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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

Introduction

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?       

History

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 PzKpfw II Ausf. F (03229) Build Review

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

Introduction

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.

History

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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Before I start construction, I drill out the main gun and exhausts. This is tricky on the main gun, even using a 1mm drill; there is barely room to fit a 1mm hole in the end of the gun. Which kind of makes me wonder if the diameter of the gun isn’t perhaps a little underscale?

Turret construction is straightforward and all parts fit together very well. I sand a small groove either side of the join between top and bottom halves and cement in place a small piece of soft plastic rod to simulate the weld between these parts. I also attempt to add some texture to the turret sides, but this isn’t particularly successful.

Then I join the upper and lower hull parts. I was a little disconcerted to see that there was a pronounced gap at the front, but this is covered by a small piece that forms the nose of the front hull so it doesn’t matter. Other than that, all the hull parts went together very nicely and no filler at all was required here or on the turret.

I then fixed the fuel tanks and other bits and pieces on to the hull. Some of these (the grab handles, for example) are really tiny and I spent even more time than usual on my hands and knees on the floor when parts pinged out of the tweezers and off into the middle distance.

One thing that I really appreciate on this kit is that the sprockets, idlers and roadwheels fit onto separate parts that are then joined to the hull sides. After checking fit, I left these off so that I can assemble the tracks more easily before fitting everything to the hull sides. Adding the roadwheels takes a little care – these are not a tight fit on the spindles and you do have to be careful to get everything aligned and straight.  

Everything then gets a couple of coats of Tamiya Olive Drab including some highlights and an attempt at some basic colour modulation. Painting also clearly shows that the turret weld is visible.

Then, I add the decals to the turret using Vallejo Decal Fix and Decal Softener. This is quite challenging – the white cross on the turret top is made up of several separate decals and these do not fit precisely. Be prepared for some fiddling and touching up. I then give everything a coat of matt clear varnish.

Then, it’s on to the tracks. I paint these first, including the separate track links and I’ll touch-up them later. The inner surface gets a coat of fairly dark gunmetal and the outer surfaces and internal track horns are given a coat of lighter gunmetal. Then everything gets a brown acrylic wash.

The roadwheel tyres are painted with a fairly light grey. At least this is easy on this kit because there is good definition and distinction between wheels and tyres. I add an oil wash using Abteilung Shadow Green to pick out details on the roadwheels, sprockets and idlers and finally a brown wash to represent dust and dirt.

Then I assemble the tracks. The individual links are very small and there are fourteen each of two different types; with and without internal horns. These must be added alternately and the process of assembly takes some care. However, this is made much easier both because you can do this before joining the tracks and roadwheels to the hull sides and because the individual track links are accurately moulded and fit together positively. I have read some other reviews that note that, when assembled, there is a small gap left – all I can say is that I didn’t find that though I did use every individual link.

One small issue is the fit of the track links on the sprocket. On the T-34, the sprocket is at the rear and it doesn’t have teeth that engage with the track. Instead, the internal horns on the track engage into rollers inside the centre of the sprocket. All this is accurately modelled here, but I glued the sprockets into place before I started assembling the track links. This meant that on one side, the sprockets did not align with the track horns on the individual links. I got round this by cutting the track horns off on several of the links, but I now realise that it would have been better to leave the sprocket free to revolve until I had finished assembling the tracks.  

Then I give the turret and hull an oil wash using the same Abteilung paint used on the wheels and sprockets. I try to use this to give definition to the various grilles and intakes on the rear hull – it’s moderately successful but on reflection, I think that a darker wash here would have worked better.

When I’m done with that, I give everything a final coat of clear matte varnish with a tiny spot of brown paint added to make everything look a bit dusty. Then, all I have to do is add the spare track links, towing eyes, saw, tow cable and the small brown pieces on the right side of the hull (I don’t actually know what these are, so I follow the colour scheme and paint them rusty brown).

And here is the finished result.  

After Action Report

This was a straightforward build with no real problems. There are some very tiny parts and assembling these takes care. Getting the white cross on the turret to look half-way decent takes time – I almost gave up on this and used the other set of decals, but I like the way this turned out in the end.

