Sunday, January 4

Review: Paul builds CAM Models new A4e12 Vickers Carden Lloyd (VCL) Amphibious Tank

A new model maker on the scene is always good to see. Even if they are an arm of another company it means more models for us – but how is the quality, how does it go together? Well Paul thought he might take a look at Combat Armour Models (CAMs for short) new light amphibious tank A4e12 Vickers Carden Lloyd (VCL) in 35th scale and Chinese colours. Let’s see if this new kit sinks or swims…

Build Review: A4e12 Vickers Carden Lloyd (VCL) Amphibious Tank
Manufacturer: Combat Armour Models (CAMs)
Scale: 1:35th
Injection moulded kit :
1 sheet Photo Etch
Available through CAMS/ Riich Model’s Distributors.

I must admit that I wasn't even aware that China operated tanks, let alone amphibious tanks before and during WW2, so I was quite surprised when I was given this kit to review. Being the first kit from a new manufacturer I was also curious to see what the quality of the kit would be like.
CAMs is a new Chinese manufacturer and for their first release have chosen to release a kit of the A4e12 Vickers Carden Lloyd Amphibious tank which to my limited knowledge, would be the first of this type released by any kit manufacturer. After a little bit of research on the internet and also from the informative instruction manual, I came to the conclusion that this decision was made because the tank was purchased and put into use by a Chinese Warlord of the time. This makes it a very niche subject matter, but a welcome one because its limited appeal will mean that mainstream manufacturers will not be releasing this tank any time soon if at all.
According to the instruction manual, the VCL amphibious tank was originally offered for British service but rejected on the basis of weak suspension. Interestingly enough, the Soviet Union was one of the first buyers of this tank and used it as a basis for their own developments of amphibious tanks. China would be the largest customer of this tank, followed by Siam (Thailand), and also the Netherlands East Indies (Indonesia).
The Chinese vehicles saw action when the Japanese invaded the Kwantung province in 1938, where they were all destroyed bar one, by a mix of bombing and strafing by planes, as well as attack by mobile infantry. The lone survivor was taken and used for training purposes. 
Unfortunately the box I received for this review was fairly well beaten so first impressions was not terrific. This would also have ramifications for the contents inside the box.

Inside the box you will find two bags with two sprues per bag. One of the bags holds two copies of the A sprues which mostly consist of the running gear and tracks. You also get a machine gun on each of the sprues which I assume are the Browning's mentioned in the information in the instructions for vehicles used by the KNIL (Netherlands East Indies) but no mention of this in the construction stages so it is a possible hint about a later release? There is a fair amount of flash on the sprue and this is the same for the other sprues as well.
The B sprue has the main hull pieces as well as some pieces of the turret. The structures are moulded in individual  plates rather than the alternative tubs sometimes provided.
Sprue C covers most of the turret and lower hull plates as well as details for the lower hull.
The details on the parts themselves aren't bad, composed of raised rivets and recessed panel lines, although they are a little on the softer side and not quite as sharp as top tier model manufacturers.
There is some very nice rivet detail on the drive sprockets in particular. You can also see the slightly soft recessed lines on the leaf spring suspension in this shot, as well as some small amounts of flash and mould seams on the parts.
You also get a small fret of photo etch.
A fairly small decal sheet gives you some generic vehicle numbers.
The instruction booklet is nicely set out although there is the odd vague section in the construction diagrams. However as mentioned earlier, it does give you some good information on the tank itself. The profiles make it look like you get three schemes but in reality, it appears to be just the same scheme on the vehicles but with different numbers for particular vehicles in their platoon.

 The markings for this tank will are:

-1st platoon/2nd platoon, 8th Route Army, National Revolutionary Army | Yellow/Brown/Grey/Green | Canton, Canton Province (1933)

- 1st platoon/2nd platoon, 12th Army Group, National Revolutionary Army | Yellow/Brown/Grey/Green | Tsangsin, Canton Province (1938)

