Wednesday, April 14

Build review: British Centurion Mk.5 in 35th scale from Amusing Hobby

Amusing Hobby are giving us some of the best of British with their recent release schedule - this time around we have for review the new-tooled kit of the Centurion Mk.5 for eager modellers. We have made the kit and added to with some history of the machine we look at the kits merits in our build review...

Build Review: British Centurion Mk.5
From Amusing Hobby
1/35th scale
Photo-etch, injection moulded plastic and thread included in the kit
Kit No #35A028
Markings for one version of the Centurion in the box
Amusing Hobby Website
The Subject: The British Centurion Mk.5
One of if no the best tank of the 50's, 60's & 70's, the Centurion is widely considered to be one of the most successful post-war tank designs, and it remained in production into the 1960's, and seeing combat in the front lines into the 1980s

A Dutch Centurion Mk.5 and crew
The Centurion was designed during World War II to provide a tank that could do the work of both the Infantry and Cruiser tank classes. It was designed to have firepower and protection that would allow it to survive with the latest German types of tanks and self-propelled guns seen during the war. The first Centurions entered service too late to see action in World War II. Initially, they were equipped the 17-pdr (76.2-mm) cannon which was one of the best tank guns used by the Western Allies during the war. By the time Centurions saw combat in 1950 during the Korean War, they had been up-gunned to the more powerful 20-pdr (83.4-mm) cannon. This remained the standard gun on Centurions until the early 1960s when they were up-gunned with the 105-mm L7 cannon.

A British Centurion Mk.5 during an exercise in Berlin-Spandau on the 6th of November in 1961. 
Three Centurion tanks of the British army drive across an obstacle course within the frame of an allied tank exercise on the 11th of October in 1962 in Grunewald in Berlin. The exercise was part of an allied tank manoeuvre, in which troops and vehicles of the US, French and British armed forces participated.
The four-man crew of the Centurion was well-protected with armour up to 6-inches (152-mm) thick. Stowage bins mounted on the turret sides provided standoff protection from HEAT rounds while skirts along the suspension helped protect against anti-tank rockets. Various upgrades throughout the years allowed the Centurion to stay in service with many countries well into the 1980s.
The Centurion has been exported to numerous countries including Canada, Denmark, Israel and South Africa. They saw action in numerous wars including the Indo-Pakistani Wars, Arab-Israeli Wars, the 1956 Suez War, and various conflicts in southern Africa between South Africa and Cuban forces
Centurion Mk.5
Browning machine guns fitted to coaxial and commander's cupola mounts, turret rear escape door deleted, turret roof reshaped, deletion of 2" bomb thrower in turret roof, extra stowage bin on the glacis, the addition of guide roller in track run, vehicle weight 51 tons. The Centurion Mk 5/1 a.k.a. FV 4011 had increased glacis armour, two coax machineguns: one.30 Browning & one .50 calibre Browning for ranging the 84 mm (20 pounder) main gun. Lastly, the Centurion Mk 5/2 was up-gunned to 105 mm.

An Australian Centurion 5/1 in Vietnam - this could be an interesting conversion with not too much work from the modeller...

This kit from Amusing Hobby
This new kit from Amusing Hobby will have a few features that many of us who have made their kits feel at home. Little, if no photo-etch will be needed, there will be opening and closing hatches but no interior. So if you pose the kit with open hatches you will have to fill it with a British tanker.
Nine sprues & a hull in tan injection moulded plastic, seperate tracks in brown plastic. A photo Etched sheet, cotton thread for cable and a small decal sheet all come in the box (with I have to say uninspiring artwork which isn't normally the case from Amusing Hobby).
A small decal sheet provides markings for 10 Troop, C Sqn, 4th Royal Tank Regiment based in West Berlin in 1962. Only one decal choice is a bit of a let down to me, I would like to see some other countries offered. It would certainly add appeal to the kit. I will be looking for something else I would say as the plain green tanks of the BOAR don't get my juices pumping.
These tanks are from this unit at that time frame, you notice that these examples have their sideskirts on, and off...
A British Centurion tank (the subject of the markings in this kit) drives through the streets of Berlin
We could go sprue for sprue in a review - that that doesn't tell us much about how the kit builds up, so we thought we would put it together unpainted to show you its qualities...

