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French R35 Tank with FCM Turret (83894) 1:35


Mike

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French R35 Tank with FCM Turret (83894)

1:35 HobbyBoss via Creative Models Ltd

 

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Designed by Renault, The R35 was an interwar light infantry tank used by the French army in their unsuccessful defence of their homeland at the beginning of WWII, after which it remained in service with the German forces as a beutepanzer, where it was either used in second line service, modified or heavily converted to a makeshift gun carriage and used as a self-propelled howitzer. It was originally intended as a replacement for the diminutive FT-17, but due to the sloth in re-training their crews, they were still ill-prepared even on the eve of war.

 

When Germany pounced, there were almost a thousand R35s in service, although they had been found unreliable, poorly armed to battle other tanks, and with too little armour. All the remaining vehicles were taken on charge by the Germans and more than a little tinkering with cutting torches began. Some had their turrets removed to use as small gun emplacements, while others were thoroughly butchered to become tank destroyers, although in doing so the original chassis was horribly overloaded, leading to slow, breakdown prone vehicles such as this, that must have been loathed by their crews.  The turrets from the similarly unimpressive FCM tank, that was originally equipped with a pair of machine guns in much the same way as the German Panzer I, one was later removed in favour of a 37mm cannon, mounted in a turret that was intended to become the standard design for all French light tanks, despite a number of problems.  By the end of the war only a small number were left that were used by the French until they were replaced with more capable tanks.

 

The Kit

This is a cross-tooling from Hobby Boss, utilising existing sprues to create a new subject. There are a substantial number of options that make use of the basic chassis, which HB have naturally exploited to the maximum as you'd expect. The kit arrives in a fairly small box with a divider keeping the sprues from rattling about and damaging the hull and other smaller parts. Inside are eight sprues plus the upper hull in sand coloured styrene; two sprues in a brown styrene containing the tracks; a sheet of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, a tiny decal sheet, separate colour painting guide and black and white instruction manual.

 

It shares many sprues with the previous editions of the R35, so if you’ve seen our reviews or possess some of the other options, there will be much that is familiar on the sprues, and there’s plenty of detail to be seen, including an engine, transmission and much of the interior of this diminutive oddity.

 

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The engine is first to be constructed, with a two-part block that is heavily detailed with additional parts, a great many of which are tiny, which results in a very nicely depicted and detailed motor for your R35 chassis. Work then commences on integrating the engine with the lower hull, beginning with the sand-cast rear bulkhead, which has the idler tensioning devices, a pair of hatches, an undocumented spare wheel that pops up and disappears in later diagrams, and towing hook added, after which the radiator, cooling fan and ducting are assembled with the power-take-off wheel projecting from the rear of the box. The hull itself is made up from two side panels and a floor, into which the radiator housing, a PE bracing plate over a styrene former and driver controls are added. The sides are fitted out with three return-rollers and a final drive housing per side, and four bogies with two wheels per unit and a big suspension spring are built up. Two more solo bogies, two drive sprockets and two idler wheels are also constructed, and are installed on the suspension mounting points on the hull sides. At the same time the driver's seat, fuel tank and engine-mount bulkhead are ensconced within the hull, and the rear bulkhead closes up the rear. After adding a few more driver controls and their linkages, plus a turret base plate, the drive-train is dropped into the hull, with a transmission housing added to the front, and thick drive-shafts link the sprockets to complete the drive-train.

 

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Given their small size in 1:35, HB have decided to go down the link and length route with the tracks, and I can't say I blame them. The straight track runs are made up from six parts with a few links in between the curved lower sections, and twelve individual links at each end. Each of the individual links have three sprue gates, while the lengths have additional overflow tabs that ensure against short-shot links, and also double as ejector-pin positions, saving the delicate detail from marring.  Unless you're going to the trouble of using metal replacements, these should do you proud with a bit of sympathetic painting and weathering. Give them a final rub with an artist's pencil to impart a metallic sheen where they get worn by the wheels, and you'll never know they weren't metal. With the tracks in place, the full-length fenders are added, along with a little stowage and a big bottle-jack on the right rear.

 

The upper hull is detailed inside with the driver's instrument panel, plus a choice of actuator for his vision hatch, which can be posed open or closed. The final drive inspection hatch is added along with some PE parts, as is the lower part of the driver's hatch, with the upper section added in the open or closed position, depending on your choice. The upper hull is then closed up and a host of pioneer tools are threaded through their tie-down blocks to be added to the sides of the hull together with the silencer/muffler and exhaust, the feeder pipe for which comes from the rear of the vehicle.  A small armoured cover is placed over the exhaust exit on the rear, and a small hand-crank on a stiffened plate is installed vertically on the right of the engine deck.

 

This edition comes with an anti-topple assembly at the rear reminiscent of the FT-17, with a curved underside and angular supports above, a splayed frame on the underside, and a long starter handle projecting through it.  On top is the spare road wheel that was shown in a diagram earlier, probably a victim of copy and paste syndrome, because the C-shaped mounting point on the rear of the tank is shown bare while the assembly is attached to the rear, and would probably baulk the installation of the ironwork at this stage if it had been glued in place as originally suggested.

 

The small angular turret from the FCM tank is moulded as a shell that has the rear hatch added along with the hinge and vision port, with side view ports installed along with a few grab-handles, before the main gun assembly is slotted into its mantlet and inserted in that gap at the front of the turret, after which the embarrassingly short barrel tips are added to give the impression of a hollow muzzle.  The turret is then completed by the addition of the floor with integrated turret ring that locks into place on its bayonet lugs, completing the build.

 

Markings

There is just one option in the box for this kit, and as usual HB are stoically mute on its origin and time in service.  From the box you can build the following from the box:

 

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The sheet is absolutely minute but sufficient to do the job, and as there are only three decals on the sheet, the identifying text takes up most of the space on the sheet.

 

 

Conclusion

It's a small tank that's almost cute in 1:35, with plenty of detail included in the box. If the alternative turret interests you, you should be pretty happy with what's in the box.

 

Highly recommended.

 

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Review sample courtesy of

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