Sunday, April 15, 2012
Project: 1/35 AMX-13 VCI
I picked this kit up some time ago as an impluse buy. I was vaguely familiar with Heller as a model producer, having worked on a Somua H-39 and wa-ay back an AMX-30. They're not a top-notch producer, but often if there is something you want that is French, they're the ones to look at first.
The AMX-13 was a post-war light tank, using an oscillating turret (that is, the barrel is fixed in elevation, and it is the turret itself that raises and lowers!) and a cannon initially based on the WWII German KwK-42 75mm L/70. As things go, the AMX-13 was converted into several different variants, including a 155mm SP Artillery vehicle, an artillery supply vehicle, and of course this subject: an APC.
The AMX-13 APC came in 3 major variants: the Early variant (VTP) with an externally mounted 7.5mm machine gun on a commander's cupola, a Mid-production variant (VTT, later VCI) with a small turret mounting a machine gun, and the penultimate variant (VCI M-56) mounting a 20mm cannon in an external remote turret.
Although the AMX-13 VCI is no longer in service with France (replaced by the AMX-10RC), it still soldiers on in many other armies, being an export success to many 3rd world militaries.
Heller's kit represents the VTT (nee VCI, before name change), and as kits go, you can know what to expect from this manufacturer. First there are quite a few parts with a lot of break down of shapes. This isn't neccessarily a bad thing, and based on the photos I've looked at, certainly looks the part. But it also means there are more areas where fit can be a bit dodgy, and that is certainly true here.
The two biggest obstacles to construction in this kit are the terrible tracks (mine broke when I was testing out the pliability, not a good sign), but worst of all the entire rear hull of this kit was badly warped. The kit comes with a mostly full interior for the infantry compartment, but given the complexity of painting, and the warped hull, I decided to model all the hatches closed (though you can open the drivers, infantry egress, and side hatches, as well as the turret hatch). This made fixing the mess of the upper hull a bit easier. Despite that, I still needed some filler on the rear corner to finish it up.
The rest of the build went pretty smooth. The kit comes with 2 crew (with fairly mediocre heads) and several infantry. The infantry are interesting since they represent the '50s to '70s kit, with semi-auto rifles (MAS-49s) and a light machine gun (AA-52). Again the heads are a bit bland, so I'm planning on replacing with Hornet heads (they do a set with French style postwar helmets), though the vehicle commander's head will be more difficult to replace (I cannot find anyone that does a '60s style French Armored crewman's head!)
For the tracks issue, I'm planning on getting a set of AMX-13 tracks from Accurate Armour.