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Tamiya 1/48 U.S. Medium Tank M4A3E8 Sherman “Easy Eight” (32595) Build Review

I’m generally following the instructions here, but I plan to assemble and paint the suspension, running gear and tracks before I continue with the rest of construction.

I begin with lower hull assembly. Fit is great and I included the weights provided, though I still don’t really understand why they’re there…

There is nice detail on the rear hull: the exhausts are particularly well done, though I don’t think they will be visible on the finished model.

Then it’s on to assembling the suspension bogies and sanding moulding seams off the roadwheels. No problems here and fit is great but location is also particularly good. When adding the circular parts on the front and rear of the main bogie frame, I failed to notice that these face in opposite directions. That became obvious as soon as I tried to fit one the wrong way round: it wouldn’t fit. Regular readers will know that I have been known to fit parts upside down, back to front or occasionally, both. Good location helps to avoid this.   

Although I will be adding the tracks later, I do want to assemble the top run and the curved sections that go round the sprocket and idler now, before I paint anything. There are five separate links at front and rear, and two more single links used to connect the elements of the bottom run. There are no spares, so do be careful! I suppose you could modify some of the spare track links that are intended to be stowed on the fenders if you do lose one of the links, but it’s better not to if you can avoid it.

I followed the advice in the instructions by gluing the five separate links together flat. Then I dry-fitted the sprocket and idler and glued the inner wheels of the large return rollers in place. Then, I placed the top run in position and, before the glue was completely set, curved the five links at either end to the right profile and attached them to the top run. When it’s dry, the whole assembly of top run with front and rear curves attached can be removed for painting separately. Obviously, I won’t be able to construct the bottom run until the suspension bogies and road wheels are assembled and in place, but that should be much simpler because there are fewer single links to deal with.

I do want to mention location again here: there is a vertical peg on the inside wheel of the rear return roller. This engages with a hole in the top track run (which will be hidden by the fender on the completed model). Using this peg to locate the top track run means that you are assured it’s the right way round. That’s great, because it means you can’t inadvertently fit the tracks upside down. It feels like whoever designed this kit was actually thinking about assembly. Top marks Tamiya!   

Then I paint and assemble the suspension parts. Assembly is straightforward and simple, For painting I used a base of Vallejo Russian Uniform, highlights in a lightened version of the same colour and a dark grey oil wash to bring out the shadows. All tyres are painted in Vallejo Dark Grey.

With the suspension in place, I can assemble the bottom track runs in the same way as I did for the top.

Then these are painted in a base of Vallejo Dark Grey, drybrushed gunmetal highlights and a brown wash. Then I fit the tracks, and it’s a bit of a stretch – perhaps one additional track link might have been useful?  That said, once in place, these do look like steel tank tracks, not rubber bands.

With the lower hull complete, it’s time to take a look at the upper hull. The seven parts that comprise the main construction, you guessed it, fit perfectly – no filler needed here at all.

I add all the remaining bits and pieces to the upper hull, other than the tow cable, tools and spare track links which I’ll add later. I guess you could argue that the front and rear light-guards are a little thick, but personally, I’d rather accept that than faff about with tiny PE parts.

I then join the upper and lower hull – no problems and everything goes together nicely. I am happy that I painted and finished the tracks before adding the upper hull and fenders – there is very little clearance between the top of the tracks and the bottom of the fenders and there is no way that you could add the tracks after the upper and lower hulls were joined.

Next, the turret, and there are no problems with basic construction.

The completed turret, minus the machine gun.

I mentioned in the In-Box review that I was concerned about seams on the rear of the turret, and in particular that the cast texture will make it difficult to hide these. One seam is particularly noticeable at the top of the rectangular panel that fits into the rear of the turret (arrowed above).

You can see on this photo of a surviving M4A3E8 that there shouldn’t be any visible seams on the upper rear part of the turret, though the lower seam looks OK. There doesn’t seem to be any option but to get busy with some filler and fine sandpaper, which is a pity, because the casting texture is well done and sanding will flatten this. I sand everything down and then try to recreate the texture with plastic cement.

I won’t really know if this has been successful until I get some paint on it, and that’s what I do next.

I start with several thinned base coats of Vallejo Russian Uniform – yes, I know, it’s a little light for Olive Drab at this tage, but once it’s finished with a wash of dark grey oil, that should bring it closer to the right colour. And the upper seam on the rear of the turret is no longer visible – hurrah!

Then both hull and turret get some dry-brushed highlights in a lightened version of the base colour.

Then I add the decals – I’m going for the version with the five white stars. The decals are dense, but thin – I use Vallejo Decal Fix and Decal Softener. It isn’t obvious in this image, but the decals do conform to the cast texture beneath.

Then, it gets a coat of clear varnish followed by a wash of Abteilung Oils Dark Mud, a dark grey. I let this dry and then carefully remove most of the wash with thinner – this darkens the base colour to something much closer to Olive Drab and leaves deeper shadow in the engraved surface detail as well as providing some colour variation and streaks on the hull and turret.

With that done, it’s time to add the last few bits and pieces – the tow cable, tools, spare track links and commander figure and a stretched sprue radio antenna. With those added, it’s done!

After Action Report

This really is a cracking kit. Fit and location of all parts is as good as you could hope for, detail is good and this builds into a pretty fair representation of a late model M4. Is it perfect? Of course not: things like the headlight guards are a little oversize, it lacks some of the fine detail of its 1/35 counterpart and it would have been nice to see some stowage items.

The link and length tracks are also a little fiddly to build if you want them to look good, though they’re easier than those found on smaller scale kits. Overall though, there isn’t much to dislike here. And the finished tracks actually look like tank tracks. If you have read other review here on MKW, you’ll know just how rare that is. This is a straightforward build that produces a pleasing finished model. What more can you ask from a plastic kit?

And what about 1/48 scale? Well, the finished kit is bigger than a 1/72 kit and, er, not as big as a 1/35 kit (you don’t get that sort of incisive analysis on other kit review sites, you know!). I mean, it’s fine. I don’t feel an overwhelming urge to build more 1/48 kits, but I wouldn’t rule it out either. If I’m honest, I do probably prefer the challenge of smaller scales, but I can’t think of any reason you’d be unhappy or disappointed if you chose this as an introduction to 1/48 scale.

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Tamiya 1/48 U.S. Medium Tank M4A3E8 Sherman “Easy Eight” (32595) In-Box Review and History

Tamiya 1/48 U.S. Medium Tank M4A3E8 Sherman “Easy Eight” (32595) In-Box Review and History

It’s time for another first here on Model Kit World: a 1/48 scale tank kit! I have been thinking about this for a while. This scale lies neatly between tiny 1/72 and 1/76 and the much larger 1/35. But. What does this scale actually look like? Do these really combine the detail of 1/35 with the ease of construction of smaller scales?

In the mid-1970s, another Japanese manufacturer, Bandai, produced a whole range of 1/48 AFV kits. Monogram and Aurora also produced AFVs in this scale, but all of these gradually lost out to the popularity of 1/35 kits produced by Tamiya and others. By the 1990s, it was difficult to find any AFV kits in this scale. Although they already produced a range of 1/48 aircraft kits, it wasn’t until 2003 that Tamiya finally introduced their 1/48 military miniatures series.

There are now a large number of Tamiya 1/48 AFV kits. Early versions had die-cast lower hulls, but this one, like most of the later 1/48 kits, is all plastic. These generally have a good reputation for accuracy and detail and this kit was released in 2018. But, what’s it like? Let’s take a look…  


 I have already covered the history of the M4 briefly in other reviews, so here I’m going to focus on something different: how models of the M4 were identified. When I got back into modelling, I found the variety of M4 types bewildering. Hopefully, this will explain the meaning of the various designations and help to define how the M4 changed and just what an M4A3E8 actually was. If you get bored, you can always skip to the next section…

A British M4A1 with a 75mm gun in North Africa. The M4 was first used in combat by the British Army in North Africa.

The M4 Medium Tank entered service armed with the 75 mm M3 L/40 main gun. This was an excellent weapon for use in the close support role, firing an M48 HE round that contained 1.5lbs of TNT, making it one of the most effective HE shells fired by any tank in World War Two. It’s anti-armour performance was less impressive, capable of penetrating only up to 68mm of armour at a range of 500m. That wasn’t seen as a major problem because the US Army was developing the Tank Destroyer doctrine while the M4 was being designed: it was assumed that specialist Tank Destroyers would engage enemy armour, leaving the M4 to focus on the support role.

