The Crusader Tank - by Nigel Robins
Airfix, I am sure, had a practical joker working for them in 1970-71! He was the guy who neglected to mould a steering wheel and column for the Bedford QL in the Refuelling Set, and he was the man who produced the wheel moulds for the Crusader. Now the Crusader wheels are beautiful, with lovely detail that really catches the feel of the original: except that they are about 1mm too large in diameter. Well, whatís the odd 1mm between friends you may think? At 4mm to the foot it amounts to a fatal problem for the kit.
In order to accommodate the large wheels and retain the correct spacing between wheels the hull ends up 5mm too long (5 x 1mm) The designer, to compound things even further, decided that this additional 5mm was to be added solely to the rear of the hull, stretching the engine deck, and losing the compact purposeful look of the prototype. The resulting kit, therefore, looks nothing like a Crusader, but rather more a stretched caricature, clearly wrong and just plain ugly. It must rank among the greatest disasters ever to have occurred in 1/76th vehicle modelling. This is because the rest of the kit (ignoring issues of length) is brilliant. There is some debate over the correctness of the angle of the front face of the Airfix turrets but other than that it assembles easily, is beautifully moulded, gives options to build either a Mark One or Three and also has pretty good decals. It is also a beautifully, unusually and interestingly designed kit, and goes together as well as any tank in this scale. How frustrating can you get?
What went wrong in the pattern room that year I just donít know. Were the moulds for the wheels made first? Someone perhaps realised the error and then tried to adjust the other components to make it all fit? or did they just have a duff drawing? These faults were not carried on to the 1/32nd version of the tank produced some years later, accompanied by a lovely book on how to model the vehicle.
All we can do is to muse on what might have been. Our feeling is that the kit is not worth building unless you are either prepared to overlook its major fault or rebuild the whole rear hull and fit smaller wheels. You can use Airfix T34 roadwheels, and hide the differences with the flat covers often to be seen on the real thing. The side skirts can be ditched, and cuts made in the rear hull, and the details used to disguise the joins. Itís a big job.