by: Jacob Hederstierna-Johnse [ ]
The FT 17 was the first tank with a fully rotating turret design. It was developed in 1916 and finally put into mass production in September 1917, where some 3500 vehicles were ordered by the French army. It was put into service in the French army in March 1918. It was intended as an infantry support tank, with a maximum speed of 5 miles per hour. It was armed with either a 37 mm Puteaux SA 18 gun or the 8 mm Hotchkiss M 1914 machine gun. The FT 17 proved itself as a reliable vehicle, and was used by 27 countries, such as the Soviet Union, the US, Finland, China, Germany and more. All in all around 6000 vehicles were produced, the majority in France and others by other nations as well. By the outbreak of WWII, the French army still had around 1200 FT 17ís in service, and later the German army used some of these vehicles in second line units, or the turrets were used in fortifications in the Atlantic wall.
Meng Model has given four different versions of the FT 17 to choose from; A- French army 1940 w. 37mm gun, B- French army 1918 w. 37mm gun, C- Finnish army 1940 w. machine gun and D- German Luftwaffe 1944 w. machine gun. When building this kit, be aware of these letters, so you donít mix up the different variants.
I chose to build the 1918 French version (B), because I really want to build something from the Great War, and the color scheme is also quite cool.
This is my first kit from Meng Model, so I canít help comparing a little bit with other manufacturesí, in which I have more experience. I think Meng Modelsí detail level lies within Bronco and AFV Club, so no worries there, but the styrene is a bit on the soft side, so be careful, when using your new knife blade. The details are nice and crisp, and there are no really problems with the positioning of punch marks. The only thing to be careful of in the assembly is, that where the parts connects with the sprue, there is some clean-up to do, while the sprue sort of goes around the back of the part, and then leaves some material to be removed. In the construction manual thereís clearly shown, what colors to be used, and on the back page thereís a nice color reference for Vallejo paints. But if you donít use this brand of color, the colors are shown; too, so one can find the right color in whatever brand he uses. Nice touch.
The first stage covers the transmission. Itís very well detailed and everything fits together real well. The transmission consists of 14 parts.
Next up is the engine. This is really a little gem by itself. It has a lot of great details, and goes together with no problems at all. I especially like the small intake and exhaust vents on top of the cylinders. These are cast with tiny springs and all. But before you go nuts in super detailing and AM products, most of these nice details canít be seen, when the kitís assembled, even with its hatches open.
The radiator is also very nice looking. It even has fan blades and a belt drive for them, which is fine, but again, when the hull is assembled, only one side of the radiator is visible.
Stage four is the assembly of interior of the hull bottom. The bottom plate has some nice details, but again, these are totally covered by the floor cover plates, so all the fine rivets and stuff canít be seen at all. A really great feature, which actually can be seen, is the driverís back rest for the driverís seat. Itís a piece of leather, which is stretched across the hull, and it has some nice details to it.
The last of the smaller pipes and tubes around the engine is fitted, and the completed engine is installed. Then the fire wall, gear stick, steering levers and the actual driverís seat is installed. Be careful to glue the fire wall on straight, because it has to fit in some thin sluts in the side pieces of the hull sides.
Next is the assembly of the side walls of the hull. Like everything else in this kit, it has great detail and even more rivets. Here you have to be careful, when choosing the ammunition stowage in the interior, because it differs from the 37mm gun version and the machine gun version. The French WWI version I chose, carried the 37mm gun, and Meng Model offers two options; a fully loaded locker of ammunition, or an empty one. Actually one can make the locker half full, if using parts from both options, but I chose to be carrying a full load of ammo in my tank.
Thereís also a very small control panel with just two gauges. It would have been really nice, if Meng Model had produced some decals for these, but they just instruct you to paint them in black. Iíll suggest using some decals from the spare box.
On the outside of the side walls, thereís just as much detail as on the inside. And rivets! The vehicle designers must have tried to outnumber even the Titanic in the use of rivets. Anyhow, one of the really fine parts of the outer details is the vertical suspension system. These come in white metal, steel springs and styrene parts. They look really great when assembled, but the steel springs are maybe a bit too skinny for the scale.