On the left in this image is an M3 Gun Motor Carriage, one of the first US Tank Destroyers. They were used widely in Tunisia, but didn’t prove to be effective against German tanks.

When US forces began to encounter German Tigers and upgraded Panzer IVs in Tunisia, it became apparent that TDs could not provide full protection and that a main gun with improved armour penetration was required for the M4. A new gun, the 76mm M1 L/55, was fitted in a turret modified from a design originally intended for use in the abandoned T23 tank project. The 76mm gun had better armour penetration, but a less effective HE shell. For this reason, the 76mm gun didn’t entirely replace the 75mm gun: units were provided with a mix of both types which allowed them to engage enemy armour with the 76mm guns and attack soft targets with the 75mm gun. In the naming convention adopted by the US Army after the introduction of the 76mm gun, (75) or (76) was added after the model designation to denote which type of main gun a particular model was equipped with.

Early M4s were found to have a tendency to burn when hit by enemy rounds: up to 75% of all early M4s burned when hit. Analysis of engagements in Tunisia identified ammunition stowage as the problem: ammo racks in the sponsons, above the tracks, were protected only by thin side armour. A hit on the hull side could ignite the shell propellant which could not then be extinguished (the propellant contained its own oxidant). If one shell started to burn, this would rapidly spread to others, turning the tank into a furnace.

A French M4A2 with extra armour panels welded on to the sponsons to protect the internal ammo racks and an additional armour panel added to the turret, to the right of the mantlet.

As a short-term solution, panels of applique armour were welded on the hull sides to protect the internal ammo racks. In the long-term, the solution was wet ammunition stowage: ammunition was stowed in a bin in the hull floor beneath the turret basket which was filled with a mix of water and anti-freeze. This dramatically reduced the incidence of fires following combat damage. Tanks provided with wet ammo stowage are identified by the addition of “W” to the model name.

There were a number of detail changes to all versions of the M4 during its long production history, mainly involving hatches, the glacis plate and transmission covers. The only other major change was the introduction of horizontal-volute-spring system (HVSS) suspension, which provided six pairs of roadwheels per side (the original VVSS suspension allowed only six single roadwheels per side). This enabled the fitment of wider tracks that reduced the ground pressure of this version to just over 10psi, improving its ability to travel over broken or soft ground. From late 1944/early 1945, some M4s were provided with HVSS suspension. 

An M4A3 (75) W with HVSS suspension.

There were five main models of the M4, principally distinguished by different types of engine. These were not sequential models: many were produced concurrently in different plants in America. Some were phased out as the war progressed but some models of the M4A1, for example, were still being manufactured up to the end of the war in Europe. The models were:

The M4 was powered by a radial gasoline aviation engine, the Continental R975. Almost 7,000 were manufactured and all featured the 75mm gun. None had wet ammo stowage. The M4 was used extensively by the US Army as well as the British Army, in which it was named the Sherman I. Production of the M4 ended in January 1944.

The M4A1 used the same engine, but had a cast upper hull rather than the welded upper hull on the M4. This was the only M4 variant with a cast hull and it was produced in two basic forms: the M4A1 (75) and the M4A1 (76) W. Later models also featured HVSS suspension. Over 9,000 examples of all types of M4A1 were produced. The M4A1 was used extensively by the US Army and by the British Army, in which it was named the Sherman II. Production of the M4A1 continued until July 1945.

An M4A2 (76) W supplied to the Red Army under the lend-lease agreement.

The M4A2 was powered by a General Motors 6046 diesel engine. It was produced in three forms: the M4A2 (75), the M4A2 (75) W and the M4A2 (76) W. Later models of the M4A2 (76) W also featured HVSS suspension. Over 11,000 were produced, but this model was not used by the US Army in combat, though it was used by the USMC in the Pacific Theatre. This model was used extensively by the British Army (as the Sherman III) and by the armies of several other nations during World War Two including Canada, France, Russia and Australia. Production of the M4A2 continued until the end of the war in Europe in May 1945.

The M4A3 featured a Ford gasoline V8 engine that provided improved torque at low engine speeds. This was produced in four forms: M4A3 (75), the M4A3 (75) W, the M4A3 (76) W (with later models of this version using HVSS identified as the M4A3E8 and generally known as the “Easy Eight” due to the smooth ride provided by the improved suspension) and the M4A3E2, an uparmoured version known as the Jumbo.  Over 8,000 were produced and the M4A3 was used by both the US Army and the British Army, where it was known as the Sherman IV. Production of the M4A3 continued after the end of the war.

The M4A4 was powered by a complex Chrysler gasoline engine. Only one version was produced which was armed with the 75mm gun. None of this version were manufactured with wet ammo stowage or HVSS suspension. Over 7,000 were produced, but none were used in combat by the US Army. Large numbers were provided to the British Army (as the Sherman V), to the Russians and to French units. Some of this model were modified in British hands with the replacement of the 75mm gun by a more powerful British 17-pounder (76mm) main gun. These were identified as the Sherman Vc, but often known as the Firefly. Production of the M4A4 ended in November 1943.

The final development of the M4 in World War Two and the subject of this kit: The M4A3E8 (76) W with a flat glacis plate, muzzle brake and HVSS suspension.

So, the tank featured in this kit is a late model M4A3 armed with a 76mm gun and provided with wet ammo storage, a simplified, flat glacis plate, larger access hatches for the driver and bow gunner and HVSS suspension. This was also one of the first American tanks to be provided with a muzzle brake on the main gun as standard. The 76mm gun tended to kick up a large cloud of dust when fired, obscuring the target for anything up to 30 seconds and revealing the position of the tank. The muzzle brake deflected the blast to the side, reducing this problem.

What’s in the box?

The first thing to mention is that this isn’t, as I had expected, just a shrunk-down version of the 1/35 Tamiya M4A3E8 released in 2015 (35346), though both kits share the same box-art. The break-down of parts on, for example, the turret is quite different here and this one comes with plastic link-and-length tracks rather than the vinyl tracks of its bigger brother. There is a little less detail here too: the 1/35 version includes things like casting numbers and separate hull hatches which aren’t included here.

What you get here are five sprues moulded in olive green plastic (there are two identical sprues for the tracks, running gear and suspension parts).

Surface detail looks crisp and includes nice casting texture on many parts. Though it’s notable that the turret comes in two halves which means some care will be needed to hide the join at the rear without sanding off this texture. All the mouldings look sharp and very clean, though this doesn’t use slide-moulding, so the muzzle brake is provided in two parts and the gun itself is a solid moulding.

The roadwheels and complex HVSS bogies look to be nicely detailed, sharply moulded and accurate.

The tracks look well detailed, inside and out, and appear to be an accurate representation of the all-metal T66 tracks fitted to this version of the M4.

Also provided is a piece of thin cord for the tow cable and four tiny polycaps. You’ll be using two of these for fitting the sprockets. That’s sensible: it’s helpful to be able to rotate the sprockets to allow them to engage correctly with link-and-length tracks. The other two are provided to allow the main gun to elevate.

Four small weights are included, to be placed in the lower hull. I have no idea why. Only the Commander’s hatch is provided as a separate part (which includes internal detail), and the top half of a Commander figure is also included. All tools and spare track links are provided as separate parts. No transparent parts are included.

Decals are basic: all you get here are seven stars for the hull and turret. Two are provided roughly overpainted in black, something that was done by some units late in the war as the white turret star was felt to provide too good a target for enemy gunners.       

The only colour scheme is Olive Drab and two US Army tanks are depicted, one for a tank of the 5th Armored Division in April 1945 and the other for an M4 of the 4th Armored Division at Bastogne in January 1945. The only difference is that the tank from the 4th Division uses black turret stars.

The instructions look clear and simple and use Tamiya’s usual exploded views. On a separate sheet a very brief history of the M4A3E8 is provided.

Would You Want One?

My first impression on opening the box was that this kit seemed bigger than I expected. But perhaps that’s only because I haven’t built a 1/35 M4? It’s only by comparing the torso of the commander figure provided here with a 1/35 figure that it becomes obvious how much smaller this is.

Out of the box, this looks like a class act, as you’d probably expect from a relatively recent Tamiya kit. Surface detail is crisp and sharply moulded and I do like the textured finish on the turret and mantlet. As far as I’m aware, there are no notable dimensional or accuracy issues here and the link and length tracks look nicely done. The individual links are much larger than those found on a 1/72 kit, which should make assembly easier. Perhaps it might have been nice to see more interesting decals and some transparent parts but overall, I’m really looking forward to building this one.  

