by: Jan Etal [ ]
IntroductionAirfix military models had their beginning with the introduction of the Bristol Bloodhound missile with trailer, launcher and Land Rover in 1960. Originally intended as just an addition to their aircraft line, it is also considered to be their first ‘military vehicle’ kit. I think that it goes without saying that there are quite a number of modellers that got their start in the hobby with these types of Airfix kits.
Airfix released more vehicle kits over the years, but at varying rates. During these early years two prominent modelling magazines at the time (Military Modelling and Airfix Magazine) bristled with conversion articles for many of the Airfix kits. The kits covered by this book are predominantly 1/76 scale but with a very few (the Bloodhound) that actually scale out to 1/72.
To quote the book's author, “This book is the result of a series of articles for the Scale Military Modeller International Magazine in their ‘Built for Battle’ series, and is intended to show what can be done with both old and new Airfix kits, and likewise this work is designed for the ‘average modeller’ and will hopefully show that with a little skill and practice these average Airfix Models can be transformed into a reasonable replica of the original vehicle. The emphasis here is on fun modelling rather than counting rivets, and hopefully many will discover or rediscover a fascinating and inexpensive hobby.”
Book OverviewAt a quick glance, author Tom Cole certainly appears to have amassed a plethora of information and images to achieve his above-stated goal.
The book is soft-cover with a total 128 ‘A4’ sized (11 11/16”x8 5/16”) pages printed on glossy paper. The printing is clean and legible and the photographs plentiful and extremely attractive. A sprinkling of charts and tables are also present, as are some excellent scale drawings by renowned AFV artist George Bradford.
Models appearing in the book are built by Tom Cole and Ben Graves, with additional contributions by Garry Prettyman, Peter Hilton and Stuart Harrison.
The book is divided into five major sections:
-World War One
-World War Two
Each of these sections are further divided into varying numbers of subsections dealing with specific vehicles. Each subsection generally starts with a brief history of the kit and/or the vehicle represented by it. Over fifty different Airfix and ex-JB Model kit builds are covered and improvements to the original kit or extensive conversions are detailed. These improvements run the gambit from improving “out of the box” builds to scratch building and the use of aftermarket products. Where pertinent, the author offers lists outlining necessary details that need to be either modified or otherwise created. Where appropriate, scale drawings and photographs of the actual vehicle are included to help with visualizing the conversion work.
In this section the author starts with a brief history of Airfix military models and a list of their release dates. Here also is where he touches on numerous applicable topics such as scale, references, resources and a summary of necessary general model-building tools and accessories. Also explained is that this book is not meant to be the ultimate step-by-step manual but some sections do include a profusion of illustrated step-by-step photos of the models and in some cases photographs of the real vehicles.
World War One
This section contains two subsections dealing with various potentials for the original Airfix World War One Male (A01315) tank and the more recently released Female version (A02337). Information provided here allows for the building of a number of versions of the tank from the prototype Male Mk I to a Female Mk. III.
World War Two
This by far is the most extensive section of the book with no less than 25 kits being used to create different variants of each vehicle. The kits used break down as follows:
• Vickers Light Tank (A02330)
• Panzer IV Tank (A02308) - Two Entries
• Scammel Tank Transporter (A02301)
• Bren Gun Carrier & 6 PDR Anti-Tank Gun (AO1309) - Two Entries
• Sd.Kfz. 222 & Kubelwagen Reconnaissance Set (A02312)
• 25 PDR Field Gun & Morris Quad (A01305) - Two Entries
• AEC Matador & 5.5 Inch Gun (A01314)
• 75 MM Assault Gun (A01306)
• M4 Sherman Mk. I Tank (A01303) - Two Entries
• Churchill Mk. VII Tank (Ao1304)
• 88 MM Gun & Sd.Kfz 7 Tractor (A02303)
• LVT 4 Buffalo & Willys Jeep (A02302) - Two Entries
• White Half-Track M3A1 & 1 Ton Trailer (A02318)
• WW II DUKW (A02316)
• Sherman Crab Tank (A03220)
• Churchill Bridge Layer (A04301)
• Matilda Hedgehog (A02335) - Two Entries
• German Armoured Car (A01311)
• Centurion Tank (A02307)
Each entry noted in the list above can result in numerous variants of the vehicle being created. As an example two subsections and seven pages are devoted to the Bren Carrier kit that if followed will result in six different variants. These include Bren No. 2 Mk. 1, Scout Carrier, Universal Carrier, Wasp IIC flamethrower version, Wading Carrier and the Canadian Windsor Carrier.
Details for correcting or enhancing certain vehicles are also provided. Extremes like refashioning the fenders on the “German Armoured Car,” converting the “Assault Gun” to a StuH 42 and using the “LVT 4 Buffalo” to create three diverse variants are shown. Corrections and suggestions for the correcting of flaws in the 5.5” Gun and the 25 Pdr. are offered, as well as some more modest enhancements such as adding mud flaps to certain wheeled vehicles.
With this section we see several former JB Models offerings appearing along with their more vintage Airfix companions. The kits used break down as follows:
• Bedford Mk. 4 Tonne Truck, GS Body (A02326)
• Bedford Mk. Tactical Aircraft Refueller (A02329)
• Bristol Bloodhound (A02309)
• Saladin Mk. 2 Armoured Car ((A02325)
• Saracen APC (A02328)
• Chieftain Tank (A02305)
• LWB Land Rover (Soft Top) & Trailer (A02322)
• LWB Land Rover (Hard Top) & Trailer (A02324)
• Land Rover 1 Tonne FC, GS Body (A02331)
• Land Rover 1 Tonne FC, Ambulance (A02333)
• M113 U.S. Fire Support Version (A02327)
• M113 U.S. ACAV (A02327)
Unlike the World War Two section, there aren't any extensive conversions requiring aftermarket additions or extensive scratch-building present. The most conversion-intense subsections are to correct flaws with the Saracen APC’s body and the Bloodhound launcher. However, this section does include a fair number of alternate colour schemes for some vehicles. The most dramatic of which is the painting of the Chieftain Mk. 9 in the rather unusual Berlin Infantry Brigade’s “Checkerboard” camouflage that they sported in the 1980s.
This section can be best viewed as a nostalgic trip down “Memory Lane.” Titled M4 Sherman, The History of a ‘Classic Kit’, it recounts the life and times of the Airfix Sherman Mk.1 from the kit’s introduction in 1961 through its various incarnations, packagings and artwork.
ConclusionsThe variety and scope of this book has made it one of the most challenging reviews that this reviewer has ever experienced. The method of organization of sections and their ensuing subsections more than once led to confusion. This book also had to have been difficult to both write and organize.
For the predominantly small-scale builder this book can be an eye opener and perhaps a great motivator to experiment. Tom Cole writes in a clear and informative manner and it is obvious he has more than a passing knowledge about the book’s subjects. The wealth of photographs and scale drawings are an extremely pleasant bonus. While these older kits may never compare with their more modern counterparts, one can’t ignore that seeing what can be done with them could be both inspirational and fun. Another big plus is that often these kits can be found at a fraction of the cost of other manufacturers’ offerings.
Just to reiterate, this is not a step-by-step book for all the models covered. If that’s what you are looking for then this may not be the book for you. Some of the projects presented will require more skill than a beginner might possess but there is still much to be gained from surveying the pages. Overall it was a very enjoyable read. Recommended.