Wednesday, January 8

Build review - Takom’s new St. Charmond heavy assault tank in 1/35th..

After their earlier releases Takom have gone for  a large scale (1/16th) FT tank, a 1/35th scale Object 279 experimental Russian tank and so in keeping with their business plan they have stuck to what they know – a random kitting of the first world war 1/35th St Charmond tank…
….So in keeping with our own traditions we thought we would build it up to show you what this otherwise unknown kit is like in our review

French Heavy Tank St.Chamond Early Type/Iron Mask Man
1/35th scale
Kit no:2002
Kit includes 1 figure
6 sprues tan styrene
2 sprues dark grey styrene tracks
Decals for 2 tanks

In retrospect this isn’t such a random release as one might think. There has been an ever emptying well of not before attempted styrene kits in 35th scale on the market. WWII is dry – as is the post war – as has been made evident by three kits at the same time released of the same tank in the Object 279 recently. With the renewed interest in WWI recently coinciding with the 100 year anniversary of WWI it seems like a good choice.
Only available previously in 35th scale in (pretty expensive) resin kit – Takom’s French Heavy St.Chamond Assault Tank seems like manna from heaven for modellers.

For those unfamiliar with the French made St. Charmond heavy Assault tank it was a WWI era “land battleship” that dwarfed the better known French FT tank already in service - and it carried the biggest gun of any tank in that war. Unfortunately for it’s 23 ton weight the tank’s holt running gear was too short and the engine to puny to make this as effective as other smaller tanks with better power to weight.
The frontal part of the hull housing the gun was too heavy, and tests showed it had a tendency to sink nose first into the mud. They were not liked by their crews and the noise, hot environment; toxic smells and poisoning weren't sufficient enough, the crews experienced sea sickness after prolonged, rough rides - is that why they are riding on top in this picture?
Saint Chamond specifications
Dimensions 8.9 x 2.70 x 2.40 m (29.2x8.86x7.87 ft)
Total weight: battle ready 23 tons
Crew: 9!
Propulsion: Panhard Levassor 4 cyl petrol, 90 hp (67 kW) Speed 12 km/h (8 mph)
Range on/off road 60/30 km (37.3/18.6 mi)
Armament: Schneider 75 mm (2.95 in) gun 4xHotchkiss M1914 8 mm (0.31 in) machine guns
Armor:11-19 mm (0.43-0.75 in)
Total production 400

- Although the insides of this tank was packed with people and mechanics Takom has kept it simple by offering no interior detail.
As a review subject – this tank is nigh on a century old – and reliable drawings are hard to come by – BUT the sole survivor was until recently kept in a US ordnance museum, as part of the tanks provided to the US forces in 1917. It was donated back to France, and is on display now in the Saumur Museum (Musee des Blindes) as a static model. We will look at some reference pictures of the vehicle as a guide but I don’t trust any drawings I can get hold of so rivet counters take a hike! This will be a look at the kit contents and a build to see how it all goes together.

The plastic on offer:
Although this boxing says it is the Early Type – it is indeed the second production type with wider tracks and flat roof. The plastic on offer is pretty well moulded. Not much of any flash is present – there only being a bit of a seam on some of the longer thin square parts. There are some nodes on some of the thinner parts as well – but these aren’t in the vicinity of too many at all. There are some ejector pin marks but these are very smartly on the insides of the door and the wheels where no one can see them.

The other thing is that there are slots and holes to locate just about everything on this kit. And they all do the job they are intended to do. Everything fits pretty well and apart from some wrestling around the return rollers the fit and engineering is top shelf. For a third kit to achieve a feel not unlike that of a Tamiya “white box” kit this is quite an achievement.

No Photo etch sheets? (yay!)
Indeed this does very much remind me of a Tamiya kit – the colour and feel of the plastic and the reliance on plastic to cover all of the parts is a throwback to an earlier time almost – but with today’s fit and engineering and level of detail. The kit does not suffer from not having lots of brass bits hanging off it – on the contrary it makes it a fun building experience.

There are a twenty four page instruction booklet included here – in black and white the instructions are very clear and only get clouded when you are putting together the complicated underside suspension. Takom had help from Mr.Paul Le Goff as a technical advisor – that is great but I think Takom need not mention that Wikipedia is the source of their research – it just doesn’t give you much hope when you read that. There are forty- three steps in the construction but it feels like half that number when you are making it.

There are the choice of two markings supplied with this kit – both French versions of the vehicle from AS-31 in 1917 – we were lucky enough to find pictures of them both. They are very gaudy patterns and a fair but of masking needed. There are several other just as attractive schemes in less complex camouflages as well for this tank as there were 500 built – and many are captured on this excellent reference site on the ‘net.

“Fantomas” from As31 in 1917 is painted in a Hull red/ Olive Green and Dark Yellow colour.

“Chantlecoq” from As31 in 1917 was painted in a hull red/ NATO Black and Dark yellow colour
Colours are noted in Tamiya “XF” acrylics and you can see these tanks from all angles on the instructions.

are supplied on a small sheet including the nicely drawn artwork for both schemes. The decals are of a matte finish and have a medium amount of carrier film.

