogies and skid look all right (though I think that even thinner plastic card for the skid might have looked better) and the bits and pieces taken from the IBG Cruiser fit fairly well. My attempts to detail the tracks haven’t really worked at all, though these are still closer than the Airfix tracks. I like to have had more accurate markings, but I’m constrained by what I had in the spares box.

This old Airfix kit isn’t too bad in terms of detail and fit. I like the fact that you can build this as an original Matilda II rather than the Hedgehog variant if you choose, though of course doing that means that you will lack suitable decals whatever version you choose to build. And 1/76 decals are relatively hard to find compared to those for 1/72 kits…

Overall, this was a fun conversion and a simple build, and there just aren’t many small-scale kits of original Matilda IIs as used by the BEF, which makes the conversion feel useful.

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The way in which the tracks are provided in this kit means that I will be painting and assembling the tracks, roadwheels, idlers, sprockets and lower hull before I start painting the upper hull. As usual, I’ll be brush painting everything.

The lower hull comprises seven parts and assembles without any problems and without the need for any filler.

I attach the upper hull and add all the other bits and pieces to that, other than for the rear mudguards and the side-pieces for the track guards, which I’ll leave off until the tracks are complete and in place. Fit is great with one exception: the part on the rear hull arrowed below. This part has two pegs that are supposed to fit into two holes in the upper hull. But the holes are too small (or the pegs are too big) and I had to use a 1mm drill to enlarge the holes before this part would fit properly.

I then added the inner halves of the roadwheels, idlers and sprockets to the lower hull. The tracks fit over these and are retained in place by the outer halves which are fixed in place after the tracks. Some care is needed when fitting the sprockets as these must mesh with the gaps between treads on the tracks, so dry-fitting and adjustment is needed before the inner halves of the sprockets are fixed in place.

With the inner wheels in place, I try a dry fit of the tracks, and they look pretty good. 

Then, it’s on to the turret. The armour plates on the sides and rear are separate parts, but fit is generally very good. The only issue is where the mantlet and front plate join the turret. Here, there’s a distinct gap.

This is odd, mainly because fit everywhere else is very good, but I don’t think I messed up construction, so some filler will be required.

The completed turret sits nicely on the hull once it’s done. The last bit of construction before I start painting is the main gun. And it’s a bit of a faff. The barrel and one half of the muzzle come as a single part with the other (and very tiny) half of the muzzle as a separate part. This means that the muzzle opening is open without the need for slide moulding, but fit and location of the half of the muzzle isn’t great.

Careful sanding is required to get something that looks even approximately right. Once the muzzle half is added, I notice that the opening at the front is too small and clearly not circular, so I end up having to drill it out anyway!

Time to start painting. First, the tracks get a coat of Vallejo dark grey, followed by dry-brushing with gunmetal and a wash of acrylic brown. I also paint the lower hull as well as the inner and outer halves of the sprockets, roadwheels and idlers. I’m using Vallejo Russian Uniform as the base colour. This is initially a little light, but previous experience suggests that once it gets a coat of varnish and a dark grey wash, it should look all right.

Then the tracks are pushed into place and the outer halves of the wheels are glued into place – this also holds the tracks in position.

I did find painting the roadwheel tyres difficult here. Hell, I always find painting 1/76 roadwheel tyres challenging, but these were even more fiendishly difficult than usual. The main problem is that the small outer lip of the wheels is barely defined at all, making it hard to follow with a brush. It takes several attempts before I get something I’m moderately happy with. I also highlight the hubs and bolts with a lighter version of the base colour.

Overall, I like this method of track construction. It’s easy and straightforward and even I find it difficult to get it wrong. OK, so I still feel that the tracks could have had more detail, but in general, this isn’t bad. With the tracks in place, I add the small side-pieces at the front and rear of each track guard. There is no clearance at all between these and the tracks and on one side at the front, I had to sand down the outer edge of the track to get this part to fit properly. Fortunately, this isn’t visible once the side piece is in place.

Then, the upper hull is painted with several thinned coats of the base colour and some dry-brushed highlights are added using a lightened version of this colour.

Finally, the decals are added (but not the white stars – as noted in in-box review, I don’t think these were used on the tank from 7th Armoured Division for which decals are provided) and I add some chipping in Vallejo German Grey on exposed edges and around hatches. I also paint the tools on the rear hull and the hull and turret machine-guns and then give everything a coat of clear varnish.

Finally, it gets a wash with dark grey oil paint to bring out shadows and make everything look a bit grubby and well-used. And that’s it done.

After Action Report

This was a straightforward build with no major problems. Fit is generally good, the instructions are clear and I do like this method of representing tracks. Detail is generally very good and this ends up looking like a Cromwell, which is about all you can ask for at this scale.

