|KIT:||Tamiya 1/48 Universal Carrier|
|NOTES:||2 crew figures included|
Borrowed from the instructions – “During World War II, British and Commonwealth armies used a vast number of compact, tracked weapons carriers, chief among which was the Universal Carrier. Introduced in 1942, the MK. II measured 3.7m by 2.1m and featured a welded and waterproofed hull. It had a Ford V-8 cylinder 85hp engine which boasted an impressive top speed of 48km/h and was protected by relatively thin 7mm armor plating (10mm on the front). True to its name, the Universal Carrier was used for a variety of purposes, including transporting men and materials, towing 6-pound artillery guns, as well as performing liaison and reconnaissance missions. A number of variants were constructed, including models mounted with mortars and flamethrowers, however, most machines typically carried a Bren light machinegun. Total carrier production reached over 65,000 models, making it the most numerous tracked vehicle built during World War II.”
Tamiya has introduced many kits into its 1/48 armor line in the last year; the Universal Carrier MK. II is the first British example. While the releases have been met generally with acclaim, there have been some nagging problems, such as molded on tools. Most modelers don’t really care for the metal hulls many of the kits feature, making them mixed media models, requiring super glue to assemble. So how will the Universal Carrier stack up to the other kits in the series?
Well, first, the Carrier is thankfully all plastic. 2 sprues of olive drab plastic provide about 100 parts in all to make up the Carrier and 2 crew figures. The interior is decently detailed for this scale, with a steering wheel and radio provided, along with a pair of Bren guns (one for the Carrier mount and a spare), a couple of Enfield rifles, and a Thompson SMG. Some ammo cans are also provided to fill up the interior. The 2 figures are decent, but have some problems. The standing officer has separate arms, and his pointing left arm is noticeably larger than his right! Maybe he has been working out with that arm only. Looking closely, it is also possible the see the driver has no right ear. Minor points, but they do take away from the figures overall appearance, which is quite nice otherwise.
Now we come to the main drawback of the kit. For simplicity, Tamiya has chosen to mold the tracks and running gear on each side in one large piece, with a couple of detail parts added on. I am not a big fan of this approach, but it can be alright if done well. Here, it was not. The tracks bear no resemblance to the real thing, especially the exterior. Tamiya has molded a simple bar shape across the exterior to represent the track links, while the real shape is more complicated. Also, the kit has less than half of the correct number of links represented. Instead of a pair of individual guide teeth on the inside of each link, Tamiya molded one long, wide, tooth there. Just compare the kit tracks to the box art and web photos, and you can see how ‘off’ the tracks are.
Decals are provided for 4 Carriers, one of the 6th Armored Division in Tunisia, and options for the Guards Armored, 7th Armored, and 3rd Infantry Divisions in the N.W. European campaign. All are overall green.
I think this kit could have been a winner, but is really let down by the tracks, making what would have been a ‘good’ model into an ‘okay’ one. Tamiya seems to have opted for ease of assembly here over detail, but the tracks compare poorly to the rest of the kit, which is quite nice. It should still make a nice model, but not nearly as good as it could have been. I think Tamiya still has a few things to learn for its 1/48 armor kits.
Universal Carrier 1936-48 The ‘Bren Gun Carrier’ Story by David Fletcher. Osprey New Vanguard #110.
http://www.mapleleafup.org/vehicles/carriers/index.html A nice website with a lot of photos of restored Carriers.
http://www.angelfire.com/art/enchanter/bren.html Some Carrier stats and history.
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