They are colorful enough and the whites - although hard to see here are bright enough to be right for this kit.

 “Mesh Man”:
We will go a little bit off the plan before we look at each of the sprues – included in this boxing is a French tank crew member in 1/35th scale with a mesh helmet that was the type used by tankers to cut down on internal metal ricochet wounds from the internal parts of the tank and rivets that pop or are converted to shrapnel after a non-penetrative hit.
You can see them in use here. I tried to show him with his arm down but he just looked silly. You could do some surgery here and make him a little more useful.
The figure is well done and I think it would be good to see a companion set of these – just like the Object 279 needed some more anti-radiation NBC troopers. I suppose we are lucky to get one figure as most releases do not have any. Seeing there are eight other crew members needed to fill this tank – so in a way this just whets my appetite and doesn’t put it to bed. More of these thanks Takom!

The sprues:
Let’s take a look at the sprues quickly before the build… A big box - but not so full...
The hull:
The hull is LARGE – about the size of and reminiscent of the shape of a same scale modern Soviet BMP troop carrier – it just reminds me of it as there are plenty of hatches and no turret in the traditional sense.

There are large rivets which pop out of this and would make a great weathering experience for those inclined – imagine making it into a battlefield hulk? Large flat decks that are ripe for stowage and heaps of hatches dotted all over the hull make it good for detailing.
There is a large star on the rear of the hull which is a brand mark of the manufacturer.

Sprue A (X2): Sprue A contains the machine guns and most of the underside suspension and running gear – there are two of these sprues identical to each other.
The six sets of springs either side are much better detailed than the 1/16th scale solid springs we saw on the FT release last year – they look like they could be painted up to negate the use of replacements easily. The barrels which were installed into the bottom of the tank and helped with ground clearance are seen here on the far right.
The large tooth drive wheel is almost like a large gear – it fits neatly into part 18 – the circular disk on the right and the part 17 – the spoked wheel, fits snugly into part 19 and can turn once constructed.
These long parts are part of the bracing for the suspension to the hull. There are six in all and they can be easily put on upside down at the wrong angle. Double check your instructions.
There are four 8mm Hotchkiss M1914 machine guns which sit inside swivel and pivot mounts - one for each side of the hull. These do not have hollowed out barrels or ammo. But then again only the barrels will be seen from the outside of the tank.

The Tracks: - Sprue B (X2):
...are taken up with the tracks of this vehicle – they are two sprues in a very dark grey – almost black – and they are very nice indeed. 

Praise be! - to who-ever your god may or may not be, as this is no Object 279 with 4 x 82 track rows of tracks that cannot be moved and are fiddly to secure in place. This kit takes completely the opposite approach in that there are only thirty-six track links either side. These tracks that are made to move and flex like the real items, and they go together very easily – well look at the construction of these later. I can say that these are the most robust tracks we have put together for quite a while. Bravo!
Nice texture on the trackpads..

...five connection points to remove has to suck though - lucky there are only 36 of them to cut out.
The three parts of each link of this track use a simple method in a chain to secure them together. The track pads are secured together by two links inside them which glue on one end and fit snugly around the other – allowing them to flex. There is a sequence here to show you how they go together.

They require some glue but once secured they do move freely and best of all they stay glued! Too many tanks recently have suffered from ridiculously brittle tracks which make them nothing but things to be admired from afar and not ever picked up. These stay on once glued together. There is a nice surface texture on these tracks as well which matches cast steel.

The build sequence from left to right
The finished articles - "articulating"

Sprue C: is a single sprue this time – it comprises of the front armoured plate and the roof vent as well as structural brackets that go like riveted ribs across the roof, turret hatches, the bent long exhaust and the main 75mm gun.
The front armour plate is thickly riveted and the hole in the centre is for the 75mm gun. The right is for the Hotchkiss MG.

Schneider 75 mm (2.95 in) gun in two parts with hollow barrel

These rounded hatches are just that – hatches for the crew to get out of the foul insides of the smelly tank - there are several flat square hatches as well.
The left upper are the oval hatches whilst the square is the hatch of for the mid roof. These I think were for the engine more than anything.
These pictures from WWI show this tank with all hatches open and crew sticking their heads out – getting away from the toxic engine fumes this would be a great way of getting around fleshing this tank out without showing the interior..

Sprue D: Contains the long bent mud guards and suspension parts for the under-hull. Most of this adds detail but won’t be seen very well.
The upper part is an extension of the under hull floor extension piece whilst the lower part is the long mudguard.
More parts of the suspension base we will look at later – not the holes everywhere – these are locating holes for the parts that attach to them. Very handy!

These two guards protect the main axle.

Sprue E: contains our man in mesh we have already looked at – as well as the long part on the left is the floor of the hull – whilst he large upside down “V” shapes are the lower armoured front and back parts. The return rollers and the main base of the suspension make up this sprue.
These two front and back armour plates meet up at an angle with the larger hull – the bevelled edges are well angled to eliminate filling problems – but there are parts of the sprue which are moulded ONTO the part which I could do without worrying about removing. These could be moved to the insides of the plate?
The underside of the suspension and the large axle all locate very positively thru locating holes or a hollowed out section which they fit in very well.
Here we have the large barrel for the front of the underside of the tank – as well as the part 28 which is the port for the rear MG. The middle parts are the two part exhaust and the lower wheels are return rollers.
So that is the plastic – a promising start – but the nature of this unknown kit from a new manufacturer made me think – let’s put it together to show the peep’s what it is really like..