Tamiya also offer an early production M4, an M4A2 and a British Sherman Vc Firefly in 1/48 scale. There is, as far as I’m aware, only one other M4A3E8 kit available in 1/48 and that’s a Korean War era version from HobbyBoss. It’s generally a nice kit, though there are said to be dimensional issues with the mantlet and suspension bogies and it comes with vinyl tracks, but it is provided with PE parts including the headlight covers.

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Tamiya 1/48 U.S. Medium Tank M4A3E8 Sherman “Easy Eight” (32595) Build Review

Italeri 1/72 Autoblinda AB 43 (7052) In-Box Review and History

It’s nice to see that Italian manufacturer Italeri aren’t shy about producing kits of some fairly obscure vehicles. Probably less than one hundred examples of this armoured car were produced and none were actually used by the Italian armed forces during World War Two. I rather like that approach: I do get tired kits of the same old AFVs and it’s refreshing to find a kit of something I have never even heard of.

Italeri also offer a kit of the earlier (and much more widely used) AB 41 and even one of the truly odd AB 40 Ferroviaria, a small armoured car designed to run on railway lines. The AB 43 kit was released in 2008 following the release a couple of years earlier of a 1/35 version of the same vehicle by Italeri.

So it’s Italian, it’s obscure and it appears to have a fiendishly difficult paint scheme. What could possibly go wrong? Let’s find out…


In 1937 the Italian Ministry of War invited tenders for a new armoured car (autoblindomitragliatrice). This vehicle was to be suitable for use by both police forces and as a reconnaissance vehicle to be used by tank units. Fiat-Ansaldo presented a proposal for a four-wheeled vehicle with four-wheel drive, four wheel steering and front and rear driving positions. The main armament was a pair of 8mm machine guns mounted in a fully rotating turret. This proposal was accepted and entered service as the AB 40.

The AB 40.

However, only around 25 were produced before an improved version armed with a Breda 20 mm autocannon was released as the AB 41. This would be the most widely produced version of this vehicle with over 400 hundred made which saw service in North Africa, the Balkans, Hungary and even with Italian units on the eastern front.

An AB 41 in North Africa.

In 1942 a specification was released for a new vehicle based on the AB 41. This was to incorporate a more powerful engine and was initially intended to be armed with a 47mm main gun. The dual steering positions were to be dropped, reducing the crew to three and armour was thickened and more steeply sloped at the front. A single prototype of the AB 42 was produced before the Italian army lost interest.

An AB 43 (left) and an AB 41 (right). The main visible differences are a lower turret and more steeply angled front hull armour on the AB 43.

After Italy agreed an armistice with the Allies in 1943, German engineers saw the prototype AB 42 and 100 of these vehicles were ordered for use by the Wehrmacht. Around 100 were manufactured as the Beute Panzerspähwagen AB43 203(i). These used a lower and wider version of the turret from the AB 41, though it was still armed with the 20mm autocannon.    

One of the notable features of the AB 43 is clearly visible in this photograph taken in Belgrade in 1944. The spare wheels were carried low and on mountings that allowed them to rotate, enabling these spare wheels to help the vehicle cross uneven ground.

These armoured cars were used by several German units in Italy and the Balkans during World War Two. After the war, a number of AB 43s were used by Italian police and Carabineri units.

A beautifully restored AB 43 pictured at a display in Rome in 2008. This shows nicely the unique  camo scheme used by German AB 43s but oddly, it lacks German markings.

What’s in the Box?

All the parts are provided on a single sprue moulded in light brown plastic.

Surface and rivet detail look reasonable overall.

The wheels and tyres are moulded separately and the wheels even include appropriate SPA (Società Piemontese Automobili) logos in the centre.

The front and rear visors and the top and rear turret hatches are separate parts that can be shown open. Some interior detail is included for the turret, such as the breech for the 20mm autocannon and the hatches themselves include interior detail.

Overall, the mouldings here look sharp and nicely detailed. This kit doesn’t use slide moulding so the main cannon is not open. It’s so small that drilling doesn’t look possible – you’ll need a drill of 0.3mm and the barrel on this weapon had thin walls, so a very steady hand will be required.

I’d like to be able to show you the decals at this point in the review, but I can’t. Though the box itself and the plastic bag containing the single sprue were both sealed when they arrived, no decals were included. I contacted Italeri Customer support who replied promptly to tell that these decals may be available, and that they will be sent out (taking 3-4 weeks) if I pay “around €6.”  Now, perhaps I’m just a parsimonious, grumpy old Scotsman (actually, there is no doubt about it, I am a parsimonious, grumpy old Scotsman) but I must confess that this doesn’t seem very impressive. OK, I know, €6 isn’t a great deal of money, though it does represent more than half of what this kit cost me on Amazon. What irritates me is that this is for something that should have been included in the first place. Should I really have to pay for that? I don’t think so. I won’t be taking up Italeri’s offer and instead I’ll be using bits and pieces out of my decal spares box here. 

The instructions seem clear though, oddly, there is no mention of where to place part 12, the rear visor. Happily it isn’t too difficult to see where this belongs (it goes on the upper rear hull, if you’re wondering).

Three suggested colour schemes are provided on the rear of the box and in the instructions, Two are for vehicles in late-war German service featuring a complex three-colour camo scheme and one in overall red-brown is for an AB 43 used by the Italian State Police in the 1950s.

Would you want one?

In the box, this looks pretty good. The mouldings are sharp and the surface detail looks acceptable and it even has some interior detail, very unusual at this scale. Perhaps it would have been nice if a siren on the turret roof was provided for the State Police version (these usually seem to have been fitted) but overall, this looks like an accurate representation of this little-known AFV. If I have one reservation, it’s that the spare wheels seem to sit a little too high on the sides of the hull. If you look at the photos in the History section above and compare them with the side view showing the colour schemes, which accurately reflects what the kit looks like, I think you’ll see what I mean.

Obviously, the lack of decals is a pain but I assume that I was simply unlucky and that this isn’t a common issue. And if you do want to build a small-scale AB 43 and you don’t fancy this one, then I’m afraid you’re out of luck. As far as I know, no other manufacturer covers this vehicle in 1/72 or 1/76. Italian company DOC Models did offer a 1/72 version of the similar AB 41, but that was always produced on a small scale and I’m not certain that it’s still available.

Don’t be fooled – this may say Tamiya on the box, but it is actually the Italeri 1/35 kit.

Italeri offer the same kit in 1/35 form (6451), and it seems to be pretty good. It includes soft vinyl tyres, separate armoured headlight covers and all crew and engine access hatches are separate parts that can be shown open (though no engine detail is included). Decals and paint schemes are provided for the same three vehicles depicted in the 1/72 version. Tamiya also released a 1/35 version of the AB 43 in 2008 (89697), but, unusually for Tamiya, this is simply a re-box of the Italeri kit with the addition of two German crew figures originally included with the 1994 Tamiya Panther Ausf. G.   

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Tamiya 1/35 British Universal Carrier Mk II European Campaign (35175) Build Review

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…

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Tamiya 1/35 British Universal Carrier Mk II European Campaign (35175) In-Box Review and History

Tamiya 1/35 British Universal Carrier Mk II European Campaign (35175) In-Box Review and History

Guess what? It’s time to look at another early Tamiya offering: the Universal Carrier Mk II. This first appeared all the way back in 1976 as MM189 which included markings and two figures for a vehicle used in North Africa. In 1994 this was reboxed with new figures as 35175, British Universal Carrier Mk II European Campaign and in 2004 it was reboxed once again with different figures as 35249, British Universal Carrier Mk II Forced Reconnaissance.

Both re-boxed versions are still available but the only differences seem to be in the figures, decals and some additional accessories: otherwise, this is still the original 1976 kit. As you’ll know if you have read other reviews here on MKW, I really like these early Tamiya kits. They build well and there aren’t too many tiny parts. They’re also pleasingly cheap: I found this one on Amazon for considerably less than you would pay for most current 1/72 tank kits. So, it’s old and it’s cheap but, is it any good? Let’s have a look. 


Let’s start with a quick quiz question: Which is the most-produced AFV of all time?

You might guess at the M4 Sherman, the Russian T-34 or even the German Panzer IV. But you’d be wrong. A paltry 8,000 Panzer IVs (the most numerous German tank of World War Two) were constructed. Almost 50,000 examples of all variants of the M4 Sherman were produced in total. When production finally ended in 1954, more than 84,000 of all models of the T-34 had been produced.

