Bronco Models
French H39 Hotchkiss
Bronco Models Kit No. 35001
Review by Terry Ashley

I have just received, thanks to Bronco Models the final production kit of the soon to be released Hotchkiss H39 light tank. Edits from first review this colour text as well as images updated to reflect the revised parts.

There have been a few enhancements from the test shot reviewed earlier with the most obvious being the subtle outward contours of the rear hull behind the turret as per photos and the main hull, front hull panels and the turret include a subtle "orange peel" cast surface texture for a better look. The drive sprockets have better defined recessed hub bolts and slightly enlarged drive teeth for a better appearance with the remainder of the parts being as per the previous kit.

The kit is moulded in darkish grey plastic which has a soft feel to it and is quite easy to work with and removing the parts from the sprue was trouble free even with the many very small parts included. The quality of the mouldings is very good with crisp details and a noticeable lack of pin ejector marks with just the usual moulding seams on the parts to be removed, the pin marks present are in spots mostly not seen after assembly and as mentioned there are quite a few very small detail parts that will require care in handling during assembly and so the use of a softer plastic has not resulted in any loss of detail.

There are 293 parts for the basic vehicle plus another 264 for the individual link track and as that is 70 more parts than the corresponding Trumpeter kit it already gives an indication of the extra detail in this kit.

Also included is a metal barrel for the 37mm gun and a length of the distinctive chain often carried on the right hull fender of H35/38/39s and small metal springs for the suspension bogies and of course the decal and instruction sheet.

Metal parts
Bronco Models

The other thing to note is the Bronco kit is labelled purely as a H39 and appears to be a later production vehicle while the Trumpeter kit #00351 is labelled H35/H38 and kit #00352 as a H39 but using the same basic parts as kit #00352. Heller kit #794 (and subsequent re-issues) is labelled H35 with parts included for the later H38/39s but had a number of compromises as the H35 was quite different from the later H38/39s.

I will also make mention of the Trumpeter kit during this review to show the main differences and also highlight the extra detail on the Bronco parts compared to those kits and also briefly the Heller kits which really do show their age not only against the Trumpeter kits but more so with this new Bronco kit.

Comparing the parts to known data and plans including the side view 1:35 plans by Hilary Louis Doyle in the Spielberger “Beute-Kraftfahrzeuge und-Panzer der deutschen Wehrmacht” (Booty motor vehicles and tanks of the German army) book and associated diagrams and reference pictures show the dimensions of the Bronco kit to be well within reasonable tolerances. These sources also show the Trumpeter and Heller hulls and turrets to be oversized which are quite noticeable when comparing the parts directly.

Lower Hull:
Bronco ModelsThe Bronco lower tub has the sides and rear plate included with separate front section of which three different types are included in the kit for the other versions in this series to come. The detail on the hull sides is good with weld seams front and back as well as bolted suspension mounting plates and small bolted plates for the return roller supports and the roller supports are also in the correct positions for the H39 as these are slightly different on the earlier H35/H38’s.

The lower hull tub in the Trumpeter kit includes the front and rear panels resulting in some additional mould lines to be removed and overall the Bronco hull has finer details with the fit of the front hull section to the main hull tub being so good the join line was almost invisible after assembly.

The Bronco hull front section has a subtle "orange peel" cast texture and includes the large Hotchkiss embossing as do the other kits with separate final drives as well as inner bolt head added which is missing from the Trumpeter final drives. There is also some filling needed on the final drive/hull join but not as much as with the Trumpeter kit. The front towing shackles are also provided with separate towing eyes and while these parts are in the Trumpeter kit the instructions don’t make mention of them?

Bronco ModelsThe Bronco rear hull has a weld seam across the top of the rear plate and separate towing shackles and idler pistons as well as two part idler mounts for slightly better detail definition than with the Trumpeter idler mounts moulded as part of the hull tub.

