Author Topic: Roden 1/35 Holt Artillery Tracktor w/ BL 8-Inch Howitzer - Limited Edition  (Read 101 times)

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Holt 75 Artillery Tracktor w/ BL 8-inch Howitzer - Limited Edition



Reviewed by Chris Johnson

Scale:       1/35th
Item #:      Ro 814
Stockist:   Available through quality hobby retailers worldwide.
Contents:  Injection plastic parts, photo-etch fret, vinyl wheel treads.


Comment

The Holt agricultural machine, soon named the Holt 75 tractor, was developed in the United States by Benjamin Holt in the early 1900's. Utilizing a gasoline engine and tracked suspension, it proved to be very popular for agricultural purposes. Its success was such that it wasn't long before it was copied in the United Kingdom and France. However, it wasn't until the onset of the First World War that a military application for the Holt 75 began to be considered. By 1915, it became obvious to the British Army that the Holt 75 might be a solution to the difficult off-road transportation conditions that were being experienced when moving heavy guns by teams of horses. Despite a top speed of just 2 mph when drawing a heavy gun, the trials were judged to be a success as the tractor had no difficulties moving both the 6-inch and 9-inch guns. As a result, the Holt 75 was quickly adopted by the Royal Artillery Corps as a much superior way to move their heavy guns in broken terrain. The French Army had also initiated similar trials with the Holt 75 and they too soon recognized the value of tractor drawn versus horse drawn heavy artillery. The American Expeditionary Force also adopted the Holt 75 in Europe and by the end of the war, just under two thousand of these tractors were in use with Allied forces.
One of the heavy guns towed by the Holt 75 was the very effective Breech Loading (BL) 8-inch Howitzer. A Vickers design based on their earlier 6-inch Howitzer, it was intended to improve the ability of heavy artillery to destroy trenches and fortifications. The early Marks I through V employed shortened and bored out naval 6-inch gun barrels while the later Marks VI through VIII were of a new and improved design. The Mk VI was approved in August 1915 with the first order placed in March 1916 . The barrel measured 14.7 calibres (117.7 inches) long, and it hurled a 200 lb HE shell 10,745 yards. Stability issues causing the recoil system to malfunction were an early problem and this lead to the development and introduction of  the Vickers Firing Platform, whereby the wheels and trail were secured to this level platform, thereby improving overall accuracy. The Mk VI was roughly the equivalent of the German 21 cm Morser 16 and was essentially a siege howitzer on a mobile carriage. A single gun detachment consisted of the howitzer, limber, Vickers Firing Platform, towing vehicle, and ten Gunners.


Roden's Model

While many kit manufacturers issued most of the well known tanks in 1/35 scale in commemoration of the one hundredth anniversary of the First World War, historically they have not been big supporters of this period. Roden, however, has long supported plastic modellers with their First World War kits, and they continued on in that vein with the lesser known Holt 75 and 8-inch Howitzer kits. I applaud Roden for these choices as they are outside the ordinary military vehicles, and have never been kitted in plastic until now. What will really appeal to the modeller is that in regards to the Holt 75, most of the mechanical parts are plainly visible and not hidden from sight.

The Holt 75 was first released in 2018 and followed up in quick order with the 8-inch Howitzer in 2019. With these two kits currently on the market, it was somewhat of a surprise to see this new 'Limited Edition' combination kit of the two models appear so quickly. A surprise, but a very pleasant one indeed.

The kit itself comes packaged in a 70 cm x 40.5 cm x 6.5 cm standard tray and cover cardboard box. The cover art depicts a Holt 75 drawing the gun limber, howitzer, and Vickers Firing Platform, presumably somewhere in the Middle East. As an extra enticement, the artwork is reproduced (suitable for framing) on a separate glossy print inside the box. The instruction booklet is the standard line drawing, exploded diagram style, and it's easy to follow.

There are two separate plastic bags within the box; one containing the twelve sprues for the Holt 75 and the other with six sprues for the 8-inch Howitzer. Also included in the kit is a small 5.5 cm x 4 cm decal sheet and a tiny 2.4 cm x 1.9 cm fret of photo-etch. Lastly, there are two black vinyl treads for the carriage wheels on the 8-inch Howitzer.






The plastic is the typical soft compound grey material common to other Roden kits. Injection seams, a small amount of flash, and small injector pin marks are apparent on some parts and will require attention, but they should be easily dealt with by basic modelling skills and tools. In particular, the pin marks all seem to be strategically placed with thought given to keeping them out of sight as much as possible. Small detail is admirably reproduced and to my eye at least, is not unduly soft. I like what I see.

