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AFV Club 1/35 scale Walker Bulldog

Kit: No. 35041
Scale: 1/35
Manufacturer: AFV Club, distributed by Marco Polo Import, 532 S. Coralridge Place, City of Industry, CA 91746, 626-333-2328, www.marcopoloimport.com
Price: $39.98
Comments: Injection-molded, 311 parts (14 vinyl, 1 metal, 1 string), decals
Pros: Excellent detail, good fit, fine aluminum cannon barrel, excellent road wheels, one-piece vinyl track
Cons: No interior or crew figures, headlight lenses molded in olive drab, many small fragile parts, fragile drive sprocket attachment

As World War II came to a close, the U.S. military was concerned about how quickly defense industries could gear up for new production to replace aging or obsolete designs should the need arise. Although the M24 light tank was performing well, a new light tank was proposed. Armed with a 76mm main gun, the vehicle featured a torsion bar suspension and a mixture of welded and cast armor plate. This tank became the M41 "Little Bulldog," later renamed the Walker Bulldog (after Gen. Walton Walker, who was killed in a car accident during the Korean War). The chassis became the basis for the Duster antiaircraft vehicle, several self-propelled guns, and even some armored personnel and cargo transports. The Bulldog family was also popular with many armies in Europe and Asia, and many still serve today.

AFV Club's Walker Bulldog is well-molded in olive drab plastic and shows excellent detail. The engine deck is molded in separate pieces, indicating future kits based on this chassis. A nice touch is the turned-aluminum main gun barrel.

The instruction booklet has good illustrations, but the locations of some of the small detail parts are vague. A well-molded .50-cal machine gun is provided for the turret, along with the gun shield that was used on some Bulldogs during service in Vietnam. AFV Club has switched to one-piece gluable vinyl tracks for this kit, but if you prefer individual link tracks, AFV Club has them available as a separate kit. The main wheels of the M41 (along with the M24 Chaffee and M551 Sheridan) had an undercut rim that has been missed in other kits (except Jaguar's resin Sheridan). AFV club molded them properly, and has even issued a separate wheel set if you want to upgrade other kits.

The decals are well-printed, and markings are given for seven different vehicles. No interior components or figures are included in the kit.

I started by assembling the lower hull. The M41's torsion bar suspension is complex, but AFV Club has captured the detail well. The parts fit is excellent. I left off the road wheels, drive sprocket, and idlers to make it easier to paint the lower hull. The provided vinyl keepers make it easy to install them later in the assembly.

On the upper hull, the engine deck pieces fit well to the hull and to each other, but a gap appeared when I placed the upper hull on the lower hull. A touch of epoxy putty here was the only filler I used on the kit.

I like the separately molded handles for the storage bins. The rear-mounted travel lock can be positioned in either the locked or stored position. The driver's hatch can be positioned either opened or closed, although there is no detail on the inside of the hatch. Like most injection-molded kits, the brush guards for the headlights are too thick for scale. I left off the tools to make it easier to paint.

With the hull assembled, the turret was next. The main components of the turret fit well. The detail is excellent; the tiny weld beads are captured perfectly. I used five-minute epoxy to attach the aluminum gun barrel to its mount, making sure the extractor was positioned properly on the barrel, and the barrel situated correctly in the mount.

The two turret hatches can be positioned open or closed, but again, neither shows much internal detail. Separate grab handles are provided for the turret, but they are easily damaged when removed from the sprue and cleaned up. If you are planning to use the markings for scheme B, leave the grab handles off the turret until the decals are applied.

I painted my Bulldog with Polly Scale acrylics. The decals went down without problems over a brush-coat of Future, and they responded well to Micro Sol. Rather than try to paint the periscope lenses, I used a bright blue solid decal sheet cut in thin strips to represent the prisms. A spray of Polly Scale clear flat blended the decals into the paint finish.

Separate lenses are provided for the headlights, but in my sample they are molded in olive-drab plastic rather than clear. I made lenses from five-minute epoxy.

Finally, I installed the road wheels and the tracks. The attachment point of the drive sprocket is particularly fragile, having only a small pin to hold it in place.

It took me about 16 hours to build my Walker Bulldog. The finished model matches the dimensions given in Armored Fighting Vehicles in Profile Volume 4.

The detail on AFV Club's kit is excellent; just what we have come to expect from today's kits. But handling the large number of small and delicate parts requires experience. I can't wait to see what other vehicles AFV Club produces from this family - maybe a new M42 Duster?

John Plzak

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