A little historical perspective...
In 1938, the Italian Fiat Ansaldo company demonstrated their project for a new armored reconnaissance and police vehicle. A year or so later, after evaluation and modification, it was accepted under the designation ABM1. After more trials and further modifications, the vehicle was given the green-light for production in late 1940 (hence the designation AB40). The initial armament consisted of three 8mm Breda MGs, by the time production began of the AB41, a larger turret had been devoloped, mounting a 20mm autocannon with a co-axial 8mm MG. By 1943, around 620 vehicles had been built. Following the Italian surrender of 1943, the German army confiscated around 100 AB41s which were then put into German service under the designation Panzerspähwagen AB41 201. The final 'incarnation' of the AB was the AB43, which had a number of German-instigated improvements such as larger stowage brackets, more potent engine and a new silencer. Most notable however, was the lower-profile (and larger) turret. Around 100 AB43s were built in 1944/45. The designation of the AB43 (German service) was Pz. Sb.Wg AB43 203 (i)....
What's in the box?
Italeri 6442 - Autoblinda AB41Pz.Sp.WG. AB41 201 (i)
is a 1/35th scale plastic kit consisting of around 140 parts moulded in a light-sand plastic on four sprues. In addition to the plastic parts, six tires are provided which are moulded in black vinyl. Apart from the usual instruction sheet, a full-color, double-sided color chart is provided which gives color details of the five alternative subjects on the well-printed decal sheet. The five vehicles are:
1) German Army Aufkl. Abt. 236, 162nd (Turkische) Infantry Division. Italy 1944
2) SS Polizei Division, Italy 1944
3) Regio Esercito (Italian Army), Sicily 1943
4) Regio Esercito - Lancieri di Montebello Regiment, Rome 1943
5) Repubblica Sociale (Post-armistice) Gruppo coazzato Leonessa, Turin Italy, 1945.
No clear plasic parts are provided for the vehicle's headlights, nor is photo-etch or a turned-brass barrel, which, at a kit of this price it is not too
unreasonable to expect....
On initial inspection, moulding is good wth particularly crisp details on the (many) bolts and hinges. The vinyl tires are excellent (see photos) and fit snugly over the wheel rims. Few mould-lines are to be seen - those few which exist are generally easy to remove. The instuction sheet is clear and concise, the only 'niggle being the same part being numbered seperately - an unnecessary complication in my opinion.
The easiest and most logical manner in building ths kit, is a series of sub-assemblies. Some stages were omitted for handling and photographing. What is NOT
included in the constuction are the following parts:
Door latches, width indicators, towing shackles, klaxons, lights, filler caps, tool stowage and exhausts,
Suspension and sub-frame...
This went together with few problems. A strange (or useful) feature are two plastic parts which look like small roll-bars. These are in fact 'spacers' to ensure the correct distance between the two side sections of the sub-frame. The suspension went together easily although 'dry-fitting' is strongly recommended as does some expansion of the location holes. Detail is good and the suspension makes a welcome change from the 'old' Italeri
which was notable for its extreme complexity... The aspect which I didn't particularly care for, was the fit in the brackets for the brake drums. Some 'shaving' and some sanding is necessary to achieve a good fit.
Hull and upper decks
Four spacers are provided to ensure the correct distance between the two hull sides. These fit very snugly indeed. Next to complete were the engine decking, rear 8mm Breda MG, rear vision port and the central, upper hull plate. The former is fairly difficult to put in lace without some gaps showing although using enoughglue and maintaining some pressure, a good(ish) fit can be acheived. Last in this section was the rear grille which is well-moulded although not perhaps an easy part to fit at all - much trial and error is required to ensure it is attached squarely. The removal of the internal side guides is to be strongly recommended!! The front panels fit together fairly well although some filler IS
The final section is the two side doors. These are well moulded althogh fit is NOT their greatest aspect. They are moulded in two parts with the hinges well detailed although to my mind at least, seem a touch over-scale in thickness. I will almost certaily return to these and consider thinning them down a tad...
The turret follows the usual format - gun/mantlet and turret and hatches. After reading Terry Ashley's review at P.M.M.S
I checked the urret and yes, it is a little underscale and perhaps one or two of the angles are a little incorrect, however, when built it does look good and any 'anomalies' are not particularly obvious. The one thing I DID dislike in the turret, was the lack of a metal gun barrel. When I was cutting off the tiy muzzle for the 20mm cannon, I over-cut and a solution had to be found -and quick!!! I resolved the problem by using very fine paper (cigarette paper actually) cut to size and carefully rolled over the barrel using generous amounts of liquid cement to stiffen it - a technique from the pre-AM days of modelling!!!
Final steps - the sub-assemblies come together...
The sub-frame fitted snugly into the hull which left only the wheels to be put into place. The tires fitted tightly over the whel hups with little problem and both these and the spare/auxiliary wheels fitted into place on their discs and central hull position respectively. It would be amiss of me NOT
to mention the superb hub-centers which come compete with an excellent rendition of the manufacturer's badge...
As I said in my introductory remarks, Italeri
have gone in a welcome direction with the release of this kit. There are certainly some 'issues' over fit of parts and some of the construction stages, however, in general this is an excellent kit which will benefit from a great deal of time being spent in extra-detailing. That said, the price is pretty high for what one gets in the box although in fairness, the alternatives are both in resin and cost several times the price of this kit. They have obviously spent a good amount of time in the research although the AM people are going to have an interesting time in bringing out updates and superdetail sets. In summary, the most 'contentious' issues for me are the folowing areas:
1) The gun barrel
2) The tools, and in particular the tool-clamps, are IMHO, going to need replacing.
3) Replacement lenses will have to be found to replace the plastic ones.
4) the vehicle (at the moment) has all it's hatches firmly closed as even with a vehicle of this size, there is a lot of 'open' space inside.
That said, I would THOROUGHLY
recommend it to anyone who wishes to build something different. There are a lot of possibilities in finishing as well with some very nice camo schemes possible. Two AM sets come to mind from the AM manufacturers, the first, a conversion set for the AB43 (which had a bigger turet) and the second a set of replacement wheels for the Ferroviarie AB41
which was used on the railroads of the Balkans in 'anti-partisan' operations.....
Availability and references
My example was purchased from HobbyEasy
in Hong Kong, who provided their usual fast, cheap and efficient service.
Reference came (primarily) from Armor Photogallery # 8 - Italian Armored Cars - Autoblindo AB41 201 (i) & AB43 203 (i)
, a review of which can be seen: HERE!!
For another 'point of view' on this kit, go here:P.M.M.S. Review