MK I "Female" British Tank, Special Modification for the Gaza Strip
Master Box’s 1/72 Mk I “Female” British tank with Gaza Modifications comes in a heavy card stock box that opens at either end. Inside is a resalable plastic bag holding the four plastic sprues, one flexible rubbery sprue (tracks), and a small plastic envelope for the decal sheet. The plastic sprues have about 60 parts, but about a quarter of them are reserved for a different variant of the tank.
The front of the box shows an example of the prototype in a Middle Eastern setting. The back has a four-view illustration that also doubles as a painting guide. Two colors are called out, Vallejo 988 Khaki for the main section of the tank and a mixture of gunmetal and black for the tracks.
In the Box
The eight-page instruction sheet gives a brief history of the tank in English, German, and Russian. There are 20 steps in the instruction featuring line drawings with arrows indicating parts placement. Two more “steps” are included on the last page, but they are detailed line drawings of the completed vehicle. A third illustration on this page acts as a decal placement guide for three different tanks. Each set of markings consists of three decals: the name for the front, and the name along with “H.M.L.S.” for each side. The second page is a parts identification guide the builder must refer to since there are no numbers on the sprues.
The assembly steps have no written directions, just illustrations with part numbers and arrows. This presents little issue, since this is a very simple kit. Step 2 threw me; it looks like you will be attaching two supports to the upper hull, but it simply instructs you to open two holes for the upper hull crew hatch. Each step involves no more than six parts or subassemblies.
The parts go together quite well and responded to Plastruct cement. For the most part, this is a pretty intuitive build. However, a couple issues arose.
Part D-13, the front tow hook, is extremely delicate and has a LOT of sprue connection. It has two small triangles connected by a locking pin which is probably less than .5mm of plastic. As carefully as I tried to remove this part, the pin broke. The triangles also needed a good deal of clean up, more so than any other part. I was able to attach the two halve to the front, however.
The next parts that were problematic were the three inverted V-shaped covers, parts D-19, for the upper hull vents. Again, they have a lot of sprue attachments for such delicate parts. I got two off the sprue fine, but the third snapped and half was lost forever. I fabricated a replacement with Plastruct rod of the same size as the original. PE parts would have been preferable here.
The headlights, parts D-10, also gave me trouble. They are tiny, must be attached between the track guides and glacis, and have no secure locating holes. The area can’t be reached with fingers, so tweezers are need. I got one attached, but the other headlight catapulted into space. I replaced them with sprue tags from a different project.
The last and most problematic issue was the tracks. As mentioned, they are a rubbery material—soft and pliable. They connect in the old style: melting four plugs inserted into matching holes. When attaching them to the track guides they are both too short. One is short by a half track width and the other by a full track width. Since the guides are a set size with no length variation possible and trapezoidal in shape, correction options for this flaw are limited. I placed the gap at the bottom of the tank and used Plastruct strip to fill the gaps. Using a plastic run of tracks might have been a better choice since the tracks won’t be moving in any case.
While I was working on this review, I came across an article on these kits in the British magazine Military Modeling which said the tracks fit snugly on the guides. I reexamined my test kit and decided to try a Plan B for the tracks. I carefully removed them, cut off the plastic shims, and cleaned off the melted plugs. I then put a drop of Zap-A-Gap Green at the open point of the track at the bottom of the guide. I pressed the end and the glue took immediately. I added a couple more drops at appropriate spots on the guides and pulled the tracks tight. This was a much better option than the original attempt.
Discounting the time searching for the two lost parts and fabricating the corrections on the tracks, both the original attempt and Plan B, assembly was done in about an hour and a half.
I primed the kit with Testors Gray laquer primer and airbrushed it with the recommended Vallejo 988 Khaki. The tracks were base coated with Vallejo Gun Metal, and the guns were painted Vallejo Black Gray. I sprayed the entire tank with gloss coat from a can before placing the decals down. The kit has three name options (and three more for other kits). Each option consists of three decals: one “HMLS” plus name for each side and a name decal for the rear. They appear to be on one strip of carrier film, though it’s possible the film is just very thin. All the decals are plain white, so there is no possibility of alignment issues. I used Micro Set and Micro Sol and they seem to have responded well. Just to be safe, however, when dry, I slit the side names along the panel line it crossed and applied a drop more Micro Set. They settled perfectly.
Weathering was done with a wash of Citadel Nuln Oil on the tracks followed by AK Interactive Shadow Rust. The body of the tank was given a wash of AK’s OEF/OIF wash. Dullcote preceded a final application of AK’s Gulf War Sand pigment.
In general, this is a pretty easy kit with the caveats of several tiny and fragile pieces, some of which have too large a connection to the sprue. Fit was excellent and the kit’s measurements (made using a digital caliper) came within scale millimeters of the actual measurements I found online. The tracks will need special attention, but if you learn from my trial and error you’ll do fine. Price might be a concern with an MSRP of $24.95 for such a small kit.
My thanks to Dragon Models USA for providing the review sample and to IPMS/USA for the opportunity to review it.