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In-Box Review
135
Char 2C
Char 2C French Super Heavy Tank
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by: Rob Harvey [ AFV_ROB ]


Originally published on:
Armorama

Operational History

The largest tank ever produced, the Char 2C was an imposing and impressive machine, though unfortunately symbolic of the somewhat chaotic nature of tank production and procurement among Allied nations during the First World War.

With a contract given to ship manufacturer FCM, the development of the heavy tank that would eventually become the Char 2C was marred by differing military and political opinions surrounding tank requirements and the focus on light, medium or heavy tanks. By the War’s close an over ambitious order of 300 tanks was cancelled, although continued interest in heavy tank procurement lead to one prototype and nine production models being delivered in 1921

All ten tanks were assigned to the 511th Tank Regiment at Verdun and spent most of their interwar years in storage. Already conspicuously outdated by 1939, they were nonetheless mobilized into the 51st Tank Battalion at the outbreak of war, with eight tanks seemingly fully operational. Tank No.96 ‘Anjou’ was a non-runner and appears to have been scavenged for parts, subsequently pointlessly being ‘sabotaged’ by French artillery, whilst No.94 ‘Bretagne’ was destined for a rebuild that was never completed. To heighten their pre-war propaganda value all 10 tanks had been named after the ancient regions of France, however beyond this value the tanks where clearly obsolete.

Orders had been issued in June 1940 to bring the tanks to the front, with the intention to transport them by rail from Landres, somewhere around the 12th-13th June. Tanks No.92 ‘Picardie’ and No.95 ‘Touraine’ suffered mechanical failure on route and were disabled by their crews, although they seem to have remained externally intact when captured and have been extensively photographed. The remaining six tanks were loaded onto their rail transport and moved in the direction of Gondrecourt-le-Château, were they encountered heavy German bombing. With the situation perilous and the seemingly unstoppable German advance the train was ordered in the direction of Neufchateau to prevent the tanks falling into German hands. Around the 15th June the convoy was blocked some 40km north of Neufchateau by a bombed train and the extensive backlog this caused. The crews were left with no choice but to disembark on foot and destroy the tanks by placing charges around the ammunition storage, contrary to German reports that the tanks were dive-bombed.

The ignominious fate of these beasts was the subject of extensive German propaganda coverage, with many photos readily available showing them wrecked on their rail bogies. Five of the tanks show varying signs of destruction; tank No.98 ‘Berry’ almost blown in half, whilst the charges in No.99 ‘Champagne’ apparently failed to detonate leaving the tank completely intact. Much mystery surrounds this particular tank, with some unverified sources claiming it was taken to Berlin and subsequently captured by the Russians, ending up at Kubinka. Period photographs do show Champagne on a rail car with graffiti markings ‘Beute Pz.Rgt.10’. The remaining disabled tanks were subject to German gunnery practice, apparently by personal from the test centers Kummersdorf and Hillersleben.

Characteristics
For its time the Char 2C featured an impressive array or armor and armament, with 45mm frontal amour and three-man turret armed with a 75mm main gun. This was further supplemented by machine gun turret at the rear and 3 independent 8mm machine guns in the hull.

One innovative feature was the stroboscopic cupola fitted to the turret’s, allowing an improved view of the battlefield with a greater degree of protection than on previous tanks. The domed drum cupola featured multiple viewing slits with heavy glass viewing blocks on the inside.

The elongated shape would have allowed, in theory, the tank to easily negotiate wider German trenches, something that had hindered previous French tank designs. Weighing in at 69 tons, the tank had a top speed of 15km/h with the tracks powered independently by 200/250 hp engines and an electrical transmission. A crew of 12 in two fighting compartments, separated by a central engine bay, operated the tank.

Contents

The kit comes packaged inside a large stout box with some lovely box-art depicting No.93 ‘Alsace’ on a pre-war manoeuvre. In the box we have the following:
  • 10 sprues of tan styrene
  • 1 separate lower hull
  • 1 seperare upper hull
  • 1 separate upper engine compartment structure
  • 1 separate front turret
  • 1 separate rear turret
  • 150 black styrene loose individual track links
  • 1 sprue of clear styrene
  • 1 fret of photo-etch parts
  • 1 decal sheet with markings for three tanks
  • 1 instruction booklet

There are 387 tan styrene parts with the sprues laid out as follows:
  • Sprue A: Main turret and various hull parts
  • Sprue B: Engine compartment roof details
  • Sprue Cx2: Lower hull parts
  • Sprue Dx4: Running gear and smaller hull detailing
  • Sprue E: Turret ring and running gear armor covers
  • Sprue: F: Main hull sides

Review

Upon opening the box and inspecting the parts, one is instantly struck by the seemingly limited number of parts for such a huge model. The upper and lower hull are beautifully slide molded items, as are the individual turrets and the only real challenge being the monotony of assembling the ninety road wheels.

