by: Colin Key [ ]
Originally published on:
“Adopted by the French Army to replace their U.S. supplied light tanks, the AMX-13 was designed in 1950 by Atelier de Construction D’Issy-les-Moulineux, and produced by Atelier de Construction Roanne until 1987 with some 7,700 examples having been produced. The most striking feature of the AMX-13 tank is its oscillating GIAT turret. Rather than the gun pivoting within the turret, a ‘sub-turret’ (and the gun) elevates within the rotating turret. This design eliminates the normally bulky mantlet/gun shield on conventional designs. Built into the turret bustle is an automatic loader fed by 2 revolving magazines holding 6 rounds each of ready ammunition, with a rate of fire of 10 rounds per minute. Although this feature reduces the number of crew required to operate the tank, and certainly provides a formidable burst of firepower in an initial engagement, it exposes the crew during the time consuming process of reloading through the roof of the turret. With a combat weight of 14.8 tons and a crew of 3, the AMX-13/90 is powered by a 250HP gasoline engine with a syncromesh transmission providing 5 forward and 1 reverse speeds reaching a road speed of 60 km/h.
The AMX-13/90 is armed with the D919B 90mm gun with 31 rounds and either a 7.5 or 7.62mm AAT-52 Tak coaxial machine gun with 3,600 rounds (with optional second AAT-52 on roof ring). The tank is constructed of welded steel plates ranging from 20 to 40mm thickness with the engine located in the front.
Of the 7,700 produced, 3,400 AMX-13’s were exported broadly, and have seen combat from Africa to Central America to the Middle East to the Indian subcontinent. Operators include Algeria, Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Cambodia, Chile, Cyprus, Dominican Republic, Djibouti, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, France, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Israel, Ivory Coast, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Nepal, Netherlands, Peru, Singapore, Switzerland, Tunisia, and Venezuela. The French Army retired their fleet of AMX-13’s in the 1970’s, but they remain in service with many nations today.”
Taken from the instruction booklet cover.
Takom has recently released three different AMX-13 kits, this review deals with No. 2037, the 90mm AMX-13/90.
The kit comes in a smaller size cardboard box with some beautiful artwork on the top , a couple of paint schemes on one long side and kit contents on the other, along with pictures of Takom's AMX-13/75, AMX-13/75 w/SS-11 ATGM and their Big Bertha kits. Inside you will find a total of 13 sprues of parts, 10 sprues of track links and a clear sprue which includes periscopes, headlight lenses and searchlight lens. There is also a hull bottom, upper turret, a dust guard molded in soft vinyl, one photoetch etch fret and a small decal sheet. All of these are in separate polythene bags. There are a total of 408 parts, of with 180 are the indie track links.
The kit is molded in grey plastic and the overall quality of the molding appears excellent, with sharp details, minimal mold lines, little to no flash and any ejector pin marks located where they will not be seen after assembly.
Sprue ‘A’, of which there are 5, comes with two road wheels with separately molded road tires, two return rollers and their mounts, plus the suspension swing arms. You will have a few spare pieces left over from these.
Sprue ‘B’ holds the upper hull, fenders, commander’s cupola, the lower parts of the turret and a few tools and other turret bits. There is a large cooling fan opening, but absolutely no interior detail, so even though it will be covered with a fairly fine PE mesh, you will probably want to paint the inside of the hull black to cover up the lack of detail. Ditto for the drivers hatch and commander’s cupola, clear vision blocks are provided for both, but no interior detail so you will either have to scratch it or get some figures to put in the hatches if you want to leave them open.
Sprue ‘D’ holds the two-piece barrel complete with thermal sleeve, spotlight, fender stowage bins and miscellaneous hull turret details. The two-piece barrel comes with both the muzzle brake and canvas cover at the base of the barrel moulded in place. This should keep things nicely lines up but we will see how much of a seam there is to clean up…how long before a metal a/m barrel comes out?
Sprue ‘E’ is full of various detail bits for the hull and turret, including hatches, gun travel lock, spare road wheel, exhaust and grab handles, etc. A lot of the pieces on this sprue are either very tiny or very fragile, so extreme care will have to be taken when removing them from the sprue and cleaning them up in order not to damage and/or lose them.
Sprue ‘J’, of which there are two, holds the drive sprockets, jerry cans, lifting lugs, headlights and various handles and other details. Again, there are some extra bits here for your parts box.
Sprue ‘K’, of which there are also two, holds the idler wheels and a couple of small hull details.
