by: Rick Cooper [ ]
Tamiya has another new kit that is slated to hit the shelves of your local hobby shop very soon; the somewhat odd duck British self-propelled anti-tank gun, Archer. What makes this one a bit of an oddity is that the 17-pdr gun and the fighting compartment face backwards firing over the rear of the vehicle. Notwithstanding the odd arrangement, the vehicle, built on the Valentine chassis, did enable the Allied war effort to get more of the excellent 17-pdr guns up into the hands of the Infantry and Armoured Divisions.
Vickers-Armstrong designed and manufactured the Archer beginning in 1943 with productions ceasing in May of 1945. In total 655 Archers were delivered to British and Commonwealth forces before manufacturing came to a halt in May 1945. The vehicle was employed in the campaigns in both North-West Europe and in Italy. Following the war surplus Archers made their way to the Egyptian Army who used them at least up until 1956 when one example was captured by the Israelis which can now be seen in the in the armor museum, Yad La-Shiryon.
The kit comes packaged in the typical Tamiya slip cover box with all the parts well packaged with the individual sprues all in their own poly bags. The kit comes with six main sprues of parts, although one of these, sprue E is duplicated (wheels and small fittings). Also, a small sprue of clear parts (only one clear part is used however), a short length of string for the tow cables, a background information sheet, instructions, and a set of decals with markings for two vehicles are included as well as the ubiquitous poly caps used for Tamiya tracked vehicles.
A quick word on the Tamiya instructions. They are 20 pages in length and are absolutely flawless. None of the forty-one steps are overly fussy with far too much to do but are instead nicely layered with a manageable number of parts. This enables you to easily finish a portion of the build, set it aside for a few minutes, a few hours, or even a few days and pick-up right where you left off without missing a beat. I also appreciated the nice clear line drawings and the clean placement directions, no loopy directional arrows anywhere in sight.
The build-up of the kit is for the most part, standard, it begins with the bottom of the hull, adding in the floor of the fighting compartment. Tamiya clearly saw me coming and made this virtually idiot proof. Most parts are keyed so that they can only fit in one direction making it impossible to fit anything in backwards, upside down, etc. Do be careful with the steering controls, they are separate pieces and are added to the two walls of the driver’s compartment, they are a bit delicate and I snapped one of with my ham-handed approach. The drivers compartment looks a bit spartan and is missing the foot pedals but when it is all closed up you can’t really tell but you may want to add them for your own piece of mind. The driver’s instrument panel looks very nice, Tamiya provides no decal, but it should still help to dress up the compartment when it is painted up.
This kit doesn’t have an old-style tub for the hull bottom and is instead constructed of the bottom, two sides, front and back panel. The next several steps have you putting that together. Tamiya provides a very clear process for which one is added first, second, etc. I would recommend that you follow their lead on this. I did, and the fit was excellent, and the frustration was non-existent, on top of that it looked great with no putty or filler needed anywhere. After that you will add the first part of the ready racks as well as a few more of the interior fittings.
Tamiya has you tackle the suspension, wheels. and the link and length tracks next. The suspension trucks are a complex piece of engineering, but Tamiya has done a good job of simplifying the assembly. Each of the four assemblies are built up from only six pieces sans road wheels; the front and the back of the bogie assembly, the heavy spring which is trapped between the two, the rocker arm with axles attached for the two smaller road wheels, the outer armored cover with lots of nice raised rivet and bolt detail, and finally, the return roller. The road wheels are also well done with the correct bolt pattern, a rear wheel insert that sits just slightly proud of the tire giving an excellent representation of the rim. I was a bit leery of the drive sprocket, Tamiya has molded the ribbed inner portion in two pieces separated laterally. My fear was an impossible seam to clean up running across the ribbing. My fears were unfounded however as the fit was so good that you will need to look very hard to find any trace of a seam. The remainder of the road wheels, both large and small, idlers and sprockets go on easily in preparation for adding the tracks.
Link and length tracks can be great, or they can be a nightmare. I was hoping for great and Tamiya did not disappoint. I did learn the hard way that when the instructions call out for exactly nine links around the drive sprocket they darn well mean nine links around the drive sprocket, not ten. I liked that the upper run, with its nice molded in slight sag, is keyed to the middle return roller giving a precise starting point for your tracks. The links all cleaned up easily and fit together perfectly making the whole process quick and painless (when you followed the instructions precisely that is!)
With the tracks installed the upper deck is added along with the engine air intakes. The engine intakes are a two-piece affair with the housing and part of the engine deck and the louvers which really look nice when finished. I did have the only fit issue of the build when adding the upper deck, I had a small gap that pulled open where the fender mated against the lower portion of the air intake/rear engine deck piece. I did have to hold it tight for a few minutes and then use a rubber band to hold it all together for an hour or so until the glue set up nice and tight. If only all modelling issues were that easy to deal with.
The mount for the gun with attached gunners station gets three steps in the instructions to get it all together and snap it into place. Yes, this is one of those that literally snaps into place when built up with just a drop of glue needed to cement the housing for the ball joint in place. This will allow for the gun to traverse its full 22 or so degrees left and right. Of course, if you don’t want to fool with this you can just glue it into place, but it is so well engineered I doubt you will want to.