Based on initial inspection I’d certainly have no reservations recommending this kit to beginners. The breakdown of parts is sensible and logical, for example the engine compartment housing being a single molded item that eliminates the pitfalls of aligning panels such as we might encounter in other manufacturers kits. Incidentally this part slots perfectly onto the upper hull, hopefully a sign of the overall precise engineering of this kit.

Sprue attachment points are pleasingly limited and don’t compromise any of the detailing, the only issue encountered being the fine wiring for the engine compartment which had snapped on one of my kit sprues (probably best replaced with lead wire anyway!).

The lower hull will probably prove the most irritating part of the build, with ninety, two-part wheels to assemble. These simply sit in place on a run of grooves molded onto the bottom hull plate and can be left movable (there’s not much point though).

Unfortunately it is here that we do encounter a serious error by Meng Model; where they have failed to represent the any of the leaf spring suspension stations. The suspension is located on the centre of the hull with the outside wheels acting as idlers. This is a fairly major omission and will be difficult to correct without major surgery, although one could model a tank fitted with the wheel cover plates.

The tracks are an absolute work of art and simply click together without any requirement for clean up. Having assembled a few runs I can attest that these are very sturdy once assembled and shouldn’t require any glue, although a few drops to hold them in place on the completed model wouldn’t go amiss.

The main hull is a very simple construction, with a single roof plate and integral rear sprocket mounts and two large single piece hull side plates. The roof and sides slot together with the aid of some notches and once again dry fitting highlights the precise engineering present here. The riveted hull is beautifully presented with stunning rivet detail, which will really ‘pop’ out with a careful pin wash.

Onto the hull are added various additional parts, including separate crew doors, the upper track runners and some photo-etch screens for the engine compartment vents. Despite the seemingly cluttered look of this tank, Meng Model have done an admirable job of limiting the number of parts that make up the additional details and assemblies, without compromising on detail.

On the front of the hull roof, at the driver and gunners station are what appear to be raised stowage bins, which fit around the front turret ring. From studying photos of those tanks disabled in France 1940 it appears not all tanks have these bins fitted, some tanks appear with just the flat riveted roof plate. ‘Alsace’ and ‘Normandie’ have them fitted pre-war but not when disabled on their rail bogie, ‘Poitou’ has then fitted on both occasions.

The centrally located engine compartment has a single slide molded upper housing with separate roof plate, complete with vents and photo-etch screens. The main weaknesses in this area are the separate wiring, (or plumbing?) pipes, which are quite fiddly and will require some careful clean up. The prominent exhausts will need to be improved as well with some mr surfacer, or skilful painting, as these are totally smooth.

Finally there are the front and rear turrets. Again these come as stunning separate single slide molded upper parts with separate turret rings. These slot onto the main hull and can be rotated on the finished model. There are some very fine vertical mold lines present on the turrets to be removed and I do find the two-part 75mm gun to be a bit weak, although I’m sure the AM guys will tackle this in due course.

The concise instruction booklet includes a history of the Char 2C, followed by the very clear and easy to follow construction lines drawings, very much reminiscent of Tamiya instructions. In the back of the booklet we have color and marking profiles for three vehicles (the superb decal sheet having been provided by Cartograf):
  • No.93 ‘Alsace’ of the 51st Bataillon de Chars de Combat, France 1939
  • No.90 ‘Poitou’ of the 51st Bataillon de Chars de Combat, France 1939
  • No97 ‘Normandie’ of the 51st Bataillon de Chars de Combat, France 1939

My one gripe with the markings is that as there were only 10 tanks, eight of which were actually runners in ‘39, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to wish that more options be provided. Given that Nos 92 and 95 both broke down and were abandoned off their rail bogies, markings for one of these would have great diorama potential to model a tank in a wartime setting without the bogie.

Conclusion

This is undoubtedly a stunning kit from Meng Model of a subject I’m sure many thought would never appear in styrene. The quality of molding and engineering is incredibly high and easily on par with the best manufactures out there. Initial testing of some parts indicates very precise fitting which should enable a relatively hassle free build.

The amount of detailing Meng Model have successfully included with a relatively limited parts count will be especially pleasing to beginners or those seeking an easy build. Increasingly some companies seem to be going for ever more parts with complex sub-assemblies and its pleasing to see a company like Meng Model follow the Tamiya example but with a diverse and interesting range of releases.

The error with the suspension (I suspect probably partially intentional) is irritating and does mare the release for anyone striving for an accurate build. An obvious solution is to model a vehicle with armoured skirts and Chris at Inside the Armour has hinted a correction set for this. Despite this though, I don’t think it significantly detracts from what is otherwise a very detailed and buildable kit.
Highly recommended!


