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

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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Tamiya 1/35 Type 97 Chi-Ha (35075) In-Box Review and History

It’s time to head for the Pacific Theatre and another early Tamiya release – this Type 97 Chi-Ha is number 75 in the Military miniatures series and was first released in 1975. As you’ll know if you’re a regular reader here on MKW, I have built a few other early Tamiya 1/35 tanks (the Walker Bulldog from 1964, the Panzer II from 1971 and the Sturmgeschütz IV from 1975). I enjoyed all of them, but there was one common issue: all were initially designed for motorisation, so all had holes for switches in the bottom and sides of the hull. They also all had simplified tracks with little internal detail, presumably to make them function more effectively.

For some reason, this one is different. It has no holes in the lower hull and reasonably detailed tracks. How come? I have no idea! Tamiya did release a revised version of this kit featuring the Shinhoto Chi-Ha in 1987 (35137) by which time they had given up on motorised kits. They still offer this one, but I did notice that while the  mould date on the inside of the lower hull here is 1975, there is also text reading © 1987 Tamiya”, so perhaps the lower hull of the original (presumably motorised) Chi-Ha kit was replaced in 1987? Whatever, I’m just happy to see fewer holes to fill and nicely detailed tracks.

I’m looking forward to building this kit. Fit and detail on the other early Tamiya kits I tried was well above average and construction was simple and straightforward. The colour schemes used on Japanese tanks are also very different, and I’m looking forward to trying that as well as applying some new weathering techniques. Let’s take a look at the Type 97 Chi-Ha.


The identification of Japanese tanks can seem confusing if you’re not familiar with it. In reality, it’s fairly simple and it’s at least partly based on a poem, which isn’t something you can say about many tank naming systems!

A restored Chi-Ha on display at the Yūshūkan Museum at Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo. Like many Chi-Ha tanks, this has a circular radio antenna mounted above the turret.

From around 1935, Japanese tanks were given two-part names according to their weight/type and the order in which they were developed. The weights/types were Chi, Ke and Ho (Medium, Light and Self-Propelled Gun). The development order reference was for a specific model of tank (similar to the German PzKpfw number identifying a particular type). This was not given as a numeral, but instead as a character derived from the Iroha. a Japanese poem written around 1,000AD. This poem is a perfect pangram: that is, it uses every character of the Japanese alphabet just once. This poem is used like the A, B, C of the western alphabet to order Japanese characters. The third character of the first line of the poem is “ha,” so this is used to represent the third item in a sequence just as we use the letter C. Chi-Ha literally translates as Medium – Third, the third medium tank type to be developed.

Chi-Ha tanks on parade after the capture of Singapore in February 1942.

However, Japanese tanks were also identified by a type number based on the last two digits of their year of adoption for service. This uses the Japanese Imperial dating system derived from the Koki calendar, based on the supposed founding of Japan in 660BC. The Chi-Ha was adopted in 1937, or Imperial Year 2597. So, it was given the Type Number 97. It’s worth noting that the type number isn’t unique: it applies to all items adopted for Japanese military service during a particular year. Japanese armed forces widely used, for example, a tankette also introduced in 1937 and also designated as the Type 97 and the machine guns and main gun used on the Chi-Ha were also both identified as Type 97. Requisitioning anything in the Japanese military must have been a tense business – if you ordered a “Type 97,” you might receive anything from a machine gun to a medium tank!

Type 89 tanks of the IJA, 1934.

The first indigenous Japanese tank design was the Type 89, introduced into service 1932. This was a medium tank weighing around 10 tons and armed with a large calibre but relatively low velocity 57mm main gun intended primarily for infantry support and mounted in a fully traversable turret. It was also the world’s first diesel-engined tank. However, it had a major drawback: a top speed of less than 15mph. This was identified as a serous weakness in action and submissions were requested in 1935 for a new design with a higher top speed. Mitsubishi produced two prototypes in 1936: the Chi-Ha (with a 170hp diesel engine) and the lighter and cheaper Chi-Ni (Medium-Fourth) with a 135hp diesel engine. After evaluation, the Chi-Ha was selected for service with the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) and Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN).

Type 97 Chi-Ha and Type 95 Ha-Go light tanks during an exercise in 1940 at the Tank School of the Imperial Japanese Army at Chiba. The tank at the right foreground in this photograph, hull No. 301, appears to be one of those for which decals are provided with this kit.

The Chi-Ha provided space for a four-man crew including a two-man turret. Although the turret was fully traversable, the main gun could also traverse within the turret up to 5˚ to either side. The 21 litre, air-cooled, V12 diesel engine gave a useful top speed of up to 25mph. In addition to a Type 97 57mm main gun (similar to that used on Type 89), this tank was armed with two Type 97 (7.7mm) machine guns: one mounted in the forward hull and the other in a ball-mount on the turret rear. Armour thickness varied from 15mm to a maximum of 33mm on the mantlet. More than 1,100 Chi-Ha tanks were manufactured and this type saw service with the IJA and IJN in Manchuria, on the Russian border and every location in the Pacific Theatre.

