In-Box Review
AEC Matador
AEC Matador Early Type
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by: Bill Cross [ BILL_C ]



While there has been a profusion of trucks and other soft skin vehicles recently, disappointingly few have been Allied subjects. The world is still waiting for a proper "deuce-and-a-half" to replace the ancient Tamiya kit, and surprisingly, many of the recent issues have been by Eastern European companies like IMG and IBC. But now that the Bedford has made its way onto the scene, perhaps the dam is about to burst?

Those interested in British artillery especially have been frustrated by the lack of a prime mover for larger guns. Accurate Armor's hugely expensive resin kits were previously the only game in town, and recently they've gone MIA. Now AFV Club, coming on the heels of its Dorchester release (which shares the same chassis as the Matador), has released an early version of the Matador 4 x 4 lorry. Both the Dorchester and the Matador are also part of a vehicle family that includes the AEC Armored Car and the Mk. II & Mk. III armored cars, so perhaps AFC Club will release kits of these items in the future? Stay tuned.

The Matador debuted in 1940 from a need to tow field guns, and was developed by the Associated Equipment Company, a company known for the London double-decked buses. Eventually some 8-9,000 were produced, and saw service both with the British and Canadian Armies. The Matador towed a variety of medium field pieces, including the BL 5.5 inch Medium Gun, the 6 inch 26cwt Howitzer, the QF 3.75 inch AA Gun, and later, the 25 Pdr. The vehicle also has potential for hauling equipment and even personnel. Inside the cargo bay are two benches for artillery crew, but a "retreat from Tobruk" diorama would be nicely served by a Matador full of infantry.

the kit

Inside the usual colorful AFV Club box you will find:

14 sprues of mustard-colored styrene
2 sprues of clear parts
1 fret of PE
a length of towing "rope"
16-page instruction booklet
1 large color print of the vehicle in two-tone camo
5 vinyl tires (dammit!)

the review

Strictly speaking, this is a "late early" Matador. The original design incorporated slightly more elaborately-fluted front fenders, which were quickly ditched by 1941 for simpler straight ones. This technically prevents modelers from using the vehicle in settings prior to about 1941 (no BEF in France), but that may not matter to some of you. I plan on marrying the kit with Resicast's 6 inch 26cwt Howitzer in a North Africa setting, so it's perfect for my needs.

The molding is crisp and the parts look well-made overall, though the sides of the canvas cargo deck are poorly-detailed and cry out for an expensive AM resin replacement. The attachment points often have a raised "nib" on the part, so you will need to dry fit things before gluing. There also is a significant amount of "knockout holes" with raised leftovers that will need trimming & sanding.

This isn't a kit for the novice, as it has a lot of parts, and a number of complex sub-assemblies, including the chassis. Instead of a one-piece frame, the chassis requires cross-beams be installed across two rails, and "trueing up" the result will take some care. I found that it's best to set the assemblies aside to dry overnight, but make sure they are "true" or you could be disappointed the next day.

And familiarize yourself with the instructions before applying glue. Those instructions are fairly straightforward and clear as far as they go, deriving from the earlier Dorchester kit (AF35227). But there are numerous blunders, so review the construction steps carefully to make sure you have the right part. Armorama member Gary Boxall has been kind enough to prepare a list of errata:

Step 2
One A28 part should be A53
H6 should be II6

Step 3
A34 should be A54

Step 5
Front leaf spring tow unit is not numbered - should be D24
PE bracket should be PE18

Step 6
Rear leaf spring tow unit is not numbered - should be D25

Step 7
A28 should be A53

Step 10
II10 and II11 are the wrong way round

Step 24
Fire extinguisher which magically appears is part B27

Step 25
Windows H6 and H7 should be swapped

Front cab bolts which are not mentioned anywhere are F32

The sub-assemblies cover the engine, chassis (with lots of details, including the winch and fuel tanks), transmission and wheel configurations, cargo bed, cab and tarp top. The detailing is good, though the engine leaves lots omitted for scratchbuilders and super-detailers. Sadly the tires are vinyl, but at least three AM resin makers have indicated they will provide a set to replace them, including a company I've not heard of before called Celticwerks . The tires have a seam down the middle that is difficult or impossible to remove. Vinyl is also tricky to paint or otherwise weather, and this vehicle cries out to be in North Africa with the Desert Rats.

decals & markings

The kit offers a disappointing selection of markings and paint schemes, including two that are basically the same:

79th (The Scottish Horse) Medium Regiment, Scotland, May 1941 in dark earth and khaki drab
Unknown Unit 1940 (inappropriate for the configuration of this kit)
79th (The Scottish Horse) Medium Regiment, Scotland, May 1941 (with different camo pattern)
Luftwaffe captured vehicle in Panzer Gray

The decals include some stenciling, which is appreciated.


