AFV Club
Centurion Mk.5/1
RAAC Vietnam Version

AFV Club 1:35 Kit No. AF 35100
Review by Terry Ashley

AFV Club
For years Centurion fans have had to make do with the old Tamiya Centurion Mk.3 which is really a product of a bygone era but after a fairly long gestation AFV Club are about to release their brand new Centurion Mk. 5/1 as used by the RAAC (Royal Australian Armoured Corps) and any Aussie with an interest in armour will tell you they will always have a soft spot for the venerable old Cent as do many others around the World.

The Centurion has seen action in a number of theatres such as the Indo-Pakistan wars, Korea and Vietnam with the most extensive service being with the IDF which still uses versions of the Cent today in many support configurations.
As well as the gun tanks from Mk.I to Mk.13 ranging in armament from the original 17pdr (76.2mm), through the 20pdr (83.4mm) to the later L7 105mm the Centurion was also used as the basis for many specialised vehicles such as ARV/AVREs, bridge layers, Dozer tanks, BARVs as well as the many specialised vehicles in the IDF with these vehicles also being fitted with the AVD-S1790-2A Diesel engine.

The kit represents the Mk.5/1 (Aust) with the designation used to identify the vehicles with a range of modifications basically equivalent to the Mk.10 except retaining the 20pdr gun with type B barrel that included the fume extractor. Other notable alterations included additional appliqué armour added to the glacis, the inclusion of an additional RMG (Ranging Machine Gun) in the form of a .50cal MG added through the mantlet next to the standard .30cal co-axial machine gun, plus a number of other “local” modifications. With the deployment to Vietnam in 1968 further modifications were added due to operational experience and the kit includes many of these modifications faithfully.

The kits consists of 410 parts in olive drab plastic, 18 in clear plastic with a metal barrel and co-ax MG, six large suspension springs, 26 vinyl tyres and the vinyl tracks plus a length of steel cable and a selection of vinyl poly caps as well as a small piece of mesh with the decal sheet and small fret of etched parts.

Metal parts
AFV Club

The quality of the mouldings is excellent overall with some very minor flash on some parts which is easily removed and quite a few large knock out nodes on the inside of the larger parts which again are easily removed and don’t effect to detail in any way.

Detail on the parts is excellent with some weld seams present as well as nice cast texture on the turret and final drives plus some very finely moulded parts such as separate grab handles and turret basket rails to finely represented springs on the hatch hinges but as with any kit there are areas for improvement.

Of interest are the clear parts provided for the Commander’s cupola periscopes, all other periscopes and the large infra red search light “glass” which is moulded in a ‘softish’ clear plastic and not the usual brittle clear plastic which does make it much easier to work with while still being nice and clear.

Extra parts are included in the kit for other marks so we will most likely be seeing other versions of the Centurion to follow this kit.

There are some traps to watch out for in the instructions and during assembly which I will highlight throughout the review with most being easy to deal with and while I don’t have any actual 1:35 plans available the kit matches stated overall dimensions pretty well as well as scaled up 1:72 plans. I have also included images of the real parts to show the overall good details included in the kit parts.

Lower Hull/Suspension:
The large lower hull tub has the distinctive angled sides with nice weld beads around the final drive mountings and front plate supports with all other detail as separate parts. The rear hull plate is nicely designed with two upper ‘pins’ that fit into holes in the hull sides taking any guesswork out of where this part is located with the final drive housings are two parts with excellent details on the outer and inner sections that overhang the lower hull that include the bolt head details and nice cast texture to the surface.

Final Drive parts
AFV Club

The drive sprockets have excellent details on both sides of the sprockets including the complicated rib and hub details and bolt heads with a small poly cap trapped between the two sprockets for fitting to the final drive axle.

Drive Sprocket parts
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At the front is a separate idler axle mounting and axle which can be fitted at different angles with small ribs inside the axle mounting and you can fit the axles without glue if you wish making it easy to reposition the axles later.

Updated June 8, 2006:
I previously mentioned the large bolt heads here were missing from the idler mounting, but found lurking un-announced on sprue H are four parts with the idler mount bolt heads (parts H12,H13,H18 and H19). The instructions will be modified to show these parts for future kits. I have also been advised the barrel and fume extractor will also be modified to rectify the assembly issue in future kits but I don't know of the exact modifications as yet. This added detail just about tops off this excellent kit.

