Tamiya 1/35 French Armored Carrier UE Kit First Look
By Ray Mehlberger
|Date of Review||August 2007||Manufacturer||Tamiya|
|Subject||French Armored Carrier UE||Scale||1/35|
|Kit Number||35284||Primary Media||Styrene|
|Pros||Great subject and an instant diorama||Cons||Exhaust shield louvers not open and shield is too thick. We are not told what units markings represent|
|Skill Level||Basic||MSRP (USD)||$36.00|
As the French army underwent mechanization in the 1920’s, the need arose for a small, tracked armored vehicle capable of transporting supplies and weapons to the front lines and towing light artillery. In October 1930, Renault’s armored carrier UE was chosen by the French army from among several competing designs and production of the first 60 operational vehicles was completed by September 1932.
At 2.8m long, 1.74m wide, and 2.6 tons fully loaded, it was a sturdy, compact design that featured a riveted joint hull construction and a reliable suspension with garter beams supporting the road wheels. The two member driver/navigator crew was housed in a central compartment, but since their heads protruded from the chassis, special dome-shaped hatches were mounted to augment the carrier’s 9mm armor and protect against small-arms fire and shrapnel.
A 30hp gasoline engine enabled a road speed of 30 km/h, while over a ton of cargo could be carried on the tiltable rear deck and towed trailer. Approximately 4,900 armored carrier UE’s were produced until June 1940, including the UE2 variant which featured 4-speed transmission instead of 3-speed, and tow shackles in place of the pigtail hooks.
When France capitulated to Germany on June 1940, approximately 3,000 captured armored carrier UE’s were pressed into service with German forces, which used them as transport, artillery and aircraft towing vehicles until the end of WWII and as modified self-propelled guns.
This new kit is especially of interest to me, because there was a gentleman who lived in the nearby city of Hiawatha, Iowa who owned an actual UE. It was captured from the Germans, during WWII, and sent to the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland for testing and evaluation. After the testing the vehicle was sold to a nearby farmer. He literally used the UE to tow equipment around the farm until it quit running for him. He parked it at the back of his farm with the domes left open and through the years, rain and debris poured into it and rusted out the fighting compartment floor completely. He also managed to damage one tread run and lost a link.
The fellow from Hiawatha was an avid collector of WWII stuff. He heard about the UE in Aberdeen and bought it from the farmer, transporting it back to Iowa on a flatbed truck. He started to do some rudimentary stuff to it to restore it. He went to a metal foundry, in Chicago, and got a new track link cast. He also had aluminum copies of the Renault manufacturing plate, off the nose of the UE, cast. The foundry told him that it would cost more than he cared to pay for a new floor plate, as the original had a raised pattern. John was going to just get a smooth floor plate later he said.
I have one of these Renault manufacturing plate copies myself. Unfortunately, and for reasons I cannot explain, John had the two screw holes at each end of this plate eliminated from the ends of it on the aluminum copies. John also used a grinder on the face of the copies that made the lettering mirror bright…not like the cast iron original…and the grinding also removed the serial number from the rectangular area on the original…along with an eagle and swastika that the Germans had added to that rectangle after they captured it…sad. John is now dead several years and I don’t know what his widow has done with the UE.
The kit comes in a tray and lid type box. It has Tamiya’s usual box art of the kit’s subject against a chalk white background. It shows the UE pulling the unique fully-tracked trailer, with cargo loads in it and the rear storage bin on the UE. There are 2 standing French soldiers shown and two crew members in the domed hatches of the UE. You get all this stuff in the kit. The vehicle bears the serial number M62253 and the nickname “Odette” on the bow, along with a small French tri-color and the bridging symbol. A side panel shows a 3-view of a differently marked UE with the serial no. 95213 and the bridging symbol on the nose. Both tanks are in overall Khaki drill. Another side panels shows a color photo of the kit make up and color illustrations of the cargo load items and the metal tweezers included in the kit.
Inside the box are are 9 trees of olive drab parts in 4 cello bags, a pair of metal tweezers (rather flimsy ones) in a cello, the decal sheet in a cello and a tiny tree of vinyl poly-caps. The instructions and a single sheet of instruction corrections complete the kit. Printed on the bottom of the tray is “Important information concerning this kit” in 13 languages, including English.
