Type 97 Shinhoto CHI-HA
(improved turret)

Finemolds Kit #FM21
includes comparison with
Tamiya Kit #35137
1:35th Scale
Review by Terry Ashley

Tamiya first released their kit of the Type 97 CHI-HA (kit #35075) way back in 1976 followed in 1987 with the later Type 97 Shinhoto CHI-HA “new turret” (kit #35137) with high velocity 47mm main gun and two 7.7mm machine guns which was considered to probably be the best medium tank produced by the Japanese in WWII.

Now just on 20 years later Finemolds have released their kit of the Type 97 Shinhoto CHI-HA and as well as having a detailed look at this kit I’ll also include a comparison with the Tamiya kit which is still regarded as one of their better kits produced.

The Finemolds kit has 265 parts in olive drab plastic, 13 in clear plastic plus a small etched fret with the exhaust shields and a set of glueable vinyl tracks as well as the decal and instruction sheets. The initial production kits also include a turned brass 47mm round and shell casing which is an incentive to buy the kit early if you are considering it.

Finemolds clear parts, etched exhaust covers and bonus brass rounds

Quality of the mouldings is very good with clean crisp details and virtually no flash or pin marks and just a few small sink marks to contend with. One thing to watch is the plastic is more ‘brittle’ than on some kits but using care when removing the parts from the sprues this shouldn’t be a problem. The overall level of detail is reminiscent of that on the recent Tasca Firefly (kit# 35009) in crispness and definition.

The kit includes some parts left over from the previous Type 1 CHI-HE Medium Tank (kit #FM12) and this means there is some duplication of parts and you should make sure you use the correct ones for this kit. The instructions are clear on this so check before removing the parts from the sprues to avoid confusion.

Dimensionally we have an interesting situation where I have two sets of 1:35 plans of the CHI-HA, one in the Ground Power magazine and one in the AJ Press Tank Power Japanese Armor Volumes and these show a few differences in sizes most notably the length of the barrel and some turret and hull hatches while the overall hull and wheel sizes are the same. Also notable is the Tank Power plans have some obvious errors such as positioning of some hatches and the height of the turret and again goes to show you can’t bet your house on a set of published plans.

Interestingly the Finemolds kit barrel and hatch sizes match those of the Ground Power plans and when compared visually to photos while the same Tamiya kit parts match those of the Tank Power plans but both kits have the correct hull dimensions and the correct turret height but the Tamiya turret is too narrow in width by about 1mm, which doesn’t sound a lot but results in the Loader’s hatch being undersized, more on this later.

Click on each headings below for a detail look as those sections:

Introduction: (This page.)
Lower Hull:
Running Gear/Tracks:
Upper Hull:

The Finemolds kit has a large decal sheet that is reminiscent of Tamiya decals with well printed markings and slightly thickish carrier film with markings for six vehicles.
The instruction sheet has five view drawings showing the early and late camouflage schemes applied to the CHI-HA.

The markings included are:


The Tamiya kit has the usual style decal sheet, well printed with thickish carrier film and has markings for seven vehicles also. The box top has five view colour illustrations of the late scheme to use as painting guide.

The markings included are:


While the Tamiya kit has parts between 20 and 30 years old it is not disgraced by any means and will still build into a very respectable model with about the only section really showing it’s age being the basic exhausts. Some of the detail such as the rivet sizes is better represented than those on the newer Finemolds kit and overall is testament to the quality of the kit when first released all those years ago.

The Finemolds kits benefits from the advances in moulding technology with many finely moulded details such as the grease nipples on the road wheels, the full gun breech and the standout feature of the exhausts. But as mentioned many of the rivets appear slightly undersized but may not be that noticeable on the final kit with the overall impression being extremely good.

Overall the Finemolds kit offers the better and more refined detail and is highly recommended but as mentioned the Tamiya kit will still build into a respectable model.

The Finemolds Sprues:

Click on thumbnails for larger view
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Tank Power 11
Japanese Armour Vol.3
AJ Press
AJ Press
Tank Power 12
Japanese Armour Vol.4
AJ Press
AJ Press
Ground Power Magazine
No.83 4/2001

GALILEO Publishing Co.,Ltd
Ground Power Magazine
No.120 5/2004

GALILEO Publishing Co.,Ltd

Thanks to my credit card and Rainbow Tenfor the review kit.

Page created December 26, 2006

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