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FT 17

RPM 1/35 French Renault Char Canon FT 17 Kit First Look

By Ray Mehlberger

Date of Review April 2008 Manufacturer RPM
Subject French Renault Char Canon FT 17 Scale 1/35
Kit Number 35062 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Neat little French light tank that served in WWI and WWII Cons No part numbers on trees. No crew
Skill Level Intermediate MSRP (USD) Out of Production

First Look

FT 17 Kit
FT 17 Kit
FT 17 Kit
FT 17 Kit
FT 17 Kit
FT 17 Kit

The Renault FT-17 or Automitrailleuse a chenilles Renault FT modele 1917, was a French light tank. It is among the most revolutionary and influential tank designs in history. FT-17 was the first tank with an armament in a fully rotating turret, and it’s configuration with the turret on top, engine in the back and driver in front became the classic one. It is repeated in most tanks until today, indeed so familiar to modern eyes, we can now only, with difficulty, understand its once-revolutionary nature.

Studies on the production of a new light tank were started in May 1916 by the famous car producer Louis Renault. For no apparent reason, other than his wish to involve steel tycoon Paul Thome in his business schemes. One of his most talented designers, Rodolphe Ernst – Metzmaier, was the actual creator of the modern concept. Though the project was far more advanced than the two first French tanks about to enter production. These were the Schneider CA1 and the heavy St. Chamond. Renault had at first great trouble getting it accepted. Even after the first British use of tanks, on 15 September 1916, when the French people called for the deployment of their own Chars, the production of the light tank was almost cancelled in favor of that of a super-heavy tank, the later Char 2C. Ironically, it was again his own man, Ernst-Metzmaier, who had designed this behemoth when Renault was assisting another firm, FCM.

However, with the undiminishing support of Brigadier General Jean Baptiste Eugene Estienne (1860-1936), the “Father of Tanks”, and the successive French Commander in Chiefs, who saw light tanks as more feasible and realistic option, Renault was at last able to proceed with the design. However, the competition with the Char 2C was to last until the very end of WWI, on November 11th, 1918.

The prototype was slowly brought to perfection during the first half of 1917. Early production FT-17’s were often plagued by radiator fan belt and cooling system problems. Only 84 were produced in 1917, but 2,697 were delivered before the end of the war. At least 3,177 were produced in total, and so perhaps more. Some estimates go as high as 4,000 for all versions combined. However, the number of 3,177 is the delivery total to the French Army. 514 were perhaps directly delivered to the U.S. Army and three to the Italian Army. This give a probable total production number of 3,694.

The tanks had at first a round cast turret, later either an octagonal turret or and even later rounded turret of bgent steel plate (called the Berliet Turret after one of the many co-producing companies). The later two could carry a 37 mm Puteaux gun or a 7.92 mm Hotchkiss machine-gun. In the U.S., this tank was built on a license as Six Ton Tank Model 1917. 950 were built, 64 of which before the end of the war.

One of the variants (subject of this kit) was the Char a Canon 37. It was a FT-17 with a 37mm Puteaux short-barreled gun. About 3/5th’s of tanks ordered, about 1/3rd of tanks produced.

This kit comes in a tray and lid type box. The boxart shows two Char Canon FT-17’s parked on a road with 4 figures standing by them. The lead tank is a wave-pattern camouflage of matt sand (Humbrol H63), matt army green (Humbrol H102) and matt brick red (Humbrol H70). It carries the name “Anulka” in white cursic letters on the side of the turret. The second tank, behind it, is in a wave-pattern camouflage of just H63 and H102. It has a red flag pennant flying from the top of the turret cupola. The words “Passe Part” in white letters is on the side of the turret. The marking scheme illustration for this tank, in the instructions, shows that it also has a ace of diamonds symbol at the extreme rear of the sides. Both tanks are loaded down with extra gear on top. In the background is a forest. These marks are both included on the kit’s decal sheet.

Both are Polish units, in Poland 1920. A side panel has paragraphs mentioning the features of the kit and that is geared at modelers 8 to adult, in 3 languages (Polish, German and English) labeled with the flags of Poland, Germany and Britain. The kit has a copyright date of 1998.

The other side panel shows the color boxarts of 5 other AFV models that RPM markets: A L37L French tractor in German service, a French FT-17 mounting the 7.92 mm machine-gun in the turret, a FT-17 in captured German markings, a Polish CP tankette pulling a 47mm gun and the French Lorraign tractor with rocket firing crates on it in German service. Oddly, none of these has a kit no. next to them.

Inside the box is 5 chalk white parts trees in a large sealed cello bag, the decal sheet and the instructions.

The instructions consist of a unbound booklet of 6 pages in 6 7/8” x 9 ¾” format.

Page 1 begins with a black and white repeat of the boxart next to the history of the FT-17 in Polish only. This is followed by an illustration of the decal sheet and three of the painting and marking schemes as side profiles only.

An FT-17 with the French Army, 10 BCI, during Convass Ressons-sur Matz, Western Front, 10 August 1918, France. It is in a wave pattern of matt sand and matt army green (Humbrol H63 and H102) with an ace of diamonds symbol at the extreme rear of the side. The turret has the white words “Le Canard” in cursic letters on the side.

