Meng Model
British Heavy Assault Tank
A39 Tortoise

Meng Model 1:35 Scale Kit #TS-002
Review by Terry Ashley

Meng Model
Notes from the kit instructions:
In the early part of 1943 a new class of vehicles designed for British army, in the shape of Assault tanks, was developed to resist German fighting from heavily fortified positions. In response to the Joint Memorandum issued by the Secretary of State for War and the Minister of Supply, the Nuffield Organization came out with 18 separate designs (AT1 through AT18) drafted between May 1943 and February 1944, each design being larger and heavier than the last. By February 1944 design AT16 was complete and was approved by the War Office who placed an order for 25 that were to be produced directly from the mock-up stage without bothering with a prototype, to be available for operational service in September 1945. This particular tank was later known as the British A39 Tortoise Heavy Assault Tank.

The Tortoise had a fixed superstructure, with a length of 10m, width of 3.9m, height of 3m, and a crew of 7. The Ordnance QF 32 pounder gun design was adapted from the British 3.75 inch anti-aircraft gun. The ammunition used a separate charge and shell. In tests the gun was successful against a German Panther tank at nearly 1,000 yards. With armour protection as a priority, the Tortoise had a maximum armour thickness of 228mm and 152mm at the skirt sides, being immune to German 88mm anti-tank gun. However, the massive 79 tons weight greatly constrained its mobility, reaching a maximum speed of only 19.3km/h. On the left of the vehicle was a Besa machine gun in an armoured ball mount. A further two Besa machine guns were mounted in a turret on the right top of the hull.

By the end of WWII in May 1945, only 6 Tortoises were built. One example was sent to Germany for trials where it was found to be mechanically reliable and a powerful and accurate gun platform. Following the end of the war ceased the production of the vehicle.

The kit:
The kit is based on The Tank Museums fully running A39 Tortoise Pilot Model 1 and includes some features different from other pilot models such as the smoke grenade launchers and smaller fittings but the model incorporates all the features found on the Tank Museum Tortoise.

I don’t have any 1:35 plans/drawings of the A39 but taking the dimensions from various sources sees some differences in the overall numbers quoted.
Those listed in the Meng instructions: (also the same as the A39 Tortoise Wikipedia web page)
Length: 10m [includes gun] (285.7mm in 1:35 scale)
Width: 3.9m (111.4mm in 1:35 scale)
Height: 3m (85.7mm in 1:35 scale)

As listed on the Tank Museum site:
Length: 7.2m [Hull length w/o gun] (205.7mm in 1:35 scale)
Width: 3.7m (105.7mm in 1:35 scale)
Height: 2.8m (80mm in 1:35 scale)

Others web dimensions:
Length: 33ft [includes gun], 23ft 9in [Hull length] (387.4mm/206.8mm in 1:35 scale)
Width: 12ft 10in (112mm in 1:35 scale)
Height: 10ft (87mm in 1:35 scale)
Length: 33ft [includes gun] (387.4mm in 1:35 scale)
Width: 12ft 10in (112mm in 1:35 scale)
Height: 10ft (87mm in 1:35 scale)
Track width: 36in (26.2mm in 1:35 scale)

The kit dimensions (give or take a fraction)
Length: 293mm [includes gun], 207mm [Hull length]
Width: 112mm
Height: 85mm
Track width: 26mm

As can be seen the kit dimensions basically match those listed above fairly well (a few minor differences) apart from the Tank Museum dimensions and as I don’t have the real thing to measure and don't know the actual dimensions will have to leave it for others to determine for now but the model looks in proportion compared to photos so the above may be academic to some.

The kit itself consists of:
467 parts in dark green plastic
144 track links in brown plastic
1 length of thin twine
1 x 14 page A5 sized instruction booklet.
No decals are included.

Thin twine
Meng Model

The standard of moulding is excellent with clean crisp details and the plastic easy to work with having just a bare minimum of smaller pin marks and virtually no flash and just the usual mould lines to contend with. The parts in my kit though had excessive amounts of mould release agent than we have come to expect these days and needed a good bath and scrub with a soft toothbrush in warm detergent water before commencing, this was heaviest on the suspension and track sprues and care is needed with the smaller parts on the other sprues during the bath process.

