|BRONCO - M-24 'Chaffee' (British Army)|
A look at Bronco's superb British version of the M24 Chaffee....
Light Tank M-24 'Chaffee' (British Army)
Manufacturer: Bronco Models
Serial Number: CB-35068
Development of the M24 began as early as March 1943, although the original requirement was for a vehicle based on the M5A1 chassis, but fitted with a much more powerful 75mm gun. Eventually this requirement morphed into a ne design that was to share many features of the M18 tank destroyer including torsion bar suspension. The first vehicle arrived at the Aberdeen proving ground in October 1943, with production beginning in April 1944, in time for the vehicle to be shipped to Europe and see action in the Battle of the Bulge. Named after General Adna Chaffee, it was seldom referred to as the Chaffee by crews at the time.
This new kit by Bronco represents an early production vehicle, characterised amongst other things, by the absence of mounting plates for flotation equipment that was never itself fully developed, although the mounting plates for the intended device was fitted to all late production vehicles.
I just love boxes like this. We're talking serious problems getting it all back into the box after going through everything. My advice? Don't bother trying....just start it! There's a serious amount of Bronco's tan-coloured styrene in this one. Additionally, there's a small transparent sprue, length of nylon cord, decal sheet, photo-etched brass fret, and er...a new turret? I have a theory on this one. It's either an updated turret for the British version sold separately and placed in the box just for postal purposes, or...well I don't really have anything else. Actually I can't tell the difference between this and the one that's in the kit. Although both have a very slight difference to the original one in the US Chaffee released earlier. The difference is so slight that I wouldn't have thought a new turret was called for though? That difference amounts to a small weld seam between the turret ventilator and wall having been deleted in this one. That's it. That's all I could see? Would have been easier to just scrape it off with a scalpel blade. Plus I now have two of 'em? No doubt enlightenment will occur at some point in the future!
Anyway, all the parts are sharply moulded, all the sprues individually bagged. The instructions consist of a full-colour 26 pages booklet, with parts map at the beginning and full colour five page colour scheme of five marking schemes at the back. In addition to the kit of the M24 itself there's a small sprue containing the parts for one British tank crew member, posed reclining against the front of the vehicle, and try and guess what he's doing. Go on...try. You'll never guess. Never in a month of Sun...oh ok yes. He's drinking a cup of tea. I thought you'd never get it!
The kit is basically the same as CB35069 apart from the absence of the US crew (five figures and not a cup of tea between them...although one does appear to be stealing petrol whilst another is playing with a gun) and some other small difference which we'll get to.
Construction begins with the installation of the torsion bar suspension onto the one-piece slide moulded lower hull. Each torsion bar is inserted through the hull and cemented onto the inside of the opposite wall, leaving the suspension free to be articulated. The front wall can then be fixed. Bronco even supply tiny photo-etched individual numerals to use as casting numbers on the final drive housings. Note that at this stage the instructions direct you to fit the two small crew steps (one either side) to the front wall, although the box art does not show these fitted. Nearly all early production vehicles would have had these fitted, although there was a small batch manufactured without them. To aid with articulating the suspension, each of the suspension arms which are fitted next is produced as a multi-part assembly that can be left un-cemented until it's final position is fixed. Each of the final drive assemblies are supplied as separate parts, onto which the 13-toothed drive sprockets are fitted. Each of these is provided with a small slide-moulded hub which is sandwiched between the two faces. At this point in the instructions we're instructed to assemble the driver's armoured windscreen. Don't know why, but it seems as good a time as any? I take issue with the instructions here. Well...actually much later but since we're on the running gear. The tracks in the kit are supplied as 14 sprues of individual injection moulded track links. They're very nicely moulded...especially if you like attachment points since you get three on each link. The instruction say to use 73 or 74 per side. The real vehicle had 75...which could be shortened to 74 when run in. Don't suppose many will count them once they're on though.
