Crusader Mk III
Given the long pedigree of Airfix, it is of no surprise that from time to time, they re-release older kits such as the Crusade Mk. III. The vehicle is iconic and was the mainstay of the British armored force in their extended campaign in North Africa. The vehicle’s history is summed up in the instructions:
The Crusader Tank was one of the primary weapons of the British Army during its early engagements with Germans during the Second World War. While early variants fought in the campaigns in France and then Greece, the Mk. III Crusader proved itself to be invaluable during the desert was in North Africa where, the in the vast expanses of the desert speed was a vital factor in tank engagements. The highly mobile cruiser tanks had this in plentiful supply and the larger 6 pounder gun fitted to the to the Crusader Mk. III, it was also able to pack a punch to match the early Panzer III and IV tanks it faced in combat. But as the German tanks increased their armour protection and firepower, especially with the introduction of the Tiger in 1943, the Crusade began to fall behind and was replaced by lend-lease tanks such as the M3 Grant and M4 Sherman as soon as they became available. The chassis however continued to see service as an AA tank up until the wars end; its reliability and pace proving to be useful assets once more in this role.
The mold has held up well, but there is a great deal of flash, something that you expect to find on a kit from 1975. The tank is molded in the now familiar blue plastic of Airfix. All of the sprues are in one bag. When I opened the bag to examine the parts, a fair number of them had come lose from the sprues. Thankfully, nothing was damaged or lost. The instructions have been redesigned, or so it seems to me, and are easy to follow. There are two color schemes and markings, printed in color. The color callouts are all Humbrol. No surprise there. The decals have been redone and are now in register and look great. There is no parts tree. Another sign of an older kit – the part numbers are molded into the bigger pieces.
As with most armored vehicles, the suspension goes together first. In the instructions, the suspension arms are numbered sequentially, left to right, starting with number two and ending with eleven. I am not sure this makes a difference in assembly. Four of the arms had fallen off the sprues, so I was not sure what the parts numbers were. It didn’t seem to make a difference. There are mold lines on each part that should be scrapped and/or sanded off before assembly. Once the road wheels are assembled, the tracks are put on. This kit was made long before individual links came into being, but it does have a curious feature. There are two sets of rubber tracks for each side of the vehicle for a total of four. It is an interesting feature that I have never seen. I painted the tracks black with a bit of silver-grey to bring out the highlights.
Once the lower half is assembled, we go to the upper half. For this kit’s pedigree and scale, I think it is well detailed. The bits and pieces that go on the upper hull, however, betray their age. The fit is not as tight as you would find on a modern kit. There are small gaps in the tool kits that go on the fenders, for example. There are substantial gaps at the rear where the two sides come together. I am not sure if that is a sign of age or just how the kit was designed. Given the lose tolerances, there are two pieces (106 and 108) that form the exterior of what I am assuming are the rear idler boxes has substantial gaps. The rear idler will hide it, but again, I am not sure if that is a sign of age or the way the kit was designed. All that being said, fit was okay given the age of the kit. Since the sand shields hide the less than ideal fit, I wasn’t too concerned. I did delete the tow cable. It was covered with flash and regardless of what the instructions indicated, the fit was poor and clunky.
Assembly of the turret is straight forward. I chose to keep the hatch closed and not use the figure included in the kit. The hatch takes some sanding and scraping to fit, but the rest of the turret goes together easily. The instructions indicated that spare track links go on the exterior. Looking at contemporary photographs of the Crusader in North Africa, I chose to delete those. The last step was putting the track shields on. The edges of the shield are beveled, so the attachment points are tricky. To make them fit, I needed to do some scrapping and sanding. I am still not happy with the end result, but at least they fit. Even though the color profiles do not show the ancillary equipment, attached to racks that were on the sides of the vehicle, I chose to install them to break up the earth tone of the vehicles.
Of the two color schemes, I chose 21st Lancers, 6th Armored Division. The Humbrol color is dark earth and given the dearth of that brand in my stash, I substituted the Humbrol for Tamiya Flat Earth (XF-52). It might be a tad lighter than the Humbrol brand, but it works for me. I applied a coat of future to make the decals adhere. Unfortunately, even though the quality of decals have improved, these proved problematic. There was silvering, which could be my fault, but several of them broke up over the uneven surfaces. In the instructions, there are several places that you see red and white stripes. They lay ontop of tool boxes, located on the fenders. Unfortunately, rather than conforming to the uneven surfaces smoothly, the broke up. I have elected to keep them on the model. The final step was a dull coat and a light dust coat of Tamiya Buff (XF-57).
I have had the pleasure of reviewing several newer and older Airfix kits for IPMS over the last several years. Frankly, even though they are challenge, I love them. One of my most consistent observations is that newer kits are well engineered and are a joy to assemble. The older kits, such as this one, are not on the same par, but as someone who falls prey to nostalgia, this is a good kit, that with some test fitting and patience, is a nice addition to my stable of tanks. My thanks to IPMS and Airfix for giving me the opportunity to review this kit.