Notably most parts have the sprue attachment overlapping the part which allows these to be trimmed leaving the parts detail intact. There is excellent surface detail on the parts most notably the cast texturing and larger welds on the large superstructure as well as some casting numbers, numerous bolt heads and other details. There are some large mould lines on the superstructure and the cast texturing will need to be repaired using Mr.Surfacer or similar.

The kit has no interior but many of the larger and smaller sub-assemblies are designed to be movable such as the rotating Commander’s cupola and machine gun turret on the superstructure, the large towing pintles front and rear as well as the barrel travel lock to the movable Besa MG and main gun mountings along with separate crew hatches that can be positioned open if including crew figures.

Lower Hull/Suspension:
The lower hull is a conventional tub with inner reinforcing fillets and includes the fenders and mountings for the suspension with access panel details on the underside.
The substantial suspension of the real thing is replicated very nicely and also includes the correct offset of the bogies on either side of the hull as they should be; this requires you to trim the mounting pins on the right side idler wheel mounting bar (part A9) which is no big deal. The twin spoke idler wheels should be left unglued when trapped between the spring idler arms (parts A4,A6) with the idler sub-assemblies glued to the hull tub side.
The two part drive sprockets fit together easily and are designed to be trapped between the hull and side skirts allow them to rotate freely but more on this below.

Each of the eight suspension bogies is made up of two sets of road wheels per bogie for a total of 32 road wheels, there are actually two different style of bogie assemblies, four with four return rollers per assembly and four with two return rollers and two shock absorber arm assemblies, these shock absorber equipped bogies go at the front and rear station on each side with the four return roller bogies in the middle two stations.

Assembly of the bogies is quite straightforward but a little care is needed to make it easier. Firstly the central axle section (part A10) has a linkage swing arm (part A3) clipped into place and this is best done first up as it’s difficult to fit once the wheels are fitted, also note not to glue the wheels to the axle at this stage. The outer axles (parts A5, A7) shouldn’t be glued to the wheels either with only the linkage arm (part A2) glued to the axle arms leaving the central axle and arm free to move, ensure the linkage arm and axles are at perfect right angles and leave for the glue to dry completely before proceeding to the next step.

There are three different style of the central triangular bogie mountings and you need to make sure you use the correct parts for the two different type of bogie identified as suspension A and B in the instructions. The first step is to fit the longer pins on the triangular mountings through the swing arms only and just glue the triangular bogie mountings together leaving the swing arms free to move. The large end brackets (parts A1) are then fitted to the triangular mountings trapping the axle arms in the process to complete the main bogie assemblies.

The return rollers or shock absorber assemblies are then added to the appropriate bogies with the assembled bogies glued to the hull sides over the raised locating ridges ensuring you fit these correctly as above, the instructions clearly show the position of the alternate bogies so there shouldn’t be any fix-ups providing you follow the instruction illustrations.

The front glacis plate is fitted to the hull tub with smaller fittings glued to the glacis, I found it easier to actually glue all these lifting eyes and brackets to the glacis before fitting the hull as it made handling easier. The fit of the glacis to the hull is perfect but there is a front join line that needs to be eliminated and this will mar the cast texturing on the lower hull front and glacis with this needing the be redone using Mr.Surfacer or similar before fitting the three large towing shackles.

These shackles have alternate parts for hook A and B so make sure you identify and use the right parts as indicated clearly in the instructions, the central tow shackle (parts B39) can be left unglued to allow these to move after fitting to the hull with the fit of the shackles to the hull being very good.

The individual track links have nice detail and are cleanly moulded with the only clean-up being the five sprue attachment points with the links designed to be glued together to form the track runs. It’s really not necessary to assemble the full tracks as you can’t see the top track run due to the side skirts so just assemble the lower ground run with 20 links and the sections that fit around the drive sprockets and idlers with about 10-12 links each. These sections can be fitted around the sprockets/idlers as the glue ‘goes off’ and left to dry completely and you can easily fit or remove the tracks after the side skirts have been attached if you wish without the top run present.