A group of Chi-Ha Tanks of the 11th Tank Regiment on Shumshu in the Kuril Islands during World War Two. The tank nearest the camera is a later Shinhoto Chi-Ha. All the others are the original version.

The Chi Ha was first used in combat in China where it proved adequate. However, in 1939 the Battles of Khalkhin Gol against the forces of the Soviet Union revealed major deficiencies. The high-velocity 47mm guns of Russian light tanks outranged and outperformed the low-velocity 57mm gun on the Chi-Ha. As a direct result, work began on a new version which became known as the Type 97 Kai (Improved), and as the Shinhoto (New Turret) Chi-Ha. It incorporated a completely new, larger, three-man turret armed with a high-velocity 47mm main gun. From 1942 on, the Shinhoto Chi-Ha completely replaced the original version in production and more than 900 examples of this improved type were manufactured.

A Chi-Ha of the 11th Tank Regiment, destroyed while attempting to stop a Russian landing on Shumshu in August 1945. Possibly one of the tanks from the previous image. Photographed on Shumshu in 2009.

What’s in the Box?

Parts are moulded in dark green plastic and provided on three sprues plus the upper and lower hull and main turret mouldings.

Eight poly-cap washers are also provided for attaching the road wheels.

Detail looks generally very good with bolt, rivet and weld detail being particularly nicely done.

Even the provided figures don’t look too bad in terms of detail.

The only place where detail is lacking is the inside of the turret hatch – if you want to show this open, some additional work may be needed.

I have seen it suggested in other reviews that the exhaust heat shields provided with this kit are unusable. For what it’s worth, I disagree. In reality, the silencers on the Chi-Ha were covered with thin mesh screens, as you can see below (this image also shows the inside of the turret hatch).

In this kit, the silencers and mesh heat shields are moulded integrally, but there is some attempt at representing mesh. OK, these aren’t perfect, but I think they’re usable and you can always replace them with aftermarket PE screens if they offend you (though I guess that means you’ll need to fabricate new silencers too).

No external stowage is included though there are a couple of steel helmets that can be placed on the turret side. The vinyl tracks seem reasonably detailed inside and out, though the vinyl of which they are made is fairly inflexible. As far as I can tell, they seem like a fair representation of Chi-Ha tracks. 

The instructions provide what appears to be an accurate summary of Japanese tank paint schemes. Prior to 1942 (and most of the early version of the Chi-Ha depicted by this kit were produced before 1942) these tanks were painted in a base of khaki drab (Tsuchi kusa-iro) with a hard-edged “fleeting cloud” disruptive camouflage pattern using mahogany brown (Tsuchi-iro) and light tan (Karekusa-iro). In addition, many tanks were overpainted with an irregular cross in vivid yellow, roughly centred on the turret.

This rare colour wartime image shows a knocked-out Type 95 Ha-Go light tank finished in the three-colour scheme, but without the yellow cross.

However, the actual paints used depended on what was available at the time and there was no published reference for the Fleeting Cloud pattern – each Japanese tank represented a unique work of art. While Tamiya provide suggested paints and a camo scheme, feel free to indulge your imagination!

Decals are provided for six tanks of various identified units. The decal sheet is printed nicely in-register and the colours look strong and consistent.

The instructions generally seem very clear, though they do show an optional externally mounted MG for AA defence. However, unless I’m missing it, there is no clue anywhere in the instructions to suggest where this goes! I have not been able to find a single wartime image of a Chi-Ha fitted with such a machine gun, so I think I’ll be leaving this off.  

Would You Want One?

I can’t see why not. This looks accurate, very nicely detailed and if it’s anything like most other Tamiya kits, construction should be simple. The only things that stand out as not being up to current standards are the lack of interior detail on the main turret hatch and perhaps the exhaust heat shields. If you really can’t put up with them, Eduard do PE replacements for the heat shields. The kit tracks are nicely detailed, but they are made from fairly stiff vinyl, so I don’t know how well it will be possible to replicate sag, but again, there are several aftermarket alternatives if you prefer.

If you don’t fancy this one, there are other 1/35 Chi-Ha kits available. Another Japanese manufacturer, Fine Molds, have released several versions of the Chi-Ha in 1/35 since 2008. These are generally nice kits, with far more parts than the Tamiya version including clear plastic items, PE exhaust screens and link and length tracks. Overall these are very nicely detailed kits, though it has been said that the rivet detail perhaps isn’t quite as good as that on the Tamiya version. These are also around twice the price of the Tamiya version which, like many of the older Tamiya tank kits, is now available from around €15.

Chinese manufacturer Dragon released a 1/35 Chi-Ha in 2017, and it’s very nice indeed, with PE parts and Dragon’s DS tracks. Several versions are available and all have lots of detail and are very accurate but they’re typically more than three times the price of the Tamiya kit and I’m not at all certain that they’re three times as good!

