Tamiya 1/48th Crusader Mk.I/II

KIT #: 32541
PRICE: $34.00 SRP
DECALS: Five options
REVIEWER: Jonathan Prestidge


For the most part, British tanks of the WWII era were ugly, unreliable, under gunned, under armored, cramped, hard to get out of, etc. There were few bright spots, one being the Matilda – at least until the Germans turned their 88s on them. The Crusader tanks were a good looking line of “Cruiser” type machines. They were low slung and surprisingly modern in appearance, much more so than their replacement - the Cromwell. They were fast and agile but still very British in their thin armor, 2-pdr. main gun, deplorable reliability, and cramped crew quarters. I recently watched a documentary on British tankers of the period. Without exception, all the surviving men spoke bitterly about being sent into battle in the inferior British tanks.   

 From the kit instructions: “From the late 1930s, British army doctrine called for the development of two main types of tanks, the heavily armored infantry tank and the faster ‘Cruiser’ tank. With WWII looming, Nuffield was offered a role in developing the A13 Mk.III Covenanter tank, but the company declined and chose to proceed with the development of its own model, the A15 Crusader. Problems with the Covenanter eventually saw the Crusader replacing it in mass production. Initial armament was a 2-pounder gun in the main turret and a Besa machine gun in an auxiliary hull turret. The 18.8 ton tank had high mobility and a top speed of over 40km/h thanks to its Christie suspension and 12-cylinder Liberty engine, but armor protection was sacrificed as the Crusader only had relatively thin 20mm turret and 26mm hull frontal armor. Production of the Crusader Mk.I began in May 1941 and they were first sent to North Africa to equip the 7th Armored Division. The tank’s baptism of fire came during an attempt to relieve besieged Tobruk, Operation Battleaxe, where it was outmatched by the better armed Panzer III and had issues with reliability. Taking lessons from combat experience, the MkII featured improved armor protection and had the ineffective machine gun turret removed, while the final Mk.III variant featured a more powerful 6-pounder gun. Production ended in 1943 with a total of 5,300 Crusaders produced, and despite its shortcomings, the tank played an important role in the Allied victory in North Africa.”


 Tamiya’s 1/48th Crusader Mk.I/II is number 41 in their Military Miniatures series. The instructions are well printed and easy to follow. The engineering of the Tamiya Crusader is superb, resulting in beautiful detail without difficult construction or an excessive parts count. The kit is crisply molded in tan plastic and there is almost no flash on the kit parts. No figure is included. The kit decals are thin, in register, and provide markings for five North African tanks. There is a metal chassis and nice link and length tracks with the longer portions pre-formed, minimizing assembly time.


Differing somewhat from the kit instructions’ assembly sequence, I built the kit in three major sub-assemblies: the chassis, the upper hull, and the turret. I left the tracks off until after painting for ease of weathering. The metal chassis required the use of Super Glue when I installed the road wheels and other plastic parts attached to it. The excellent fit of the parts, minimal cleanup and excellent engineering really made for a rewarding and painless build. After about five hours of building, I had the three main components (chassis, upper hull and turret) ready for paint. The only speed bump during construction was that the tracks were a link short on each side. Thankfully, there were extra links included and the tracks fit great once these were added. I think the problem was simply an omission in the instructions.


 I chose the fifth of the kit markings - option “E”, a Crusader Mk.II of the 1st Armored Division, El Hamma, March 1943. First, everything was airbrushed PolyScale acrylic Deck Tan thinned with Future. Thinning with Future helped the paints spray better and the satin finish was better suited to washes/filters. Next came the unpleasant (for me) three hour task of masking for the darker camo color. I used a kneadable eraser rolled into thin “snakes” to outline the camo and then I used pieces of the same eraser pressed flat to mask off the rest of the tan. I sprayed PolyScale acrylic RLM 73 for the darker camo color.

 The tracks were brush-painted dark gray next. They were dry-brushed with Testors oil-based silver prior to installation and weathering.

 I started the weathering process by applying a thin, black, soapy water filter/wash. I went section by section, using a Q-tip to remove some of the wash and to streak it unevenly. I then dry-brushed some thinned Deck Tan and RLM 73 to accent detail and further vary tone. Once the tracks were installed, the tracks and chassis were strategically dry-brushed with Italian Hazel Tan paint to approximate the dusty North African conditions in which these tanks operated. Good pictures of actual Crusader Mk.IIs proved invaluable during the weathering process.

 The upper hull was screwed to the chassis and the turret was added. I then air-brushed Poly Scale Flat Clear mixed with a few drops of Hazel Tan over the entire tank. I used pastels to further dirty the Crusader. I added two stretched sprue antennae and final detailing was then completed.


Tamiya has created another winner with this kit. From start to finish it took me less than 15 hours over the course of a week! Construction of the Crusader Mk.II was enjoyable and relaxing with no real problem spots to speak of. Tamiya’s smart engineering, terrific fit, and beautiful moldings resulted in a great looking finished product. The two tone paint scheme was a challenge but I liked the end result. I really enjoyed Tamiya’s small scale Crusader. Highly recommended!  

 Jonathan Prestidge

April 2014

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