Tamiya 1/35 scale Matilda Mk III/IV

KIT #: 35300
PRICE: $46.00 SRP
DECALS: Three options
REVIEWER: Bill Michaels
NOTES: Tamiya’s milestone 300th release in 1/35


Paraphrasing the TamiyaUSA website:

Early in the 1930s, the British army made the decision to produce tanks for different roles.  The “Cruiser” Tanks were envisioned to fill the scout/cavalry role, while the “Infantry” tanks were designed to fill the close support role.  The Matilda entered production in 1936, and featured unusually thick 60mm armor, a 2-pounder cannon, and thick side skirts which protected the "Japanese type" bogies. Powered by two diesel engines, the Matilda had a top speed of 24km/hr, which was deemed appropriate as it matched the walking speed of infantry.

At the North African front, thanks to its impenetrable armor, the Matilda completely defeated the opposing Italian forces. Because of the strength of their armor, the Germans had to resort to using their 88mm guns which were the only weapons that could penetrate the Matilda. The Matilda was used throughout WWII and was also used by Soviet, Australian forces.


Dan Lee built the old 1970s-era kit back in 2007; his build article is here on MM.   While the old kit was never motorized, it did suffer from a number of inaccuracies as did most of its stable mates from the era.  One of the more obvious faults was the size of the model- it is too wide for one thing.

 In 2009, Tamiya released an all-new Matilda kit, the 300th subject in their 1/35th scale line.  As expected, the new kit is much nicer than the old one, and makes the old one obsolete.   While this is a kit for a Mark IIa, or Mark III/IV, the kit also includes extra parts that aren’t used.  The presence of two extra main gun barrels (including a howitzer) hints at a future release of alternate versions of the tank. 

 A nice feature of the kit is that it provides two sets of tracks—you get injected plastic “link and length” tracks, and you also get a set of “glueable vinyl” tracks.   Both looked good- so you can go with whichever version you prefer. 


First thing you need to do is decide which option you will be building- there are some differences in the detail parts used.   I like to go through the instructions to “X” out parts that I won’t be using, to prevent mistakes down the line.

 Like most AFVs, construction starts with the lower hull and running gear.  The bogeys and suspension parts are nicely detailed, and fit well- but don’t worry about painting them now, as you’ll barely be able to see them once the model is completed.  Once the running gear is attached, it is time to attach the tracks and then move on to the upper hull.  I decided at this point to deviate from the instructions and left the tracks off until after I painted the model.

 The upper hull attaches to the lower hull in a somewhat unusual way.  The front end of the hull is glued to the lower hull, but the rear attachment is made with a pin and a vinyl cap.   It seemed a little odd, as you won’t be removing the hull later- as it is glued in place at the front, and locked down once you glue the side skirts in place.   So why the vinyl cap?  (I can’t figure it out.)   But it works, and everything aligns properly.    Incidentally, the only place I needed any filler in the build was a little bit along the front of the upper/lower hull joint—the rear joint fit perfectly.

 If I can, I normally like to leave the tracks off when I build a tank, so that I can paint the lower hull and running gear without the tracks in the way.  I then paint the tracks off the model, and install them later. A number of armor modelers I know go ahead and assemble a tank model, tracks and all, and then paint.  They typically don’t worry about what color the tracks are, as everything ends up covered with dirt and mud in the end.   But I didn’t think that approach would work for a tank in the desert, as there won’t be a lot of caked-on mud, so I left the tracks off for now.

 Furthermore, in this case, painting the model takes some planning.   The Caunter scheme requires some extensive masking, and the side skirts complicate things further.  Since I didn’t want to paint the model with the tracks installed, I decided it would be easier to paint the skirts first, and install them later.  (In the end, this decision worked out fine for me.)

