Book Review
Airfix Build & Convert
Build & Convert Airfix Military Models
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by: Jan Etal [ TREAD_GEEK ]

Airfix military models had their beginning with the introduction of the Bristol Bloodhound missile with trailer, launcher and Land Rover in 1960. Originally intended as just an addition to their aircraft line, it is also considered to be their first ‘military vehicle’ kit. I think that it goes without saying that there are quite a number of modellers that got their start in the hobby with these types of Airfix kits.

Airfix released more vehicle kits over the years, but at varying rates. During these early years two prominent modelling magazines at the time (Military Modelling and Airfix Magazine) bristled with conversion articles for many of the Airfix kits. The kits covered by this book are predominantly 1/76 scale but with a very few (the Bloodhound) that actually scale out to 1/72.

To quote the book's author, “This book is the result of a series of articles for the Scale Military Modeller International Magazine in their ‘Built for Battle’ series, and is intended to show what can be done with both old and new Airfix kits, and likewise this work is designed for the ‘average modeller’ and will hopefully show that with a little skill and practice these average Airfix Models can be transformed into a reasonable replica of the original vehicle. The emphasis here is on fun modelling rather than counting rivets, and hopefully many will discover or rediscover a fascinating and inexpensive hobby.”

Book Overview
At a quick glance, author Tom Cole certainly appears to have amassed a plethora of information and images to achieve his above-stated goal.

The book is soft-cover with a total 128 ‘A4’ sized (11 11/16”x8 5/16”) pages printed on glossy paper. The printing is clean and legible and the photographs plentiful and extremely attractive. A sprinkling of charts and tables are also present, as are some excellent scale drawings by renowned AFV artist George Bradford.

Models appearing in the book are built by Tom Cole and Ben Graves, with additional contributions by Garry Prettyman, Peter Hilton and Stuart Harrison.

The book is divided into five major sections:

-World War One
-World War Two
-Post War
-Appendix I

Each of these sections are further divided into varying numbers of subsections dealing with specific vehicles. Each subsection generally starts with a brief history of the kit and/or the vehicle represented by it. Over fifty different Airfix and ex-JB Model kit builds are covered and improvements to the original kit or extensive conversions are detailed. These improvements run the gambit from improving “out of the box” builds to scratch building and the use of aftermarket products. Where pertinent, the author offers lists outlining necessary details that need to be either modified or otherwise created. Where appropriate, scale drawings and photographs of the actual vehicle are included to help with visualizing the conversion work.

Book Details
In this section the author starts with a brief history of Airfix military models and a list of their release dates. Here also is where he touches on numerous applicable topics such as scale, references, resources and a summary of necessary general model-building tools and accessories. Also explained is that this book is not meant to be the ultimate step-by-step manual but some sections do include a profusion of illustrated step-by-step photos of the models and in some cases photographs of the real vehicles.

World War One
This section contains two subsections dealing with various potentials for the original Airfix World War One Male (A01315) tank and the more recently released Female version (A02337). Information provided here allows for the building of a number of versions of the tank from the prototype Male Mk I to a Female Mk. III.

World War Two
This by far is the most extensive section of the book with no less than 25 kits being used to create different variants of each vehicle. The kits used break down as follows:

• Vickers Light Tank (A02330)
• Panzer IV Tank (A02308) - Two Entries
• Scammel Tank Transporter (A02301)
• Bren Gun Carrier & 6 PDR Anti-Tank Gun (AO1309) - Two Entries
• Sd.Kfz. 222 & Kubelwagen Reconnaissance Set (A02312)
• 25 PDR Field Gun & Morris Quad (A01305) - Two Entries
• AEC Matador & 5.5 Inch Gun (A01314)
• 75 MM Assault Gun (A01306)
• M4 Sherman Mk. I Tank (A01303) - Two Entries
• Churchill Mk. VII Tank (Ao1304)
• 88 MM Gun & Sd.Kfz 7 Tractor (A02303)
• LVT 4 Buffalo & Willys Jeep (A02302) - Two Entries
• White Half-Track M3A1 & 1 Ton Trailer (A02318)
• WW II DUKW (A02316)
• Sherman Crab Tank (A03220)
• Churchill Bridge Layer (A04301)
• Matilda Hedgehog (A02335) - Two Entries
• German Armoured Car (A01311)
• Centurion Tank (A02307)

Each entry noted in the list above can result in numerous variants of the vehicle being created. As an example two subsections and seven pages are devoted to the Bren Carrier kit that if followed will result in six different variants. These include Bren No. 2 Mk. 1, Scout Carrier, Universal Carrier, Wasp IIC flamethrower version, Wading Carrier and the Canadian Windsor Carrier.

Details for correcting or enhancing certain vehicles are also provided. Extremes like refashioning the fenders on the “German Armoured Car,” converting the “Assault Gun” to a StuH 42 and using the “LVT 4 Buffalo” to create three diverse variants are shown. Corrections and suggestions for the correcting of flaws in the 5.5” Gun and the 25 Pdr. are offered, as well as some more modest enhancements such as adding mud flaps to certain wheeled vehicles.