Dragon also offer several versions of the Chi-Ha in 1/72 and, if you’re willing to go tiny there’s always the old Airfix Chi-Ha in 1/76 scale. Originally released in 1974, this is one of the better Airfix tank kits from the 70s and it has recently been re-released as part of the Vintage Classics range. And it’s available for less than the price of a couple of fancy coffees!

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Tamiya 1/35 British Army 6 Pounder Anti-Tank Gun (35005) Build Review

I start by gluing together the two halves of the gun, as the instructions suggest. You’d think that would be pretty easy, wouldn’t you? That’s what I thought too… Fit between the two halves is, well, indifferent would probably be a kind way to put it. There are locating pins on one half and corresponding holes in the other, but the pins are smaller than the holes which gives you a lot of leeway to get it wrong. It took a fair bit of fiddling and securing the two halves together with pegs and tape until I got something that looked just about right.

Although everything lines up on top, the underside looks like this…

Even then, the join between the two halves is very apparent, especially on top – the seam there took a great deal of sanding. I also notice even though the various sections of the gun line up perfectly on top, they are out of alignment by about 1mm underneath. I suppose you won’t really see the join on the underside of the finished model, but still, that’s not right. Then I noticed that the end of the muzzle brake isn’t circular. I mean, it’s a long way from circular and the central opening is far from central.

Peg on top of muzzle-brake

Then I noticed that the two halves of the muzzle brake are different. On the left side, the muzzle brake is a fairly smooth cone, which looks pretty much like photographs of the 6-Pdr. On the right side, there is a distinct lip at the muzzle end. There is also a strange peg on the top rear of the muzzle brake. It doesn’t seem to be a moulding defect and it’s present on both halves, but it isn’t shown on the instructions or the box-top art and I can’t see anything like it on any wartime photograph of this weapon. Sheesh – I have only glued two parts together and already it’s clear that a fair amount of sanding and filling will be required to get something that looks even close to correct.

Fortunately, the remainder of construction is easier, though there are still lots of moulding seams and defects that need to be sanded. I also added filler to hide the very large mounting holes in the front of the main gun shield. Fit is generally OK though it’s just not as good as later Taimya kits. The Panzer II I built, for example, was released in 1971, just one year later than this one, but it’s much, much better in terms of fit and overall sharpness of mouldings.

Finally, after a great deal of sanding, construction is complete. I don’t fix the forward shield in place to make life easier when I’m painting. One thing that’s notable is that the main gun shield really does look much too thick…

Anyway, on to painting. I start with a coat of Vallejo Russian Green, which (IMHO) isn’t a bad match for the Khaki Green used on British tanks and vehicles before they switched to Olive Drab in 1944. The tyres are finished in several shades of dark grey.

Then, I add highlights in a lightened version of the base colour and paint chipping and scratching using Vallejo German Grey in areas that would be likely to wear. I’m not going OTT here: I just want to suggest some general wear and tear.

Then, it gets a coat of clear matte varnish followed by an oil wash using Abteilung 502  Dark Mud (a dark grey) to emphasize shadows. As I’m doing this, I also notice that I have managed to assemble the main axle upside-down! No excuses – the instructions clearly show what’s needed, but I somehow still managed to get it wrong. Oh well, at least it’s easy to fix…

And at that point, the gun itself is pretty much done. This is a quick and straightforward build (assuming that you actually follow the instructions!) and painting really doesn’t take long at all. That is pretty satisfying but now it’s time to take a look at the figures.

Detail isn’t particularly good and is not well-defined, which will make painting more difficult. Trousers look OK, but the battledress blouses look much too tight and close fitting – in reality, these were made of thick material and often fitted rather loosely and looked quite bulky. These guys look as though they’re wearing skin-tight shirts! At least these figures are simple to assemble, though a little filler is needed here and there to cover minor gaps. There’s no doubt about it, they just aren’t up to current standards. And look at how those helmets are attached to the sprue – getting them off without damage is going to be a challenge.

I don’t plan to build a diorama here, but I will paint the figures – my figure-painting skills need as much practise as I can get and I want to see how they look when they’re done. I do a simple colour scheme for all three – Russian Uniform for blouse and trousers, khaki for belts, webbing and gaiters, grey for helmets and dark grey for boots. Once they’re painted, they get an oil wash in dark grey to bring out the shadows.

And here they are – the officer won’t stand unaided, so that’s why he is attached to a base and, I think I have assembled it correctly, but the loader’s pose does look kind of odd… And what they are wearing only approximately looks like the British Army uniform of World War Two.

And here is the crew with the gun:

After Action Report

You’ll know if you read the reviews on this site that I like older kits and that I have thoroughly enjoyed the other early Tamiya kits that I built (Panzer II, Walker Bulldog, etc.). This one, not so much. Look: this isn’t a terrible kit by any means – it’s a simple and undemanding build and the end result kinda, sorta looks like a 6-Pounder anti-tank gun with a British Army crew. But it is easily the least impressive Tamiya kit that I have ever come across. Honestly, it’s a bit crap in terms of detail and fit even when compared to other Tamiya kits from the early 70s.