The instructions consist of a large single sheet that accordion folds out into 10 pages.
Page one begins with a black and white photo of the kit made up, followed by the history of the UE in English, German, French and Japanese.
Page two begins with “Read before assembly cautions”, followed by a listing of Tamiya paint colors to use to finish the model, illustrations of hobby tools suggested for use to assemble the kit and the first assembly step.
The instructions should be studied carefully to determine what to do to the kit to make any one of 3 variants. These variants are of a minor nature, only tow hook and headlight changes, but certain holes have to be opened up for each type.
Pages three through eight give a total of 18 assembly steps.
Pages nine and ten gives three 5-view drawings of painting and marking options. All are in overall khaki drill and are all labeled as unknown units. Too bad Tamiya did not research who these units fought with. The bottom of the page has an “after market service card” printed, to use to get any missing parts etc.
A small sheet is enclosed in the kit that is corrections to assembly step no. 15 on page 7 of the instructions. You are told, wrongfully, on page 7 to remove some detail from the tracked trailer parts.
The small decal sheet holds 1 ton bridging symbols, 3 different serial numbers that go on the bow of the UE, yellow triangle marks that were displayed to show that the UE had the tracked trailer in tow and the nickname “Odette”. The sheet is packaged in it’s own cello bag and has a protective film sheet over the face of it to prevent scratching. Good move Tamiya.
There are two identical, medium sized, letter A parts trees. They hold: link and length type tracks, drive sprockets, idler wheels, road wheels, suspension parts, dome halves and tow rings etc. for the UE. (46 parts per tree). The road wheels are assembled from 2 halves, parts numbers A26 & A27. You wind up with a groove around the center afterwards. DO NOT fill this groove with putty, as it is accurate and should be there. The dome halves on the actual UE had slits for the crew to look out of when closed. These are just molded indentations on the kit parts and could be opened with small drill bits for better detail.
Eight small vinyl poly-caps are in the cello bag with the letter A parts.
Letter B parts tree is the largest tree. It holds all the body panels for the UE, the exhaust pipe and muffler and its louvered cover, fenders, tow cable, a shovel, tow hooks etc. (44 parts). The louvered cover for the exhaust is rather to thick. This item on an actual UE was of thin metal with a liner of asbestos. It needs to be thinned down and 4 bolts added to it’s top. The louvers are molded as raised bumps and are not open. Perhaps the after-market PE companies will come to the rescue with a better part for this.
There are two identical small letter C parts trees. They hold: road wheels, link and length type tracks and suspension parts for the fully tracked trailer. One of these trees is co-joined to the letter D parts tree. (21 parts on each letter C).
Medium sized letter D parts tree holds the bed, sides, fenders, towing rail etc. for the tracked trailer. (16 parts).
Lettering now jumps to the small letter Y parts trees. There are two identical ones of these. They hold wooden crates, oil drums, a couple of rolled tarps, half-figures of the driver and navigator (divided into separate torsos, heads, helmets and goggles. (19 parts per tree). One of these Y trees is co-joined to the letter Z parts tree. The rolled tarps are a little clunky looking and probably better fabricated from some rolled-up Kleenex tissue soaked in Elmer’s white glue solution, with some paper or lead foil straps for better detail.
Small letter Z parts tree holds: the 2 standing French soldier figures (divided into separate torso with legs, arms, heads, steel helmets, personal gear and rifles) (20 parts)
Final items in the kit are the tiny tree of vinyl poly caps, the metal tweezers (in it’s own cello) and the small decal sheet.
This kit is a ready diorama. It is very welcome and right on the heals of Tamiyas release of the French Char B. I am glad to see that Tamiya molded the oval Renault manufacture plate on the nose of the UE. Something that was missing in their Char B, which was also built by Renault.
I highly recommend this kit to modelers of WWII armor. As I said, above, it was of great interest to me because I saw one close up. I never dreamed that it would eventually appear as a model kit. Very welcome.