OXFORD MILITARY – Churchill Tank Mk III

By Robin Godwin

All photographs by, and copyright of, the Author.

The box reads “… not a toy. Collectors model not suitable for children under 14 years.” There is always a point of discussion between collectors with the addition of “toylike” features added to collectors’ scale models. For regular vehicles, this discussion usually involves opening features such as doors, bonnets and boots. I don’t consider these features toylike or gimmicks at all. If they are there on the real vehicle, then why not on accurate scale models? The argument that opening features ruin the lines of a vehicle with poor fit and large gaps is, unfortunately, sometimes true, and those manufacturers who don’t put the extra engineering effort into proper design/fit and actuation deserve criticism in the model press. In fact, perfection has been achieved by several manufacturers in 1:43 and even 1:50 scales (and is routine in the larger scale models, except in some of the cheaper ranges like the new Solido 1:18 scale VW Beetle with dog-leg door hinges) so it can be done.

With armoured, tracked vehicles the discussion usually centres on the tracks, their accuracy and whether or not they roll. Again, I prefer working features, so I really like my tank models with rolling tracks. Virtually all the partwork 1:72 tanks and their derivative ranges feature fixed rolling wheels and tracks. They are marketed as collectors’ items as well, and generally feature very accurate running gear, which is fine for display models. The Oxford Diecast Churchill in 1:76 scale, with working tracks, leaves me a bit flat, however. It is the method of execution that has been under-engineered for what is described as a collectors’ model. The effect is uncannily similar to the solution sought by Dinky Toys and Matchbox over 60 years ago – obviously dummy cast wheels which hide a roller system behind, giving a remarkably toy like appearance rather than a seriously modelled effort. If this is meant to be a display model, it doesn’t display as well as it should. Forces of Valor (Unimax) produced a much more accurate working system on their 1:72 Churchill Mk VII tank several years ago. The pictures below illustrate the differences (in reality, the differences between a Mk III and a Mk VII largely amounted to additional armour, and up-gunning). Surprising as well is that OD omitted separate plastic antennas and features a fixed non-elevating fragile plastic barrel. Although the plastic turret rotates, these obvious omissions would have enhanced display value.

A complaint I have had before with OD products is quality control. Only one of my tracks rolls freely, with the other jammed a bit by a bent mounting bracket for the return roller/idler wheel. Since the base is screwed on, I may remove it and attempt to straighten the bent metal bracket, but this may chip the paint.

On average, though, the model is a decent replica of a Mk III tank that fought at el Alamein in North Africa in 1942. It features a satisfying amount of metal in it’s construction with a subsequent hefty feel. To me, it sits a bit high compared to more accurate 1:72 scale models, and finish appears to be way too glossy. Although OD calls it a collectors’ model, it is very toy like in execution. Unless you collect all versions of Churchills, or specific campaign versions, or are locked into 1:76 scale (and need a tank for your Oxford Diamond T Tank Transporter model, also used in the African Desert), then I recommend acquiring one of the 1:72 scale partworks. They are more accurate and generally less expensive.

Illustrations

Zylmex earlier generation Churchill Mk VII, left, Oxford Diecast Mk III, middle, Forces of Valor (FoV) Mk VII, right. Note non-elevating barrel on OD

The Zylmex is obviously a toy with the incorrect number of road wheels, but actually a simpler and (likely) less expensive production method (plastic one piece wheel/axle arrangement running through slots in the chassis). Zylmex at least added antennae, and opened up an access panel in the front of the track guards (likely for cleaning and/or repair access). The OD does the same panel in tampo black

The FoV is way more accurate, but spoiled by toy standard requirements for the metal wire antennae. It has what appears to be a better “posture” than the OD

Another Mk VII, this time from the Combat Tanks partworks by PCT/Ixo. Non-rolling wheels/tracks, but a way better looking model at half the price.

Matchbox Centurion, left, showing similar engineering solution to rolling wheels/tracks from over 50 years ago – solid cast “fake” road wheels with rolling mechanism hidden behind

The OD solution to rolling tracks. Not counting drive and idler wheels, there are 11 metal axles with plastic sleeve rollers per side. This can’t be the least expensive option for manufacturing, nor is it the best looking effect. Note bent idler wheel bracket on left side of photo, which means my model does not roll. A QC issue

The FoV solution to rolling wheels/tracks. Two plastic friction fit pieces per “axle” fit into holes in suspension casting. A better engineering solution, and a much better looking model


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