An FT-17 from the 304th Brigade, American Army, Varennes en-Argonne, 1918. It is in matt sand and matt dark green (Humbrol H63 and H30) wave pattern camouflage that only extends from the top of the turret to the top of the fenders. Below that, it is matt sand only. It carries a white diamond with a red heart on it Symbol on the side of the turret with a small number “2” in white above it, slightly to the left.

An FT-17 with Polish Troops, Lotz, 1920. This is one of the tanks on the boxart, with “Passe Part” on the turret (already described above) it has a white circle with a red heart on it at the extreme rear of the sides. It shows the red pennant on the pole at the top of the turret and this pennant IS on the decal sheet.

Page 3 has 4 more schemes on it:

An FT-17 with the 327th Brigade, 1st Battalion, American Army, Western Front 1918. This one is in a camouflage of matt sand with matt army green spots blotches on it (Humbrol H63 and H102). It has a white diamond with a red heart on it on the side of the turret.

An FT-17 used in France by German troops, blasted by the American Army, France, 1944. This one is in overall matt steel gray (Humbrol H87). It carries a skeletal German cross on the sides of the turret and the white number 3-25 on the nose. These numbers look to be roughly hand-painted on.

An A FT-17 with the Finish Army, Finland 1921. This one is in a wave pattern camouflage of matt sand, matt dark green and matt brick red (Humbrol H63, H30 & H70). It has an ace of diamonds symbol at the extreme rear of the side. Down low, almost at the bottom of the tank sides is the stenciled white number 68129.

An A FT-17 used by Polish troops, Poland, 1920. This is the lead tank on the boxart (scheme already described above) with “Anulka” on the turret sides.

An FT-17 used by a subsidiary French Aviation unit in 1940. It is in a wave pattern, Were the waves run horizontally of matt dark green, matt leather and matt sand (Humbrol H32, H62 & H63). It carries a red, white and blue French roundel on the side of the turret and also again at the extreme rear of the sides. The matt dark green covers the sides solidly from the tops of the track runs on down to the bottom.

An FT-17 of the French Army, Port Lyauley, Moroco, 1942. It has the same pattern as the previous scheme. It has the words “La Champagne” in white cursic on the side of the turret. There is a white number 2165 on the side of the hull, above the tracks. Down low, almost at the bottom of the sides is another white number 73160 next to a white bridging symbol with a black number 1 on it.

An FT-17 of the Spanish Republican Army, Spain, 1937. It is in matt dark green (Humbrol H30). It carries a large white number 6 on the side of the turret. It has a large Soviet hammer and circle insignia in red on the bow.

An FT-17 also of the Spanish Republican Army, Spain 1937. It is in matt brick red with matt dark green blotches over it for camouflage (Humbrol H70 & H30). It carries the words “i No PAZARAN” in white letters on the extreme rear of the sides.

The bottom of page 3 of the instructions has 2 of the parts tree drawings, followed by a list of 5 more Humbrol brand paint colors: H147 light gray, H33 black, H110 wood, H56 aluminum, and H113 rust.

Page 4 begins with 4 more parts tree illustrations, followed by the first 2 assembly step drawings.

Pages 5 through 8 give a balance of 21 total assembly steps.

I have pretty much started this kit, up to step no. 7. This is the suspension parts. I also put the handle on the little bucket in the kit that is shown to do in step 18. No other assembly has been done by me. So, I will picture the tree that these parts came off of and what the assemblies look like that I have finished. A few parts still remain on the tree. This is the tree that there are two identical copies of.

The part trees are not alphabetized on the parts tree illustrations, nor do they have part numbers molded next to the parts on the trees. What that means is, you have to struggle through the building of the kit by referring to the parts tree drawings to find a part number on them and then look for it on the trees. Time consuming and a drudgery if ever there was one. Bad move RPM.

The first part tree holds the road wheel channel apparatus parts (12 parts) I have assembled this tree.

There are 2 identical large trees that hold: large idler wheels, the drive sprockets, road wheels and numerous other small parts (96 parts per tree) Two parts on each of these trees are X’d out on the parts tree illustration as being excess and not needed to complete the kit. I have pretty much denuded this tree too, for what I have already assembled.

The next part tree holds: the turret parts and the main gun etc. (24 parts) Eight of these parts are X’d out on the parts tree illustration as being excess.

The largest tree in the kit holds: all the hull panels, tools, the tail unditching skid parts etc. (58 parts) One part on this tree is X’d out as excess.

The black vinyl rubber-band type treads and the decal sheet (already described above in the schemes) completes the kit’s contents. I tried my darndest to get the white lettering on the decal sheet to appear, but it refused to show against the white backing paper. Believe me, what I described is there is on it.

There are no crew figures in the kit There is some nice detail in the driver’s compartment of seats, control levers and foot pedals. The main gun has a nice breech on it that can be viewed inside the turret, but there is little else in there.

I highly recommend this kit to modelers that want to do a tank that had a long service career and can be used in a WWI or WWII scene. Modelers should have a few other AFV kits under their belts first though as the suspension on this tank is quite involved and busy.