Soldiers of the  2nd Monmouthshire Regiment leaving a Universal Carrier during training in 1941.

But none of these get close to the winner: over 113,000 examples of over 200 variants of the British Universal Carrier were manufactured in five countries between 1934 and 1960 and used by the armies of over 30 nations. How come? What was it about this tiny AFV that made it so popular in a range of roles?

Around 2,000 Universal Carriers were provided to the Soviet Union during World War Two under the Lend/Lease arrangement.

The Universal Carrier story began in 1934 when Vickers-Armstrongs produced a prototype of a light tracked vehicle that could be used to carry a machine gun or to tow a light artillery piece. Sometimes called the “Fighting Tractor,” the D50 used suspension, tracks and running gear from the Vickers Mk VI tankette and an open-topped, lightly armoured hull. A few were adopted for service with the British Army as the Carrier, Machine-Gun No 1 Mark 1 in 1936. Subsequently, several variants were produced including the Medium Machine Gun Carrier (armed with a Vickers water-cooled machine gun), the Scout Carrier and the Bren Gun Carrier. In late 1939, production was consolidated into a single model: the Universal Carrier

The Vickers-Armstrongs D50

Most versions were powered by a 3.9 V8 petrol engine that gave the 3.75 ton Universal Carrier sprightly performance and a useful top speed of 30mph: good performance on and off-road was one of the prime reasons for this AFV’s enduring popularity. Most carried a crew of three, with the driver and commander sitting side by side in front with a third crew member in the compartment behind (the other rear compartment was generally used for stowage, though a fourth crew member could be carried).

A Universal Carrier of 52nd Reconnaissance Regiment dramatically illustrating its performance during training in Scotland in 1942.

The Mk II version was introduced in 1941 and incorporated only minor changes to the hull and external stowage and the later Mk III changed only in terms of the engine cover and air intake system. Universal Carriers served with virtually every British and Commonwealth unit during and after World War Two and were used in all theatres. In the United States, more than 20,000 examples of the T16 Universal Carrier were built, essentially a licence-built version of the British design.

A Universal Carrier being used by Australian light horse troops in the Western Desert in 1941.

Most Universal Carriers were used to carry a three-man team operating the Bren light machine gun (which is why this vehicle is sometimes known as the Bren Gun Carrier) though examples were also armed with the QF 2-Pdr anti-tank gun, the Boys Anti-Tank Rifle, the 3 inch Mortar and there was even a flamethrower version, the Wasp. What ultimately made this tiny armoured vehicle so useful were its speed and reliability coupled with incredible versatility. While it may not have excelled in any one role, it could be successfully used for almost anything that its users could imagine. 

What’s in the Box?

Parts are provided on five sprues moulded in very dark grey plastic. There is virtually no flash and detail looks crisp. No clear plastic or PE parts are included.

Overall, external detail here is adequate, though there don’t seem to be enough rivets and the rivet heads themselves are rather small.

Detail on many internal parts is sharp, especially considering that this kit is over 45 years old.

There is a notable difference in quality between the two figures in desert uniform provided with the original 1976 version and the three figures from 1994. All five are included with this kit, but the later figures are much better: nicely sculpted in relaxed poses and with faces that have expression.

Lots of weapons are provided including three Bren guns (one on an AA mount), two Lee-Enfield rifles, a Sten sub-machine gun and a PIAT anti-tank weapon. All seem to be accurately represented and sharply moulded.

A number of stowage items are provided including the rolled canvas cover, a large stowage bag on the rear and assorted backpacks, ammo pouches, ration boxes, stowage bins, canteens, helmets and Jerry cans.

One problem that really stands out even in the box is the thickness of the front armour and the plate to the right of the driver’s position and to the left of the gunner’s position. These are over 1mm thick here making them around 40mm thick at 1/35 scale. In reality, this plate should be no more than 10mm thick. The rear armour panels are also too thick but, because these have circular section inserts on top, this isn’t so obvious. If you look at the image below of a Universal Carrier Mk II, you’ll see what I mean.   

How many times do I find myself complaining about the tracks provided with AFV kits? I’m afraid I’m going to do it again here: these vinyl tracks are disappointing and, frankly, a bit crap.

The spacing between links is much too wide, there is no internal detail at all other than the guide horns and they are rather thick. More importantly, these look nothing like the tracks fitted to Universal Carriers. The use of widely-spaced links in the tracks also means that the sprockets are wrong: they have just 18 teeth, less than half the number of teeth on the original. That looks odd and means that you can’t use the provided sprockets if you decide to replace these tracks with aftermarket items. Oddly, Tamiya also do a 1/48 scale Universal carrier and the sprockets and tracks in that kit are identical to (and just as wrong as) those provided here.

Original 1976 box art

What makes it even more galling is that the box art for all versions of this kit show the correct tracks! And the box art for the original 1976 version clearly showed not only the right tracks but the correct number of teeth on the sprocket too. How can that be? Come on Tamiya: this just isn’t good enough. Your box artist clearly knows what these tracks should look like. Stop mucking about with new figures and instead, give us an updated version of this otherwise reasonable kit with some decent tracks and sprockets.

OK, my customary track-rant is over for this review. I’m calm now. Really. Let’s look at the other stuff. A short length of nylon cord is provided for use as a tow cable. It looks a bit fluffy to me, but hopefully it will look OK with a coat of paint.

Decals cover five vehicles, three used by the British Army (including one for a vehicle of the 1st Armoured Division in North Africa) and two for Canadian units in the ETO.

The instructions seem clear and include a brief history of the Universal Carrier. The only suggested colour schemes are “dark green” for vehicles in the ETO and “dark yellow” for a vehicle in North Africa.  

Would you want one?

There is both good and bad news here, The mouldings for this kit generally look clean and sharp with adequate detail, there are lots of stowage items, weapons and other bits and pieces to make this look suitably “busy” inside and out and the three ETO figures look nicely sculpted. There is a good range of decal options, and if this is anything like other early Tamiya kits, fit should be good and construction straightforward.

However, the two original figures in desert uniform aren’t very good at all, that front armour plate really is much too thick and the tracks are the worst aspect of this kit: they lack detail and don’t look anything like the tracks fitted to Universal Carriers. This isn’t a terrible kit by any means, but it could be easily be vastly improved simply by thinning-out the front plates and including visually satisfactory tracks and sprockets.

I’ll be attempting to thin out the front armour plates during the build and you could certainly buy aftermarket tracks but, one of the attractions of these early Tamiya kits is that they are now relatively cheap. Buying decent replacement tracks will cost you anything from two to three times what you’ll pay for this kit and you’ll also need to find suitable replacement sprockets. You’ll end up paying more than if you just bought a more modern kit! However, If you don’t fancy this one, your choices are very limited in 1/35.   

As far as I know, the only other company to cover the Universal Carrier in 1/35 scale is Chinese kit manufacturer Riich Models. Riich offer several variants of the Universal Carrier including both the Mk I and Mk II. These are two or even three times the price of this elderly Tamiya offering but all are fabulously detailed and very accurate (the front armour plates on these kits, for example, look much closer to correct scale thickness). But perhaps these aren’t for those of a nervous disposition: most include well over 400 plastic parts (including superb and accurate link and length tracks), separate metal suspension springs and up to 130 PE parts on two frets. Be prepared to get the tweezers and magnifying glass out if you go for one of these!  

Or, if you fancy a bit of small-scale fun, you could always go for the Airfix 1/76 Bren Gun Carrier and 6pdr Anti-Tank Gun. It comes from all the way back in 1964 and it’s currently available as part of the Vintage Classics range for not a lot of cash. The tracks are even worse than on this kit, the armour panels are even thicker despite it being at a smaller scale and the driver only fits because he doesn’t have any legs! But it does come with unlimited free nostalgia: I vividly remember buying one of these in the plastic bag pack with my pocket money. And being more than slightly disappointed to discover that it didn’t even come with a Bren gun…

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First to Fight 1/72 PzKpfw I Ausf. A (PL1939-002) Build Review


I’m planning to build this pretty much out of the box, but I want to finish it as a Nationalist tank from the Spanish Civil War rather than a tank in Wehrmacht service in 1939.