Getting rid of the join where the tip of the muzzle is attached to the gun is fiddly and filler was needed at the front of the turret roof, but otherwise this was a relaxing and enjoyable build. If you want to build a 1/76 Cromwell, this is the only choice, so it’s lucky that it’s a decent kit.

I would have liked to see some more detail on the tracks and perhaps a few items of stowage for the rear hull and a commander figure might have been nice, especially as the turret hatch can be shown open. But overall, these are pretty minor niggles. It’s nice to see an Airfix tank kit that’s up there in most respects with modern kits compared to the older 1/76 offerings from this company which are looking rather tired now. I just wish other small-scale armour kit manufacturers would adopt this method of producing tracks and add more detail…

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Airfix 1/76 Cromwell IV Tank (A02338) In-Box Review and History

Airfix 1/76 Cromwell IV Tank (A02338) In-Box Review and History

In 1961 Airfix released the first of their military vehicles in 1/76 with the Churchill, Panther and Sherman (though they were initially sold as “OO Scale”). For the next 13 years, these 1/76 vehicles became a mainstay of the Airfix range. In 1974, they released three new kits: the Type 97 Chi-Ha, SAM-2 Guideline missile and German Reconnaissance Set. Then suddenly, and just when it seemed that there was going to be a never-ending stream of small-scale Airfix tanks, that was it. There were no more 1/76 military vehicle kits from Airfix.

Airfix Panzer IV packaging from 1997. A decent kit, but it was 1/76, not 1/72 as this box suggested.

There were additions to the existing range, with things like the Churchill AVRE bridge layer, Matilda Hedgehog and the Sherman Crab, but these were based on additions to the original kits rather than new moulds. Some kits were released in the 1990s with new packaging that described them as “1/72,” but they were still the same old 1/76 kits inside. In 2008, Airfix released re-boxed versions of a number of 1/76 kits by JB Models, but for more than thirty-five years, there were no truly new Airfix 1/76 military vehicles. Then, in 2011, Airfix released a new 1/76 tank: The Cromwell IV and this was a genuine new moulding rather than a re-release.

I wonder why that was? Why, after such a long break did Airfix seem to suddenly decide that the kit world needed a new 1/76 tank? The release of the Cromwell was followed by one more 1/76 tank, the King Tiger in 2014, and then it all stopped again. The latest Airfix small-scale tank kits (the Tiger I and Sherman Firefly) released in 2020 were both in 1/72, so it looks as though these may have been the last of the Airfix 1/76 tanks.

Airfix tank kits were some of my favourite builds as a young modeller, but many of the earliest kits now look pretty ropy. How does this (relatively) new release stack-up? Is it worth your time or one to avoid? Let’s take a look…


The Cromwell was one of the best British tanks of World War Two. However, given that many British tanks of that period were pretty dreadful, that wasn’t especially difficult. For example, by the time that the Cromwell came into service in early 1944, many German, Russian and American tanks and tank-destroyers were being designed around the use of sloped armour, which gave greatly increased resistance against penetration. However on the Cromwell (as on all other British tanks of World War Two) there was no attempt to use this approach.

The design and development of what became the Cromwell was typically complex and confusing. In 1940, the British Directorate of Tanks and Transport specified several new tanks that were to be developed around the QF 6 Pdr gun. Proposed designs included the A23, a scaled down version of the A22 Churchill, and the A24, designed as a replacement for the existing Crusader and using elements from that tank.

The A24 Cavalier

However, none were completely satisfactory and design work continued on another, similar tank designated the A27. This was originally intended to be fitted with the American 410hp Liberty engine first produced during World War One. However, the new engine didn’t perform as required and another version of the tank was designed using the then-new Rolls-Royce Meteor, a development of the Merlin aero-engine. Initially, the A24, A27L and A27M were all called “Cromwell” and all looked very similar. However, later these were redesignated as, respectively the Cavalier and Centaur with only the Meteor-engined A27M retaining the Cromwell name. The official designation for this tank was Cruiser Tank Mk VIII, Cromwell (A27M) although it was also sometimes known as the Cromwell IV to distinguish it from the earlier tanks that had used the same name.

A Cromwell of the 11th Armoured Division in France, 1944

Main armament on the A27M was the  Ordnance QF 75 mm, an adaptation of the British QF 6 Pdr gun able to fire US 75 mm ammunition also used by the Sherman. The Sherman was also used by many British units, and using a common shell greatly simplified ammunition supply. The anti-armour capability of this gun was limited, but it was able to fire a more effective high-explosive round than the 6 Pdr. Some Cromwells were completed as Close Support (CS) tanks provided with a 95 mm howitzer in the turret.

