AEC 4x4 Armoured Command Vehicle
AFV Club 1:35 Kit No. AF 35227
Review by Terry Ashley
Prior to outbreak of WWII, the British Army was planning a wheel armoured commander vehicle to provide the armoured troop commander and staff an appropriate command post.
CS9/LAC 4x4 chassis from Morris and Guy Lizard 4x4 chassis were adopted from 1937 to 1939, and 36 armoured commander vehicles completed. Those vehicles were used in inland UK. A few Guy Lizard armoured commander vehicles were sent to North Africa, saw services with the 8th Army. At the same time armoured regiments were blooming, obviously more armoured commander vehicles were needed.
Associated Equipment Company (AEC), who was best known by London double deck buses, was awarded with a contract from the Ministry of War Transport in April 1940, to produce a Matador 4x4 artillery tractor and an armoured commander vehicle with Matador 4x4 chassis. By 1941, AEC devoted itself to military needs totally, and the armoured commander vehicle entered mass production. With armours up 10-12 mm thick and weight up to 12.2 tons, the vehicle was able to accommodate up to 7-8 personnel. High Power and Low Power versions were built, with different radio equipment. A total of 415 were produced. It was nicknamed Dorchester by the troops, after the luxury hotel in London because it is very comfortable. The AEC Armoured Command Vehicle firstly saw service in North Africa Campaigns in the British Army service and throughout the war. 7 vehicles were handed to the Australian troops.
The kit can be built in three distinct sub-assemblies, the chassis/suspension, the front cab and the large body with full interior which unfortunately is mostly hidden after assembly unless you leave the roof off to display the interior. Oddly the instructions don’t mention fitting the chassis and body together, they just appear that way in the final illustration and there are some minor issues when fitting these sub-assemblies together, more on that below.
All the doors and roof hatches are separate parts allowing these to be positioned open to partially show the interior and for the more adventurous, LED lighting could be added to produce a sort of shadow box effect with the interior, but that is a whole new ball game outside this review, so let’s move on.
I don’t have any 1:35 plans of the Dorchester at this time but available data gives the vehicle dimensions as:
Length 6.10 m, Width 2.36 m, Height 2.90 m which equates in 1:35 scale to; Length 174.3mm, Width 67.4mm, Height 82.85mm. The built model measures out well to those dimensions give or take a mm here and there but this is only a rough analysis so overall I’d suggest the model is dimensionally accurate in so far as there are no glaring issues.
- 525 parts in light beige plastic
- 18 clear parts
- 36 PE parts
- 4 vinyl tyres
- 1 decal sheet
- 1 sheet of printed maps
- 1 paper sheet for the annex canvas cover
- 1 x 16 page instruction booklet
Just a heads up before you do what I and others have done regarding part J3 on the parts layout. This is a large plain paper sheet included in the plastic bag with the decals, PE and maps. It looks just like the decal protection paper only bigger and I ditched this before realising what it was and is a trap for young players if not careful. Its purpose is the extended canvas annex cover if you finish the kit this way so take care when unpacking the bits. (see image)
The standard of moulding is extremely high with clean crisp details on the chassis/suspension and body parts as well as the many very small plastic parts that will need care removing from the sprues and during assembly to avoid damage. There is some fine flash on some parts that’s needs attention but the pin marks are kept to a bare minimum through the extensive use of the knock out nodes now common on kits. Some of these overlap the kit detail and need extra care to remove such as on a couple of the front armour panels, a couple of the sprues also needed a bath in warm soapy water as there was a bit of mould release agent present that has to be removed preferably before assembly.
The chassis has the two side U frames separate with numerous cross members and the engine underside oil pan and gearbox (which is the only engine detail included in the kit) that all need to be aligned as the two chassis frames are fitted. This is made easier by gluing the various cross members, rear fuel tank and front engine under pan to one of the chassis frame ensuring they are all fitted perfectly square and level. A couple of things to watch here is the front curved cross member (part I31) has a large pin on the rear side that needs to be removed and there is a raised pin mark on the inside of the right chassis frame (part C2) that coincides with the cross member (part I11) and this pin mark will need to be shaved off to allow part I11 to fit properly. The other pin marks along the insides of the chassis frames can be left as they can’t be seen after assembly and don’t impede assembly, the other chassis frame can be glued in place ensuring the cross members sit snugly in place which wasn’t a problem due to good fit.