From the time of its first introduction into German service until July 1937, all Panzer Is were painted in the Buntfarbenanstrich (multi-coloured-camouflage) scheme, a three-colour camouflage pattern consisting of earth-yellow, green and brown. The first batch of Panzer I Ausf. A tanks sent to Nationalist Spain left Germany in September and October 1936 and all would have been painted in the Buntfarbenanstrich scheme. So, I’ll be painting this in the three-colour camo scheme, which may be a challenge on such a tiny kit.

This image from Vallejo paints shows a Panzer I Ausf. A in the Buntfarbenanstrich scheme.

Panzer Is in Spain also had their turret hatches (or sometimes the whole turret top) painted white with a black diagonal cross as an air recognition symbol. On the front hull (and sometimes the rear of the turret too) they had the Nationalist red/yellow/red flash and on the lower front hull a three-digit identification code in white. That’s it. Everything needed to turn this into a Nationalist tank will be done during painting and by using some decals from my spares box.

The Build

Before I begin construction, I work on a pronounced moulding seam that runs all round the tracks. This takes some careful sanding – the plastic here is fairly soft and it’s all too easy to lose what little detail is provided on the outside of the tracks.

I briefly also consider drilling out the machine guns until sanity prevails. A 7.92mm opening in 1/72 scale is just over .1mm! I don’t have a suitable drill or eyesight for that so these will remain solid. I also consider adding a jack and fire extinguisher to the track guards, but I decide instead to build this straight out-of-the box.

Hull construction is simple: the upper and lower halves snap together and there are no problems adding the few bits and pieces. Fit is pretty good and no filler was required.

The upper and lower halves of the turret also snap together and again, fit is good.

And, after about ten minutes or so, that’s pretty much it for construction – the tracks and running gear are also a snap fit, but I’m leaving them off for the moment to make painting easier.

The main issue here is that this is just so hilariously small. How small? Well, here it is parked next to a 1/72 Jagdpanther…

Now it’s time to begin painting. And that will take rather longer. On the original, the base colour was earth-yellow with the other two colours being applied on top of that, so I’ll start with a few thinned coats of the base colour. I’m using a lightened mix of Vallejo Dark Yellow and US Field Drab to represent earth-yellow (which was a fairly light, yellow-brown). I have also added the white hatch with black cross to the turret.

Now it’s time to think about the camo scheme. On the original, this was sprayed, giving feathered edges to the different colours but, given that I’m using a brush, I’m going for a hard-edged finish and hoping that on a tank this small it won’t look too odd.

I’m using Vallejo Russian Uniform and a mix based on US Field Drab for the camo colours. These are both considerably lighter than the original colours used, but at this scale I think they give a reasonable representation of the colours in the Buntfarbenanstrich scheme. I add dry-brushed highlights to all three colours. 

Then it’s time the paint the running gear, and this is fiddly because this and the tracks are just one part for each side. After adding the camo colours, I use grey for the roadwheel and return roller tyres, and then a darker grey as a base colour for the tracks. I drybrush gunmetal highlights and then give the tracks an overall acrylic brown wash.

The last bits of painting involve the exhausts, the shovel on the track-guard and the machine guns. The perforated shrouds for the machine guns are nicely done, so I begin with a black base colour, then I carefully add dark grey, leaving the holes in black and finally I give both some gunmetal dry-brushed highlights. It’s a lot of mucking about on very tiny parts, but I do feel that this adds to the visual appeal of the finished model.

Finally, I add a light-brown acrylic wash on the lower hull and running gear to represent dust. And that’s painting done.

Then, decals. These are fairly simple – a rectangular red/yellow/red Nationalist flash on the glacis plate, a thinner, longer version of this flash on the turret rear and a white three-digit unit code on the front hull. The hull numbers seem to have been hand-painted rather than stencilled and were often not quite straight. All decals used here are created by using left-overs from the spares box cut to size.

The, I give everything a coat of clear, matte varnish followed by a grey oil wash to bring out the shadows. The exhaust heat-shields get a separate dark brown wash to try to make the indentations on the plastic look like holes with the rusty exhaust beneath showing through. Perhaps this is overkill, but I do feel that it helps to make these look like thin metal shields with holes in them rather than solid parts.

And that’s it for construction and painting on this tiny kit.

After Action Report

The main problems here are related to the tiny size of this kit and its simplified construction. It’s a very quick build and there aren’t any problems with fit. Most of the work here is in painting, and that is a little more challenging. I generally don’t look forward, for example, to painting roadwheel tyres, but then they’re this small, and moulded as a single part with the tracks and suspension, it’s even more difficult.

It’s the same with the camo scheme. This isn’t particularly complex, but getting something convincing on this tiny hull and turret does require some planning and some care. The decals were also an issue, because I didn’t use those supplied with the kit. Cutting out and joining tiny fragments of decal to make the Nationalist flash on the turret and hull was not something to tackle until I’d had my first coffee of the day.

Providing a size comparison, here is this Nationalist Panzer I with two other 1/72 kits: a Republican IGC Sandurni by Minairons Miniatures (foreground left) and behind, a Zvezda Jagdpanther. You can see just how tiny these Spanish Civil War tanks were.

However, I’m fairly happy with the finished result. There is a particular challenge to building something this small, and a great deal of satisfaction if it turns out reasonably. Overall, there is little wrong with this kit, though I think it could do with more detail on things like items usually stowed on the track-guards, the tracks and the exhausts. However, given how scarce small-scale kits of the Panzer I are, your choice is very limited and I think you could do much worse.  

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First to Fight 1/72 PzKpfw I Ausf. A (PL1939-002) In-Box Review

It’s time to look at what is, for me, a new manufacturer: a 1/72 kit from Polish company First to Fight. I’m keen to continue building some of the tanks used in the Spanish Civil War and the Panzer I was the main tank supplied by Germany to the Nationalist side during that conflict. The simple fact is that there just aren’t many small scale kits of this tiny tank available, and I’m interested in finding out whether this one is a decent option.

First to Fight specialise in kits depicting vehicles used on both sides during the 1939 German invasion of Poland. The  “September 1939” collection was released beginning in 2013 as a series of magazines, each with a quick-build kit attached. This, the second kit to be released (the first was the Polish TKS tankette and the series eventually ran to 90 issues), first appeared in November 2013.

Can a quick-build kit really aimed at wargamers provide the basis for a decent finished model? Is it possible to have fun constructing and building a kit that is two inches long and comprises just 16 parts? Let’s take a look…


The Panzer I was the first tank designed and built in Germany after World War One. This tiny tank (it weighed a little over 5 tons and had space for just two crew members) used suspension based on that fitted to the British Carden-Lloyd Tankette and a hull with armour that was only 13mm on the front: in other areas, it was just 7mm thick.

Many of the earliest Panzer Is were produced without turrets as Schulfahrzeuge (training vehicles) and use to train new tank drivers.

This was always intended as a developmental tank, to be used as a training vehicle for Panzer troops and as an opportunity for German industry to learn the techniques and requirements of producing a tank. The first versions produced in 1934 weren’t even fitted with a turret and it wasn’t until the Ausf. A version that a manually operated turret mounting two 7.92 mm MG 13 machine guns was added. An air-cooled, 60bhp engine gave the Panzer I a top speed of only around 15mph off-road but a useful range of almost 200km.

The first combat-capable version of the Panzer I, the Ausf. A. This picture was taken during the campaign in Norway.

The Ausf. B version was introduced in 1936 and incorporated a larger, water-cooled engine producing 100bhp. Fitting this engine involved lengthening the rear hull and this allowed the addition of an extra bogie wheel on the suspension. Between 1936 and 1939, Germany supplied more than 130 Panzer Is (mainly the Ausf. A model) to Nationalist Spain and these were used by the Condor Legion and Spanish units during the civil war.

Panzer I Ausf. B. Note that it has five bogie wheels instead of four and different exhausts.

During the Spanish Civil War and in combat against Republican T-26 tanks provided by the USSR, the Panzer I proved to be very vulnerable. Its 7.92mm machine guns could be loaded with armour-piercing ammunition, but this was only effective at ranges of less than 150m while the T-26 with its 47mm main gun could destroy the Panzer I at over 1,000m.

A column of Nationalist Panzer Is in Spain during the civil war.

Despite its limitations, the Panzer I was used extensively in Spain and as a front-line tank by the Wehrmacht in Poland, France and during the early stages of the invasion of Russia: Panzer Is accounted for over 15% of total German tank  strength during Operation Barbarossa. The last Panzer I was withdrawn from front-line German service in 1942 but this tank remained in service with the Spanish Army until the mid-1950s.

