Between the World Wars, most of the major military powers experimented with a wide variety of tracked vehicles, whether in the form of tanks, halftracks or "tankettes." Everyone knew they would need to move faster in the next fight if they were going to avoid the static trench warfare of the last one. But there was no clear picture yet how armor would be used, whether as mechanized cavalry, a spearhead or as support for infantry. Most countries hedged their bets by developing specialized vehicles for a variety of missions. So small, tracked utility vehicles like the Universal Carrier were created by the British and the French
(with similar tankettes in other motor pools).
Originally designed by Vickers-Armstrong, the UC reflected this uncertainty about the future of armor and began life as two distinct variants: a Bren gun carrier and a Scout version. The armaments acquisition teams wisely pared them down to a "universal" carrier that could fill a number of roles. Manufactured in the UK and Canada, eventually over 100,000 were built by the time the design was retired: in 1960! They hauled supplies, mortars, machine guns, light guns and soldiers in all theaters of war.
The Belgian firm of Resicast has created a light industry putting out resin conversions sets for the ancient Tamiya version. Now Riich
models have made the Tamiya kits the relics of another era that they are. Having already released a Mk.I version, complete with crew (reviewed by our own Darren Baker here
), now Riich
have released the slightly different Mk. II variant.
A very colorful pasteboard box contains:
9 sprues of gray styrene
1 sprue clear styrene
2 PE frets
Plus thread, a chain and springs and rods for the advanced suspension (a simpler modified styrene option is also included)
The UC Mk.I debuted in 1940 and was continued until 1942. Manufacturers then simplified some of its features, including replacing the original car-like headlights with a single hooded blackout lamp. Additionally, a welded hull kept out moisture better, and a towing hitch added at the rear accommodated small caliber guns like the 6 pdr. ATG, as well as trailers for hauling the immense amount of stuff that armies on the move require.
Mk.II kit keeps all the good things about the Mk.I kit: an abundantly-detailed engine, photo etch for small parts, and a lovely hybrid styrene, brass rod and metal spring suspension. My only quibble with the suspension is the absence of instructions for modifying the springs to show a vehicle weighted down with "stuff" (Resicast have a stowage set for the Tamiya kit that includes compressed springs). Seems to me there's a project here for an enterprising reader?
If my build of the Mk.I
is any indication, this kit will go together without major fit issues, though it will require time and care because of the many parts and sub-assemblies. Some of those assemblies like the driver's and gunner's seats use PE brackets and don't have styrene alternatives, so make sure you are up to the task of fiddling with aligning the seats on their brass brackets before purchasing this kit.
The suspension has a modified styrene version that's less-elegant but simpler to install (it still uses the metal springs). That might be better for the less-experienced modeler, though I did not see any killer problems when I built the Mk.I version. I, of course, went for the harder alternative, and was very well-pleased with the results. The engine also required some wiggling to line it up with the guide pins, but a little care and dry-fitting should get you there safely.
Detailing is very good: the exhaust system combines styrene pipes with PE brackets. Take care in attaching the ones on the underside of the hull, as the instructions are not fully clear: if they face the wrong way, the exhausts won't line up correctly. Same with the drive sprockets: the UC drive mechanism sort of "floats" aft of the hull, and I recommend some dry-fitting before assembly (the problem was the same with the ancient Tamiya kit, too).
The hull pieces and side armor go on well, though take care to make sure the various corners are "true." The driver's controls are superbly-detailed with lots of levers and pedals, though I'm unsure how to add the driver figure later given all the fragile pieces. The interior of the vehicle has an abundance of ammo cans, hooks and fire extinguishers whose positioning are is a bit obscure at times. Consult photos where possible.
The tracks use the "length and link" solution, one I found rather tricky in the Mk.I. The tracks are relatively small, and fortunately don't require a lot of clean-up, but getting them to have the right sag and to lay flat requires strict attention. Your options are to assemble the tracks according to the instructions, then paint them later; or to paint and assemble them at a later stage of the build (I chose the former option with the Mk.I build). In either case, getting the pieces to come out right and at the correct angles will take care and patience.
Overall the kit is very well-thought out and goes together without many fit issues or mysteries. I can't imagine a post-D-Day diorama that doesn't include one of these ubiquitous little workhorses. My biggest complaint about the kit, however, is that it does not include a crew.
The Mk.I kit (which includes a three-man crew) is well-suited to a number of theaters, yet the crew is more appropriate for Northern Europe/post-Day. This vehicle is best used after D-Day (though presumably it could be adapted to Italy), and all the marking options are 1944 or later (no Italian Campaign marking options or camouflage schemes are offered). Presumably if you purchased both kits, you could swap out the crew from the Mk.I, and the crew is also being sold as a separate kit. But with both the Mk.I and Mk.II selling for an identical price, that doesn't seem like a great option to me.
Some partial good news is Riich
have included a bevy of weapons and some stowage like a large tarp. They have also thrown in a small chain and a string for constructing the tow cable. I recall when building the Mk.I that the end piece is quite fiddly and difficult to attach to the string "cable."
decals & painting
The kit offers seven very specific options for decals:
1. 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, Operation Goodwood, Normandy, July 1944
2. 74th Field Regiment R.A. 50th (Northumberland) Infantry, Chardonne, France, August 1944
3. YETHOLM 6th Battalion, King's Own Scottish Borderers, 15th (Scottish) Infantry, Rhine River, Germany 1945
4. SOUTH ROSYTH, 2nd Gordon Highlanders, 15th (Scottish) Infantry, Celle, Germany, April 1945
5. 4th Battalion Dorset Regiment, 43rd (Wessex) Infantry, Vernon, France, August 1944
6. 2nd Battalion Argyle & Southern Highlanders, 15th (Scottish) Infantry, Tiburg, The Netherlands, October 1944
7. 1st Battalion East Lancashire Regiment, 53rd (Welsh) Infantry, September 1944
Alas, all are in Allied Green. While they're mostly VERY late war, you should have enough to adapt the kit to almost any post-D-Day scenario, especially given the release by Archer Fine Transfers of a huge selection of UK & Commonwealth unit placards
Given the age and simplicity of the Tamiya UC kits (and the general unavailability of the Mk.I version), it's great to have this ubiquitous little tracked workhorse released in both early- and late-war versions. Kudos as well to Riich
for offering modelers such a well-detailed kit.
Thanks to Dragon USA
for providing this review sample. Be sure to say you saw it reviewed on Armorama when ordering.