The build:
In only 41 steps to complete this kit looked like an easy build to me and the fact there was not a lot of tracks to make, no PE to slow things down and the previously unknown build characteristics on a kit like this made me want to build it up to show you what it is like.

Starting at the top of the hull – steps 1 thru 7 get you to assemble the oval shaped turret “bins”, I have shown one open for you to see. There were also the seven square hatches – of which you can pose all of them open if you like and the front access door on the “starboard “side. The riveted fences that cross width-ways on the top of the hull are very fragile and prone to breaking when you are sniping them off. The other features that dominate this build are the square roof ventilation which just snap-fits in and the two part exhaust which joins to the long pipe along the rear right upper hull – a cinch so far!

Steps 8- 13: The Hotchkiss machine guns are a one part affair – they fit into two halves of a round mount which enables them to pivot up and down the mount then sits inside an enclosure which enables the guns to pivot from side to side as well. You can see there the cylindrical mount needs a little touch of filler on each one before it goes inside the mount.

The fourth machine gun goes in another cylindrical mount of the frontal armour plate which again allows is to pivot and rotate.
Whereas the 75mm main gun with it’s hollowed barrel sits inside a mount that gives it a limited elevation. Just be careful to remember the square edge is the top of the hull!  Vertical fences complete the frontal armour plate.
The bare insides show you exactly the internal structure of this beast – well it is bare! Those of you who want to show the internals better get scratch building or wait for a set to come out. There are two “stripper poles” which hold and brace the centre integrity of the tank but my friends that is it for the inside. You can see here how the machine guns site inside the hull – quite a little porcupine!
Here is the top hull complete with the frontal armour in place.
Steps 14 thru 36 take up most of the build of this vehicle and the steps are sometime confusing but the instructions should be followed as they are correct! We will show you construction in the major parts of the build in this photo series.

The floor of the vehicle is what the chassis is built around. Firstly the barrel like ground clearance mechanisms in the left of the frame on the bottom of the hull are put together and then sitting inside little boxes that capture them they are secured to the floor. Like all of the moving parts on this kit I secured them with glue. These can turn but this isn’t going to be a toy! The front single barrel on the right of the shot is captured between to steel ”I” bars and the other main part of this section is the side part of the floor in the top of this shot which slips neatly into the six trenches marked out of them on the floor
You can see here the rollers that glue into the railings on the hull floor at top and bottom of this shot. They can be fixed in without glue but like I said this isn’t a toy so mine as glued in static.
The main drive wheels are here looking like gears – you can see the ejector pin marks on them – but not once their cylindrical insets are in place.  The two steel “I” bars secure them to the hull. The top wheels are the front suspension wheels.
Here are all of the parts of the suspension ready to go together. The main body of these parts attach to the hull suspended on these long rods. In the lower part of the shot. The wheels simply glue in together. This is a simple but methodical process to get all of these parts together correctly. I followed the instructions and did not have a problem.
Here you can see the chassis suspension looking as from underneath. Notice the supports going “upward” toward the as yet to be placed turret hull? There is a bunch of placement holes ready for this on the hull to guide you. Notice as well the best way to install these wheels is to glue them to the outside steel ”fences” they are captured in and then they slot into their locating runners without your wheels flying out. Again these can be left unglued and made to turn if you wish.
The suspension springs locate in a precise order to give the hull it’s prescribed angle to the tracks. They simply slot into the large round holes here provided. Everything is thought of engineering wise here as there seems to be a slot for fixing everything correctly.
The suspension and hull are laid together in step 34 – the twisting arrows must be taken notice of – as you are required to secure the parts often from either sides of the hull floor. You can see why this suspension is such a large part of the build in this picture – with care you have a flexible and if you desire – completely working set of running gear.
A more detailed view with the underside guards installed in steps 36 + 37..
And another just before the tracks go on. (Steps 38 +39) Notice here the barrel ground clearance and the lower armour plates in place.

And here she is completed –
This kit reminds me of a good early 2000’s Tamiya kit before they started to add photo etch. Some argue that this just slows the build down and some love it. Personally if there is plastic which can do the job I would go for it. The thickness of the hull and lack of fine details make this an ideal candidate for the “simple approach” which I really like. Those wanting an interior and more detailed parts I am sure can wait for aftermarket companies to do what they do best. But it will cost you. We could do with more figures as well but that is another kit altogether.
 The subject is an interesting one, the construction is simple, the vehicle is accurate compared to pictures I have seen, and the decals are good colourful choices. In an age that our precious time is limited I like this simple but very good looking kit. IT will not take your life away from you with a long build – and maybe you can spend some more time painting and weathering it!

A great kit of an interesting subject.

Adam Norenberg
Thanks to Takom who sent us this kit to build