A well-camouflaged German Panzer I Ausf. A during the invasion of Poland in 1939. The tank appears to be painted in a single colour in this image, but that’s almost certainly due to the limitations of wartime black and white film: it would actually have been painted in a low-contrast two-colour camouflage scheme of dark grey/dark brown.

What’s in the Box

This kit comes with a 12-page magazine that describes a battle on the first day of the German invasion of Poland which involved Panzer Is, provides a history of the development and operational use of this tank and includes a rather nice step-by-step guide to painting and weathering this model. At least I think that’s what it contains: it’s written entirely in Polish and I’m afraid my ability to read Polish is non-existent.

Part of the guide to painting weathering this kit. Probably.

Inside the side-opening box you’ll find two small sprues moulded in dark grey plastic containing just 16 parts (there is a 17th part, a hatch, but it isn’t used) and a small decal sheet.

Moulding is sharp though details like the exhaust pipes and a shovel on the left track-guard are moulded integrally with the hull. A jack, axe and fire extinguisher are shown on the box art and in the colour external views in the magazine, but these aren’t included.

The turret hatch is moulded integrally with the one-piece turret.

The tracks, sprockets, idlers, suspension bogies and return rollers are moulded as a single part for each side. Detail is generally good, though the tracks themselves aren’t particularly convincing and the inner horns are moulded as solid items that stretch right across the inside of the tracks.

The MG barrels are nicely detailed and appear to be close to scale.

There are no detailed construction details, just a single exploded view. However, given that you’re only dealing with 16 parts, that shouldn’t be an issue.

The small decal sheet provides some all-white crosses and white, 3-digit hull and turret numbers, though there is no information about which German units these numbers belong to.  

The magazine includes a colour scheme of all dark-grey and that’s also shown on the box art. However, I’m really not sure about that. 

From July 1937 all new German tanks and AFVs were painted in a scheme consisting of a base of dunkelgrau (dark grey) overlaid with a dunkelbraun (dark brown) camouflage scheme covering at least 1/3 of the vehicle. From November 1938, this colour scheme was retroactively applied to any tanks that still had the older three-colour camouflage scheme. However, dunkelgrau and dunkelbraun have very low contrast and on most contemporary black and white images the two different colours don’t show up: that’s where the idea that early-war German tanks were painted all dark grey seems to have originated. However, an all dark grey scheme didn’t become standard for German tanks until a paint shortage at the end of July 1940.

This wartime image of a Panzer IV in Poland in 1939 is one of the few where the two-colour camouflage scheme is clearly evident on the front hull and the front of the turret. My understanding is that all German AFVs used in Poland were painted in this way.

An all-grey German AFV would only be appropriate if you’re modelling a vehicle used in the Balkans or Greece in 1941 or in Russia up to February 1943. If you’re painting a German tank that took part in the invasion of Poland in 1939 (or the subsequent battles in Norway, Belgium, Holland and France in the first half of 1940), I believe it should be painted in a two colour (dunkelgrau/dunkelbraun) finish. In the magazine, there is a small inset view that shows a Panzer I painted in this two-colour camouflage scheme and I think that this is correct if you want to model a tank that took part in the invasion of Poland. 

Would you want One?

This is a quick-build kit aimed at the wargamer rather than the modeller and it is a little light on detail. However, the overall look of the Panzer I Ausf. A is well replicated here and I will be interested to see whether this will build into a decent finished model. First to Fight also offer the Panzer I Ausf. B and the command versions of both. If I’m honest, you don’t get a great deal for your money here: very few parts and a truly tiny model and, unless you read Polish, you won’t learn much from the magazine. However, there is a certain satisfaction to be had building and painting something so small. I think…

If you don’t fancy this one but you want to model a Panzer I Ausf. A, the only alternative in 1/72 comes from Chinese manufacturer S-Model who offer several versions. All are quick-build kits (like this one, tracks and running gear are moulded as a single part) but the S-model kits have more detail (the tracks are notably better, for example) including PE parts. Each S-Model box contains two Panzer Is which makes this something of a bargain.

If you want to build a small-scale Panzer I Ausf. B, the choice is a little better. In addition to S-Model kits of several versions of this tank, Italeri, Revel, Zvezda, Maquette, Aurora and Polistil all offer (or have offered at some point) versions of this tank in 1/72. However, these are actually all re-boxed versions of the same original kit which was first released by Esci in 1976. It isn’t bad in terms of detail, but the link and length tracks are noticeably oversize and do look a little odd.   


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Revell 1/35 World of Tanks T-26 (03505) Build Review


I intend building this kit as a captured Nationalist T-26 during the Spanish Civil War. If you’re building any kit as something other than straight out-of-the-box, you’ll need to do some investigation. The main question is: does this kit accurately represent a tank of this period? That question requires some research, and I believe that there are a number of minor issues but just three principal problems: the louvre over the rear deck, the roadwheels and the radio antenna.

Early Model 1933 T-26 tanks had roadwheels with thick rubber rims. Later versions had more complex steel roadwheels with thinner rubber rims. This kit comes with the later type of roadwheel. I have seen it suggested that all tanks provided to Spain had the earlier type of roadwheel, but I don’t think that’s true.

This image shows a restored Nationalist T-26 in a Spanish museum. You’ll see that three of the roadwheels (one at the front and two at the rear) are of the later type while the other five are the earlier type.

Here’s another former Nationalist T-26 currently undergoing restoration in Spain. You can see that all the roadwheels here are of the later type. This images also gives a good view of the engine-deck louvre.

So, while many captured T-26 tanks in Spain may have had the earlier type of roadwheel, it certainly isn’t impossible that some were fitted with the later type. So, I’m going to go ahead and use the roadwheels provided with this kit.

The louvre over the engine deck is also an issue. The kit includes this type of louvre cover.

However, this was only developed after the Spanish Civil War because so many T-26 tanks were lost after improvised Molotov-cocktails were used on the louvre to disable these tanks. Tanks in Spain had earlier slatted-type louvres that looked like this:

This is quite a distinctive difference, and I’ll have to scratch-build a new louvre. Fortunately, the louvre is provided as a separate part on this kit, so replacing it shouldn’t be too difficult.

Finally, it does not seem that any Nationalist T-26 tanks were fitted with radios. A few captured Republican tanks did have radios, but these and the antenna were removed before these entered Nationalist service. All that was left were the stubs of the antenna mountings welded to plates on the turret which looked like this:

So, I won’t be using the radio antenna that comes with this kit and I’ll be modifying the mountings so that they look like the image above. That’s it for the changes needed, so it’s time to start the actual build.

The Build

I begin by assembling the hull. This comprises just six parts. It’s only when I’m assembling this that I notice that one of the main axles for the suspension bogies on the right side has snapped off. It isn’t in the packaging, so I’ll have to make a new one.

Fit is OK, but certainly not perfect. Tape is required to hold things in alignment while they set and some filler is required at the front. I then add something that looks a little like the slatted engine-deck louvre found on SCW T-26 tanks.

I add the rest of the bits and pieces to the hull. The driver’s hatch is a separate part and could be shown open, but the lack of any interior detail or a driver figures makes this a little pointless, so I show it closed. I do come across an issue that has me scratching my head when I try to fit the vent at the rear left of the engine deck. There are two raised lines on the hull (you can see them in the photo above) and the instructions seem to show that the vent should go inside these lines.

However, if you do that, it doesn’t fit – the vent ends up projecting to the right and rear of the engine deck, which is clearly wrong. But, if you put the vent on so that it goes outside these lines, it doesn’t sit properly – the right side is higher than the right. It takes a fair amount of filing and sanding before I get something that sits flat in approximately in the right place, and even then, filler is needed to cover a noticeable gap on the left.

I feel like I have done something wrong here, but I can’t see what it might be.

The next step is to assemble the roadwheels, suspension bogies, idlers, sprockets and return rollers. I do this because I want to build the link-and-length tracks, and to allow that, I need these parts temporarily in place. Fit isn’t wonderful with the bogies – some locating pegs would have been useful. It’s also worth noting that two different versions of the sprockets are provided with this kit – the correct ones to use are provided on the sprues with the tracks, not those included on the main sprue.

Then, it’s time to start on the tracks. This is fiddly – the individual track links are small, but at least they are cleanly moulded and they do fit together well. My plan is to construct the tracks on each side as separate upper and lower runs which I can slide into place later, once main painting and construction are done.