- Instructional vehicle, Army Mechanized School, National Revolutionary Army | Yellow/Brown/Grey/Green | Hungkong, Wu Nam Province (1940)
The scheme is quite eye catching being a four tone camouflage pattern with black borders between colours. Unfortunately, the pictures are in monotone, and you only a view from the front, and two sides, which is quite annoying because of the fairly complex scheme so it is up to you to guess what the top and rear of the tank would look like.
For those creatures of habit, you may wish to deviate from the instructions straight away since the first stage covers, dun dun dun..... The TURRET! Shock horror. Construction is fairly straight forward, and fit of the plates is fairly good with a gap along the length where the plates meet at the top edges. The instructions give you the option to model the turret with the hatch and vision flaps open or closed, however interior detail is limited to the breech of the Maxim gun so I chose to close the hatch. I did choose to have the vision ports open since you're not going to be seeing much inside them because they are so small. 
It is interesting that CAMs has chosen to give you photo etch for the rear vision/pistol ports, but on the arguably more prominent front vision port, they have provided the flap in plastic.
Next up are the floats and construction is very straight forward, but again some gaps along edges where they meet. The supports for the floats are provided in photo etch which are easy enough to fold, but bolt detail comes in the form of photo etch as well, which is nice except they are absolutely tiny as seen here with a cocktail stick for scale. The headlights are hollowed out but there are no lens' in the kit.
The suspension comes next and ironically, the suspension is the weakest point of this kit just like in real life. The damaged box certainly didn't help with two out of the eight axles snapped off on the sprue. This was further compounded because I snapped one of the other axles trying to remove one of the wheels after discovering how tight the fit was. Keeping the wheels straight was tough because the wheels don't actually sit flush against the suspension arms and actually sit halfway on the axle. Which is even tougher when you don't have axles to start off with.

Construction of the hull comes next, and the usual gaps where the edges meet. The interior consists of two raised rows with some bolt detail on top, and a chair that sits on top of them which really isn't much but you won't see it unless you remove the turret, and if you do then that is all you will pretty much see. The drivers hatch is part of an extended section of the collar around the turret and you get some etch to wrap around this section for some bolt detail. Interestingly, the etch for these pieces have a rough matt finish to them. There is a PE ring you put on the collar for the turret but it is invisible once you put on the turret and I found it affected the fit of the turret so I left it off.
I originally thought the etch provided was a little short, but another piece covers this up in a later step.
Also be careful when removing the lifting rings from the sprue because those locating pins are very easy to miss if you aren't careful. Or eagle eyed for that matter.
The fit of the rear plate wasn't as good left a small step and the locating tabs on for the top plate hindered the fit so I clipped them off.

There is a nice plastic and etch structure for some vents which can be posed open or closed. The first plate nearest to the end fit so tight that I didn't even need to glue it on.
You also get some butterfly nuts for two raised caps(?) on the hull top, but once again they are absolutely tiny. I had a few shoot off from the tweezers so I didn't bother attaching the rest.
Now for the tricky bit, because while attaching the suspension to the hull is easy, the alignment of the wheels is another matter altogether. Fit of the suspension was very tight and had to be drilled out   but we got there in the end. I chose not to glue on the suspension otherwise painting the tricky scheme underneath would be near impossible.
After much time getting the wheels as right as I could get them I then moved onto the drive sprockets, which were nicely detailed and had nice petite sprocket teeth, but the size of them made clean up of the flash an extremely difficult task.

Due to the small size of the teeth, I was never really able to remove the flash as well as I would have liked which was also the same for the tracks which were reasonably well detailed but difficult to clean up. The tracks come in length and double link sections which go around the sprocket and rear wheel. I found them to be quite fragile since there isn't a huge surface for glue. Fit around the sprocket wasn't too bad but probably could have been better if the flash was cleaned up a bit more.
Wrapping the other sections around the wheels was tricky due to fragility of the links, but with a bit of care you can end up with this.
The rear water propulsion unit finishes the last of the main construction and is reasonably straight forward except I had these two problems in the box. The Mickey Mouse ears are two of the propeller blades, and you've probably already noticed the misshapen propulsion unit. The broken propeller most likely resulted from the battered box, but the misshapen part could be an issue with the mould but I can't say for sure.
Now it is time to bring all the sub-assemblies together and this is the final result.
I think this is a reasonable first up model from CAMs. It wasn't the most easy build due to the tricky suspension and the amount of clean-up that was necessary, and the battered kit sample wasn't ideal either, but you do get a pretty good result in the end, and if you are one of those people that want something a little different, or are just over mainstream armour, then this kit is definitely worth a look, although I would only recommend it to experienced modellers.

Paul Lee

Thanks to CAMs (Combat Armour Models) for sending this little tank for Paul to build and review. You can find out where to get your kit by checking the Riich Models website for distributors.