When I bought this, I knew it was an early Tamiya kit, though I didn’t realise it was one of the very first of the Military Miniatures series. I guess that this kit represents Tamiya beginning to learn the business of making 1/35 kits so it probably isn’t surprising if quality doesn’t match their later efforts. That also makes it interesting if you know its history, but if you purchased this without knowing how old it was and simply on the basis of the Tamiya name on the box as an assurance of quality, I think you’d be understandably rather disappointed.

So, come on Tamiya, after more than 50 years, you must have made a handsome return on the original moulds for this kit. Isn’t it time that this was sent into honourable retirement and you gave us an improved version of this British anti-tank gun? At the moment, all I can say is that this  is probably one old Tamiya kit that’s best avoided.

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Tamiya 1/35 British Army 6 Pounder Anti-Tank Gun (35005) In-Box Review

It’s been a while since the last post because I have been taking a break from kit-building. However, I have an unbuilt kit that has been sitting on the shelf for several months. When I found myself between other projects, that seemed like a good opportunity to have a look at this venerable Tamiya kit.

This is another blast from the past, and a kit I recall seeing in my local shop during my kit building heyday back in the early 70s. It was one of the very first batch of seven kits that launched the Tamiya Military Miniatures series of 1/35 kits all the way back in 1970. These included British and German infantry, German and American tank crews, a Kübelwagen, a Schwimmwagen and this anti-tank gun and crew. Like many of those early Tamiya kits, this is now as cheap as chips – I found this one on special offer for under €10. But, it’s now over 50 years old!

Is this rather elderly kit worth your time, attention and cash or is it best ignored? Let’s take a look…   


The Ordnance Quick Firing (QF) 6-Pdr anti-tank gun was an interim design adopted by the British Army in May 1942 when the existing QF 2-Pdr proved to be ineffective when used against German tanks. Unlike the 2-Pdr which was fitted with a bulky tripod mount, this gun was provided with a two-wheel, split trail carriage. Early versions had a plain barrel but the most common version, the Mk. IV (which is modelled here), featured a longer barrel with muzzle brake.

British airborne troops with a 6-pdr gun in Hamminkeln, Germany, March 1945.

Image: WikiMedia Commons

The calibre of this weapon was 57mm and, unlike the 2-Pdr, both armour-piercing and high-explosive rounds were provided. This gun was first used in combat in North Africa where it quickly proved its worth against the German Panzer II, II and IV. In the Tunisian Campaign, QF 6-pdrs were even able to knock-out more than one German Tiger!

A British crew with an American 57mm M1 version of the 6-Pdr in the Western Desert, 1942.

Image: WikiMedia Commons

In Royal Artillery units, the QF 6-pdr was gradually replaced by the more powerful Ordnance Quick-Firing 17-pounder from early 1943. In British infantry units however, the QF 6-Pdr remained the only A/T weapon and was used in all theatres in the west for the remainder of World War Two and remained in service up to 1951.

A British Army 6-Pounder photographed near Nijmegen, Holland in October 1944.

Image: WikiMedia Commons

In early 1943, the QF 6-Pdr was also adopted by the US Army as the 57mm M1. This American version of the 6-Pdr was also exported to Russia under the lend/lease agreement. Versions of the 6-Pdr were also used as the main armament in several British tanks including the Churchill, Cromwell, Crusader and Valentine as well as in the Canadian Ram tank. 

A Valentine IX fitted with the QF 6-Pdr. This was one of a number of these tanks provided to the Red Army.

Image: WikiMedia Commons

What’s in the Box?

The box contains just two sprues moulded in olive green plastic.

One sprue contains the 30 parts that make up the gun itself.

Despite the age of these moulds, detail on the gun parts looks sharp and well-defined, the completed gun can traverse and elevate, the trail legs can open and close and the breech block can be shown open or closed.  

The other sprue contains the parts for the three figures and ancillary parts including ammunition boxes, shells and shell casings.

All the figures are wearing what appears to be P37 battle dress with trousers bloused into webbing gaiters over boots. Each is also provided with a Mk. II steel helmet. The detail on the figures is just about acceptable though it isn’t particularly well defined and the faces lack expression. A pistol holster is provided for the officer and a couple of Lee–Enfield rifles for the other ranks. There are no water canteens or other accessories for the figures.

Given the paucity of parts, the instructions are nice and simple with just six steps showing construction of the gun itself.  

The instructions include a short history of the 6-Pdr gun, photographs of the original and brief painting instructions which note that in desert service this weapon was painted Sand and otherwise was finished in Olive Drab. There are, as you’d guess, no decals provided with this kit.  

Would You Want One?                                                                                                   

If you go for this kit, you’ll have to accept that this is one of the very earliest Tamiya 1/35 kits and detail is fairly simplified even compared to kits they produced later in the 1970s: their PaK 35/36 from 1974, for example, is notably more detailed. Whether that’s a good or a bad thing depends on your point of view: this looks like a very straightforward build and what detail is provided is reasonably accurate though things like the sighting telescope are very rudimentary and both gun shields are way too thick.

