Bronco 1/35 Humber Armored Car
The Humber Armoured Car was one of the most widely produced British armoured cars of the Second World War. It supplemented the Humber Light Reconnaissance Car and remained in service until the end of the war.
Made by the Rootes Group, the Humber was essentially a combination of the Karrier KT 4 artillery tractor chassis and the armoured body of the Guy Armoured Car. The KT4 was already in production for the Indian Army, and Guy were having problems with the production levels required. The Karrier name was dropped to avoid confusion.
The first order for 500 was placed in 1940. The first Humbers were more or less identical to the Guy down to the faults in armour but this was rectified. Production started in 1941.
The Mark III improved upon the Mark II by providing a three-man turret. Mark III production ended in 1942 after 1,650 had been built. With a possible replacement, the 2-pounder armed Coventry armoured car, on its way, the Mark IV was designed. This put the US 37 mm gun in the turret but at the cost of one crewman. The Coventry was not ordered as a replacement and so production of Mark IV continued, for a total of 2,000, despite its flaws.
The vehicle was used in the North African Campaign from late 1941 by the 11th Hussars and other units. It was also widely used in the European theatre by reconnaissance regiments of British and Canadian infantry divisions. A few vehicles were used for patrol duty along the Iran supply route. The Humber armoured car was also used in Burma.
A captured vehicle (a Mk IV) was used by the Aufklärungs Abt of the 9th SS Panzer Division Hohenstaufen at Arnhem.
After the Second World War, the Humber was employed by Egypt in 1948–49 as well as by Burma, Ceylon, Cyprus, Denmark, Mexico, the Netherlands, Portugal.
The kit consists of around 650 parts in light gray plastic, a dozen in clear plastic, 91 etched parts, 2 short vinyl BESA ammo belts, a decal sheet and an incredible instruction book of 38 pages.
The standard of molding is simply amazing, with no flash that I found and only very fine mold seams to be removed. The detail of the parts is superb and I have never seen such tiny, tiny parts molded so well. I was intimidated by many of the parts........so tiny and delicate........ had me wondering if I would be able to remove them from the sprue without breaking them.
This is a special release of the kit, a clear edition with full interior detail. So there are pretty substantial clear sprues, as all the hull and turret pieces are clear. The really nice thing is that you also get all the standard gray hull bits too, so one can do a normal kit (don't know why you would buy this edition though!) or do any combination of clear and gray.
The instructions come as a full size glossy 38 page booklet. Included therein are a short history of the type, a color reference page (including Mr. Hobby, Hobby Color, Humbrol, and Tamiya paints) and 50 very well drawn assembly steps. 3D cad-type drawings are included in some steps to assist in parts placement and help subdue any confusion, a very nice addition. Also inside is a full sprue layout and a full page, full color painting and decal placement drawings of each of the five vehicles options.
Anyway, the build starts with the engine. This is definitely not a curbside. The engine is incredibly detailed, but that can, and will, be said about every portion of this build. The engine's generator, for instance, contains 7 pieces, and it is barely 1/4" long when complete. I looked for and assembled same-color sub-assemblies, then brush painted ...... I realized right off that there wasn't going to be a whole lot of airbrush duty here. (I also realized there was not much for locating pins or holes with this kit .... Many of the pieces are smaller than the locating pins on most kits.) Soon I had a quite small, beautifully detailed power plant built up. The engine/transmission and radiator assembly comprise of 50 pieces and when done is just gorgeous.
The transfer case and its associated chassis sub-frame, about 25 parts here, build up next. Great care needs to be taken with many of the parts ..... Just getting some of the long control rods off the sprue without breakage takes planning and a delicate hand. Again, build into sub-assemblies and paint. Very small attachment divots means you need to carefully position each part. Any misplaced pieces, especially this early in the build, on the chassis, could mean fit issues of parts down the line. Don't ask how I know. :)
Steps 3 and 4 build up the main chassis and position the engine and transfer case assemblies into it. Some of the cross member locations were a bit vague and I did have trouble placing one ...... I had placed the transfer case a bit too low in its sub-frame earlier. Mind you it wasn't much .... a 1/16" or so, but it was enough to cause problems. I had to sand off a bit of plastic from the cross-member and the transfer case to get it to fit correctly. I used the main floor piece to help position the chassis frames and get everything square and level.
