1⁄35French Heavyweight Char B1 bis
IntroductionThe Char B1 bis is one of those tanks that perhaps best exemplifies the inter-war approach to armor and tactics. Designed as an infantry support tank, it was big and lumbering and sported a combination 1-2 punch in the form of a hull mounted 75mm howitzer and a turret mounted 47mm antitank gun. It also has that distinctive wide stance and caterpillar track design developed to allow for traversing trenches reminiscent of WW1 style warfare. So ugly it’s beautiful!
For this build I used the excellent kit #35282 from Tamiya along with Lionmarc replacement aluminum barrels and a set of Echelon decals for the 37 eme BCC. The Echelon set offers markings for quite a few vehicles and I selected “Marne” as my vehicle of choice and used the outstanding Char Francais site in connection with Google translation software as my main reference.
ConstructionThe Tamiya kit includes optional parts to produce either an early or a late production Char and different parts are called out for in the instruction sheet depending on the vehicle. By referring to the photos available of “Marne”, I was able to choose the optional parts that I needed for this specific vehicle.
Steps 1-6 of the construction phase are very straightforward and deal with the assembly of various sections of the lower hull and running gear. The road wheels are a tricky arrangement, consisting of 16 pairs of wheels per side, and the skid arrangement allows for them to rotate freely within the skid. These skids then attach to the lower hull as a single arrangement, requiring some care to prevent road wheels from scattering all over the workbench in the process. In step 4 the kit barrel was replaced with the two-piece aluminum and brass fittings from the Lionmarc set. These are designed to perfectly take the place of the kit parts and no surgery or alteration was required for their use.
Step 7 calls for no less than 26 separate holes to be opened up in the top hull using a pin vise. In addition to this, the cutouts provided near the front of each sponson for the mud chute openings were removed by drilling out several holes around the perimeter and then cutting through with a sharp #11 blade and sanding down the edges.
Step 8 involves the actual installation of the mud chutes at the front hull, the rear sprocket mud scrapers, and the track skids for both the left and right sides. The mid deck hatch covers have solid molded handles which should not be present and were removed with sprue cutters and sanded down.
Step 9 joins the upper and lower hulls together and this went together smoothly with only some slight finger pressure required to get a good join all around. 6 molded on rivets on the rear engine deck were also removed per the instructions with a sharp #11 blade.
Step 10 presents the option of installing the armored visor for the driver in either the open or closed position, I chose the open and installed accordingly. The driver’s solid periscope exterior housing was drilled out with a pin vise to create the “peephole” opening. This step also directs the construction of the main headlight with the option of the hood being open or closed and I opted for the closed position. An auxiliary headlamp is also provided in the kit parts and was installed since “Marne” was equipped with this feature.
Copyright ©2019 by Bill Plunk. _OPINIONS Model Shipwrights, KitMaker Network, or Silver Star Enterrpises. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of Model Shipwrights. All rights reserved. Originally published on: 2007-03-10 00:00:00. Unique Reads: 19602