There are photos of the unit on the side of the box which is nice for reference.

Photo-Etch Sheet:
There is a small photo-etch sheet included with this kit, two straight track holders for the turret, two boomerang shaped fender holders and two circular shaped for under the rear of the turret.

The instruction guide is a non-complicated affair, with a coloured front cover and black and white printed instructions on A4 portrait format paper. Twenty five steps see this model completed with a minimum of sub-assemblies to do. This is really a simple build, and it follows amusing Hobbies kits that I have made up until now with that mix of simplicity to good decal ration.

Building the kit: British Centurion Mk.5 in 35th scale from Amusing Hobby
Step 1:
The  Horstmann suspension units on the tank are made from three horizontally sprung, externally mounted two-wheel bogies on each side. The first suspension units of each side does not have support arms attached to it. 
Real springs are included in the kit and give the suspension flux which only tops at the bump stops of the tank. You would have to screw the tank down however to get any real independent movement on your tracks.

The real suspension units in-situ on a Cent 5/1
Step 1B:
The second type has the struts to support it on each swinging arm, and two of each side are made 
On the rear of these are some handy lugs at the right angle to secure them directly to the Centurion's hull.

Step 2:
The large U-shaped hull comes in one piece, and the bump stops, return rollers, suspension units and standoff brackets attach at step two.

I attached my return rollers and standoff brackets first, you can see here the pock-marked hull with lug notches for all of the suspension and line for the side guards to secure correctly into.

A photo of the side with the suspension units, lugs, stand-off brackets, road wheels and final drives attached.

From underneath, a view of the suspension giving you a better idea of how it all fits together.

...And from slightly above. You need to check the angle of the front return rollers, I placed mine incorrectly and they had an inward tow on them before I prized them off and replaced them in correct position.

The exposed side of a Centurion Mk.5/1 showing the real thing in relation to the kit.
Step 3:
Stepping back quickly, the seven part final drive. these again go together simply as small lugs fit them into each other and then to the hull. The suspension has been a very simple set up so far...

You can see the lugs in the side of the hull for correct placement, the final drive with return roller, with that casting texture on the outside of it here.

The return rollers with the cast texture and bolt pattern on the real thing
Step 4:
The front lower glacis plate is secured to the hull in step four...

The glacis in place, notice on each side the front return roller socket for the swinging arm to fit into. DO NOT glue this in there until you have the tracks on the vehicle. I left the tracks off until nearly last in this build for their own protection.

The front lower an upper glacis on (admittedly a better armoured Cent 5/1 glacis) - just to show the bolt pattern on the front roller axle.
Step 5:
You can see on step five what i was hinting at earlier, There is a handy little graphic showing the approximate angle of the front return roller, again "leave it out Guv'na" - until the tracks are on and you can angle it for correct track torsion.

The angle of the front axle on a museum Centurion Mk.5
Step 6:
Those tracks  - one hundred and two for each side. I made these tracks, but left them off until nearly last in the build. The tracks themselves were so simple to make and only a few of them broke or didn't "bite" into the rotational log and sockets. There were several spares in the bag which is great from Amusing Hobby.

Supplied in a small bag, not attached to any sprues, these tracks simply click into each other and they are an absolute dream for tank builders who know the pain of just say - a five part Panther track with seperate parts. They remain movable to a certain extent after they are clicked together and there are some spares in there that you will need as not all click tightly as I might have liked. These are a dream...

A close-up of the track on a Centurion Mk.5

Step 7:
The rear of the hull need to have some of the location lines removed from the plate before anything is to be secured to it. 