Frontal armour on the Cromwell was around three inches thick and in early tests, the Meteor engine was found to be capable of pushing the tank to a top speed close to 50mph. However, the Christie suspension wasn’t capable of dealing with this speed and the engine was governed to keep top speed down to under 40mph, still notably faster than most other British cruiser and infantry tanks of the time. Even that speed proved too much for the suspension, and on later versions, the engine governor was used to limit the top speed to 32mph. Speed was the Cromwell’s greatest asset. During one encounter with German tanks in Holland in 1944, a troop of three Cromwells were able to escape by vaulting over a 20-foot-wide canal!  

A Cromwell of the Welsh Guards in 1944

The Cromwell was used during the invasion of Europe following Operation Overlord. Although its speed was useful, it proved vulnerable to the powerful guns fitted to some German AFVs. Like the Sherman, its main gun also lacked the power to penetrate the frontal armour of many German tanks. Early problems meant that later versions of the Cromwell featured wider tracks for better off-road capability and a few of the last Cromwells featured welded (rather than bolted) hulls and additional turret armour. Almost 2,000 Cromwells were built and they continued to serve with British and Free Polish forces for the remainder of the war. Recognising the deficiencies in the Cromwell’s armament, the turret was redesigned to create the A34 Comet, which was otherwise very similar to the Cromwell but featured the more powerful 17 Pdr HV (High Velocity) gun.   

What’s in the Box?

The box contains just two sprues moulded in light grey plastic, decals and instructions.

Surface detail on most parts seems good with nicely engraved panel-lines.

The commander’s hatch can be open or closed, but there is no interior detail and no figure is included.

Airfix haven’t used slide moulding here, and to get round this, they have provided one half of the muzzle of the main gun as a separate part. In theory, this means you won’t have to drill it out, but past expereince suggest that you’ll need to be very careful when sandind these parts to conceal the join so that you don’t end up with an oddly shaped muzzle. The sprues include optional parts for a deep-wading trunk for the rear hull, a splash-guard round the commander’s hatch and a Cullen hedge-cutter for the front hull.

There are some thoughtful touches here, like the way that the sprockets are attached to the sprue. On most tank kits, you have to be very careful not to damage the sprocket teeth when removing these parts from the sprue. Here the sprues attach beneath the teeth, which should make it easier to remove the sprockets without damage.

Probably the most interesting aspect of this kit is the way in which the tracks are modelled. These are provided as a single moulding for the complete run of tracks on each side, but separate from the idlers, sprockets and roadwheels. If you’re regular reader, you’ll know that I spend a lot of time being disappointed, or frustrated, or sometimes both, by the tracks provided with many small-scale tank kits. This is, as far as I know, a unique approach and it certainly looks like a simple and effective way to model tracks in this scale.

The instructions look commendably clear. At one point they do show both wading trunking and hedge-cutters fitted, which is obviously rather unlikely (one or the other, but not both).

The decals are printed nicely in-register and cover two tanks, one from the 7th Armoured Division and generic markings for a Cromwell from the 11th Armoured Division. A bit of research suggests that the tank from the 7th Armoured is actually a Royal Artillery OP Tank that was attached to 4th County of London Yeomanry. This tank was one of several destroyed when the British encountered Tiger I tanks of the 101st SS Heavy Panzer Battalion at Villers-Bocage on 13th June 1944.

T187796 is one of the tanks for which Airfix provide decals with this kit. Here, it is pictured after being knocked-out and abandoned at Villers- Bocage. But in this photograph, it doesn’t seem to have the white star on the turret top and covering the ventilator.

However, although the instructions show both tanks having the turret-top white star, I’m not sure that’s correct. Wartime photos show that several tanks of 4CLY didn’t have these stars, and a photograph of the tank to which the decals apply seems to show it without. Only one colour scheme is suggested for both tanks, with the tank finished in overall “Khaki Drab.”

Would you want one?

In many ways, this looks like a great kit. It’s sharply moulded, it has good detail and it seems to be an accurate representation of the Cromwell. I like the option of including the deep wading gear and the hedge cutter. However, very few British tanks were fitted with the hedge-cutters – I have been able to find only a single wartime photograph of a Centaur fitted with this device, and that was a prototype used only for testing. It’s certainly possible that some Cromwells were modified in the field to have these devices, but they seem to have been very uncommon.

I love the idea of tracks moulded in a single part in hard plastic but separate from the roadwheels, idlers and sprocket. But, I’d like to have seen more detail, especially on the outside of the tracks. If you compare these to, for example, the hard plastic tracks provided with some Zvezda 1/72 kits, those are just much better detailed. The tracks below are from the Zvezda Jagdpanther.

