I love Warhammer 40k, but not everything about it. One thing I’ve always had a bit of a problem with is the Imperial Guard. I get that they’re supposed to be a lesser force compared to the Imperium’s Space Marines, but it’s the 41st Millennium, man. We don’t have to go back to the 1920’s.
As a result, I’ve been working on a custom Guard Regiment for some time that looks a bit more like a 21st Century military. As part of this, I needed some sort of Scout/Recon vehicle both for Scout units and Light Infantry formations. Humvees are a bit too recognizable, but the French Panhard VBL is perfect.
The Panhard VBL is an armored, 4×4 all terrain vehicle with a proven service history from Yugoslavia to Afghanistan. Armored against up to 7.62 NATO rounds, NBC-sealed, and with a boat-shaped hull to protect against IEDs and mines, the VBL is fully amphibious and capable of mounting a variety of weapons and other systems.
VBL with MILAN ATGM, and another VBL with an armored .50BMG turret
Until 2015, the only way to get any sort of VBL kits was to order expensive resin ones from boutique custom houses. This would be fine if you were a military modeller, but a wargamer often needs several vehicles and multiple variants to complete a force. In `15, though, Hong Kong-based Tiger Model began releasing 1/35 scale plastic kits of the VBL for sale. I was thrilled!
Tiger has three variants, and so far I’ve picked up the first two: the standard VBL, the model with an armored cupola for a M2HB machine gun, and an ATGM variant with a MILAN ATGM mounted on the rear roof hatch. Now, Armorama has an excellent in-box review of the VBL kits, and other than changes to the weapon system mount, it’s the same kit, so it is equally applicable across all three flavors.
My experience in building the VBL kit was a pleasant one. The parts were very well-detailed, and almost completely free of flash and mold lines. The rubber tires had great detail and the “Michelin” manufacturer’s logo on them, which should tell you the level of detail this kit has! It also came with a set of brass detail parts, which is something modellers normally only see as part of custom parts and upgrade kits, but I’ll get to that later. The instructions were very clear, and well-illustrated, leaving nothing to speculation. All in all, a good kit.
When it came time for assembly, I was pretty pleased. It’s a modeller’s model, so it is very detailed, and may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Most wargaming kits I’ve built have been quite a bit simpler, with more molded detail and fewer pieces, so if you want a quick build, this may not be for you. About half the assembly is putting together the interior details like the radio, seats, etc. I admit, I left off some of the less visible stuff like foot pedals and such for the sake of speed, but all in all, it still came together fairly quickly for such a detailed kit.
I did have a complaint about the brass detail parts, though. To me, they seemed a bit unnecessary, especially for what they were. Why did you need the top of the radio to be a brass detail part, for example, or the retaining bands on the fuel jerrycans? It just seemed to be something that was thrown in at the last moment so that Tiger Model could say “See?!?! We have brass detail parts in our kits!!!!” I found some of these to be difficult to paint and work with.
In terms of customization, I really didn’t do too much. This was my first VBL, a test-bed standard model carrying a driver, gunner, and five passengers. It’s armed with a Squad Automatic Lasgun in Sustained Fire configuration and a Heavy Bolter–not much of a threat against big baddies or vehicles, but it’ll definitely keep most basic infantry’s heads down. I’ve yet to stat it up, but I already think it’s pretty cool.
As with most mass-produced plastic model kits, price on the VBL kits can vary greatly. I’ve seen them on Ebay for as low as $16.00 USD, to as much as $60.00 US. I probably overpaid for mine, paying around $50.00 for each, but I bought them to support my local hobby shop, King’s Hobby here in Austin, TX. They’ve got a GREAT selection of model kits, paints, supplies, and books. They’re not a wargaming shop, so you’re not going to find any minis stuff, but they have a good selection of 1/72 and 1/48 kits that can be useful for gamers in that scale, and a pretty thick selection of used pen-and-paper RPG books if that’s your thing.
I’d been a bit stuck for a name for this beast, but I think I’ll go with Korsak–named after a Central Asian steppe fox.
I’ve still got a second VBL to complete, that one was is the .50 cal armored cupola variant. Instead of an M2HB, though, it’ll carry a lascannon to give the platoon a bit of anti-armor punch! See you next time.