Construction then moves onto the brushguards for the front lights. Bronco supplies these as photo-etch. They even provide a small former to attain the correct curvature, Note that it will probably prove a lot easier to use the former if you anneal the photo-etch first. Plastic alternatives are supplied, so I would suggest having a go at the PE ones even if you're not used to working with this material, and then if you're having a bad day you can always go back to the plastic ones. Onto the engine deck! Some very nicely done PE screens are provided by Bronco here. Their retaining catches too. Absolutely no sign of anything inside the engine compartment...although Verlinden do produce a very nice Cadillac model T24 8 cylinder 90 degree V-type liquid cooled petrol one I believe. Moving on....the glacis of this one is different. In that you can fit a great big spare wheel to it. Apart from that it's the same. The fighting compartment roof is also the same. No internal detail, but everything that should be on the outside is there and in the correct place too. There's a hull ventilator inbetween the driver's hatches, each of which is supplied with a separate hatch, no detail on their inner surfaces, but that's fair since there's no way you could see it anyway. Each periscope on both hatches has a separate mount too, with the periscope itself being supplied in clear plastic.
The engine deck is supplied as a series of separate panels rather than one large detailed part, and although this makes it easier to fit an aftermarket engine or open it up as in a diorama setting, if you decide to display it all closed up, close attention has to be paid to aligning the various panels correctly so that you don't end up with a lip anywhere. There are more photo-etched screens provided for the various vents, along with their fixing brackets. Once that's in place construction moves to fitting the fenders, each of which is supplied in one part. For this version the pioneer tools are omitted and instead there's a large stowage or tool box fitted to either side. To fit these you have to remove a small moulded on piece that was there to fit the tools to in the previously released version and will interfere with the placement of the boxes should you leave them. Close attention should be paid to the instructions at this point since some different options are provided determined by which marking scheme you choose later. So you should have choosed it earlier. Chosen. I meant chosen. Construction then moves onto that turret. Take your pick. I've two. Actually the gun is constructed first. Slide moulded, no joining and no drilling! We even get a plastic recoil spring so that you can pla...so that it can be realistically posed.
The turret itself is not full detailed, although there's certainly enough detail provided for open hatches. The gun breech itself is superbly detailed, you get a traversing motor, all three seats that should be there...commander, gunner and loader. These were fixed to the inside of the turret so that would rotate with it, since there was no turret basket in the Chaffee, and even a full radio British No.19 radio setup for the rear of the turret, with photo-etched cage. Strangely, the instructions indicate to fit the seats, and yet they're marked as 'not for use' on the parts map? The instructions correctly indicate the removal of the weld around the roof ventilator which wouldn't have been present on this model, but omit to indicate the removal of the rest of the weld across the turret roof in front of the commanders cupola, which wasn't there either, so that will have to be scraped off too. The commander's cupola is supplied as a multi-part assembly, with transparent plastic parts supplied for the armoured episcope glass around its circumference. Of course the hatch itself is provided as a separate part, but it's internal surface is devoid of any detail and is very visible if left opened. There's a full .50 cal and tripod mount provided for the turret roof to be placed behind the turret door, and a turret stowage bin supplied for the rear of the turret. There's a photo-etched conical aerial base provided for in front of the commander's cupola, along with a photo-etched sight frame for in front of the cupola...at least I think that's what it is! I stand to be corrected on that.
The five marking schemes catered for on the instructions actually consist of slightly different greens...I know next to nothing about Allied markings so see below for details. Looking around the internet, there would seem to have been some doubt thrown on a couple of them, so if you're bothered, then consult your own references.
Another superb offering from Bronco! I'll forgive them the clichéd cup of tea simply because of the model being so good...and the figure's pretty good too. Perhaps I'll add a label saying he's drinking coffee? Since there's already aftermarket sets out for this one, based around the US version, t'would seem a must have. Go on....you know you want to. Recommended.
My thanks To Bronco for the review sample!