I have to admit something. I have only one Panzer IV in my collection. There. I said it. Don't get me wrong, I like Shermans as much as the next guy, but I love the less mainstream subjects. My quest led to Hellerís old AMX-30 entering the stash a few years ago. I always wanted one on the shelf, but I knew it was going to take a lot of work to get that old kit to look right, so I never got around to it. But, wait! Out of the blue Meng
shows up with their new tooling brandy-new AMX-30B!
The AMX-30 started life as a joint project between France and Germany in the early 1960s. Like most joint programs of that era, it went nowhere. Instead, Germany went on to develop the Leopard 1 and France the AMX-30 (AMX= Atelier de Construction d'Issy-les-Moulineaux). The production version was known as the AMX-30B, and entered service with the French Army in 1967. It is armed with a 105mm main gun with a coaxial 20mm cannon (the 20mm cannon can also elevate independently of the main armament to engage targets), and a 7.62 machine gun on the commanderís cupola, and operates with a crew of four. Its designers decided mobility was more important than protection, so it has relatively thin armor.
Variants include the AMX-30S and AMX-30B2, and vehicles built around the AMX-30 chassis such as GCT SP 155mm howitzer and a transporter/launcher for the Pluton tactical nuclear missile. More than 3500 of all variants were produced and itís been exported to Spain, Greece, Chile, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. Qatari AMX-30Ss saw action in the Battle of Khafji during the Gulf War.
The kit comes packaged in a very colorful box with nice art. The long sides show the two finishing options. Inside you get 12 sprues molded in dark green and brown. There's a clear sprue, a small PE fret, decals, poly caps, 21-page instruction booklet, and a "Rubber Mat" (more on that later). No figures are included. The moldings are crisp, well-detailed, and generally flash-free.
Sprue A (x2): These identical sprues contain the road wheels, suspension parts and various other duplicated pieces.
Sprue B (x5): These 5 sprues are molded in brown, and each sprue has the parts for 36 links for a total of 180. The instructions say you'll need 80 on each side, so it looks like you'll have some leeway. Each link is two pieces. The outside half has the pins molded to it, and the inside half traps them between itself and the next link, making them workable. The pins are tiny, so those extra links may be necessary when you break a couple of pins. The tracks have no sink holes or knockout marks, but thereís a total of 5 attachment points per link. Sprue C has a track assembly jig to help save your sanity.
Sprue C: Turns out part C10 is more than just a track jig; itís also a handy PE bending jig, with a spot for bending every piece on the PE fret. I don't get along with PE, so this really helps out a guy like me. This sprue also holds the upper hull, mufflers, and engine deck.
Sprue D: This sprue holds two of the most distinctive features of this tank: the turret side stowage racks and the main gun. I always liked how the main gun has a "telescoping" look to it. Meng has molded it in two halves. Although the detail is sharp, assembling and sanding might cause some loss of that detail, so I think a turned metal barrel would have been better in this situation, and hopefully the aftermarket will give us an option to replace it with. The bustle racks are molded nice and thin and look very delicate, so care will be required when cutting them free. They have a small amount of flash on them which may be difficult to remove because they're so thin.
Sprue E: Another distinctive feature of this vehicle is contained on this sprue: the prominent commanderís cupola. It consists of four parts, and uses one of the clear parts for the 360 degree periscopes. There are two versions of the 20 mm cannon: one with what appears to be a cover, and one without which features a nice hollowed-out muzzle. The commander's machine gun and main searchlight are contained here, as well as a complete gun breech.
Sprue F: Sprue F has the pioneer tools (lots of them!), tow cables, and engine louvers, all with nice detail. The road wheel arms are also on this sprue, and they include the entire torsion bar. According to the box, when assembled with the other suspension components, they allow the suspension to operate like the real thing. Very cool, I'm looking forward to trying that out!
Sprue G: This sprue has a lot of upper hull parts. The headlight guards have a small amount of flash on them and part G43 has a little surface imperfection that can be easily fixed with sandpaper.
Upper Turret and Lower Hull: The turret is a nice molding that includes casting numbers. The lower hull is in good shape (no warping, etc) and has good detail.
Photo etch Fret: The PE fret holds 5 parts, the largest being the engine screens. As mentioned earlier, part C10 is a PE bending jig, with specific places to bend each part.
Decals: The decals are printed by Cartograf and contain markings for two French Tanks. The decals look to be well printed.
Clear Sprue: This sprue features the large 10-sided periscope for the commanderís cupola and the glass for the searchlight, as well as smaller periscopes and lenses for the headlights.
Poly Caps for the wheels and main gun.
"Rubber Mat": Meng includes a nifty little top mantlet cover made of a rubber material. I've never encountered this kind of material in a kit before. My gut instinct tells me that paint and glue might have a hard time sticking to it. The instructions say to attach it with super glue, but I have my doubts on that. I'm thinking epoxy. Either way, itís an interesting idea that allows you to pose the gun at any elevation.
The nice little instruction book is 21 pages, with the front and back covers in color. Assembly sequence is typical of most tank kits: suspension/lower hull, tracks, upper hull, and turret. Assembly drawings are clear and well laid out. Dividing assembly into 34 steps keeps the instructions from being too busy and confusing. The painting instructions are in full color.
Paint & Markings:
The kit contains markings and painting instructions for two versions of French tanks, one in overall olive drab and one in NATO three-color camouflage. Paint numbers for Hobby Color and Mr. Color are listed.
In my opinion, Meng has a winner here. An updated kit of this tank was desperately needed. It has great detail with very little flash and mold seams. Iím no expert of French armor, but the dimensions of the completed model as listed on the box are dead on accurate to the dimensions listed on Wikipedia. The MSRP of about 60 USD seems about right for a kit of this size and quality. I am very much looking forward to building it and hopefully doing a build log on it.
To view Jim's video of this kit click:
Cracking the Box