Built Review
Char B.1 bis & Renault FT-17

by: Jim Rae [ JIMBRAE ]

I purchased this two-vehicle set for a variety of reasons. Not least of which, was curiousity as to how well the moulds have stood up and to build a vehicle which I will shortly be building in 1/35th scale - the Char B.1 bis.

The Kit
03220 - Char B.1 bis & Renault FT-17 is a re-boxing, by Revell(Germany) of the 1970s Matchbox kit. The model comes on three sprues, moulded in a very dark green, brittle plastic. Two of the sprues consist of the two vehicles, the third contains a rather well-done diorama base (which was one of the trademarks of this series). Also included is an extensive instruction sheet and a small decal sheet.

In Detail
The first impressions, from reading the instructions, is that this is basically quite a simple kit. Also, from looking at the sprues, there are few mould lines or excess flash, suggesting that the moulds are in good shape.

The construction (to avoid frustrating the modelers of the 1970s?) is considerably simplified from would be expected nowadays, with for example, the distinctive running gear on the Renault FT-17 consists of only six parts - the roadwheels are moulded into the side frames. This is also true for the Char B.1 bis as well, although in the actual vehicle, the roadwheels were pretty much hidden by the side armor.

Accuracy has also been somewhat sacrificed, with areas such as the distinctive dome on top of the Char B.1 bis being of a rather peculiar profile as is the turret in general leaving a lot to be desired.

Although the construction of the original vehicles involved many bolts, the bolts on the kit are surprisingly subtle. The engraving of moulded-on hatches and engine grilles is also nicely done - again showing a level of finesse and sophistication in the original kits.

Construction Notes
I built the Char B.1 bis as it was a vehicle I had better documentation on. It would be exaggerating to say it was a frustrating exercise although the fit of some of the parts was not the best. Curiously enough, some of the sub-assemblies are over-engineered, while others, far too simplistic. As can be seen from the photos, I have left off many of the components on the rear decking as some suffer from being a touch overscale. Some afterwork with putty will also be necessary as there are a few minor gaps. It was, on the whole, quite an enjoyable experience and not exactly a project which could be considered complex.

Other Areas
Decals: One of the most impressive 'updates' to the kit is the new decal set. Markings are included for four Char B.1 bis' , including one for the 'test' camouflage scheme which had real foliage included in the scheme. There are three Renault FT.17s - two of which are for captured German vehicles.

Tracks: These are the rubber-band type vinyl tracks, which (vaguely) represent the originals. A little on the 'nasty' side, although, where would one find replacements?

This is a kit with some real possibilities for anyone prepared to REALLY put the time into. It's a fun build with more than a touch of nostalgia thrown in for good measure. On the whole, it has stood up to the years well although it's a pity that Revell couldn't have put a bit of thought into areas which could have been improved rather tahn simply re-issuing. Great value for the money though!
When they were first issued, the 1/76th scale Matchbox kits were impressive for their imaginative subjects and value for money. Recently, Revell (Germany) acquired their moulds and have re-issued many of them. However, just how well do they stand up to today's offerings?
Percentage Rating
  Scale: 1:76
  Mfg. ID: 03220
  Suggested Retail: £4.99
  PUBLISHED: Sep 10, 2006

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About Jim Rae (jimbrae)

Self-employed English teacher living in NW Spain. Been modelling off and on since the sixties. Came back into the hobby around ten years ago. First love is Soviet Armor with German subjects running a close second. Currently exploring ways of getting cloned to allow time for modelling, working and wr...

Copyright ©2021 text by Jim Rae [ JIMBRAE ]. All rights reserved.


This was one of my favorite Matchbox kits. I still have a couple of the Matchbox issues on the shelf.
SEP 09, 2006 - 11:11 PM
Recently bought a couple to go with the original Matchbox ones I still have. Revell appear to have taken the paint schemes from Steve Zaloga's old 'Blitzkrieg' title for A and AP which means that the schemes for the French models are a little suspect compared to the more recent information on Chars Francais. David
SEP 10, 2006 - 11:49 AM

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