By Robin Godwin
All text and photographs by, and copyright of, the Author unless otherwise stated.
Terebo is a Chinese manufacturer of metal models, mostly aircraft in 1:72 scale. There are a huge number of manufacturers of aircraft models these days, but Terebo makes mainly indigenous Chinese military aircraft in what appear to be relatively standard scales of 1:72, 1:144 and 1:200 (but an internet search turns up some Raptors, F-35s, F-16s and Tomcats by Terebo). A catalogue included with this tank model illustrates Chinese fighter, transport, airborne early warning, helicopter and maritime patrol aircraft. Also illustrated is a Dong Feng DF-21 mobile anti-ship ballistic missile, and an aircraft carrier, but scales are not specified.
But this posting is about an outstanding 1:50 scale (claimed) metal model of the Chinese third generation Type 99A main battle tank. (The third generation of main battle tanks is characterised by composite armour and computerised stabilised fire control systems, which allow firing on the move as well as very high first hit probability on targets up to 2,000 metres away – Wikipedia). This model arrived at my door from a Chinese eBay dealer for an unbelievably reasonable total cost of $US 62.00.
The big news is – working metal tracks, which to my knowledge is the first such military application since the demise of the old Solido. (The new Solido markets tanks in 1:72 scale lack these as they are “badge engineered” from earlier partworks via the War Master range). The Terebo effort is brilliant, superbly cast with 10 opening hatches, photo etched engine screens, terrific ancillaries such as machine guns and smoke grenade launchers, and a superb pixilated or digital camouflage paint scheme. It is big and heavy, being almost entirely metal, and weighs over one pound in weight on my kitchen scale. That said, as with all metal tracked tanks in this scale, these are inaccurate (although better than Solido, but in fairness, that design is over 55 years old!), and have way fewer individual links per side. It’s that old conundrum; plastic tracks are usually moulded much more accurately but tend to come mostly in black, whereas metal tracks are just more visceral, but difficult to get accurate in 1:50. A question of accuracy vs. functionality in a small scale, I suppose. Some purists would likely say that moving tracks are unnecessary in a display model, but these move smoothly and efficiently and one has to admire the engineering that has gone into their production.
Speaking of scale, even allowing for some minor inaccuracy of my Model Collector Scale Rule (see pictures), and possible design error at Terebo, Wikipedia gives the hull length as 23 ft, but the model measures out at over 25 scale ft, not counting the external fuel tanks. By comparison, my resin WarTanks (France) M1 Abrams is labelled 1:48 scale and it measures out around 25 ft hull length (you’ll notice some parallax error in the photo), with a real length of just over 26 ft. Given that resin shrinks over time, the WarTank may be more accurate scale-wise.
I must make an observation here concerning both Corgi and Solido. Corgi is reissuing some of their earlier 1:50 WWII tanks and military vehicles for 2019. These are nicely finished but there was some criticism from experts on the earlier issues. I am not sure if they have been improved (doubt it) – more likely just a paint job to give the impression of a different version. My point is that these reissues are priced at US$ 65 (49 Pounds Sterling), and that’s before shipping if you are buying online. You can find the originals on eBay at lower prices, so I can’t fully appreciate Corgi’s marketing strategy here. Did they just not do their homework? Or are these an easy way to maximise profit since no new masters or moulds are needed? As for Solido, a print hobby journal interviewed the new product managers of the brand a few years back, and they waxed enthusiastically about re-introducing the 1:43 scale (sic – all Solido tanks were 1:50 scale) tank range. What we got were 1:72 War Masters (perhaps changed a bit to make them unique) badged as Solido, but with origins in an Ixo supplied partwork – all at three times the price of the original partworks! On the bright side, the War Masters are detailed models and the original Solido tanks were always toys, lacking details collectors expect today.
Digital camouflage not so effective against a tabletop. Hard to see in this photo, but the base of each antenna is just wound wire, which fits over a cast post – effective, but it detracts from the overall appearance. These wire antennae would not meet toy standards with their sharp ends – simple plastic would have been more effective. Antenna at the top of the picture has a Chinese flag paper sticker. Driver is situated just in front of the turret to the left of the gun barrel. His hatch operates as well, but it is a lift-and-swivel design rather than hinged, for obvious reasons
Six of ten opening hatches visible in this shot. Engine screens are photo etched. Basic engine detail visible. Even the inside surfaces of the opening hatches seen here are detailed
The Gunner sits on the left, and those are presumably sighting/aiming control screens. The Commander is on the right but his machine gun is missing. The two antenna anchor posts are visible just inboard of the central stowage basket supports
Handy ruler would suggest that the Terebo Type 99 is larger than 1:50, perhaps 1:48, but that scale is not indicated on the rule
This 1:48 resin Warfighter Abrams tank measures out about the same as the Type 99 despite it being a larger scale and a longer tank
This size comparison also illustrates modern tank design similarities. Warfighter resin with non-moving tracks is on the left
ERA (Explosive Reactive Armour – ‘Google it’ – very interesting) plates are well cast on the leading edges of the Type 99. One last criticism, and I may be wrong since I have no means of measuring, but the Type 99 tracks don’t seem quite wide enough for a tank of this size and weight, and appear narrower than online photos would suggest. But this is otherwise a brilliant model of a modern tank. I only wish someone would make an Abrams in 1:50 scale metal
Solido PT-76 Russian Amphibious tank on the left for comparison (note introduction date cast on the base). The track links are finer on the newer Chinese model, with better detail, but they are still inaccurate. The joins are in the wrong place, but this may be a diecasting limitation.
This is how the track should look and also shows the correct number of teeth on the drive sprocket (11). This is an aftermarket replacement metal track for 1:35 plastic kits. (photo from internet original copyright acknowledged)
The Terebo (above) has fewer links than the real thing, with the scale links each being longer. This causes the teeth in the drive sprocket at the rear to be spaced further apart with the result that there are only six teeth on the sprocket. However, the teeth do fit the gaps between the links and both look authentic and operate smoothly. Solido (below) has teeth represented on the drive wheel, but these are inside the main circumference – they do not engage the track. Tracks remain in place guided by the visible cast pins. Solido tracks are cast in two lengths with two “master links” but I cannot find any similar joins on the Terebo. An article in Model Collector, May 2013 by Jacques Dujardin described the Solido manufacturing process. The small-pin-in-a-big-hole appearance is the space required for tiny elements of the mould that fill that gap in the manufacturing process. Terebo tracks are much finer, with no perceptible gaps between pins and holes, so the diecasting process must be different, but the net results are basically the same