Vulcan 1/35 Vickers Mk VIb

KIT #: 56008
PRICE: $56.00 SRP but you can always find it for less.
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Bill Koppos
NOTES: Another welcome armor addition


Further (farther?) proof that the Golden Age of Modeling is here is the arrival of an honest to coolness large scale Vickers Mk. VI light tank. Another of my favorites in a mainstream kit. Vulcan's new release is a welcome change from the flood of things Tuetonic. This vehicle was the most numerous British tank of the early War years, and a number of variants can be envisioned showing up in the future. That is IF I have the patience to build them. More on this later.

Mark VIb light was descended from a series of vehicles developed by the Carden-Loyd company, which were essentially machine gun carriers. Taken over by Vickers in 1928, the addition of a Horstmann suspension (familiar from it's later use on Bren Carriers) resulted in a boxy 2 man tank, armed with one Machine gun. Mark VI of the series was a big step, a 3rd crewman being added, to operate the newfangled radio gear, and a .50 machine gun with armor-piercing capability added to it's repertoir. The Mk. VIb differed only in details. A meadows 6 cylinder gasoline engine propelled it, a maximum of 15mm of armor plate protected it, and if the crew could take it, it rolled along at 35 mph, on roads. A Mk. VIc version was upgunned even more, toting a long 15mm Besa MG. These were made in small numbers, the last of the breed.

A large proportion of tanks sent to France and caught in the 1940 Blitzkreig were Mk. VI lights. Here they suffered what all light tanks suffered in this war, armor and firepower being lacking. Most of them were left behind in France after defending the Dunkirk perimeter, and other pockets. They did better in the North African desert, where Italian opposition was less fierce, and mobility was an asset. Many of these took part in Operation Compass, during which they helped cut off and surround a large slow-moving Italian Army, causing havoc among the truck columns and infantry. But the Mk. VI's days were numbered, the arrival of the Germans hastening it's disappearance. Soon it was replaced by Stuarts in 1941, and used for training future tankers, at home in England.

This kit is from Vulcan Models, with an address in Hong Kong. This outfit, as their first kit, bought us another needed bit of Britishness, the 2 pounder anti-tank gun, which was well received on it's release. I haven't gotten around to that one yet. Inside the brightly colored box are 7 sprues,(one clear), hull, turret, and in a separate bag, cupolas and small bits. Another small bag holds tiny springs and wires, and a photo-etched fret completes the deal. A decal sheet holds markings for 2 tanks, one from the BEF, and a training machine. Hmmm-those springs seem awful small-Oh well, let's get cracking, then!

Begins easily enough, mostly hull sections. The hull is nicely molded with the walls on, roof, hatches and engine plates fit very well with no gaps. The only interior is a seat, which would be visible if the driver's hatch was opened. I'm doing mine closed up. The leaf springs, parts 27 and 28, need some trimming to fit straight. On the subject of numbers, the molded numbers on the sprues are VERY lightly cast, almost illegible. This can be a problem later, with the small stuff. Tiny etched grab handles are on the engine hatch, the first sign of overkill that will show up later. The etched fret has ridiculously tiny individual bolt heads that I am expected to glue on the ends of these miniscule handles (which need bending also). I'm talking smaller than a pin head. MUCH smaller. The size of the period at the end of this sentence. I decided quickly that was not for me. There is only so much I will do for accuracy. I managed to bend the handles, but that's it.

NOW the fun starts. Normally the wheels/suspension are the least fun of building tanks, this one sets whole new standards of less funness. That bag of tiny springs I mentioned before are the coil springs of the Horstmann suspension. Each bogie unit is made up of halves the wheels go on, these molded parts are delicate and hard to get off the sprue and clean up. The instructions concerning their assembly are very crowded drawings, so look at them well. (Here's where the lightly molded sprue numbers become an issue). The assemblies are made to be moveable, and for now one should try to do this, to keep all the wheels on the ground evenly later. This involves very careful use of glues, tiny drops being necessary. On the rear trucks, The plans tell you to "heat seal" some pins, meaning melt over the ends with a hot knife. These are small, but I managed it. Shades of old Monogram. Now that the bogies are together and totally dry, it gets better!

The bag of tiny springs contains 32 miniature springs, and wire pins. On the assembly diagram you will see they are numbered M3 to M6, there being 4 different sizes. The smaller ones go inside the largers (these are VERY relative terms here). There are two sets of wire pins, shorts and longs. I laid all these things out on some masking tape, to prevent their flying away, and sorted them out, the differences being hard to see. Now on the end of sprue "B" are parts B3, these being pin-head sized nuts molded to a sprue, which you need to slice off and somehow keep from flying off (I used the masking tape method). To Vulcan's credit they represent castle nuts, and the slots these have are actually molded in and visible. No, they don't give you paramecium sized cotter pins. Now we must thread the wire through one end of the suspension link, put on small and large spring, a spacer, another set of springs. The nuts must be slipped over the wire and cemented. Repeat 8 times. Piece of cake! And make sure the short/ long wires go to the trucks they belong. Quickly I found this system needed fixing. The wires were all too short to do what I had to do. With the springs compressed, there was not enough legnth to get the nuts on and look like my reference pictures. I had some .015 wire and cut new legnths for the longers, and used the longs for the shorts. The nuts were impossible to get over the wires as is (Tom the air over a bench was Never bluer) so I drilled each out on the sprue using a No. 73 bit before cutting them off. Even now multiple tries were need, with lots of flying tiny nuts, (careful, there are only 4 extra) before I could glue them using thin CA. Over the course of several evenings, I managed to get the 4 bogie assemblies conquered. You have GOT to be kidding! There were several times when the urge to hurl the whole thing agin the wall was overpowering. This has got to be Over-engineering. Shirley these things could have been injection molded. I am sure there are those out there who will wonder what all the fuss is, and call me unskilled and such, but I found myself sorely challenged by all this.