The figures are also well short of current levels of detail, pose and expression. I have seen several other reviews that claim that the figures provided with this kit are completely worthless. I’m not sure I’d agree with that entirely and for me, a relatively simple kit and figures doesn’t represent a major problem. If there is one thing I have learned during the last couple of years of kit-building, it’s that I really hate faffing around with a bazillion tiny parts so I’m generally willing to accept a kit with less than stellar levels of detail in exchange for an easy build. That’s precisely what this appears to be.  

If you want to build a 6-pdr gun in 1/35 scale but you don’t fancy this one, there are several alternatives. Chinese manufacturer Riich Models offer several 1/35 6-pdr kits. These include RC35044, 6 Pounder Anti Tank Gun with British/Commonwealth Crew. This looks like a cracking kit with lots of detail, photo-etch parts and a nicely moulded, posed and detailed five-man crew.

Taiwanese manufacturer AFV Club offer several versions of the 6-Pdr in 1/35 including AF35217, British 6pdr QF Anti-tank Gun Mk.IV. These are very detailed kits and all feature very tiny parts – many of these kits are spread over six sprues and the parts count is almost 10 times that of the Tamiya offering. Some versions also include PE parts, turned brass barrels and shell casings and soft vinyl tyres. However, none include crew-members and these kits are comparatively expensive at anything up to €60. 

Russian manufacturer Zvezda offer kit 3518, British Anti-tank QF 6-PDR Mk II. However, this lacks any crew members and it’s actually a re-box of a Peerless-Max kit from the early 1970’s so detail just isn’t as good as you will find on more recent kits. Another Chinese manufacturer, Bronco Models (which I believe is associated with Riich Models or it may even be part of the same parent company) offer several versions of the 6-Pdr plus towing vehicles and crews including versions used by British airborne forces during World War Two such as CB35170, 6pdr and ¼ Ton Truck. These appear to be very detailed kits but they do include lots of tiny parts and PE.  

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Tamiya 1/35 Sturmgeschütz IV Sd.Kfz. 163 (35087) Build Review

It’s time to start the build of the StuG IV. I’m looking forward to this one because, in my limited experience, these older Tamiya kits are simple to build and fit is generally very good indeed. Because they were originally designed as motorised kits, the upper and lower hull are separate assemblies that can be joined later in the construction process, and that can make painting things like the roadwheels, sprocket idler and suspension a little simpler. I have decided to use the kit decals to model a StuG of Sturmgeschütz-Brigade 237 (formerly Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung 237). This unit was formed in February 1944 and took part in action on the Eastern Front in defence against the Soviet offensive known as Operation Bagration.

I’ll be going for an overall dunklegelb (dark yellow) finish without any additional camouflage. As ever, I’ll be brush painting just about everything and I hope to create a slightly battered looking StuG from the early Summer of 1944.

I begin with assembling the various part of the upper and lower hull and the main gun. And it’s immediately obvious that fit is simply superb. Everything assembles with no gaps; the placement of parts is generally clear and there is no need for filler anywhere.

I assemble the upper hull with the loader’s hatch open (I’ll be placing the figure from the kit in this hatch) but with the Commander’s hatch closed. In retrospect, I might have been better to leave the Commander’s hatch open because the kit includes a rather nice representation of the periscopic Commander’s sight.

I also work on the Schurzen side armour at this point. In the kit, all five panels on each side are modelled as a single piece. However, in reality these were separate plates so I carefully cut the armour into five pieces on each side. Each panel is provided with its own mounting points and I’m hoping that cutting out the individual panels will be enough to suggest that these are separate parts without bending the individual panels as I have seen done on some kits. This also gives me the option of leaving out one or more panels, something that was frequently seen on well-used vehicles.

I then spray everything with a base coat of Tamiya TS-68 from an aerosol can, simply because I have a little left in a can and at least it gives me a consistent base to work on.

I’ll be using MIG Jimenez acrylic paint for the main colour, with Dunklegelb Base and Dunklegelb Shine for highlights. One thing I do like about these paints is that they’re translucent, so I apply the Shine first to areas that would reflect more light…

Then I add a top coat of the Base colour, leaving the highlighted areas still just visible.

Next, I carefully paint chipped areas on the upper and lower hull as well as on the gun and mantlet. I use a dark grey to suggest an exposed undercoat and I try to keep it logical – raised areas and places where there would be likely to get wear show more chipping.  

Then, I paint the tyres on the roadwheels and return rollers – not one of my favourite jobs! I also paint the tools, tow cable, jack and MG34 at this stage, and I’m trying a different technique here. I paint all these items dark grey and then highlighted edges and worn areas with a soft pencil.

I’m fairly happy with the result and these are added to the hull and the decals are applied using Vallejo Decal Fix and Decal Softener. The decals are fine, though they do feel a little thick.