It seems like this approach should give the possibility of very accurate tracks indeed, but these tracks aren’t really any more detailed than most vinyl tracks. In fact, they aren’t particularly detailed at all. The main gun also looks a little thin and the light-guards seem rather thick. So, some good elements here, but perhaps also some missed opportunities?

If you would prefer something different, I’m afraid that, like many World War Two British tanks, there just aren’t as many kits of the Cromwell as there are of its German, Russian and American counterparts. If you prefer 1/76, this is your only option, though Revell have re-released the 1973 Matchbox 1/76 kit of the very similar A34 Comet. Even in 1/72, there are only a couple of possibilities. Revell released a 1/72 Cromwell IV back in 2001, and fortunately it’s a pretty decent kit featuring link-and-length tracks. Like the Airfix kit, it includes the Cullen Hedge-Cutter, but not the deep wading gear.

The Plastic Soldier Company also offer a pack of three 1/72 Cromwells. Each can be constructed as the base Cromwell or as the Close Support version fitted with a 95mm howitzer in the turret and each includes a commander figure and a Cullen hedge-cutter. Like most of this company’s products, these are really intended for wargaming and are a little simplified in terms of detail – for example, the tracks and running gear are moulded as a single part on each side. But they do build into a reasonable representation of the Cromwell.

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Revell (Matchbox) 1/76 PzKpfw II Ausf. F (03229) Build Review

I’m planning to build the tiny Revell 1/76 Panzer II pretty much out of the box, with a couple of minor changes. First, the main gun is just too long. A bit of checking suggests that at 1/76, the main gun on a Panzer II should project just over 11mm from the support ring on the mantlet. As provided, the gun is around 14mm long, and it looks wrong so, when preparing this part I’ll be making sure that I cut it to the correct length.

Second, this kit comes with a stowage box for the rear of the turret. Many Panzer IIs were provided with these bins, but most photographs of DAK tanks shows that they weren’t fitted. So, I won’t be using the parts for the stowage bin which also means that I’ll have to fill the mounting slot on the turret rear and fabricate a new pistol-port for this area.

OK, time to get started. I begin with hull construction and I immediately run into a problem. The hull comprises just five parts – the upper and lower hull, the sides and the rear plate. Fit is fine and I carefully follow the instructions which show the top of the rear plate being in-line with the top of the hull sides.

However, when I do a dry assembly to check fit, here’s what I get:

As you can see, there is a very noticeable 2-3mm gap between the top of the rear panel and the underside of the upper hull. This also means that the top of the box on the rear plate is too low – it should be level with the top of the rear hull. That can’t be right! It feels like I’m doing something wrong here, but I just can’t see what it is. The only simple solution is to mount the rear plate a few mm higher, so that it projects above the hull side plates. That makes it fit at the top though I lose the smooth transition to the lower hull plate.

With this fixed, I continue with hull construction and everything else fits well. I also make a new pistol-port out of plastic card so that I can use one of the ports provided with the kit for the rear of the turret.

Next, the turret. Fit of all parts is good with no need for filler. I use some Tamiya white putty to fill the mounting slot for the turret stowage bin, add an additional pistol port on the rear and cut the main gun down to a more reasonable length.

Then, I add the sprockets, idlers and return rollers to the hull (I’ll be painting the roadwheels before I add them) and glue the three parts of the diorama base together. And that’s pretty much construction finished! I can’t resist trying the completed hull and turret on the base, just to see how it looks…

Time to start painting. The hull and turret both get an overall coat of Tamiya Dark Yellow followed by the painting of highlights with a lightened version of the same colour.

Then I add the decals and paint the tools and other bits and pieces.

Then, it all gets a coat of clear varnish followed by a wash of dark brown to emphasise shadows and mute the highlights.

The tracks get a coat of dark grey followed by highlighting with a soft pencil.

The diorama base gets a base coat of Tamiya Dark Yellow followed by a couple of brown oil washes. The building is finished in stone with a darker grey for damaged areas.

With the addition of the exhaust, and tarpaulin and the roadwheels, that’s it except for adding the tracks. It’s worth noting that the fit of the roadwheels on to the spindles on the hull isn’t great and some care is needed to avoid wonky wheels. There also isn’t much room to slide the tracks between the track-guards and the sprocket, but it can be done with a little wriggling.