The next few steps would have you starting on the interior, but I jumped ahead a few steps and worked on the running gear ..... axles, suspension, drive-shafts. Pretty straightforward area. I let it dry thoroughly and got ready to start on all that interior detail. I found and assembled more sub-assemblies, worked on firewall detail, and painted the numerous individual 37mm shell cartridges.
It was the firewall, or more specifically a tank attached to the firewall, that I got my first "You're kidding me, right?" moment with this kit. At the tank's top attachment brackets, the instructions have you attach two very, very tiny 1/35 scale wing-nuts. Yes, separately molded wing-nuts. The assembly step has an exploded view of the sprue section, apparently to show you what they are. I grabbed the sprue and a magnifying glass and sure enough, little tiny wing-nuts at the end of little tiny sprue. Amazing. Simply impressive finesse of molding. But since I was sure 1) I would lose them the moment I removed them from sprue (there are bigger plastic shavings on the bench) and 2) they would disappear in any blob of glue I used to attach them ..... I just moved on.
It was here that I sorta lost interest and took a break. It wasn't intentional but it just got moved to the back of the bench while I worked on other projects. I do have a theory on this though, looking back on it. Most kits you work on start to "take shape" after a while. Here, I already had over a hundred tiny parts assembled, with a lot of detail and effort, but really all I had to show was a chassis, not even a complete one yet. Granted, a very nice chassis mind you and one with an extraordinary amount of detail. But it still wasn't taking shape yet. So I put it aside, for now.
Fast forward several weeks: I got it back out and continued work on the main floor detail. I assembled storage boxes, linkage cases, instruments, steering wheel assembly, etc. Adding individual tiny 37mm shell cartridges to racks was not my idea of fun, but was to be repeated many times. And then there was the drivers seat. Very nicely rendered, and very, very delicate. Not much at all for decent gluable surfaces though. This seat was to be a major source of frustration. I should have kept track of how many times I broke off the seat back. A light bump, heck, even a sideways glance would break it free. I swear a couple times it fell apart on its own just out of spite. I finally left it off; figured I'd glue it back on right before I fixed the body top.
Speaking of breaking things, I was already at the point in the build where I really had to be careful of how I picked it up. A whole lot of levers and pedals and other doodads were all sticking up at various angles just waiting to be snapped off. I did good though ....... mostly.
After another break of a few weeks I started looking through the next few assembly steps to see what was next: Interior side-wall detail. So really for the first time I had to think about how I wanted this to look when finished. I thought about using all the clear bits but in the end decided to go half and half. Use the normal parts for one side and the clear pieces for the other and the top.........the thought being that from one side it will look like a normal kit but from the other more like a cut-away museum piece to show off the detail. The turret will also be clear. So with this in mind, I started on the sidewalls. To the gray left side I added as much detail as I could then painted it all white. To the right clear side I assembled the various bits, painted them, and then attached them using Testors clear parts cement. So this is what I did for the next few weeks, assemble and add interior detail.
And detail there is. An ammo rack of 13 shells will consist of 13 individual shells plus 3 or 4 pieces of the rack itself. Storage boxes are multi-piece ... the simple ones might be 4, most are double that, with separate mounting brackets, handles, and supports. Even the main battery has separate battery clamps on top .... again very minute pieces. Once again these are not complaints. My point here is that the detail is simply stunning. Just amazing. So, onward.
More ammo racks, a very nice front view-port, multi-piece of course. :) You can position this open or closed ... I closed mine up. And here again I moved the kit aside and took a needed break from it.
A month or two later and I'm ready for another session. I grabbed the clear top body piece and, studying the instructions, opened up the many holes dictated. There are a couple options for the front deck, so pay close attention to which holes you open up. Drum roll please ...... It is finally time to close this little beast up. Somewhat over a year here and it still doesn't really look like anything. That will change soon! Dry fitting the side panels showed some misalignment .... somehow I got the firewall position a bit off. It was easy enough to fix, but again be very careful of part location, it can bite you down the line.