One important thing to watch is the placement of the two short body support beams (parts C10), these fit to the top of the cross members A34 and I11 but there are no locating pins or marks and the instructions are quite vague as to their placement. But these two parts C10 must the glued perfectly centrally on the cross members otherwise they won’t fit between the underside body beams when you come to fit the body to the chassis later, so take care here.
Adding the suspension springs is quite straightforward although care in needed as the spring mountings are all small separate parts but by taking things carefully and noting the different part numbers in the instructions there shouldn’t be any problems? The other items such as the 7 part compressed air tank can also be added to finish the basic chassis assembly.
Assembly of the large differentials, large transfer case and drive shafts is again straightforward without any fit problems, the front differential has separate outer sections and make sure the steerable wheel mountings (parts A28,A39) are left unglued at this stage. The 3 part cylinders that attach to the wheel mountings fit okay but the instructions are a little vague on their placement so again make sure these sit right before gluing.
The steerable wheel mountings are joined by the steering arm rod (part I5) and this allows you to position the wheels at any angle but are not designed to be movable after assembly, to make the wheels steerable is very easy and takes about 5 minutes work. Simply replace the short pin on the wheel mountings with a longer length of plastic rod (I used 0.5mm) and drill a corresponding 0.5mm hole through the end of the steering arm, the steering arm can then be fitted over the pins and you have steerable front wheels. When fitted the suspension springs will hold the steering arm in place so no need to heat melt the end of the plastic pin.
The front wheels have two part brake drums that fit inside the one piece wheel rim which has very nicely done bolt head detail and secured in place with the out wheel hub (part A46). This is glued to the outer brake drum allowing the wheel to rotate if careful with the glue.
The vinyl tyres are cleanly rendered tread and have very fine ‘Dunlop’ and ‘tyre data’ embossed on the sidewalls although not in the correct stylised lettering of the actual tyre. The tyres are slipped over the rims and you can fit the tyre before attaching the rims to the axles to make this a little easier if you wish? The assembled wheels are fitted to the wheel mountings (parts A28,A39) and if you want the wheels steerable make sure not to get glue on the axle stubs in the process, this is a fairly easy job as the parts are quite large making handing easier.
The rear wheels are similar with 3 part brake drums and the wheel rims held in place by the outer bolt ring and hub cap (parts A47, A40) and again the rims can rotate if careful with the glue, the assembled wheels just glue to the axle stubs with the inner linkages added (parts I41) for quite robust and detailed suspension assemblies.
There is the large radiator air scoop (part E16) added to the front of the chassis but the location for this is very vague in the instructions and it’s best to leave this off until after the body is attached to the chassis to make fitting easier.
Added to the floor is the Matador cab front complete with radiator housing and two fine mesh grills, but again this is totally hidden after assembly so you can save time not fitting the etched mesh. Just a quite heads up if you do, the instructions show to fit the mesh from ‘behind’ the grill housing (part I15) but this should be fitted to the front of the housing, also the mesh doesn’t fit well and you will need to file both long sides of the mesh until they fit better, test and fit is best for the best fit.
The Driver’s station is very detailed with separate foot pedals, gear levers and hand brake, the steering wheel and column as well as a seven part seat and seat support, the instrument panel has raised dials but the fit of the panel to the cab front needs the lower inside edge trimmed a little to fit the contours of the engine compartment properly, test fitting will determine to amount to be trimmed. It’s a real shame all this is hidden after assembly, but it won’t be on the Matador. Added to the rear of the floor is a nicely moulded rear wall with again excellent surface details included. Two parts not shown in the instructions are the Driver's seat backrest, these are parts E19, E20 when fitted together attach to the rear compartment bulkhead.
The large armoured front is made up of four panels with nice raised rivet details, the two side panels (parts E4,E7) have the sprue attachments right over the indented top lip and needs careful blade work to trim this before assembly.
Care is needed fitting the panels together as there is some movement possible so make sure the edges are lined up precisely, especially with the back of the rear and top panels. The assembled armoured section clips into small slots in the cab floor fender extensions and onto a notch on top of the cab front for a very good and precise fit. Just a quick note, the two small fittings (part E32,E48) under the top panel are transposed in the instructions, so just swap sides and you’ll be right.
