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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

Airfix 1/72 Hawker Typhoon IB (A02041) Build Review

I start with the cockpit, and that’s a little different, mainly because the Typhoon cockpit didn’t have a cockpit floor. What you have here is a combination of detail inside the fuselage halves, the seat and rear armour plate section, the instrument panel, footboards, control stick and rudder pedals on the floor above the upper side of the wheel wells.

I paint everything in something resembling RAF interior green (a sort of green-grey), add a wash in dark green oil and some masking tape harness straps and the instrument panel decal. I haven’t spent a great deal of time on the cockpit because the opening in the fuselage is very small and at this scale, you will be able to see very little of the interior on the finished model.

 I next join the fuselage halves, being careful to get all the internal parts aligned. Fit is good and no filler is needed.

I then add the lower wings and drill these out to accept the rocket rails. Again, fit is fine and no filler is needed.

However, a quick dry fit of the upper wings shows that there are pronounced gaps at the wing  roots.

I add the cannon and bays (though I have decided to show these closed) and the tailplanes and rudder. There  are also gaps where the tailplanes meet the vertical stabiliser.

Then I add the upper wings and use some filler to fill the gaps at the wing roots and on the tailplanes. I also add the rocket rails at this stage.

That’s main construction of this Typhoon pretty much done, and there really aren’t any major problems – everything goes together nicely and reasonably accurately. Now it’s time to begin painting. I start with Vallejo Light Sea Grey for the underside. And I have to say that I really appreciate the use of light grey plastic here – it makes painting the light underside colour much less of a chore than it might have been if this was moulded in a darker plastic. It only takes a couple of thin coats to get a reasonable finish. You’ll also see that I have painted the wheel-wells in interior green. I’m not certain this is correct – some sources suggest that they should be aluminium, but I don’t think green would have been impossible and I like the contrast between the light grey and dark green.

Then, I mask that off and add the camo scheme of Ocean Grey and Dark Green on the upper surfaces.

Next, decals. I have decided to go for an aircraft in the markings of 245 Squadron, mainly because every other build review I have seen of this kit has used the markings for 121 Wing which include invasion stripes and I’d like to try something different. I was concerned about fitting the chequered band on the tail, which comes in four pieces, but it fits perfectly and with no problems. Almost all of the other decals, including the shark’s teeth also fit nicely and easily. All the decals are dense but not too thick. The only real problem was the four yellow strips that go on the leading edges of the wings. I found these fiendishly, horribly difficult to bend over the leading edges while keeping them lined up, despite copious use of decal softener. I did finally get them on, but it certainly wasn’t fun and the process involved a measure of cat-startling.

Then, I add the gear, gear doors, retractable pilot step and rockets.

Then, the whole thing gets a coat of matt varnish followed by a wash in dark grey oil to bring out the panel lines. This works well where you have deeply engraved panel lines like these and it’s particularly noticeable on the light grey undersides.

And finally, the canopy, windscreen, spinner and propellor are added. The windscreen fits well into the socket in the fuselage and the framing on this and the canopy are simple, so I freehand painted all the framing. On reflection, the blue that I used for the spinner and the inside of the outer gear doors is perhaps a little dark (it should be a closer match for the blue on the chequered tail band), but I’m not going to re-do it at this stage so I’ll just have to live with it.  And that’s it finished.

After Action Report

Like most new-tool Airfix kits, this was an entirely straightforward build. Fit is generally pretty good, construction was simple and filler was only needed at the wing roots and where the horizontal stabilisers join the tail. In terms of construction there is nothing here that would challenge even an inexperienced kit-builder and the finished result looks to me to be a pretty good small-scale representation of the chunky Typhoon. And for what it’s worth, I don’t feel that the panel lines look too obtrusive on the finished model.

If I was being picky, I’d mention that the main gear legs are a little flimsy and aren’t an especially good fit in the sockets in the gear bays – you’ll want to let these set completely before risking standing the model upright. And I really didn’t enjoy applying those yellow leading edge decals, but when they’re on, they look OK and they do save some awkward masking which has to be a good thing.

