French Battle Tank B1 bis
Tamiya Kit No.35282

1:35th Scale

Review by Terry Ashley

This long awaited kit from Tamiya continues the French flavour after the Leclerc MBT (kit #32579) of two years ago and the recent Hotchkiss H38/39 kits from Bronco and Trumpeter.

The Char B was produced in two main variants, the B1 and B1 bis (second version in French) and was armed with a hull mounted 75mm gun and 47mm gun in the revolving turret with co-axial machine gun and the many small differences between the B1 and B1 bis are listed in the Trackstory Les Chars B book.

The Kit:
This new kit from Tamiya represents the B1 bis version with 220 parts in light beige plastic plus another 130 individual track links is chocolate coloured plastic along with two lengths of thick chain, a few poly caps and the decal and instruction sheets.

Metal chain

The standard of moulding is again excellent as we know well from Tamiya with very few if any pin marks and no flash to contend with along with superb details such as the many rivet and bolt heads all over the Char B and very subtle cast effect on the turret shell.

Most of the main hull dimensions, suspension components, hatches, fender width, and track link size match closely to the 1:35 plans in the Trackstory and Ground Power books with any discrepancies being well with acceptable tolerances.

The turret is interesting in that the plans show the kit turret to be about 2mm short and the shape contours at different angles. But comparing the kit turret directly with photos, especially against the overhead production line photos on page 80 of the Ground Power book show the kit turret ring is the correct size and in the correct place. Page 87 of the Ground Power book has a square on overhead shot clearly showing the turret in relation to the hull sides and top panel lines and this as well as comparing the many angles to various photos all lead me to conclude the kit turret to be quite okay and the plans are out in this instance. The only issue is with the rear hatch plate angle not being steep enough by a couple of degrees but overall it matches the real photos well.

On to the kit:

The hull/running gear:
The lower hull plate has excellent underside details including the escape hatch, side suspension fairings and three small square holes which are actually on the real Char B as a couple of shots of overturned Bs in the Histoire & Collections book show but I’m not sure of their purpose? Also included on the inside of the hull plate are two hex bolt recesses with these being used on past Tamiya kits to punch out allowing you to bolt the kit to a diorama base if required and as no other use is indicated I presume the same is envisaged here.

The lower suspension road wheels are made up of 16 small twin wheels fitted into the long rail which is then attached to the lower hull, the instructions indicate not to glue the wheels into the rail allowing them the rotate but I found these to be very slippery little suckers and glued them in place, but ensure you line the wheels up if you glue them so the track will sit evenly along the wheels.

The large drive sprocket and idlers wheels are in two halves each with the usual poly cap trapped between them for easy fitting to the axles but watch the direction of the two idler halves as the inner wheel has what appears to be six large pin marks but these are actually discs that are on the real idlers so don’t be tempted to remove them.

The left idler is incorporated into a detailed mounting that includes the hull mounted 75mm gun and this is made up of two halves with an inner post that traps three poly caps allowing very limited traverse and some elevation.

You should glue the two gun halves together and clean up the small join seam along the barrel before proceeding but due to the good fit of the parts the seam only needed light sanding to eliminate. The barrel also incudes two small notches on either side of the barrel which are correct so again don’t be tempted to fill these.

Assembly of the gun and idler mountings was very straightforward thanks to the good fit but take care as you have to slip the large trunnion pin through the gun mounting with the lower armour panel. The left and right idler mountings fit snugly to the lower hull and it’s best to let the glue dry thoroughly on these parts before moving on.

The inner and outer lower skirt panels fitted easily into place and include the four lubrication hatches along the outer lower panel as separate parts which are spaced evenly but the front two should be slightly further apart than the rear two on the B1 bis but this is not that easy to notice and most will overlook this minor discrepancy.

Upper Hull:
The large upper hull tub is one of the most sophisticated single mouldings you will see in any kit and includes the hull top, the sponsons and both hull sides in the one piece with the definition of the many rivet/bolts and panel detail beautifully rendered by the extensive use of slide moulds and to top this off the three intakes on the upper hull even have open intakes, very impressive indeed.  

On the inside of the tub are 26 x 1mm holes that need to be opening up for the many parts to be added to the hull top as well as the forward inner mud slides and rear sponson panels added initially.

Along the sides are the large left side radiator panel with excellent relief on the grillwork and the right side crew hatch has a separate inner panel with latch detail as well as a separate opening lever but you will probably want to leave the door closed as the cavernous interior is completely empty. Above the door is the grab handle and rail guard to finish off the nice hatch detail.

On the top of the sponsons are the track guide skids and these have letter A-E engraved on the undersides so you know exactly where they go after taking them off the sprues and this is great help as each skid is a different size and shape. There are some shallow pin marks on top of the skids but as these are covered by the tracks they are not an issue.

There are also a number of rivets to be removed from around the hull which are called out in the instructions with these included for other versions of the Char B destined to follow hopefully and it’s easier to remove rivets than add them back for the other versions.

The instructions show to fit the upper and lower hulls together before proceeding and the fit is again very good all around with no trimming of filler required but remember to fit the front idlers onto their axles before hand as you can’t fit these after assembling the hull.

The outer front panel is then attached for all the excellent rivet head details and there is an optional axillary light that will need its locating hole opened up in the front panel before fitting if you intend to add this light? The main headlight has a separate cover that can be attached open or closed and the front towing shackles are added that include the bar support in front of the gun.

Fitting the 75mm gun mantlet is easy but there is some detail missing from the mantlet which is about the only place in the kit needing attention. There should be six hex rivets around the gun opening and I added these using the CMK .08mm rivet set #003 as these appeared to be the right size. Most photos of the B1 bis have these rivets but if they were not present there would still be six small holes in the mantlet for the rivets as depicted on the Tamiya box top illustration.

