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Emhar Mk. V "Hermaphrodite" WW I Heavy Battle Tank (4005)

by Cookie Sewell

1/35 Scale Kit; 124 parts (116 in dark grey styrene, 8 in black vinyl-like plastic); price US $29.95

Advantages: will build into a model of a Mark V as used by the USA, Russia, and Britain
Disadvantages: some shape problems, too many parts carried over from Mark IV kits, same poor quality track
Rating: Recommended with Reservations
Recommendation: for British, American and Russian WWI fans

When Dale Wilson's great book "Treat ‘Em Rough" on the history of the creation of the US Tank Corps in WWI came out a number of years ago, I was really excited over the fact that he covered the histories of the 301st and 304th Tank Brigades and their various combat episodes in France. Alas, there were no styrene kits of either the Renault FT or British Mark V at the time. There were resin versions of both tanks, and a white metal FT in 1/32 scale, but the only plastic kits at the time were the two Emhar Mark IV variants. Both were somewhat rough (as many first kits from small companies tend to be) and suffered from the worst set of tracks provided with any recent kit – a black vinyl-like material that would at least accept liquid modeling cement, but had its joints in the wrong places – right in the middle of the large plate-type links.

Several years ago a Russian company released a Mark V kit with interior, which sounded great until you saw it up close. It also sold for a usurious $60 in the US and was no bargain.

Some time ago Emhar released a new kit of the Mark V, the definitive World War I heavy British "lozenge" tank type. Reviews were not very kind to it, and as they are finally readily available in the US I can now understand the disappointment of the other reviews such as Colin Knapp of the UK over this kit.

First off, Emhar (which according to the sole new sprue in the kit is now owned by Pocketbond) pulled a "Tamiya" and simply added a new sprue to an older kit and raised the price. This wouldn't have been too bad if the older kit was of high quality, but the new sprue shows far better skill at mold cutting than the originals. (It's not as bad as putting $800 worth of rims on a 1984 Yugo, but close.)

Second, many of the shapes used by the Mark V were modified based on field experience from the Mark IV, and the kit did not catch them. The Mark V used different "Male" sponsons with a slant inward at the back and different details; the Mark IV (from what references I have) did not and is closer to the kit's sponsons.

Some of the details are also carried over, such as the jacketed machine guns on the "Male" tanks. Most of the photos of Mark Vs I could find showed unjacketed Hotchkiss machine guns and not the heavier ones. The kit provides only three of them, whereas it would need four to fill in all of the basic sites for machine guns on the "Male" (the "Female" ones are from the Mark IV and while much cruder are designed for use in the drum mounts.)

As noted, the new parts are far cleaner and neater moldings than the base Mark IV, and that includes the new upper observation tower and even the signaling semaphore.

Worst feature of all is that the original kit tracks are included, and there has been no improvement in them that I can see. (When the original kits came out, at least one US model company – The Model Cellar from Pennsylvania – came out with a brilliant set of working single-link tracks for the Mark IV, which would also fit perfectly on the Mark V; alas, I have not seen either The Model Cellar or their tracks for at least six years now.) It's too bad that Emhar produce a set of single-link track for this kit, as it would go far to fix its one toylike feature.

Given all that, the kit does permit the modeler to build either a "Female" (two twin machine gun sponsons), a "Male" (two sponsons with one machine gun and one 6-lber gun each), or a "Hermaphrodite" (also called "Composite") type with one of each.

Markings are included for six generic tanks: two British "Males" and one "Female", one from the Kubinka Museum in Moscow painted up as captured German, and two Russian ones (one captured "White" vehicle and one "Red" vehicle from the time of the Russian Civil War.)

Overall, this is a really disappointing kit and one that could have been much better with some more forethought and less attempt to reuse an obsolete kit.