I am happy with the way that the turret weld looks but less so with my attempt at adding texture to the cast side-walls. This looked all-right during construction but you really can’t see it on the finished, painted model. I would also have liked the option to model the driver’s hatch open, but this certainly wasn’t a show-stopper.

The process of building the track and link sections is tricky, but it is made much easier on this kit by having the sprockets, idlers, roadwheels and tracks in separate “pods” that are assembled separately and added to the model when complete. I do like the way that the finished tracks look and, to me, their appearance is notably better and more to scale than most rubber-band style tracks.

Overall, this is a very, very nice kit of the T-34/85. It’s accurate, nicely moulded and everything fits together well with no need for filler at all, though assembly is a little tricky due to some very small parts. The finished model looks like a T-34/85 and at this scale, that’s probably all you can ask. The fact that this is a late version also provides lots of scope for alternative post-war markings and colour schemes. 

If you want to model a T-34/85 in 1/72, I really don’t think you will find a kit that is substantially better than this one.

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Revell 1/72 T-34/85 (03302) In-Box Review and History

Introduction

It’s time for a review of another Revell kit and this time it’s the 1/72 T-34/85. This kit was originally released in 2002 and this boxing in 2016. It’s a similar kit to the 1/72 Pz.Kpfw.VI Ausf.H Tiger from the same company that I built recently and, like the Tiger, this one includes tracks made of sections and individual links.

I was mightily impressed by the Tiger and keen to try another similar Revell kit so, here it is. Is it as good?

History

Many Russian tank units in the 1930s were equipped with light tanks or Bystrokhodny Tanks (BTs), relatively small, lightly armoured but fast tanks, many of which were capable of operating on both wheels or tracks. However, experience during the Spanish Civil War (1936 – 1939) and in an undeclared border war with Japan during the same period had shown a need for a heavier tank with a more powerful main gun.

In response, design on a new ‘Universal Tank’ began in 1937 at the Kharkov Komintern Locomotive Plant in Ukraine under the leadership of designer Mikhail Koshkin. The new tank, initially designated A-32, was a combination of tried and tested technology combined with innovation.

It used coil-spring Christie suspension similar to that used on the BT series of tanks, but employed a wholly new, wider track design which gave it a phenomenally low ground pressure. This made the new tank less liable to being bogged down in mud and soft ground.

This 1941 photograph shows, from the left, the Russian BT-7M, A-20, T-34 Model 1940 with the L-11 main gun and T-34 Model 1941 with the more powerful F-34 main gun. All these Russian tanks have two-man turrets and all lack a commander’s cupola.

Public domain image via Wikimedia Commons

The engine was a powerful V12 diesel and main gun was an L-11 76mm with a muzzle velocity of around 2,000 ft/s (600 m/s). The new tank had frontal armour that was 45mm thick, but this was also sloped at an angle of 60°. The notion of sloping front armour to make it harder to penetrate was relatively new in the late 1930s and the new tank was one of the first medium tanks to use this.

Koshkin elected to call the new design the “Tank 34” because that was the year in which he first started thinking about this design. Production of the T-34 began in September 1940. There would be four distinct version of the T-34 with the 76mm main gun; the Model 1940 was the first production version. This was replaced by the Model 1941 equipped with the more powerful F-34 76mm gun and thicker frontal armour. The Model 1942 incorporated several minor modifications to simplify manufacture. The final version was the Model 1943 and this incorporated for the first time a new turret with a commander’s cupola. Retrospectively, these four first versions have become known as the T-34/76, as all were equipped with 76mm main guns, but these designations were never used in Russian service.

A T-34 Model 1943 at the Panzermuseum in Munster

Image; baku13 via Wikimedia Commons

In March 1944, a new T-34 equipped with an 85mm gun began production. The main gun was derived from the M1939 (52-K) anti-aircraft gun and was a direct response to the appearance of the German Tiger tank equipped with an 88mm main gun, also derived from an anti-aircraft weapon. However, this version of the T-34 also had a larger turret that, for the first time, allowed the use of a three-man turret crew. Three models of T-34/85 were produced during the war; the Model 1943 was produced from February to March 1944 and featured the 85 mm D-5T gun. The Model 1944 was produced from Match 1944 to the end of that year and featured the 85 mm ZiS-S-53 gun. The Model 1945 was introduced in late 1944 and produced until the end of the war. It also featured the 85 mm ZiS-S-53 gun, an enlarged commander’s cupola and an electric traverse system for the turret.