There is an etched frame storage cage made up of 6 etched parts that goes under the floor of the main body but it’s a good idea to just forget this. Apart from being totally hidden after the body is attached to the chassis, the assembly of the cage is so vague, firstly the two inner brackets (parts G8) have small tabs that are supposed to fit into slits in the brass frame (part G1), unfortunately the slits are too small for the tabs and being brass you aren’t going to enlarge these slots very easily. Then there are three brackets (parts G11, G9) that go somehow on the top of the assembled frame, the instructions aren’t at all clear on how or where these fit, given all this and the fact you can’t even see the cage after assembly, just forget it and move on.
The side walls have smaller items added without any problems, just note parts D32, D35 have their numbers transposed in the instructions but all other parts including the large cupboard/cabinet sub-assemblies on both walls fit perfectly without any trimming needed and result in an easy assembly that is perfectly square. It’s best to assemble the two cupboard/cabinet sub-assemblies prior to fitting to the body as fitting these pre-assembled sub-assemblies at the same time as the side walls will ensure these are set at perfect right angles.
The three reading lamps are very delicate and need care removing from the sprues and in fitting and the map table has the recesses for any of the lovely printed maps included, these maps are some of the best I’ve seen being printed on very thin paper and the printing faded for an excellent scale appearance. The five plush seats are also well done and can be positioned on their swivel legs at any angle, the seat belts are moulded with the backrest and do have that look of “uniformity” but that’s about the only nit-pick with the interior layout matching images of the No.1 body very well.
Included is a No.11 or No.19 radio to use as required and the front passenger’s seat on the left wall is depicted in the lowered position, the actual seat folds up against the wall when not in use and some minor modifications would be needed to have this folded in the kit, not a big deal as it’s all but hidden along with most of the interior after assembly.
The three large doors are all separate parts but mine had some very minor warping lengthwise and just needed to be straightened with gentle finger pressure, nothing excessive and if you are gluing the doors closed they will pull flat in any case. The fit of the doors to the body is excellent and each door has two small etched hand grips added for nice detail and you can glue these open or closed as your wish.
As mentioned the fit off all the parts both large and small was excellent making for a trouble free sub-assembly and the front cab sub-assembly can then be added. The fit of these sub-assembles depends on the previous assembly especially of the front armour plates and care is needed to align the front cab to the body, the two body sides snap into place in small notches on the front section for a good fit, again depending on the assembly along the way as there is potential for slight miss alignment if not careful.
Once the cab is attached to the body the front fenders and their support bars can be added along with the headlights and smaller lights and the two towing eye brackets. As mentioned previously the underside radiator air scoop can now be fitted as the location is clearer with the body in place but I would leave the two fine rear view mirrors off till last as they are just asking to be snapped off otherwise.
The windscreen panel has separate outer armour flaps with the full opening/closer levers in two parts for excellent detail pity again this is hidden away, on the inside are clear windscreens with separate wiper blades and wiper motors, the windscreens have fine pins on the inner edges that fit snuggly into the fine holes included in the windscreen panel for a very precise fit. Above the windscreens is a large luggage rack with the fit of the windscreen panel to the body again being very good without any trimming or filler needed.
The large roof has three separate top hatches and includes fine rib and rivet detail on the insides although there are some raised pin marks evident and while these are hidden after assembly some have to be shaved smooth to allow the inner roof panels to fit properly. The three hatches have clear plastic ‘glass’ inserts but these needed to be trimmed a little to fit into the openings and test fitting will determine the extent of the trimming needed which was only minor. The separate outer roof hatch covers are moulded very thin and can be positioned open or closed as required.
The two roof ventilators are again indicative of the detail included in the kit and are made up of four parts each including a very small 3 blade fan in the middle of the ventilator for excellent detail, again a pity you can’t really see this after assembly. The only issue with the ventilators is you will need to enlarge the roof holes for these to fit and trimming a little at a time and test fitting is the best option. Added to the roof are also two aerial mountings and adding the aerial wire will improve the appearance.
The fit of the roof to the body it good although both the front and rear joins needed some pressure applied to sit down snugly and there is the possibility of small gaps here but nothing excessive. The large etched storage racks are then added and some careful bending is required due to the thin bars, also note the side support ‘leg’ on the right side overlaps the door opening and would need to be trimmed before fitting the rack to the roof.