Idler mount parts
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There are actually three different style of idler wheel seen on these Centurions with the kit only having the one ribbed style of wheel and you should check to see if the vehicle you are building has this style wheel.
The idler again has a poly cap trapped between the two halves and a separate hub cap for good detail definition.

Idler wheel parts
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Alternate styles of idlers wheel found on Centurions
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The four duel return rollers have nice hub details with separate mountings plus the additional single roller added just behind the idler wheel to help prevent track loss and this is a simple steel wheel unlike the other rubber rimmed rollers. The single roller fitted to the final drive housing is also an all steel wheel but some vehicles have a rubber rimmed wheel here which again is an alternate style used on the Cent but the kit only includes the steel rollers for these positions, which isn't a problem as this was fitted to many vehicles.

Final Drive parts
AFV Club
Alternate styles of return rollers found on Centurions
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The six big bogie units have movable main axle mountings with a large spring trapped between the two just like the real bogies with the front and rear bogies also having additional suspension arms that are sort of workable? The connecting rod and top arm (parts E8/E9, E20) are designed to be movable by heat melting the attachment pins but the lower connecting rod attachment point is glued into place mean when the suspension in compressed the connecting rod just bends while the top connections articulate which is a strange set up.
When the large front and rear halves of the bogies are glued together and the wheels attached the large springs are completely hidden, but we all know they are there.

Turning to the road wheels we have a very interesting design with the inner and outer road wheel having excellent bolt head detail and a small weld seam around the outer edge as well as the six lightening holes. These again trap a small poly cap between them and the outer rubber section of the wheels is provided in black vinyl.

Road wheel parts
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What is interesting is this not just the rubber wheels section but actually includes the outer wheel rim which when fitted to the plastic inner rim includes the ribbed area inside the outer wheel dish for a very well detailed look. Painting will be a little tricky but the overall effects on the wheel detail in very good as kit road wheels traditionally have missed the detail on the outer dish sections.

One thing I found was that the poly caps trapped inside the road wheels were very difficult to fit over the axle stubs and I ended up drilling out the inside of the poly cap to open up the hole width, not real easy with flexible vinyl but they did fit better after doing this. You may simply resort to gluing the road wheels in place for a more solid assembly.

The assembled bogie units have very precise locating lugs for the hull sides and the large contact area means a very strong join to the hull, just watch the connecting rod on the rear bogie unit as this may foul the final drive housing if the back of the pin heat join is not trimmed sufficiently.

At the back is an elaborate exhaust deflector and upper grill assembly that fits together easily without any problems with these grills visible through the top grill after fitting this in place plus the two side tow shackles and the large central mounted spring tow shackle.

The large jettisonable armoured fuel tank is made up of five main parts with additional smaller fittings and these fit together well with little cleanup required and you add this as required depending on the vehicle being modelled.

The tracks are provided in continuous length vinyl that has quite good details on both sides for this medium track but will not glue together with normal plastic cement so you have to heat weld it or use thick cyanoacrylate.

The separate individual Centurion tracks set #AF35102 are available but only if purchased separately.

Upper Hull:
The upper hull is not a single part as is usually the case but is broken down into seven segments with the front glacis with additional appliqué armour and the front sections of the fenders with additional etched parts for the fender supports. Next is the upper driver’s panel, the central turret ring panel, the engine hatch grill panel which is actually two parts with the inner section that fits under the outer slats and hinges to give excellent definition to the part with the rearmost engine deck and hinges fitting into this part. Lastly at the back is the full width intake grill and the fit of all these parts is simply superb without any trimming of filler needed, if fact the parts in the assembled hull images are simply tack glued in place with white glue which demonstrates the excellent fit.

The driver’s two part hatch has separate inner periscopes and outer covers in clear plastic with two small etched parts for added detail as well as the locking latch on the right door with the only clean up being some small pin ejector marks to be removed from the outside strangely.