On the inside the Trumpeter kit gives you the rear engine bulkhead, forward gearbox with drive shaft and driver’s seat while the Bronco interior has these parts as well as the transmission that fits inside the front hull part, additional driver’s foot pedals and hand controls and tread plate embossing on the floor while at the back is a full seven part engine with all the basic details that can be seen through the engine deck grill work and the fuel tank. Overall the Bronco interior is far more detailed and the corresponding parts again have finer details that on the Trumpeter parts.

The fit of the Bronco interior parts was very good with the engine assembling without any problems or gaps and there was only a couple of things to watch. Make sure the transmission is inserted as far as possible inside the front hull part so it will clear the front of the gearbox when the hull parts are fitted together, you may need to trim a little from the front of the gearbox but test fitting will determine this. You may also have to trim a small amount off the front of the engine for the engine firewall bulkhead to fit snugly (or trim the back of the bulkhead) but again test fitting will determine if this is needed, but everything else just fell into place and you would obviously paint the interior before proceeding.

Bronco ModelsThe suspension components (bogie plates, road wheels) in the Bronco and Trumpeter kits are the same size and assemble in basically the same manner except the Bronco parts are again better detailed with a metal spring provided for the top mounted recoil spring, this is a thicker gauge than the test kit springs and looks much better than the moulded plastic spring in the Trumpeter kits, while the spring moulding in the Heller kit is best not spoken of.

The detail on the road wheels is better represented on the Bronco wheels and strangely the Heller wheels are oversized while the bogie plates are way undersized.

The Bronco kit provides you with the reinforced front bogie units with two small square panels added as often seen on later H39s and the idler wheels are basically the same although the Trumpeter wheels have small bolt heads around the hub not present on the Bronco wheels.

The drive sprockets in the Bronco kit have far better rim and hub bolt head details than both the Trumpeter and Heller sprockets with well defined recessed hub bolts and correct sized drive teeth while they are a little undersized on the Trumpeter sprockets but way over scale on the Heller sprocket. It should be noted that the actual drive sprocket has 22 teeth while the Bronco and Trumpeter sprockets have 24 and the Heller 22.
The Bronco Idler wheel also has eight hub cap bolts where there should only be six as on the Heller and Trumpeter idler wheels.

Assembly of the Bronco bogies was quite straightforward although I had to enlarge the hole in the road wheels slightly to fit over the axles and the upper recoil spring assembly fit was more precise than in the Trumpeter kit but the fit of the bogies to the hull was as little ‘loose’ and you would need to ensure the bogies are lined up correctly as the glue dries.

Bronco ModelsBronco provides you with individual link tracks that while not designed to be workable have far better detail than the vinyl tracks of the Trumpeter and Heller kits and fitted together well for easy assembly and by using slow drying liquid cement it is easy to fit the tracks around the drive sprocket and idler wheels. Note; the production Bronco kit has the track links in black plastic as opposed to the grey in the images.

The detail on the Bronco track links looks good and there are no pin marks or other cleanup needed apart from the bur when you remove them from the sprues and if you don’t want to go to the added expense of buying the ModelKasten or Armour Workshop workable tracks these will certainly look the part.

Upper Hull:
Bronco ModelsThe upper hull in the Bronco and Trumpeter kits are in one piece with separate engine deck grills and two part front driver’s hatches while the Heller hull is in two halves to allow for the different versions but the fit of the two hull parts is a mess.

Also separate in the Bronco hull are the two front driver’s side vision ports with the fit to the hull cut-outs being very good and the appearance of the ports is very well defined compared to the ports on the other kits where moulding constraints result in poorly defined ports.

The Bronco hull is the correct width at the rear end and also has the correct five retaining bolts for this version while the Trumpeter and Heller kits have only four retaining bolts of the earlier H35/38s and they are also slightly too wide at the rear. There is also a subtle "orange peel" cast texture on the hull which is an improvment over the smooth of the test shot.

