by: Alan McNeilly [ ]
With the recent announcement of the Bronco 17pdr AT gun you may well be looking for a suitable vehicle to tow it. As World War II progressed, redundant tanks such as the Crusader were converted into alternative roles. Some of the Crusaders were converted into ĎArtillery Tractorsí and used to tow the new 17pdr AT gun.
This is a look at the Accurate Armour C041 Crusader Gun Tractor conversion set. The set has been available for some time and I bought mine about 4 years ago after a good friend had given me an old Testors/Italeri Mk III Crusader kit (no. 812). However, I believe you could use any of the Crusader Mk I to Mk III Italeri kits as the donor vehicle.
The conversion was mastered by Jon Bottomely and George Moore and this extensive conversion includes all stowage, internal detail, crew weapons and opening hatches to produce a detailed and accurate version of the Crusader Gun Tractor. On page 7 of the Instructions thanks is also given to the National Tank Museum at Bovington and to Phil Hendry for additional help and information with the kit. This speaks for itself as you know the set has been well researched and will be as accurate as possible.
The set comes packed in a sturdy cardboard box and the front cover details the product and manufacturers details. The parts are contained in two large plastic zip bags which were packed in shredded paper for additional protection. You also get a small fret of PE to help add further detail to the set, along with an 8 page set of build instructions.
An 8 page A5 booklet with page 1 showing a colour picture of the finished model and again the manufacturers contact details. Page 2 details general instructions covering Health and Safety, suitable tools and some advice on working with resin. Page 3 details the build of the Hull Modifications and Drivers Compartment and contains three clearly marked pictures showing the placement of the parts. Page 4 covers the installation of the Ammunition Pallet and Interior, again with three good clear pictures detailing the placement of parts.
Page 5 is laid out in the same fashion as already mentioned and covers the Interior and Superstructure build required on the front of the vehicle. Page 6 has two clear pictures showing the build of the Deck and Hull Rear. All the pictures are of good quality and have directional lines to where the parts should go. Page 7 has the written build process and I recommend you read this a couple of times before you begin. Finally on page 8 is a listing of the kit parts to allow you to check everything is there and also aid you in understanding what all the various bits actually are, which I think is always a real plus in any kit.
The Conversion Parts
These are cast in a light grey resin and will require separation from the pour plugs, so a sharp razor saw and some files/emery board will be needed. The level of detail is excellent with the casting being sharp and crisp, and I could see no damage or major cause for concern. The main parts are designed as a series of drop in/drop on sub sections, so in theory this should be a reasonably easy conversion. However, the Italeri kit will require some alteration, so reading page 7 of the instructions, studying the kit and conversion kit parts will be very important before you start to build anything. Remember to test fit everything as you go.
As far as I can tell you get everything you need to make a really interesting and detailed conversion.
If there is a weakness in the kit it is the lack of pictures of where to cut and alter the donor kit. These details are written out on page 7 in logical steps but you then need to interpret them correctly, therefore this is not a beginners kit and time will tell if I have understood them correctly.
Ok letís have a look at some of the individual parts that go make up the conversion:
You get a drop in drivers compartment lower floor plate (PD), with the lower seating in place and small dividing break wall. Moulded to this are some additional fittings. To add to this, a large stowage bin, nicely detailed fire extinguisher, steering control unit, gear change gate and some small fixings are included.
Part C, the front drivers plate, is again nicely detailed on both sides as is Part F, the rear upper plate, which comes with various boxes and fixtures attached and is topped off by a nicely rolled up tarp. Parts &Q, &R will be the left and right ready round bins and both are very well moulded and have excellent detail.
Both part H and I, the crew doors, are also nicely depicted with appropriate fixings in place. Part AD, the ammunition stowage boxes and rear fire wall unit come as a whole and have first class detail. This is a bulk part and is very well finished with only a thin mould base along the bottom to sand off.
Parts &G and &H, the left and right air cleaners, are very well done and connect to parts AE and AF which are the air cleaner outlets and hull engine inlets respectively. These look to be extremely well done.
Parts A and B are the front side panels with the large stowage bins and seating, and again these look to be beautiful parts.
Parts S, T, and U consist of a small rear stowage box, POW can rack and oil can, excellent detail on all these parts. Parts J, K, L and M provide a small and large stowage bin, with parts L and M being more POW 2 gallon cans.
Parts & D provide the front left and right track guard, parts &E are the detailed armoured visors for the front plate.
You get a good set of spades, 4 x SMLE rifles with stowage bracket attached, 2 x Thompson .45 Machine Guns, 1 x Bren Gun, 8 x canvas type water bottles plus two really nicely done rolled camouflage nets. There are 3 different types of fire extinguishers, two tow hooks both front and rear and various other small stowage boxes plus a fret to PE. You also get a spare wheel, complete with fixing cross, for the 17pdr, (my kit had two which is a plus as only one is listed).
Thatís not all the parts, but it will give you good idea of whatís in the box. There are some small parts so be careful of these and the carpet monster. Normal precautions apply when working with resin.
The casting and detail on all the parts is, quite frankly, beautiful. These are expertly cast and highly detailed. All the parts are clearly numbered, so you can refer both to the part list to find out what they are and to the pictorial diagrams to enable placement.
This set offers a highly detailed Crusader Gun tractor. Combined with the donor kit this will make an excellent stand alone vehicle or add to it either the Accurate Armour 17pdr, or the new Bronco 17pdr, and you will have a rather grand and interesting looking vehicle.
Iím not sure what delayed me in getting started on this kit, but having now had a good look at the parts I am eager to get going on this one. Like all conversions, take your time, read the instructions carefully, test fit the parts and enjoy the build. Savoured, not rushed would be my thoughts here.
The fact that this is an open topped conversion just adds to the appeal, and although you are more than adequately catered for in stowage and kit there will still be plenty of opportunity to add you own individual style to the finished model.
I have a feeling that given the time frame this vehicle was produced in (1943/44) that the SMLE should really be No 4 rifles, but Artillery Units may still have been receiving the SMLE, so check your references.
Lots of good things to look forward to in this one and Iím constantly amazed at the level of detail produced in resin casting, truly amazing.
You might consider getting a set of replacement tracks for the donor kit as Italeri ones are not always that friendly.
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