I.J.A. Type 97 Medium Tank [CHI-HA] Early production hull

Published: February 21st, 2011     
Box Art
Box Art
Reviewed by: Greg Wise - IPMS# 44378
Scale: 1/35
Company: Fine Molds
Price: $82.95
Product / Stock #: FM25LM Limited Edition
Product provided by: Dragon Models USA

History brief

The type 97 medium tank Chi-Ha, designed in 1936, was the most widely produced Japanese medium tank of WW II. Its turret was fashioned with 26-mm thick armor sides and 33-mm on its gun shield. Its 57-mm main gun had already been proven in the early model Type 89 medium tank. It also sported a pair of 7.7-mm machine guns. Powered by a 170-hp Mitsubishi diesel it had a top speed of about 23-24 mph. Weighing in at 17.4 tons [US], it was the most effective medium tank the Japanese had.

First impressions

The kit comes in a modest glossy white box with the top depicting a side view illustration of the subject. Inside I found the plastic well protected in poly bags with the instructions. Carefully inspecting the plastic I found it to be free of flash with sharp, crisp, and outstanding details. The kit is molded in a dark olive-green color. The high standard of quality that accompanies the Fine Molds brand name is evident here in this well-engineered offering.

After trimming a few parts from the sprue trees you quickly see how well the parts fit together. Open hatches abound everywhere to a featureless interior. The kit also comes with a clear plastic sprue, a photo etch fret and a decal sheet covering 4 options.

The Build

Choosing a plan of action I opted for a straight- out-of-the-box build. I considered the option of opening up the hatches and building an interior, but this faded with the reality of the time and effort that would be needed to fill the empty spaces; not to mention researching the subject properly. So I set about looking for any other minor build issues I needed to plan for.

The build was pretty straight forward. I went to work, starting with Step 1: wheels; Step Two: built up the lower hull and breezed through from there adding all the side trimmings. I then went after the top hull and added all the bits as I went along.

Next I turned my attention to gun and turret and it was here that I almost changed my mind on the whole hatch thing. I thought to myself... "nope", and after building up the gun I thought again to myself that I should at least paint the thing and take a photo of it. This is a top-notch kit and I encountered no hang-ups in the construction.

There is one item I would upgrade: the kit supplied vinyl tracks. I'm sure someone sells a good set. I used what came in the box. I used Tamiya thin-set glue and it worked great. However, the tracks are too tight and afforded no sag. To remedy this problem I used floral wire. I drilled parallel holes through the hull where needed then slid the wires through to manipulate the tread to slack. This was the only modification I did to alter the kit. The model was finished out in Testors Model Masters acryl over a coat of Mr. Sufacer 1000 gray primer, and weathered it with several differing mediums in layers. I chose the second decal option: 7th Tank Regiment, the Philippines, 1942.

Conclusions

All in all I'm happy with the end results for an out-of-boxer. Tamiya also offers a kit of this subject, it is an older release. I have no comparative opinion since I haven't seen one.

Thanks to IPMS and Fine Molds www.dragonmodelsusa.com it was my pleasure.

  • Completed 57-mm gun
    Completed 57-mm gun
  • Completed kit forward port side
    Completed kit
  • Completed kit frontal view
    Completed kit
  • Completed kit top view
    Completed kit
  • Completed kit aft view
    Completed kit
  • Completed kit starboard view
    Completed kit

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