by: Russ Amott [ ]
During WWII, Japan focused most of its attention to the development of aircraft and ships. Armor support for ground forces was considered to be less important because of the nature of the terrain they would be operating on. Japanese tanks in existence were light weight and seriously under-armed in comparison with tanks being produced by other nations. The Type 97 "Chi-Ha", or "medium, third type" tank was inferior and vulnerable in battle and so a new tank design was sought.
The Type 1 Chi-He (chi-medium, He-sixth, or sixth type design) appeared in 1941, but production did not start until 1943 because of the low priority given to armor, and because the need for armor was not apparent until Japanese losses in the Pacific, against Allied forces using substantial armored support. The Type 1 offered a more powerful engine, thicker armor, a simplified forward hull made up of single pieces of armor plate that were welded instead of riveted, and replaced the 57mm low velocity infantry gun of the Type 97 with a high velocity 47mm anti-tank gun. Approximately 300 turrets built for the Type 1 were installed on Type 97 tanks, which were referred to as Shinhoto, or new turret. The Type 1 was also the first tank to include standard radio mounts. It was 1.5 tons heavier than the Type 97, and the hull was lengthened to allow for the larger engine.
Only 170 units were built before production shifted to newer designs mounting more powerful guns. Most sources state that the Type 1 was not used in combat, being retained for the defense of the Japanese home islands, but some sources state that a few may have been sent to Leyte. Whether they arrived or not is unknown because of the destruction of shipping records. References for the Type 1 are few.
in the box
Fine Molds first came out with the Type 1 in 2000. From comments online, the Type 1 is the easiest of the builds that Fine Molds offers, so I figured this would be a good place to start. The box art depicts a tank with an artillery piece in the background. There is no specific location, but the painting does provide some nice detail.
Inside there are 157 parts on four tan colored styrene sprues, one clear parts sprue, a separate turret and hull, and two lengths of glue-able track. The instructions are all in Japanese, but the picture diagrams are clear and easy to understand. Basic colors are indicated, and the instructions also provide specific paint numbers for Tamiya, and what appears to be Gunze Sangyo Mr. Color and Aqueous Hobby Color.
Sprue A has the front and rear hull sections, sponsons and commander's cupola.
The two B sprues have the suspension parts, with the hubs for the center road wheels separate. Grease nipples on the hubs are molded in. There are also parts for the mufflers.
Sprue C has the turret base, hatches, gun assembly with detailed breech and housing with heavy casting texture. As a bonus, there are spare rivets on the back side of the B and C sprue name plates.
The turret upper is a single part with nice rivet detail.
The upper hull has handles and engine deck detail molded in, but done very finely.
The lower hull has rivet detail on the sides and bottom, and the lower half of the brackets for mounting the track fenders.
The clear parts sprue has lens covers for the head and tail lights along with periscopes for the commander's cupola.
The two track runs are single length rubber band type, with decent detail molded in. They have a slight "wobble" where the attachment points are for the sprue. They can be glued and are decent for this type. Where they join there are three solid track links, so they will need to be positioned where this won't show.
There is a small section of vinyl screen provided for the muffler screens.
Decals are for three tanks, all based in Japan, August 1945. The paint scheme is dark yellow, IJA green and a dark mahogany brown, in a hard edge pattern.
Quality of the moldings is very nice. There was slight flash on some parts, and mold seams are visible but generally are easy to clean up. The plastic reminded me of that used by AFV Club, as it has an almost translucent appearance to it. It is soft and cuts easily.
I followed the instructions carefully, beginning with the suspension. There is some flash on the drive sprockets, but clean up was easy. Detail on the road wheels is sharp and quite nice. The upper hull is next, with the installation of the sponsons. There are screens molded onto the sponson with good detail, but the parts are slightly undersize. You are also directed to drill two small holes and clean up the upper surface. Join the upper and lower parts and add the front plate with the driver's vision port and hull machine gun. This part sits a bit high and I don't know if it should be flush or stay this way as I can't find a good reference photo. Builds I have seen online show it sitting high so I left it that way. The hatch, shown part B10 is actually A10, but fits fine.
Once the hull is complete the suspension is attached. It is unique with the first and last road wheel sitting independent and the center two sets in pairs, and everything is connected by springs. There are three return rollers with the middle only having one wheel.
When I assembled the mufflers, I found that parts B17, the forward end of the muffler, each had a large sink mark although when placed on the assembled kit it doesn't show. The jack stand, parts A10 and 11, sits too high and when the jack is placed in it the jack won't make contact with the bracket for the base that is molded on the upper surface. You will have to shave off the stand, and relocate the inner brackets on the parts to get the jack to sit in place.
All the small details of the hull front and rear and upper hull sides are next. Some parts are tiny and waiting to be taken by the carpet monster. The driver's hatch can be positioned open, but since the interior is bare, there is nothing to see. The vinyl screen is to be glued to the inner surface of the muffler guards. I had a hard time with this as the vinyl material didn't want to stick, even with the CA glue I was using. It is also a little thick, but does look nice when completed.
The turret and main gun assembly were simple and quickly completed. The vision blocks for the cupola are only visible if the hatch is left open, so if you are going to close it up, save the parts for another project. The assembled gun slips easily into the turret opening. Once that is in place and the tracks are glued and slipped on you are done.
The kit is simple and easily built, but there are some minor missing details. First, the vision slits on the forward hull are visible, but only barely so and will need to be redone. There should also be vision slits on the commander's cupola, two to each side, but these are not marked at all. Use a template and a steady hand or they will end up looking like mine. There should be a large screw head on each side of the mantlet, and a rivet or screw just below the right hand screw. You will have to add those for proper detail.
There should be rivets on the front of each of the final drive housings which can be obtained by the extra rivets provided on the sprue name plates, and a bracket with two rivets attaching each of the front fenders to the final drive. There should also be screws on the inside of the final drive, visible just above the forward hull plate. It is hard to see the details clearly in photos, but the box art provides a nice resource for these details. The casting texture on the gun housing is extremely heavy, and does not look prominent in photos so you may want to tone this down. There is a stand to use the turret mounted MG as an anti-aircraft weapon, but there is no complete gun to mount.
Quality of the kit is good, but for the cost I expected a little more in comparison to other manufacturers. It went together with no issues and fine details are, I think, very good, but as I mentioned I would have preferred to see the addition of the full MG for the anti-aircraft mount, or instructions specifying the addition of rivets and brackets, or molded in vision slits.
If you are a fan of Japanese armor, you have few options. This is the only plastic kit I am aware of in 1/35 scale of the Type 1. If you are looking for something different this is a good choice. I still have some detailing to do on my kit, and then painting, but it offers a quick build with few hassles, all of which are easy to take care of.