A sentinel in 1/76th - Matador 76A-01 Sentinel I and 76A-07 Sentinel Mk IV prototype
Page 1 - a kit is produced
The Sentinel has always been a favourite.
When Matador Models started trading a few years ago it aimed to catch the middle of the market. Most of its kits are to convert or upgrade plastic kits. Matador, like the other little companies, is run by enthusiasts. The decision to build a Sentinel was therefore an easy one in principle. First, there was no other kit on the market in the scale, though there is of course the beautiful version in 1/35th by Cromwell. Second it is a tank-lovers' tank. The story of its design and construction is so impressive that it seems a waste that its production was so limited and that it never saw action. The group of enthusiasts who are Matador wanted Sentinels in their own collections. They guessed they would not be alone. They built... and the hunch was right: the kit sells well.
The first decision when designing a kit is the level of difficulty. Matador already had a policy. The company sells kits in both resin and white metal. The constant in production policy is that any of their kits should be buildable by a newcomer to the hobby who admires the Sentinel and has a whim to buy his (or her - but our wives say this is unlikely) own. Yet these kits should also make final models that will not disgrace an expert's collection. That is a hard line to tread. The second thing to decide was whether to design the master for production in resin or metal. It was a debate over this that led to this kit's prolonged and painful gestation period. It was first designed for resin, and the job of building the master was subcontracted to some friends in Eastern Europe whose charges were remarkably reasonable. The master duly returned, but it had problems. The overall dimensions were spot-on, but every decision that had been made as a result of guesswork from the available plans and photographs had been unlucky. It was a sad group who on a grey afternoon huddled round the Sentinel I in the Bovington Tank museum. The cast sections of hull and turret were beautiful, but much of the tinwork had to be scrapped. Then the second disaster struck. The company was temporarily without a resin caster. The kit would have to be in metal. All the undercuts in parts would have to go, and the lower hull would have to be rebuilt in flat plates. So with bated breath a razor saw was taken to some beautiful master parts. It was a bad experience! When the kits finally came back from the metal caster and the orange boxes started to go out to the customers who had been waiting with varying degrees of patience, there was a considerable sense of relief that at least one stage was over. At last Matador kit 76Au-1, Sentinel I, was out.
Within a few weeks the second master was ready, the prototype Mk IV. The appearance in between times of a series of Artillery tractors meant that it was coded 76Au-7. The reasoning for producing it was the same as for the Mk I. Development time was, however, far shorter because the Mk I was already available for conversion, cannibalisation and comparison, so there were many practical advantages. And what a tank it was - the achievement of mounting a 17-pounder in such an early vehicle was awesome. The test vehicle mounted with twin 25-pounders was bizarre. What more excuse does one need?
The decision was made to offer alternative parts in the
kit. This is always a winner for a manufacturer when it can be done, as it gives
choice, and a contribution to the spares box which is the pride of any serious
modeller. It also, of course, provides a significant contribution to sales, and
compared with the final price of a kit, the company had already invested a lot
of money in this vehicle. The photographs show gaping holes where hatches and
the distinctive hull machine gun should be on a production vehicle. Correctly of
course, these should be on the model, but compared with the Mk I this leaves a
vehicle which is denuded and ugly in the extreme, so a hull machine gun cowl and
some putative hatches were included. The purists will pop these straight in the
spares box, but they may give someone a vehicle they like rather more in their
collection. As the Mk IV never went into
production, Matador has no plans to release a model, but one could be made using
the Mk IV turret and, with a few modifications, the Mk III hull when that goes
The sentinel Mk IV as it might have appeared. The stowage on the Mk III was not exactly the same as this, but note the angled glacis and side escape hatches. The hatches in the lower hull sides were deleted in the Mk III.
There is a considerable interest in "what if?" and "if only" vehicles, and manufacturers find a ready market for subjects dealing with the possibilities of Wehrmacht or Luftwaffe 1946. It is a great tribute to the wartime achievement of Australia that these vehicles really did exist. The Sentinel series has richly earned its place in any history of tanks, or any model tank collection. If only the development had not been cancelled... .continued.