I decide not to use the figures provided with the kit. They really are quite oddly proportioned when you look at them closely and I also leave off the decal for the building – I think it looks a little out of place on a ruined wall. And here’s the finished Panzer II:

After Action Report

This was another simple and satisfying build. The fit problem with the rear hull plate was strange – I haven’t seen it mentioned in any other review and I’m still wondering if I did something stupid (always a possibility) though I can’t see what it might be. Other than that, there were no problems at all here and once again, the Matchbox vinyl tracks are simple to join without the need for glue. They are also commendably thin compared to some vinyl tracks.

The diorama base is a nice addition that really adds to the finished model though I’m not so sure about the figures. OK, the quality of mouldings here probably isn’t up to the best modern standards, but I do think it’s possible to end up with a perfectly acceptable finished model of the Panzer II. The only possible issue is that this is a really tiny kit, which is a challenge if, like me, you have large, clumsy man-fingers. How small? Well, here it is hiding behind a 10p coin…

Overall, this is a pleasant way to while away a few idle hours and it’s always great to discover that another kit from my younger days really isn’t bad at all. For under €10, I don’t really see how you can go wrong with this kit.  

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Revell (Matchbox) 1/76 PzKpfw II Ausf. F (03229) In-Box Review and History

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

Revell (Matchbox) 1/76 PzKpfw II Ausf. F (03229) In-Box Review and History


As you will know if you read my review of the Revell 1/76 M24 Chaffee (and if you haven’t, you’ll find a link at the end of this review) I really enjoyed building that 1974 kit. It was as cheap as chips, fairly accurate, simple and it came with a rather nice diorama base. So, for my next project, I thought I’d go back to another kit that originated as a Matchbox product at around the same time.

Early Matchbox art for the Panzer II

Matchbox launched their new 1/76 armour range in 1974 with ten kits in their Purple range, all covering subjects from World War Two: Sherman Firefly, A-34 Mk I Comet, Panther, Jagdpanther, Panzer III, Humber armoured car, Puma armoured car, M16 half-track, Wespe SPG and M24 Chaffee. Each kit was moulded on two sprues and each was provided in a different colour. Each also included a diorama base and several featured figures. In 1976, three more kits were added to the Purple armour range: Hanomag half-track, T-34/76 and the subject of this review, the Panzer II Ausf. F.

Revell purchased the rights to these kits in 1991 and in 2005 began releasing then under the Revell name. Currently, eight of these original thirteen Matchbox 1:76 armour kits are offered by Revell: Jagdpanther, Puma, Comet, Humber Mk II, T-34, Chaffee, Wespe and the Panzer II. Revell also sell a later Matchbox 1:76 kit – the Char. B.1 bis & Renault FT.17, which was added as part of the larger Orange range in 1983, after the Matchbox kit range had been sold to Hong-Kong based Universal Toys in 1982. 

These Revell re-releases are identical to the original Matchbox kits other than that they are now provided in new boxes, they are manufactured in a single colour of plastic and decals and colour schemes for some have changed. When it was released back in 1976 there just weren’t many small-scale Panzer II kits available. This kit was well-received back then, but how does it look now?       


Like many other German weapon systems during World War Two, the Panzerkampfwagen II was introduced as a stop-gap solution to a short-term problem, but it remained in service for far longer than anyone could have anticipated. In 1934 the only German tank in service was the tiny Panzer I. The designs of both the Panzer III and IV were well advanced, but production delays meant that it was clear that these tanks would not enter service as quickly as hoped. As a temporary measure, it was decided to accelerate the production of a new light tank which was originally intended as a training vehicle and which was expected to be phased-out when the Panzer III and IV finally entered service.

A column of Panzer IIs in Poland, 1939

The result was the Panzer II, a ten-ton tank with a revolving turret housing a Rheinmetall KwK30 L55 20 mm quick-firing main gun, a weapon derived from the 2 cm FlaK 30 anti-aircraft gun. This gun was capable of firing both high explosive and armour-piercing rounds at the rate of six hundred rounds per minute. The turret also housed a co-axial 7.92 mm MG 34. Motive power came from a six-cylinder Maybach petrol engine developing 140hp. Five roadwheels on each side were each controlled by separate leaf-spring suspension units. This tank held a crew of three: a driver, a commander who also fired and loaded the main gun and a radio operator who sat behind and below the commander.

US Army Ordnance Unit Recovers a captured DAK Panzer II Ausf. F in 1942

By the time that German forces invaded Poland in September 1939, almost twelve hundred Panzer IIs were involved, compared to less than one hundred Panzer III and under two hundred Panzer IV. By the time of the German invasion of Belgium and France in May 1940, the Panzer II was still the most numerous German tank in service.

Another Panzer II Ausf. F of the DAK. This one does look rather dark in colour – could it be finished in Dunklegrau (dark grey)?

