The Crusader Mk. III came into British service in the second half of 1942 during the Tunisian Campaign in North Africa. They were used for about a year until replaced with the M4, then they were converted to AA or reconnaissance tanks. This Tamiya kit is part of their Italeri series where they take older Italeri molds, correct errors, add details and pack them in new boxes with some extra Tamiya goodies. This Italeri kit first hit the market in 1976. Tamiya has taken these old molds and added turret and hull weld seam. They also corrected the front fenders by taking a molded-in step out of them, updated the moldings on the turret tool box, added details to the underside of the hatches, hollowed out the spotlight and included a thin, plastic lens. Two Tamiya figures are included from their Churchill Mk. VII kit, # 35210, from 1996, and a sprue from the British Infantry on Patrol weapons, kit #35223, from 1999. New decals offer two marking options from the Tunisia Campaign go along with the new instruction sheet in typical Tamiya multi-page, fold-out design.
This kit comes with three sprues of tank parts, one sprue with the vinyl-like tracks, the figure sprue and the weapons / equipment sprue. The tracks are a one-piece “rubber band” style and have a lot of raised knockout pin marks on the inside, along with some flash on the edges. They are also too long. Sprue A was molded about 1/16 on an inch off-center, so there will be a lot of clean up on these parts. The road wheels from this sprue were not too bad, but on the smaller pieces, it caused some problems. The other two sprues had some flash and heavy seams on parts. I think about half my time building this tank was just cleaning up these mold seams. I can tell the original molds are over 40 years old. The lower hull is one piece and was warped a little and causes a slight problem later installing the upper hull.
The part numbers on the sprues are not in order. Usually a sprue’s numbers will start in the upper left and go sequentially, but not on these three sprues. It looks like Tamiya renumbers them because you can see a block over the old number and the new number is a lot thinner and smaller. This causes a lot of hunting around on sprues for a part. I found it easier to look for the part by its design, not by its number. This renumbering also gets in the way of cutting the parts off and makes some of the gates much larger than normal. My sprue cutters would not fit in this smaller space, so I had to cut parts off with a hobby knife or thin saw.
The 6-pounder gun barrel comes in two pieces with the sprue gates on the top of the barrel. Usually they are on the bottom. I could not get the counter weight to fit all the way on the barrel end as shown on the instruction. I wish Tamiya would have added a metal barrel with this update. The rear external fuel tank straps do not line with the hull mounts, so the tank sits a little crooked. I would suggest gluing the mounts to the tank first, then glue to the hull since the locator marks on the hull are wrong. The rear engine intake filters and hoses did not line up with the hole in the engine deck. I got the hoses to fit into the holes, but the top of the filter is crooked now. The tracks are about 5-6 links too long. Since the upper tracks are hidden by the fenders, I overlapped the tracks there and glued into place to the road wheels. I would also recommend replacing the antennas with some thinner wire or stretched sprue.
The decals are new and very thin. I was impressed how well they laid down over the hull rivets with a little setting solution. Also, there was a lot of clear film on the big 3s on the turret, but no silvering at all. I did tear a couple decals repositioning them, so take extra care with these. I did lay down a couple coats of Future to give the decals a very glossy finish.
Overall this is builds up into a decent looking Crusader, but the molds are really showing their age. Tamiya has helped them with some added detail and is not a bad deal if you can get them for about half off the retail price, but maybe it is time for a new tooling of a Crusader in 1/35 scale. The new figure set and their equipment are a nice addition and a big improvement over the original figures, which are still included.
I would like to thanks Tamiya and IPMs for the opportunity to review this kit.