Sprue ‘N’ comprises all the clear parts such as headlight and spotlight lenses and vision blocks.
There are ten sprues of indie track links, each with 18 links to remove and clean up. The instructions call out 86 links per side, so you should have 8 links left over.
The lower hull tub is a one piece affair, with good detail including the underside. The plastic is quite thin so there is a fair bit of flex in this (don’t leave it too close to a hot lamp!). Mine did come slightly warped and twisted, but given the flexibility it should not be an issue to get aligned during construction. The upper turret is also molded in one piece and is nicely done, although there is an annoying mold gate on the top of the turret that will need to be carefully sanded away. The last piece is the flexible vinyl dust cover which looks quite nice, but when glued in place will prevent the oscillating turret from pivoting, although there is an option to build it without.
The PE fret contains 26 other pieces for grilles, headlight guards and other sundry details. They are quite nicely done and the mesh is very fine.
There is a small sheet of decals to round off the kit.
The instruction booklet is 17 pages in landscape format, covering 28 steps clearly illustrated with 3D CAD drawings, with a number of the steps being split between two alternative ways of assembling various parts of the model. Painting for three variants is well covered in the painting and marking manual. Takom’s collaboration with Mig Jimenez is obvious as all colour callouts are Mig colours. Two of the paint schemes are for the French Army while one is for the Venezuelan army, with all projections shown to ensure the builder can accurately reproduce the camo schemes.
STEPS 1 & 2
Construction begins as usual with the suspension and lower hull details. Some minor cleanup of mold seams and fairly large sprue gates is required but goes quickly. Everything fits together well and with no drama, although the suspension arms are “keyed” to square holes on the hull tub, so some minor surgery will be required if you want to pose the model with an articulated suspension over rough terrain. One minor item noted is that some of the suspension arm locater sockets appear to have been short shot in the moulding process, with holes through the tube wall. Not a biggie but combined with the hull warpage it makes me wonder if Takom isn’t cutting things a bit too fine.
Next, we assemble the road wheel, return rollers and idlers. Again, the sprue gates are fairly large on these and care will have to be taken not to make divots in the rubber tires when cutting them off as the plastic is a tad brittle. The road wheels fit very snugly on the axles, while the separately moulded rubber tires are fairly loose on the wheels. I left them off to paint separately, and just used a bit of blue tac so they would sit snugly on the wheels until I get the tracks assembled. The idlers are cast very thin to remain in scale and I did have some issues with some damage to the inside part when trimming the sprue gates, so take care. They are keyed for proper alignment, but it is very shallow and easy to get them misaligned and end up with the two rims not being parallel to each other. They are also very loose on their axles, so again some blue tac is used to keep them in place temporarily to allow the tracks to be fitted.
This involves fitting the upper hull to the hull tub. There were a few issues here due to the lower hull warpage, but by starting at the back and working my way forward I was able to get everything properly aligned. Once line up everything fit beautifully with only very minor filling required along the sides to smooth everything out and get rid of the join seam. The hull front E1 then slots in very nicely.
STEPS 4 & 5
Now we move on to adding various details to the front of the upper hull such as various tools, grab handle, stowage boxes, the drivers hatch & vision blocks (moulded in clear plastic), drive sprockets, tow lugs & shackles and spare road wheel. The PE fan grill fits like a glove and looks great.
STEPS 6 & 7
The instructions call out for the fenders to be installed prior to assembling the tracks, but I decided to assemble and wrap the tracks before the fenders were installed as a test fit showed things would get pretty tight. I am glad I did it and would recommend anyone else building this kit to do the same. Takom’s instructions call out 86 links per track but I thought this looked a bit too “saggy”, so I cut back to 85 links, there is still a bit of droop but not excessive, although looking at various pictures, some tanks did have very loose tracks and 86 could probably still be used. Each track has to be cut from the sprue and cleaned up, a bit tedious of course, but once I had a rhythm going it didn’t take that long. The tracks were assembled and glued, then wrapped around the running gear and allowed to set up overnight.
Once the tracks had dried, I installed the fenders, spare tracks (these are complete with a nicely moulded track pin), more PE grills and additional drivers hatch pieces. The right hand fender installed nice and level, but the left hand (driver’s side) fender slants down at the outer end. Not sure if it is a flaw in the way the parts are moulded or mis-assembly on my part (probably the latter the way everything else has fit together so far). The instructions call out for a number of holes to be drilled in the fenders for mounting of running lights.