T-34/85 tank captured during the Korean War in Waegwan, Korea, 1950.

Public domain image via Wikimedia Commons

The T-34/76 had some serious flaws. The two-man turret placed an unacceptably high workload on the commander. Even the improved F-34 main gun was not capable of penetrating the frontal armour on some German tanks. Reliability on early versions was truly appalling, mainly due to flaws in the manufacturing process. Documents from the Armored Directorate of the Red Army show that the average factory-fresh T-34/76 lasted less than 200 kilometers (124 miles) before requiring a major overhaul. Russian tank units reported operational losses of anything from 30% – 50% of their T-34/76s due to breakdowns.

With the development of the T-34/85, with its three-man turret, lethally effective main gun and improved reliability, the T-34 finally became one of the best tanks of World War Two. More than fifty-five thousand of all models of T-34 were produced during the war and in T-34/85 it remained in service around the world long after that conflict ended.

What’s in the Box?

This kit models the T-34/85 Model 1945 and the box contains three sprues in light grey plastic, full-colour instructions and decals.

The mouldings are very crisp and nicely detailed. There does not appear to be any flash at all and the detail is very good indeed. The roadwheels in particular are a real joy – very nicely mounded and accurately reproduced including the characteristic smooth rubber tyres, lightening holes and twelve spokes of the “Full Spider” T-34/85 roadwheels.

The upper hull also has good and sharp detail. However, I’m not so sure about the mesh screens on the rear hull – we’ll see how these will look when they’re painted, and the driver’s hatch and the flaps over the driver’s vision slots are moulded closed.

The turret is very impressive. The turret on the T-34/85 Model 1945 had a couple of small but notable features. A larger cupola extended close to the edge of the turret top and this necessitated a small lip beneath the cupola on the left side. On the same side, the turret has an odd rectangular bulge about half-way along – this was to provide space for a new electric turret traverse system. Finally, the turret has a distinct casting seam running along its lower edge with an extra section welded in just above this by the mantlet. You can see all that on the photo below.

Now look at this picture of the Revell turret.

The lip under the cupola is there as is the bulge for the turret traverse mechanism. The join between the upper and lower parts in the kit follows the line of the welding seam on the original and the additional, welded-in front section is a separate part. To me at least, that sort of care and attention is impressive and precisely what I like to see. I cannot honestly see how you could produce a better representation of the T-34/85 Model 1945 turret at this scale.

There are some very small parts, the grab-handles for the turret and hull, for example. Getting these off the sprue without damaging them may be a challenge, but it’s good so see that they are included.

The instructions are the usual full-colour, three dimensional Revell offerings and they look perfectly clear though the process of building the track-and links sections is a little vague. Nothing in the instructions or on the box gives any information about the T-34/85 or notes that this is a Model 1945, though I believe that’s what it is due to the turret detail.

The decals and colour schemes are for a tank of an unknown unit in the autumn of 1945 or a tank of the 7th Tank Corps, 55th Tank Brigade in Berlin in April 1945.

You know what? I’m really looking forward to building this kit. It exudes quality and care and I believe it will build into a very nice T-34/85 Model 1945. Which is not to say that I am capable of building it into a reasonable model, but there is certainly nothing in the kit to make this impossible.   

Would You Want One?

Short answer; yes. The only very small criticisms I can see are that the driver’s hatch is moulded closed and that the small flaps over the vision slots on the hatch are also closed, so the driver of this tank isn’t going to be able to see where he’s going! The turret and mantlet mouldings also don’t have any casting texture and the join between the upper and lower turret mouldings is too smooth to show the weld in this area. The exhausts and main gun will also have to be drilled out, but that’s typical of most small-scale tank kits other than those using slide-moulding technology.

Despite these very minor flaws, this looks like another cracking Revell 1/72 tank kit with no serious issues and lots of positive features. It may be almost twenty years old now, but I am not sure that there is really much out there that is significantly better than this in terms of a small-scale late T-34 kit. Being an accurate Model 1945 also means that this was the same type of tank used, for example, in the Korean War and during wars in the Middle-East, which gives plenty of scope for alternative colour schemes and decals.

