The Airfix Matador and 5.5 inch Gun By Nigel Robins
This kit dates from 1966 and is a good kit, which with a little work, can be made into a great kit. It represents the AEC Matador gun tractor, a very advanced 4x4 vehicle, for its day and the 5.5 medium gun/howitzer the principal British medium piece of the second war. Both tractor and gun served as frontline vehicles for the British Army into the sixties and in reserve formations/ specialist roles into the seventies. They were eagerly bought up for various uses in civilian hands and many have survived in various guises.
The kit is best reviewed in two halves. The gun is awful and is best thrown into the bin/spares box. The trails are the wrong shape, have ridiculously large towing eyes, the wheels are too small and the gun barrel is too long. The whole thing is a plastic version of the Dinky die cast of the period without the play value.
The Matador is vastly better. Its crucial failings are that its wheels are too small and poorly detailed, and that the towing hooks, particularly the front one, are over scale. Being picky, the radiator bars should be behind the wire grill, not in front as Airfix have modelled them, the driver is wearing an American helmet/uniform, there are no winch rollers and the boxes along the underneath of the rear body are a fraction too small.
Corrections and Detailing
Simply replacing the wheels and adding wing mirrors transforms the model and the various Matador sets both allow the modeller to not only correct the kit yet produce variants other than the standard gun tractor. For those wishing to represent the gun tractor with the 5.5 excellent models of the 5.5 are available from both BW Models and AB figures and AB do the full ten man gun crew!!! Glazing the windscreen and side windows makes a massive difference. The rest of the super detailing can be carried out with a little plastic card and a good prototype photo, I advise not trying to correct the radiator as its easier to make a mess of this than improve it.
The decals supplied are excellent, offering a vehicle from Second Army 1944/45 (The actual vehicle is photographed in P Hodges book,” British Military Markings 1939-1945”) Airfix still insist on suggesting a scheme of overall green (M3) instead of the accurate Khaki drab/ black Mickey Mouse’s ear scheme which the vehicle looks good in.
With a little work and a decent 5.5 you can make a great model out of this old kit and if you want to be different, the Matador was tractor for the Sixty Pounder, the Six Inch howitzer and the 3.7 AA Gun. You can paint the vehicle in any scheme you could wish for as the Matador served in every theatre and Post War… so start building !!!!