ARM: Review - AFV Club 1/35 scale IDF Sh'ot Kal 1973 (upgraded Centurion)

Kit Review: AFV Club 1/35 scale Kit No. 35124; IDF Shot Kal 1973; 621 parts (527 in olive drab styrene, 52 in black vinyl, 18 etched brass,
18 clear styrene, 6 copper coated coil springs, 6 in gunmetal styrene, 1 black nylon string, 1 black nylon mesh, 1 resin casting, 1 turned aluminum barrel): price not known but estimated as at least US$48
Advantages: first styrene kit of this popular subject; kit provides sufficient parts for either a Centurion Mk 5/1, early IDF Shot, or later production Shot Kal; well designed parts breakdown provides flexibility
Disadvantages: vinyl tires and tracks always problematic to paint; melting plastic parts a retrograde assembly feature
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: to all Centurion and IDF fans
    The real world and the modeling world rarely meet up; if they did, the most popular subjects would be modern Soviet, American, Chinese and British subjects, not WWII German ones. And of all of the modern subjects, one of the most enduring in regard to longetivity and popularity is the British Centurion tank. Developed at the end of WWII and with the first production models coming off the lines in 1945, this tank evolved through 13 major production variants and countless subvariants as well as the foreign models and modifications. Since its inception, the tank has been in nearly constant use or combat since 1950, and has suffered the ignonomy of having to fight itself on occasion.
    As such, once the arms embargoes began to be removed from Israel in the late 1950s the tank was sold to the IDF where it proved very popular, and was the premier striking weapon in the 1967 Six Day War. But it did suffer the drawback of being gasoline powered in a day and age where all other new tanks were diesel powered. Gasoline engines translate into two major problems: high degree of flammability and short range. As such, and with a supply of American M48 tanks and Continental diesel engines flowing into Israel after that war, the IDF gave the Centurion - or Sh'ot as they dubbed it - a major makeover and installed the American Continental AVDS-1790 engine in the tank, giving it the trademark "humpbacked" engine deck seen on US M48 and M60 tanks. They also upgraded the tanks to 105mm British L7 guns at the same time.
    During October 1973 the Sh'ot Kal (as the upgrade was dubbed) was allocated to the units operating in the north of Israel, where mobility as not as important as the desert areas and protected was considered more important (a Centurion has roughly 305mm of armor around the mantlet area). As such they fought many desperate but ultimately successful battles, such as that fought by Avigdor Khalani's 77th Tank Battalion of the 7th Armoured Brigade overlooking the "Vale of Tears" where they destroyed over a hundred Syrian T-55 and T-62 tanks.
    As such, ever since 1973 this particular version of the Centurion has become nearly iconic and forever associated with the IDF. Surprisingly up until now nobody has made a kit of this famous vehicle, and it has only been in the last few years that a decent model of any Centurion kit has come on the market. Up until then if you wanted a Sh'ot Kal you had to buy the ancient and badly flawed Tamiya Centurion (or one of its clones) and a conversion kit such as those sold by AEF Designs. As the base kit was awful - it was designed for a motorization pack and batteries which badly distorted the hull shape and size - the result was only going to be an approximation.
    This kit is a simple conversion of the great recent AFV Club line of Centurions, and only adds a few small sprues and one major one to their run of Mk 5 kits. The kit also includes all of the Mk 5 series parts such as the engine deck, fenders and stowage bins, so the modeler has a wide variety of options as to what to do with it. (Note that the directions only cover building the Sh'ot Kal variant, however!)
    The model adds a total of 88 parts to cover the differences. These include the plethora of IDF water and fuel cans and the .30 caliber Browning guns used by Israeli tank commanders. They also provide a resin folding stretcher which appears to have been an IDF accessory to deal with wounded crewmen. Other features include the IDF bustle rack and of course the vented version of the "humpback" on the engine deck and M48-style US side loading cassette air cleaners. However, it does not come with a mantelet cover and those must be picked up separately from AFV Club (e.g. accessories AS35008 or AS35009).
    The kit comes with two features I personally don't get excited over, namely a spring-operated working suspension which requires heat fusing the pins of the parts for operation, and vinyl tires. The former at least is covered by the side skirts for most variants, and those who have more experience with the suspension report it is not as gimmicky as the rubber-bushed Sherman suspensions have been. Also this time AFV Club thankfully did not spring load the main gun to "recoil!"
    Construction is pretty straightforward and the directions, albeit of the "stick here" sketch variety, do not appear to have any major glitches. The kit is a typical AFV Club kit, however, so pay close attention as there are a lot of parts and some do not stand out as well as they should. They do highlight some such as the American taillights (L49 and L50) as the taillight goes on the left and the brakelight (the one with the rectangular top section) goes on the right. Also the lens on the headlights (parts D4) are actually correct for the period; while the inside lights are supposed to be infrared (e.g. for all practical purposes black in scale, as they are such a dark purple as to be indistinguishable in the housings) according to Khalani they had no IR equipment or viewers and needed the lights for night driving.
    All of the hatches are optional position types, but all AFV Club gives you is a white arrow that shows the other positions and doesn't clarify that point.
    Technical assistance for this kit was provided by Mr. Robert Manasherob.
    Four different units are covered and markings are provided for them, all for the Yom Kippur (1973) War: 7th Brigade, Golan Heights; Ugdat Peled, Golan Heights; 188th Brigade, Golan Heights; and Ugdat Adan, Sinai Desert. All are IDF sand with minor trim. Note that three of the tanks have temporary tac signs mounted on canvas panels and the modeler will have to add those himself from tissue or thin (e.g. 0.005") plastic or lead sheet.
    Overall this a great kit of a popular subject, and I for one am glad to finally see this famous tank kitted. Kudos to AFV Club for listening!
    Thanks to Shirley Lin of Hobby Fan Trading for the review sample.
Cookie Sewell
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On Apr 5, 6:12pm, wrote:

=====================================================Hi there.
When I first heard that AFV was doing the MK V Centurian I held off buying one to convert to an Israeli variant in the hope they would release an actual Israeli Centurian. The long wait is over and I hope to get one next month.
For me vinyl one piece tracks are a huge ^ADVANTAGE*. Not all modellers want to be bothered with individual track links. I have no problem painting them. It does seem strange to have a working suspension with vinyl tracks though as it is hard to pose a model with the proper track sag unless one fastens the tracks permanently which loses the working suspension. However the working suspension does make it much easier to pose a model on terrain other t han smooth or asphalt.
Cheers from Peter
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