by: Bill Cross [ ]
Originally published on:
World War I was the operational birth of numerous innovative weapons, including the ocean-going submarine, the airplane, the tank - and the armored car. It seems man’s obsession with killing his fellows means there is nothing he won’t harness to his bloody aim, including vehicles that were invented for pleasure like the car. Strapping a rapid-fire machine gun onto a vehicle powered by the relatively new internal combustion engine seemed to be a devilish innovation straight from Hell. It allowed armies to project firepower over large stretches of space with rapidity, and signaled the end of the "romance" of man and horse. After Parisian taxis helped stem the German attack during the “Miracle on the Marne,” it’s no wonder that automobiles quickly made the logical leap from transport to combatant.
The first armored car apparently was created in 1914 when the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) decided to mount a Maxim machine gun on a Rolls Royce Silver Ghost chassis. Early successes in encounters with German staff cars before both sides settled down to dig trenches encouraged the British to modify a series of Silver Ghosts with 6mm riveted plate armor, a movable turret for a machine gun, and space aft for ammunition. Little thought was given to protecting either the motor or the risk of fragile spoke wheels driving over rough terrain.
Not surprisingly, trench warfare proved inimical to the use of rapid-deployment firepower. So the cars were shipped off to the Middle East where Britain was waging a slog against the Ottoman Turks in the deserts of Palestine (today's Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria), present-day Iraq and what became Saudi Arabia. Eight squadrons of 12 cars served the regular forces under Allenby, with a ninth squadron sent from France to assist T.E. Lawrence and his Bedouin irregulars, whom history (and Hollywood) have come to know as "Lawrence of Arabia."
The car’s history wasn’t all romance and derring-do: the British used them in 1916 to suppress the Easter Rising in Ireland. Ironically, the Irish government later purchased 13 vehicles for use by its police forces. The cars continued in service right through World War II an upgraded version known as the Mk. I but without the distinctive spoke wheels.
What you get
The kit comes in the usual thin pasteboard Roden box sporting a nice painting of the “Superb” variant in a Middle Eastern setting. Inside are:
11 sprues of green plastic parts
1 fret of PE for the wheel spokes
1 small sheet of decals
1 sheet of clear lenses for the headlights
12-page instruction book & painting guide
Roden has already released the 1920 Pattern Mark 1 and the Mark 1 with sand tires. These cars served in a variety of locations after the Armistice of 1918, and mostly prior to the outbreak of the Second World War. But the latest release covers the version used primarily in the Middle East during the First World War, including T.E. Lawrence, and made famous in the 1962 movie “Lawrence of Arabia.”
The kit looks like it will be a fairly straightforward build. An engine is included, with moderate detailing, and presumably one could show the hood up, though the bonnet cover is a single piece that would require cutting and re-hinging. The molding is a bit soft in spots (e.g., the Maxim gun). Overall there isn’t a lot of flash, though the fenders are a bit fuzzy. The parts seem too thick in spots (especially the fenders), though rivets and other raised surfaces look to be correct for the most part. The rivet height strikes me as too tall, but if you're uncomfortable, a little sanding will cut them back. Seams on the leaf spring suspension aren't terrible and shouldn't require too much work.
The PE spokes for the wheels will require care and diligence on the part of builders, and should probably not be attempted by those intimidated by “fiddly bits.” No current styrene technology that can equal this fine detailing, which is after all one of the principal features of the vehicle, so there isn't a plastic alternative. The tires are single pieces without a great deal of tread detail and showing no trace of makers marks. Looking at the limited period photos of this car, the tires could just as well have been bald in the field. At least one photo of Lawrence entering Damascus in a regular Rolls shows round, balloon tires.
There are some nice features like the inclusion of three of what look to be British Lee-Enfield rifles, though they have quite a lot of flash, and will require work. There are no mounts for the rifles, which the instructions recommend should be in the "free" position.
painting & decals
The kit offers three variants:
G-256—unknown unit, Northern Africa ca. 1917 (four-color “lozenge” camouflage)
“White 1”/”Superb”—Middle East 1918 (faded olive green)
8-C-2—unknown RNAS unit, Western Front 1916 (blue gray)
The four-color “lozenge” style camo for the first variant looks to be a challenging paint scheme, while the others are pretty straightforward. I’m a bit surprised an overtly “Lawrence of Arabia” scheme wasn’t included, but presume Roden didn’t want to get into any kind of hassle with the movie’s producers. The inclusion of an RNAS variant seems a bit strange, since these cars grabbed all their notoriety in the Middle East, not on the Western Front.
To say that I’ve waited a lifetime for this kit would be an understatement. No movie captured my imagination more growing up than “Lawrence of Arabia,” where two similar armored cars took part in an attack on a train. I immediately read Lawrence’s Revolt in the Desert (a shortened version of his classic Seven Pillars of Wisdom, and proceeded to construct a Corgi or Matchbox version of the cars for my own soldiers. So for me, the release of this kit made it an instant “must have.”
Overall, it looks like a very enjoyable OOB build, but one which could be improved by a little extra PE, especially one of the new brass machine guns that RB Model has been releasing.
I want to thank Armorama staffers Darren Baker and Al McNeilly for allowing me to post some of the photos from their walkaround of the Rolls Royce 1920 Pattern Mark I armored car at the Bovington Tank Museum. It is the only surviving specimen of this vehicle (see photos below).
After beginning the build for the kit (you didn't think I'd put THIS one into the stash did you?), I have lowered my original rating by 5% because of the following issues:
1.) Seam lines & soft casting
2.) Poor fit in some assemblies, especially the spoke wheels
3.) Vagueness in some of the instructions
It's still a lovely kit, but I wanted you to know the full details.