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AFV Club 1/35 scale Australian Centurion Mk.5/1

RELATED TOPICS: ARMOR | MILITARY
Kit: No. 35100
Scale: 1/35
Manufacturer: AFV Club, from Merit International, 626-912-2212, www.merit-intl.com
Price: $42.50
Comments: Injection-molded, 485 parts (8 metal, 4 resin, 8 photoetched, 54 vinyl), decals
Pros: Excellent detail, accurate shapes, sprung suspension, turned-metal gun barrels
Cons: Some details missing on the instructions, some fit problems, missing mantlet canvas, incorrect templates for basket mesh, fume extractor needs to be bored out, difficult decals
For decades, modelers have wanted a new state-of-the-art Centurion kit. Now, at last, the AFV Club kit is here - and it's a stunner. The initial release is the Mk. 5/1 as used by the Australian Armoured Corps in Vietnam.

Molded in olive plastic, the kit shows excellent detail and myriad small parts. The tracks are one-piece, soft and flexible vinyl. Turned metal barrels are provided for both the main gun and the coaxial mounted machine gun, and metal springs are included for the suspension units. A small photoetched metal fret and a piece of stiff wire for the tow cables round out the parts. Decals for five different vehicles are given, but only four are shown on the instruction sheets. The initial release of the kit includes a four-piece resin commander figure.

Take care assembling the suspension units correctly and they will actually work like the real thing. The tires are separately molded in vinyl, not so much to make painting easier but to capture the weld where the wheels attach to the rims and the ridges on the inside of the rims. I assembled them as units and then painted using a circle template to mask the tires while painting the wheels.

Check the instructions carefully, as there are several details that have to be removed from the hull for this version. As usual, I left off all of the running gear until painting was complete. Missing from the instructions is the installation of the bolt plates (I12, 13, 18, 19) to the idler mounts (H8, 9). Fit of the upper hull components is good, requiring only a bit of putty around the rear grille (C40). You need to use an R3 vinyl keeper on the drive sprockets and an R2 on the idler wheels. The way it is listed in the instructions won't work.

Assembling the turret was a little more difficult. The turret uses vinyl keepers on the mantlet, but the sockets on the turret sides are too small. I enlarged the sockets with a motor tool, being careful not to damage the turret sides. Even so, the turret still did not fit well. I clamped and glued the turret top a little to reduce the seam. I scraped the seam and used a grinding bit in a motor tool to replicate the delicate cast texture of these parts.

The rear of the turret required quite a bit of filler. After filling and sanding the area, I dabbed on Mr. Surfacer 1000 to recreate the cast texture. I discovered too late that the instructions have you mount the wrong gun mantlet; use part F6 instead. Also, even though every picture of a Centurion I can find shows a canvas cover on the mantlet, none is represented in the kit.

Template B for the turret-basket mesh gave me a piece too short, so I wound up fabricating that area with two pieces of mesh. Surprisingly, the injection-molded fume extractor (I56, 57) will not fit over the end of the turned-metal barrel. An instruction-sheet errata recommends you file the opening to make it fit, but I used a No. 19 drill bit to enlarge it enough to fit over the front of the barrel.

The clear parts are molded in flexible plastic that is a little cloudy and difficult to clean up. Also, acrylic paint doesn't stick to it well, requiring touch-up.

I painted the Centurion with Tamiya olive drab lightened with about 20 percent desert yellow. The decals were applied over a coat of Future floor polish. The decals are thin, translucent, and difficult to move around once on the model. I had to carefully pick them up and move them to the proper location, as they would not slide.

My finished model matched exactly the dimensions stated in Squadron/ Signal's Centurion in Action. Despite a few minor problems, the kit builds into an excellent representation of the Centurion. A few leftover parts and the way the parts are broken down point to other versions on the horizon. I'm looking forward to a whole family of Centurions from AFV Club, as well as many aftermarket parts to come.

- John Plzak

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