The British Mk IV tank of WWI needs no introduction – there is a ton of reference available on the internet that can do a better job than I could here. However, until recently the only 1:35 scale plastic kits we had available were the rather simplistic Emhar “male”, “female”, and “tadpole” kits. Then last year along came the Tamiya Mk IV “male” kit (build log
by Alan McNeilly), followed hotly by Takom’s announcement of both “male” and “female” kits. Some time ago, Roman gave a build review
of the Mk IV “female” kit, and this review covers the “male”. It follows on from a build log
by this author. There is also a Mk IV “hermaphrodite” kit from Takom, which is somewhat fictitious, but could be used as the basis of the winch tanks designed for Operation Hush, the planned (but not executed) amphibious assault at Ostende.
As the review progresses, there will be inevitable direct comparisons to Tamiya Mk IV “male”…
Inside a large “lid & tray” box there are 11 bagged sprues, a sheet of photo-etch, two metal 6pdr barrels, a length of chain, and a sheet of decals. Then there is the large instruction booklet, plus correction sheet. You’ll be surprised to hear that this kit uses most of the sprues from the earlier Mk IV “female” kit, so has many of the same issues! All the moulding was very crisp, with no flash or sink-holes. Except for the tracks (all five sprues of them!) which are brown, the plastic parts are tan.
There are markings for two tanks – the British tank “Lodestar” which is preserved in Belgium, and “Heinz”, a captured German beutepanzer that was photographed after being knocked out by its original British owners. Both are based on photos, so are perfectly acceptable, but the German tank should have its 6pdrs replaced by 57mm Nordenfelt guns which had smaller curved shields – MR Models does resin replacements in its set #35434. (German tanks were also supposed to sport Maxim 08 MGs instead of Lewis guns, but due to shortages most used re-chambered Lewis MGs so the kit parts are acceptable.)
The first thing to note is the sheer number of parts in this kit – the tracks alone account for over a thousand! The instructions start with building the main hull, followed eventually by the track frames. However, it is far more sensible to assemble the main hull panels and inner track frames first before adding all those breakable details. I found alignment of the driver’s cab panels to be rather fiddly since there are no “positive” features to lock in the correct positions. The parts meet at the edges so it can be very floppy until enough sides are added. The two long top seams are less than ideal – on the real thing these edges were made of angle-iron riveted to each face so there shouldn’t be any visible gap at the corner. The two visors at the front are well detailed, but the small flaps are moulded on when Tamiya provides them as separate parts. Note that there is no interior detail at all, so aside from the Lewis gun butt there is nothing to see if the visors are open. Besides, the cab panels are all far thicker than the 1/3mm that the original 12mm panels would be in 1:35 scale.
The one detail on the hull worth noting is the roof hatch. Tamiya got this right, while Takom somehow got it wrong. The kit hatch narrows too much, and does not overhang the frame the way the Tamiya one does. Then there’s the pistol flap – there is no corresponding “hole” on the inside! (Again, Tamiya got this right…) It also lacks two of the four rivets on each hinge strap, interior details for the latch and the pistol-flap handle, and the notch in the narrow end. There are discussions of it on Landships
and Missing Lynx
, and while Takom’s hatch might represent a true production variant, it doesn’t seem to match the preserved tank they measured! Rebuilding the hatch and its frame would be possible, and the thin-ness of plastic card would look more like the half-inch armour plating of the real thing. There is also a missing pistol flap on the hull roof next to the hatch. I know it appears in the original drawings as seen in the Haynes Great War Tank Mk IV
book, but I am not sure if all the Mk IVs had them.
The cab front holds the first of three Lewis guns, which are beautiful plastic parts! Unlike Tamiya, Takom gives the whole gun (not just the barrel), and it certainly doesn’t need any aftermarket replacement. Best of all, only three get used in the kit, so the fourth one is a spare for diorama use!
There is some PE used on the hull roof, for exhaust muffler straps and six odd disks on the grouser stowage box. The other PE parts are brackets on the fuel tank, which is a beautiful assembly that is almost wasted in its hidden position at the rear. The one odd thing is the moulded-on filler flap handle – surely this should have been a separate part?
