by: Sean Langley [ ]
Bronco have recently released a number of sets of 1/35 replacement track links for a variety of WWII and modern subjects. Many of the modern ones are two-pad live tracks from the Diehl stable for a number of European armoured vehicles. Like most single-link track sets, they offer greater fidelity to the real thing. But this particular set, AB3526, is doubly welcome because it finally offers a correction for the worst part of Revell’s PzH 2000 kit.
Take a look first at the original vinyl tracks. They’re not too bad for detail, but they feel HORRIBLE. It’s like handling a pair of dead octopus tentacles. Worse though, they have a reputation for self-destruction, often taking the running gear with them. I understand this is because they contain too much plasticiser and, for some reason, Revell has never improved them. (Although they’re still better than any of Revell / Italeri’s Leopard tracks.)
Bronco’s tracks are moulded in tan polystyrene so will be completely stable. They’ll also take paint, which is another problem with the originals. So, that’s one big point in their favour already.
You probably know your way round modern tracks: dual-pin connections with bushes in the connectors to keep the track under tension; central guide horns; two rubber pads on each link. Esci’s old Leopard 2 kits sported similar tracks in link and length, but their detail was heavily compromised. Bronco have taken one possible route towards improving on that standard.
Each link consists of three parts: the outer treads, the inner side with the guide horns, and a pair of pins with the end and central connectors moulded onto them. The outer and inner parts have channels in them to take the pins. Assembly is simple but not easy, as they say: you take the outer tread, drop a pin into each channel, then lay the inner side on top. There are tiny free areas on the inner and out parts that will allow you to add just enough glue to secure them without locking it all in place. When you’ve done this once, you have a single link with pins poking out of either side; then you keep adding links and pins and links and pins until you have enough.
This is a pretty good way of portraying the real thing convincingly. The links should be free to move around the pins; the pins won’t move relative to the connectors, which is close to how real tracks work.
Another way is illustrated by AFV Club’s Leopard 2 tracks, shown here for reference. This method has four parts per link: the link in one piece including the ends of the pins, two end connectors, and one central connector. This is very much more fiddly. The connectors are minute and need to be positioned exactly if you want the links to move. Luckily, AFV Club’s engineering is top-notch – on the ones I’ve used, the parts are a push fit and hang together almost without glue.
This method is both more and less accurate. It shows the main moving parts as, effectively, free to move. But the pins shouldn’t really be integral with the links (although it has to be said that the net effect is the same); and it increases the chance of links being twisted out of true, which is almost impossible on the real thing.
Another consideration is how the parts are laid out. Each link on the PzH 2000 tracks requires seven sprue gates to be cleaned up. Each link for the Leopard requires ten. That’s over 350 more in total, even though the Leopard’s tracks are shorter. Alright, we know all indy links are phenomenally time-consuming, but still ...
The actual moulding of Bronco’s parts is first-rate. There’s only a tiny amount of flash and the parts are all very crisp. Ejector pins are either on extensions (the pins) or on the backs of parts where they won’t be seen (the other parts). I could find no sink marks. And the tan colour should make painting easier, since it will be dead easy to spot bits you’ve missed.
A few other detail matters:
• the connectors on the Leopard tracks are slide-moulded. This allows them to show both full-depth holes for the pins and accurate detail for the bolt-head that holds each connector shut. There’s less on Bronco’s tracks – theirs have the bolt-heads but also have solid, slightly protruding pin ends. AFV Club’s thus have the slight edge here – but at the price of a trickier, more frustrating build.
• the PzH guide horns are hollow, which matches the real thing; the Leopard tracks have indentations instead of a truly hollow section.
• the PzH tracks have the correct shape for the inner face, which is slightly rhomboid, whereas the Leopard tracks’ are rectangular.
On balance, I’d say that the Bronco tracks are ever so slightly better. But each has its good and bad points.
One box of PzH tracks supplies eight sprues, 24 links per sprue, making 192 in total or 96 per side. The PzH has 95 per side so that’s not many spares; not compared with about 14 in the AFV Club box. If you have a tan carpet, replace it!
Bronco modern track sets are currently retailing at around £20 in the UK. They’re available for about half that from Luckymodel, which is where I got mine.