Given the small cockpit opening in the fuselage, you can really see very little of the interior, so I’m not certain it’s worth spending a great deal of time on adding detail there. I do appreciate having the option of showing the cannon bay doors on the upper wings open, though I chose not to do that. Overall, and apart from those irritating leading-edge decals, this was a stress-free and enjoyable build. If you want to model a 1/72 Typhoon, I feel that you could do a lot worse than this inexpensive Airix offering.

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Airfix 1/72 Hawker Typhoon IB (A02041) In-Box Review and History

Airfix 1/72 Hawker Typhoon IB (A02041) In-Box Review and History

I recall building an Airfix 1/72 Hawker Typhoon when I was a kid (the original Airfix Typhoon was released the same year that I was, 1959!). I thought it was pretty good at the time and that kit was still being produced all the way up to 2009 but in 2013 Airfix released a new-tool kit of the same aircraft. The version I’m reviewing here is a re-box released in 2019.

The release of this kit followed the buy-out of Airfix by Hornby Hobbies, and it was created, like most of the other new kits during that period, in India. The new kits were certainly a long way ahead of the originals in terms of accuracy, fit and detail, but some modellers didn’t care for what they saw as over-emphasised surface detail, particularly heavily engraved panel lines.

I brush paint all my kits and I have just completed an Eduard kit that features exquisitely subtle surface detail (you’ll find a link at the end of this review). That was a little frustrating, because my brush-painting covered up some of that detail. So, I’m keen to try one of these Airfix new-tool kits to find out whether it really does feature “trenches,” or if this approach might actually work better for those of us using a hairy stick to apply paint. But before we take a look at the kit, let’s take a brief look at the history of the “Tiffy.”  Or as it was in the early days, the “Terrible Tiffy…”  


Some aircraft are clearly wonderful from the moment the first prototype leaves the ground. Some have such dreadful flaws that you have to wonder how they ever remained in service. The Hawker Typhoon belongs firmly in the latter category. It was designed in the late 1930s as a replacement for the Hawker Hurricane. The new fighter was intended to have superior performance in every respect, but when the first prototypes were tested, while they proved to have great speed at low level,  performance at higher altitude was disappointing.

Early Typhoons had a complex canopy with “car door” access. The first versions also had a solid rear fuselage behind the cockpit which reduced rearward visibility. This image shows the second version of the canopy, with a glazed rear section. Early versions also had a three-blade propellor, changed in later models to a four-blade design.

At the heart of the Typhoon was the Napier Sabre, a new water-cooled engine with 24 cylinders arranged in an “H” pattern. This was found to be capable of producing almost 2,000 hp compared to around 1,100 hp from the Merlin used in the Hurricane. The engines used in the prototypes performed well, but they were hand-built by Napier craftsmen. Mass produced examples had a range of problems including faulty sleeve vales and inaccurately cast components.

Napier Sabre engine in a Typhoon. Lots of power but lots of problems…

When operational RAF squadrons received Typhoons for the first time in September 1941, these engines proved catastrophically unreliable, with an average of one aircraft being lost on every single mission not to enemy action but to engine fires and failures. The engine also made the Typhoon cockpit stiflingly hot whatever the weather and leaking exhausts let fumes into the cockpit – some unexplained early losses were probably due to pilots being overcome by carbon monoxide fumes from the exhaust. It became mandatory for Typhoon pilots to use oxygen at all times as soon as the engine was started.

The Typhoon Ia was armed with 12 machine guns in the wings, but relatively few were built. This aircraft has the first version of the canopy with solid fuselage behind.

Engine failures weren’t always a problem because in cold weather the Sabre simply wouldn’t start. In winter, mechanics had to stay up all night, starting the engine every two hours to ensure that it would fire-up in the morning, and in a failed attempt to start, it was common for unburned fuel in the air intake to catch fire. Even if a pilot did get a Typhoon into the air and avoided engine fire, failure or asphyxiation, there were other major worries.

The more common Typhoon Ib was armed with four 20mm cannon in the wings.

A number of Typhoons suffered from catastrophic structural failure in flight, often involving the complete tail section breaking away. At low level, this was invariably fatal for the pilot. In one early mission, a flight of Typhoons dived on a flight of Fw 190s over France. Three of the German aircraft were badly damaged but two of the Typhoons suffered structural failures and crashed. It is believed that during its first year of service, the Typhoon may have accounted for the loss of more RAF pilots than enemy personnel and it was very nearly withdrawn from service.