This is large and impressive moulding with the central fighting compartment and rear engine deck moulded together with nicely done cast texturing, welds and some casting lettering on the roof plus the hinges and bolt detail on the engine deck, there are nine grab handles on the various deck hatches which are moulded solid and these could be improved by replacing with thin wire.

The rear superstructure wall is a separate part (C28) with the large central raised lettering and was the only superstructure part to have any real fit issues, to get this to fit evenly with the outer superstructure wall I had to thin down the inner locating tabs on C28 considerably, once this was done the wall fitted snugly into place but you will need to fill and eliminate the two join lines and again the cast texturing will suffer during this process.

On the inside is the large gun ball mounting secured in place with a large collar while on the outside is the one piece barrel tube, this has the fine mould line to be removed, the barrel fits neatly into the mounting ball allowing small elevation and traverse just like the real gun. Added over the barrel is the outer circular gun shield and the two part muzzle break, this has open gas slots and well defined bolt heads. Also added from the inside are the five driver’s periscopes in the same green plastic as the rest of the kit.

The large bolted gun collar also has cast texturing but doesn’t have the small casting numbers present on the actual collar and these can be added to improve the detail. One small issue is the lower corners of the collar are slightly too rounded and should be a little squarer in profile when comparing the kit collar to the available photos but this is only minor and may not be that noticeable after assembly. The fit of the collar to the superstructure front is very snug and will hold in place without glue but of course you would glue this in place.

The Commander’s cupola assembly also has separate periscopes added to the circular base plus the hatch with cast texturing that has separate hinges and brackets allowing this to be shown open or closed as you wish, the grab handles are again solid and replacing with thin wire will improve the appearance. The periscope guards are also separate for good definition and the cupola is secured in place by an underside retaining ring allowing the cupola to rotate as with the real thing.

The two large gunner’s periscopes have separate bolted retaining rings that will also allow the periscopes to rotate but the fit is very tight and if you want to rotate your periscopes the base of the periscope will need the reduced in size to allow movement, if not then just glue the periscopes in place.

The front mounted Besa MG has the inner ball to allow movement with the bolted retaining ring and a two part outer barrel mounting, the join line on this will need to be eliminated and the barrel itself is rather basic with solid muzzle and drilling this out will improve the appearance. Another alternative is to replace the plastic barrel with a replacement metal barrel such as that from LionMarc Model Designs (set #LM10014) for a far better appearance.

The instructions indicate in step 12 to attach the superstructure to the lower hull, followed by fitting the rear hull plate and then fitting the side skirts in that order but fitting the skirts was the only real fit issue as there are raised locating lugs on the back of the skirts that have to mate with the drive sprockets, the four suspension bogies and the rear idler mounting, unfortunately I simply could not get all these lined up and in place as it’s impossible to see where these lugs are in relation to the skirts when fitting, also with the tracks fitted it made this process even more troublesome.

After several tries to get everything lined up I eventually glued the drive sprockets in place and shaved all the raised locating lugs off the back of the skirts. I realised that one reason for this was when gluing the lower hull fenders to the rear hull earlier the outer edges of the rear fenders had been pulled up slightly, this was only a small distortion but enough for the skirt locating lugs to not align correctly as above and left some small gaps at the front and rear of the top fender/skirt join to be attended to. It may be better to add the side skirts before the superstructure and rear plate and allow to dry completely before adding the superstructure and rear plate but this is up to the individual.

The fit of the rear plate was very snug and needed a little pressure to snap into place against the rear hull but once in place the fit was good.  Added to the rear plate are two more of the towing shackles the same as fitted to the hull front plus a larger central tow shackle that if assembled carefully will allow the shackle to move in several directions again like the real thing. There is also the large lifting eyes, fire extinguishers and armoured box on the right side plus the large exhaust muffler in two halves leaving a join that needs eliminating, the muffler also has the central weld as well as the two part fishtail outlet and separate lower mountings for a nicely detailed sub-assembly. The front mounted barrel travel lock has a three part head that if careful with the glue allows the head to open and close with a movable retaining bolt, this will allow you the travel lock to change from folded forward or attached around the barrel as you wish.