Post War
With this section we see several former JB Models offerings appearing along with their more vintage Airfix companions. The kits used break down as follows:

• Bedford Mk. 4 Tonne Truck, GS Body (A02326)
• Bedford Mk. Tactical Aircraft Refueller (A02329)
• Bristol Bloodhound (A02309)
• Saladin Mk. 2 Armoured Car ((A02325)
• Saracen APC (A02328)
• Chieftain Tank (A02305)
• LWB Land Rover (Soft Top) & Trailer (A02322)
• LWB Land Rover (Hard Top) & Trailer (A02324)
• Land Rover 1 Tonne FC, GS Body (A02331)
• Land Rover 1 Tonne FC, Ambulance (A02333)
• M113 U.S. Fire Support Version (A02327)
• M113 U.S. ACAV (A02327)

Unlike the World War Two section, there aren't any extensive conversions requiring aftermarket additions or extensive scratch-building present. The most conversion-intense subsections are to correct flaws with the Saracen APC’s body and the Bloodhound launcher. However, this section does include a fair number of alternate colour schemes for some vehicles. The most dramatic of which is the painting of the Chieftain Mk. 9 in the rather unusual Berlin Infantry Brigade’s “Checkerboard” camouflage that they sported in the 1980s.

Appendix I
This section can be best viewed as a nostalgic trip down “Memory Lane.” Titled M4 Sherman, The History of a ‘Classic Kit’, it recounts the life and times of the Airfix Sherman Mk.1 from the kit’s introduction in 1961 through its various incarnations, packagings and artwork.

The variety and scope of this book has made it one of the most challenging reviews that this reviewer has ever experienced. The method of organization of sections and their ensuing subsections more than once led to confusion. This book also had to have been difficult to both write and organize.

For the predominantly small-scale builder this book can be an eye opener and perhaps a great motivator to experiment. Tom Cole writes in a clear and informative manner and it is obvious he has more than a passing knowledge about the book’s subjects. The wealth of photographs and scale drawings are an extremely pleasant bonus. While these older kits may never compare with their more modern counterparts, one can’t ignore that seeing what can be done with them could be both inspirational and fun. Another big plus is that often these kits can be found at a fraction of the cost of other manufacturers’ offerings.

Just to reiterate, this is not a step-by-step book for all the models covered. If that’s what you are looking for then this may not be the book for you. Some of the projects presented will require more skill than a beginner might possess but there is still much to be gained from surveying the pages. Overall it was a very enjoyable read. Recommended.
Highs: Well written with plenty of photographs and illustrations. Cannot but be inspirational to the small scale builder.
Lows: Book binding does not lend itself to keeping pages open and flat while referencing.
Verdict: This isn’t just a trip down Memory Lane but a rather extensive review of the potential of the Airfix kits. Recommended.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: 1:1
  Mfg. ID: ISBN 978-1-906959-20-3
  PUBLISHED: Feb 23, 2012

Our Thanks to SAM Publications!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Jan Etal (tread_geek)

I've been building models since about age 10 with the occasional hiatus due to real life events. First armour model was a 1/76 Airfix Tiger I and was followed by a 1/72 Revell F4U Corsair. I've built primarily 1/76 and 1/72 armour and aircraft but occasionally have tinkered in other larger scales....

Copyright ©2021 text by Jan Etal [ TREAD_GEEK ]. All rights reserved.