The Bronco engine deck grills are also the correct layout for the H39 with the other kits again having compromises for the earlier versions and also the Trumpeter deck sits too low in the hull recess but this can easily be rectified by adding a bit of thin card to lift the deck to the right height.

The shape of the hull outline from the engine deck to around the turret ring has the distinct outward contour as seen on photos of the H39 and has better contours than the other two kits.

Bronco ModelsOther details around the hull include the full length fenders with again the Bronco parts having finer details and remember to fit these before attaching the upper and lower hulls and the side hull lifting shackles and pioneer tools which are moulded in both kits with basic tool clips and the right rear mounted jack and again the tools are more finely moulded in the Bronco kit. Another detail on the Bronco kit which appears more correct is the four fender support arms at each corner of the hull with the vast majority of reference images of H39s showing this style of support as opposed to the type in the Trumpeter kit for which I have only seen one photo with that type of support.

The engine exhaust pipe mounted on the left rear fender is seen in different styles although most I’ve seen have the heat shield added over the top but this is not included with the Bronco exhaust while it is with the Trumpeter exhaust and both have separate hull brackets for the exhaust pipe.

The rear hull mounted trench skid is almost identical in both the Bronco and Trumpeter kits being the same size with only minor detail differences but the Bronco kit includes the rear hull skid mounting bracket which isn’t in the Trumpeter kit. The Bronco kit also includes the two skid braces attached to the rear hull which are also not included in the Trumpeter kit.

Test fitting of the Bronco upper and lower hulls and fenders found the fit to be spot on with no trimming of filler needed which makes assembly a breeze.

The turret:
Bronco ModelsAs mentioned the Bronco turret is slightly smaller than the other two but available data indicates this it be more the correct size but the corners and edges seem from photos to be slightly too square but this is easy to remedy with light sanding if want to round them more.

Both the Bronco and Trumpeter turrets have separate vision ports, rear opening hatch and top cupola as well the 37mm gun having a basic breech inside the turret with the Bronco gun having the barrel as a simple brass tube for a good appearance. The Bronco gun is far more detailed having the small shield as a separate part and is moulded quite thin. The front collar is also the same diameter as the barrel as it should be while the Trumpeter collar is slightly wider requiring a bit of work to remedy, the three collar brackets are further back on the Bronco gun again as they should be but will have to be moved slightly back on the Trumpeter gun while the Bronco gun also includes the elevation hand wheel on the side of the breech which isn't present on the Trumpeter gun.

The fit of the rear turret around the hatch hinges requires some filling on both kits but slightly less with the Bronco turret and both include the “beak” shaped lifting shackles on the turret sides with the Bronco kit also including the small fittings around the top cupola, a quick word on handling these parts, they are very small and slippery and extreme care will be needed when handling so they are not lost as their shape makes them hard to get a grip of.

The instructions are large exploded view drawings in the conventional manner that are easy to follow as the kit is not that complicated in any case.

The decal sheet is well printed with good colour register and the matt finish carrier film cropped close to the printed image with markings for five H39s included on the sheet with small illustrations showing the decal locations.

Decal Sheet
Bronco Models
Bronco Models

This first kit from Bronco Models is very good for a first effort with many additional details over the Trumpeter kit as well as most details being better defined and the basic size being more correct than previous kits and the inclusion of the engine gives rise to some interesting dioramas to show the engine hatch open.

The inclusion of metal parts for the gun the suspension and the chain as well as more in the final kit is also a bonus as we have come to see from other manufacturers these days and overall this is a very nice little kit with small enhancements added that bit extra detail.

I have been adviced by Bronco that the kit will be available in Asian shops followed by the rest of the World by the end of this month along with the much anticipated Comet.

Highly recommended.

See the construction review of the Bronco kit

The Sprues:

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Thanks to Bronco Models for the review kit.

Page Created February, 20 2005
Updated February 9, 2006

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