 The model comes with both link and length and glueable vinyl tracks. I originally thought I’d use the link and length tracks, so I went ahead and painted them with Tamiya XF-56 while they were still on the sprue.  The instructions have you install the tracks before you join the upper and lower hulls.  As mentioned before, I had already decided to leave them off, so I could paint the completed hull (less side skirts).    Once the hull was painted, I was ready to install the tracks.  At that point, I realized that installing the link and length track was going to be difficult, as getting it aligned was going to be difficult with the upper hull in the way.   Rather than fight that battle, I decided that going with the vinyl tracks would be a better choice—especially given that most of it is hidden under the side skirts. 

 When I build armor, I usually do not glue the drive sprocket in place.  I find it much easier to fit a vinyl loop track to the model with it looped around the drive sprocket first—it minimizes the amount of stretching you may need to do to get the track in place.  So I just left the main sprocket off until final assembly. 

 The upper hull and turret assembly is fairly straightforward.  You do have to drill out some holes the hull and turret, though.  The holes are all have depressions on the inner surface, so proper placement is assured.  Take your time here—there are a lot of possible holes to drill and this version of the kit doesn’t use them all.  Several of the holes in the turret are in tight spots—I couldn’t get to them with my pin vise.  The trick is drill out the holes you can reach from the inside, and then hold the turret up to a strong light—you’ll be able to see the locations for the others, so you can drill them out from the outside.   There is no detail to speak of inside the turret- just a couple of small platforms for the figures to stand on.  Because of this, I didn’t see any reason to bother painting the interior of the turret.


The kit includes markings for three vehicles.  Two are North African tanks in the three-color “Caunter” scheme.  The third scheme is a two-tone brown tank based in England.

 The kit includes a separate sheet of color photos of a museum tank— painted in the Caunter scheme.   (I think I’ve seen that tank on a visit to the Imperial War Museum in London.)   The colors called out in the kit instructions are for the colors of the museum tank.

 But be forewarned—the colors are “wrong”.  Research now tells us that the colors should be Light Stone, Silver Grey, and Slate.   Silver Grey is a pale light greenish-gray—not blue as shown on the museum tank and in the Tamiya color callouts. Googling the topic will turn up references.

 I wanted to do a desert Matilda, so I went looking through the paint drawer to see if I had anything close.  One thing I’ve learned from talking to armor modelers and reading build articles:  exact color matches isn’t all that important, because of all the weathering most armor subjects receive.  Picking the desert tan was easy—I used Tamiya XF-59, the same color called out in the instructions.   “Slate” is a dark green.  I didn’t have anything that looked right, so I took some XF-58 Olive Green, and then added about 15%  XF-69 NATO Black to make it a little darker and duller.   I thought that finding a color for the Silver Grey would be the hardest, but it turned out to be pretty easy-- Tamiya XF-71 IJN Cockpit Green was a close match, at least to my eye.  (And certainly better than using the XF-23 light blue the instructions call for!)

As I was building the model, I hadn’t yet decided whether or not to use the three figures included in the kit, and whether or not to build the model with hatches open or closed.  On the one hand, I liked the look of the model with the figures in place, but on the other hand, there are no interior parts.  My initial thoughts were to build the model closed, so the lack of interior detail wouldn’t show.  But, as I built the model, I kept my options open— I installed the loader’s hatch with some sticky putty to hold it in place for painting, in case I wanted to open it later.   The Commander’s hatch has two sets of parts- one for an open hatch and one set for closed.  I didn’t install either set, and just painted them both so I could decide at the end of the build.   

The drivers’ hatch is designed to be moveable- in theory, if you’re careful with the glue, you can install it and then pick a final position for it later.   I closed it after installation, so it would get painted with the rest of the model.  That turned out to be a mistake—after the base coat, camo color, clear coat, and flat coat, it was permanently stuck in the closed position!

In addition to the smaller markings, the kit includes decals for the large red/white recognition flashes. I was a little concerned about using them—I wasn’t sure that they would fit, and I thought they might obscure the nice cast texture detail on the turret.  So instead, I decided to paint them- it was easy to mask a rectangle, paint it white, and then add the red stripe.  A plus to this approach is that I was able to damage and scrape the markings during the weathering process and reveal the base coat underneath.  (Besides- nothing looks more like painted on markings than painted on markings!)

