France 35/38(H) tank
Trumpeter Kit No. 00351

1/35th Scale

Review by Terry Ashley

This version of the Hotchkiss represents the early version as used by the French Army in 1940 and while it is labeled as the 35/38(H) it can only be built as a 38/39(H) as the 35(H) had a curved upper engine deck profile as opposed to the straight deck of the 38/39(H) included in the kit and also has the domed cupola and large rear trench skid and the short 37mm gun as fitted to these early vehicles.

This kit consists of 169 parts in light beige plastic plus two full length “rubber band” type vinyl tracks and a small decal sheet. The quality of the moulding is overall quite good but there are some pin marks on a number of parts that will need attention, such as on the insides of the hatches and on the back of the road and idler wheels but these can be positioned facing inwards and out of sight. This kit shares the lower hull tub and sprue A for the suspension parts with all four kits and sprue B with the hull parts with kit#00352 with a new sprue C for the early parts applicable to this kit.

Lower Hull / Suspension:
The lower hull tub has the front and rear panels included and at the front is the large HOTCHKISS name casting which is very prominent on these vehicles while on the inside is floor details and a rear bulkhead to help keep everything square. The final drive housings and idler wheel mounts are separate parts as are the two return rollers per side plus simple attachments points for the suspension bogies.

The six suspension bogie units are made up of eight parts each with quite good details but the upper springs are a little fine and some may wish to replace with thicker wire for a better appearance? The drive sprockets include the characteristic dome shape but unfortunately the central bolt heads and drive teeth are undersized but may not be that noticeable on the finished kit?

There are two idler wheels provided, one with ribs and the other smooth and the instructions indicate to use the ribbed wheels on the kit but I’ve seen photos with both types so you have choice here. The 35(H) also featured idler wheels with five lightening holes and the outline of these is included on the rear of the spoked idler wheels and you can drill these out to depict these idlers.

TrumpeterConstruction of the bogies was a little tricky as there is no actual locating point for the top mounted springs and these were simply glued to the rear bogie plate at the appropriate place level with the moulded on attachment bolts on the outside of the bogie plates.
The wheels are designed to rotate when trapped between the front and rear bogie plates but there are only a couple of small attachment points for the two bogie plates and the top brackets (part A15) have to be positioned over the two bogie plates at the same time as positioning the wheels which was all very tricky and I ended up gluing the wheels in place which made for a much more robust assembly and as the drive sprocket and idler wheels are only designed to be glued in place gluing the wheels is not an issue. What is an issue is the fitting of the bogie units to the hull, the locating pin on the hull fits into the corresponding hole on the back of the bogie bracket (part A15) which also has a small L bracket to fit under the bottom of the hull for support, unfortunately the hole on part A15 didn’t line up precisely with the pin on the hull and required some trimming of the bracket (part A15) to get the bogies to sit correctly on the hull, this isn’t a real hassle as after trimming the bracket they then fitted okay and at the same height.

Upper Hull:
TrumpeterThe main hull moulding which features the various contours of the cast original has the front section, front driver’s hatches and rear engine deck as separate parts for better detail definition. There is no cast texture to the hull but from photos this texture appears to be quite smooth in any case compared to other cast hulls and the contours appear to be captured quite well. One problem is the shape of the two round vision ports either side of the driver’s compartment which are moulded oval on the hull, but given the constraints of injection moulding this is probably the best that could be done other than to provide them as separate parts?

The prominent join line between the front hull section (part D1) and the main hull (part B20) will require eliminating and the sides don’t quite match evenly requiring some smoothing out and there are also some join seams between the final drive housings and the front plate that will need elimination as this area is quite smooth on the real hull.

The fit of the driver’s doors required a little attention with trimming of the larger door for a good fit and the two large hinge bolts either side of the top driver’s hatch will have to be added as these are quite prominent on the real vehicle.

The engine deck intake grills are fully open for good definition but you could add some card on the inside so you can’t see down into the vacant engine bay from above and also the grills sit a little low in the hull cut-out but should be glued level with the hull top.

The hull has a basic interior with rear engine bulkhead and drive tunnel to the front gearbox and a basic driver’s seat, this at least gives something to see if you leave the two large front two part driver’s hatch open but if you build the kit buttoned up then you can just skip the interior.

The full length side fenders are also separate parts but ensure you attach these before fitting the top hull as it will be very difficult to add later, another thing to watch is that for this version there is a large storage bracket attached to the rear hull and you have to open up the locating holes in the rear hull for this. This is not shown till step 24 of the instructions while the upper and lower hull are joined in step 9, so make sure the holes are opened up before fitting the hull parts together.

The fit of the upper and lower hull parts needed a bit of minor trimming and test fitting to get a snug fit and after gluing together the join lines both front and rear will need eliminating as again these areas are smooth on the real vehicle but the fit is quite good so only small gap lines are evident.

At the rear is the large trench skid made up of 20 parts and builds into a good replica of the skid fitted to the early Hotchkiss vehicles and although there isn't any locating points it simply butt joins centrally to the rear hull.

There are numerous other fittings around the hull including the rear exhausts with separate heat shields and the join line between the exhaust outlets (parts B30) and the hull should be eliminated as this area is again smooth on the real thing. There are the front and rear towing shackles plus pioneer tools on the fenders and hull sides and these could benefit with the attachment clips being replaced with etched clips as with any kit which I’m sure will be coming soon from one of the etched detail producers?

TrumpeterThe main turret shell is a single moulding with separate large rear hatch and three early style cast vision blocks with two vision holes and dome Commander’s hatch and small lifting hooks for the exterior. The short 37mm cannon is split vertically with basic breech detail and breech guard for the interior and separate barrel for better definition.
The gun is designed to be trapped between the upper and lower turret halves but the fit is quite sloppy and it would be better to glue the gun in place.

The bottom section of the turret also traps the rear hatch hinges between the upper turret so take care here if you want the hatch to open and there is a large gap to be filled around the hinge which may be better to fill in with plastic card before gluing the turret parts together. The fit of the vision ports also required some minor trimming for a good fit and test fitting will determine the trimming needed but the Commander’s hatch was a good snug fit to the turret roof.

The three lifting hooks are also provided for the sides and front of the turret.

The tracks are full length vinyl and have quite well defined details on both sides and should look okay on the finished kit, the instructions show to fit these before attaching the upper and lower hull parts as there is not a lot of room under the fenders is fitted later.

The small decal sheet has basic markings for three vehicles in French Army service but no unit information is given and the colour profiles on the box sides can be used as a painting guide.


Overall a nice rendition of this early war vehicle with the feel of the H38/39 captured quite well, there are some minor fit issues and a few join seams that need eliminating but where you have separate parts on a cast hull this is inevitable.

This kit should be welcomed by Allied vehicle modellers and carried some colourful and interesting cam schemes to make things a bit more interesting.

It remains to be seen how the H39s from Bronco Models stack up against these Trumpeter kits when they appear but a bit of choice never hurt anyone.


The Sprues:

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Thanks to my credit card and Hobby Easy for the review kit.

Page created 7 December 2004

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