Brachmodel 1/35 M11-39

KIT #: BM072
PRICE: $95.00 SRP
DECALS: Four options
REVIEWER: Bill Koppos
NOTES: Resin kit, aluminum barrel. Fruilmodel tracks.


            During the late Thirties, Italy's only "tank" was the CV-33 series of tankettes, little more than machine gun carriers. To conquer the New Roman empire, more substantial armament was required. Fiat-Ansaldo answered the call with a design for a Medium tank, the M11-39, M11 being the tonnage, 39 the year. For some reason the 37mm main gun was mounted in the hull in a limited-traverse mount, the manually-operated turret containing twin 8mm Breda machine guns. The theory must have been to use the machine gun turret as the main armament in the infantry support role, the 37mm being available as a self-propelled anti-tank gun.  100 were ordered and built, 70 or so going to North Africa to supplement the hundreds of tankettes there. These were involved in the early skirmishes with the British desert forces, holding their own against the British cruisers. They were the armored spearhead of the Italian invasion of Egypt, but during the British attacks of "Operation Compass" of December 1940 they were up against Matildas, and had no chance. Several were captured intact, emblazoned with Aussie Kangaroo markings, and used against their former owners. The 24 sent to Italian East Africa performed in similar fashion. None were left by spring 1941. 

        Power was provided by a Fiat V-8 Diesel of 105 horsepower. Suspension was leaf-spring based on the Vickers design. Speed was supposedly low across country, but the Italian newsreels show them zipping around at a pretty good clip.  Armor was thickest in front at 30mm, elsewhere just 14mm. Crew comprised a gunner, turret man/commander, and driver.

Well, after all it's a golden age of modelling we're in. All the legions of you folks who read my Bronco CV-33 Italian tankette review remember, at the end I expressed hope that anything is possible, perhaps even an M11-39. Well I'll be dipped here it is. Perusing a modelling magazine I came across an in-box look at Brachmodel's 1/35 scale M11-39, and my hopes were realized. Brachmodel is a cottage industry shop from Italy (surprise) who makes a nice selection of resin models. The masters are done by one Luciano Brach, a real genius and a gentleman too. The kit is not cheap but I had to have it and in two weeks I did. 
          This  is an excellent example of resin art. Unlike some resin armor kits, the hull is not cast in a lump, but similarly to a regular styrene model, with a hull top and bottom. This is a beauty, casting is superb and smooth and highly detailed. Rivets are sharp and correctly sized, small parts very delicate, and I was able to find only 2 steenking tiny bubbles at the rear of the hull. The tools and rack on the engine deck is unbelievable, cast as one piece. Casting blocks and some flash is present but are light and easily cleaned up. The tracks are individually cast resin links. The thing is so pretty in the box it was almost a shame to build it, but build I did. As a bonus the 37mm barrel is aluminum to boot. A decal sheet for 4 vehicles and a tow cable complete the sturdy, well padded package.

    Construction was smooth as can be. Just follow the well-laid out picture instructions and you will be good. The parts count is along the lines of Tamiya, not Dragon. All the major parts fit together nicely, after minor trimming/clean-up. A weak part for some may be a complete lack of interior, but I usually button up my tanks, so this is not an issue. All hatches, turret, engine, and hull, are separate and openable, in case anybody wants to scratch an interior. I suppose the suspension was the trickiest part, as the parts here are thinner and more delicate than a styrene kit, the only fit problem being the wheel holes need to be cleaned out a bit to slide on their axles. A major difference with resin is the need to use CA glue all thru assembly, it's fast drying time when glueing resin parts makes proper initial placement mandatory. The bogie trucks are moveable if care is taken in glueing, I left them moveable till the end of assembly, then put the model flat on the table and glued them all at once. One note, during the fender installation make sure the rear ends are low enough to clear the towing hooks at the back, I guess putting the tow hooks on first would be the good idea.

            On the subject of the fenders- I did not use the kit tracks. During past hauntings of my LHS I knew he had a set of Fruilmodel tracks for the M-13 tank, the M11's successor. Turns out these tracks work just fine on the resin M11. This Fruil set has a pair of white metal sprockets with it, but the kit's resin ones were simply better, so I used them. Their teeth the track holes spot on. Fruil tracks are white metal individual links pinned together, after the set is complete, they stay flexible. There would not be enough clearance to put the tracks over the sprockets if the fenders were glued on all the way. So I only glued the back ends of the fenders, the front part fit so well as to allow them to be pried up to slip the tracks underneath, after painting and weathering. All the parts assembled except the tracks, it was paint shop time. 