The parts for the rear are a simple construction once cleaned up. Towing hitches and brackets for the two cables are added to the rear.

Step 8:
The rear engine grilles are added to the rear hull at this point.
Again, the parts clean up with the small seams on each part is important to do before applying it all to the hull.
The hull and the exhaust grilles ready to go into place...
A simple construction again, you can see it all in place between the toothed final drives.
Slipping underneath the rear deck, this is the only part of the engine compartment that can be seen, and even so this could be painted from outside the kit once in place if you did not want to paint it now.

A rather stripped down Centurion rear hull showing some of the same features as we have in plastic here.
Step 9:
The driver's compartment hatch can be posed open or closed, but you would have to stick a driver in there to hide the lack of interior.

Here is the upper-upper glacis or the driver's compartment roof. There are no transparent parts for the periscopes, not that that will bother many. I will be posing mine closed but here they are befor ethey get sealed up.

The real thing closed up with shrouded vision ports at the front. Notice also the angle of this plate - not flat at all but ponitung nose down behind the front glacis plate.

Step 10:
The glacis plate propper, with the spare tracks and the vision ports and stowage bin on the front of it are the next things to be made. You will have to remove some of the moulded in lines from the glasic plate as shown before you can start to secure the parts to it.

The removal was simple, either use a knife or a micro chisel to remove the excess lines.

Here it is prepped and parts added. the tracks simply sit underneath the track holders.
All of the same details check with the real Centurion Mk.5 Glacis plate
You can see the odd angle that this part sits at, not flat at all, but at an angle which is provided with lugs to fit them correctly between the hull sides.

Step 13 & 15:
We skip to step thirteen & fifteen now, with the exhausts of the vehicle for each side are made up  now.

The seven parts of the two exhausts are a simple but very smart part of engineering. 
The exhausts are identical each side, but they are "sided" as you have the flutes of the end of the exhausts that come out at a certain angle (facing upwards).

They slot into the notches of the side of the tank and fit between the guards that shroud them. A simple but effective construction part of the kit.
Step Five (!?)
Here you see step five coming back to haunt us - with the 102 tracks each side secured together before the side fenders do on, this is a much simpler way of doing it as the two long tank-length fenders would really hamper you installing the tracks simple. I always leave the tracks off for as long as I can when building tanks, and this is the last step you can do this without getting in your own way. It is at this step you also secure the angle of the front return roller axle.

A view of the tracks and tank from the underside. These tracks are a really simple construction and hold together well on the tank once made up.  

Step 14 & 16
The left and right hand side of the fender build up showing the toolbox construction. I have already done this on the sprue rather than doing it crawling over the complete ull and breaking things as I go along. A flat base also helps to keep the subject steady. 
My sideskits had some pretty bad curvature, a little "banana-ish", and this comes from how it sits on the sprue. I removed them after I installed all of the toolboxes, tools and clamps on them and let them sit flat overnight hoping the fenders would straighten out.
(back to) Step 11:
The sideskirts of the vehicle are added at this point in my build. As I mentioned I could have installed them earlier, but I like to leave my tracks off as long as I can, and this is the last point you can really do that without going further in the build with the hull.

Step 17:
the two bits of thread are now used as towing cable for the tank on step seventeen. These secure into plastic towing loops.

The black cable is long enough to do four runs fo eleven centimetres with a few spare. The thread comes like this - and I left mine stretched out overnight to get the knotted kinks out of it.

The tow hooks need the secured into the towing clamp /ferrules and to do this you will need to both wet and twist the ends of the thread and slightly drill out the holes in the ends otherwise they won't fit.
Sooo, I ended up giving up on this approach and didn't include them in the model. I tried to stretch out the threads by hanging them with a weight tied to them over several nights, but these still had kinks in them. It really annoyed me, the only part of this kit that did - and it is a cheap way of supplying tow cable that needs to look uniformed in two rows of two. It just was not going to look any good so I abandoned it.