Then, and I fix the gun and mantlet in position – a nice touch is that the gun can both traverse and elevate when it’s in place. Everything then gets a coat of clear matte varnish before I start on the oil wash to bring out shadows. I use Abteilung oils dark mud, a fairly dark brown which contrasts nicely with the dark yellow finish. The fine panel detail makes highlighting recessed lines fairly simple.

Then I join the upper and lower hull parts. Hey, it’s starting to look like a StuG!

I assemble the exhaust and give it a coat of Tamiya white putty to simulate a rusty texture and then paint it orange before overpainting with a thick layer of the same oil paint I used for the shadow wash. I then use thinner to rub off some of the oil paint and this gives a blotchy finish that kind of looks like rust. I’m also happy with the effect of the pencil highlights on the tow cable.

Then the tracks get the same treatment as the tools – after a base coat of dark gunmetal and a coat of clear varnish, I use a pencil to add a soft metallic shine to raised areas. When they’re in place I’ll add some brown acrylic wash to suggest rust and dirt.

Wrestling the vinyl tracks into position is fairly simple. They aren’t too tight, though it would be difficult to simulate any sort of sag. However, on this kit the top run of the tracks will be hidden by the Schurzen plates, so this isn’t a major issue.

The figure is next and, once again, I’m really not sure about the information provided by Tamiya. The painting guide is shown on the side of the box. This shows the figure wearing a camouflaged jacket and a green cap and trousers.

The style of the unform is certainly correct with the wrap jacket, but all the references I can find suggest that StuG crews (who were members of the artillery rather than panzer troops) wore grey uniforms throughout the war. So, I give my crewman a grey uniform, which also means I don’t have to attempt a complex camouflage pattern, something I think I’d find very challenging in 1/35 – I have to admit that my figure painting skills aren’t the best! A pistol holster is included in the kit but, as the figure doesn’t have a belt, there isn’t anywhere to hang this. The kit also includes headphones, but these fit so badly on the figure’s head that I leave them off.

The last jobs are to add the two radio antenna and hang the Schurzen plates on either side – they don’t have to be glued in place, so you can display the finished kit with one or more plates missing. And that is the StuG IV pretty much done… 

 After Action Report

Other than adding some rusty texture to the exhaust with Tamiya white putty (and that was the only occasion I needed to use any filler on this kit), cutting the Schurzen side armour into individual plates and adding the radio antenna, this build is straight out of the box. I’m very happy with the result and the kit itself is a sheer pleasure to build. There aren’t a great many tiny parts and what there is fits perfectly. The instructions are generally clear (though I did struggle to understand where to place the rear towing hooks) and there is nothing really challenging in this build.

As with the other old Taimya 1/35 kits I have built, this was just fun and relaxing to build and paint. Perhaps the tracks could be better and there is a gap between the upper hull and the top of the roadwheels that can be seen from some angles through the open loader’s hatch, though it would be simple to fill this with plastic card – I failed to notice until I had joined the upper and lower hull.  I’m sure that more recent kits of the StuG IV provide more detail and things like stowage items on the outside of the hull. Nevertheless, this builds into a reasonable representation of a StuG IV for very little money.

Two generations of German tank destroyer in 1/35

Italeri Marder III behind

Overall, this kit is highly recommended and it might be especially appropriate for someone coming to 1/35 armour kits for the first time.

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Tamiya 1/35 Sturmgeschütz IV Sd.Kfz. 163 (35087) In-Box Review and History

Tamiya 1/35 Sturmgeschütz IV Sd.Kfz. 163 (35087) In-Box Review and History


I thoroughly enjoyed building a couple of Tamiya 1/35 kits from the 60s and 70s (The Panzer II and M41 Walker Bulldog, as you ask…). So, when I saw another Tamiya kit from the 70s in the Special Offer section of a kit vendor’s website, I didn’t hesitate. What I liked about those other kits was their relative simplicity, as well as the fact that despite being fifty plus years old, they still fit perfectly together to make a reasonable representation of the original.  

As you’ll know if you’re a regular reader, I don’t much care for lots of tiny parts or a pile of PE. Not only is my eyesight a whole lot worse than it was when I first built kits in the late 1960s, my fingers seem to have got clumsier too and I seem to spend more time than productive on my hands and knees trying to find tiny parts that I have dropped. That’s one of the reasons these old kit appeal to me, but of course there’s a downside in that they’re just not as detailed as some more recent kits.

The mould date on this kit is 1975, which makes it one of the earlier vehicles in the Military Miniatures series. Unsurprisingly, it shares the lower hull, suspension, running gear, Schurzen side armour and tracks from the Tamiya Panzer IV Ausf. H (35054) released in 1975. Like most other Tamiya kits of this period, it was originally produced as a motorised kit and you’ll find holes for switches and mounting places for batteries in the lower hull.  As ever here in Model Kit World, the question is: does this forty-five-year-old kit deserve your attention and your hard-earned cash?