The four sprues of individual track links each contain fourteen links, for a total of fifty-six. There is a touch of flash on each link, together with two small knockout pin marks on the inner faces. The pin marks should be able to be removed without much difficulty with a few swipes of a #15 blade.

If the modeller follows the instructions, construction begins with the Holt 75. There are thirty steps, beginning with the tractor's suspension. The front wheel is made up of seven parts in addition to a further six for its circular frame. I'm pleased to see that Roden has molded the spoked wheel in plastic, rather than as photo-etched parts. This makes construction just that much easier without any significant loss in detail. The ladder style frame is constructed from two longitudinal beams with four cross-members, plus the circular frame for the front wheel. This frame unit would most probably benefit from clamping and weight applied to the top when gluing it together, to ensure that it's straight and true. The engine is comprised of some twenty-five parts which will build up into a nice replica of the real thing. As with most exposed engines, the addition of wiring will only add to its realism. The engine is nestled into its mount with the fuel tank, for a busy looking display. The radiator is a large moulding that is mounted in full view at the front of the tractor. Roden has engraved it with prominent core texturing which will look very realistic with some simple weathering effects.

I was particularly concerned with the possibility of knockout pin marks that might have marred the corrugated roof of the tractor. They would have proved difficult to eliminate, but Roden have done a splendid job with it. The corrugation is blemish free on both surfaces, with only several small pin marks on the bottom edge of the underside strengthening beam. Well done Roden!

The construction sequence for the 8-inch Howitzer consists of  thirteen steps but as several are subdivided, it actually works out to sixteen in total.



 






The treads for the carriage wheels may prove to be problematic. Prominent in the instructions is a callout where Roden advises that they shouldn't be painted. This is like waving a red flag in the face of a bull as I can't imagine many modellers who will be content to leave them unpainted. It will be interesting to figure out the right approach so the paint doesn't crack or peel off. The treads are installed in the second step of construction but there is no callout indicating what kind of adhesive is best suited for the task.




Rather than a single piece howitzer barrel which is becoming increasingly common in kits these days, Roden have provided a traditional two part barrel. Unfortunately, there is no rifling in the muzzle. The box trail, cradle, and carriage are well detailed and again, I'm pleased to see that Roden had molded the spoked wheels in plastic, rather than as photo-etched parts. The four piece photo-etched fret is utilized on the artillery piece, so one will need to watch for their callouts in Step 5.



Assembly for the howitzer is very straightforward and it should go together quickly. I was pleased to see that both the limber and Vickers Firing Platform are included in the kit, mirroring the box cover artwork. Both are relatively simple designs, and will assemble in short order. Roden has thoughtfully provided the modeller with the ability to construct the Vickers Firing Platform in either its travelling guise with spoked wheels in place, or set up in its platform configuration, thereby enabling the howitzer to be displayed in its firing position.


Markings

As might be expected with a tractor and artillery piece, the decal markings are very sparse. One scheme for the Holt 75 depicts a tractor of the British Expeditionary Force in Palestine during 1917. The second is that of the BEF on the Western Front in 1918. The only difference between the two being in the War Department numbers. The marking scheme for the howitzer gives the option of  a BEF or U.S. Army howitzer on the Western Front, in two colour camouflage, during the Summer of 1918. Given the latter, I find it rather odd that one of the Holt 75 marking schemes does not include markings for a U.S. Army tractor. Roden provides colour callouts for the Vallejo line of acrylic paints, but no others.







Summary

Roden has recognized that as a smaller model company, it's important for them to identify niche areas overlooked by the larger manufacturers. First World War aircraft and military vehicle kits fit the bill in that regard and Roden continues to fill that void with new and interesting models of that era. I was pleased when Roden originally issued their Holt 75 kit as opposed to something more mainstream, and I was doubly pleased when they followed it up so soon after with the 8-inch Howitzer. To say that I was surprised when this special edition combination kit was announced so soon after the original kits, would be an understatement. I can't say that I understand the marketing strategy from a purely financial point of view, but from a modeller's perspective, this kit is an absolute winner as everything is in one box.
The Holt 75, limber, 8-inch Howitzer, and Vickers Firing Platform all combine to produce an interesting and appealing combination. The quality of molding is good and crisp, construction is kept relatively simple by only using photo-etched parts where absolutely necessary to replicate fine detail, and there is room for minor improvements for those who enjoy extra detailing. This is a kit that's not to be missed.


Verdict

Highly Recommended


Thank you to David Wilson for allowing me to review this kit. I can hardly wait to get it on the bench.

(Review sample kindly supplied by Roden. Model images from the Roden site and this forum. Please support the businesses that support our Forum.)








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