The next several steps have you building up and installing the rest of the interior as well as the fighting compartment side walls with all their attendant equipment. Everything fit well, the only disappointment for me was the radio which is molded inside its protective canvas shroud rather than in all its glory. Maybe an aftermarket producer will come up with a replacement. The side walls fit together and onto the hull like a hand in a glove. I have not glued anything in place yet as I felt the need to get this review done, this way I can paint later but you can see from the photographs how well it goes together without glue.
With that taken care of Tamiya has you turn to the exterior. The three large stowage boxes for tools and crews gear are exceptional. Tamiya molds the boxes each as a single large piece with a separate front face added. The boxes all have delicate ribbing, hinges and latches molded in place. I think that just the slightest amount of care when painting and weathering will really make these stand out nicely. The exhaust and muffler are another very well-done assembly, with six pieces all fitting together to make up the assembly but leaving you with only one seam that may will need only the most minor cleanup. The rest of the exterior consists of some grab handles here and there, hooks for the towing cables, three lights, spare antennae and range finding equipment stowage tubes as well as a sew fender braces and other odd bits and bobs.
The gun and front gun shield build up quite easily, cradle, breech and block first, breech guards, breech lever, what I assume is the breech block return spring mechanism, as well as the gunners sight for the gun. Just a couple of pieces for the shield which mounts on to the finished assembly once it is in place. Before that you will add those Tamiya poly caps to the breech and cradle assembly that will allow the gun some elevation. The two trunnion pins push in from the outside of either side of the gun housing and do a nice job of locking everything into place.
The 17 pdr. Gun is a one-and-a-half-piece build. I say this because the gun tube is one piece, with a minimal molding seam that disappears with a few passes of a sanding stick, and one half of the muzzle brake molded in place, the other half of the brake needs to be glued on. I really liked this as it eliminated what can sometimes be tricky, the join between the gun tube and the muzzle brake. The fit is so precise that I never even needed to sand the join, I simply let it set up for a minute or so then gently brushed another pass of liquid cement and the seam disappeared. The gun then slides into the breech and cradle assembly easily.
Add the last few towing shackles, smoke dischargers, and a few brackets for the tow cables and you are just about done. The only left is the tow cables themselves. Tamiya provides a generous length of black thread that looks the part. The thread is cut and glued into the grooves cut into the underside of the cable eyes and then wound around into place on the front of the hull. With that you are ready for the figures if you choose to display your build in that way or on to the painting.
The decals provide markings for two vehicles, although oddly neither is a British vehicle. One is for a Polish example in Italy, the 7th Anti-Tank Regiment attached to the Polish II Corps in early 1945. The second is a Canadian vehicle from the 2nd Anti-Tank Regiment with the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division in North-West Europe also in early 1945. I will use the Canadian markings as the Dick Taylor book on the Valentine and its derivatives has a couple of nice photos of the vehicle.
As far as the painting goes, I mentioned that I did not paint at all, trying to keep in mind that what readers probably want is a review of how this kit builds up and not necessarily how I painted mine. With that thought paramount I decided to just build this up and paint later, perhaps a mistake for me, but it does mean you can read the review now rather than a month from now which is how long the painting will probably take me!
Figures: Tamiya provides figures for three of the four-man crew. The only fellow missing is the driver. The gunner and the loader are dressed in the British/Commonwealth one piece “pixie suit” with the seven pockets and the double zipper. Both of these soldiers wear the Brodie style Mk I helmet with netting and carry the Enfield #2 sidearm (as does the commander figure as well). The commander figure is in standard British battledress with the leather jerkin and wears a beret rather than a helmet. The figures go together well; Tamiya has keyed the two leg pieces for a perfect fit; no lower torsos sliding out of place here! However, I did feel that the detail was a little soft on all three of the figures, for example, I had a very hard time picking out the number of pockets on the pixie suits, and the collars on all three figures nearly fade away in spots. I like the dynamic poses, but the overall molding seems almost a small step back from recent US and Wehrmacht crews that have been released.
Conclusion: This is another very solid effort from Tamiya. You should find this an easy build, I finished mine in only six evenings, never putting in more than 2 hours or so at a time. You should probably allow for a bit more time than that as you will want to paint as you go with this kit just like you would with any open topped vehicle.
The kit goes together so easily it is hard to find any real fault. It scales out exactly with what my one good reference, Dick Taylor’s, “Into the Vally”, says it should. There are a few small omitted features that Tamiya could have included; the 2-inch mortar that was mounted on some of the Archers and the cable reel that was often installed (the bracket for the reel is included, just not the reel?) are the most readily seen but I am sure there must be another missing detail here or there. The handle on the top of the rangefinder case is a solid molding rather than an actual handle and there are many small tie-downs that are molded solid that would be better replicated in photo-etch material.
While there are those few drawbacks I mentioned, on balance this kit is superb; easy instructions to follow, incredible fit, top-notch moldings, simplified enough for the weekend builder yet detailed enough to satisfy scale modelling veterans. I would highly recommend this kit to builders at all levels.
Thanks to Tamiya for the review copy.
Taylor, Dick. "Into the Vally, The Valentine Tank and Derivatives 1938-1960" Stratus Publishing for MMP Books, 2012.
Any errors in either the build of the review kit or the review itself are my responsibility alone.