Before adding the many exterior parts such as the extended annex the chassis and body are best joined and this is a rather fiddley job due to a few snags on the body underside waiting to trip you up. I mentioned the importance of fitting the chassis mountings (parts C10) earlier and this becomes critical while fitting the chassis and body together, you may have to trim the ends of parts C10 to allow them to fit between the underside floor beams depending on their fit. To makes things easier I made a few other modifications;
- Trimmed off the small inside extensions on the rear mud flaps as these snagged the chassis when fitting in place.
- At the front small notches had to cut from the undersides of the front fenders as these again snagged the front chassis.
- The small locating brackets added to the side of the chassis (parts I49, I50) had the outer edge trimmed off as this again wanted to snag on the chassis.
With these minor modifications none of which can be seen after assembly the chassis/body join went much easier and was a very snug and robust fit in the end.
Notches added to the front inner mudguards to allow a better fit of the chassis.
The Dorchester has a fold out canvas awning for the side annex on both sides of the body and the kit provides one of these fully retracted and the other extended so you can’t have both extended or retracted as they come in the kit. The support arms are very fragile and care is needed especially when removing the fine mould lines as well as removing from the sprues.
Adding the side annex arms is quite tricky given the small parts involved, the side support arms (parts C12) are attached to the top arms (parts C11) by way of small etched brackets (parts G5) that require careful bending to a U shape; bending these around a 1mm drill bit shaft will make it easier but you must ensure the bracket is bent perfectly central so both sides of the U are even. While this has nothing to do with the review I actually lost 2 of these brackets (you get 4 in the kit) during assembly such is the fiddly nature of fitting them and illustrates the care needed while working with these parts as you do with any of these minuscule etched parts in kits these days.
A thin paper sheet is provided to make the canvas annex cover but the size required is not mentioned in the instructions so you will need to cut the paper provided to 90mm x 55mm in size, soaking this paper in thinned white glue will give it some sag as would be seen on the actual canvas cover when rolled out. Once the annex frame has been fitted you have to be very careful handing the model as it sticks out there just waiting to be broken off by accident, so fitting the annex frame last would be a good idea. The frame arms on the right side stowed in the folded position on the body side.
The pioneer tools mounted on the rear wall rack don’t get a mention in the instructions but are included on sprue E which is from AFV Clubs Valentine Tank kits that also includes the Bren Gun which was stowed inside the cabin but no indication is given as to where. The remaining parts are left overs including two Besa MGs and some oil cans which could come in very handy anywhere. Unfortunately just using these tools with the brackets designed for the Valentine and not the Dorchester results in a few problems with the location of the etched brackets provided in the kit. The brackets for the shovel and crowbar fit okay but those for the mattock head and handle miss the mark by quite a distance and you will need to trim off the moulded on bracket locating points, fill the tool locating holes and position the brass brackets so they align with the tools.
Also note the gap at the top of the roof join, this is due to the roof only being attached with white glue and the join
will be reduced when glued in place with plastic glue..
The only storage provided in the kit are six German style Jerry Cans and some British style oil cans, the Jerry Cans have etched central ribs and separate top grab handle as well as closed or open filler caps with a short pouring spout for the open cap. Unfortunately these Jerry Cans are too small being short in height by about 1mm, this doesn't sound a lot but it looks visuall more than it actually is and is quite strange given AFV Club have suppled correctly sized cans in other kits and replacing these cans with correctly sized ones would be advisable, although if used on their own and not mixed with the other cans the size issue may not be that evident?
Also a comparison with the correctly sized DML Jerry can from their recent SAS Jeep kit showing the
difference in height as mentioned above.
Discussion of the appropriate colours for the Caunter Scheme could be a review on its own and I won’t go into it here although the colours indicated of RLM71 Dark Green and FS26440 Grey is quite questionable.
Some of the parts are extremely delicate such as the extended side annex and need care in handling and during assembly with the kit offering numerous excellent diorama possibilities both in Allied and German use, the only disappointment being that most of the impressive interior is all but hidden after assembly.
The forthcoming AEC Matador Truck based on these chassis and cab parts should be equally impressive.Rating 9/10
Click on thumbnails for larger view