|REVIEWER:||Scott Van Aken|
The Universal Carrier, also known as the Bren Gun Carrier from the light machine gun armament, is a common name describing a family of light armoured tracked vehicles built by Vickers-Armstrong and other companies.
The first carriers - the Bren Carrier and the Scout Carrier with specific roles - entered service before the war, but a single improved design that could replace these, the Universal, was introduced in 1940.
The vehicle was used widely by British Commonwealth forces during the Second World War. Universal Carriers were usually used for transporting personnel and equipment, mostly support weapons, or as machine gun platforms. With some 113,000 built by 1960 in the United Kingdom and abroad, it is the most produced armoured fighting vehicle in history. The Mk.II differed from the Mk.I by having a towing hitch.
Riich has not done many armor kits, but they are slowly building up a nice catalogue that ranges from figures, to ships to aircraft and armor as well. This is their second boxing of the Universal Carrier, the initial release being the Mk.I. I would not doubt that we will see many other kits based on this kit in the future.
First thing that struck me was how much is packed into the box. There are a dozen plastic sprues, two of photo etch, a chain section, 32 springs and small sections of brass rod. It is pretty obvious that Riich believes in providing as much detail as is possible in the kit.
To start with, this is not a curbside. Ther is a complete flathead V-8 and its associated cooling system and exhaust. The interior is also superbly equipped with a full driver's station, fuel tanks, a full radio suite, various bulkheads and areas for storage as well as a Bren gun to attach to the side wall if one so wishes.
It is the suspension that will really set this one aside. All of the double springs are actually springs. You have two sizes as one fits inside the other. They slide onto a metal rod assembly that is made up of no fewer than four parts. A guide is provided to make sure you get each one just right. It almost seems a shame to hide this under paint and side skirts. The track is link and length, though I'll bet that Riich offers an individual track link set for those who want this feature.
Exterior plating is superbly molded and highly detailed with quite a bit of the photo etch going to this area of the vehicle. The chain length is used as part of the tow cable assembly. To fit on the back is a canvas cover.
Instructions are superb and remind me quite a bit of those provided by Bronco. Color information is provided where needed in both generic references and those of several paint companies. The seven markings options are all from 1944/45 in Western Europe and all the vehicles are similarly painted in overall British Khaki Drab. The decal sheet is superbly printed and provides a bevy of markings and serial options. I have darkened the scan of the sheet so you can see the white parts of it.
So there you have it. Probably the definitive kit of this vehicle in this scale. It is not for the beginner and those wishing a lower parts count and more simplified detail will need to look elsewhere. Those who demand the most from their kits will want to pick this one up.
Thanks to www.dragonmodelsusa.com for the preview kit. Get this one at your local retailer.
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