Kit Review: Dragon Models Limited 1/35 scale Black Label Series Kit No. 3554; British Armoured Car Saladin Mk. 2: 237 parts (226 in grey styrene, 6 DS Plastic tires, 4 clear styrene, 1 etched brass); pre-order price US$67.99 via Dragon USA Online
Advantages: first new kit of this vehicle in this scale in styrene in nearl y 50 years; nicely done layout and detailing
Disadvantages: no interior whatsoever
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for all Commonwealth and Export fans and wheeled AFV fans
The British Army, more so than many others, has preferred wheeled vehicles for many missions and used a plethora of them in WWII - armored cars, scou t cars, reconnaissance cars, and security vehicles of varying mobility and firepower. After the war they took their time finding suitable replacements for the WWII vehicles.
The big winner here was Alvis, who designed a complete series of vehicles that were numbered in the FV600 series. The armored car member of the famil y, the Saladin, was FV601 and used the same 6 x 6 chassis to all of its rel ations. It was a compact vehicle with a Rolls-Royce V-8 gasoline engine and sufficient fuel for a road range of 400 kilometers, armed with a 76mm shor t gun and two .303 machine guns (later 7.62mm), one coaxial and one free mo unt on the turret. Protected by 16mm armor and able to fire either HESH, HE or HEAT ammunition, it was a very capable machine when introduced in 1958.
Over its 14 year production run 1,177 Saladins were built and wound up in the armies of some 36 countries, with their most recent usage being in 2009 . Most Americans probably last remember them as part of the Kuwaiti defense forces in 1990 valiantly trying to fight off Iraqi T-72 tanks as seen on t heir TV screens.
The vehicle has always been popular with modelers but not model companies. The only two styrene kits of this vehicle up until now have been a very ba d and very ancient one from Tamiya (sized for a motor package and not scale per se) and an HO one from ROCO. Resin kits have been around for several y ears, but this kit is the first new mold version of a Saladin to hit the ma rket.
DML at least asked two highly knowledgeable people about the Saladin: Ken Jones, editor emeritus of "Military Modeling", and Peter Brown, editor emer itus of the "Track-Link". The result matches all of my references for the v ehicle, and as noted above is very petite compared to the Tamiya kit of yea rs gone by.
It come with a two-piece hull (upper and lower) so that in theory an FV603 Saracen or FV620 Stalwart could also be coming behind it as they all share the same drive line and components. The model uses DML's successful wheel system of a DS plastic tire with no mold lines to speak of and a styrene ba cking plate and rear section, which gives the best overall representation o f the tires and wheels. While most of the hatches are separate components, there is not a bit of an interior in either the hull or turret, so the latt er will need figures or some work to fill the openings if the hatches are l eft open.
The very beefy suspension is nicely done so that the parts are "ganged" to gether - four shock absorber/spring unit at each corner and three per side in the center. The fender units are built up from elements and components b ut the stowage bins are sealed.
The turret hatches may be permitted to operate if the modeler so desires b ut as noted there is no interior in the turret nor is there any interior fa ce to the hatches. The latter is surprising in this day and age and I am su re some enterprising after-market company will address that with a detail s et for this kit.
The smoke projectors all are provided as separate parts and each cluster c onsists of some nine parts. The only etched brass part in the kit is the gr ill screen for the rear vents in the hull.
Six different finishing options are provided: B Sqn 1 RTR Cyprus 1975 (bla ck/green with number plates); "British Army" (black/green with code 31 and number plates); Queen's Royal Irish Hussars, Brunei 1963 (black/green with code 31, crossed scimitars and number plates); A Sqn Queen's Own Hussars, 1966 (green overall, unit insignia, number plates); B Sqn 3 RTR Sharjah, Per sian Gulf 1968 (sand/green, unit insignia, number plates); B Sqn 3 RTR Shar jah, Persian Gulf 1968 (sand/green - different scheme, unit insignia, numbe r plates). A small but very busy Cartograf sheet is provided for the markin gs. Overall this is a nicely done kit, but for the cost a few more details wou ld have been appreciated.
Thanks to Freddie Leung for the review sample.