Alternatives

Dragon 1/72 T-34/85 Mod. 1944. Released in 2005, this features the usual Dragon crisp mouldings, a separate driver’s hatch with interior hatch detail, PE parts, DS rubber-band style tracks and twisted wire tow-cables. The slide moulded exhausts and gun don’t need to be drilled but, don’t put that drill away yet because the double roadwheels are moulded with the lightening holes closed and these will need to be drilled out.

Zvezda T-34/85. Released in 2011 this is one of Zvesda’s “snap-fit” range. It has fewer parts than the Dragon or Revell kits and it is missing small details like grab-handles, but it is actually not bad in terms of detail and it has plastic, not rubber-band, tracks.

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I started by painting the tyres on the roadwheels, not a job I enjoy. I mean, it isn’t technically difficult and, in my experience, it is something best done fairly quickly and in a Zen like state of calm. Though it does help if you have the eyes of a hawk, the dexterity of a neurosurgeon and the speed and accuracy of a striking cobra. Having none of these things, I find it quite challenging and any calm tends to have disappeared by about the time I get to the second wheel. I finally get all forty-eight wheels done and, as ever, the result is sort of OK. Does anyone know of a better and stress-free way to do this on 1/72 tanks?

Then it’s time to assemble the wheels and tracks. The instructions are delightfully vague about this stage of construction. For the roadwheels, it’s important to note that some inner wheels have a longer shaft on one side. The difference is small, less that 1mm, and they can be fitted with the longer end facing either in or out. 

The arrowed row of roadwheels can be fitted either way round – this matters!

The instructions give no clue which is the right way round and I only noticed this when I did a dry assembly of the roadwheels and discovered that I couldn’t get them to sit properly on the lower track runs – one of the inner roadwheels was fitted the wrong way round compared to the other three, causing misalignment with the raised flanges on the inner side of the tracks. It’s best to take some time to be certain you understand how the roadwheels go together before final assembly – because these tracks are hard plastic there is no give and you have to get the alignment of the roadwheels, sprockets and idlers exactly right.

Next, the tracks. I know that some modellers won’t attempt these Revell track-and link kits precisely because of the tracks, so I’ll talk in a little detail about what I found. For assembly, the illustration in the instructions simply shows the parts on one side coming together, but there is no clue as to the best order in which to do this and the illustration shows six single links being used at the front and five at the rear, but you will actually be using more than this – a total of forty-eight single track links are included.

I started by painting the main sections of track with a base of dark gunmetal, highlights of a lighter gunmetal on the treads and a wash of brown to show dust/rust between the treads. I also painted the single links at the same time, while they were still attached to the sprue. I’ll touch up the ends once they are removed from the sprue, fixed in place and the ends sanded down.  

After a great deal of thought, I decided that the best way to make progress would be to fix the single links on to the sprocket and idler before fitting these to the hull. I used superglue and it takes a bit of care to get the links straight and some experimentation to get the right number of links on each – I found that I needed ten links on the sprockets and six on the idlers.

I also found a fundamental problem with the sprocket on the first side I attempted. The inner and outer halves of the sprockets are keyed so that they join precisely. However, on mine, the teeth on the inner and outer sprockets didn’t quite align. That’s a major headache when you come to attach the single track links. In retrospect (always a wonderful thing) I should have checked this alignment before I joined the sprocket halves. I could then have cut off the key and joined the two halves so that the teeth aligned precisely. But I didn’t so I had to work round this issue. On the second side, the sprocket teeth aligned perfectly, which made fitting the links much easier.

Gluing the track links to the rear idlers was easier, mainly because there are no sprocket teeth to match and horizontal alignment is fixed by the fact that the flanges on the inside of the tracks fit precisely to the idler.

When all the single track links were attached, I glued the sprocket to the hull, then the upper track run to the sprocket and roadwheels, then the idler to the hull and finally the lower track run to the roadwheels. This the result. It’s a long, fiddly job, but I think the outcome is reasonable.

I finished off by adding the front and rear mudguards and giving the hull and turret a coat of varnish then an oil pin-wash to highlight details. I left off the Fiefel filter trunking and tow cables while I was doing this. They will be added last. I also painted the inside rear of the hull black – I realised that the grey plastic was visible through the open grilles on the rear deck.

