I was delighted when the announcement came out that Tamiya had decided to release a new 1/35 scale Austin Tilly. This is one of those vehicles that I have long awaited to appear in plastic. In the early war years, the British utilised a wide variety of civilian vehicles to fill the gap in military transport. Civilian manufacturers were converted to military ones, whilst development plans got under way for new vehicles, and what was being produced was switched to military purposes.
The Austin Tilly then was a typical British wartime improvisation: the conversion of a standard saloon car into a Light Utility Pick-Up Truck. Austin were not the only manufacturer of Light Utility vehicles for the British Army: Hillman, Morris and Standard all produced militarized pick-ups from versions of their own cars. Soldiers quickly (and affectionately) shortened “light utility” to “Tilly.” The Tilly served throughout the war in many theatres of operation, and even soldiered on afterwards well into the 50s, though sadly few have survived.
If you are, or get interested in this kit, then I recommend reading Tilly Colours
by Michael Shackleton, and The Austin 10HP Light Utility
from the “Army Wheels in Detail” series by Capricorn Publications (Jim Rae reviewed both books: here
What was pleasing to learn was that Tamiya engaged the considerable knowledge of Michael Shackleton of the “Tilly Register
” when developing the kit, and the site
is a very useful source of information.
As one would expect, the kit comes packed in the familiar Tamiya format: a good sturdy box outlining the features of the kit. Inside are 3 sprues of light green plastic containing the kit parts, one sprue of clear plastic for the windows and lights, a set of decals, and a 10-page fold-out set of instructions laid out in familiar Tamiya style.
The instructions indicate 16 build steps laid out in a logical fashion, with an opening page containing some background information on the vehicle. Three pages are devoted to painting and finishing. The instructions are in familiar Tamiya format, and you should read them thoroughly first, as the kit comes with a variety of build options.
This contains the chassis, front mudguards, doors, rear cargo floor and vehicle sides, a choice of tail gates (wooden or metal), choice of radiator grills (the one with the fewer slats was a very late introduction, and is very rarely seen in wartime photos), a driver figure (always a plus), and some of the engine and suspension parts. The detail on the parts looks excellent; just be careful removing the chassis from the sprue, as the front suspension rods are attached and look quite fragile.
This contains the wheels (in the military style), more engine parts, front and rear seats, steering wheel, dashboard and other small fittings. Again, the detail on the parts looks excellent. You get two types of exhaust fittings, an early and late style. I believe the one shown on the right is the early style, and the one on the left the later version, but as always check your references.
The only things that I can see that are missing are some side mirrors that were often placed on the vehicle fenders. Additionally, on the internal stowage, there should be a rifle on the driver's door pillar, a pick-axe shaft on the passenger door pillar and the pick-axe head on the front bulkhead. The mud flaps that were common to this vehicle appear not to have been included, nor the radiator muff. Only the later style of head lights are provided.
This contains the tarp and the front of the driver’s cabin. Both parts are well-moulded.
This contains the windows and a couple of clear lights.
Decals & Painting
You get marking options for 4 vehicles:
A. 5th Battalion, the Dorsetshire Regiment, 43rd (Wessex) Infantry Division - Normandy 1944
B. 47th (London) Infantry Division– United Kingdom
C. Royal Netherlands Princess Irene brigade, British 2nd Army - The Hague, Nether lands, 1945
D. 7th Battalion, 51st (Highland) Infantry Division
The HD decal for the 7th Battalion is, however, incorrect. If you need a broader set of markings, then Accurate Armour recently released their Tilly Decal set that can be seen here
Also worth noting is that the instructions don't make it clear that M4888861 carries the civilian registration NRP 650 (there are decals and also a front number plate on sprue A, which are not mentioned in the instructions). The undersized serial, M4424969, is taken from a researched example in the UK, and was done (I believe) as a “thank you” to the owner.
The model can be finished with the doors open or closed, and includes an alternative tail gate, which can be shown raised or lowered. The same with the back seats and the bonnet: both can be modelled up to display the engine detail. The tilt for the bonnet looks nicely-done, and can be added or left off. The driver figure is basic, but very welcome, and wears a standard 39/40 battle dress tunic with ammo boots and anklets. You may want to choose an alternative head from one of the aftermarket resin makers, as he appears to have a tanker’s beret on his head. There are a few ejection marks that would need taking care of, but that is to be expected.
This looks to be a cracking little kit. The omissions are regrettable, but won’t detract from the build, and most could be sourced from the spares box with the exception of the radiator muff. It would have been good if they had included the tilt frame, but again this can be home-made if necessary. There are some options here then for the AM folks to pick up on. There were a variety of tilt styles, also different types of wheels which were often mixed. These, plus a set of early headlights would be good and a PE radiator grill. If that all seems a bit negative, than I apologise. What we have here is an excellent representation of this very British “jeep.” I have no reason to doubt that it will build really well like most Tamiya kits, and the overall quality and attention to detail is excellent.
There are many, many options with this vehicle and I see more than one in my future. Either as a stand-alone kit, or incorporated in to a diorama, there is a lot of mileage spread over a good time span, as many of these were still in service after the war. Tamiya are to be congratulated for taking the plunge and giving us an excellent new British soft-skin. I would hope it would not be too long before they follow it up with another British WW2 vehicle!