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Meng 1/35 scale A39 Tortoise

Kit:TS-002 // Scale:1/35 // Price:$70
Meng Models, from Stevens International, 856-435-1555
Fits and cast texture of molding are excellent; easy-to-build individual-link tracks
Bogie assemblies are difficult to build; poor fit of the rear fighting compartment; heavy seam on the lower nose
Injection-molded, 611 parts (and one string), decals

Expecting to carry out a long siege after the invasion of Europe, the Allies started developing heavy assault tanks. Several British designs were developed, but the AT16 would eventually be accepted for production and renamed the A39 Tortoise. Only six would be built before the war was over and the project abandoned. One still resides today in the Bovington armor museum and has been restored to running condition. Surprising many modelers, Meng has chosen the Tortoise as the second release in its Tyrannosaurus series. 

When you open the box, you realize just how big this beast is. Amazingly, through the magic of slide molding, the fighting compartment is molded as one piece with excellent cast texture on all sides. Only the rear plates are separate moldings. The kit features individual-link tracks molded in an earthen brown plastic. The rest of the parts are molded in olive green. A small instruction booklet features clear line-drawing assembly directions and a full-color painting guide. There are no decals or figures included.

Several of the parts, especially the smoke-grenade tubes (B44) and the tow-shackle pins (B11, B10) have very fine attachment points; make sure you check the parts bags for loose pieces. I would suggest removing the smoke-grenade tubes from the sprues immediately to avoid knocking them off while handling the sprues. One of mine fell prey to my parts-eating carpet; I had to replace it with brass tubing.

As with many armor models, suspension assembly is tedious. I found it easiest to attach the end plates (A1) to the suspension bodies (B28, B29, B30) before attaching the wheel assemblies. After trapping the torsion link (A3) between the body halves, it was easy to swing the wheel assemblies up and snap them into place. Make sure the suspension arms face the right way up when assembling the bodies, and make sure the torsion link goes in the right direction when snapping in the wheel assemblies.

Before adding the suspension assemblies in Step 3, I added the glacis plate (C23) to the lower hull. The fit was pretty poor, and there is a nasty mold seam in the cast area of the front lower hull. I reworked these parts with a round cutting bit in my motor tool, then blended in the parts by dabbing the areas with a small, stiff brush and Mr. Surfacer 500.

After some test-fitting, I decided to install the side skirts on the hull at the same time as the suspension assemblies. I painted the parts, then started adding the suspension assemblies from the middle working outward. By only gluing the side skirts as the parts were added, I was able to install the next assembly. I left the tracks off until painting was complete.

The fit of the rear plate (C28) to the fighting compartment needs a lot of motor-tool work and Mr. Surfacer 500 to blend the piece in. Make sure you add all the parts that need to go onto the fighting compartment from the inside before attaching it to the hull. I found the fighting compartment needed clamping for a snug fit at the left rear fender.

Removing the smoke launcher conduits (D36-39) from their sprues required careful work with a fine razor saw. I left off the tow cables, spare track links, and all the gun barrels until after painting.

I painted my Tortoise with Tamiya olive drab. The small triangle on the front is flat red; supposedly, this is a warning placard that states the vehicle is made of mild steel. The Bovington vehicle has P1 over PE3530 in large, white block letters on both sides of the fighting compartment, just above the single spare track link, but no markings are supplied with the kit.

I gave the model a wash of burnt umber and black oil paints. Once that was dry, I dry-brushed with Vallejo U.S. field drab.

To install the tracks, I assembled two sets of 21 links and glued them in place on the bogie wheels. Then I glued four lengths of 15 links each and, before the glue set hard, wrapped the pieces over the drive sprockets/idlers and mounted them on the bogies. (No one will ever be able to see that the upper run of tracks is missing.)

Tow cables are represented by string; despite measuring the string precisely to 108mm, my tow cables were a bit long. I had to fudge the rear attachment point to make them fit.

My finished Tortoise exactly matched the full dimensions I found on Wikipedia. I really think the model needs a figure or two to give a better sense of the mammoth vehicle’s size.

I took about 22 hours to build my model, as the one-color scheme and lack of markings made things go quickly. 

Although there is nothing really complicated about the kit, the small and delicate parts require a modeler with some experience to build this kit.

Note: A version of this review appeared in the March 2013 FineScale Modeler.


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