STEPS 8 & 9
These steps involve the numerous headlights, convoy lights and light guards to be mounted on the front of the fenders. Some very delicate PE guards are provided, plus larger headlight guards that require 2 plastic and 3 PE parts to complete. For the most part these went together quite well, but the instructions were a little vague on how to position two of the PE parts and I am not sure I did them quite right. One of the PE parts did not seem to be quite the right shape either. The lights all come with clear lenses.
STEPS 10 & 11
Now it is time to install the fender storage boxes and muffler. Because of the sloping fender issue, there was a slight gap where the fender butts up against the hull of the tank. I filled this with a thin piece of styrene strip shaved down to fit the gap. The storage boxes have PE detail on the outside face that requires some care when handling and installing due to its long delicate shape. Other than the gap mentioned previously, everything fits together very nicely with no filling required. Overall, I feel Takom has done an excellent job of designing and moulding this kit so far.
STEPS 12 to 14
This is all detail parts for the rear of the hull. Tow hook and shackles, tools and various brackets are added here and the hull is essentially complete, just needing the gun travel lock which is installed later.
STEPS 15 to 25
These steps cover the assembly of the turret and kind of jump around from the main upper turret to the lower “socket” part of the turret and back again. Again the instructions call out for a number of holes to be drilled out on the turret for various bits that will be added later. The commander’s cupola has eight clear vision blocks, but again absolutely no interior detail is provided, so if you want to position the hatch open best have a figure to put in there! Ditto for the gunners hatch.
The metal sights for the gunner and commander (parts J8) are installed at this stage, along with various lifting lugs, grab handles and other details. These are quite fragile and easily bent/broken, so be careful handling the turret after they are installed, or better yet, wait until the turret is completely assembled to avoid damage (if I build another one of these this is what I will do). The turret bottom is then attached and followed up with the rear panel, more detail bits and the searchlight. Takom gives you the option of mounting the searchlight on its bracket on the top of the turret in the ready to use position, or it can be stowed on a bracket on the side of the turret. I chose to mount it on top of the turret. A large clear lens is provided for this.
The lower part of the oscillating turret (the “socket” I call it)can be assembled with or without the canvas dust shield. This is a soft vinyl piece that fits onto the socket and then will have to join up with the upper turret. I made the mistake of gluing it into place on the bottom part before attaching the top of the turret. If you are going to use it, I would recommend leaving it unglued until you have the upper and lower parts of the turret mounted together and then adjust the fit of the dust cover before gluing. I was able to get it to join up pretty good, but it would have been easier if left unglued. Bear in mind that if you use the dust cover the turret will not oscillate up and down. If you want to pose the turret elevated or depressed, you will have to do it without the kit supplied dust cover.
The antennae, smoke grenade launchers and grab handles are now added to the bottom part of the turret and here I ran into some minor issues. The antennae Takom have provided are delicately moulded and very fragile, with one breaking as I was taking it off the sprue and the other already broken on the sprue. They are pretty obviously bent in the photos. The upper smoke grenade launchers also needed a bit of surgery to allow them to mount properly and not interfere with the antennae mounts.
The last steps of turret assembly involve the jerrycan mounted on the side of the turret and the gun barrel. Although it is a two piece barrel, it fits together very nicely with minimal seam lines and no filling required, just some light sanding. Still, I wonder how long it will be before someone turns out an aftermarket barrel and additional PE for this kit? The barrel is keyed, but the muzzle brake looks a little off center to me.
STEPS 26 & 27
These last steps involve the travel lock for the gun and front splash guard. The travel lock can be assembled two ways, travel or combat mode. I chose combat mode. Again, the parts are quite delicate and the instructions are a little unclear, so it took a bit of finagling to get everything into what I hope are the proper positions!
This was my first experience with a Takom product and overall I can say that I am quite pleased with it. The amount of detail, casting quality and fir of parts is for the most part excellent, with only a few minor instances of flash, and very minimal mould seams to clean up. There are a few issues as noted previously, and I did find the instructions a little hard to read at times, be it due to vagueness of the small size; I did find it necessary to look at them under my magnifying lamp to see the required detail on occasion (or maybe it’s just me getting old…). While it is not an exceedingly difficult build, I would say it is geared towards the more experienced builder.
Overall, I feel that Takom has done a wonderful job on this kit, and I would assume the same for the two AMX-13/75 kits as well as they obviously share the majority of their parts. Highly recommended.