Heller 1/35 Souma S-35
KIT #: 81134
PRICE: $30.00
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Dale Rannals
NOTES: Short run with photo etch and resin parts



The French Somua S35 was a medium tank used in WW2.  It was arguably the best armoured vehicle in its class in 1940.  This from Wikipedia: The Somua S35 was a French Cavalry tank of the Second World War. Built from 1936 until 1940 to equip the armoured divisions of the Cavalry, it was for its time a relatively agile medium-weight tank, superior in armour and armament to both its French and foreign competitors, such as the contemporary versions of the German Panzerkampfwagen III. It was constructed from well-sloped, mainly cast, armour sections, that however made it expensive to produce and time-consuming to maintain.

During the German invasion of May 1940, the Somua S35 proved itself to be a tactically effective type, but this was negated by the French command's strategic mistakes in deploying the Cavalry armoured divisions. After the defeat of France in June 1940, limiting production to a number of 430, captured Somua S35s were used by the Axis powers, some of them on the Eastern Front. A derived type, the Somua S40, with an improved suspension, lowered hull cast and welded turret armour, had been planned to replace the original version on the production lines in July 1940. Agreements to produce this improved type for the benefit of Vichy France, Germany and Japan, ultimately did not lead to any manufacture.



My kit was dated 1999 but is a re-boxings of a late 70's (1977 I believe) kit.  Detail is decent, if somewhat soft.  There have been a number of re-boxings over the years, but I believe the kit has remained basically unchanged.  Tracks are the rubber band style and are impervious to all known types of adhesive.  Two figures are included, a sitting driver and commander.  The commander can be posed on the open turret hatch.

The instructions consist of an A4 sized, 12 page booklet with 21 steps total.  A short history of the type is included, as well as a 5-view, gray/scale drawing for colors and decals.  Two camouflage options are included.  One is a French vehicle from 1940, the other a captured German vehicle from 1943.



I built this tank a couple years ago, but I thought now would be a good time for a review, since Tamiya recently released it's own S35.  Usually older kits get forgotten when a new uber kit comes out.  But this is a great little kit that builds into a good looking rmodel.  Also, with the Tamiya coming onto the market, the price of this Heller kit may get decently attractive.  As it was, you could find decent deals around, but prices varied wildly.  I needed to go back and dig out the instructions for this kit , which I always keep, to refresh my memory of the build.

Construction starts with the suspension.  Rather complicated in design, the kit parts replicate it nicely.  There are cross sectional drawings that I had to look at for a while to figure out some of the parts placement, but it all goes together well.  It definitely has a very busy appearance when built; most of it will be hidden by the side plates when done, which is a shame.  The bottom half of the hull is multi-part, consisting of the two side, a bottom/back, and a front.  But the top hull half is one piece, which is nice.  All the hatches ans stowage compartment doors are separate pieces.

The two crew members are multi-part, and very crude.  Best left off.  There is a shovel and a tarp included, again quite crude but passable.

The turret consists of a top and bottom half.  The commanders hatch can be posed open or shut, and the sighting hood can rotate separate from the turret.  I drilled out the main cannon barrel to give it a little more realism. 

When it came to painting, I deviated from the instruction profiles, just to do a different French 3-color camo.  I honestly don't remember specifically which colors I used, but consist of a tan, green and brown.  The tan was sprayed, then the green and brown.  When dry I hand painted the black line between the colors.  A few thin washes of black and brown oil paints dirty it up appropriately.



This kit still makes up into a fine example of a type not often seen built.  Early war French tanks were fantastic machines that get none of the attention that surrounds Tigers and Shermans.  The individual parts show their age, but blend into a great kit.  Definitely worth considering, especially if you can get one on the cheap since the Tamiya kit is now out.




Panzer III vs Somua S 35: Belgium 1940 (Duel)  ISBN 1782002871

Dale Rannals

April 2015

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