by: Andras [ ]
Originally published on:
ACE has recently issued a 1/72 scale AMX-13/75, which was a welcome news since the only Braille scale models of this tank I know of are a few, quite expensive resin kits which are also difficult to get, and an old Heller kit, which is inaccurate and also not easily available.
The AMX-13 light tank had a long service history, produced for over thirty years between the 50s and 80s, undergoing multiple rounds of modifications and modernization. The most apparent of which was the increase of gun caliber from 75mm to 105mm. The full designation of the tank is Char 13t-75 Modèle 51, referencing the weight (13 tons), and the caliber of the main gun (75mm).
It was exported to many countries, and served as the basis of a wide variety of modifications; there are over a hundred variants of the type.
One of the most prominent features of the tank is the oscillating turret, which was in the rage in the 1950s, and could be found on several prototypes and experimental tanks. It only saw service in a couple of vehicles, though. The design itself dates back to World War I, but did not gain popularity until the increasing size of tank guns required some creative solutions in small tanks. This design coupled with an automatic loading system allowed this small vehicle to mount ever bigger guns over its lifetime (from 75mm to 90mm then to 105mm).
Atelier de Construction d'Issy-les-Moulineaux (AMX) designed the tank in 1946 as an air-portable support tank for paratroopers, hence the need for a small and light chassis featuring a 75mm gun, which can provide effective support for troops. To be a successful design they did have to fit the largest possible gun into the smallest chassis; as previous air-transportable light tanks have shown, they are not very effective if armed only with a pea-shooter.
It has a three man crew: a commander, a gunner and a driver. The tank has a torsion bar suspension system with five road wheels and two return rollers (this was later modified to four return rollers, more on that later). It has an FL-10 turret with a magazine style automatic loading system (same turret as on the Panhard EBR). This is not the autoloader we can see in Russian tanks; here the main gun was fed by two six-shot clips. The tank had to be reloaded from the outside once the magazines were spent, which is quite an impediment if it cannot withdraw from the fight. While the whole air-transport concept did not work out, the tank proved to be an ideal light tank for many countries, so it was exported widely; even the French army adopted it.
Even though production stopped in 1987, the tank is still in service in many countries in one form or another -and it is one of the few tanks that are available (and, more importantly, practical) for private collectors. It is small and cheap enough to buy and run, as I learned from an “Inside the Tanks” episode. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2uMhQ815POQ. It is also road legal. (Note to self in case I win the lottery.)
Onto the model, then.
The kit comes in a relatively thin cardboard box with a typical ACE cover art of an IDF version of the tank. The box contains three sprues, a decal sheet and a PE fret, alongside the instructions. The instructions are printed on A4 sized pages; they are clear and easy to follow. (Although they do not explain the nature of the few alternative options provided.) The drawings show some of the details in a simplified form, which can be a bit confusing sometimes.
ACE’s website has a very nice set of photos of the sprues and instructions, so I did not replicate those for this review.
The plastic is soft, but not too soft; it is easy to work with. There is some flash on some of the parts - take care removing it as the soft plastic is very easy to cut. And while the plastic might be a bit soft, the details are most definitely not; I have to say I was impressed with the surface detail. (Except for the 50 cal machine gun; it looks a bit bare.) There are seam lines on every part you will have to deal with, though. The sprue attachment points are somewhat chunky; care definitely needs to be taken when removing small parts. (The return rollers needed to be re-sanded into a round shape since the attachment points were too thick.)
The model gets PE as well, which is a very welcome addition, as it adds some very convincing detail to the tank: engine grilles, and headlight protectors and a few other details. Two types of PE come with the model. The headlight protectors are etched in a dark copper plate. They are extremely fine, so you will have to be very careful folding the elaborate shapes. (You get an early and late type. I think the late type was only used with double headlights used on later versions, which you do not get.) The other small PE sheet is iron/aluminium colored, and contains the protecting grilles for the engine. Not sure what the reason behind the two small frets instead of one bigger one, and why they are in two colors, but they do their job well.
