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1/35 French FT-17 Light Tank (Cast Turret)

Bruce Adam

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1/35 French FT-17 Light Tank (Cast Turret)

Catalogue # TS-008
Available from Hobby Link Japan for 5,760¥




Whilst Meng call this the FT-17 Tank, this vehicle is more accurately referred to as the French FT tank. Whilst not exactly a spectacular vehicle it does have some very prominent "claims to fame". It was the first production tank to feature the general layout that we are so familiar with today namely, main armament in a rotating turret, driver in the front hull, and rear mounted engine.




With upwards of 3000 of these light tanks produced this was the first volume produced tank and ended up serving with 27 different nations. Initially produced late in the First World War, these reliable, versatile vehicles served right through to the Second World War, albeit not in anything like front-line roles.


Personally I love these early AFVs. They have a certain "riveting" charm, and quirkness that is really appealing. With almost a penny-farthing like wheel arrangement, slender hull, and exterior track and wheels this is a real character. Given its light weight and large track area, I suspect soft ground was not an issue for these beauties.


Meng's FT-17 comes packaged in a small but beautifully presented top-opening box. The box art is very nice with the lid having a nice matte finish that is reminiscent of Wingnut Wings. The sides of the lid have side profiles of two of four colour schemes as well as a cutaway side profile showing the comprehensive interior that is provided with the kit.


Despite its diminutive size, Meng's FT-17 packs a lot of detail. The styrene components are provided on 10 tan sprues, all of which are individually wrapped apart from two that are duplicated. There is also a small photoetch fret, small decal sheet, a separate bag of individual track links, plus eight metal parts. The total parts count is 432, so this is not going to be a quick build, unless you decide to close up the lovely interior.


The first sprue contains the hull sides, forward floor, turret base, pioneer tools and several hatches and covers. The hull sides each have three small pin marks on their inner face, but these are either covered with other parts or in positions that simply cannot be seen. As with all the other parts there is zero flash and the finest of mould seams. Moulding looks very nice and the sprue attachment points are small. This is looking very positive!




The following two photos show the hull sides and the forward inner floor.






This contains the base of the hull, the unhitching frame, some of the turret interior including the main gun breech, plus several of the hatches in the hull. The moulding on the latter is especially noteworthy as they have no marks whatsoever on them to spoil the cleanly moulded internal detail. They are obviously designed for either open or closed hatches without the need for the modeller to remove those annoying ejector pin marks.






This sprue is primarily comprised of the long covers over the road wheel assemblies plus the accessory Hotchkiss machine gun (if it is not used as the armament). Nine of the parts are slide moulded and all the parts are very clean.




The two outer panels for the road wheel assemblies feature the cast Renault oval plate. These are perfectly cast and legible under magnification. These have to be seen to be believed they are tiny!




SPRUE D (2x)
This sprue contains the two types of idler wheels (metal and wood), the rear drive wheels, plus mounting plates for the road wheels, and several other parts. The wooden idler wheels have the woodgrain moulded onto them and look fine. Once again both the idler and drive wheels are devoid of any ejector pin marks.






SPRUE E (2x)
These two sprues carry the road wheels, the return rollers, and the forward supports for the return roller frames. This whole sprue is produced via slide moulds which allows both the road wheels and return rollers to be accurately moulded as single parts despite being quite complex in shape. The attachment points for the parts on the sprues are cleverly placed on the rear raised ring of the wheels which makes cleanup both quick and simple. This is shown in the photo below.




This sprue is primarily concerned with the very nicely detailed transmission and engine sub-assemblies. Once again everything is beautifully done right down to a separate part for the eight individual valve springs for the four cylinder side-valve motor. A little bit of wiring for the spark plug leads and the engine and transmission compartment will be complete. With close to sixty parts, this is one area that you do not want to cover up!






Also included in this sprue are the ammunition racks for the 37mm main gun. Note there are different main gun and ammunition racks options depending upon which scheme you decide upon so be careful.


This contains the machine gun ammunition racks, the individual rounds of 37mm ammunition for the turret ammunition rack plus some additional motor and transmission parts. There are ejector nodes on some of the smaller parts that will require some care to remove to avoid damaging the parts. However, nothing that a sharp blade could not handle.




This contains most of the turret parts including the very clever one-piece turret. The sprue itself looks odd, with the small turret in the middle of what looks like a big empty space.




This however, has been designed this way to allow the turret to be produced by slide moulds. The moulding is superb with clean rivets and even the casting marks for the casting foundry. There is a faint seam just below the top of the turret. This is the casting seam and should not be removed. The base of the turret is a separate piece and the join with the upper turret coincides with another casting seam. This is smart modelling.




Absolutely fantastic with clever engineering and exceptionally clean moulding. Zero flash, small attachment points to the sprues, and smart use of slide moulding as already mentioned.

It is obvious that Meng understand what modellers want and don't want. Small features like having all the hatches that can be portrayed open being devoid of any ejector pin marks is testament to that. This is "State of the Art" in every sense.


The small fret comprises 10 parts. Four are straps for the pioneer tools, one engine louver, a large sling that the gunner sits on in the turret, plus four identical parts that I cannot see any reference to in the instructions. That however, is not conclusive evidence that they are not there!


The individual track links come in a separate bag and are ready to use apart from a very small extrusion mark on the outside face of each link. Some of these marks are raised and can easily be removed with 600 grade sandpaper, but some are sunken and will require filling and sanding. Looking at reference photos I cannot see this mark on any actual vehicle however, in saying that, the FT-17 at Bovington does display a similar positioned mark on some of its tracks. You could sort them and put the "worst" ones on the bottom. Please bear in mind there are only 32 links per side so despite being a small vehicle, the tracks are reasonably large and there are not many of them. Once this mark has been removed, the tracks simply click into each other and are both fully workable and robust.

The track links themselves are slide moulded and the detail is simply stunning. The larger Takom FT-17 uses 3 parts per link, but Meng only uses a single part to achieve the same result. To my eye the thickness of the face of the track looks right.


The small decal sheet is printed by Cartograph so the decals themselves are thin and sharp. The decals have a matt finish rather than the more typical gloss. Schemes are provided for four different vehicles:

  • French 4th Platoon, 1st Company, 29th Tank Battalion, May 1940.
  • French 1st Company, 2nd battalion, "Le Tigre" Regiment during WW1.
  • Finnish 2nd Tank Company, February 1940.
  • German Luftwaffe in France summer 1944.

Full colour side profiles are provided for all the schemes with colour references only for Vallejo paints provided. Full side views as well as plan views of the multicolour schemes would have been helpful.

All four schemes are interesting, but the WWI French and WW2 Finnish schemes are especially attractive.


There are eight additional metal parts comprising two large and two small springs for the suspension, two metal axles for the return rollers, and two cast white metal struts for the large suspension springs. The latter are perfectly cast.




This takes the form of a 20 plus page booklet. There is a reasonably detailed history of the vehicle in English, Russian, Japanese, and Chinese. Assembly itself is covered in 23 steps each being clear and well laid out. Finally there is a numbered sprue map followed by full colour side profiles of the four schemes. The colours are described in the four languages and whilst a tiny "colour chip" is provided the only paint references are for Vallejo.




Having already purchased Meng's big Tortoise tank, I was expecting the same quality with the FT-17. But this is not the case, the FT-17 is significantly better! It is absolutely stunning and close to modelling perfection. In my mind this is a competition winner straight out of the box. I cannot wait to see if it goes together as good as it looks.


VERY highly recommended


Bruce A


Our sincere thanks to Hobby Link Japan for the review sample used here. To purchase directly, click THIS link.



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