Article by: Rick Knapp
Tamiya’s kit of this vehicle is now forty years old. At the time the kit was produced, as with many other armor models, close enough apparently was good enough. Newer, more accurate M41 kits are now available, but since I had the old Tamiya offering languishing in a closet along with an Eduard photo-etch set for dressing it up, I optimistically set out to see what I could make of this antique. In addition, the fact that a fellow modeler told me I’d never make anything decent from this old kit might have provided some extra incentive.
The lower hull and suspension of the Tamiya kit are mostly adequate, but the loop tracks are not. At present I am waiting for a set of Friulmodel tracks and hoping that the set will include drive sprockets and idler wheels with lightening holes. Otherwise, the only addition made to the tank’s lower reaches consisted of the D-shaped loops on the bottoms of the return roller shafts; these were used in securing the vehicle during rail transport.
There are a great many omissions in the forward portion of the Tamiya upper hull. I made circular lift rings from solder wire, reinforced them with gap-filling superglue, and placed them where they belong in front of the tank’s headlamps. The brass headlamp brush guards from the Eduard set were used; the Tamiya parts are actually more accurate, but they are massively thick. I added a scratch-built blackout lamp with a brush guard made from paper strip and wired all the lamps.
The M41 had fender supports that are missing from the Tamiya kit. Eduard came to the rescue here. The parts that support the driver’s hatch of the M41 when opened are also noticeably absent; these I made using styrene rod and strip. I filled the empty spaces of the driver’s periscope housings with styrene strip and used plastic strip to replicate the upward-angled rain guards at the tops of the periscope housings.
I added retaining chains to the various filler caps on the engine decks, but when it came to other of the smaller hull features that could be “improved” via the Eduard Photo-etched parts, I did a sort of cost-benefit analysis. I decided that trying to remove the stowage box handles and the multitude of lifting handles on the engine deck and replace them with delicate and hard-to-handle brass bits would probably do more damage than good. I followed the same course with some of the potential improvements to the tank’s turret.
To construct a better turret for the Bulldog, I used Eduard brass where details were entirely missing, where fashioning and using the brass parts looked feasible, and where they would be an actual improvement. I used the kit grab irons for the turret sides, for instance, deciding that they were preferable to their very delicate brass replacements. The armored guards above the commander’s and gunner’s periscopes were actually better than their PE substitutes; the Eduard pieces are much too thin and bend at right angles where the real things were curved.
The most daunting task was the replication of the canvas weather cover for the tank’s mantlet, but since every M41 in service had one fitted, this was a must. This was definitely a “do the best you can” effort, but fortunately I had good photos to work from. With tissue paper, lots of liquid-styrene and white glue, plastic rod, paper strapping, and other plastic bits, I was able to fashion an imperfect, but (I think) convincing cover.
To go along with this dressed-up retro kit, I plan to have the original commander figure in the cupola. I’ll do a little work on him, but he still looks pretty good. After all, he’s just in his forties.
I added quite a few other touches here and there to dress up and “accurize” things. As usual, more could have been done, but I did manage to address the old Tamiya Bulldog’s most glaring deficiencies. As always, there’s something extra satisfying in taking an ancient plastic model and bringing it up to an acceptable standard. In other words, the project was challenging but fun.