Whew! Deep breath, it will get easier now-let's glue the assemblies to the hull. Each one mounts with a semi-circular pin-uh, why are they crooked? The pins apparently are molded some degrees off from where they would let the assemblies sit straight. At this point, this is a minor challenge. I trimmed and shimmed until all the wheels were touching on a flat surface, finally glueing all the moving parts. During drying I made sure all was aligned, and looked like my reference shots. Unbelievable. A closeup of the whole shebang is included, and I must admit it does look like the real deal. But man, was that necessary? The link and legnth tracks are going to be glued onto all this, so why the moveability? Uy yuy yuy.

Now, it's downhill. The track links are small and numerous on this vehicle, much like the Bren Carrier (if not the same), and Vulcan has done a decent job of molding them. The parts do require a bit of cleanup after removal from the sprues, but that's the game. The parts that would represent individual links on bigger tanks are actually 3 links here, and they even have a delicate curve molded in to help wrap around sprockets and wheels. Enough links are here to give you a nice realistic sag, and the whole thing looks quite dandy when finally all is set.

Now the fenders can be put on and all the stuff that sits on them. A choice of etched brackets and handles are given, at this point I went with the simple plastic ones. I did bend some tool holddowns but chose the plastic headlamp assemblies too, they look just fine to me. The turret is straightforward, with nicely molded cupolas, smoke dischargers, and weapons. Under the guns is a spent cartridge tray, to which attaches a hinged gizmo, that might be a support for the gun mount. You'll have to cut this and reposition it if you want your guns pointed anywhere but up. I glued my hatches shut with white glue, in case Vulcan releases a crew for this later, like they did with their 2-pounder kit. I can open them and crew it. Tiny Photo etch is used on the searchlight and turret lineup gauge, I managed to get these. I'm pretty sure the antenna mount is simplified but my refs are sparse on this and I let it alone. Holy crap, is this thing ready for paint? Yay let's do it.

I thought this part would be easy, look up the colors and spray, or match up the boxart colors to my Modelmaster stuff. Right. It seems early war Brittank colors are not a sure thing, with references to Khaki Green and Dark Green but no cut and dry info as to what these looked like, never mind which paints to use. From what I could find, and info from my web pals, I settled on Model Master RAF Dark green and a mix of Humbrol 155 OD, and 10 dark Brown, for the Khaki Green. I figured on spraying the Khaki green first and Brushing on the Dark green, but ended up doing the Dark Green foist and (painstakingly) masking the pattern for the KG. Turned out I don't like the KG as a main color, but too late now. Gonna dust 'er up anyway. I grabbed my Vallejo paint bottles and a brush, and did the tires dark grey and black and the tracks a mix of dark grey and steel.

Now the little varmint was taken out and given a glosscoat, using Testor's Metallizer Sealer and crossed my fingers for the decaling stage. I decided on the 3rd Royal Tank Regiment machine from the French campaign. The other option would have been cool too, having a white stripe around the turret base that would be a good looking option. The decals looked a little thick and uneven on the sheet, but turned out they worked just fine, doing all the things good decals do, a little Solvaset helping them along. At this point I attached a few small parts I had delayed putting on, fire extinguisher, tools, mirrors, and even the unusually kit-supplied antenna. I glosscoated it again to seal the decals in, and get ready for weathering.
This was done using Tamiya's weathering sticks, pen-type applicators that squeeze out Earth toned water based glop, that I like a lot for this purpose. I squeeze some out on a piece of tinfoil, and mix with water till I get the consistency I want, anything from thick mud to a rain-streak wash. Applied with a brush, I like the final effect. I laid on heavy Mud and Light Earth on the suspension area and washed the tracks with watery Light Earth. Small amounts of thick stuff I left on my beloved spring assemblies, undersides, and sprockets. On top a light wash using Sand simulated rain steaks, and finally the uppers were drybrushed lightly with light green enamel, to pop out those rivets. A final flatcoat bought this project to a temporary end. I still may add the little wires for the smoke dischargers and improve the antenna mount, when I can get more info on it.

Well if you read this you will realize this is a very Schizophrenic kit. The main part of the build is just fine with good fits . The suspension area is a whole different ballgame, giving the builder fits. At any rate at the end, I am glad I persevered, because a very nice representation of the Vickers Mk. VI has resulted, a weird looking little Hoptoad with lumps and bits sticking out all over it. It is a splendid addition to my growing light tank museum. Only problem is will I do another? I would really like the desert version that is bound to show up, but do I have the patience?

Recommended to advanced armor builders.

Blitzkreig Armor Camoflage and Markings 1939-40 Steven Zaloga Squadron/Signal 1980
AFV 5 Light Tanks Mk.1-VI N.W. Duncan Profile Pub. Prehistoric
Internet Sources

Bill Koppos

Kit courtesy of Me.

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