References

Zaloga, S. ‘French Tanks of World War 1’. Osprey, 2010
Char 2C ‘World War Photos’ Live links
Stroboscope information, Landships Forum Live links
Char 2C German gunnery practice reference, Axis History Forum Live links

SUMMARY
Highs: Very high quality moulding with limited imperfections such as mould lines. A highly detailed model achieved with a small parts count, that should appeal to beginners or those seeking an easy build.
Lows: Lack of suspension detail which is noticeable on some versions. More marking options could have been provided.
Verdict: A very interesting and creative release from Meng Model focusing on a subject not previously tackled by mainstream manufacturers. The Char 2C has been captured beautifully in styrene and is highly recommended.
  Scale: 1:35
  Mfg. ID: TS-009
  Suggested Retail: $70 USD
  Related Link: Meng Website
  PUBLISHED: Jan 27, 2014
  NATIONALITY: France
NETWORK-WIDE AVERAGE RATINGS
  THIS REVIEWER: 87.33%
  MAKER/PUBLISHER: 89.90%

Our Thanks to Meng Model!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.
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About Rob Harvey (afv_rob)
FROM: ENGLAND - EAST ANGLIA, UNITED KINGDOM

Copyright ©2018 text by Rob Harvey [ AFV_ROB ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of TankRat's. All rights reserved.



Comments

Pleased you liked the review Bob. As a note on the shields: No.93 'Alsace' appears in pre-war photos sans shields, hard to say whether fitted when mobilised as i've not found a decent shot of it on its rail bogie No.97 'Normandie' seems to have the shields fitted on some pre-war photos, but they appear absent in photos of it wrecked on its rail bogie (despite the damage theres no evidence they were fitted at all). No.90 'Poitou' not fitted on pre-war photos, again hard to tell whether fitted in 1940 I'm really hoping that someone comes out with a full set of markings for the remaining tanks, as i'd personally like to build No.95 'Touraine' which had the skirts fitted and was abandoned off its rail car so allows for some decent 1940 diorama potential, although it does have the rear trail fitted.
JAN 27, 2014 - 08:01 AM
[/quote] It is amazing though, with the quality of details they did put in the kit, that they skipped over the suspension like they did. Bad Meng! Bad! [/quote] I would say the decision was perhaps intentional, had they wished to include the suspension this would have made for a much more complicated build and breakdown of parts. Theres no way they could have missed this detail from the available photos.
JAN 27, 2014 - 08:03 AM
I would say it was definitely intentional. As to why, it may well have been a cost factor and a desire to keep MSRP under $100. Only the bean counters know for sure! On the screens, I found out the hard way. I managed to damage 3 of them before I realized what was going on.
JAN 27, 2014 - 08:30 AM
Good review, thank you! One small point : "the superb decal sheet provided by Cartograf" have the French flags printed the wrong way around, but I guess only French modellers would notice this kind of thing... That's not too difficult to correct, cutting with a sharp hobby knife and repositioning, but maybe worth a mention for the unwary? I must say I didn't like that tank at all and didn't intend to buy the kit, but when I saw the model in the plastic, I changed my mind. It's now on my "to buy" list. Cheers, Christophe
JAN 27, 2014 - 09:56 PM
Thanks for taking the time to comment Christophe, I'm glad you liked the review. Re: the flag, thanks for the heads up, its such an obvious thing I thought they couldn't possible foul up that I didn't even check it. An easy thing to correct but odd the mistake was made at all.
JAN 28, 2014 - 03:12 AM
That is a useful bit of info Christophe. I hadn't looked at the decals, but I never would have caught the mistake. Thanks for the heads up.
JAN 28, 2014 - 09:35 AM
Two more build observations.... The upper screens are just as fragile as the smaller side ones and will not fit properly unless the attachment nubs are filed down completely. The main gun mounting system was a bit of a PitA to fit. Really kind of surprising considering how well the rest of the kit is designed.
JAN 29, 2014 - 06:30 PM
thanks to the review I now bought this kit and hope to be able to build it soon. with a watchful eye on the advices here.
AUG 24, 2014 - 09:40 PM
Niko, from Poland, makes a resin Trench Skid, or 'Tail', for this kit. The openings in the side rails need to be opened (the piece on the right is shown with them cleaned up). A sharp blade and a file made short work of it. There was very little flash and it goes together well. Just study the instructions and you can see how everything fits together. The bottom plate also has some excess material to be removed from around the edges. A short dip in boiling water made it flexible enough to bend it to fit the curve. Take care to keep it straight, and the whole assembly square. The instructions don't mention them, but the kit includes the mounting bolts and nuts. Much simpler than scratch-building one and an interesting addition to the kit. Al
AUG 24, 2014 - 10:28 PM
We broke our quick reply box. Working on it. Until fixed go to topic to reply.
Thanks.
   
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