The first main upgrade to the original Panzer II came with the Ausf. F model which incorporated thicker armour and a commander’s cupola. This was the final production version of the Panzer II and over five hundred were produced. The vehicle depicted in this kit is an Ausf. F of the Deutsches Afrikakorps (DAK). Panzer IIs served throughout North Africa and were still in use in Tunisia in 1943. 

What’s in the Box?

Like all the early Matchbox kits, this one is provided on just two small sprues, each originally provided in a different colour but now both moulded in a sand-coloured plastic. The kit includes two figures and a rather nice diorama base.

The tools are moulded in-place on the hull and only the commander’s hatch is a separate part. The level of detail and crispness of the mouldings is, well, variable. The upper hull and suspension, for example, are both nicely detailed.

However, some other things are less well done. Take a look at the main gun, for example, just to the left of the figure below. It lacks the characteristic bulged shape of the original, in fact, it’s little more than a blob of plastic and it’s much too long.

The co-axial machine gun is also a little vague. You can see it here, directly above the other figure.

Overall, the quality of moulding here just isn’t quite as good as the earlier M24 Chaffee which I reviewed earlier. It isn’t terrible, but it just isn’t as good as current small-scale kits.

The figures themselves are reasonably detailed and seem to be wearing appropriate uniforms though their heads and hands do seem a little large.

The tiny tracks are vinyl and not terribly well detailed, but at least they are fairly thin and they do use the same locking tab seen on the M24 kit, which does mean that they can be joined reliably and without glue.

The decals cover two vehicles of the DAK, one from 15th Panzer Division and one from 5th Light Division. Both sets of decals are fairly plain, but they do seem to be reasonably accurate. The instructions don’t mention it, but the red Arabic text is intended to be applied to the ruined building on the diorama base.

The instructions are black-and-white and provide acceptable 3D views of all steps of construction. The only anomaly is that the instructions seem to show the main gun being fitted back-to-front, with the bulged part, which should be near the muzzle, adjacent to the mantlet.

The instructions also provide three-view details of where the various decals go, but oddly, no information at all about paint colours. The box art features a dramatic action painting of a Panzer II in a desert setting, but it appears to be finished in Dunklegrau (dark grey). That might be appropriate for a Panzer II on the eastern front, but not, as far as I know, for a tank of the DAK. In the beginning, DAK vehicles were overpainted when they arrived in Africa with locally sourced Italian paints that gave something approximating an overall sand finish. Later, a two-tone, low-contrast camouflage scheme was used, though most photographs of DAK Panzer IIs seem to show tanks finished in a single, fairly light sand colour (though one of the photographs of a DAK Panzer II in the history section above does seem to show a tank finished in a dark colour, so perhaps a DAK Panzer II in dunklegrau finish isn’t impossible?). It isn’t difficult to find this out, but it does seem odd that the instructions don’t mention paint colours at all.

One other thing I will mention is the stowage box at the rear of the turret. That’s provided with this kit but, most wartime photos of DAK Panzer IIs show that they weren’t fitted with these stowage bins.   

Would you want one?

My initial reaction here is that this is sort of all right. It isn’t awful in any respect, but the sharpness of the mouldings just isn’t up to modern standards nor even as good as some other contemporary Matchbox kits. Having said that, this is cheap, readily available and it does come with a rather nice diorama and a couple of figures.

Back in 1976 when this kit was released, there were very few small-scale Panzer II kits available. Now, there are quite a few alternatives though as far as I know, none in 1/76. The Italeri 1/72 Panzer II Ausf. F is actually a re-box of an old Esci kit from 1974. It isn’t bad, though fit isn’t the best and the vinyl tracks are rather thick.

Polish manufacturer First to Fight produce the Panzer II in both Ausf. C and Ausf. D versions in 1/72, and these are nice little kits. They are aimed at the wargamer rather than the modeler (the tracks, roadwheels, return rollers, idlers and sprockets on each side are moulded as a single part, for example) but they’re accurate and build into very reasonable models. Ukranian manufacturer Ace Model do a 1/72 Panzer II Ausf. F that includes lots of detail and photo-etched parts (including tracks!). However, Ace Models tend to do short-run kits, and their otherwise reasonable products often include lots of flash and surface imperfections. Dragon used to produce a 1/72 Panzer II, but it no longer seems to be available and I know nothing about this kit.

Finally Chinese manufacturer S-Model produce a Panzer II Ausf. C in 1/72. This another “quick-build” kit aimed at wargamers, but it is reasonably detailed, includes some PE parts and a turned brass main gun barrel. It comes in a pack including two tanks and a pair of tripod-mounted MG 34 machine guns.