Both the driver’s and gunner’s hatches are separate with separate hinges but these aren’t designed to be workable, only for displaying the hatch open or closed but as they are quite large it wouldn’t be a problem drilling holes through the hinges for small pins to make them workable if you wished.

Added to the front fenders are the two large channels for the electrical cables (parts D31, D32) for the outer small position lights and also for the thin cable ducting leading up the superstructure face to the smoke grenade launchers, this ducting is moulded extremely thin and removing from the sprues looks a daunting task. One tip I can give with these (and other long thin parts with outer kits) is to brush over the parts with thin liquid cement (I use Tamiya extra thin) while they are still on the sprue to ‘repair’ any small cracks that would break apart as you cut them away from the sprue. By cutting the attachments with a very sharp blade using several light passes of the blade while supporting the sprue attachment as close to the cutting board as possible to avoid distortion while cutting, using these precautions I was able to cut all four thin ducting strips from the sprues without any damage, but take you time.
The holes for the ducting in the channels will also need to be enlarged slightly to allow a better fit for the ducting or you could thin down the end of the ducting to fit the holes which ever you feel is easier?

The smoke grenade launchers have the base plate, angled mounting and separate grenade pots along with the mounting brackets, the pots need care removing from the sprues to not damage the lip but assembled easily without any problems. When fitting you should note the right front assembly sits too close to the superstructure and should actually sit away from the armour surface, to get this space just trim the stubs from the two mounting brackets (B19) and fit these to extend about 1mm out from the bracket to allow the space when fitted to the superstructure.

The small top machine gun turret is moulded in a single part with separate lower turret ring, there is cast texturing on the top of the turret but the sides are smooth, there is also a rather large cast line on the right turret wall that will need a bit of work to remove. The separate hatch has a five part periscope and separate top hatch hinge with spring, the hatch again can be fitted open or closed as you wish, there are no pin marks inside the hatch but there should also be an inside securing latch added if you show the hatch open.

There is another smoke grenade launcher mounting the same as for the superstructure along with the thin cable ducting running around the rear of the turret, the same advice applies for this ducting as for the front superstructure ducting. The two Besa MG barrels are separate as is the front armoured housing with the barrel slots, this housing fits precisely to the front of the turret but again the join lines will need to be filled and eliminated. The assembled turret attaches to the superstructure allow full rotation and the Besa barrels again can be replaced with metal barrels for a better appearance as with the front mounted MG.

Finally there is the tow cable attached to the right fender top with a multi-part front attachment and separate cable ends, the instructions show the length to cut the thread provided and you best drill holes in the cable ends to make attaching the cable easier. The six spare track links are glued to the superstructure sides as indicated to finish the assembly. The jerry can rack added to the rear wall will also need the retaining strap added as this isn’t included but will probably be included with any aftermarket update set released for the kit.

As mentioned there are no decals provided with the instructions indicating to paint the model overall in olive drab.

The instructions are the usual exploded view illustrations that are clearly laid out and easy to follow but as with any instructions careful study before gluing or cutting will prevent any mishaps.

This is a large and impressive kit with a high level of detail included on the parts from the cast texturing and welds on the large superstructure to the intricate suspension bogies that are unfortunately mostly hidden after assembly to the many smaller sub-assemblies such as the Commander’s cupola, MG turret and smoke launchers and the rear mounted exhaust muffler and big muzzle brake at the pointy end.

As mentioned the parts in my kit needed the excessive mould release washed off which is a little unusual for the kit these days and will affect the painting if not removed altogether but the fit overall was very good with just the rear superstructure wall and the side skirt fit needed a little attention. The fit and other issues mentioned above are all in the minor catagory in the overall scheme of things and dealt with using your basic skills.

There are several joins needing eliminating that will require the cast texturing re-done but nothing excessive and as with any kit there is scope for adding additional details and refining those provided to achieve the most from the kit but it will still build into an impressive model as it comes and should be a welcome addition to the Allied ranks even if only reaching the testing stage at the end of hostilities.

Rating 9/10

Build Images
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The Sprues:

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Sprue Detail Images
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Thanks to Meng Model for the review kit.

Page created September 3, 2012

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