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While many iconoclasts spend their time bashing this or that kit for missing
one or two details, or whining as a kit of their favorite subject has a
"horrible" 2 mm error in its length, one thing which should be observed by all
of us is this: where are the "starter" or "entry" level kits today that we can
start our children on?
Many of us - no ages mentioned - began in the 1950s with a wealth of then-new
kits that beckoned to us from store shelves, even down at the neighborhood "Mom
and Pop" grocery. Aurora kits for 49 cents to a mighty one dollar of everything
under the sun, Revell matching them stride for stride, and Airfix coming out
with – wait for it – common scale kits! Anyone of us with a dollar from a
favorite aunt or several weeks allowance could pick up some of these styrene
beauties and slap them together in an afternoon (hey, who needed paint?)
My first armor kit was an Aurora M46 Patton the year it came out. I never did
get the little caps on right so the wheels never worked, but hey, it had four
guys that came with it and it was a TANK, so who cared? I can't recall how many
Tootsietoy trucks it blew up before becoming a victim in its own right.
But as kits got more expensive – and kit reviewers like me showed up to start
raining on the manufacturers' parade – kits got more and more accurate but more
and more complex. It's one thing to give a kid a model with about 100 parts or
less and a simple method of construction, and another to give him a kit with 700
parts that 50% of adults cannot correctly assemble. With that high a cost to
hours spent on the hobby or hours spent versus frustration level, it's easy to
see why kids are less and less interested in modeling as a hobby.
I spotted these models in a Wal-Mart last year but did not manage to get one
before they sold out. This year I saw the same kits back again and picked one up
to see what it presents to the younger modeler. I was quite surprised at what I
First off, this is essentially the same offering as 21st Century Toys (a Chinese
import company exclusively under contract with Wal-Mart) makes as a completed
model in a "window" box with the figures in their "action" poses. All this "kit"
does is provide in a semi-knocked down form so that "dad and lad" can put it
together, together. Not a bad concept, that.
The model is not bad either. It represents a standard production early hull M4
tank with early turret and the M34A1 gun mount, albeit fitted with late-model
("upswept") return roller brackets, T48 rubber chevron tracks, and applique
armor on the hull and turret. That beats the old Revell kit, that looked like a
Sherman but had nothing in common with any specific prototype.
No sponson liners are included, so it is at least as good as any of the Tamiya
modern M4 series kits.
The model measures 181mm long x 82.5 mm wide x 84mm to the top of the
commander's hatch, which makes it about 1/32 scale. That's better than the old
Tamiya 1/30-something kit.
What you get when you open the box are a bunch of bags of parts or assemblies.
The hull, turret and belly pan are shipped as nearly complete but separately
bagged. Each is painted (albeit in a hurry) and complete as is, less a handful
of small detail parts for the lower hull. "Assembly" consists of snapping the
six extra parts in place, slipping on the tracks, snapping the hull sections
together, and then using the two screws to hold them together. My own example
had a stiff-fitting turret and an underscale (and off-axis) hollow bore to the
Some license has been taken. The hull hatches are overside and rectangular,
mostly to ensure the crew figures will fit in them. Tools are molded onto the
hull and quite high in relief, but at least in the right places.
The model has been painted in the European camouflage used by most of the 1st
Army Group tanks with black stripes over olive drab. The crew figures come
painted as well, and consist of a seated driver with tanker's helmet and a
standing commander figure with steel pot. Both the figures and the "kit" stowed
on the tank have been washed in black so they are essentially partially
weathered. The model does come with 10 packs, 2 crates, 2 oil cans, 2 gas cans,
2 spare wheels, 3 sections of track, and 3 helmets as extra "kit" stowed on the
tank. Markings consist of generic stars.
The tracks and wheels roll, the turret traverses and the gun elevates and
depresses, the hull and turret hatch both open, as do the ejection port door and
the engine air intake access hatch (the front one, not the one over the engine
Overall this is actually a pretty impressive model, given its limitations. There
are a lot more in this family; I am not sure how big it gets, but I have seen
the usual Tiger I and 88mm kits, plus others such as a US halftrack, M24
Chaffee, Wirbelwind and Moebelwagen, Sd.Kfz. 7 8 ton halftrack, and even an
early model Pzkw. III. If you want to get kids interested in armor and armor
modeling, this seems to be a painless way to go. (But you HAVE to go to
Wal-Mart, as they seem to have a "done deal" on distribution in the US.)
Review Copyright © 2004 by Cookie
Page Created 13 November, 2004
Last updated 13 November, 2004
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