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Trumpeter 1/35 B1 Centauro Early Version

By Kerry Wilcoxon

Date of Review April 2010 Manufacturer Trumpeter
Subject B1 Centauro Early Version Scale 1/35
Kit Number 0386 Primary Media Styrene, Photo-etch
Pros Excellent part detail and fit, straight forward assembly Cons Lack of PE bending guidelines, difficult suspension alignment
Skill Level Intermediate MSRP (USD) $54.95


In much of Western Europe during the Cold War, the border between East and West Germany and the massive Soviet arsenal just beyond it; came to represent the threat of war between Europe and the Warsaw Pact. But to NATO planners and the citizens of Italy, the border between Italy and Eastern Europe posed just as real a threat. Fortunately for the rest of Europe, the Italians were prepared.

NATO strategy from early in the Cold War depended on nuclear weapons to overcome numerical superiority of Soviet and Warsaw Pact forces but stressed containment of any aggression as far east in Germany and as far north and east in Italy for as long as possible using conventional forces. The plan for the conventional forces defense of the Italian border relied on the strength of the Italian army which was one of the largest in Western Europe. This included one of the largest concentrations of armor in the west composed of Leopard I main battle tanks (MBT) and M47 Patton medium tanks.

Although excellent tanks in their day, by the mid-1980s both the Leopard I and the M47 were becoming obsolete. At about the same time, the long-standing NATO focus on defending against a Soviet invasion began to shift towards the need for force projection and peacekeeping operations in countries of the Mediterranean, Middle East and beyond. These events necessitated a replacement for the aging heavy armor and the development of newer and more mobile rapid response capabilities.

To address these needs the Italian government began an ambitious program to modernize both its armor and cavalry divisions using newly developed Italian made equipment. The armor units were to receive a new main battle tank known as the Ariete or Ram along with a tracked infantry-fighting vehicle known as the Dardo. The cavalry units, which were to be used as both rapid deployment and peacekeeping forces, were to receive the armored personnel carrier known as the Puma and the wheeled tank destroyer that was eventually called the Centauro.

The Centauro is an 8 x 8 wheeled vehicle, which was designed and built by the consortium of manufactures, Iveco Fiat-Oto-Melara. Iveco Fiat designed and built everything below the turret and Oto-Melara built the turret and gun system. The original design weighed 28 tons about half the weight of a typical main battle tank (MBT). Most production models carry a 105 mm main cannon similar to that used on the original Leopard 1 but some of the more recent export versions are equipped with a 120 mm cannon similar to that used on the Leopard 2 MBT.

The use of such a large caliber gun on such a relatively lightweight vehicle (28 tons versus 47 for the Leopard 1 and 61 for the Leopard 2) is made possible using a special long-recoil, auto-stabilized rifled tank gun that was designed specifically for the Centauro by Oto-Melara. Both the 105 and 120 mm guns fire standard NATO ammunition including anti-tank and anti-personnel rounds and both rely on the same fire control system used on the Ariete. The low center of gravity of the Centauro also helps control vehicle tipping as it absorbs the shock of the recoil. The results can be seen in video on of the Centauro firing while on the move and from various static orientations during field-testing.

The Kit

This project is a testament to the role of the internet on the hobby of model building. At the start of the year, I did not know the Centauro existed. Then after reading a review of the Trumpeter kit on a modeling web site and conducting lots of research on the internet into the history of the vehicle, I was hard at work building my Centauro.

The Centauro version depicted in my kit (Trumpeter number 386) represents the shorter hull length variant of the Centauro which was the most widely produced. Trumpeter also offers a kit of the longer hull or “station wagon” variant (kit 387) and the export version sold to Spain (kit 388) but in looking at the different configurations, there are many common components among the three versions.

Before the Centauro I had not built an armored vehicle kit in many years so my experience is limited however, for a first kit I was impressed with the packaging and sprue layout. I was also somewhat intimidated by the complexity of the kit and the number of parts since up until then, I had been building aircraft in 1/48th scale and was not used to part trees beyond the letter “C”.

