As you’ll know if you have read my In-Box review of this kit, I am deeply unimpressed with the supplied tracks. There are aftermarket tracks available: MasterClub, for example offer workable metal Universal Carrier tracks in 1/35. However, here in Spain, these sell for around €40 and that’s three times what I paid for this kit! They also won’t work with the sprockets supplied with this kit, so I have decided that I will just have to live with the Tamiya tracks.
Before I begin construction, I do a couple of small and fiddly jobs. First, I thin out the armour plates in front and either side of the driver/gunner compartment. The side plates are simple because they’re flat – below you can see one done and as supplied.
The front panel is a little more difficult because of its complex shape, but with some careful sanding, it can be done. You will lose some internal detail, notably the handles for opening the covers over the vision slots. However, these aren’t particularly well detailed in the first place and only two are provided – there should be three. I’ll be re-making simplified versions once I’m done with sanding down the panels. This is what I end up with (as you can see, I have also added the small metal ledge to the right of the gun section which, for some reason, also isn’t included).
Then, I drill out the muzzles of the three Bren guns provided. This is very fiddly – I had to use a needle to make a guide hole before drilling and even then, I can see that one is drilled slightly off-centre. I’ll probably use that as the stowed gun where the muzzle isn’t quite so obvious.
With those jobs out of the way, I begin construction as per the instructions, but only to a certain extent. The interior of both compartments here is very cramped and I want to add lots of dirt and wear and tear when I paint. Yes, I know, most of this will probably be hidden by the figures and stowage items when this is finished but hey, I’m going to give it a try anyway. So, I construct all the internal parts into sub-assemblies and I’ll be painting the insides of these before I join them together.
All these parts get several thinned coats of Vallejo Russian Uniform – it take several coats to get a consistent finish because the plastic used here is so dark.
You can also see the new vision slot handles I have added inside the thinned front armour plate.
Next, I paint the seats and seat-backs. There seem to have been two types of seat covering used on the Universal Carrier: brown leather and khaki fabric. I go for the leather version, just because it provides more visual contrast with the rest of the interior. I also paint some chipping on the interior on areas that might see heavy use. I keep this fairly restrained – I think you can spoil a model as much by overdoing the weathering as by leaving it out entirely.
Then, it all gets a coat of clear varnish, a dark grey oil pin wash and some dark vertical streaking on the interior panels. I then assemble the main hull parts – fit is superb and location positive for all parts and no filler or sanding is required.
I know that my replacement interior vison slot cover handles are far from perfect, but I do think that the thinned front armour panels look better than the massively overscale originals. The small instrument panel also painted up nicely, though this won’t really be visible with the driver in place. Next, I begin assembling the rest of the hull parts.
Constructing and painting the rear hull takes some thought. You have a back plate, then the exhausts, then the differential, then another shallower plate that includes the tools and finally, if you choose to include it, a plate with a tow-bar bracket. If you simply construct all of this first, then getting at the various bits to paint and weather them will be a problem. I added the differential and painted it and the rearmost plate first, then I added chipping and a grey oil wash.
Then I painted the exhausts (I didn’t bother adding textures or drilling out the exhausts, because these will barely be visible once construction is finished) and added them and, last, I added the rear plate that holds the tools. I’ll paint that with the rest of the hull and add the towing plate last of all.
Then. It’s time to work on the suspension and running gear. I want to complete and paint this so that I can paint and add the tracks before I add the side skirt and step. Assembling the suspension is simple, though the finished assemblies feel rather fragile. I paint the base colour, add the tyres on the roadwheels, idlers and return roller and then give everything a grey oil wash.
The tracks are made of fairly inflexible, thick vinyl and unfortunately, they’re also rather tight. Getting them in place once they’re painted feels like it’s risking breaking the suspension, and there is no hope of showing any form of sag with these tracks. At least it’s possible to hide the join behind the side-skirts.
With the tracks, suspension and running gear in place, I can add the side-skirts and step on either side, and with that, I can complete the painting of the exterior of this kit.
It all gets several thinned coats of Vallejo Russian Uniform and some dry-brushed highlights and then I add the decals using Vallejo Decal Fix and Decal Softener. These are nicely dense and printed in-register.
Then, it all gets a coat of clear varnish and then a dark grey oil wash.
That’s main hull construction done, so I begin to add all the bits and pieces. I begin with adding the rolled canvas cover, stowage bag, tools and towbar to the rear.
Then, I added the tow cable to the front. I found joining the string to the tow eyes extremely frustrating – the string is too thick to fit inside the hollowed-out part of the eyes. It took a lot of fiddling about and the use of some strong swear-words to get something that looked right.
Then I start to add the weapons, starting with the three Bren guns.
Then, the two Lee-Enfield rifles and the Sten gun.
And finally the ammo boxes, helmets and other bits and pieces in the interior.
And with that, construction and painting of this Universal Carrier is done. All that now remains is to paint and add the figures. These seem reasonably detailed, though you do have to be careful when adding the arms to the driver and the seated figure to make sure that these are in the correct position to rest on the bodywork.
I do my best with the painting of the figures, though the result isn’t really that great. When I paint 1/35 faces, they often end up looking insane, or gormless, or their eyes point in completely different directions. On a couple of memorable occasions, I have managed to achieve all three at once! The point I’m making is that if these finished figures don’t look wonderful, well, that probably isn’t Tamiya’s fault. They’re quite well sculpted with nicely defined detail.
With the figures done and a couple of antenna added, that’s it for this Tamiya Universal Carrier.
After Action Report
As I noted in the In-Box review, there is both good and not-so-good stuff here. The not so good includes a front armour plate that’s just silly-thick and tracks that are very poor. The over-thick front plate can be thinned, but you’re stuck with the tracks unless you decide to replace both those and the sprockets with after-market items.
Set against that, fit and detail are both pretty good and there are no significant problems with construction and virtually no need for filler at all. OK, the rivets look a little small and the 8th Army figures are really showing their age, but otherwise, this is a pretty reasonable kit for not a lot of money.
The three ETO figures aren’t bad and I like the fact that lots of internal stowage is provided. When it’s done, this looks satisfactorily busy, which is pretty important on a finished model where so much of the interior is visible. So, would you want one? Well, probably… If you can put up with the tracks (or if you’re willing to source alternatives) and if you are willing to modify or ignore the front armour plate. I can’t give this a totally unqualified thumbs-up, but it is by no means a terrible kit and it’s a pleasant way to while away those long evenings…