Later versions of the Mk Ib featured the “clear-view” canopy, one of the first bubble canopies fitted to any Allied aircraft in World War Two.

Instead, gradually, the Typhoon was improved. Better quality control in engine manufacturing made the Sabre more reliable. A redesign of the elevator trim tabs and strengthening of the rear fuselage reduced (but never completely eliminated) the structural problems. A new bubble canopy gave outstanding situational awareness. The Mk Ib, armed with four 20mm cannon (there was also a Mk Ia, armed with 12 machine guns, but it was produced only in limited numbers) was also modified to carry eight 3-inch rockets or two, 1,000lb bombs, and finally the Typhoon found its niche as a superlative ground-attack aircraft.  

The subject of this kit, a Typhoon Ib of 245 Squadron RAF with bubble canopy and four-blade propellor. Even while carrying rockets or bombs, the Typhoon was capable of over 400mph at low level!

Over 3,000 Typhoons were produced in total and these aircraft remained in service with the RAF until the end of the war. There were plans for an improved Mk II, but this proved to be so different that instead it became the excellent Hawker Tempest, introduced into RAF service in early 1944.

What’s in the Box?

This kit depicts a late model Typhoon Ib with bubble canopy, four-blade propellor and strengthened rear fuselage. The top-opening box contains four sprues moulded in light grey plastic, one clear sprue, decals and instructions.

The mouldings look sharp, clean (there isn’t much flash at all) and reasonably detailed, though perhaps the detail isn’t as fine as you’ll find on some kits – “chunky” is the word that springs to mind and the connections to the sprues look very thick in places. Underwing racks and eight 3-inch rockets are provided as well as a pair of 1,000lb bombs, but you’ll have to drill out mounting holes if you want to use these. At least that gives the option of modelling this Typhoon “clean” without the need to fill mounting holes. But what about the surface detail, something that I have seen criticized in other reviews?

All I can say is that to me, it looks perfectly acceptable. Is it overdone? Perhaps a little. But then, I brush paint my kits, and that always involves the filling-in of surface detail to a degree. So, I’m happy to see fairly deep panel lines. If you use an air brush, I suppose you may feel differently. Incidentally, those rhomboidal plates just ahead of the horizontal stabilizer mounting on the image above are the strengthening fishplates added to the Typhoon to stop the tail separating in-flight at the transport joint.

Internal detail is provided for the 20mm cannon and bays and there are separate armament bay doors which can be shown open though if you decide to use these you’ll have to cut out part of the upper wing mouldings.

Internal cockpit detail looks adequate and includes some detail on the inside of the fuselage halves.

One nice touch is that the mainwheel tyres are moulded with bulges and flat spots to make them look right with the gear down. I assume they’ll also fit in the bays if you choose to show the gear up?

The decal sheet looks fairly comprehensive, though it doesn’t include harness straps. It does include an instrument panel, a few stencil markings, the black anti-slip panels for the top of the wings and the yellow markings for the wing leading edges. It also provides markings for two aircraft: one from 245 Squadron (shown on the box-art) and an aircraft of 121 Wing which includes invasion stripes, though if you don’t fancy these I suppose you can always leave them off to show the aircraft in pre-D-Day markings.

The colour schemes are clear though, as seems standard for newer Airfix kits, the colours noted are only for Humbrol paints.

The instructions use standard Airfix 3-D views and appear to be easy to follow.

Would You Want One?

Looking inside the box, I don’t see anything that should put you off this kit. Considering that this is a fairly low-cost kit, detail looks adequate and all the mouldings look reasonably sharp. To me, the surface detail looks fine, especially given that I’ll be brush-painting which will inevitably fill-in the panel lines. However, if you do fancy something different, there isn’t as much choice in 1/72 as you might expect.

There’s the old Airfix kit (A01027), but trust me, you probably don’t want to spend time on a kit that’s as old as I am! Frog released a couple of versions of the Typhoon Ib in the 1960s, including one with the car door canopy, but even if you can find one, these aren’t great by current standards. Academy released a 1/72 Typhoon Ib in 1998. This models a late Ib with bubble canopy but a three-blade propellor. This kit is OK, but the fuselage shape doesn’t look quite right and it has raised panel-lines which will put many people off. 