Inside the hefty kit box, the upper and lower hulls are held in place by cardboard packaging. The seven part trees are packaged in a clear plastic bag with the turret and rubber wheels packaged separately. There is also a sheet of photo-etched parts and a tow cable, a clear plastic tree and a small sheet of decals. There were very few duplicate or unused parts although it would have been helpful to have duplicates of a few of the photo-etched parts noted below.

The decals depict two vehicles with no reference to where or when they were deployed. The most noteworthy version and the one I chose to build has the emblem of the Aosta Mechanized Brigade stationed in Messina Sicily.

Since this was my first armor kit, I decided to keep things simple and not add any after market detail even though there did not appear to be many options available. All of the hatches can be posed open or closed and the kit includes handles and molding detail for the inside faces of each hatch but apart from this, there is no other interior detail and no crew figures are provided.


B1 Despite the number of parts supplied the instructions are clear for the most part and the construction was straight forward. The instructions call for assembly of the vehicle in three separate stages, lower hull, upper hull and turret. This seemed unnecessarily complicated so I decided to construct the entire hull as one assembly. There were few problems with the hull assembly except for the attachment of the suspension and wheels (steps 2 and 3), the attachment of the side fenders (step 17) and the assembly of some of the photo-etched parts.

On my kit the finished strut/break assemblies fit very tightly into the attachment slot on the lower hull and required light sanding to make them fit. The instructions recommend not gluing the strut tabs to the hull which allows enough vertical float so that all the wheels contact the ground but there was no jig, alignment tool or instructions on how to align the struts horizontally so that the wheels end up in the same plain. When I finally attached the wheels after painting and weathering the rest of the vehicle, I made a crude jig and glued the wheels in place.

The fenders on step 17 (parts D1 and 2) took a bit of sanding but they eventually fit in place flush against the upper hull. There was also not enough detail on forming and construction of the headlight frame and cover assemblies (step 7 parts PE-A9 and A11, C33 and C34) which were made from plastic shields attached to photo-etched shell frame. The headlight shields (steps 6 and 7 part PE-A2) were also somewhat finicky but everything seemed to work out well and the parts were rather forgiving of errors.

Despite the difficulty of these assemblies, all of the problems up to this point paled in comparison to the hours of aggravation over the photo-etched side steps (step 17 parts PE-A12 and A13). When describing the construction process for the side steps, the instructions which note only “BEND” are vague at best and just plain cruel at worst. In reality there are a series of bending, gluing and cursing sequences required to make each assembly. The first task in the construction is the main step frame, a complex task by its self since each step forms a rectangle with a specific width to accept the cross braces that attach later. I ended up bending these around a Popsicle stick for consistency. With this complete and the ends glued together, the brackets that attach the frame to the angled fenders need to be bent so that the finished assemblies attach with the top of the step oriented parallel to the ground. The bend points were pre-scored but this did not always help.

B1 B1

As difficult as these two tasks were they were easy compared to the final attachment of the cross braces. Each step assembly requires three tiny cross braces inside the rectangular frame. The cross braces were not mentioned on the instructions but appear in the diagram of the finished assembly and there are marks on the inside frame surface to guide where to place them. They turned out to be difficult to align and several times, while gluing one cross member in place one of the others would fall out or the frame would separate and I would have to start over again. Several times a cross brace ended up glued to my tweezers or popped off the assembly into oblivion and although there was one extra cross brace supplied with the kit I spent quite a bit of time hunting for others after the spare was used.

I did not have much experience with photo-etched parts before this kit but I can honestly say that the step assemblies on the Centauro were the most difficult thing I have ever built as a modeler. Several times I considered finishing the model without the steps since only an expert would notice but I eventually persevered and completed all four. Once the steps were finished and glued in place on the fenders, the rest of the hull assembled without a problem.

With the hull complete, the turret construction was straight forward with only two minor fit issues. The back grill of the equipment bin (step 13 part C51) was much too tight to fit without moderate sanding, otherwise it tends to bow outward out of alignment with the lower grill which it attaches to. Also the cover between the turret and the main gun barrel (step 15 part B45) is too thick and fits poorly. I ended up sanding the inside down enough to make it fit better and make it look more like canvas. The only problem then was that once the cover was glued in place, the barrel will not elevate.

