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Vulcan Models' Mark VIB North Africa

When Vulcan Models announced the release of this 1/35th scale Vickers Light Tank back in 2011, many in the various forums rejoiced. This has been an important early war tank which had been neglected as a 1/35th scale model in injection molded styrene but has appeared in resin or in injection molded plastic in a much smaller scale. Now in 2014, we have the third variant released by Vulcan Models with the Mk VIC in the interim.


The Kit
This is kit 56011, marked British Light Tank Mark VI B North Africa with the last two words on tape used to obscure the previous name "Desert Scheme." Inside the box with the attractive cover art were several sprues, each individually and carefully wrapped. These protected 164 parts in a mid-gray plastic, a photo-etched brass fret with 95 parts, a small sealed bag with 32 small metal springs and 8 thin brass rods for the delicate suspension, and the decal and instruction sheets. Answering the criticism over the metal rods, Sprue AF includes the spring mounts in all plastic without having to super glue the shaved off nuts to the metal rods.
Inspecting the sprues, the parts are well molded but there is quite a bit of thin flash. One of the sprues has crown bolts to slice off and use. The break down will facilitate other variants of this kit. There is evidence of slide molding, sliding pins, and multi-piece molds found throughout this well-engineered kit (so it seems at first inspection). I did find some minor sink marks but this was easily rubbed out with a stepSander.
  1. Box art.
  2. Sprue "A"only one sprue in box (both sides shown).
  3. Sprue "AFC" clear searchlight lens.
  4. Sprue "B"only one sprue in box (both sides shown).
  5. Sprue "C"only one sprue in box (both sides shown).
  6. Sprue "D"only one sprue in box (both sides shown).
  7. Sprue "E"only one sprue in box (both sides shown).
  8. Sprue "F".
  9. Sprue "T" only one sprue in box (both sides shown).
  10. Decals.
  11. Metal parts.
  12. Photo-etched brass set from kit 56008.
  13. Photo-etched brass set for kit 56011.
  14. Sprue "AF" front.
  15. Sprue "AF" rear.
  16. Sprue "SS" (sand shields) front.
  17. Sprue "SS" (sand shields) rear.
  18. Starboard three quarter view of turret from front.
  19. Starboard three quarter view of turret from rear.
  20. Port three quarter view of turret from front.
  21. Lower hull tub from the sides.
  22. Lower hull tub from front and aft.
  23. Commander's cupola from port.
  24. Commander's cupola from front showing vision flap.
  25. Air intake armor.
  26. Gun mantlet (only one in box).
  27. Three views of hatch ring for loader.

The instructions have you begin with the details to be added to the lower hull tub. While not mentioned in the instructions, it is possible to build the model and avoid the photo-etched brass pieces but they do add the finesse one wants. After completing the first four steps, the hull tub is ready for the suspension.
One will note that, other than a driver's seat and some vertical bulkheads, there is no interior. The driver's rear bulkhead should be at an angle matching the bolt pattern seen on the sides of the hull.
Steps 5 through 9 cover the suspension and this is where it gets complicated. Extreme care should be taken in identifying the metal springs and ensuring they do not get lost as there are no plastic alternatives in the box. Here is where the modeler will shave off the crown bolts to cap the metal rods holding the spring within a spring. The use of a cyano-acrylate glue is required. I know many modelers prefer to use epoxy cement but these parts are quite small and the viscosity of the epoxy cement will be a disadvantage.
The track is in links and lengths. While the instructions would have you glue the suspension bogies on then the tracks, I will be tack gluing them in place with the road wheels and sprocket free to turn as I line up the lengths. This will allow me to gently bend the top runs to impart some sag.
The next three steps, 10 through 12, add details to the hull. Test fitting part C34, I found the fit to improve when removing some interfering rivets/bolts from the hull side. Alternatives to the plastic headlights are offered in photo-etched brass.
The rest of the 18 steps, from 13 on, cover the turret. Parts E4 and E5 are the spent shell collector. I will mention more on this part later. While sliding pin molds are used, it was not for the base of the antenna (part D5). Here on must drill a 0.6 mm hole for the included plastic antenna. Utmost care is needed to remove the antenna, part D35, from the sprue.
The handles for the searchlight must be bent and no plastic alternative is offered. However, there is a 1:1 pattern in the instructions. The fit of the gun rotor, W1, to the turret front plate, D11, is very tight. The rotor piece does not match the drawing in the instructions. The gun barrels are hollowed out. Note that the armored sleeves for the gun barrel, part W2, have nice rivet detail all around but seams must be carefully removed.
All the hatches have optional positions (open or closed). They do have some interior details but the turret proper has none other than some crew seats. The spent shell collector should fit centered under the gun rotor but it doesn't. I had to reduce the length of the legs and fill in the gap caused since the contour of the bottom was different once shifted over to the correct space.
Other improvements were to modify the bottom of the armored gun sleeve as the trapezoidal pieces hanging underneath should represent spent shell chutes but are molded solid. One of the armored covers prevalent on the turret sides is in the wrong place and was moved to match the photographs. Robert Madden pointed out in the forum that the smoke launchers used in the kit are incorrect for a 1940 BEF tank. to properly replicate those, a cut down bolt rifle was used. See the link in the References section to see an image. The proper smoke launcher is included in the Tamiya Matilda kit.
Some of the hull bolt patterns were also tweaked to reflect the Mk VI B. I did add some engine access hatches to the starboard hull side based on a drawing in the manual. All of this is minor as one can leave off the spent shell collector and the rest isn't really visible unless comparing to photos.
Partially assembled kit with tweak suggestions (referring to the following photograph).

Remove armored plug from here.
Attach the previously removed armored plug here.
Replace the four rivets lost when relocating armored plug.
The sides of the gun mantlet needs reshaping to match photos.
The spent shell ejection ports need to be hollow.
Work is needed to make the spent shell bin fit properly.
The decals provide for two markings:
  • Tank of A Squadron, 6 RTR., 1 November 1940 named Acrippa.
  • Tank of C Squadron, 1 RTR, August 1940 named Angelesey.
In the end, it does build into the cute tank (my wife's words) that was missing from many early war tank collections and I do see the possibility of other variants coming forth.
*Note that the Vickers light tank at the Military Vehicle Technology Foundation is of the VI A variant with twin radiator covers, angular cupola, and different hull bolt patterns indicating changes in the interior lay out.
  1. Great Tank Scandal (British Armour in the Second World War) (Part 1) by David Fletcher.
  2. Tech Manual scans from ST.
  3. AFV Profiles.
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