During this stage I started painting the interior of the vehicle. It will be a very hard job to paint all the details once the hull has been closed up. Of course, if you donít want the hatches open, never mind the painting, but that would in my opinion be rather foolish, because the great interior offered in this kit, really makes this model stand out.
On the left hull side thereís a small tool box, which has a nicely molded pad lock, and on the left hull side the FT 17 carried some pioneer tools, a shovel and a pick axe, which are secured with straps made from PE.
The roof armor is made up by two pieces. Again, be careful to align these parts right, because it will be extra work, when the roof is going to be fitted to the hull sides later on. On top of the roof is a small housing with a PE grill on top. This part is to be fitted after the hammer is attached, or else the hammer canít get through the small opening in the housing.
Next is the assembly of the hull sides, front and rear armor plates and roof. At this stage the fuel tank is also going to be installed, but since it is such a nice part, and that it is totally hidden away under the roof and between fire wall and the radiator, I decided to leave it out. This piece can have some better use as stowage in a garage in a diorama or such, than be hidden away forever. The same thing can be said for the transmission, as nothing really can be seen of it at all. A real shame, since these parts are really nice looking and well-engineered.
Be careful when gluing the frontal armor plates. They are very small, and are a bit difficult to get fitted in the right angles.
The assembly of the wheels and running gears isnít quite as difficult as it may appear in the construction manual. Yes, there are a lot of parts, but itís pretty straight forward, and all the parts fit very well. All the wheels can actually be made running, so with the workable tracks, youíre set up for a little carpet warfare. If so, I recommend you do this when the wifeís out of the house. Well, back to reality. The drive sprockets are great looking, and have some tiny casting numbers molded on the sides, which is a nice touch. As for the idler wheels, Meng Model gives you two options; one set of steel wheels, and one set of wooden ones. I chose the wooden ones, simply because theyíre different and that they look cool. I havenít been able to find any references on these kind of wheels, so I really canít say, if this is a correct fit for this version, sorry.
The unditching tail is a small structure, but it has got a lot of riveting detail. Again options are given. For the 1940 French version and the 1944 Luftwaffe version, a towing hook is added. For the other two versions, a folded tarp has to be used. I, of course, messed this up, and added the towing hook, which is a mistake, as my vehicle is a 1918 version. I only noticed this after Iíd painted the kit, so please, donít do that at home.
Next the tracks are to be assembled, and as said before, these are workable. They are just great. They have only a minimum of clean up and they clicks together very easily. It took me only 10 minutes to assemble these tracks and Meng Model has nailed these just rights. Iíd tried a lot of different types of so called ďclick-together-workable-tracksĒ, but these are the first ones, which actually worked as intended. Well done Meng Model!
The next two steps are attaching all the different hatches. These can all be assembled either open or closed, but I recommend to leave them open, as all the vehicles nice interior will be lost.
And now itís turret time. The weapon assembly is very straight forward, just be careful to choose the right armament for your chosen version. My vehicle choice comes with the 37 mm gun, and therefore I also have to assemble an ammunition rack to go inside the turret side. Here you can decide how many rounds you want in the rack. Meng Model has provided tiny shells, which each have to be cut from a sprue, cleaned up, and then glued in. if you think this sound fiddly, youíre absolutely right. The carpet monster will be fed, but fortunately Meng Model provides many extra shells, so no worries there.
The turret is really nice looking, with a great cast mold on the outside, and here too, small casting numbers are visible. Thereís not much interior in the turret, only the gun breech and the ammo rack, but there probably wasnít much more in the real vehicles anyway. Meng Model provides a strap from PE, which the commander used as a seat. A really nice detail.
Iíll recommend painting the gun breech and ammo rack before you attach them in the turret, because it will be very hard to get to all the details, when the turret is assembled.
The two hatches in the back of the turret can be open or closed, but again, if closed, nothing of the turret interior can be seen.
As only one paint scheme for the WW I version was given, I chose to follow that. One could probably find other paint schemes on the internet or in books, but I kind of like this four colored one. Since the FT 17 was in service during the Great War, I find it a bit strange that Meng Modeldidnít offer more painting and marking options.
All in all, this kit has been an interesting build, and a nice break from my usual German WWII AFVís.