Czech manufacturer Brengun released several kits of the Typhoon Ia and Ib in 2013 covering versions with bubble and car door canopies and three and four-blade “proppelers.” These all appear to be outstanding kits in terms of detail and accuracy, if not spelling, and all versions include a small PE fret. Some reviews suggest that these kit are a little tricky to build, they’re not as widely available as the Airfix version and they cost around twice as much. The only other current alternative I’m aware of is a kit by Pavia Models, another Czech manufacturer. This was released in 2003 and it’s a short-run kit that includes plastic, resin and vacuum-form parts. It said to be very accurate and nicely detailed, but it may not be easy to find and if you do locate one, expect to pay anything from two to three times the price of the Airfix kit.

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Airfix 1/72 Mitsubishi A6M2b Zero (A01005) Build Review

I’m going to build this straight out of the box, though I will be trying to add flaps.

First step is the cockpit, and I’m impressed with the level of detail. I’d be tempted to add even more items such as harnesses if the cockpit could be shown open, but as it can only be closed, I’m keeping it standard.

I paint the interior in Vallejo Olive Green, which seems a reasonable match for N5 Light Olive Green used on some Japanese aircraft. I add a wash of dark grey oil to pick out the shadows and the two instrument panel decals.

Next, I join the fuselage halves and add the upper front panel that includes the cowling machine guns. Fit is pretty good, though a little filler is needed to blend in the upper cowling panel.

Then, I join the upper and lower wings and cut off the wingtips. Fit is again very good. I also cut out the flaps, which I’ll be building out of plastic card and adding in the take-off position.

I do a dry-fit of the wings, and there is a fairly noticeable gap between the wing roots and the fuselage.

It only takes a little filler and some sanding to get a reasonable join between wings and fuselage. I also add the tailplanes and rudder, and these fit very nicely with no filler required.

I add the flaps in the extended position – these are simply fabricated with thin plastic card and some plastic strip for the framing.

Then I hand-paint the cockpit framing. And, to be honest, it isn’t great. But I’m really not confident about masking such tiny panels, and I’ll try to clean it up a little later using a sharp blade. I also use a little filler to blend in the rear part of the cockpit with the fuselage.

Now, it’s time for paint. There seem to be a great many opinions about the actual colour used on aircraft of the IJN. The latest research seems to indicate that these were painted a fairly light grey, though in some lighting conditions this is described as having a green or brown tinge. It certainly isn’t as light as used to be thought – it seems that this paint finish faded lighter as it was exposed to sunlight. Looking at photographs of aircraft from late 1941 (which this kit is supposed to be) also shows the rudder, ailerons and elevators as being slightly lighter. You can see what I mean on this image of the rear fuselage of a Zero shot down during the attack on Pearl Harbor below.

I believe that the whole aircraft was painted in a single colour, so I guess that perhaps the paint reacted differently when applied to the fabric covered control surfaces? Anyway, I have decided to use Vallejo Light Sea Grey as the base colour with lightened rudder, elevators and ailerons.

Here it is after several thinned coats. I painted the cowling black, then overpainted in dark grey, leaving recessed detail and the gun troughs in black.

Then, I add the decals. These go on without any problems, though they are quite thick – even after several applications of Vallejo Decal Softener, they don’t conform to the detail underneath.

I then give it a coat of clear varnish and a wash in dark grey oil to highlight panel lines and recessed areas, and I am surprised at how much difference this makes. It really gives the aircraft a much more 3D look. The interior of the flaps, wheel-wells, interior of the undercarriage doors and ends of the folded wing tips are painted in viridian, a blue-green intended to replicate the Aotake anti-corrosion finish used on some IJN Zeros. I’m not certain this is actually correct for an aircraft that took part in the attack on Pearl Harbor because it was only used on aircraft manufactured by Nakajima, but I like the look of it and it provides a nice contrast to the grey finish.

I then add the wingtips, and propellor. Finally, I complete the undercarriage and this is the only really fiddly part of the build. Location is imprecise and the main legs are very wobbly, so I do the best I can. I’ll probably add a stretched sprue radio antenna later but apart from that, this Zero is finished!

After Action Report

This was a fun build! Fit is generally very good, with the exception of the wobbly undercarriage legs. Detail is nicely done and the recessed panel lines work very well with an oil wash. Overall, if you want an inexpensive and straightforward introduction to aviation modelling, you could do much worse.