Driver's hatch parts
AFV Club

To fit the appliqué armour at the front you have to cut off the moulded on details there for other versions before adding the appliqué armour, one thing to watch here is the mountings for the two spare road wheels are evenly spaced but on many vehicles the right bracket was mounted lower down the plate to allow the driver to see over the road wheel but it would be easy to reposition the mounting if required.

Other details on the engine deck included a total of 14 very small grab handles to be added plus the distinctive outer engine deck ribs which are a feature of the Centurion, Chieftain and Challenger engine decks.

The side fenders are separate parts with detail on the underside as well as rib detail on the top with the forward storage boxes made up of four separate parts each and the fenders locate easily into large channels along the hull sides for the solid attachment. The small rear fender section is the cut down type and the edges could be thinned down a little for a better look as well as the normal sized fenders included.

As mentioned the fender storage boxes are in four parts with nicely defined side latches and separate small light with wiring and separate fire extinguisher handle on the front box side for excellent detail definition but there are a coupe of small pin marks to be removed also.

There are no side skirts in the kit simply because Aussie Cents in Vietnam didn’t have them fitted.

Each side exhaust is made up of 9 parts each with two part fishtail outlets for nice detail as well as smaller fittings for the tow cables clips with other details added including the front and rear tow shackles, the barrel travel lock and rear fuel tank mounted telephone box, note this box is attached to the rear hull plate when the fuel tank is not attached.

There is also a selection of pioneer tools to be added to the fenders and these have their attachment clips included with small locating holes in the fenders for easy attachment.

The steel cable provided is attached to the plastic end sections and then fitted in the usual location around the rear hull and you may want to ‘anneal’ this by running the wire through a candle flame to make it more pliable as it is very springy as it comes.

The turret shell is in four parts, the lower turret ring, the left and right sides and the roof all of which have a very nice cast effect on the surface and very crisp details included casting numbers on the left turret wall.

There are some issues with the turret parts which will need attention to avoid problems, the first is there are the two mantlets provided but the instructions indicate to use the wrong one for the Aussie Cent, you should use part F6 and not I14 as indicated.

The two turret sides fit together easily with a large joining tab under the bustle (part I29) which helps secure the sides together as well as adding additional detail under the bustle and you should fit the mantlet in place at the same time as joining the two turret sides together.

The inner mantlet part I13 is held in place between the two turret sides by two small poly caps (parts R4) but unfortunately these are 4mm in diameter and the hole in the turret parts is only 3mm wide meaning you have to cut down the poly caps to fit, not that difficult as they are soft vinyl.

When the metal barrel is attached the weight of this means you will never get the barrel to sit level as the poly caps are not tight enough to hold the barrel weight which means it will be better to glue the mantlet/barrel in place at the desired elevation.

To fit the lower turret ring you will need to slip the large tab at the rear over the rear lower ring sill and the ring then sits recessed inside the turret halves.

The turret roof is a good fit but there is a very small join seam that will have to be eliminated as there is no join on the actual turret and care will be needed not to damage the nice cast effect here.

The major issue here is with the metal barrel and the two part fume extractor (parts I56, I57) which have the central holes designed to fit snugly over the barrel tube. The problem is the barrel has the slightly wider diameter muzzle cap and the fume extractor won’t fit over this lip. The instructions show to drill out the inner 4.0mm diameter of the fume extractor to 4.2mm (5/32in) to fit over the cap but this then means it will not be a snug fit around the barrel. 4.2mm (5/32in) may not sound a lot but you will have to be very careful to get the fume extractor located evenly around the barrel.

Updated June 8, 2006:
I have also been advised the barrel and fume extractor will also be modified to rectify the assembly issue in future kits but I don;t know of the exact modifications as yet.

I decided to actually cut off the barrel tip which is quite easy being soft aluminium and also the barrel is drilled out deeper than the end cap meaning you don’t have to cut all the way through. After cutting off the end cap the fume extractor was a perfect fit over the barrel tube, so good in fact it will hold firmly in place without glue if you wish which is further reason you don’t want to really start widening the opening.
I then glued with cyanoacrylate a plastic card ‘ring’ to the end of the barrel the same width as the razor saw cut to return the barrel to the same length and simply glued the barrel end cap back in place with thick cyanoacrylate to complete the minor surgery. This may seem a dramatic solution but the fit of the fume extractor to the barrel is so good it’s a real shame if this is destroyed while widening to hole to fit over the end cap and alleviates the problem of getting the fume extractor to sit centrally around the barrel.