The tracks are the rubber band type, but plastic glue works on them. This is something I welcome wholeheartedly; none of that nonsense with tracks that cannot be glued. (I never understood the type of flexible tracks which you were supposed to connect with the head of a hot screwdriver. How are you supposed to melt only the little pegs, and not the rest of the tracks?? Anyhow. Back to the review.)
Personally I do prefer plastic link-and-length tracks (or PE…) but these work fine, the detail is somewhat weak, but still OK. The real tank had different types of tracks (both “bare” and rubber pad equipped); the tracks we get are the bare ones. The pattern on the real example is stronger than what the kit’s tracks depict. Since there is not a lot of visible sagging of the tracks of the actual vehicle, they do look realistic once installed. (I did introduce a little sag by gluing the tracks to the sides of the return rollers and drive wheels.)
There is one big issue with the tracks, which has to do with the fact that model glue works on them I suspect. I coated them with acrylic paint, and used solvent-based washes for weathering applied quite generously. By the next morning they loosened up. (The solvents in question were AK Interactive washes, and ZestIt, a less harmful turpentine alternative.) I had to gently ply off the tracks from the idlers, return rollers and road wheels, and re-tension them as the solvent made them longer, and they became wavy. So keep it in mind when you do your build.
All in all, the technology of the kit is the typical Eastern European school of injection molding; however it brings the maximum out of it resulting in a nice little tank with no obvious issues.
The assembly is relatively quick and straightforward; after all there are only about 80 plastic parts, and about 10 PE parts making up this model. The fit is great, so there is no complaint there; I elected to fill in a few seams on the connecting surfaces of some panels, but I am not sure they would show up if I had left them as they were. The model is a pretty “old-school” design, so no slide-molds and elaborately shaped plastic parts are present; every complex shape is put together from flat panels. ACE did a very good job designing the model, as at the end you will have a very nice representation of the AMX-13/75.
The hull is assembled from several parts. The two side panels, the lower hull, and the top of the hull all come as separate parts; they fit very well together. The fenders/mudguards slot neatly into place; just take care to position them correctly until the glue sets. (Normally I would not really point out if something works as intended, but some 1/72 models have issues with the mudguards being too thick; this is why I mentioned this here.)
Tracks and running gear are easy and straightforward to build. The pegs holding the road wheels are strong enough to actually hold them and the tracks. (Again: some models are pretty weak in this department, hence the mention here.) Obviously, as with the vast majority of kits in this scale, the suspension is not workable, so if you want to pose the model on uneven surface you will have to do some surgery. I elected to deviate from the instructions and assembled the whole running gear before adding the mudguards. (I usually paint braille scale models like this, as I found I can easily damage details if I paint the tracks separately, and install them on the finished model.)
You need to drill out the holes for the return rollers on the side panel. If you look closely there are four holes per side, but you only need to use the first two- later variants did have four return rollers. (This is an accuracy issue when it comes to the shock absorbers - see below.) I think it is safe to say that more versions of this tank will follow.
The towing hooks are simplified: just slabs of plastic. It is possible to drill them out, so if you would like to enhance the detail this is what you will have to do.
The upper hull does not have major issues. It has the gun lock (you can install it both in travel and in combat mode), the headlights (two single headlights; but you do get the PE headlight covers for the later, double headlight version, too), the spare wheel, tracks, and the bins/exhaust covers on the mud guards.
You can drill out the exhaust if you want, but not much will be seen once you install the top cover. Be careful with the installation of these bins. They are square, early type bins, which are appropriate for this version; later on they were changed to a sloping version, which inclined towards the sides. The fit is very tight, but properly installed there is no need for putty. If you take a look at the photos, you will see I did use some on the front parts… which was due to my mistake fitting them.
