Recently I’ve received a kit of Japanese Self-Defence Forces Type 61 tank in the revised specification. As you know I’m a fan of german and russian armor from World War II, so it’s not easy to convince me to look at something from ‘this era’. Until now I have only made a few vehicle kits that were designed and manufactured after 1945, moreover all of them come from the 60-70’s of the last century. Fortunately for Fine Molds, it was the same this time, Type 61 was produced between 1962 and 1975 with a final decommission date in the year 2000.
In the box, you will find 8 sprues from olive-green polystyrene (including two identical once with wheels and track sections), 2 from a transparent material with periscopes, scope glasses and headlights, a photo-etched plate, a piece of nylon string for the towing cable, decals and an assembly instruction. The instruction itself consists of 16 pages with the tank description (unfortunately only in japanese), 44 assembly steps and 4 painting schemes using Mr. Hobby C & H colors as well as Tamiya. Paints coming from this manufacturer belong to the C line.
It’s the first time that I have seen an assembly instruction from Fine Molds and I have to admit, that even though drawing are of high quality it’s not the easiest to follow – at least at first sight. It’s caused by the fact, that you’re able to build the tank in 2 specifications, ‘Upgraded’ and ‘Night Combat’, which requires you to jump between the steps or exclude some elements. On top of that, the kit instruction contains the steps related to ‘Detail Up Option’, which are in fact the steps to fitting a separately sold photo-etched plate ‘Extra Detail Set of JGSDF Type 61 Tank’, consisting of 28 parts, which make reading the instruction harder.
However, I think that once you start building and get used to this style of presentation you should not have any issues with finishing the kit according to the instruction. As mentioned, this is the first Fine Molds kit, in my workshop and I have to admit, that it’s of very high quality, characteristic for Japanese manufacturers. The sprues are very good, sharp, almost without spills (I did find a few), the delicate texture of armor and weld marks are a joy for the eyes. The openwork ventilation covers of the engine bay are amazing, that’s a detail rarely available even from other japanese manufacturers. Push-out marks are in invisible places, and if you would like to get rid of the once located under the fenders, it should be easy, as they are very shallow. The number of elements, from which the kit is assembled is reasonable – it’s not going overboard like with Dragon, but at the same time it’s more than with other japanese manufacturers. Even the smallest elements are crisp, however, the details on Browning M2 0,50” could have been enriched. If someone would like to make this replica more attractive, a metal or resin machine gun would be a nice addition. Adding a brass line instead of the nylon string for the towing cable would be a very good move however it’s typical for japanese manufacturers to stay with nylon string. Decals required to transfer markings for one of the 4 suggested painting schemes are unfortunately very thick, compared to the products offered by best decals manufacturers nowadays. Of course using gloss paint underneath the decals and selecting an adequate application liquid can result in satisfactory results.
Concluding – if you’re looking to build a Type 61 in the early or revised specification, there is no better alternative than to the Fine Molds kit. Other products available on the market come from the 90’s which for sure will not satisfy an exacting modeler in 2017. There is no point in trying to compare them. The kit price at HHkits is not high however the extra detail set photo-etched parts plate is expensive and even the most avid fans might think twice before buying it. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for an interesting and uncommon addition to your collection, the Fine Molds kit is definitely something for you. Even I’m looking forward to building it, however, it will need to wait in line for its turn…