This is what I end up with, with the separate sections temporarily held in place with tape. The sagging on the upper run is nicely done, though obviously, you do have to make sure it’s positioned correctly so that the high points coincide with the return rollers. The tracks themselves have good detail, inside and out.

One thing I found was that, while the instructions claim that you need 7 links on the idler and 9 on the sprocket, I found that I used 8 on the sprocket and 9 on the idler. I also had to cut two links out of the section of track on the bottom run that spans between the idler and the rear roadwheel.  At least I now have complete sections of track for each side that I can add later.

I add the tracks guards, stowage boxes and other bits and pieces and, for the moment, that’s it for hull construction. I’ll add the exhaust,  tools and running gear later.

Now it’s time to make a start on the turret. I begin by drilling out the main gun, sanding off the moulding seams and mounting it in the mantlet.

That’s when I realize that no co-axial MG is included with this kit, though it is shown in the view of the completed turret in the instructions.

It’s not a major problem, and I replace it with a German MG-34 barrel from the spares box (captured Nationalist T-26 tanks often seem to have been fitted with these machine guns) but its absence seems a little odd. Main turret construction is straightforward, though the location of the two halves isn’t particularly precise and a little filler is needed on the join at the front.

Such is my hatred of masking that I’m leaving off the mantlet for the moment to make painting easier. And now, it’s time to think about the paint scheme. I’m using the Star decals set for Nationalist T-26 tanks which also includes several paint schemes. I have chosen this one, showing a tank of the Tercio de extranjeros (literally, regiment of foreigners, usually translated as Foreign Legion) in 1938.

By that time, Nationalist T-26 tanks were painted in a standard way. Most were painted in some combination of dark green, light brown and dark brown with red/yellow/red stripes on the mantlet and turret rear and the turret hatch painted either white with a diagonal black cross or black with a diagonal white cross as an air recognition symbol. There doesn’t seem to have been a fixed pattern for the camo scheme or colours and these were usually been applied by hand to give a hard-edged finish.

I begin by painting the mantlet and turret. Here’s the result after masking and painting the red/yellow/red stripes, painting the hatch white and giving it an overall base coat of dark green.

As ever, the results of my masking don’t look particularly great, but I’ll just have to live with it. Then, the hull also gets a base coat of dark green, using AK Olivegrun, but for some reason this goes on badly and it takes four coats to get anything approaching a consistent finish.

Now it’s time to think about the camo scheme. Nationalist tanks had irregular blotches of light and/or dark brown applied over the base green. There wasn’t a set pattern, so I decide on a two-colour scheme based loosely on a restored Nationalist T-26 at the military museum in Cartagena  in Spain.    

Then I add the decals to the hull. These come from Star Decals and they’re, OK, though not perfect. A couple of them broke up as I slid them off the backing sheet (including one of the Falangist Party symbols on the front mudguards) and the circular symbol that is placed on the hull front and rear is printed slightly out of register. Other than that, these are nicely dense and seem to be accurate.

I do some dry-brushed highlights then, everything gets a coat of clear varnish and I do an overall wash with dark grey oil. I also add some mud/dust on the lower hull, tracks and running gear.

With that done, it’s time to add the tracks and running gear. Happily, the assembled and painted tracks slide into place without any problems. Here’s the first side done.

There’s no doubt that link and length tracks can be tricky to assemble. But, when they’re done well (as they are in this kit) they just look so much better than vinyl tracks… All that’s now left to do is to add the exhaust and tools, and that’s this Nationalist T-26 done!

After Action Report

I’m reasonably happy with how this turned out. This really isn’t a bad little kit. Fit in some places is just average, though in the end, I used very little filler here. The lack of a co-axial MG is odd, but otherwise detail is acceptable, though it would have been great to have some internal detail and a couple of crew figures. The tracks really are pretty good. They may be a little fiddly to build, but I think the end result is worth it.

As a model of a Spanish Civil War T-26, it’s not perfect, but just about what I was aiming for. The decals from Star Decals really make a difference and their painting guide is very helpful if you’re trying to build something other than what’s provided in the box.

Overall, if you want to build a 1/35 T-26, you could do a lot worse than this Revell kit. And if producing a WoT model doesn’t appeal, well just check out the Star Decals site for lots of other options.

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Star Decals website

Revell 1/35 World of Tanks T-26 (03505) In-Box Review and History

This Revell kit was released in 2021 as part of a range intended to tie-in with the hugely popular on-line game World of Tanks. Most of the kits in this series are 1/72, but a couple are 1/35 including this one, the Russian T-26.

I did try playing World of Tanks a couple of times but didn’t particularly care for it. On each mission I lasted a few brief seconds before someone with the reflexes of a mongoose and the eyesight of a falcon killed me from so far away that they appeared as no more than a small cluster of pixels on my elderly monitor. The expereince was salutory, but rarely fun. So, how come I’m reviewing a World of Tanks kit?

Well, this isn’t a new kit: it’s actually a re-box of a kit that has previously been offered by several companies including Italeri, Maquette, Zvezda and Mirage Hobby since it first appeared in 1997. It isn’t bad and I was able to find this World of Tanks version at less than half the price asked for, for example, the Zvezda version of this kit. The lack of period-appropriate decals isn’t a problem for me because I intend to finish this as a Nationalist tank from the Spanish Civil War, so I’ll have to find suitable replacement decals anyway.

So, there you are. It’s cheap, but is it cheerful? And will it make a plausible Spanish Civil War tank? Let’s take a look…


The Russian T-26 was derived from the British Vickers 6-Ton Tank. The first version, often called the Model 1931, featured two small turrets each armed with a single machine gun (though in some examples one turret mounted a 37mm B3 cannon). The Model 1933 (sometimes called the T-26B) featured the same hull and running gear but was fitted with a single turret armed with a 45 mm 20K main gun and a co-axial DT machine gun.

A T-26 Model 1931. The framework round the hull is a radio antenna.

By the time of the German invasion of Russia in 1941, the T-26 was the most numerous tank in Soviet service. However, this tank’s first use in combat occurred in Spain. The Spanish Civil War began in June 1936 when a group of Generals (the Nationalists) staged a revolt against the Republican government. Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany provided tanks, troops and aircraft to the Nationalists while the Soviet Union provided equipment and expertise to the Republicans.  

A column of Russian T-26 tanks. The vehicle in front is a Model 1933, behind is a Model 1931.

Soviet support included the provision of large numbers of tanks, mainly T-26s, but also around 50 BT-5s. The first 50 T-26 tanks were delivered to the Republican port of Cartagena on the south-eastern coast of Spain in late October 1936. The last delivery of 25 T-26 tanks took place in mid-March 1938. In total, over 330 tanks were delivered to Republican Spain by the Soviets during the Civil War including around 280 T-26 tanks.

A Republican T-26 carrying soldiers of the International Brigade near the town of Belchite in 1937.

Facing only lightly armed and armoured German Panzer Is and Italian CV-33 and CV-35 tankettes, on the battlefield the T-26 quickly proved dominant. After several confrontations, the Nationalists realised that their German and Italian tanks stood no chance against the powerful 45mm gun of the T-26. Neither Germany nor Italy was able to provide more powerfully armed tanks and the solution was simple and, as far as I know unique: the Nationalists decided to capture as many T-26 tanks as possible and to use these operationally against their former owners. To encourage this, the German Condor Legion offered a cash reward for every captured T-26.

Nationalist T-26 tanks. In addition to the red/yellow/red flashes on the mantlet, the turret hatches have been painted white with a black diagonal cross – this was often done on captured Nationalist T-26 tanks as an aircraft recognition symbol.

The Nationalists created the Servicio de Recuperacion de Material de Guerra (War Equipment Recovery Service) whose role was to obtain and refurbish captured equipment. They were incredibly successful: during the war they were able to obtain more than 350 captured Republican tanks and armoured cars, most of which were returned to service on the Nationalist side. Artillery workshops in Seville were instructed to begin the manufacture of ammunition suitable for use on captured T-26 tanks.

A restored Nationalist T-26 on display at the Armoured Vehicles Museum of the Army near Madrid.

Platoons of captured T-26 tanks were attached to both German and Italian tank units. These were almost always painted with prominent red/yellow/red (the Nationalist colours) flashes to distinguish them from Republican tanks. In total, 178 T-26 tanks were used operationally by the Nationalists, representing more than half of all these tanks provided to the Republicans by the Soviets. By the end of the Civil War, the Nationalists actually had more T-26 tanks in service than the Republicans! The last T-26 tank was not finally retired from Spanish military service until the early 1960s.    