 Finishing Up

 The vinyl tracks were easy to use and fit well. Tamiya says they can be glued with regular model cement— which worked well.  I glued them together, clamped them, and left them to dry overnight.  The next day, I painted them with Tamiya XF-56 Metallic Grey—they took the paint very well.   

Once the basic camouflage was painted, I went ahead and added the tracks and side skirts.  Next to go on the model were the exhaust parts, tools, and other small details that would have been in the way when painting the camouflage. At this point, I went ahead and painted the figures, as I needed to make a decision on whether to install the hatches in the open or closed position.  Because the model has no interior parts in the turret, I didn’t want to leave the hatches open unless the figures were going to fill the hole.

The figures are OK- with separate heads and arms. I painted them with a variety of acrylic colors from my paint drawer.  For the skin areas, I started with a base coat of Tamiya flesh color, and then blended in a redder color for the sunburn.    In the end, I was happy with how they came out, so I decided to use them on the model—so the hatches were now glued in the open position. 

With the large markings already painted on, I only had a few smaller decals to go on the model. I brushed on small patches of future in the locations where they were going, and let it dry overnight.  I then placed the decals, which settled down nicely with a little help from Mr. Decal Softener.   After another night to dry, I then airbrushed the model with a coat of Tamiya clear.  This sealed in the in the decals, and provided a nice base for the first step of weathering.  

To weather the model, I first created an oil wash using a dab of burnt umber paint and a lot of odorless thinner.  I applied the wash to the entire model, with an eye towards getting it into all the little recesses and corners.  I then let the model sit for a few days, to be sure it was dry.  Once it was dry, I airbrushed a coat of flat clear.  When clear coating a tank like this, I like to mix a tiny amount of tan paint into the clear coat- to help create an overall dusty look.

The final step in weathering was to scrub the model vigorously with a light colored (dust/ash)  powder/pigment.  I used a pigment that will stick in place when applied to a matt paint- from Bragdon Enterprises. (MIG Productions make a similar product.)


With painting and weathering completed, I glued the commander and gunner figures in place in the turret.  This is also when I discovered I couldn’t get the driver’s hatch open, even after 5 minutes of tinkering to try to break the paint bond.   Fortunately, I was wise enough to give up trying before I did something stupid and broke something or damaged the finish. The very last step was to drill a tiny hole in the antenna mount, and install a piece of .008 steel wire as an antenna, with a red pennant from a leftover model ship flag sheet.

One last comment- apparently, not all Matildas carried the extra fuel tank.   While poking around on the web after the model was finished, I found several pictures, some with the tank, and some without.   I even found a picture of the “Phantom”—one that showed it without the fuel tank. 


I really enjoyed this build- it was a fun diversion from my recent 1/48 scale aircraft projects.   The kit is “modern Tamiya” with good engineering, and very good fit.   The only complication is painting the Caunter scheme-  but I think the end result was worth it. 

 The kit isn’t perfect- it does have a few drawbacks.  There is no detail inside the turret at all, for one.  There’s no PE included, either.  (To me that’s a plus, but others may see that as a drawback.)  The colors on the instructions are also suspect in places, and may be a result of too much reliance on a repainted museum artifact. 

 Highly recommended.   Overall, I think it strikes a nice balance between detail and parts count, all in a package that is well-engineered. Built it OOB, and you’ll have a nice model.   I feel that it was worth the money and time spent on the project.

 Bill 'rcboater' Michaels

February, 2011

Review kit courtesy of my wallet. Note that while the retail price is $46, the kit can be found for less.  I paid $28 for mine, at a special sale from one of MM’s fine advertisers.

 Special thanks to Pip Moss of the IPMS Patriot Chapter in Bedford, Massachusetts for taking all the great pictures.

If you would like your product reviewed fairly and quickly, please contact me or see other details in the Note to Contributors.

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