The final step is adding the tow cables, filter trunking, spare track links and the hull MG 34 barrel and giving everything a final coat of matte varnish. And it’s done!

After Action Report

This is a level 4 kit; “for the more experienced modeller.”  No kidding, this certainly isn’t a kit for a beginner! No locating holes or guides are provided for many small parts including the smoke dischargers, Fiefel air filters, the small ventilator on top of the turret or the headlights. The colour scheme drawings and the photograph of the completed kit on the front of the instructions do show where these things are supposed to go, but getting them attached in just the right place isn’t always easy.

The roadwheels and particularly the tracks are fiendishly difficult to assemble and to get proper alignment and the instructions could give a great deal more useful information. I learned from this as I went and by the time I had finished, I just about knew what I was doing. I’m already looking forward to attempting my next kit of this type.

However, set against these apparent negatives, there are some very positive things about this kit. It has very good detail and is generally accurate for a Tunisian Tiger. If you are willing to put in the time and effort, it builds into a really nice model. The tracks provide a good example. Building and painting these takes substantially more time and effort than using rubber-band type tracks. However, in my opinion, the end result is notably better. These do look like metal tracks made of individual links that have weight and substance and not, well, like rubber bands. This challenged my slowly re-emerging kit-building skills, and I know the end result could have been better. But I also felt that I learned and improved during the build, and that’s always satisfying.

I guess the most important point when considering whether I can recommend this kit is the question; would I choose another Revell kit of the same type? And the answer is an emphatic yes! I enjoyed the challenge of building something a little more difficult and I’m looking forward to applying what I learned to another kit. Despite being more than twenty years old, this really is a very good quality kit and, if you have the time and skills, it can be built into a 1/72 Tunisian Tiger that’s as good as anything else out there.

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Before construction starts, I drill out the bore and muzzle brake on the main gun.

Then I do a dry fit to check fit on the hull and turret parts. Hull fit is generally good, though there are some minor gaps at the rear, and the fit of the turret-top to the sides is good, but not perfect.

With the help of some tape while the glue is setting, the turret gaps disappear and it doesn’t look as though filler will be needed.   

Fitting the gun barrel into the mantlet and recoil reducer is a little tricky. Fit is very loose and I can’t find a way to prop the parts while the glue dries that will keep the barrel straight, so instead I carefully balance everything vertically until the glue is dry.

Next, the mantlet and gun are joined to the turret and the commander’s cupola is added with the addition of a disk of 1mm thick plastic card to raise the periscope slots.

Then the smoke dischargers, ventilator, stowage bin and pistol ports are added and filler is used on the holes for track mounting on the left side and that’s the turret done.

I assemble the hull and I notice that the material of which this kit is constructed seems to be a slightly softer plastic than I am used to. Now, maybe it’s just me but I found that, in some particular cases, it seemed to actually absorb the liquid polystyrene cement I used. Gluing the hull sides to the base, for example, took a couple of tries. The first time, I painted a thin film of glue on the base and took my time lining things up, just as I have done on other model tanks. When I finally pressed the parts together, the glue had vanished and the parts wouldn’t stick. I had to try a second time, with a lot more glue and working faster to get the parts to stick. This made construction a little more difficult and because of this I used superglue for some small parts including the track links.

With the hull lower parts assembled I do a dry assembly of roadwheels, idler and sprocket on one side and use that as a template to join the three upper and three lower track runs on each side with the correct angle between parts.

The result is complete upper and lower tracks runs which I hope are correctly angled to fit over the roadwheels, idlers and sprockets. All that remains are the single links that fit over the idler and sprocket at front and rear but I’ll do those as part of final construction, once painting of the roadwheels and sprockets is done.

Hull construction is straightforward, though a little filler is need to conceal a couple of gaps at the rear. I’m leaving off the front and rear mudguards until later to make construction of the separate track links easier.

Then it’s on to painting. I want to paint the roadwheels before fitting, simply because I find it much easier to paint these while mounting the wheel on a cocktail stick and revolving that while keeping the brush still. Because I won’t be fitting the wheels until after painting, I’ll also be adding the tracks after they have been painted.

