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French FT-17 Rivet Turret

Meng 1/35 French FT-17 Rivet Turret Kit First Look

By Stephen Sutton

Date of Review September 2014 Manufacturer Meng
Subject French FT-17 Rivet Turret Scale 1/35
Kit Number TS011 Primary Media Styrene, Photo-Etch
Pros Fine surface detail, workable suspension, and drivers compartment Cons Metal suspension springs too small
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $39.99

First Look

FT-17
FT-17
FT-17
FT-17
FT-17
FT-17
FT-17
FT-17
FT-17
FT-17
FT-17

In June 1916, Colonel Estienne contacted Louis Renault to convince him to develop a new tank, but Mr. Renault refused since they were never involved in tank development before. However, Mr. Renault accepted this request at last. In October of the same year, Mr. Renault showed a full-scale wooden mock-up of the tank to Colonel Estienne. Many revolutionary designs of this tank were created by the talented designer Rodolphe Ernst Metzmaier.

Though the new design was technically far more advanced than other countries' tanks, top officials of the French Army refused to approve the project or allocate funds because they had more interest in the Char 2C super-heavy tank. Colonel Estienne appealed to General Joseph Jacques Cesaire Joffre, Commander in Chief of the French Army, for support and the Army agreed to the production of a prototype.  The first prototype was unveiled in January 1917 and it passed the workmanship test in February. In March, it was officially designated as 'Type M.17.FT', later known as 'FT-17'.

By June 1917, 3,500 FT-17s had been ordered, but mass production didn't start until September because many technical problems needed to be solved in the initial production stage. FT-17s were formally put into service in the French Army in March 1918. During the early days of its service, the FT-17 was fitted with a riveted turret which had some disadvantages, such as complex manufacturing process, poor bullet-proof properties and failure to achieve a full rotation. Later, a new cast turret with riveted and welded construction was developed by Forges et acieries Paul Girod. The new turret which was manufactured with a simplified process could achieve a full rotation, and it helped improve the tank's overall performance.

By the end of WWI (November 1918), 3530 FT-17 tanks (including its variants) had been built. Later, FT-17s were manufactured, improved or copied by France, US, Italy, and the Soviet Union. Some 6,000 FT-17s were built in all (including the US's copy of FT-17 - the 6-ton M1917 tank and the Soviet Union's copy - the MS-1/T-18 tank). Over 4,100 of them were produced in France.

A US tank unit led by George S. Patton first used FT-17s in the Battle of Saint-Mihiel between 12 and 16 September 1918. Hence, the FT-17 became the first operational tank in the US Army. In October 1918, US Army received the first 6-ton M1917 light tank (the US's copy of the FT-17) which was also the first US-built tank.

The kit follows the previous FT-17 Cast Turret (kit TS-008) and is basically the same kit with the inclusion of the Riveted turret in place of the cast turret plus a large diorama base to sit the finished model upon. The other difference is this new kit only includes the interior driver's station but not included are the engine, transmission or radiator for a more basic interior detail.

The standard of molding is excellent and virtually flash free although there is a very small amount of fine flash on some parts and the usual molding nodes to be removed along with very fine mold lines on the parts. Pin marks are at a minimum. Surface details are excellent with fine texturing and casting data on the turret, hundreds of raised bolts/rivets on the hull and turret, and the distinctive Renault oval badge on the side suspension running gear sponsons.  Hull details include the full driver's compartment details with tread plate floor for both the driver's and central fighting compartment floors but as mentioned only the front Driver's station details are included with this kit and the large front and rear hatches can be shown open to expose most of the detail if you wish. There is also working suspension and track along with alternate large wooden or metal idler wheels at the front.

The turret interior includes the gun breech and mountings with a choice of two armaments for the turret, the 37mm Puteaux SA18 gun or the 8mm Hotchkiss M1914 machine gun which also comes with a ground tripod and can be used as an infantry support MG if not fitted to the turret.  Markings for the 2nd Platoon, 1st Company, 344th Tank Battalion, 304th Tank Brigade, US Army in Verdun, October 1918, and Tank Units, Northeastern Frontier Defense Force, National Revolutionary Army, China, 1929 are included.

This kit features:

  • 257 parts in light beige plastic (includes 40 individual 37mm rounds)
  • 68 individual track links in black plastic
  • 10 brass PE parts
  • 2 metal suspension bars
  • 2 small metal axis pins
  • 2 large springs
  • 2 small springs
  • 1 small decal sheet
  • 20 page color instruction booklet

Overall this is an excellent kit of the definitive Renault FT with extremely clean and blemish free moldings, and very well detailed with the excellent hull and turret surface texturing and rivet/bolt details. The only major issue is the metal suspension springs provided which are way too small.

The inclusion of the full Driver's compartment which can be shown off to good advantage by the large front hull hatches makes for a highly detailed model. The inclusion of the Hotchkiss MG ground tripod is a nice bonus to utilize the excellent gun if not fitted into the turret and the diorama base adds another option to the kit.

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