Modified barrel
AFV Club
Completed barrel modification
AFV Club

Another solution as suggested by Erik von Rosen on Missing links which is probably easier and less chance of mishap is to cut the barrel inside the area covered by the fume extractor thereby hiding the cut after assembly. After cutting the barrel remember to add a small plastic card disc the same width as the saw cut to return the barrel to the same length as above and simply glue the barrel back together inside the fume extractor.

Alternate barrel modification
AFV Club
Completed barrel modification
AFV Club

Another issue is that there is no canvas mantlet cover included with just about all photos of Centurions in service having the cover in place, also the recess for the .50cal RMG is slightly the wrong contour at the top but this is easily fixed with some nifty hobby knife work and the RMG is level with the co-ax MG but should be slightly above so you may want to reposition the RMG.

Co-ax and RMG fairing
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The distinctive Centurion turret bins are in multiple parts each for good definition but the storage straps on top of the bins are not included and the pistol port on the left side is also a separate part although these is no internal port detail included if you wanted to show this open. The large storage racks at the back of the turret are also in separate fine parts with the mesh provided cut to size using the templates included in the instructions.

The Commander’s cupola is entirely in clear plastic with the inner periscopes included with a separate upper race and main sights. The separate hatch has nice details inside and out but with three small pin marks to be removed from the inside plus a separate grab handle on the outside.

Cupola Hatch
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The two part Loader’s hatch also has excellent details inside and out with a few unavoidable pin marks to be removed but the detail on these hatches is probable the best of all the hatches.

Loader's hatch
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The main sight in front of the Commander’s cupola has a clear plastic face as well as the distinctive Aussie bush guard added over the sight as it should plus there is a separate Loader’s periscope on the forward part of the turret roof also from clear plastic.

Other details include the two antenna mounts, one on each side of the roof and the externally mounted .30cal MG although the MG support ‘arm’ often used to mount this gun isn’t included but would be easy enough to make from thin rod.

On the left front is the large infra red search light fitted to Aussie Cents and this is very nicely detailed with two clear parts, one for the inner section with large ‘bulb’ included and the other the outer ‘glass’ face and this should look very convincing when painted up.

Also included are the smoke grenade clusters on each side of the turret and the these have separate mounting brackets, grenade racks and the smoke grenades themselves with just the fine wiring to be added to finish off the detail.

It should be noted that the Over Pressure valve (part F17) situated at the front of the turret roof sometimes has a raised circular bullet splash guard welded around it but photos exist with and without this guard as depicted in the AFV Club kit and so is correct in that regard, but you may want to check references on the vehicle you are modelling.

Included for the back of the turret is a rack of .30cal ammo boxes and there are photos showing these fitted in different positions as well as a similar rack of plastic jerry cans carried on the engine deck but these are not included although it would be very easy to add after finding the suitable jerry cans.

Bonus Figure:
Included in the kit is a resin Commander figure in typical Hobby Fan fashion with full trousers and shirt as well as wearing the typical tankers beret with headphones and posed standing in the cupola with his arms resting of the cupola rim.

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The sheet has markings for five Vietnam era Centurions with the markings being nicely printed with thin carrier film but only four are illustrated on the instruction. I wonder why after you see the typical Australian vehicle names;

Decal Sheet
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Rubber tyres
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Overall an excellent effort with good crisp mouldings and some very fine details with the fit of most parts being very good, only the barrel issue will need some effort to fix and the canvas mantlet cover will have to be added but AFV Club have included most of the small features of the typical Aussie Cent in Vietnam.

This has the makings for a great series and should keep Centurion fans as well as modern armour fans in general very happy.

Highly recommended

PS. I was going to include some comparision images with the Tamiya Centruion parts but it was really a waste of time as this new kit is light years ahead of that kit.

The Sprues:

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See the Centurion Subjects page for other Centurion related reviews.

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AFV ClubThanks to AFV Club and the Australian distributors JB Wholesalers for the review kit.

Page Created May 24, 2006
Updated June 8, 2006 (blue text)

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