OK, I would have been happier if the cockpit could have been shown open and perhaps the decals are a little thick, but those are really the only issues I encountered. If this is representative of the quality of these new Airfix mouldings, I’m impressed. The only thing I would suggest is that if you’re building one of these, it would probably be worth buying a pre-cut mask for the canopy. What joy to discover that Airfix 1/72 aircraft kits can still provide kit-building pleasure. Now, if I can just find an Airfix aircraft kit with an opening cockpit canopy..

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Airfix 1/72 Mitsubishi A6M2b Zero (A01005) In-Box Review and History

Airfix 1/72 Mitsubishi A6M2b Zero (A01005) In-Box Review and History

Aren’t boot sales wonderful? We have them here in Spain and in amongst all the tat, occasionally you find something worth having. When I spotted an Airfix kit on offer for just €1, how could I ignore it? So here we are, only my second aviation kit for a very long time. The first one (the Italeri AH-64D) was a bit crap, and I’m hoping this one will help me to rediscover the pleasures of building tiny aircraft.

This is the new-tool release dating from 2011, replacing the previous Airfix 1/72 Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero (108) originally released all the way back in 1959. These new-tool Airfix aircraft kits have gained a great reputation for accuracy and ease-of build and, even if you can’t find one at a boot sale, they’re as cheap as chips, generally being available for not much more than €10.

I spent way too much of my childhood building Airfix aircraft kits, and I loved them back then. Are they still as much fun today? Let’s take a look…


The design of any aircraft is a compromise. A more powerful engine gives more speed but has less range. Armour provides protection for the pilot but the additional weight limits climb performance and manoeuvrability. When Dr Jiro Horikoshi of Mitsubishi Aircraft was presented with a new specification for a fighter by the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) in 1937, his initial reaction was that it was impossible.

A6M2b Model 21s on the carrier Shokaku prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 1941

The IJN wanted a fighter capable of operating from existing carriers, so it had to have a wing-span of less than 12m (39’ 4”). It had to able to take-off in less than 70m (230ft) but also had to be capable of achieving a top speed of at least 500km/h (310mph) while at the same time having a range of over 1,800km (1,100 miles). It had to able to climb to 10,000 feet in no more than 3.5 minutes and above all, it had to be more manoeuvrable than any other fighter in service.

An A6M2b taking off from the carrier Akagi during the attack on Pearl Harbor

The design that emerged was for the  Mitsubishi A6M Navy Type 0 Carrier Fighter, referred to by its pilots as the Reisen (a contraction of “rei” (zero) and “sentoki” (fighter)) but known to just about everyone else as the Mitsubishi Zero. Somehow, Horikoshi seemed to have achieved the impossible. Although its 14 cylinder radial engine wasn’t especially powerful, the fighter was fast, with a speed of over 350mph and it exceeded the range requirements set by the IJN. It could also climb and turn faster than almost any other comparable fighter and it was armed not just with a pair of 7.7mm machine guns in the engine cowling but also two 20mm cannon in the wings.

A6M3 Model 22s

This astounding performance was achieved by the creation of an aircraft that was extremely light. The gross weight of the A6M was 2,796 kg. The comparable Grumman F4F Wildcat had a gross weight of 3,700 kg. Partly this light weight was due to the use of new materials such as Extra Super Duralumin (ESD), a stronger but lighter zinc/aluminium alloy. However, elements such as pilot armour and self-sealing fuel tanks were simply left out in order to save weight.  

A6M5s being prepared for a kamikaze attack in 1945

In total, more than 10,000 of all variants of the A6M were built during World War Two. The A6M2b Model 21 (the version depicted in this kit) was the most produced of all. It differed from the first A6M2a Model 11 only in having larger internal fuel tanks and folding wing tips.

What’s in the Box?

In the box, you’ll find three sprues moulded in light grey plastic and a single transparent sprue for the cockpit canopy.

You’ll notice a few gaps on the sprues – this kit has been started. Happily, only five pieces forming the cockpit interior have been removed from the sprues and all were in the box, so I think I’m good to go.

One thing that really stands out for me is the overall quality of the mouldings and especially the panel lines. I have to put my hand up and admit that I haven’t much experience with modern aircraft kits, but to me, this looks very good indeed for a budget kit.

