A-34 'Comet' Mk1.A
|Kit # VS720002||Preview by Rob Haelterman|
A34 Comet (I believe without the hyphen) was the ultimate development
of the line of British Cruiser tanks and the immediate successor to
the Cromwell. It sported a powerful 76.2mm gun, which was different
from the 17pdr in the Sherman Firefly, and used shorter rounds (meaning
that this set cannot be used,
Vespid is a brand new Chinese manufacturer, having only released two kits for the moment (the German Maus and this Comet).
Upon opening the box, looking at the parts and going through the instructions, I had a feeling of déjà vu, immediately reminding me of Flyhawk kits, which, no doubt, is a very good sign.
The instructions are clearly printed, in color, on glossy paper. The "Bonus" metal barrel might be a limited-issue item, or might just mean that you can choose between the plastic barrel and the metal item. A few parts are not for use. If this makes you wonder if this means a variant of this kit will be released, then you will probably be right, as they represent a spoked idler, smoke grenade launchers and fishtail exhausts. More about that later.
Tracks are link-and-length, and the only building option currently offered is a difference in engine cowls. From my (currently limited) research, I understand that the evolution of the exhaust was as follows
All parts are crisply molded with delicate detail, except for the fire extinguishers on the rear of the turret (which I forgot to correct/enhance). Even the muzzle of the little BESA machine guns is open. The circular driver's hatch in the glacis can be positioned open; top/side hull hatches are closed, though.
is well detailed, but will mostly be hidden by the appliqué
armor (A8 and A10), the roadwheels and the tracks.
You get two sprues with the suspension and some sundry bits. The return rollers are single pieces, courtesy of slide molding.
pictures of wartime, operational Comets show a canvas mantlet cover,
which is not included in the kit.
Three marking options are provided
The decal sheet is well printed, but perhaps a little ragged. My scanner never allows me to show white decals on a blue background.
The brass barrel is just lovely.
A small fret of photo-etched parts is provided.
The Online Tank Museum teaches me that:
Construction of the hull
A general note about the plastic used in this kit is that it is soft, reacting very well to MEK, for instance. There is always some risk of glue ruining detail. It's also rather brittle and tends to "flake" when cut.
The hull poses no main issues. I can only offer a few remarks.
The tracks are link-and-length. Typical for this kit is the large number of sprue gates that attach to the tracks, requiring a lot of clean up. Any slip of the knife will immediately remove the heads of the track pins next to them (as I discovered). An alternative is to rely on the tendency of the plastic to flake and to remove the tracks from the sprues with a short end of sprue still attached to them and then break off the latter.
The only major issue I had when assembling the tracks was related to the drive sprocket (at the rear of this tank). I didn't manage to get it close enough to the hull to align them with the roadwheels without removing a fair bit of plastic from the rear of the idler and the axle mount on the hull. (We'll come back to the sprockets later.)
I don't mind link-and-length tracks, but I prefer to have at least a few spare individual tracks. This kit doesn't. As I also prefer to add a single link between the lengths to avoid an angular passage. I used one on the bottom run near the drive sprocket, but then ran out of individual tracks for the idler. As this is one of the rare kits where the total length of tracks perfectly covers the whole track run, I couldn't resort to my traditional trick and bend the short length of tracks at the front bottom solved this minor issue. In the end, I had to slightly bend the frontmost track link of the bottom run. Or in short: with this kit it's better just to follow the instructions and be done with it.
After finishing the suspension, I added the small skirts at the front and back of the fenders, only to discover that they wouldn't fit. In fact, even after having altered the sprocket mount to make it sit closer to the hull, the tracks still slightly stuck out from underneath the fenders, interfering with the skirts. The sprockets were removed again, positioned even closer and the raised area on the rear of the skirts (which is there to ensure a good joint) was sanded smooth. Unfortunately, by removing this positive joint, I slightly misaligned the skirts, which now required sanding. The bolts that are at the very edge of these skirts got damaged in the process, requiring some of them to be reconstructed from stretched sprue.
After the minor headache with the skirts, things went more smoothly, if it weren't for the brittleness of the plastic. Many delicate pieces (crowbar, spade,...) snapped when removing them from the sprues.
As I was going to build "Crusader", I used the two-part cowl covers; a choice that helped me avoid having to fill in ejection marks on the inside of the single-cowl part. The spare tracks seen in the picture came from a Revell Panzer III. (These tracks are the same as the Panzer IV.)
instructions aren't always 100% clear in my opinion when it comes
to the smaller parts. In at least one area, the tow cable, they are
actually wrong. The cable was typically fitted on the glacis, as the
boxtop shows. (Never mind that only the eyes are provided and that
the cable is not even mentioned.) About the boxtop: it shows small
towing eyes on the lower glacis, that fit in the lowest of the three
holes in the mount. These small towing eyes existed, but the kit provides
the larger ones, that go in the middle hole (as the instructions tell
you to do). "Crusader" had the larger towing eyes. Note
that some tanks had both the small and large towing eyes fitted at
the same time.
Construction of the turret
After finishing the hull, except for some minor details, I turned to the turret. I opted for open hatches, which the kit allows, if you cut the hatches in two. There is no detail inside the turret, so I will need to put some figures inside at some point. Actually, there is some bolt detail to the rear of the gun mantlet, where nobody will ever see it.
Note that the real Comet had a rotating commander's cupola, which the kit doesn't cater for.
A major omission in this kit is the tarp over the gun mantlet, which almost all operational tanks (including "Crusader") were equipped with. Sometimes the spotlight was also covered with a tarp. About that spotlight: a minor omission in this kit is its electrical cable, which is strange as the cables for the smoke grenades are already present on the turret and have to be removed. (This is another indication that a later version of the Comet will appear soon.) Another minor omission are the canvas straps at the rear of the turret.
The instructions give you two options for the antenna mount, but don't specify which one to use for which marking option, and don't mention the actual antenna (which is not included). (After having finished the kit, I've started wondering, if I shouldn't have installed two antennas.)
The "birdcage" aiming device in front of the commander's cupola is a fiddly thing and while the instructions would have you fold it with a flat top section, the boxtop has it in an inverted V-shape, which, I believe, is more correct, although the boxtop forgets to show the actual sighting vanes.
is a very good kit, with fine detail, but which required a little
care in some areas, which mostly concerned the drive sprocket. The
plastic is a little flaky, but apart from that, there is nothing to
Kit purchased by the reviewer.