I've always liked the look of the Char B1; to me it's the "missing link" between
the trapezoidal WWI British tanks and the more modern designs of WWII onwards. I'd very nearly given up hope of
ever seeing one in the manly scale and didn't really want to give the old Matchbox 1/76th scale version a go. I've
never seen one, but based on some of their other armour kits I'd had in my posession over the years I didn't expect good things.
So once again we can thank Trumpeter for coming to the rescue with a great little kit. Having
seen the sprues of the Tamiya 1/35th version on the net it looks to me like this is more or less a scaled down version of that
kit. The big giveaway being the odd holes moulded in the bottom of Tamiya's kit (for a future motorised release perhaps?) which
Trumpeter has faithfully copied. The road wheels are thankfully simplified in the small scale kit into beautifully done one piece
slide-moulded parts which would probably have sufficed in the larger scale as well since you can't see much of them on the finished model.
||There are some strange anomalies however that Trumpeter obviously didn't copy from Tamiya. The driver's
hatch & vision block are complete fabrications that bear little resemblance to the real thing. The hooks on the rear hull are not included
despite holes being moulded for them to fit into and the tow hooks are missing as well. All of these issues are fairly easy to fix, though I
must confess I didn't even notice the hatch & vision block problems until I read Miro Baric's very good review on this very site. I modified
the vision block by filing off the angled bottom and drilling and filing the opening into a rectangular hole, the visor being made from .020" sheet.
A new driver's hatch was scratchbuilt and the missing tow and rear stowage hooks were added from fuse wire & brass wire respectively. I also added
the long hinge straps on the side hatch which were conspicuous by their absence from the mouldings. The round indentation on this hatch
(which I think is something to do with the locking mechanism) was bigger on some Char B1s, Bourrasque included, so I drilled this out to enlarge it.
||The tracks are Trumpeter's usual one piece vinyl types but they are superbly moulded, though slightly too long. I cut
one link out and the fit was much better. The other standard item was the instruction sheet; good for assembly but not so good at telling you which
pieces went with which version. For instance, both early and late fenders & exhausts are included but there is no mention of which of the two markings
options they are applicable to. The options are No. 257 Bourrasque from 15e BCC 1ère Compagnie & No. 481 Vercingetorix from 46e BCC 3e Compagnie. As
much as I like the three colour camo of the latter I chose Bourrasque, though I'm not entirely convinced it wore the camouflage scheme depicted. In the
Minitracks Char B1 book there is a picture of Bourrasque and it looks very much like there was a black outline to the turret camouflage, leading me to
believe that the turret at least was painted in the three colour Renault scheme. Still, 257 is almost always depicted in the two colour camo (and I
think this is something else Trumpeter copied from Tamiya as the same two options with the same camouflage patterns are offered in that kit) and pictures
aren't clear enough to say with any certainty one way or the other so I painted mine the same way. Who am I to argue...?!
Paint is Humbrol Dark Green and a 60/40 mix of Dark Yellow & Light Stone, weathering is done with washes of Black and
Dark Earth. I lightly dry brushed silver on the tracks to represent wear. Decals were very nice though the blue was noticeably out of register so I
carefully trimmed the white outline of the hearts to correct this and overpainted the tiny heart on the lamp housing with blue and white. The roundel
was trickier. I managed to find a Turkish aircraft roundel in my collection of decal spares which was the right size and proportion so I punched out
the blue centre of the kit roundel and overlaid this on the Turkish marking. Works for me...
All in all a great little kit of a long awaited subject, despite the oddities.
Sidorenko informs us that in later versions of this kit, the issue
with the driver's hatch has been fixed.