Separate folded wingtips are provided, but to use these, you’ll first have to cut the wingtips off the wings.

The cockpit interior has reasonable detail, including on the interior of the fuselage halves and decals are provided for the instruments.

Perhaps the only thing that doesn’t look quite so great in terms of detail is the pilot figure, but as I don’t plan using this, I can’t say that I’m too concerned.

A single transparent sprue includes the cockpit canopy. This is admirably clear and the framing seems well-defined, but it would have been nice to have the option to show it open.

The decals provided are for a single aircraft; an A6M2b that took part in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Specifically, these markings are for an aircraft of the 2nd Strike Unit, Carrier Division 1, flown by Lieutenant Saburo Shindo from the carrier Akagi.

The only suggested colour scheme is overall “Satin Hemp” with a black cowling. The actual colour that early war Japanese naval aircraft were painted is a subject of intense debate amongst modellers. At the time that this kit was released, it was generally thought that these aircraft were painted in a pale amber or ivory colour, which I guess is where “Satin Hemp” comes from. More recent research seems to suggest that these aircraft were actually painted overall grey in something called “J3,” which seems to have been simply a fairly light grey, though probably darker than formerly believed (it seems to have been prone to fading over time). As ever, I have no intention on getting bogged down on trying to replicate precisely a shade of paint that would have been subject to fading anyway, so I think I’ll ignore the Airfix advice here and go for a light grey.

The instructions seem clear and with just 47 parts to work with, I think even I can work out where everything goes (why do I have a feeling I may regret saying that later…).

Would You Want One?

In the box, this looks very good in terms of detail and accuracy. OK, so it doesn’t have the quite level of detail seen on some other AM6 kits (there is no DF loop inside the rear of the cockpit, for example), but the engraved panel lines and general level of detail are acceptable. Given that the various versions of the A6M are said to be the most covered aircraft in 1/72 scale, there is no shortage of options if you don’t fancy this one.

Hasegawa do virtually every variant of the A6M in 1/72 from the initial A6M2 to the last A6M5. Their A6M2 Model 21 (51313) is, like the Airfix kit, a new-tool version first released in 1993, and it’s very nice indeed with good internal and external detail and nicely engraved panel lines. Their original 1/72 Zero released back in 1972 (A003:250) isn’t nearly as good, but you probably won’t find the older version still being offered for sale.

Although they don’t produce tanks in 1/72, Tamiya have a range of 1/72 aircraft kits that are generally very good indeed. This range includes several versions of the Zero. These were first released in 2012 and all are superb. They feature great cockpit detail, canopies that can be completed open or closed and nicely engraved panel lines. These are generally regarded as the best 1/72 Zero kits currently available, though like the Hasegawa Zero, they’re considerably more expensive than the new Airfix version. 

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Airfix 1/72 Mitsubishi A6M2b Zero (A01005) Build Review

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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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Airfix Matilda Hedgehog (AO2335V) conversion to A12 Matilda II Mk I. Part 1: Suspension and Tracks

Airfix Matilda Hedgehog (AO2335V) In-box Review and History – coming soon

Airfix Matilda Hedgehog (AO2335V) conversion to A12 Matilda II Mk I. Part 1: Suspension and Tracks

Time for something new here on Model Kit World. This is the first of an occasional series of conversion build reviews where I attempt to convert a kit into something a little different. These will be more detailed than my usual build reviews, showing a step-by-step guide to what I have done in case anyone else fancies doing the same.

In this conversion, I want to try to change an Airfix 1/76 Matilda Hedgehog into a Matilda II Mk I as used by 7th Royal Tank Regiment (RTR) in France in 1939/40. I would rather have purchased a base Airfix Matilda II, but it seems that kit is now discontinued. It seems that the only currently available kit featuring the Airfix Matilda is the Hedgehog variant, a version with a rocket launcher on the rear hull. Happily, this kit contains the complete original kit with an extra sprue for the Hedgehog launcher. The launcher simply fits over the rear hull and there are no new mounting holes or anything else. So, if you want to build a basic Matilda II from the Hedgehog kit, all you have to do is ignore the parts for the launcher (and find some new decals). Even the long-range rear fuel tank and mountings, which you can’t use if you fit the Hedgehog launcher, are still provided.