Next come the track frames, with the gears and chain details that cannot be seen on the finished model! I chose to open up one side as if displayed in a museum, but then there are other details between the frames that Takom doesn’t provide, so I had to scratch-build the missing ammo tubes and flanges that are normally hidden by the armour plates. Getting all the spacers to fit correctly takes some fettling, and all those road wheels make it a three-handed job to get the frame sides closed up. (The real ones have all this stuff added AFTER the panels are riveted together…) There is an issue with the fit of the wheels, and Takom’s solution is to dry-fit the wheels on their axles so they can slide a bit – the trouble is the flanged wheels interfere with the unflanged ones, which need to spread out to accommodate. By comparison, the slightly less accurate Tamiya design goes together like a dream. Needless to say, none of this can be seen on the finished model! Perversely the one set of wheels that can be seen is the single axle on top of the frame at the rear – Takom calls for unflanged wheels while the real thing had flanged ones here that can be seen through the mud-chute opening. Swapping them with an axle of flanged wheels from underneath is easy enough.
Takom provides four positions for the idler axle at the front, so it can be adjusted to remove slack. However, to move it the frame sides will need to be spread out – not an easy task. There is no info on the correct hole to use…
Each track link is made from five parts – a plate and four tiny inner pieces. The fit is not well-defined, and getting them wrong will mess up the track very visibly. I spent far too long making two links as a test, before giving up and reaching for a set of Masterclub’s excellent snap-together links. Takom now offers a set of one-piece snap-together links (standard in the “tadpole” kit), but I haven’t seen these “in the plastic” yet. The track grousers look great, whether added to the track or stowed in the box on the roof. And there is one link per side designed with the unditching-beam attachment clamp in place – these do fit well with the Masterclub links once you get the four little bits glued on. Takom notes that its tracks could be glued to the frames without adding any of the inner parts, but this would look strange since the real links ride slightly above the frames.
The 6-pounder guns are beautiful little kits in their own right, almost too good to hide away in the sponsons. The only real issue I found was with the sight tube, where the forward bracket (part G48) has a vague fit. I found it best to glue it to the shield collar (G43) and then add the sight, rather than the way the instructions showed. (It fits in a shallow slot on the back of the collar.) The metal barrels are a nice touch. The curved outer shield comes in three parts, so there are seams to fill. If there is any gripe, it is with the pedestal mount – the lower part (G34) rotates with the gun when it should be fixed to the base (G17) instead. However, Takom use it to trap a poly-cap, so there is no choice.
The sponsons, unlike the guns, are a nightmare to build. Each is made of 11 flat plates that are edge-joined, and getting the sequence right makes the difference between fitting and not fitting. The first one I did had to be pried apart several times before I got it right, and I’ve been building models for four decades now! One thing that helps is leaving off the pedestal mount until after the sponson is assembled. Be aware that the sponson floor has two extension strips at either end that are part of the angle-iron support on the outside of the hull. I bent these so often during assembly that eventually I had to carve one off and replace it with some plastic strip glued to the hull side (just like the real thing) before carefully carving off the bolt heads from the floor and transferring them. If I build another one I’ll do this straight away.
The last thing to mention is the unditching beam. This comes with some very shiny chain and fiddly PE brackets that are a challenge. I’d recommend getting replacement blackened chain. Note that the beam is smooth – the real ones show little or no visible grain due no doubt to thick paint and dried mud. I scored some grain in with the teeth of a saw, but it isn’t really worth the trouble.
There are a few hiccups in this kit that I really don’t appreciate in anything retailing for £50 GBP, but the end result is a very decent representation of the Mk IV. The Tamiya kit is easier to build, but this Takom kit offers more potential for those who plan to add interiors etc – just make sure you have a lot of bench-time available.
The low score reflects the need to rebuild the hatch and replace the tracks, since I don't feel this kit can be built adequately with just the contents of the box. Your mileage may vary...