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Built Review
172
Type 89 Hybrid Production
Type 89 Japanese Medium Tank Kou, Gasoline, Hybrid Production
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by: Matthew Lenton [ FIRSTCIRCLE ]

Introduction

IBG have released five different versions of the Type 89 kit, covering the evolution of this tank during the 1930s. In order of release:
  • Kou Gasoline Late: Type 89B hull sides and turret, bow machine gun on left, flat front plate, split turret hatch. Reviewed here on Armorama by Russ Amott.
  • Kou Gasoline Early: Type 89A, bow machine gun on right, two part front plate, top hat turret hatch, headlights, Imperial Japanese Navy use.
  • Otsu Diesel: Type 89B, similar to the Kou Late but revised engine deck layout.
  • Kou Gasoline Mid: Type 89A, bow machine gun on right, two part front plate, top hat turret hatch. Reviewed here on Armorama by me.
  • Kou Gasoline Hybrid: Type 89A hull sides, bow machine gun on the left, flat front plate, Type 89B turret with split hatch Ė hence Ďhybridí.

This last kit is the subject of this review. It has exactly the same hull as I looked at in the review of the Kou Gasoline Mid Production, but this time with the turret from the Kou Late and Otsu kits.

Once Iíd worked that out, I was relieved that I didnít have to build the same hull, wheels and tracks again, and will say upfront that last time I considered it a bit of a nightmare, to be honest.

All of the numbered photos here are from my review of the Mid Production kit, all the lettered photos are new. To complete things I will include photos of the finished Mid Production version as well, having failed to get that far last time due to a painting disaster.

Contents

Packed in the usual IBG big top opening box this kit has around 160 parts, as follows:
  • Sprue C in two parts, the main upper superstructure (photo 1)
  • Sprue D, the lower hull and hull details (photos 2, 3)
  • Sprue E x 2, the wheels and most of the tracks (photo 4)
  • Sprue F, the side skirts and more track (photos 5, 6)
  • Sprue I, the turret (photos A, B, C, D)
  • Sprue J, the glacis plate (photo 7)
  • Sprues for two figures (photos 8, 9, 10)
  • Decal sheet (photo 38)
  • Photo etch sheet (photo 39)

There is also a stapled A4 booklet of instructions that includes a full colour paint guide representing an example of an unknown unit, Shanghai 1937, for which only one of the decal sets is appropriate, the others on the sheet being for other variant releases of this kit.
Review

The kit looks nicely produced, including a number of components that have been slide moulded to provide full detail on more than one surface, for example the main hull superstructure and the side sponsons on sprue C (photo 1). Unlike the Mid Production kit, nothing was damaged or malformed this time. The tank tools are separate items, which is welcome, although the pick is quite basic (17).

The part count is quite high as this tank has a lot of wheels, all in two parts, and then there is the track, of which about thirty links are individual components. Note that the return rollers are slide moulded (25, 26) so conveniently attached to the sprue by their axle stubs, unlike the road wheels. Moulding quality is generally good, though as is normal in IBG small scale kits, some details look a little soft, for example the tools (16, 17), the main gun (33), the exhaust (21), while other parts, mainly the larger components, are well defined and look very decent, for example the sponsons (12), glacis (34), turret (A, B) and the superstructure (36, 37).

As well as the plastic we get a small photo-etched sheet (39) which includes the muffler cover (the same part is also provided in plastic), some thin side girders and some very thin braces for the anti-ditching tail.

A welcome inclusion is two figures, one a legless commander for the turret hatch (10), the other a crew member standing outside the tank, with his right arm outstretched (8, 9), as if leaning on the tank. While the standing figure, moulded in one piece, is reasonably detailed, the turret figure is a bit more basic, but both have ball-like hands. Unlike the Mid Production review, this time I will paint them.
Building the hull

This section is from the review of the Mid Production version.

Things start with snipping the 32 road wheel halves from the sprue (40), followed by the bogie units (41), taking care as the sprue gates are thicker than the join between the leaf springs and the wheel arms. The bogie tops are totally invisible by the end of the build so can be left uncleaned. The wheels were then added to the bogies (42). Again, no need to clean up one of the wheel sprue tags as it will be hidden, and I left the lower tag that will be in contact with the track, until the units were built up and set. The wheels are small with a rimmed edge, so cleaning up the attachment points is something of a pain, particularly all 36 of them.

While the wheels set, the return roller mounts (5 each side) were glued to the hull, and the hull itself was assembled (43, 44, 45), the fit being perfect with some of the glue application being internal, so nice and neat. The sprockets connect to the sprue by the teeth, and not between, so cleaning up is relatively easy (46). The axle stubs are keyhole shape so as to fit in the locations points one way only (47, 48). Photo 48 also shows the wheel / bogie units attached to the stanchions which protrude from the hull baseplate. This doesnít provide a particularly definite join for such a big and important part of the assembly, the location being guided by small pins on the bogie tops that fit into holes on the stanchions. The holes needed to be made a little bigger and the pins a bit shorter. A stronger design might have been for the stanchions to be moulded with the bogies and then mounted into a lateral channel under the hull. As it was I managed to get them cemented on reasonably straight and put them aside to set (49).