First step is a couple of coats of Tamiya XF-49 Khaki, which seems a good match for gelbraun. I also paint the tools and other bits and pieces on the front upper hull.

Then parts that would catch the light are highlighted using a lightened mix of the same colour.

These are then blended with a final, thinned coat of XF-49.

Then camouflage is added using Tamiya XF-52 Flat Earth. The result isn’t too bad – the contrast between these colours is low, which is what I wanted to achieve and when I give the whole thing a coat of matt varnish, that should tone this down even more.

Finally, the decals are added, using Vallejo Decal Fix and Decal Softener. I do notice that the red turret number decals are outlined in white when on the colour scheme they are shown as plain red. I can’t say I’m especially perturbed by this; it just seems odd.

That’s it for this part. Next, I’ll be finishing this model which involves doing a couple of things I’m really not looking forward to; painting tyres on forty-eight roadwheels and attempting to build those tracks…

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Introduction

It’s always nice when you open a box and get a pleasant surprise. That’s what happened to me recently when the postman dropped off this Revell 1/72 Tiger I Ausf. H kit.

The kit was released more than twenty years ago, in 1997, and, given my recent disappointment over the Airfix Tiger I, I wondered just how good this was going to be? In the event, it’s really pretty good and, with one tweak, looks as if it should build into a decent representation of this iconic tank.

Not long ago, the future of Revell, the world’s largest manufacturer of plastic model kits, seemed to be in doubt when its parent company, HOBBICO, which also owned other brands including Monogram, filed for bankruptcy. However, Revell-Germany, which continued to operate, was bought by German investment group Quantum Capital Partners. It seems that Revell is continuing to release new kits despite these upheavals and that, if this tidy little kit is anything to go by, is good news for scale modellers.

Tigers in Tunisia

This kit depicts the first production model of the Pz.Kpfw.VI Tiger, the Ausf. H. Most of these early Tigers were sent to the eastern front but a number appeared in North Africa where they opposed American and British forces who landed in Algeria and Morocco as part of Operation Torch in November 1942. The fighting in Tunisia was the first time that American and German land forces had met in combat and the first time that the allies encountered the Tiger tank.

A Tiger tank of sPz Abt. 501 in Tunisia, 1943

Image: Bundesarchiv via Wikimedia Commons

The subject of this kit is a Tiger of schwere Panzer-Abteilung (Heavy Tank Battalion – sPz Abt.) 501 in Tunisia in early 1943. These tanks were assigned to the hastily assembled 5th Panzer Army and were shipped from Sicily to Bizerte in in Tunisia in November 1942. They encountered American tanks for the first time in early December with six Tigers taking part in the Battle of Tebourba. The allied force under the command of British Lt. Gen. Kenneth Anderson lost fifty-five tanks during this battle, most of them to the Tigers of sPz Abt. 501. These tanks took part in several other engagements in Tunisia including the bitter and bloody battle at Sidi bou Zid in February 1943 where the 1st US Armored Division lost forty-six tanks.

This battalion also took part in Operation Ochsenkopf (Ox Head), a large-scale German counter-attack in Tunisia which started on 27th February and continued into early March. Almost all the Tigers of sPz Abt. 501 were destroyed in this operation, most being immobilised by mines. In mid-March, the few surviving Tigers of sPz Abt. 501 were integrated into the newly arrived sPz Abt. 504. All Axis troops in Tunisia had surrendered by 12th May.

A Tiger tank of sPzAbt. 504 in Tunisia, 1943

Image: Bundesarchiv via Wikimedia Commons

One common misconception about these tanks and the fighting in North Africa was that the German force in Tunisia was part of the Afrika Korps, but this is not true. The German expeditionery force that arrived in North Africa in early 1941 was indeed the Deutsches Afrikakorps (DAK) under the command of General (later Field Marshall) Erwin Rommel. However, the DAK was short-lived as a separate entity and in January 1942 it was combined with other German and Italian units to become Panzerarmee Afrika. In early 1943 these units were combined with Italian forces to become the Italian 1st Army. This army, with the 5th Panzer Army under the command of Colonel-General Hans-Jürgen von Arnim, were combined to create Heeresgruppe Afrika (Army Group Africa) under the overall command of Rommel. So, despite what the instructions for this kit might say, there never were any Tiger tanks belonging to the DAK.