Step 18:
The front photo etch fender brackets are L-shaped and they require just some super glue to set them in place. The kit provides a crease for them to sit into easily

The towing clamps for the front and the shackles are attached at this point. I left off the sideskirts on this kit so you could see the suspension and in the end I feel it makes the kit look more interesting itn he finished product. There are photos of the tanks without them so I had not problem leaving mine off.

Step 19:
The turret! finally we are on the home run, with the turret the only thing to be made now. This starts with the six main parts of the turret, ring and front matlet being put together now.

The two halves go together easy enough, but the cast texture on them leaves a centre seam that needs to be recreates. The bottom part that fits into the ring is a little loose and need to be glued securely before there is any pressure applied otherwise it falls through the gap (literally).

A little more detail of the very nice cast texture on the roof...
...and cast texture on the real thing.
Step 20:
The turret bins for the right hand side of the turret is made now. These cannot be left open as there is no real internal furnishing, unless you want to put stuff inside them.

The parts are very simple to construct and go together without a problem.

Once completed they secure via some lugs on the side of the turret.

The extra parts of the turret I left off until just before the finish of the model (you know how touchy all these parts tend to be).

Step 21:
Speaking of all of those extra bits, not was the time to make up all the sub-assemblies.

Smoke dischargers go together simply, there is a moulded in wire on the turret that goes to this point where they attach.
The side port ammo ejection port?) can be posed open but you need to have a tanker's face inside it to fill it.

The rear of the turret was sanded down, the horizontal seam needs to be removed where the turret roof joins the bottom half...
I sanded the surface as much as i thought needed (a lot) and then dabbed the area with glue repeatedly untilt here was a suitable surface without a join.
The real thing on the Centurion Mk.5

I has the same problem on the sides of the turret. The seam is hard to remove because of the built in wire there.

The same on the other side. I used the same process as I used at the back and in sanding the roof I used sanding strips 3mm thick.

Step 22 & 23:
More of the roof furnishings and hatches  - home straight now baby!

The Mark 5 also had Browning machine guns fitted to the coaxial and commander’s cupola mounts, and stowage bins fitted on the glacis. 

Stretched sprue was used for aerials, the stump is removed, drilled with a 1mm drill and the three aerials were inserted as a very last step.

The completed turret!

Step 24:
Ohh I nearly forgot the spare tracks on the rear of the turret.

The spare tracks simply click together like all of the rest and the photo-etch bends and fits inside them as the two brackets.

The model was nearly finished at this stage, I thought I might like a little sag on each of these tracks between the return rollers so I stuck some sanding sticks in between each wheel and applied some extra thin glue to the underside of the tracks, let it set over an hour or so and then I had some nice natural sagging going on there.

The completed model:
This kit took about a week of nights in normal time although I worked on it longer over shorter periods). 
An impressive model the Centurion, I like the look of the finished kit, there is a lot of aftermarket out there if you want to add to it.
You can see the track sag I made into the kit, some of it needs a touch up...
You should really help yourself and source some aftermarket cable, the thread ones for the towing cable just dont cut it and the lack of them is seen here.

What Amusing hobby missed on this one was the single uninspiring choice for decals, the silly kinked (and I tried) towing cable thread. Also, compared with the AFV kit this lacks a little detail on some of the finer parts.

On the positive side, this kit is very simple to make, it fits well and it is low on parts count. The Centurion Mk.5 is one that isn't really out there as this particular kit (the Australian 5/1 variant being the popular kid in class) but this kit with good markings in an inspiring choice from the many countries that used it would make a great model on the competition tables.

I didn't really have any interest in the subject before I made it, I certainly do now...

Adam Norenberg

Thanks to Amusing Hobby for sending this kit to us to build and review. You can find out where to get one closer to you from Amusing Hobby's Distributors Worldwide...