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

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

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


I began kit-building in the late 1960s, and I was a huge fan of Airfix products. However, in the early 1970s a new rival appeared to challenge Airfix’ iron grip on my pocket-money: Matchbox Kits.

Matchbox, a tradename owned by British toy manufacturer Lesney Products, decided to get into the growing plastic kit business back in 1972. They introduced a series of 1:72 aircraft kits moulded in two or three colour plastic. I was fairly impressed with these, but it was the release of the first Matchbox 1:76 armour kits in 1974 that really grabbed my attention.

Not only did the new range cover well-known tanks such as the Panther and Sherman Firefly, there were also more unusual subjects including the SdKfz. 234/2 Puma, the SdKfz. 124 Wespe and the M24 Chaffee. Even better, each kit came with a small diorama base and figures even though they were close in price to Airfix AFV kits. I was instantly hooked and I built several of these early Matchbox kits. 

Early box-art for the Matchbox M24 Chaffee

In the years following the initial launch of the armour range in 1974, Matchbox released a total of eighteen kits, all covering subjects from World War Two. Sadly, Matchbox kits suffered from the same UK recession that afflicted Airfix and this, combined with a general decline in interest in plastic model kits, led to the bankruptcy of Lesney and the sale of the Matchbox kit range to Hong-Kong based Universal Toys in 1982. Universal maintained the Matchbox trade name and even introduced new armour kits up to 1990 at which point the moulds for all these kits were purchased by Revell.

From 1991 – 2001 Revell re-issued many Matchbox kits, including the 1:76 armour range, with new packaging but still featuring the Matchbox name. After that, some of these armour kits were issued again by Revell under their own name as combined figure and kit packages, though many of these were wrongly identified as 1:72 scale – for example, Revell pack 3160, M4 Firefly & Infantry includes the original Matchbox Sherman Firefly plus Matchbox British Infantry from 1978.

However, from around 2005, Revell began releasing these ex-Matchbox kits as part of a separate 1:76 armour range. Revell now offer nine of these original Matchbox kits, rebranded as Revell. These are identical to the original releases other than that they are in new boxes and now provided in a single colour of plastic unlike the two-colour originals.

Same kit, different box – the Revell M24.

I was intrigued to note when I received this kit, that it states “New” on the box. I mean, this kit and its decals are near to fifty years old and this is the same box that Revell have been providing since 2005. So, what’s new here? I did send a message to the nice people at Revell Customer Support asking for clarification, but so far, they haven’t got around to replying.

I loved those old Matchbox kits and when I realised that these Revell kits are simply reissues, I had to try one if only for nostalgia reasons. I was also delighted to note that these are very cheap indeed – the MRP for most of these kits is just €8.49. The only way to get a cheaper fix of kit-building deja-vu is to go for some of the early Airfix 1:76 offerings. I have great memories of these old Matchbox kits but, how will they look almost fifty years later? Are these kits cheap fun or just cheap and nasty? Let’s take a look.


The M3 and M5 Stuart light tanks were built in vast numbers by the United States. They were designed as fast reconnaissance tanks and in this role they were fairly successful but, almost as soon as they first faced German armour in Tunisia in 1942, it was apparent that these tanks lacked the armour and armament to survive on the World War Two battlefield. In early 1943, the Ordinance Department began working with Cadillac, manufacturers of the M5, to design a replacement light tank for US forces. 

The T24 prototype

The first prototype of what became known as the T24 was delivered in October 1943. Powered by two Cadillac liquid-cooled engines mated to the successful hydramatic transmission from the M5 and torsion-bar suspension, the new tank was relatively fast with a top speed of 35mph. However, this was achieved partly by keeping weight down to 18 tons which meant relatively thin armour. Most armour protecting the five-man crew was no thicker than 25mm, though it was sloped to improve resistance to penetration. The main gun was a modified version of the 75mm T13E1 light weight cannon originally developed for use in the B-25H gunship version of the Mitchell bomber.  

The performance of the prototype was so impressive that the Ordnance Department  immediately ordered 1,000, later increased to 5,000. The new tank began to reach front-line units in November 1944 with the designation Light Tank M24. It was the British who gave it the name Chaffee, named after General Adna Chaffee Jr., a former commander of the 7th Cavalry Brigade who had helped to improve America’s armoured forces.

An M24 of the 1st Armored Division in Vergato, south of Bologna, Italy in April 1945

Almost 5,000 Chaffees were produced before the end of the war and this tank was used by both British and American forces in Europe. The Chaffee proved to be a robust and long-lasting design that saw service with US forces during the Korean War and in a number of other countries in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Major users included France, Belguim, Italy, Spain and Norway – the last Norwegian Chaffees were not retired util 1993.