What’s in the Box?

The box contains four sprues of slightly soft-feeling grey plastic. It’s notably different to, for example, the fairly brittle plastic found in the early Airfix kits I have been reviewing recently, but I don’t suppose it will make a great deal of difference to the build.


Detail is good and all mouldings are crisp and completely free of flash or obvious sink-marks. I particularly like the fact that the gratings on the upper hull are moulded completely open – that’s a nice touch and quite different to most small-scale Tiger kits.

Details include exhaust shields, separate towing cables, tools moulded into the upper hull and the distinctive Feifel air cleaners and ducts on upper rear hull and rear bulkhead. The main gun is a solid moulding so you may want to drill this out.

The tracks are the “track and link” sections found in some other Revell 1/72 tanks. On each side there are six moulded sections of track and eleven individual links. The larger sections are joined to form the top and bottom runs and the individual links go round the sprocket and idler. This looks as though it has the potential to create a very detailed representation of the Tiger tracks, but it also looks very fiddly to complete.

Several spare individual track links are provided and these are shown on the box-art as being on the side of the turret. Looking at photographs of wartime Tigers in Tunisia, I haven’t found a single one with track links on the turret so I will probably relocate these to the hull front. However, that means that the holes on the left side of the turret will have to be filled.

The full-colour, twelve-page instructions look very clear and decals and colour schemes are provided for two different tanks of sPz Abt. 501. The decals look fine, but I’m not entirely convinced about the colour schemes. The first, shows a Tiger in March 1943 with a two-colour camouflage scheme with a base created by mixing sand, khakibraun and erde dunkel and camouflage stripes in khakibraun.

This seems pretty close to what is now generally agreed to have been the “tropen” scheme used in Tunisia with a base of gelbraun with grau stripes. These two colours are very low contrast and often aren’t visible in wartime black-and-white photographs which is why photos of Tunisian Tigers seem to show a single colour finish.

The other colour scheme shows a Tiger in an overall lighter afrikabraun finish. I haven’t found any evidence of Tunisian Tigers finished in a single, lighter colour, so I’ll be using the two-colour camouflage finish.

Overall, this seems to be a good representation of an early Tiger. However, I did find one very small issue. The commander’s cupola is not as tall as it should be. Specifically, the periscope ports on the kit are flush with the turret top, However, in real life, these were around five centimetres higher (the cupola is shown correctly on the box art). If you compare the arrangement of how the Revell parts fit with a detail of a picture of Tiger 131, a Tiger of sPz Abt. 504 captured in Tunisia in April 1943 and currently on display at The Tank Museum, England, you will see what I mean. 

It looks as though the bottom portion of the cupola is missing here, but hopefully the addition of a disc of 1mm plastic card should put things right. Other than that, I don’t see any major issues with accuracy. You could dispute things like the placement of tools on the upper hull and perhaps the pistol-port on the right side of the turret, but in general, this seems to me to be pretty reasonable.

Would You Want One?

I think so, yes. I haven’t yet tried a 1/72 Tiger kit by, for example, Dragon or Trumpeter, but this isn’t bad at all. The attention to detail is good, it is a fairly accurate representation of a Tiger of sPz Abt. 501 in Tunisia in early 1943 and all the detail is crisply moulded. The instructions are clear, the decals look adequate and I think this has the potential to build into a nice model.

I don’t know if the apparent softness of the plastic will affect construction and I’m a little concerned about the ability of my large man-fingers to be able to deal with the tiny, separate track links, but I’ll give it a try and I think this approach the potential to make something better than the usual rubber-bands. Overall, I’m really looking forward to building this one.

Alternatives

If you want a cheap and cheerful 1/76 Tunisian Tiger, you could try the Airfix version. But there are several reasons you probably shouldn’t – see the in-box review on this site, link below.

Alternatively, if you want something a little more recent, Dragon launched a new 1/72 Tiger I “Early Production ‘131’ s.Pz.Abt.504 Tunisia 1943” in April 2020. This kit features decals for Tiger 131, the tank displayed by The Tank Museum. I haven’t seen any reviews of this kit, but if it’s up the same quality as other 1/72 Dragon Tigers, it ought to be very good indeed. 

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