Painting and Finishing

B1 B1

Once most of the assembly was complete, I painted the entire model with Model Masters medium green spray (1913), applied the decals and coated the entire assembly with clear coat. The final four steps in construction were adding the clear periscope viewers, side mirrors, wheels and antenna. The periscope viewers attach from the inside of the hull and turret. They were somewhat tricky to install in the hull with the halves glued together but eventually went in and were glued in place. I then added rectangular pieces of foil into the side mirror frames to simulate mirror lenses and glued the finished assemblies in place. Finally, I made two whip antennas for the turret using melted sprues and attached them to the antenna bases provided in the kit.

With the final parts added, I weathered the vehicle in a series of steps. The pictures of Centauros in the field generally show vehicles that are in good condition with slight road wear and mud but little other external damage or rust. I started my weathering by giving the overall model (wheels and all) a filter coat of highly diluted mixture of burnt sienna, titanium white and water (1:1:10) to take the edge off of the paint scheme. Then I gave the grill over the engine and left side of the turret a wash of diluted black acrylic to simulate depth of field. Next, I added a few scratches using acrylic pencils to simulate wear on some of the fenders and other portions of the vehicle that stuck out.

When all this was complete and before I cemented the wheels in place, I rolled the finished model through a puddle of burnt sienna mixed with water (1:1) to simulate mud on the wheels and then continued rolling the vehicle over “clean” ground to clear the contact area of paint while leaving it in the tread. When this was dry I gave the wheels and underside a splatter pattern of the burnt sienna, titanium white and water mixture (this time closer to 1:1:5) by using bursts from an airbrush to simulate mud splatter. When everything was dry, I gave it one last coat of clear and called it done.


B1 B1

When I stepped back from the finished Centauro model, I was happy with the results and despite the aggravation over the side step assemblies, I had fun building the kit. Until I began this project, I had never really known much about armored vehicles or the strategy that went in to their design and use. I had also not been a big fan of armored vehicle models. But my research into the Centauro and the history of post war European armor was interesting and inspired me to start on my next project, the 1/35 scale Trumpeter Ariete main battle tank. Lucky for me the Ariete has no side steps.


  1. Pedlow, Dr. Geroge W., NATO Strategy Documents 1949-1969, NATO International Staff Central Archives, October 1997, p. XI
  2. Pollastrini, Dr. Alessandro, Marketing and Sales Area Manager, Land Systems Oto-Melara, Personal Correspondence, 1/8/10
  3. Bizzari, Lt. Col. Osvaldo, The Italian army moves towards the XXI century, Armor, July-August 1997, p. 46
  4. Complete Guide to current wheeled armoured vehicles, Armada International, April 1, 2005, p.8
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  11. Kemp, Ian and Eric H. Biass, Big guns, small platforms, Armada International, Dec-Jan 07, Issue 6, p. 4
  12. CIO Centauro B1, The Centauro is designed to compliment the other facets of Italian armored components,
  13. Krauss-Maffei Wegmann Leopard 2, The Leopard 2 was born out of the abortive MBT-70 collaboration with the United States,
  14. Oto Melara C-1 Ariete, The Italian-produced C-1 Ariete fulfills the MBT role in the Italian army,
  15. Unterseher, Lutz, Wheels or Tracks? On the lightness of military expeditions, Project on defense alternatives, briefing memo #16, July 2000 (revised December 2001), p. 3
  16. CIO Centauro,
  17. El-Assad, Moustafa, White thunder: Centauro inside out, Moustafa El-Assad (self-published) Blue-steel. info, 2008, p. 12
  18. Senft, Captain Donald, Leopards in Kosovo: the solution for an armoured combat vehicle?, The Army Doctrine and Training Bulletin, Vol. 3, No. 1, Spring 2000, p. 58
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  20. Kington, Tom, Vehicle revolution: 26-ton Freccia to lead Italy’s shift to medium-weight brigades, Defense News, October 6, 2008, p. 1