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Tamiya SOMUA S35

Kit:35344 // Scale:1/35 // Price:$68
First new tool S35 since the Heller kit; high-quality moldings
Individual-link tracks difficult to join and keep together
Injection molded, 416 parts (220 vinyl, 1 white metal), decals

The SOMUA (Société d’Outillage Mécanique et d’Usinage d’Artillerie) S35 was one of the best-armed and -armored tanks at the start of World War II. Though hampered by an inefficient crew layout, it served throughout the war. Captured S35s were used extensively by the German army.

Tamiya's much-anticipated all-new S35 fills a gap in any collection of important WWII armor models. Finally, the old Heller kit can be retired.

Tamiya's kit is beautifully molded in dark yellow plastic. The molding does a fine job of representing the cast surface texture found on the real vehicle. Notable features include individual-link tracks, a commander figure, and metal chain.

I started construction by assembling the lower hull. The hull tub is one piece, a nice change from the trend of multipiece hull tubs. The lower hull is completed with side-mounting plates for the suspension and the lower hull front. The driver’s hatch can be posed open or closed.

The seven-piece main bogie units went together neatly. Unfortunately, in spite of all that nice detail, most of the suspension will not be visible.

The turret assembled without a problem. However, there is no gun or interior turret detail. The turret hatch can be posed open or closed. The commander's dome has a separate part for the visor so it also can be posed.

The upper hull attaches to the lower with a clip at the front end; at the rear, vinyl grommets lock down pins to hold the part in place. I did use some cement to secure the attachments. 

The driver’s hatch and the crew hatches can be posed open. The side engine hatches are separate parts. Tow chains (from real chain links), a tarp, and vehicle tools make up the exterior details. Strangely, there are no mounting brackets on either the tools or the hull!

Tracks are provided as individual links that clip together. I thought this was neat and would make assembly easy. Instead, I found them fragile and difficult to assemble. When I threaded them through the suspension, they tended to separate. Checking the links, I found that the tiny connecting pins were broken. I believe attaching the links as shown in the instructions caused the breaks. A better way is to work one side and then the other into the attaching link. Also, I used two extra links (104 versus 102) per side to give more play and eliminate the separation issues. I would consider using aftermarket tracks on a future build of this kit.

Clear parts are provided for the headlight and taillight.

I painted my S35 with Tamiya acrylic paint. Decals are provided for three vehicles. They applied well over a gloss coat. I did find the white’s translucence allowed darker colors to faintly show through.

My primary reference was Focus No. 2: SOMUA S35, by Pascal Danjou (Editions du Bartotin, ISBN 978-2-917661-01-7). Also useful was Panzerkampfwagen (Somua) 35 S-739(f): The French Somua S35 Tank in German Service 1940-45, by Jochen Vollert, Tankograd Wehrmacht Special No. 4020, no ISBN).

I finished my SOMUA in 35 hours — a little longer than anticipated due to the problems with the track assembly. Tracks aside, I enjoyed building this model from Tamiya. I highly recommend it to all 1/35 scale armor modelers.

Note: A version of this review appeared in the July 2015 FineScale Modeler.

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