Czolg Lekki FT-31/Pzkpfw 730(f)
Renault FT Light Tank


Catalogue No.: Not Known
Scale: 1/35
Media: Injection Styrene
Review Type: In Box
Rating: Highly Recommended

Reviewed by Cookie Sewell

S u m m a r y

Contents: 327 parts in grey styrene plus two in black vinyl
Price: CDN$35.00 (approx. US$23.75 at mid-July 1998 rates)
Advantages: first real kit of this vehicle in styrene; partial interior; all major armament options included in each kit (three in series); kit design and research assisted by Steve Zaloga
Disadvantages: vinyl tracks not an advantage in this kit
Recommendation: to all armor fans and historians, as this tank was widely used by most of Europe and the US over the course of its 30-year career


F i r s t l o o k

One of the most sought after kits for years by many armor fans and historians has been the most significant early tank which reached general production. The little Renault FT from the First World War was the first tank to combine the features which are still most common today in a single chassis: forward driving compartment; turret with all around traverse; commander's cupola; and rear engine/rear transmission and drive. All modern tanks stem from these little vehicles, which were very successful when used correctly during the war. They continued in use in their domestic form through WW II, as well as in their foreign copies and analogues (i.e the US Six-Ton Tank, the Russian copies, the Italian Fiat 3000 copy, and others). One was even noted as in use in Afghanistan as late as 1979.

There have been a large number of attempts to model the FT over the years in resin, and most of the major resin manufacturers have had a kit of one or more FT variants out over the years. The best of the lot were the NKC ones from France, but these were hard to find and expensive. The advent of RPM's kit from Poland solves many of those problems, and should be welcomed by all concerned. There was more than enough warning that this kit was coming, as RPM released a set of single-link tracks for the kit, as well as the turret sprue, early in 1997. Now it is here in three versions: a French WW I machine gun version, a French WW I cannon version, and the German rear area security version used during the occupation of France in WW II.

The "FT-31" designation has little or no impact on the kit, as all three are identical less decals. (All it means is that it is an FT machine gun tank upgraded in 1931 to mount a lightweight Lebel 7.5mm Mle 31 machine gun in place of the old 8mm Hotchkiss "heavy" machine gun.) The tank is modeled with later production steel idler wheels and the "omnibus" third pattern Girod cast/rolled turret with separate cupola. It comes with the basic attachments
found on this vehicle, including pioneer tools, a bucket, eight spare single link track sections, and a 24-link chain to wrap around the tail. The latter has some large gaps in it to permit assembly, and most modelers will want to replace it with model ship chain if possible.

The kit manufacturers received some assistance in the way of plans and advice from Steve Zaloga, and the work shows. This is one of the best of the RPM kits – reputed to have been cut by Maquette in Russia for RPM – and is a very nice and accurate little beast. The one major drawback of the kit is the vinyl track, which does not capture the spirit or the look of the original. This makes it curious as to why RPM would include it with the kit along with a section of their excellent single link track for this model, but the only assumption which can be made is complaints on the Internet and in modeling magazines by modelers about single link tracks. (Note that the single link tracks for this tank consist of five parts per link, but they do capture the look and feel of the prototype much better than the vinyl kit tracks.)

The kit provides for two versions of this tank – one is a French tank used at Aleppo, Syria, in 1940 and the other is a Luftwaffe airfield security vehicle from the Occupation. The after-market boys should have fun with this kit, and it should only be a matter of time before etched brass and resin conversion kits appear on the market for the little beast. (All it really needs are the wooden idler wheels and plate turret to make any French version of the tank, and a few other parts to convert the model to a US-built Six Tonner).

The best references to check on for this vehicle include the now out-of- print Osprey/Vanguard Number 46 on the Renault FT by Steve Zaloga and the opening section of the Stuart book by R.P. Hunnicutt.

The box art is quite laughable – appealing to the SGF no doubt – in that it shows SS panzergrenadiers advancing through the woods with flames in the background and a camouflaged FT with steely-eyed driver in black panzer uniform driving the tank ahead of them. Forget the box art and buy the kit or one of the other versions anyway – it is a nice model and can fit into ANY collection!

The review sample was obtained from Airconnection at World Expo 98

Review by Cookie Sewell, July 1998.
Visit Track-Link for the best of Armour Modelling.
Page Created 23 July, 1998.
Last updated 22 July, 2003.

Back to HyperScale Main Page

Back to Reviews Page