|Challenger I MBT (Desert Version)
|by Simon Barnes - su27flanker(at)btinternet(dot)com
Edited by Al Magnus
I had hopes for this kit, but maybe I should have looked at the box more carefully before getting excited! Without going into history and service I will concentrate on the model. The kit comes well packed with protective wrapping around all the delicate parts. The kit measures out to 1/72 scale. Moulded in light grey plastic the first thing to strike me was the tracks and outer wheels moulded as a single unit, similar to the IS III although this time there are no options for link and length.
The hull top is very good with the details being slightly better than the Revell kit, however it does have its drawbacks.
The Trumpeter hull includes a lot of detail missing from the Revell kit, such as the guards around the filler caps, clasps on the stowage bin & fire extinguishers, but they are moulded on. The shovel has better definition and the fire handles are represented and even in the right place.
The drawbacks are the moulded on tools and fire extinguishers as well as the equipment in front of the driver. With this being the uparmoured version I was surprised to find that there is no mention in the instructions that these have to be removed before fitting the bow armour.
The hull tub comes as a single piece and is the correct width.
The suspension arms are separate and slightly more robust than the Revell attachments. The inner wheels are then fixed to the arms. The final drive housings for the sprockets are separate (oddly there are four supplied) as are the idler arms. Also included are the attachment bars for the side skirts. The spare barrels are simple affairs with good definition on the retaining straps but the cradles lack detail.
The outer road wheels and tracks come as one moulding and actually are not that bad to look at. The wheels have good definition as do the tracks.
turret has definitely benefited from slide moulding, with detail
now present on the walls of the turret. The stowage bin that is
optional in the Revell kit is moulded in place on the Trumpeter kit.
The odd thing is that the armoured door for the main sight is moulded
shut, and while it does do this, it is very rare to see it in such
a position. However Trumpeter did get the slight depression in front
of the sight correct. The loader periscope while not 100% is better
defined and shaped than the Revell one. Where this kit falls down
is in stupid mistakes, such as the rear bin (or some call it the
NBC housing but I am not certain of that) which is the wrong shape with
the corners cut off and the hinges being on the wrong side (see addendum by Timothy Lau below), and worse
than all that is the barrel is upside down, the smooth portion of the thermal jacket should be at the bottom.
The next sprue contains various parts to be added to the turret and hull, along with the rear plate for the hull. Unfortunately most of the details are moulded in place such as the spare track links and towing device. The commanders hatch is moulded shut and his sight suffers from the same problem as the Revell counterpart in that the front is vertical and not angled back towards the bottom as it should be. The GPMG is a fair representation but has only one ammo box and not the normal three, but the searchlight is included. Also included are a decent set of smoke dischargers, as well as the same rectangular mesh bin for the left side as found in the Revell kit that I have yet to see on a real vehicle. A Chieftain bin is also included to fit in the same location. The front stowage basket has solid sides with no indication of mesh but the front is left blank, easy enough to fit mesh in. The hinges are shown on the TOGS housing but no outline of a door. Also included are jerry cans in their holders.
The lights in the instructions are mounted backwards and should be mounted on the opposite to the sides shown, left should be right and vice versa. The right hand side should have the horn on it facing outwards although the different shape of the guard is not shown in the kit.
The final sprue contains the additional armour, although the kit is missing the attachment plates fitted to the side of the hull, making this a simplistic arrangement. The tow cable is at least nice.
Decals are included for two schemes, both from Desert storm or OP Granby, depending on which side of the pond you are, although it is unclear as to which decals belong to which as the instructions show all the decals fitted to 1 vehicle. There are however two number plates so more info will have to be found.
This is a nice kit let down by stupid mistakes. Do manufacturers take small scale modern modelling seriously? I sometimes doubt it. The best way to get a Challenger is to mix the two kits, using the Trumpeter kit as a start then adding Revell parts. They seem to complement each other: what's missing on one is present on the other. I feel sure that the Revell running gear will fit the Trumpeter kit easily, but as a serious stand alone model, it falls short of the mark.
 Challenger 1 and 2, Concord mini colour, Walter Boehm and Peter Siebert, Concord Publications, 2001 ISBN: 9623616708
 Challenger Squadron, Europa Militaria, Simon Dunstan, Crowood, 1999 ISBN: 1861263015