|NOTES:||Recommended to all.|
For 1940, the Char B was truly formidable compared to it's opponents. It's 47mm turret gun was effective, the 75mm could be trained by a sophisticated Naeder Hydrostatic transmission for fine aiming. 60mm of armor was at least 3 times as thick as a Pzkw. IV, impervious to the 37mm guns of the German vehicles and Pak guns. However, these points were outweighed by some damning disadvantages. The APX4 turret had room for one man. This "Commander" had to: find targets for the 47mm and 75mm guns, load and fire the 47, give orders to the rest of the crew, and, if a squad leader, issue orders to the rest of the group! (almost forgot, the co-axial machine gun was in the turret, too) This before multitasking became accepted. In the heat of battle, this was one overloaded boy! By comparison, the Panzer 3 and 4 had 3 man turrets, with good division of labor. Speed was slow, and as mentioned before, range short. I had always heard the cooling grille on the left side was a weak spot, now I've heard it wasn't that vulnerable.
At any rate, when the Nazis encountered these monsters, they were in for a shock. Tamiya includes in the kit a marking sheet, on the flip side of which is a history of the battle at Stonne, where the 3rd French Armored division did the nasty to the German 10th Armored division, destroying 15 tanks and S.P. guns among the fine hedges and courtyards of a mansion. Individual names are mentioned here, comparing the French company commander to Micheal Wittman! In the end, however the tactical German superiority won the Battle of France. Many of the French vehicles were caught in the chaos of French roads, bombed by Stukas, or caught in the flanks by imaginatively used 88mm Flak guns.
After the battle, remaining Char B's (Chars B?) were utilized by the conquerors. Some became turret-less training tanks, others had their 75mm guns removed and replaced by flamethrowers, to become PzKpfw B1 bis (f) Flamm. A few chassis had 105 howitzers mounted on them, to form a weird high mounted S.P. gun. Some even ended up back in French hands after the D Day invasion.
Inside the large box with nice box art, you'll find five sprues, plus hull molding, a bag 'o track links, and a bag with a piece of real chain to hang on your rear hooks. Ah, yes plus the all-important poly caps. A nice French multitasker figure is also included, looking spiffy with his puttees and pistol. No sink marks are in evidence, and no ejector pin marks are on any parts that can be seen when assembled.
Assembly starts with the long rows of small road wheels, 16 to a side. Then the wheel assemblies are laid onto the bottom rails, and thence to the hull bottom. This is the only tricky step in the whole kit, trying to keep all the little wheels in place while getting the cement to hold it together. Your fingers will want to push at least some of the wheels out of the rails. Once this little juggling act is over, the rest of the job falls together (sorry Scott). This is one nifty piece of engineering. The front and rear idlers are assembled with poly caps, as is the 75 gun. These items are now easily moveable. Various hull fittings are next (don't forget to drill the holes in the hull for the track guides). Some molded rivets must be cut off, to clear fenders and fittings. The tracks are so great, supplied in a bag with no sprues, the only things to clean up are tiny nubs in the middle of the plates. They snap together quite easily, taking me about ten minutes per side. (There are 61 per side.) Once together, I laid them out on the table and went over them with progressively finer grades of sanding stick, until the nubs were gone. Get 'em shiny, as they wore quite smooth in use
The only addition I made was to install a piece of clear plastic behind the open drivers visor, to represent armor glass (I assume it had one). All hull pieces snicked together, no filler anywhere. The two turret halves left a small seam, so I took a brush and some MR. Surfacer 500, and simulated a weld. I left off the tools, chain and antenna guard to facilitate masking, and repaired to the paint shop.
Normally I shun acrylic paint, in this case I had to use it. Four color schemes are given, I chose option "C," a 1st armored div. machine. This tank was in a two tone scheme, the colors calling for "hull red," a red Brown, and Olive green. None of my favorite model masters matched up, so I grit my teeth and went with Tamiya XF9 and XF58. (Disclaimer; I am an aircraft guy, taking for granted the colors were correct. French armor experts might have issues with this.) First I sprayed the whole thing flat black, being sure to get all the nooks and crannies. Then, to the"Hull red" The pattern was masked off using computer paper cut to match the shapes on the finishing guide, held away from the surface by small rolls of masking tape for a slightly "soft" edge. I did the two sides first, then the turret and top. The two colors came out too dark looking for me, anyhow, but too late now. Tracks were also blacked first, then coated with Alclad Aluminum, mixed with a small amount of black. Having worked on Dozers for some years, this was how solid cast plates always looked. A wash of Acrylic rust was made up and applied, to simulate a thin overnight coat of surface rust in the low spots. The entire thing was then shot with my favorite glosscoat, Testor's Metallizer Sealer, in preparation for....
|LE COLORS ET MARKINGS|
I hear a lot of people say they don't like Tamiya decals, saying they are too thick. I , again, have no problem here. They go on nicely with Solvaset, the carrier film disappears with another coat of Sealer. This color scheme has big letter "U's" on it, and some neat Hearts in circles on the turret. I then Drybrushed the whole deal with Sand Yellow, after which the lower areas were sprayed lightly with the same, finished up with Floquil railroad colors "Foundation," for a very light overall dust coat. Sprocket teeth and wear plates weathered with aluminum, some random rust streaks and Viola! Fin!
|LE FINAL BITS|
All that was left to do was attach the left off parts. On the rear deck is a rail across the engine deck. I've never seen a reference to this, I assume it's a guard to keep the 47 from depressing too much and blowing a hole in it's own engine. Tools were painted and put on the racks in back, an antenna made and put on. Following the plan's suggestion, I primed the chain before painting it rust, and wrapped it around it's hangers a' la the detailed instructions. What appears to be 4 large jacks are included, and the instructions indicate putting them on the fenders. I could find no pictures that included these, so decided to leave them off.
It's been a long time since I enjoyed a kit like I did this one. The engineering and fit makes it a pleasure to do. $52 bucks is kind of expensive, But at least to me it's worth it. Building right out of the box allowed me to avoid the dread AMS (Advanced Modeler Syndrome) this time. After a wait of 30 years I finally have my Char Beast. Anyone with any modeling skills can build this one and have a Beauty. I know it's not as Hyperdetailed or loaded with extras as recent Dragon kits, but I'm sure we'll be seeing some after-market goodies coming out for this, and will see some superdetailed masterpieces. I would recommend this model to All.
World War 2 Tanks, Eric Grove, LongMeadow
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