Challenger 1 Mk3
Ref : Tamiya #35154

The Challenger 1 Mk3 is the ultimate version before the entry in service of the Challenger 2. It has an improved protection thanks to side and glacis Chobham add-on armor plates.
The crew have a supplemental storage bin on the turret right side. New exhausts have been fitted and the rear panel has been modified to install the two fuel drums.

The Tamiya kit has been issued in 1992. In fact, Tamiya have added a new sprue to their original kit released in 1985. In the usual cardboard box, we get 5 light beige plastic sprues, 1 clear plastic sheet for the main sights, a bit of nylon mesh, a bag with polycaps for the road wheels and another bag with screws for the idlers and the gun, vinyl band tracks, a sheet of decals and a 12-page instructions booklet.
Tamiya offer as an option to build a desert or a NATO version. The latter does not have the add-on armor blocks but in reality during the deployment to Kosovo those armor blocks were fitted.

The kit is of the usual Tamiya quality standard. The cast and the detail level are very good even if Tamiya have made some omissions and some details can be improved. The fit is without problem except for the turret rear bin. The putty is useless.
As usual the instructions are very clear and split the build into 14 steps plus the painting one. The choice between the two versions is clearly shown in the steps when needed.

The build starts with the lower hull but. The road wheels are not fitted to ease the painting. The swing arms are spearate parts which enables the representation of the vehicle on rough terrain. To build the rear panel, you should be careful when fixing the part B90 which can prevent the fitting of the spare track link. The part D5 which represents a first aid box has a hole underneath that needs to be filled.

The upper hull is build without the tools installed. Tamiya omitted the headlights wiring, a small light on the outer side of headlights, the driver vision block wipers. The rear mirrors supports are represented but without the rods which are added. The handle on the driver hatch is molded solid and can be replaced by some metal wire.
On the rear plate, the shovel brackets are added as Tamiya omitted them.
The side armor panels are fitted without the towing cables the front ends of which are drilled out. The cables are attached after the painting.

The turret comes in 5 main parts which is a stunning choice. The base receives the gun mount which is secured by a screw and a nut. The barrel is not fit yet. The turret roof is set without gluing the clear part of the main visor. This can be done later on after the painting stage. Unlike what state the instructions, the rear panel is fitted before the rear stowage bin. This one comes in 3 parts and does not fit as well as the rest of the parts.
Then the various accessories are set in place. Both hatches can be represented open or closed. The camouflage net stowage basket at the front of the turret receives the mesh panels cut in the mesh given by Tamiya. This one is of a correct square pattern. Tamiya give the template to cut the panels. The electrical wire reel gets some copper wire. The 3 stowage baskets are improved with a tarpaulin.
The commander cupola is built but not glued on its location at this stage. As for the main sight, the glass of the commander periscope is installed after the painting.

After the hull halves get the base coat, the running gear is complete and gets the tracks. The hull is definitively glued without forgetting to glue the driver vision block glass. Then only, the front armor block is fitted. A bit of plastic card is added between the blocks side brackets and the towing eyes to fill the existing gap.

The vehicle gets a gloss varnish coat then the decals are applied. When they are dry, a matt varnish coat is sprayed to seal them.
The weathering consists of several washes with raw and burnt umber oil paints. The grilles get a black wash. The paint chipping is done with dark green paint. The tools and accessories are painted dark green to break the monotony of the desert stone camouflage. A large tarpaulin is added to the left side for the same reason.
To finish, the dusty look is done with pigments. The figure is the one in the kit. It is painted with Tamiya shades, the flesh parts being painted with oils.