The oscillating turret is very nicely reproduced -with the one serious issue of the kit: the very prominent canvas cover protecting the joint between the two parts of the turret. This had been occasionally removed from the real vehicles, and you can certainly omit it from your build. If you go this way, be aware that there is detail under the canvas: the seam and the attachment points where the canvas is fixed to are quite visible. (These details are not present in this kit.) As the shape is quite complex, the model’s canvas cover is supposed to be assembled from four parts. The assembly did not exactly go by the book. First, the canvas detail is too big; it should not be this thick and bulging (it also looks very “orderly”; not at all how canvas is folding). It is a thin sheet of canvas, after all. Second, the parts do not connect… (see photos.) They are too short to go around the turret, leaving prominent gaps, which have to be filled. I glued them on as best as I could, and then used putty and green stuff to fill in the missing parts. I also needed to do a lot of filling all the way around the top edge. It does the job, but the detail is still a bit over-emphasised. If you do not want to use the plastic canvas cover, you have two options, obviously, both having advantages and disadvantages. You either leave it off (as virtually all builds I have seen online did it), and accept that the detail is not perfect; or just make your own using some putty. Since this is a review of the kit, I installed the kit part as best as I could. (Here is a very nice photo of the canvas cover on the turret -from a different vehicle, but the turret is identical https://i.redd.it/xe6osj525bd41.jpg) I do have to say that the canvas looks pretty acceptable after painting and weathering. One final word about the kit-supplied canvas cover: due to its static nature it makes the options of displaying the gun elevated/depressed limited...
The gun itself is one-piece (which is great). There is no ‘slippage’ in the molding, so it is actually round (again, a common issue with small scale models), and the muzzle break is very nicely reproduced. The molding is very fine overall. There is no need for a replacement barrel at all. (Which is a good thing because I have not found any.)
There are no grab handles and lifting hooks included with the kit, but the holes for them are present on the turret and hull hatches; you will have to add them using thin wire; there are plenty of reference photos available. Even though the instructions do not mention them (would be useful), it is a very nice touch to have their place marked.
The PE, as mentioned, is really thin and delicate, so be very careful when installing it. I did manage to break both headlight covers while I was folding them. (This turned out to be fine, as I still could install them in two parts.)
I chose the Bolivian option for the painting as I have never built any South American tank before -and I have an ACE Centurion to be built in Israeli serice. (I still need to figure out the correct colors for that...)
All in all, I enjoyed the building process, and it was not a very difficult one. There are some issues with accuracy, though, which need to be addressed.
ACE’s kit does successfully capture the overall shape and size of the AMX-13/75, but with such a long production run with so many changes, they did get a few minor things wrong. This could come from the fact that it is difficult to design a model with the flexibility required for using it as a base for several versions without some compromises; or perhaps the sheer number of variations are too large to effectively capture, unless you want to issue the model of one particular tank (which is probably not a good idea from a marketing standpoint, especially with a type with such a long service history). If you are bothered by the inaccuracies, they are not very difficult to correct.
The biggest issue with accuracy is the presence of two shock absorbers per side. Looking at the available photos you can see that in the early/mid production run vehicles -which this model depicts- have only two return rollers and a single shock absorber on the front. The back absorber was added to the later production variants with four return rollers. Looking at the model itself you can see that on the back of the chassis side panels, all four return rollers are pre-marked; you only need to drill out the first two for this build. (See photo and instructions.) This suggests later versions coming down the pipeline at ACE, perhaps conversions as well. I installed the back shock absorbers following the instructions, but it would be more accurate if you left them off, and filled in the locator hole -problem solved. In either case, the tracks do cover most of the back shock absorbers, so unless you really are looking for them, you won’t really notice them.
The alternative idler is also a late production feature, which should not be used with this version.
And finally, the cover art shows an Israeli AMX-13/75, with double headlights; this model, however, is the earlier version with the single headlights. (But as mentioned, you do get the double headlight cover.)
All in all, there is no deal breaking inaccuracy with the kit. The building was pleasant, the model looks great - it is a nice representation of the AMX-13/75 in Braille scale. The model suggests further AMX-13 variants in the pipeline, and the FL-10 turret was also used on several other vehicles which may (or may not) be on ACE Models' list of models. Time will tell.
I received invaluable help with regards to the accuracy of the tank from Olivier.