IDF Sho't Kal Gimel 1982
by AFV Club
You've got to hand it to AFV Club, they are really doing Centurions right. This is the third Israeli Centurion that they have released and I believe the seventh Centurion kit. Way to go.
This kit represents the 'Gimel' (Hebrew letter C) variant of the Centurion Sho't Kal in the early 1980s. The most notable change in this model is the addition of ERA blocks on the hull and turret for additional protection. Even though this review is a full build, it should be noted that variants of the AFV Club Centurion have been reviewed by AMPS members in the past. Here's a link to a very comprehensive full build review:
Since much of this new kit uses the same basic parts of the rest of the Centurion series, this review will concentrate on the new items that are unique the the Sho't Kal Gimel. But first, here are the photos of the sprues:
Yeah, there's a lot of parts.
I started building the model by following the instructions and assembling the suspension. While doing that I put together the major hull parts. I've found it best to deviate from the assembly sequence of most instructions in this way in case some sanding and putty work is required. This was the case here but nothing too significant. The rest of the initial assembly is pretty much common to the other AFV Club Centurion kits and I ran into no significant issues.
The suspension on this kit is workable so I took advantage of this and carved a simple base with a little terrain variation on it. Then I put some glue into the suspension parts and set it on the base to dry. The result is that now the suspension is locked in an articulated position. It's nothing too dramatic but once finished it will give the model a nice 'real world' look.
The rest of the hull build is pretty straight forward. There are a lot of tiny pieces and they have really good detail. But care must be taken to not loose or break them. The headlight assembly in particular is a beautiful build up of 10 tiny parts each. It's really complex but so is the real one and this is the best representation I've seen that wasn't done in complex photoetch.
One problem I did run into is that AFV Club doesn't give you enough cord for the tow cables. The instructions indicate a length of 13 cm and there 4 lengths of cord needed for the two cables. So that's a length of 52 cm and the cord in the box was only 30 cm. I think AFV Club might have miscalculated the length needed since each tow cable has two lengths of cord not one. So I used some nylon cord I have to replace the kit supplied cord.
The new parts for this version of Sho't Kal are the ERA blocks. These are very nicely represented with good details on the mounting studs. They glue straight onto the hull and stowage boxes so I ran into no trouble attaching them.
Like the hull, the initial assembly of the turret mirrors the other Centurion kits. The turret shell consists of left and right side parts, a bottom insert and the roof. I found the roof to be a little small so some putty, sanding and retexturing was needed to get it all to line up.
The cannon is a very nice metal barrel with a two part plastic bore evacuator and a single piece of vinyl for the cover where the cannon goes into the mantlet. Also included is a soft vinyl mantlet cover. I had no trouble using this by first gluing it to the turret, then positioning the gun, and then gluing it to the mantlet.
With the main turret parts assembled, I turned to the basket. This is a pretty complex assembly that requires a lot of patience to get lined up. The parts are well molded with only a small amount of clean up so that helps cut the time down. But the rear bars on the basket are a stack up of three parts and you have to make sure to line up each one. Then they are attached to the bottom parts of the basket and finally, the sides are put on to line everything up. Once dry, there are some very well done photoetch parts for the mesh. I wish AFV Club could have found a way to mold a few more items together since it is a lot of work and you have to be very careful or else you end up with alignment problems.
The rest of the turret parts are pretty straight forward assemblies. The new items are the ERA blocks and the smoke dischargers. The ERA blocks are nicely molded and pretty straight forward to use. The smoke dischargers are a set of parts that must be assembled and some putty and sanding was needed to fill the gaps in the box section. But the upside to AFV Club's approach to these parts is that the detail is really excellent so its worth the extra time to get the '3D' look to them.
The last set of assemblies are the machine guns. Here I got some excellent advice from fellow Review Crew member, Rob Goldman. Rob's from AMPS Israel and a real expert on this tank. First he told me to use the Uzis with the folding stock. AFV Club gives you that version and one with the fixed stock. That's really cool since I now have some excellent spares for another project. Also included are two types of Galil machine guns but if you use the Uzis in their racks then you wouldn't also have the Galils. Yet more sweet extras!
Along with the personal weapons, AFV Club provides a pair of .30 cal MGs for the loader and commander's stations and a .50 cal MG that's mounted on the mantlet and slaved to the main gun. But Rob explained to me that it was more common for the commander to mount a FN Mag than a .30 cal. Turns out AFV Club actually provides a set of FN Mags on the same sprues as the .30 cals. They give you a pair on each sprue, with and without the butstock. Also included are the support cradle for the FN MAG (parts U19, 20, and 45) with the rest of the parts being common to the .30 cals. So you can mount one or two FN Mags if you wish instead of the .30 cals. AFV Club seriously sold themselves short by not including these in their instructions. But I'd rather have the parts than not so thanks AFV Club. Also on this sprue are the search lights. The kit shows it either mounted to the commander's cupola or to his .30 cal (or FN Mag). Since you get two of these sprues, you can actually mount one on each MG as I did. There is an electrical cable that runs from the light which I made out of solder wire.
The .50 cal MG assembly is one the best I've ever seen in plastic. The bulk of the parts are on their own sprue and include multiple barrels (all with slide molded holes in the barrel end) including a fully jackets 'aircraft style' barrel. The specific Israeli parts, like the mount and the ammo can are on the same sprues as the .30 cals and FN Mags. But unfortunately, AFV Club doesn't not give you the parts for the mechanism that actuates the .50 cal from inside the turret. I bought a resin set from Legend Productions and fitted the mechanism to the AFV Club parts. This is really the only significant error in the kit and hopefully AFV Club will add these parts in the future if they release more versions of the Sho't.
Painting and Weathering
The kit instructions indicate that the model should be painted 'sandy yellow' and reference colors are listed for Gunze Sangyo, Humbrol, Revell and Lifecolor. But, upon Rob Goldman's recommendation and my own experience, I chose to use Model Master Israeli Armor Sand. Since I like to use the panel fading method of painting, I first painted the model in an overall medium brown and then panel faded in the Armor Sand and then a lighter panel fade using Model Master Sand.
Then I applied the markings. The kit comes with markings for four tanks, all of which are pretty similar. I had no problem using the decals in the kit but I did notice that the large white stripe that runs along the top of the barrel is not represented by a decal. I guess AFV Club is expecting the modeler to paint this on. Personally, I hate trying to do that since its tough to keep the lines really straight. So instead I found a white stripe of the right width and cut it into segments to fit along the barrel. This worked great and I only had to do a tiny amount of touch up around the bore evacuator.
After that, I painted all of the details like the machine guns, stowage, mantlet cover, etc. and gave the model a flat coat. Once thoroughly dry I applied a wash of thinned Raw Umber oil paint. I was happy with the look of the model at this point and didn't do any further weathering.
This is a great kit. The details are really in abundance and AFV Club's use of small parts, while adding a little to the complexity, really makes this kit burst with a sense of realism. About the only notable error is the lack of the actuation mechanism for the .50 cal MG.
My sincere thanks AFV Club for sending this sample.