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Char B1 Kit

Tamiya 1/35 French Battle Tank Char B-1 bis Kit First Look

By Ray Mehlberger

Date of Review June 2006 Manufacturer Tamiya
Subject French Battle Tank Char B-1 bis Scale 1/35
Kit Number 35282 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Nice details Cons Retail price
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $59.00

First Look

Char B1 Kit
Char B1 Kit
Char B1 Kit
Char B1 Kit
Char B1 Kit
Char B1 Kit
Char B1 Kit

This was a French heavy tank design, begun in 1929, which went into production in 1935 as the B1. Weighing about 30 tons, with a crew of 4, it was armed with a 47mm (1.85-in.) gun in the forward-mounted turret and a 75mm (2.95-in.) gun in the front of the hull. While the turret could rotate, the hull gun had to be pointed by turning the entire tank.

Driven by a 180 hp Renault engine and with 40mm (1.57-in.) of armor, it could reach 27.5 km/h (17mph.). From 1937 the design was improved into the B1-bis: the armament remained the same but the armor was increased to 60mm (2.36-in.) and the engine to 300 hp aircraft motor.

Although ponderous and impressive, the Char B tanks suffered from bad design in that the crew were poorly located and the turret contained only one man, who had to command the tank and operate the gun at the same time Their performance in 1940 suffered from this, although their armor thickness was instrumental in persuading the German army to go for heavier anti-tank guns.

The tank had a good combination of fire power and the 6 cylinder engine gave it a good top speed. It had a radius of action of 210 km (130 miles). It did not perform well in action however. Some were equipped with radios and the resultant poor tactical handling led to many losses in battle. The Germans used captured Char B1’s as the chassis for a range of SP guns.

The track and suspension system of the B1 was later adopted for the British Churchill tank. The gun arrangement was similar on the Churchill too.

The kit comes in a tray and lid type box. The box art is done in Tamiya’s usual style of depicting the armor subject on a chalk white background. This box art show a B1, tank number 257, with “Bourrasque” on the turret, of the 2nd section, 1st company, 15th Combat Tank Battalion, 2nd Armored Division, France 1940 (one of the alternates on the enclosed decal sheet). A side panel shows a three-view of another of the paint scheme choices included for a tank nicknamed “Vercingetorix” of the 3rd company, 46th Combat Tank Battalion, 4th Armored Division, France 1940. A second side panel shows a color photo of the model made up and a picture of the individual track links.

Inside the box are 5 trees of tan parts and one upper hull piece in 5 cello bags. There is a cello full of the individual track links (which are of the snap together type), the decal sheet (also cell bagged and with a tissue to protect the face of it), the instruction sheet and another 4 page sheet that shows the painting and marking choices in full color. This second sheet also gives a story about one of the major battles that the Char B’s fought in, at Stonne, France. It also has some pictures of Char B’s that were supplied by the Musee des Blundes at Saumur, France. A nice addition. Finally, there is a heavy tow chain provided. The bottom of the lower box tray is imprinted with important information about the kit in no less than 15 languages, including English.

The instruction sheet accordion folds out into 10 pages. Page one begins with a black and white repeat of the box art, followed by the history of the vehicle in 4 languages (including English).

Page 2 begins with Read Before Assembly instructions, followed by some Cautions, illustrations of hobby tools suggested for use in building the model, a listing of paint colors required to decorate the model and the first assembly step.

This first step made me gasp, when I saw that you assemble 16 pairs of road wheels (per side) for this tank. Wow! That’s a bunch!

Pages 3 through 9 give us a total of 21 assembly steps.

Page 10 gives Painting and Applying Decal instructions in multiple languages again (including English) and a After-Market Service Card that you can mail to Tamiya to get any missing parts.

As mentioned earlier, is the 4 page sheet with the color scheme choices that you can opt for when building this kit. These are full color 5-views of each.

  1. Tank number 257, nicknamed “Bounasque”, 2nd Section, 1st Company, 15th Combat Tank Battalion, 2nd Armored Division, France 1940
  2. Tank number 481, nicknamed “Vercingetorix”, 3rd Company, 46th Combat Tank Battalion, 4th Armored Division, France 1940
  3. Tank number 467, nicknamed “Nivernais II”, 2nd Section, 3rd Company, 37th Combat Tank Battalion, 1st Armored Division, France 1940
  4. Tank number 205, nicknamed “Indochine”, 3rd Section, 3rd Company, 15th Combat Tank Battalion, 2nd Armored Division, France 1940

Parts tree, letter A holds: road wheels, drive sprockets, idler wheels, the sponson gun etc. There are 2 of this tree. (76 parts per tree).

Tree B holds: fenders, engine air intake grill, hatch doors, rear deck railing, driver’s vision port, radio aerial base etc. (34 parts)

Tree C holds: turret parts, the commander figure, tools etc. (the figure is divided into separate head, helmet, upper and lower torso parts, arms and a pistol in a holster). (25 parts)

Letter D holds: the chassis floor, chassis side panels, the hull sponson mantle etc. (16 parts)

Finally, is the upper hull part, the individual track links (already to go and snap-together type), the metal tow chain and the decal sheet.

This is a model subject that has long been wanted by armor modelers. The tank commander’s and driver’s periscopes can be made movable. There is a choice of 2 types of fenders and mufflers. However, there are no interior parts at all. We will probably see some after-market company address this later maybe.

Some location holes will have to be drilled out with a pin vice during construction. This is indicated in assembly step number 7. Detail is excellent and molding is crisp and flash free, as is always the case with Tamiya kits.