Bronco Models 1/35 A13 Mk.I/Cruiser Tank Mk.III Build Review
By Larry Horyna
|Date of Review||April 2019||Manufacturer||Bronco Models|
|Subject||A13 Mk.I/Cruiser Tank Mk.III||Scale||1/35|
|Kit Number||35025||Primary Media||Styrene|
|Pros||Nicely detailed kit||Cons||See text|
|Skill Level||Experienced||MSRP (USD)||OOP|
The British cruiser tank concept was based on the idea of the tank replacing cavalry for probing weaknesses in an enemy's lines and exploiting them. Using speed rather than heavy armor and big guns, the cruisers would perform flanking and deep penetration maneuvers in an offensive role. While the first real production cruiser tanks, the A9 and A10, set the concept in motion, it was the A13 with its Christie suspension and Liberty aircraft engine that would give the idea a chance to work on the battlefield. Unfortunately, due to mechanical unreliability and a fast-evolving battlefield in WWII, the cruiser tank concept was never a great success. It was, however, an intriguing idea that led to the development of some very interesting tank designs.
Bronco models has produced a 1/35 kit of the A13 Mk.I Cruiser Mk.III tank. Until recently, these designs have had little to no representation in 1/35 injection molded kits. In terms of subject popularity, nothing will ever compare to what is available in German armor, but it is nice to see something different getting attention! I often joke with my fellow model club members when we go to model shows and peruse the vendor areas that my interest in WWII British and Japanese armor actually saves me a lot of money since I never see much to buy!
I have built some very obscure resin armor kits as well as plenty of Tamiya and Dragon armor kits, but this was the first Bronco kit I have built. This kit left me with mixed feelings. While I am grateful for the subject matter, there are elements of the overall quality that are definitely lacking. Firstly, the instructions are absolutely horrible. It helped to make a photocopy of them and re-arrange the pages to make a little more sense of the building order. There were still some vague areas that were best corrected by looking at photos of the real tank.
Secondly, the vinyl track are quite poor. Bronco offers a set of "aftermarket" individual track links that can be purchased separately, which I did. But this is nothing more than cheap marketing and I say "Boo" to that. The individual links should be included in the kit along with "rubber band" style track as a choice, much like Tamiya now does with their link and length track. If Bronco kits were cheap, I would see the logic in selling the better track separately, but they are not inexpensive. The tracks were painted on the sprues with XF-84 Dark Iron. After they were assembled (a very arduous task!) they were touched up, given a black wash and a silver highlight.
An interesting tooling ploy that I am not impressed with is the idea of using PE parts to represent details that really should be in plastic, like rivets or bolts. On a few select areas (mainly the sides of the storage bins), the kit has flat surfaces that need to have PE plates glued on to show rivet detail. Yet in other areas these same details are actually better replicated in injection plastic. It's a head scratcher. My guess is Bronco thinks it makes the kit look more complex by having more PE in it. Boo again. Just mold the detail where you can and use the PE where it actually enhances detail.
Fit was generally okay. The forward hull near the drive sprockets needed shimming with plastic card and a little Mr.Surfacer 500 helped with smaller gaps around the driver's vision port. I have read that the rear engine decking in not quite accurate and there is a resin replacement, but I did not want to bother with it as the differences did not look that drastic.
The entire model was primered with Vallejo black surface primer and then painted with a Tamiya mix I found online for the Khaki green and dark green. Both colors were highlighted as well. The lower hull and road wheels were painted separately from the upper hull and turret. I am no expert on British tank colors but the mixes I used ended up looking a little to close in contrast to me. Perhaps the dark green could have been a little darker. However, in many photos the two colors did not seem to contrast as much. In the end, I decided to leave it as is. The road wheels were masked using Shadow Hobby's new circular cutting tool. I will put in a shameless plug for Shadow Hobby here. Their circular cutting tool is easily one of the best investments I have made in a hobby tool for some time. You can consistently cut perfect circles very quickly. No need to ever purchase tank wheel masks if you own one.
After paint, the model was gloss coated with Future floor wax in preparation for decals and washes. The decals went down okay with several coats of Micro-set. I was not overly impressed with their quality, but they worked alright. They were a little brittle going over raised details and would crack if I pressed them down over small bumps and rivets. Once the decals were set and dry, I went over the model with Tamiya dark brown and black panel line washes. This was followed by some dot filtering using Mig Oilbrushers. After flat coating with Tamiya XF-86 Flat I did some dry brush highlighting. The dirt and much on the track and lower chassis was done with Tamiya ground effects paint followed by a light airbrushing of thinned brown tie everything together.
Bronco did not include a crew figure, so I purchased an Alpine one. Overall, I am very happy with the model, mostly because I'm tickled pink to have an A13 in 1/35. I purchased the kit from a vendor at a model show for a good price. If I had paid retail for this kit I would probably not be as happy. However, beggars can't be choosers, as they say, and early British cruiser tanks are not very common in injection molded kits. I have to give Bronco the credit for at least producing the subjects, even if they are not the best kits. I have recently picked up the new Gecko Models A9 and A10 kits which look to be very nice, so we'll see if things are going to be different on the horizon!