What’s in the Box?

Inside the box you’ll find six sprues (there are two sprues each for the link-and-length tracks and suspension/running gear) containing over 200 parts (the box claims 172 parts, but that’s incorrect) moulded in light grey plastic.

Quality is, well, mixed. Surface detail generally looks quite good including rivets that look to be nicely to scale. There is even a reasonable attempt at showing casting texture on the turret top.

However, there is quite a lot of flash and some fairly obvious moulding seams and this doesn’t use slide-moulding, so you’ll need to drill out the main gun. The turret hatches are separate parts and can be shown open, but there is no internal detail. Tools are provided as separate parts but no figures or external stowage items are provided.

The instructions are printed in colour, look clear and simple and include painting details for individual parts.

The decal sheet is huge and incorporates what I assume are squad markings from W0T as well as Russian, German and American national markings. The only suggested colour scheme is overall “Bronze Green.”

Also included in the box is a starter pack for the PC version of WoT that includes some boosts for new players such as having immediate access to the T2 light tank and credits that give temporary access to some additional features of the game. Trust me on this though: you’ll still die within seconds!

Would You Want One?

There is quite a lot of flash here. More than you’d expect on a current kit and more than you’d see on, for example, a Tamiya kit from the 1970s. There are also obvious moulding seams and a few sink-marks that will be visible. This doesn’t use slide moulding and there are no external stowage items or figures. However, basic detail looks reasonable and the link-and-length tracks are nicely detailed.

I know that this isn’t a perfect representation of a T-26 Model 1933 – it’s said that some elements of the engine deck, for example, really come from later versions as do the steel roadwheels with rubber tyres. However, this does look very similar to refurbished T-26 tanks in Spanish museums so I feel that this is just about close enough to pass for a tank of the Spanish Civil War. Of course, if you plan to build this as a representation of a real vehicle rather than a WoT T-26, you’ll have to find suitable replacement decals.

If you don’t fancy this one, I’m afraid that there just aren’t many alternatives in 1/35. That’s surprising given that there were probably more T-26 tanks than any other type in service at the beginning of World War Two.

As noted, Italeri, Zvezda, Maquette and Mirage Hobby all offer kits of the T-26 Model 1933, but don’t be fooled: they’re just this kit in a different box and with different decals. The only real alternative in this scale comes from Chinese manufacturer HobbyBoss who offer several versions of the T-26, including one with markings for a Nationalist tank during the Spanish Civil War. All are pretty decent kits that include PE parts, but they also include rather scary “workable” tracks that must be assembled using 113 separate links per side joined with tiny pins. I’d guess that these could end up looking good, but assembling them sounds like a great deal of work!

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Tamiya 1/35 Type 97 Chi-Ha (35075) Build Review

I’m going to build this one pretty much out of the box, with a couple of small changes that I’ll explain along the way. The first thing I tackle are the odd gaps between the upper and lower hull that seem to be a feature of many of these early Tamiya kits. I have no idea why – perhaps it was to allow heat from the motor to dissipate? Whatever the reason, I’m planning to have the hatches open and the kit figures in place on this build and, as you can see with the upper and lower hull temporarily together, the gap on the left side is clearly visible through  the open MG operator’s hatch.

Fixing it is simple and only requires a couple of pieces of thin plastic card cut to shape, but this does seem an odd issue on an otherwise beautifully engineered kit.

I try the hull machine-gun operator in position, and it all looks good. I have painted the inside surface of the plastic card a dark grey so that hopefully it’ll disappear into the shadow of the interior. With that done, it’s time to continue with the rest of construction…

I start by assembling the roadwheels, sprockets, idlers and bogies. All the roadwheel tyres have distinct moulding seams on their circumference that need to be sanded – a bit of a chore as there are 24. The four single roadwheels and both sprockets are retained by plastic poly caps. There’s nice detail here – the front and rear single pairs of roadwheels have slightly different hubs compared to the roadwheels attached to the bogies, and that’s accurately replicated.

I then move to construction of the lower hull. No problems here. I’m leaving off the roadwheels, bogies etc. for the moment – the camo scheme extends down the sides of the lower hull and I think this will be easier to paint before these parts are in place.

And then it’s on to the upper hull. Again, no problems and everything goes together easily and without the need for any filler.

The upper and lower hulls are then joined with no gaps and no need for filler. Construction so far is a pleasure: good detail, few tiny parts and fit is as close to perfect as you’re likely to find. I don’t see how you can ask more from any plastic model kit!  

I then add the Hull MG operator’s hatch after adding some detail to the interior. I leave off the exhausts, tools, tow-cable, etc., and I’ll add these once I’m done with painting.

Then, it’s time to start on the turret. I begin with the main gun, which comes in two parts, with a separate muzzle which incorporates an open bore. Fortunately, fit between these parts is very good and it’s possible to sand the join without compromising the distinct shape of the muzzle.

The first part of turret construction goes without any problems and fit is great.

I complete turret construction and notice that the AA machine gun mount is clearly located in the instructions (I claimed in the In-Box review that it wasn’t), so I decide to include this after all. I also incorporate some additional detail inside the main hatch. I leave off the radio antenna at this stage to make painting easier.

It’s time to begin painting. As usual, I’ll be brush painting everything and I’m going for the four-colour scheme incorporating the irregular yellow cross – it looks a little challenging, but I hope it will be visually striking. After some testing and experimentation, I’m using Mig Olivegrun Opt. 2 for the base green colour.

Then, I add the lighter of the two browns, using Vallejo US Field Drab.

Then I add the darker brown using Vallejo Flat Brown and the yellow cross. I paint this first in pale grey before overpainting in yellow, otherwise the yellow doesn’t really show up at all. It’s a bit wibbly, but I think it will do. And given that the original was simply brush painted, I don’t suppose it was perfect either!

Next, I use lightened versions of all three main colours to dry brush highlights on the hull, turret and running gear. Then, I add the decals and give everything a coat of clear matte varnish. Oddly, this seems to darken the lighter of the two browns, but not the other colours.

Then I add a dark oil wash to bring out the shadows and this, in conjunction with the highlighting, really brings everything up nicely.

I then do an overall watercolour wash with additional dust/mud streaks on the sides and on the roadwheels, etc. I then add the roadwheels, idlers and sprockets onto the hull and that gives me a chance to try fitting the tracks. 

They’re a good length and they join cleanly but once they’re in place, it’s clear that the inner guide teeth don’t fit inside the gap between the two outer, upper return rollers. I checked the instructions, and I think I have assembled these correctly, but there is no way to get the tracks to sit properly on the rollers. As shown above, this just looks wrong. I’d also like to show some sag, and that takes a little head-scratching.

In the end, I cut off two of the inner guide teeth where the tracks pass over the outer rollers and I glue a couple of pieces of curved plastic on the underside of the inside of the tracks. These are invisible once the tracks are in place and help to give at least the impression of some sag on the main runs. I also glue the tracks down to the return rollers once they’re painted. This is what I end up with. Certainly not perfect, but I think I can live with it.

Time to work on the remaining bits and pieces. The exhausts get some rough texture and some paint to represent rust. The tow cable, tools and jack get added to the rear hull and the radio antenna and the AA MG are added to the turret.

That’s about it for construction. The last step is assembly and painting of the figures. They do have prominent moulding seams that need to be sanded, but they are both generally well sculpted and only a tiny amount of filler is needed to smooth one shoulder joint on the commander.

I give them both a fairly simple paint job that follows the instructions.

And with the figures in place, I declare this Tamiya Chi-Ha done!

After Action Report

This is a fairly typical early Tamiya tank kit: it’s well engineered, fit is as close to perfect as you’re likely to find and it builds into a reasonable representation of the subject. Kit-building just doesn’t get much easier or more satisfying than this.

OK, it isn’t perfect. The gap between the upper and lower hull is odd (and common to several other early Tamiya kits) and it can clearly be seen through the open hull MG operator’s hatch so it does need to be fixed. Both that hatch and the turret hatch lack internal detail and again, that’s probably something you’re going to have to work on if you want to show these open.

The tracks are well detailed and join easily, but they’re made of fairly inflexible vinyl so if you want to show sag, some creativity will be required. But that’s pretty much it in terms of drawbacks. Otherwise, this is simple to build and there is nothing here that would challenge even a beginner kit-builder.

Overall, I’d give this one a big thumbs-up! And, like many of the early Tamiya kits, you can find this one for not very much money at all. Go for it!

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