by: Matt Flegal [ ]
Developed in response to fear of the Soviet IS-3 heavy tank, the Conqueror tank involved a new turret placed on a hull that began development in 1944. Mounting an American 120mm cannon and an advanced fire control system, the FV 214 tank served as over watch for the more plentiful Centurion tank. Twenty Mk 1 and 165 Mk 2 Conquerors were built from 1955 to 1959 and they served in the British army until 1966.
-Six sprues of bluish grey plastic
-Two separate hull pieces in bluish grey plastic
-4 DS main track sections in tan
-One small clear plastic sprue
-One metal braided tow cable
-A small sheet of decals
The Elephant in the Room
Letís get this out of the way first. This is a Dragon Model Black Label kit. These kits have a fairly mixed reputation based on accuracy, methods of construction, and level of difficulty. This kit is well in line with the lineís trend. I wonít be discussing accuracy much for two reasons. The first is that there arenít a lot of walk arounds out there to compare the kit to. The second is that Chris Meddings has an in box review on the internet that is based on actual measurements of existing Mk.2 tanks and boils down the shape and dimensional issues beautifully. To be honest, without access to photos or his review of the contents I wouldnít know that most of these issues existed.
Where I will freely comment is on the level of detail and construction. There is plenty enough there to facilitate a review.
Also, this is the first 1/35th scale plastic model of the Conqueror. Itís a big impressive tank and the model makes a big model. Previously, Accurate Armor had released a resin kit of the tank, which I also have. It is not an easy build and the kit does have some subtle shape issues and detail simplification on its own. But it will also take a lot more time and skill to build.
Step 1 is an odd combination of steps; building the running gear, the cupola machine gun, and the smoke dischargers. The detail on the running gear is reasonably good and the molding is sharp. There is a spring assembly in the bogies that the instructions suggest be placed at the same time as the rest is put together. I did that once and it was a bit tricky as the two bogie halves and the support arms are rather flimsy. For all of the rest I left the spring off until the rest of the assembly had dried. It slides in easily and will allow some movement. Which doesnít much matter as the supports on the hull block it from moving once installed. The machine gun is a pretty poor molding. The barrel is oversized, the receiver is blocky and simplified, the ammo box is ridiculously thick, and the cradle is basically a featureless wedge of plastic. This is particularly unfortunate as this is an area on the model that the eye will be naturally be drawn to. The running gear makes it clear that the designers had the ability to capture reasonable detail but didnít bother on these parts. The smoke dischargers are also clunky and simplified.
Step 2 has the front lower glacis plate and rear hull plate being put together. Again, the detail is a bit clunky and on par with the expected detail in the mid 90ís. The travel lock is problematic as it is about 1 mm too short to fit into the retaining lock. Reversing the mounting brackets might help but I had decided to build the kit per the instructions and hadnít done that. The instructions also fail to include two of the four brackets so donít be surprised if the thing keeps falling off. . . I broke and put the other two on.
Step 3 involves attaching the running gear to the hull. Iíd recommend attaching the bogie stops (parts C51-C53) first as they fit very loosely and you will need some access to get them to line up. The mounts for the idler wheel and drive sprocket have low profile axles so youíll need to permanently glue them into place.
Step 4 places the road wheels in place and step 5 attaches the hull top to the hull bottom. The hull roof is a bit fiddly to fit at the bow but will force into place with only a small gap. The rear hull plate is also a bit fiddly but will fit. The hull roof detail is also clunky in several places and also is missing fuel filler caps and has minimized the number of engine louvres. This is noticeable and also makes the rear deck look strangely sparse and uninteresting. The fenders are simply thick and solid with no lip or attempt to thin the plastic, which is noticeable and obviously unrealistic.
Steps 6-10 involve adding details and tools to the hull top. The tools are clunky and simplified and the various mounts are really thick and featureless. The tow cable mounts are the same. The storage boxes are pretty good and fit well. One nice touch is that the headlight lenses and periscopes are molded in clear plastic. The headlight mounts have a weird opening underneath that allows you to see directly into the hull. Blank those off with plastic.
Step 11 attaches the tracks. Even with the fixed drive sprockets they fit easily and the detail is quite good. Frankly, they look better than the injected track links that fit onto the hull.
Step 12 involves making the turret basket. It fits poorly and will require a fair amount of fiddling to get it to attach to the rear of the turret.
Steps 13-17 involve adding details to the turret. Again, many of the parts are pretty clunky, with the antenna being as big around as an mg barrel. Iím going to be rebuilding many of the details with plastic sheet as the turret is an obvious focal point. It would be a good idea to add a fair amount of texture to the turret to break the surface up.
Step 18 attaches the main gun barrel. The designer was not having a good day when it came to this assembly. There is a very nice DS canvas wrap that is too stiff to allow the gun to elevate or depress without making large gaps at the edges. The mantlet is simplified but tolerable. The main issues are that the barrel is noticeably short and the attachment of this still long barrel is just a loose mm deep depression in the mantlet. Besides the fact that a replacement barrel would be a major improvement this will be a perpetual weak point in the model unless you reinforce it with some drilling and pinning. I just placed mine for photos but will be replacing it with an aftermarket barrel.
Finally, step 19 attaches the side suspension plates. They look reasonably good but I have left them off for painting.
So, after all that you get a pretty big model that at first glance makes an impressive display. The issue is that the closer you look at it, the more the general clunkiness of the details starts to draw the eye. With the exception of the hull roof over the driver the shapes are pretty good. This looks like a pretty good kit from 15-20 years ago. The instructions have multiple mistakes and omissions that will require some interpretation on the modelerís part. On the positive side, with a few minor exceptions the parts fit pretty well and the build itself is fairly simple. And at the end you get a model of the Conqueror. For those people who are passionate about the Conqueror, they will be disappointed by the simplifications and dimensional errors and probably need to spend a fair amount of time replacing most of the details with either some brass PE set or scratch building. For more casual modelers, a replacement mantlet and main gun barrel might be sufficient, although the chunkiness of many of the details are obvious even if youíve never seen a picture of the actual tank.
Overall, itís better than several of the previous Black Label kits but not at the level of Dragon Model WW2 subjects. Whether that is enough is up to the individual modeler.