Jan. great review and I have to say that the book and the potential for these kits that it presents has me wanting a copy. Do you have any idea when it will be available in Canada? Any idea of the price? I notice on the cover and more so on the 17th image what appears to be the Japanese Chi Ha tank but I don't see it listed in the review text or any other pictures of it. Isn't there a section that deals with it? I have one of these kits unbuilt and would be curious about any improvements to the kit that could be made. Regards, AJ
FEB 24, 2012 - 04:30 AM
I started out with Airfix models. I still have some of the Airfix model guides. Some of the kits I remember conbverting were the trucks from the Airfield Rescue set, The Scammell and I converted the Sherman to a Sexton, an M32 and a Firefly and the Pzr IV into a Brummbar and a stug IV sadly all long lost reading this makes me want to sign up for the Airfix Campaign
FEB 24, 2012 - 05:55 AM
@firstcircle - Thanks Matthew, while some of us didn't have access to the magazines you mention a couple of club members that are originally from the UK had talked about them often enough. One even brought in some photocopies of articles from them at our last meetings. His only lament was that the drawings were a bit rough and not necessarily 100% accurate, scale wise. The large number of releases (or rereleases) in 2008 are primarily due to the "restructuring" of the new Airfix after acquiring the rights to JB Models. Twelve of the fourteen releases are of the reboxed JB line. I agree that it is quite surprising that there are so few reviews of these more economical kits. @AJB - As far as I know, there is no definite Canadian release date. Both and Chapters have it listed for pre-order. It appears to be available in the US and ranges in price from $34.00 to $36.00 and UK mail order places pretty much list it at £20.00. The Chi Ha, while appearing on the cover, is unfortunately one of the kits without a separate entry. @exer - Thanks for posting your comment and also about the campaign. Too bad you still didn't have your conversions as it would have been quite enjoyable to see pictures of them. For those interested in the campaign you can find it at Ancient Airfix Assemblers Campaign. Be forewarned, it's any scale, any era and any subject. There is also a restriction as to the kits' release date. As some of you might have seen in other threads, I have considered an "Airfix: Anything Goes" campaign proposal for a similar starting date. In my case I was going to have it restricted to any Braille Vehicle kit with an Airfix label. We'll see what happens. Cheers, Jan
FEB 24, 2012 - 08:49 AM
Thanks for getting this up Jan! Those photos alone are helpful in getting a feel for what's in this publication. I wasn't sure what to expect, but now I know I'm interested.
FEB 29, 2012 - 02:10 PM
Jeremy, I am glad that you found the review informative and if it helped clarify what the book is all about. The book is teaming with photos and illustrations and it was difficult to determine which might or could best serve to show the book's potential. That's not to say that the information in the text isn't also useful. Thanks for commenting. Cheers, Jan
MAR 01, 2012 - 03:55 AM
Hi Jan Agree with all your responses. I was never happy with the cover as it was produced almost a year before I finished the articles for the book!! Embarrasingly there are quite a few models on the cover that don't figure in the book! The book is available only direct from SAM publications : LINK Regards Tom Cole
MAY 17, 2012 - 07:19 AM
Greetings Tom! What a totally unexpected pleasure to have you drop by this thread and offer your thoughts. I am happy that you found the review and comments to your liking but I must say, I tells it like I sees it. As you may or may not know, I am a devoted Braille Scale aficionado. I also have a small "stash" of Airfix (and former JB Model) kits at hand. I must also admit that I am chomping at the bit to give one of these conversions a try. As for the cover, I did notice that some of the models present did not make it into the book. However, that in no way detracted from the plethora that are present. I'd also like to say that the book went over very well at a couple of local models clubs where I was asked to speak about it. At the present I know of at least three people that couldn't wait to get their hands on a copy. Cheers, Jan
MAY 17, 2012 - 08:06 AM
I brought his book a few months having waited and waited to buy it afer all of the hype I was disappointed with the book in certain aspects. The fact it was a simple expansion of the magazine articles. With articles obviously there is a limitation to the length of the article, you'd expet the book articles to be more in depth and explain the works better but the articles really lacked a lot of explanation...I believe the articles should of been explained better and in greater detail. Obviously being for the average modeller so you'd expect it to aid these average modellers by helping them no? The pictures Being a small resolution and layed out crammed around the text doesn't make it legible to viewers, the useage of imigaes from the magazine articles didn't seem to great beings I paid £20.00 for the book so you'd expect to get something for that money, its almost buying a fish from a chip shop thats half eaten? I thought it would be better to have less images squashed together using larger images showing more detail rather than lots of liitle ones...the logic of the images not cohenres so the images line up with the typography and make sense better to the reader even if they would to look at the pictures they'd help more if they were in order almost like a step by step. I seriously think you should do a second book Tom perhaps include some of the models not fetured in the book but on ther cover. As for the spirit of Airfix its helped me recindle my interest and enthusiasm for Braille Scale andoushing to be a more accurate and better model builder...You still can't beat sat at the kitchen table knocking an airfix kit...just with ease without the worry of rivet counting. I strongly feel Airfix kits can look good with a good finish paintwise, somethng that has been highlighted my modellers on various forms..i still like the book and you've certainly done well with the airfix kits and rekindling the spirit of these models for people going all nostalgic i am writing a review of the book myself but im trying to cram an art exhibition in, work and voluntry work at a prservation society. I hope ths isn't tookas me just moaning I just wanted to share my views on a good book... Jaymes
MAY 17, 2012 - 08:23 AM
Hmm, dare I say it, but I sense that some of the apparent shortcomings of this book (I haven't actually seen a copy, but going on the comments, including those from the author) seem to be due to the editing rather than the authorship. James makes a few points about cramped layout and low resolution illustrations, and Tom Cole basically says the cover is wrong; Jan in his review commented on the organisation of the book being a little confusing. SAM Publications are a specialist and I guess pretty small outfit - I'm not really excusing or blaming that for the issues raised - but it can be one of the shortcomings I suppose of a small specialist publisher that perhaps doesn't have the resources to put together a very high quality product. It has to be said that even with the FAQ2 book, I felt that there were some oddities in the layout, photos and design that were maybe partly a result of the book not being published by a "mainstream" publisher. Just my thoughts, and I certainly don't want to pillory any such publishers for it. I may well still have to obtain a copy of this one.
MAY 17, 2012 - 10:35 AM

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