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Italeri 1/35 scale Crusader III AA Mk.III

Kit: No. 6444
Scale: 1/35
Manufacturer: Italeri, from Testors, 815-962-6654,
Price: $36
Comments: Injection-molded, 247 parts (6 vinyl), decals
Pros: Version previously unavailable, well-fitting track
Cons: Older parts have fit problems, basic turret detail, no part numbers on sprues
By mid-World War II, the Crusader was obsolete as a battle tank, but like other armies, the British made use of old vehicles. By mounting twin 20mm Oerlikon cannons in an open-top turret, the vehicle would provide mobile anti-aircraft support.

This modified reissue of Italeri's Crusader marks the first time this version has been available in plastic. The kit features good external detail and one-piece vinyl tracks. The instructions feature exploded diagrams that are sometimes vague about parts' location. You have to use the parts map on the instructions to discover where the parts are located on the un-numbered sprues. Decals are provided for three different olive-drab vehicles. No figures are included.

The instructions show that you have to remove some details from the kit parts to allow the addition of new parts and account for the minor differences between the original tank and the anti-aircraft vehicle. I left off the running gear in step 3, preferring to add it in final assembly. I filled some minor gaps where the rear plate was installed and in the driver's box. I left off the external fuel tank as I couldn't find any photos of the AA version with it installed. I added most of the small details to the turret but didn't assemble it until painting was finished.

After painting, I sprayed a coat of Future where the decals were to be applied on the turret. Solvaset was needed to get the top turret star to conform over the irregular surface. Fortunately, Italeri provides this decal in three pieces to make it easier to apply.

Only a basic interior is provided for the turret; advanced modelers will want to add more detail. This is nifty, though: The gun sight is linked to the guns, so it elevates when the guns are raised. Nearing the end, I installed the one-piece vinyl tracks. They look good once they are glued down to the tops of the wheels to reproduce natural sag. I stretched sprue for the aerials; the instructions say to use "stirred" sprue; that's a new one.

The finished model matches the information in Hogg and Weeks' The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Military Vehicles. It took me about 12 hours to build my model. While the base kit is several decades old, it still is an acceptable model. Thanks, Italeri, for modifying these old chestnuts.

- John Plzak


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