The Sturmgeschütz (StuG) IV came about, like many other things in the chaos of wartime Nazi Germany, by accident and at the whim of Adolf Hitler. By early 1943, the value of the StuG III as an anti-tank weapon was very obvious and production of that vehicle increased until it outstripped that of most other German AFVs. However, the continuation of intense fighting on the Eastern Front and the Allied landings in North Africa meant that more still were needed. Krupp, manufacturers of the Panzer IV, submitted a design for a new StuG using modified superstructure from a StuG III Ausf. F mounted on a Panzer IV chassis in February 1943, but this was rejected. The StuG III was considered perfectly adequate and Krupp were directed instead to concentrate on development of the planned Panzerjäger IV, another assault gun that would be equipped with the same 7.5 cm L/70 main gun used on the Panther tank.

A Panzerjäger IV. A fine anti-tank weapon, but relatively few were built due to shortages of the L/70 gun.

Image: Bundesarchiv via WikiMedia Commons

However, a shortage of the 7.5 cm L/70 guns delayed production of the Panzerjäger IV and in November 1943 an Allied bombing raid on Berlin severely damaged the Altmärkische Kettenwerk (Alkett) works where the StuG III was produced. At a conference in early December, Hitler agreed that a proposal from Krupp for creating a new assault gun by combining the superstructure of the StuG III Ausf. G with the chassis of the Panzer IV should go ahead immediately.

A StuG IV draped with lots of spare track links in Ebling, East Prussia in February 1945.

Image: Bundesarchiv via WikiMedia Commons

Production of the StuG IV ran from December 1943 to March 1945 and totalled a little over eleven hundred vehicles. All were armed with the same 7.5 cm StuK 40 L/48 seen on the StuG III in a “Saukopf” (pig snout) mantlet and most were fitted with Schurzen side armour to protect against attack by hollow-charge projectiles and a rough, zimmerit anti-magnetic coating. By this stage of the war, most Sturmgeschütz (Assault Guns) were being as much used for their ability as tank-killers as for their original purpose of providing mobile fire support to infantry units.  No co-axial machine gun was fitted on the StuG IV but an MG34 on a shielded mount was provided on the upper hull. The StuG IV served on the Eastern front, in Italy and in Western Europe following the Allied landings in Normandy and it proved just as effective as the StuG III in the tank-killing role.

A StuG IV and crew

Image: Bundesarchiv via WikiMedia Commons

All German AFVs in World War Two were given an inventory number by the ordinance department. However and oddly, the StuG IV seems to have had two different numbers. This vehicle was classified as a Sonderkraftfahrzeug (Special Purpose Vehicle, usually abbreviated as Sd.Kfz.) and it appears on some versions of the ordinance department designation lists twice, as Sd.Kfz. 163, “Sturmgeschütz IV” and as Sd.Kfz. 167, “Sturmgeschütz IV mit 7,5 cm StuK 40”. I don’t really understand that as all StuG IVs were fitted with the same main gun but it probably explains why this kit is designated as “Sd.Kfz. 163” while almost all other StuG IV kits are shown as “Sd.Kfz. 167.” I suspect that Tamiya may have got it wrong here and the most common designation for this vehicle in Wermacht service seems to have been Sd.Kfz. 167.

What’s in the Box?

This box contains four sprues moulded in light brown plastic, the lower hull, two rubber-band style tracks, a set of soft plastic polycap retainers for the roadwheels, idlers and sprockets, a set of decals and the instructions.

The parts seem crisply moulded with good surface detail. A single figure in appropriate uniform is provided as well as Schurzen side armour and optional concrete block additional armour for the left and right sides of the hull front. No zimmerit finish is modelled.

Decals are provided for several units including 2nd Panzer Division, 9th Panzer Division, 116th Panzer Division and the Panzer-Lehr Division as well as three different Assault Gun Brigades. That covers vehicles serving on the Eastern Front and in Normandy, Belgium and Germany following the Allied landings. You can make up your own three-digit identification number because you are provided with several numerals in red with white outlines and a set of “kill” markings for the barrel are also included. The decal sheet actually references a different Tamiya kit – it’s from the Jagdpanzer IV kit (35088). But that kit doesn’t include side identification numbers, so I’m not quite sure what’s going on here.  

The suggested colour scheme is overall “dark yellow” which sounds right as all German tanks after February 1943 were finished in overall dunkelgelb. The instructions also correctly note that in the field, tanks were often camouflaged with brown (rotbraun) and green (olivgrün) paint applied either by brush or by spraying.

There are a total of well over 200 parts here, and detail generally looks good though there is a complete lack of any items representing stowage on the rear hull.

The flexible vinyl tracks have reasonable detail on the external surfaces but rather less on the inside – presumably this is a legacy from this kit’s motorised origin.

The instructions are the usual Tamiya fare and are generally clear with good, three-dimensional views of all steps of construction. The text is somewhat clumsy in terms of English usage, but there is nothing here that should cause any major problems. The instructions also provide a some very brief history of the StuG III and IV.

Would You Want One?