The idler, at the front, is also toothed, attaching to the side skirts along with one additional front road wheel mounted on its own T shaped axle (50, 51), one of those slightly awkward assemblies where the T axle kind of has to float in place while the inner plate is then glued on top.

As noted already, the return rollers are slide moulded, so the axle stub is the attachment point both on the sprue and on the build, so easy to clean up, although the axle itself is on the short side, making for a not especially precise join. Photo 52 shows the rollers having been aligned using a steel rule, and 53 a side view.

Alternating between assemblies while the cement sets, the side skirt / idler / front wheel components were completed (54) then attached to the hull (55). Some effort and care was required to ensure that the idlers were aligned reasonably parallel to the hull sides (56), not that easy as the idler is mounted on the side skirt assembly first, which is then mounted on to the tank.

So looking back on this build, although seemingly straightforward so far, there are already difficulties in the making. Having dead straight tracks on the finished model relies on dead straight wheels in the first place, and on this kit it is quite hard to ensure that all the wheels, rollers, idler and sprocket are all in exact alignment, not helped by the wheels mounting on bogies which mount on blocks which mount on the hull. This is before things get much harder however.

A look at photo 57 shows how the outer rim on each wheel needs to fit either side of the centre of the track; without it you will end up with wheels that arenít in contact with the track. To achieve this itís necessary to have the profile of the wheel pretty much perfect, taking out the excess plastic while not damaging the appearance of the outer edge of the wheel. I found that even having done that, the central part of the track was a bit too wide to fit in the wheel gap and I had to narrow down that central strip on the track a little using a file. Once cemented I put a weight on top to keep it all in place while it set (58).

The short curved strip from the road wheel to the idler (59) is followed by individual links being attached one at a time around the idler (60), with all four corners being similarly built up (61). The photos make it look easy, but itís really not. The sprue attachment points are on both sides of each link so the edge of each has to be carefully shaped, as shown by the thin arrows (62).

In the CAD images and in the painting guide, the tracks donít sit fully on to the teeth of the wheels, so that a gap is visible between wheel and track, but photos of the real thing show that to be incorrect, and it just looks wrong. It seems however that they have been designed that way, so that the circle described by the joined together links is bigger than the circle of the sprocket and idler. In order to make them fit on to the teeth and in contact with the wheel rim, each was shortened by filing down as shown by the thick arrows (62).

So after quite a lot of work all that remains is for the long section from idler to sprocket over the return rollers. It turned out that the gap it had to fill was too long by half a link, so remove a link and itís too short. The solution is to introduce track sag to make it shorter, but the return rollers are much too delicate to take any force, so the track needs to be bent away from the model. The relative positions of the wheels and rollers was marked on a sheet of glass, then cocktail sticks were glue-gunned in place to create a former (63, 64). Pencils were used to curve the track down between the cocktail sticks with heat applied from a hairdryer (65). On cooling, with pencils removed, the track is now sagged (66) and glued in place (67, 68, 69).

Adding the side sponsons and track guards starts to give it the characteristic Type 89 appearance. The metal side girder is very thin and needs careful handling to keep it straight, especially the two filament-like stays that attach to the track guard.

The assembly of the box on the back was also not without issues. The handles for the lid are a bit chunky, so were replaced with wire (74) then the lid fitted to the box. Thereís significant overhang (75) that needs removal to make the back flush so it fits on the back of the tank. The back of the tank has a large guide mark moulded which is too big to fit inside the box, so I removed most of it (76) and was then able to attach the box to the tank (77).

Now some small details: machine gun, shackle, hatch handle etc. (78). The tail skid was then assembled, and keeping everything lined up requires some checking and adjustment (80). The two shackles that face each other are delicate and both broke on removal from the sprue. Etched metal provides the X shaped brace (83), but it is missing the detail of a rectangular riveted plate where they cross over. The metal exhaust guard is very nice indeed, certainly much better than the solid plastic part; once bent around a piece of sprue it has a very fine appearance (84).
The Hybrid version turret

The turret itself is only four parts (photo E) which fit together perfectly. The hatch is good in that it is in two separate parts that fit into a separate ring, and the instructions suggest it can be positioned open or shut. To fix it open, you might want to add a handle or a latch on the inside and could also thin down the edges a little. I thought Iíd take it really easy and fit them shut, but ran into the problem shown in photo F Ė with the inner rim of each half snug against the ring, the two halves donít meet. This meant I had the thin down the inside of the hatch rim anyway, and also took some off the ring, until they could be made to meet up (photo G).

Fixing, finishing and figures

Last time, I only got as far as priming the Mid Production model, which was where all that work on the wheels and tracks was spoiled by accidentally drenching one side with too much primer from an overactive spray can, then melting the plastic when I tried to remove it.

I was happy then when I was able to remove the damaged side panel, along with the thin girder and mounts, and replace it with a new item from this Hybrid kit (photo I). With that in place the start of the three colour scheme was sprayed on (photo J) then the basic masking was added with toothpaste (photo K), followed by brown (L), more toothpaste (M), then green with a bit of modulation (N). The toothpaste washed off reveals the pattern (O) which was tidied up a bit with a brush. The same pattern was done on both the new Hybrid turret and the Mid Production turret.