            M11-39s sent to arid areas were painted in a sand and green camo, either a kind of splinter scheme, or sprayed stripes. Some pictures look to me like some had green mottles too. It's hard to tell because pics are scarce, and these finishes were beat to hell in the desert climate, which seems to be dusty, dusty or dusty. A neat pic in Squadron's "Italian Medium Tanks In Action" has a close shot of the hull door open and the  dusty crew peering out,  smiling for the camera. This one had the splinter on the turret and I wanted to do it. Using several drawings and pictures I tried to approximate the pattern. Don't forget to wipe off the model as best you can with alcohol, as resin kits tend to be bad about mold release.  First was the overall coat of flat black, for later shadows and depth. Then came an overall coat of RLM 79 Sandgelb cut with some white, leaving a shading of the black around the rivetted areas and large panels. After this dried I began masking the green areas, a nice tedious task with all the rivets and edges and nooks and crannies. On second thought the green should have been done first, as it would have been a lot easier to mask the smaller areas. Anyway using small pieces and a load of patience, the masking was finished and  RAF Green, again with a touch of white added, applied. 

               Markings on the M11 are as scarce as pictures. The decal sheet provides for 4 machines, in Italy, East and North  Africa. I did one on the back of the Squadron book from the Sidi-Barrani offensive, with the red, white and Green "Italian flag" recognition marking on the turret rear. This I masked and sprayed using appropriate colors. That's it! According to some pictures not all tanks had the battalion badges on the hull sides. These even lack the Army license plates seen on all other Italian tanks. 

             After detail painting, wheels, mufflers, tools etc.,  it's time for the Dust-up. Foist I gave the model a coat of Testor's metallizer sealer to make it easier to apply the washes. All the washes and effects I use are water-based. The initial coat was an overall bunt umber wash, mainly on the undercarriage areas. I am a big fan of Tamiya weathering sticks, these can be used straight off the stick or mixed with water for washes. Light Earth was used on the unders first and the hull sides, and streaked some for splashes. (There was mud during the Libyan winter). Now the fun starts, The Tamiya Sand weathering stick was diluted fairly thin and spread all over the place, for that aforementioned dusty look. After drying I took a stiff brush and rubbed off the larger areas, leaving the heavier dust around the rivets, again as per photos. Dampening the brush gives a streaked effect. I kept playing with this until it appeared like the photos as near as possible, then shot the whole caboodle with Testor's Dullcoat. Another advantage of Tamiya's sticks are that they can be sealed in without disappearing. 

          The tracks were shot with a dark grey/steel mix first, followed by a dusting of rust. Then I soaked them in my dust wash, using a hair dryer between coats. This really speeds things (metal tracks won't melt). I dry-brushed the sprocket teeth and track guides with aluminum then flatcoated these too. Now the unglued fender fronts were carefully pried up and the tracks slipped under and around, to be joined by the master pin at the back idler. Looking good! These metal tracks sag very realistically. Rub N' Buff Aluminum was rubbed onto the raised track cleats, some black grunge stains around the engine compartment, and flat black sprayed at the exhaust area (this is a diesel), and We're ready to rumble. 

         Oh, boy, did I enjoy that one. A superb kit in all ways. My failing here is that I cannot report on the kit tracks, as an armor buddy requested them and I never tried to put them together. But I assume they will be as good as the rest of the product. The Fruil tracks are GREAT I can report, and I will get more. The price may be offputting for most, but Tamiya won't be doing one of these so....this is the price for uniqueness, a marvelous kit and an aluminum barrel-worth it. If you're interested in Brachmodel's products here is the web addy...

Italian Medium Tanks in Action Nicola Pignato Squadron/Signal Armor #39 2001
Beda Fomm Kenneth Macksey Ballantine Battle #22 197
Operation Compass 1940 Jon Latimer Osprey Campaign #73 2000
U-Tube vintage Italian newsreels

Bill Koppos

April 2012

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