A quick look at the parts in the box suggests that this shares many good things with other early Tamiya kits: there aren’t too many tiny parts, what there is looks crisply moulded with decent surface detail and, going on my previous experience of similar kits, I’d expect everything to fit together nicely.

The lack of stowage bins and items for the rear hull is a little disappointing, but crafting these from scratch or the spares box shouldn’t be beyond the capacity of most modellers. The lack of a zimmerit finish is also notable as many, perhaps most, StuG IVs, carried this distinctive, wrinkled finish.

There are a number of alternatives if you fancy a kit of the StuG IV in 1/35 but you want something a little more modern and with additional detail. Dragon do a very nice early production StuG IV which is available both with and without zimmerit finish. Smart-Kit versions of this kit feature individual link tracks, PE parts in brass and nickel and a part-count of over nine hundred! Academy released a new-tool version of the StuG IV kit in 2018 to replace a previous version from 1986. This is another very nice kit featuring high detail, some slide-moulded parts and detailed vinyl tracks.

The thing is, this Tamiya kit, like many of the other early kits from the Military Miniatures series, is available for considerably less cash than either of those others. Does that matter? Well, the price isn’t a deal-breaker for most of us I guess, but this is available at somewhere between half and one third of the price of the others. I like that and I’m sure that this old kit can be turned into something decent. I’m really looking forward to this build!

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Tamiya 1/35 Sturmgeschütz IV Sd.Kfz. 163 (35087) Build Review

Tamiya 1/35 3.7cm Antitank Gun PaK 35/36 (35035) Build Review

Construction of the PaK 35/36 itself is very straightforward and the instructions show clearly what’s needed. Fit of, for example, the main parts of the loading section and breech is not great and some filler is need to avoid a visible seam on the top. Getting the forward part of the barrel absolutely straight also takes a little bit of care.

The wheels, chassis and stabilising legs are all added. I am leaving off the shield until I have finished basic painting.

I then do a basic assembly of the main parts of the figures. Quite a lot of filler is needed, particularly at the shoulders and where the legs join on to the torsos. At least the poses don’t look too bad. The shell that the loader is clutching in his right hand really does look a little silly – it’s just too small, so I cut it off and I will replace it later with one of the loose shells from the kit.

I have made a small base out of an old picture frame and I try placing the gun and figures on this, just to see how everything will fit. I am aiming for a muddy lane, somewhere in Russia in the Autumn of 1941, and I have used some strips of plastic card to suggest the basic layout.

Then, it’s back to the gun. First, everything gets a lightened coat of Vallejo German Grey (I find the base colour too dark).

Then some light chipping is added and the tyres get a coat of dark grey.

Then, the shield is added and everything gets a wash of dark oil paint. And that’s pretty much the PaK finished.

Next, it’s on to painting the figures. The faces and hands are done in an approximate flesh colour and then a wash of dark brown oil paint is added. Then tunics are painted in green and belts, collars and epaulettes are added in black – the Tamiya paint scheme suggest bottle-green for the collars, but by the time of the Russian Campaign most German Army uniforms featured black collars. I use a fairly light green for the tunics because I intend to add a wash of dark green oil paint which will darken the overall colour and provide some shadow detail in folds and creases.

I’m going for grey rather than green for trousers as this seems to have been fairly common. Again, I use a light grey acrylic paint and then add a darker grey oil wash to darken things down and add shadows.

Finally, boots are painted dark grey and helmets and pieces of equipment are added. Here’s the finished commander figure.

I try the loader and gunner next to the gun. Neither relates particularly well to the PaK, and I still think the hands on the gunner look like bunches of bananas!

Nest, the base. I make the muddy ground out of exterior filler and add some small stones and debris from my wife’s cactus garden (don’t tell her!). I press the gun and figures into the filler before it’s completely dry so that all will appear to sit in rather than on the muddy surface.

Then it gets painted with several shades of brown – it looks very dark in this photo for some reason and the overall effect is actually much lighter.

Then, I make some “mud” out of a mix of brown paint, coffee grounds and PVA glue and add this to the tyres of the gun and the boots of the figures.

Then the figures and gun are placed on the base, ammo boxes are added and a few empty shell-casings scattered around. And it’s done…

After Action Report

This was straightforward and simple build, something I really appreciate. As far as I can tell, the PaK 35/36 is a reasonable representation of the actual weapon.

The figures aren’t as bad as I had expected, but they’re not up to current standards either. The poses are OK, but there is nothing dynamic or interesting and the lack of facial expressions is disappointing. It took a fair bit of filler to get reasonable joins and even then, they aren’t perfect.

That said, I’m not too unhappy with the finished result. The poses mean that the faces are mostly in shadow and/or hidden, which, given my lack of skill at painting faces, is probably a good thing. And given that this kit is just so cheap, it’s a great way of practising if, like me, you aren’t sure of your ability to paint 1/35 figures.

If you simply want to build a kit of the Pak 35/36, or if you’re going for a diorama and you can accept the limitations of early 1970s figures, I can heartily recommend this as a quick and satisfying build.

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