|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 tends to release some rather interesting kit subjects. This one is a reissue of a previous kit and has the benefit of including the neat little Welbike. By my count, this is the third Universal Carrier kit Riich has released.
First thing that struck me was how much is packed into the box. There are ten plastic sprues, three photo etch frets and a bag containing 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.
Unlike previous issues,this kit is a curbside as much as there is no engine. 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Exterior plating has been replaced by some rather thick photo etch. For sure, you can still use the plastic bits as they are still in the box, but shown as not used on the sprue layout. To install these shields, you will need to do some cutting and carving. All of what is required is clearly shown in the instructions, and this shielding is really the major plus of this kit.
The Welbike is something that I think Bronco has released and it has its own photo etch fret. Speaking of which, the other fret is new to this kit and contains a plethora of small bits for braces, handles, exhaust shields and so on. One thing one quickly learns about Riich kits is that they tend to be pretty photo etch intensive.
Instructions are superb and provide color info where needed in both generic references and those of several paint companies. The three markings options are from either Market Garden or the Rhine crossings where there were airborne assaults. All the vehicles are similarly painted in overall British Khaki Drab with white stars, differing only in serial number and unit markings. The decal sheet is superbly printed. 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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