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Tamiya 1/48 scale British Tank Challenger II (Desertised) plastic model kit

Another winning tank model kit with good detail, good fits, and excellent engineering
Kit:32601 // Scale:1/48 // Price:$33
Tamiya (Sample courtesy of Tamiya America)
Excellent detail; good fit; link-and-length tracks
Solid molded headlights; lack of alternate markings
Injection-molded plastic (light tan); 163 parts (1 cast metal; 4 vinyls; string); decals
The new Tamiya 1/48 scale British Tank Challenger II represents the “desertised” version of the UK’s main battle tank. It features over 150 parts molded in tan plastic, link-and-length tracks keyed to the road wheels for nearly foolproof installation, and decals for just one vehicle of the Royal Scots Guards in Iraq in 2003. The clear instructions present clear diagrams and detail painting callouts, and a separate, small painting and decal guide is included.

Following the instructions, I began the assembly with the lower hull, which, interestingly, has no side panels. The reactive armor side skirts hide this fact on the finished model. Two bulkheads align the side armor and hull top. All the suspension arms are molded in place on the hull. As is typical of Tamiya’s 1/48 scale armor kits, a metal weight inside the hull adds heft to the finished model.

The assembly sequence moves to the running gear and tracks next, but I decided to leave them until I had assembled and painted the lower hull (minus the side armor). Following the instructions would have been easier because adding the tracks later turned out to be tricky.

When adding the upper hull, I noticed a significant gap where it met the rear plate. A strong rubber band wrapped around the hull pulled the rear panel tight until the glue dried. It worked so well, it didn’t need filler. I left the larger details on the rear plate until last to make painting easier.

The turret parts fit well and required no filler for the joins. Vinyl keepers allow you to elevate the gun on the finished model. I left the rear IFF panels (Part A20), machine gun, commander figure, and hatch until I finished the main painting.

After the base color dried, I gloss-coated everything in preparation for decals and pinwash. Tamiya gets a lot of criticism for their thick decals, but I found these decals thin and workable, and paired well with Micro Set and Sol. The kit provides decals for all the vision ports and some sensors. While the vision ports should have a reddish anti-laser coating, they often appear black in photos.

For me, the most challenging part of this project was painting the commander figure, particularly the camouflage fatigues. I used various Vallejo paints over a Tamiya Buff (No. XF-57) base. Eventually, I found myself with an acceptable commander (if you don't look too closely), installed him in the top opening, and added the side skirts, turret machine gun, and turret antenna to finish the model.

I spent about 13 hours building Tamiya’s 1/48 scale Challenger II (desertised), and the finished model matched the vehicle dimensions. While I wouldn't recommend this kit for a young beginner, a teen or adult with a little bit of experience should have no problem building and painting this kit. The Challenger II is exactly what we have come to expect from Tamiya: good detail, good fit, and excellent engineering.
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