With that addressed I was able to glue the left side panel on. After test fitting the other body panels too ensure everything lined up, I set it aside to dry thoroughly. I went to work on the wheels in the meantime. Fairly simple constructs ..... odd for this kit. Back to the body, I glued, one last time, the driver's seat backrest back on. Then I carefully attached the clear top and right side panels, along with the lower front plate. Okay, closed up finally .... still doesn't look like much though. At this point it was a very odd looking structure. I left this odd looking structure dry completely while I moved on to other things.
These other things were the fenders. Four separate fenders with lots of boxes and crates on them. The boxes/crates are all multi-piece, and most have PE detail additions. Since myself and PE don't see eye-to-eye most of the time, after a couple of bad attempts to form these brackets or hold-downs, I let things be and moved on. If one has the ability to work well with photo-etch parts, the detail would be superb. BUT ....... I have to admit the PE saved my derriere here too. Looking at the body, I saw some ugly top/side panels seams. Nothing that some sanding wouldn't take care of but these were on clear parts. I really didn't want to do any sanding here. Luckily (or possibly intentionally designed this way), there are saw-toothed strips of PE that go right along these seams, covering things up nicely.
Time to look at the turret. Two main groupings here, the turret shell and the turret cage. I worked on whatever sub-assemblies I could find, painted anything that goes inside white. Again, the detail here is stunning. Little tiny grenades fit into plastic/PE racks on the turret sides. The sighting periscopes, normally one or two pieces, are here made up of no less than seven each. The radio is very well done, good detail, connection cables, and a gorgeous PE front cage/guard. The fidelity of the parts and therefore the tiny, or complete lack of, attachment points were the only problems here. I could not keep the gunners seat together until I drilled tiny holes in the parts and added small pins to help give it some strength. For the same reason, I had to be very conscious of how I picked up, handled, and set the assembly down as to keep various bits from breaking off. I glued the gun assembly, and then to my surprise found later that the casing chute was too long, which prevented the turret cage from mating up to the turret top. I gingerly broke of the chute and cut it shorter until everything fit proper.
|COLORS & MARKINGS|
Time for some paint. Olive Drab overall ..... mostly. This took some thought, and some time. I had wheels and fenders, neither of which posed any problems. But the body and turret were going to be interesting. Lots of open hatches and we don't need any stray spray getting inside on the clear bits. So soft foam was cut into squares and fit in the openings. I applied a liquid mask thickly to the areas I wanted to keep clear and let this dry, then took it all to the spray booth and blasted away. I let this dry overnight, narrowly avoiding the temptation to pull the mask off right away.
The apprehension meter was pegged the next morning as I removed the mask .... but for naught.... all went well and I was a very happy camper. I brush painted some areas, mostly corners and joint lines to hide the glue, but overall it looked good. I attached the fenders, brush painted the tires a very dark gray (almost black) and attached all five (spare included). Unfortunately, the front tires had very small attachment points and did not hold the weight. The next morning it was sitting on it's axle with a front wheel askew. I re-glued but the result was the same. In the end I sanded flat the join area, drilled small holes in the axle and wheel, then inserted a metal pin (from a small paper clip) and super-glued it together. Much better. The few decals went on without incident, and with that out of the way, I gave the painted areas a thin black wash to bring out the details, being careful to keep it away from the clear bits. I dry-brushed then with a tan/sand color from a Tamiya weathering set to highlight edges and such. I kept weathering to a minimum for no other reason than being afraid of marring the clear areas irreparably. A few final bits were added, along with antenna made from stretched sprue. I looked things over, gingerly set the model at the back of the table and thought "Wow, I did it. I'm done."
This kit is simply amazing. The level of detail is astounding, as is Bronco's ability to mold such tiny pieces with such finesse. If this review sounds negative in areas, it is not directed at the kit, but more so at my inability to work easily with such small parts. There are easily dozens of parts that I left off, either through breakage while removing from the sprue, losing them outright, or just being too small to actually work with. It was frustrating in areas to be sure, but this kit isn't about ease of assembly. It is about detail at all costs. For somebody with the dexterity required, the time required, and the passion required, a true museum piece could be built, right from this kit.
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