I want to convert this:

Into this, an A12 Matilda II of the BEF in France in 1940.

Although it isn’t explicitly stated, the Airfix kit probably represents an A12 Matilda II Mk. II or later. The most obvious visual change from the original version was replacing the co-axial Vickers water-cooled machine gun with an air-cooled BESA machine gun. Initially I thought that all that would be required was to create a co-axial Vickers machine gun and a new paint scheme. However a bit of research (and you do need to do a fair amount of research for any conversion) suggests that there are actually several changes needed.

Obviously, the co-axial machine gun mount will have to be changed to the Vickers style, which had its own external mantlet, as shown above.

All the Matilda IIs of 7th RTR in France had their suspension jacked up to increase ground clearance. This pushed the suspension bogies down so that the top of the bogies projected just below the bottom of the side hull plates. This is actually quite a striking change to the way that these Matildas looked and it’s something I will have to address. You can see what I mean on the photo above of a knocked-out BEF Matilda in France. 

All 7th RTR Matildas also had a large tail skid added to the rear of the hull. This was fabricated in the field to improve trench-crossing ability and was made from welded plates of steel. The exhaust silencer was moved inside this skid and the left hand exhaust pipe was re-routed to pass into the left side of this skid while the right hand exhaust was moved to the underside of the hull where it was routed into the right side of the skid. You can see the tail skid and the new exhaust arrangement in the image above of another knocked-out BEF Matilda in France.

The tracks provided with the Airfix Matilda are supposed to be the later tracks fitted to the Mk. II onwards. They aren’t very accurate, but the first models of Matilda II were fitted with a completely different style of track, which you can also see above. The Airfix tracks don’t look anything like those. Finally, all the first batch of Matildas had only a single headlight, mounted on the left side of the front hull. There are other detail differences, but at this scale, these are the only five visual changes that I’ll be trying to make to the Airfix kit.

I’ll be scratch-building most of the new bits, with a couple of exceptions where I’ll be using the Vickers machine gun mantlet and tracks from a previously completed RPM Cruiser Mark I. That’s in 1/72 scale rather than 1/76, but the difference is so small that I don’t think it will be noticeable.


The first step is building new suspension bogies which can be placed lower than those on the kit. Here’s the starting point.

As you can see, the bogies are moulded-in parts of the hull sides. They’re also the wrong shape. This detail from a drawing of a BEF Matilda II Mk. I shows what I’m aiming for.

The first step is to remove the existing bogies and sand the inner hull side smooth.

Then, I make twenty bogie plates from thin plastic card. The ten that will go on the outside get bolts (carefully cut off a 1/35 kit) and lightening holes. Some of which are almost in the right place… The inner plates won’t really be visible on the finished model, so I leave them plain.

Then, I attach the rollers from the kit (minus the mounting spindles) on to the bogie plates and add a small mounting strip of plastic card.

Then, these are fixed to the outer hull plate, to which a thin strip of plastic card has already been added. You do have to be careful to replicate the location and spacing of the original bogies. It all looks a bit messy from the inside, but this won’t be seen when it’s complete.

From the outside it looks all right. Here’s one modified and one original outer hull plate.

Then, the sprocket, idler, jockey wheel and internal bogie plates are added and the inner and outer hull side halves are joined.

And this is where I end up – with two completed hull side assemblies with modified suspension bogies.


I’ll be using the tracks from the 1/72 RPM Cruiser Tank Mk. I. These are visually much closer to the tracks fitted to the first Matilda IIs, and I think that perhaps they can be enhanced even more at the painting stage. The only problem is, these are hard plastic tracks that are moulded with the sprocket, idler, roadwheels and return rollers modelled integrally. Time to get the files out… Here’s the starting point.

First, I cut off the roadwheels, sprocket, etc.  

Then, I cut sections off the track and bend and file until they fit the Matilda running gear.

Then, I join and blend the sections and this is what I end up with. Certainly not perfect, but I think it’s better than using the inaccurate Airfix tracks.

Of course, this approach means that I’ll have to paint the tracks, rollers, etc. in-situ, but I can live with that if the result is better-looking and more accurate tracks.

And in the next thrilling episode, I’ll be tackling the hull and turret. See you then!