Also required is the “pigtail” lifting ring on top of the mantlet which I made from thin wire with this also shown on the box art for those without any of the reference books available.


The driver’s hatch has the front hatch and top panel as separate parts with the top kidney shaped cover designed so it will rotate if you are sparing with the glue and the front hatch can also be shown open or closed with a separate visor that can also be shown open or closed but again with no interior it’s probably best to leave these closed.

On the upper engine deck is the separate right side hatch which has a separate top panel that covers the hinge detail to give good detail relief but be careful as some vehicles didn’t have this top panel fitted to the hatch. The two left side louvered hatch covers are nicely detailed and are correctly fitting flush for the B1 bis and the aerial has the outer armoured guard again correct for the B1 bis, as is the curved guard rail added behind the turret with all these features being different on the B1 and shows Tamiya has done their homework here.

There are six separate attachments added to the rear hull as well as the rear towing shackles which come into play when draping the large chain supplied which does add greatly to the final appearance of the kit.

Before fitting the fenders the track must be attached but we’ll get to them shortly, but back to the fenders where you get a choice of two types with subtle differences depending on the vehicle being built, the instructions tell you which to use depending the markings to be used so you have to decide about now on the final finish of the kit. The fenders fit securely into locating holes in the hull sides but the front edge could be thinned down a little for a better appearance.

There are also two alternate exhaust pipe assemblies supplied, one with shorter fishtail outlets and covers with the other having longer pipes and covers and again the instructions show which go with what markings.

One thing I have noticed from photos is that the longer exhausts are more common on the B1 bis and where the shorter exhausts are fitted the top engine deck hatch does not have the additional cover plate added but this could be coincidental?

These are provided as individual links with the only cleanup required being a small pour plug on the front which is easily removed with light sanding but you have to do this on each of the 130 links, but no big deal if you are used to individual link tracks.

Assembly is very straightforward as the links simple click together and as the plastic has more “give” than resin the links are very easy to fit together and in no time you have the full runs of 61 links per side ready to go. The track articulate very freely which is sort of lost as the track sits along the top track guides and lower wheels without any chance of sag but the definition on the links is truly superb.

Individual Track
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The turret has the upper shell and lower turret section as separate parts with the turret ring guard attached to the hull top another separate part. Additional parts are for the upper periscope cupola and rear hatch as well as the main 47mm gun and co-axial machine gun housing.

As mentioned above the turret matches available period photos well and the inner 47mm gun mounting is held in place with a polycap allowing elevation with the co-axial MG also fitted to the inner mounting allowing this to elevate with the main gun but the small co-axial MG barrel will need drilling out for a better look.

The upper and lower turret sections fit together very well and the join seam line is actually a small weld seam on the real turret and you may want to add this seam to hide the join line for a better appearance.

The upper periscope cupola is split in two and the resulting minor join seam has to be sanded smooth while the two turret side visors are fitted from the inside before assembling the turret.

At the back is the Commander’s hatch with inner latch details as a separate part and the hatch is designed to be attached open or closed with the sitting Commander figure included to use if you have the hatch open.

The detail on the 47mm gun and MG mantlets is very good and the 47mm barrel length also matches the plans perfectly and the whole turret assembly is very straightforward with the three separate small lifting hooks finish it off nicely and as you would expect the fit into the hull turret ring is perfect.

The bonus commander figure has basic details and while it will paint up okay using on the available resin crew figures will add the overall effect.


The decal sheet is again the usual Tamiya fair with nicely printed markings but the carrier film is a little thickish with markings for four vehicles lavishly illustrated on a large fold out full colour painting and marking guide with five view illustrations of each vehicle.

The Char B1 bis has an almost endless array of camouflage schemes and the aftermarket decal companies will have a field day on this kit to offer the modeller more choice.

Markings included are:
  • A: Tank number 257 “Bourrasque”, 2nd Section, 1st Company, 15th Combat Tank Battalion, 2nd Armored Division, France 1940.
  • B: Tank number 481 “Vercingetorix”, 3rd Company, 46th Combat Tank Battalion, 4th Armored Division, France 1940.
  • C: Tank number 467 “Nivernais II”, 2nd Section, 3rd Company, 37th Combat Tank Battalion, 1st Armored Division, France 1940.
  • D: Tank number 205 “Indochine”, 3rd Section, 3rd Company, 15th Combat Tank Battalion, 2nd Armored Division, France 1940.
Decal Sheet


Another superb kit from Tamiya with excellent details throughout with the large upper hull moulding a standout. The attention to detail is very good with alternate parts for the fenders and exhausts but as with any kit there is some room for improvement for those wanting to add the extras.

The individual track links are another standout feature being superbly detailed and very easy to assembly plus the real chain to add that final detail.

The kit offers and almost endless choice of colourful markings and is set up for other variants and one can surmise the 10.5cm leFH 18/3 auf Geschutzwagen B2(F) will be among them?

Highly Recommended.

Also see the Subject listing page for other reviews of Char B1 items.

The Sprues:

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Detail images
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On the Net:
LE CHAR B1 bis
KitMaker Photos (login required)

Hommes et Matériels du 15e BCC CHARS B AU COMBAT
Histoire & Collections
ISBN 2-913903-42-8
B1-B1 bis-B1 ter

Trackstory No.3
ISBN 2-9520988-4-4
Char B1 bis
AFV Super Detail Photo Book Vol.2
Model Art Co.Ltd
French Military Vehicles

Ground Power Special 12/03

Other kit reviews available on line:
Track Link by Paul Owen

Review kit courtesy of Lucky Models

Page created June 13, 2006