I don't pretend to be an expert on UK vehicles, but I have been eager to get this kit so as to tow my 6" howitzer. So I hope you will put up with any oversights. It's a kit that should be exciting to all red legs and fans of Allied softskins. It will be interesting to see if AM companies or AFV Club itself choose to release some of the other versions of the vehicle, including its role with the RAF as a bomb transporter or fuel truck. But for now, those of us who love artillery are thrilled to have a styrene kit of this caliber that brings the Matador to life.
Highs: Well-made model of this workhorse of the British and Canadian armies (as well as the RAF).
Lows: Vinyl tires. Limited painting options. Isn't a true Early War Matador, but from 1941. Canvas tarp has poor detailing. Instructions have errors & omissions.
Verdict: Just to have a good Matador is a thing of beauty. This kit should be very popular with Allied modelers, and will even please DAK fans for its potential in captured service, much like its cousin, the Dorchester.
  Scale: 1:35
  Mfg. ID: AF35236
  Suggested Retail: $55
  Related Link: 
  PUBLISHED: May 10, 2014
  NATIONALITY: United Kingdom

About Bill Cross (bill_c)

Self-proclaimed rivet counter who gleefully builds tanks, planes and has three subs in the stash.

Copyright 2020 text by Bill Cross [ BILL_C ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of Model Shipwrights. All rights reserved.


Did you forget about all the allied soft-skins released my Mirror Models recently?
MAY 10, 2014 - 08:40 AM
Bill, nice review. It is really good to see Allied softskins coming out. Maybe it will now be worth it for someone to start offering figures to ride in the cab and the bed.
MAY 10, 2014 - 08:59 AM
There is a good figure of an Allied driver in a mixed set from MiniArt.
MAY 10, 2014 - 09:15 AM
Bill As you say, there are numerous blunders in the instructions, not something we should expect to see this day and age IMHO. Here's what I picked up on.... Step 2 One A28 part should be A53 H6 should be II6 Step 3 A34 should be A54 Step 5 Front leaf spring tow unit is not numbered - should be D24 PE bracket should be PE18 Step 6 Rear leaf spring tow unit is not numbered - should be D25 Step 7 A28 should be A53 Step 10 II10 and II11 are the wrong way round Step 24 Fire extinguisher which magically appears is part B27 Step 25 Windows H6 and H7 should be swapped Step28 Front cab bolts which are not mentioned anywhere are F32 You get a couple of jerry cans to stow under the rear deck but you only get one 'closed' cap - the other being 'open'. That's why I put one jerry can in backwards! You're right though, a nicely detailed kit which is not for beginners, but there are, as you state, a couple of major flaws. Firstly, the tyres. Vinyl type which while nicely detailed, have that virtually impossible to remove seam line around them. I ended up getting a set of tyres custom made in resin. Secondly, like you, I find the tarp sides very disappointing. When down, they look like steel plates - totally devoid of any texture etc to give a hint at them being canvas. As I wanted to have mine with the sides shown, I felt I had no choice but to replace them all with lead foil. Perhaps, as you suggest, an AM company will offer some replacements at some stage (along with the wheels) hopefully. As you can see, not 100% complete, but aside from the wheels are tarps, very little extra detail needs to be added to produce a very nice truck Gary
MAY 10, 2014 - 03:33 PM
First of all, thanks to Darren for getting this one up! Warren, I did overlook Mirror's offerings, but I was really thinking about medium- to large-sized companies. I'm not even sure where one can buy Mirror's kits, other than direct from the manufacturer. Russ, I would love to see more Allied crews. This baby has two benches in the load bed for the gun crew.... Gary, thank you for detailing the instruction gaffs. For a major company, these are really disturbing. I don't expect perfection, but there are many, many small parts, some of which look disturbingly similar, so doping out what is right and what is wrong would not be easy. I commend you lead foil tarp. I'm thinking of building mine open-topped (North Africa, 1941) which will show off the stowage that MAY be coming out from Value Gear for this vehicle. In any case, I have asked Steve Munsell to make some for me, and perhaps if he hears from y'all, he'll add it to his line. As for the tires, I couldn't agree more. I believe at least two AM makers are working on tires, as they will be able to sell them to Dorchester builders, as it's the same chassis.
MAY 11, 2014 - 03:37 PM
Bill If you're happy to PM your address, I have something here which I think you will find of use for your Matador build (Hint - they're round and there's five of them) Gary
MAY 11, 2014 - 04:54 PM
I wish someone would come up with those tarp curtains in resin!
MAY 12, 2014 - 04:21 AM
Gary - Is there any way to order a set of these wheels? I'm working on the SKP Dorchester and the wheels are dramatically undersized. Please email me directly at [email protected] Thanks!
JAN 07, 2015 - 07:12 AM

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