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Airfix 1/76 Cromwell IV Tank (A02338) Build Review

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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Airfix 1/76 Tiger I (A01308V) Build Review

As with the Airfix Sherman I finished recently, I’m going for a fairly quick build here, but there are a couple of things I want to address. These are the lack of mudguards and a turret stowage bin and I intend to fabricate both out of plastic card.

I start by drilling out the main gun. It has been said that the gun on this Airfix Tiger is too thin, and that may be so, but it doesn’t look as silly as the gun on the Sherman, so I’ll use it as is.

Then I assemble the hull – this is in seven parts and it takes some care to get everything approximately lined up. There are still some minor gaps when I finished and these are filled with Tamiya putty. Hatches are added, being careful to get the orientation correct – this is shown accurately on the colour scheme views, but it’s wrong in the instructions.

Next, the turret, and again, fit isn’t great. Again, I use putty to cover the gaps, though I’m able to ignore the large valley at the rear because this will be covered by the stowage bin. I also add the cupola and hatches at this stage.

Then I make the front mudguards – these are very simple, with each comprising just two flat plates that follow the line of the front of the hull and extend almost to the edge of the skirts.

Then, rear mudguards and the stowage bin. These are a little more tricky, but not especially challenging even for my rusty-plastic card building skills.

The it’s the turn of the roadwheels, idlers and sprockets. The idlers and sprockets fit without a problem, but some care is needed with the roadwheels. Part of the problem is that the roadwheels themselves are a loose fit on the spindles on which they are located. Care is needed to ensure that they are straight and aligned. You also need to get the layout right – this is shown correctly in the instructions but wrongly on the side views in the colour schemes.

Spacing also needs some care. On each side there is an inner row of four single wheels, then a row of four doubles then another outer row of four singles. The outer wheels have a collar that faces inwards and that seems to suggest that these wheels should be fitted hard against the row of double wheels, but this is wrong. The outer row of single wheels should be as far from the double wheels as they are from the inner row of single wheels. Getting satisfactory alignment takes a bit of fiddling around to avoid wonky wheels.

Then it’s time to start painting. Everything gets a base coat of dunklegelb (dark yellow) with some highlights added in a few places.

Then a camouflage scheme of irregular stripes of olivegrün is added as per the Airfix instructions. Decals are added when this is finished.

The tracks are painted with an overall dark gunmetal with lighter gunmetal highlights for the treads. Then, they get a wash of brown to indicate rust and dirt. The same wash is used to dirty-up the roadwheels, sprockets and idlers.

Then, everything gets a coat of matt varnish and it’s time to add an oil wash using Abteilung Shadow Brown. I also add the tracks, and these are a little loose. That’s probably better than being too tight, but it does mean that some superglue is need to make the top run sit even close to flat. You can see the before and after below.

Finally, I add the spare track-links on the front hull and it’s done.

After Action Report

As noted in the In-Box review of this kit, there are several things missing here. The lack of mudguards and the turret stowage bin look odd, and I have tried to address these here. However, this kit also lacks things like tools or a stowage box on the front hull, towing cables and exhaust heat shields. These do detract from its overall appearance. That said, the quality of mouldings here is notably better than, for example, the 1/76 Airfix Sherman released just a few years earlier which I reviewed recently.

Despite what it may say on the instructions, this isn’t a Tunisian Tiger; it’s a later model so one of the paint schemes (which isn’t accurate anyway) and one set of decals just don’t apply. Both paint schemes and the box art show rubber tyres, but that is wrong with this type of late Tiger roadwheel. The fit of some parts, notably the roadwheels, really isn’t great and it takes some care to get something that is close to accurate.  The tracks really don’t look very convincing at all.

However, it’s very cheap at well under half the price of some other small-scale Tiger kits, and if there was a “classic” category for kits, this would very definitely fit in it, being more than fifty years old. I built one of these as a kid (and I remember struggling with the roadwheels back then!) so for me, it’s a piece of nostalgia as much as anything else. However, judged purely on its merits as a kit, there probably isn’t a great deal to commend this compared to lots of other, more recent and better small-scale Tiger kits. Unless it brings back memories of childhood, you’re on a really tight budget or you have a particular attachment to 1/76 scale, it’s probably worth paying a little extra to buy something rather more accurate and complete.    

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