There is plenty of scope for pin washes to bring out the details of the masses of rivets, engine deck grilles, and plate joins, as well as much opportunity for dried earth and mud on the side plates, with photos showing them being caked with dirt from the tracks.

The figures were also painted. Photos P-S show the legless commander in the Mid Production turret. His apparently blandly featured face actually paints up quite well, as the eyes are just indents. The standing officer (photos T, U, V) looks the better figure but has ďeyeballsĒ on to which the paint doesnít so readily settle and I found his face harder to paint. The only alteration made was to remove the moulded on sword and replace it with a piece of plastic strip.

Note that there is no painting guide for the figures in the instruction book, and the officer on the box top is wearing a shirt, and ankle boots with puttees, while the plastic figure clearly has a jacket with knee length boots. The box top art also shows white gloves which seems wrong for combat wear. I painted mine with khaki uniforms, brown leather gloves, belt, straps and scabbard, and black boots; the helmet was of all brown cloth. Thereís not a lot of detail on the goggles, but the straps are some light colour (I used buff) and the edges I made a slightly different grey from the lenses.

The Hybrid turret has a machine gun and a kind of tubular steel mount, though fitting the gun seems slightly wrong if you have the hatch closed; if the gun could be removed then the mount could be folded against the turret side, but I went ahead with the easier option again (photos W, X).

The completed model of the Hybrid Production version is shown in the photos that follow, then at the end are photos of the same hull but with the Mid Production turret in place, with open hatch and commander.


Conclusion

In the review of the Mid Production kit I said I thought there was something amiss with the design of the tracks in the way they fit to the toothed wheels, and to correct them requires a lot of additional work reshaping many track links. There is also considerable work needed to ensure that the road wheels sit correctly on the track. Added to these is the slightly creaky way in which the entire wheel / track section builds up, with many individual parts needing to be lined up but with little direct contact with the main body of the hull. As a result it is difficult to get the tracks completely straight with the hull, and also to get all links aligned (one of those on the right side in the two photos taken straight on can be seen to be out of line). For some of this a more modular approach to the design breakdown of the parts might have helped construction without compromising detail.

Some aspects of this kit are very decent, and up to modern standards (the big slide moulded components, the photo etch exhaust guard) and it is very nice to see separate tools and openable hatches. However other parts were painful to deal with, and sometimes almost like an Airfix kit of the 1960s.

This time however I felt much happier with the result, having managed to complete painting both tank and figures and without having to go through fitting those tracks again... It is possible to finish a decent looking model from these Type 89 kits, but it hasnít been made easy to do so.
SUMMARY
Highs: Slide moulded larger components are very nice; etched exhaust guard; separate hatch and tools; figures included.
Lows: Some parts, especially the tracks and wheels, are of questionable design, being overly complex and requiring remedial work to get the correct appearance.
Verdict: A decent model can be made, but the kit hasnít been designed to make it easy to achieve.
  Scale: 1:72
  Mfg. ID: 72039
  Suggested Retail: £8.99
  PUBLISHED: Oct 29, 2019
  NATIONALITY: Japan / 日本
NETWORK-WIDE AVERAGE RATINGS
  THIS REVIEWER: 84.53%
  MAKER/PUBLISHER: 82.18%

Our Thanks to IBG Models!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Matthew Lenton (firstcircle)
FROM: ENGLAND - SOUTH EAST, UNITED KINGDOM

Earliest model memory is a Super Sabre my grandmother bought for me around 1972. Have always dabbled in painting and making things, and rediscovered doing that with plastic in 2008. Vowed then to complete the 30 year old stash, and have made some progress. Hobby goes hand in hand with BBC Radio 3...

Copyright ©2019 text by Matthew Lenton [ FIRSTCIRCLE ]. All rights reserved.



Comments

Matthew, Thank you for brings this kit to us in such detail. I am interested in your descriptions that some of the parts remind you of 1960s Airfix. I hope that IBG will take note that most reviews I read of their 1/72 remarks that they over-engineer some components. I love their subjects but the complexity has kept me from enjoying the fidelity of some of their detail.
OCT 30, 2019 - 12:32 PM
Fred, thank you for commenting. I should say that only some aspects are like that, while overall the fit of major components, the quality of moulding, and the level of detail is far superior to what we were used to with those ancient kits. But here and there in this kit for example are exceptions, such as the box on the tail, which should be a straightforward fit, but somehow isn't, and the tracks I already went into in some detail. I don't fully understand how CAD modelling translates into actual moulding, but it sometimes seems as if parts that must fit together correctly in the 3D CAD model don't necessarily work so well in reality, perhaps because tolerances are not quite set correctly? Whatever, they are mostly very enjoyable kits, detailed and with great subjects, and not expensive, but there is sometimes extra work required to deal with some of the parts due to the way they are designed. I did like that they made the effort to include figures with these - try finding Japanese tank crew from another source, it's not easy.
OCT 30, 2019 - 09:03 PM
   

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