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One Kit Is Never Enough Part 8 - The Challenger 2

Building the Trumpeter 1/35 Challenger 2

by Ethlian Middleton


Introduced into the British Army in 1983, the Challenger Main Battle Tanks have seen service in the Balkans and both Gulf Wars. The Challenger 2 is the first British Army tank since World War II to be designed, developed and produced exclusively by a single prime contractor, Vickers Defence Systems, with set reliability goals laid down in the fixed price contract. Challenger 2 was designed and manufactured at both Vickers sites, Barnbow Leeds and Scottswood Newcastle.


The hull and automotive parts of the Challenger 2 are based upon its predecessor Challenger 1, but Challenger 2 incorporates over 150 improvements aimed at increasing reliability and maintainability. The turret of Challenger 2 is a totally new design. Armour is an uprated version of Challenger 1's Chobham armour. The Challenger 2 is the best protected tank in NATO (10) incorporating Chobham second-generation armour plating. Its NBC (nuclear, biological and chemical protection) system is capable of dealing with all known threats and, for the first time in any British tank, the crew compartment has both a heating and a cooling system.


For a British Tank, the Challenger has been catered for in both 1/72nd and 1/35th scale, in the latter scale it is Trumpeter and Tamiya who have produced the kits. I think it would be fair to say that the Tamiya kits have the edge over the Trumpeter kits, although the Trumpeter kits are cheaper than the Tamiya ones. However, if you want to build a model of the latest incarnation of the Challenger 2 then your choice is dependent on the depth of your wallet. If, like me, you cannot afford the Tamiya kit and the Accurate Armour photo etch bar armour set, the only option is to use the Trumpeter Challenger.


I was well aware of the problems with the earlier Trumpeter Challenger kits but had heard that most of these had been corrected with the release of the Challenger 2 with Enhanced Armour. So I decided to give the Trumpeter kit a go and see what I could make of it. I also had the LionRoar photo etch set in my stash and though I could use that to add the details that were not up to scratch in the kit.


As with nearly all tank kits the first stage of the build is to construct the running gear and road wheels. This is a fairly boring part of the build, but a necessary “evil” as they say. The construction part proceeded without any major problems, although I feel the detail level on the wheels are a bit soft when compared to the Tamiya kit. However this was not a stumbling block to me, when the side armour is in place it is hard to see much of the detail of the wheels or running gear.



Once I had all of the wheels assembled and ready to install I moved on to the rear plate. Trumpeter provides some photo etched parts for this, mainly for the supports for the rear bar armour. However not all of the supports are from photo etch which I have to admit to me defeats the purpose of using photo etch. Again though it was not really a stumbling block as most of it would be hidden by the bar armour. At this point I also assembled the towing bar, cable drum, POL rack, light clusters (very poor) and the rear mud flaps. As you can see the left hand one was not attached correctly, something I only noticed when I saw the photograph, so something to remedy later.



With the chassis complete, I decided to tackle the removal of the moulded engine air vents. I wanted to use the photo etched parts from the LionRoar kit as they look a lot better than the moulded on parts. Another laborious task, but one I hoped would add to the look of the finished tank. Using a pin vice and a .4mm drill and scalpel I drilled a series of holes which I then “joined” together with the scalpel blade. When all the moulded on detail was removed I offered up one of the LionRoar replacement photo etched grills only to find out they were 2mm too short!. Colourful language filled the room for a few minutes as I tried to decide how to overcome this faux par. Mostly I was to blame as I should have measured the moulded on grills first or at least offered up the photo etched grills to see if they were the same size. Having used LionRoar photo etched sets before without any problems; I can only say complacency had set in. Not feeling in the mood to continue I have put the model to one side until I get some time to work out what the best remedy would be for this. The old adage “measure twice, cut once” is one i should not have ignored in this case.   


More next time...