During the 1960s and 1970s, M24s appeared in a number of movies, usually masquerading as German armour. Here are Chaffees of the Afrika Korps from Commandos (1968).

What’s in the Box?

I’m actually a little nervous when I open this box. I have such fond memories of the original Matchbox kits that I don’t want to discover that this is, you know, crap. As I have found when reviewing some other old kits (yes, Airfix Sherman, I’m looking at you…).

Happily, this time there are no nasty surprises. All 71 parts are provided in light grey plastic on two sprues.

Quality of moulding and detail look perfectly reasonable. This is a little simplified and it’s not up to the current highest standards perhaps, but it’s better than I expected given the age of this kit. It also looks like a simple build, something that I always appreciate.

The diorama base comprises six parts – the two halves of the base itself, a road sign, some sandbags and an abandoned MG34. It’s reasonably large. That’s good because on a couple of these early Matchbox kits, the vehicle ended up perched awkwardly on a tiny base, which looked rather odd. I guess these kits were designed to fit a box size and within just two sprues, which meant a smaller base on larger vehicles.  

The tracks are dark vinyl, but they’re actually quite delicately moulded, they aren’t too thick and they do just about represent the correct type of all-metal T72E1 track for a wartime M24. Detail on the outside of the tracks is basic and there is virtually nothing on the inside where there are also visible mould release marks. I will only find out if they’re long enough when I start the build! These tracks do feature an extended locking tab which I recall being rather easier to join than some vinyl tracks. Again, I’ll find out if this is true during the build.

The instructions are Revell’s customary rather nice colour efforts, with clear exploded views and three colour schemes, all claiming to be for tanks of the US 13th Armoured Division, 43rd Tank Battalion. However, all the sources I have consulted show that the 43rd Tank Battalion wasn’t part of the 13th Armored Division – this Battalion was part of the 12th Armored Division which first saw combat in Europe in December 1944. Something clearly isn’t quite right here, but I don’t suppose it’s terribly important as both the 12th and 13th Armoured Divisions used M24 tanks.

Two of the schemes are plain Olive Drab but a third has an interesting two-tone camo scheme with no markings. I think that what the instructions are suggesting is that markings are provided for two tanks, and that either can be finished in either overall Olive Drab or with a camo scheme, though that isn’t particularly clear. The box art certainly shows Skeeter, one of the tanks shown with an overall Olive Drab finish in the instructions, sporting a two-tone camo finish.

Decals are simple but perfectly reasonable and they even include appropriate text for the road sign. Well, almost appropriate – M24s saw action during the Battle of the Bulge and during the advance into Germany so, if you’re going to have a road sign, why not include Bastogne or some other location in the Ardennes or even Germany rather than a sign from Normandy? OK, I know, I’m nit-picking…

Overall, there is nothing here that looks too awful. Very fine detail, stuff like lifting eyes, hand-holds, towing shackles and brush guards over the lights, is not included at all. That’s actually a helpful approach if you want to add your own detail – some old kits represent things like lifting eyes as blobs, which then must be cut off before you can add something more appropriate. Here you mostly have a bare canvas that can be used as the basis for adding detail. The main gun is moulded solid, which is no surprise, and some of the attachment points to sprues look rather chunky, but overall, this looks like a simple, reasonably detailed and fairly accurate kit.

 I am really looking forward to this build! 

Would you want one?

There is nothing here that makes me think you wouldn’t want one of these. It scores high on nostalgia value and it actually looks like a reasonable kit. There isn’t a great deal of fine detail here but, there really isn’t a great deal of choice for kit builders who want to tackle a small-scale M24. For a very long time, the only options were this Matchbox/Revell version in 1:76 and a 1:72 offering from Hasegawa which was also released in 1974. The Hasegawa version isn’t bad at all and includes a couple of crew figures though it does have rather thick vinyl tracks of a type that are really only suitable for a post-war M24.

However, in 2018 Bulgarian company OKB Grigorov also released a 1:72 M24. This was the first injection-moulded plastic kit released by the company (they had previously focused on resin, metal and PE detail parts), and it’s very good indeed. It features nicely detailed link-and length tracks and is available in both the standard version and as the Mammoth Edition which includes the base kit plus all the detail parts that the company have produced for this tank. All versions provide alternate parts to model early and late models of the Chaffee.

I believe that there is also a 1:72 M24 from Chinese manufacturer Forces of Valor. However, having experienced their Panzer III, I would hesitate to recommend anything else from this manufacturer.

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Revell 1/76 M24 Chaffee (03323) Build Review and History

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