Back around the beginning of August, Patrick at MBK-USA asked if I’d be willing to take Tiger Model’s 1/35 ERC-90 F1 Lynx for a spin and share my thoughts.
I typically don’t do the whole free-kit-build-review thing. I think it introduces, even subconsciously, a rose-colored filter that makes more favorably disposed toward the kit than you might otherwise be. But I was also just coming off the decal-induced Flankoff flameout, was in casting-about mode, and, well, Patrick knew just where to strike. I have a weakness for esoteric French armored cars.
The Build – Reviewed
Tiger’s kit is…solid. Extravagantly decent. Radically middle-of-the-road. It doesn’t reach the top tier of Tamiya, or Meng, or Trumpeter and Hobby Boss. Maybe more in the universe of Takom. Better than the Academy armor kits I’ve experienced.
I won’t belabor the kit’s strengths and weaknesses here, and encourage you to have a gander at the in-box and build review videos if you want an in-depth look at the kit as it comes, and as it gets built up.
Out the Other Side
Coming out the other side of the build, I moved into paint…which proved to be a shiftier target than I’d anticipated.
The kit features five scheme options. I originally had my sights set on one of the two digital camoflage schemes currently in use by the Mexican Army, but quickly noped away from that course when I started to appreciate the tedium that would be involved. Especially since Tiger gives you fuck all to pull the scheme off. No masks, no decals, not even a full view, just one side in profile.
My next move was into the more traditional green/brown/black NATO scheme.
While this was fine, something about it didn’t sit right with me. Hard to say what. Maybe it’s because I have plenty of other builds in mind that wear the same colors. Maybe it’s because image searches for the ERC-90 F1 invariably show a ton of ERC-90 F4s. And the F4 Sagaie gets all the cool camoflage, including that sweet, bright-green French take on the NATO scheme.
Anyway, with some more course corrections, I ended up doing a green-and-sand scheme that Mexico used in the 80s.
Mexico tends to keep these ERC-90s quite clean. Which leaves…not a lot of fun to be had with weathering. Ultimately I went with some very gentle OPR work on the camoflage, some pigments and some enamels to represent dust, sand and so on. Even this seems to be far dirtier than reference photos suggest…which kinda sucks. But it got the job done.
Okay. So now that the ERC-90 is done and safely in the display cabinet, it’s time to look back and take stock and what works about the kit, and what doesn’t. Let’s start with the good.
- Engineering, detail and fit are mostly good. It feels like fit and precision suffer a drop-off aft of the rear tires, but forward of them, all is well.
- The clear parts are exceptionally well done, particularly the searchlight lens.
- Buildup is not overly fussy. This is not a kit that will take you into the weeds or overwhelm with parts count for the sake of parts count.
- It’s a cool French armored car and a nice break from all the Tigers everyone builds all the time. Or Panthers at the moment, I guess.
What Doesn’t Work
This is going to be a longer list. That doesn’t mean that the bad outweighs the good on this kit…just…there are things you may want to be aware of in considering it, or building it, and these heads ups may come in handy.
- Tiger picked the wrong variant. The ERC-90 F4 Sagaie is a far more interesting specimen than the F1 Lynx. Why? Well, the Lynx was not picked up by France, and was export sold to Mexico and Argentina and…that’s it. The F4 Sagaie, on the other hand, has been sold all over the damn place, and has seen extensive service, including with France. It gets dirty. It gets interesting camo schemes. It has a crazy-long barrel that adds to the inherent silliness of these armored cars. Think of it like how Trumpeter had 1/32 MiG-29s for years…but the silly naval variants that nobody bought.
- Certain options are pointless. The metal springs are pointless on a non-workable suspension. The styrene tires are interesting in concept but fail in execution. I would have rather seen a resin muzzle brake, or masks or decals for the digital camo as value adds.
- The fender mirrors are annoying and fragile. I ended up replacing the arms with wire.
- Vinyl tires are bullshit because vinyl tires are bullshit. They don’t take paint or weathering well at all. They have annoying flash inside the wheels that interferes with the fit of the hubs.
- The wheel/axle fit is bullshit. Only two of the six tires (the front two) have a positive fit sturdy enough for test-fitting. The mid and aft tires flop about and will fall out if you look at them funny. I really like to be able to test-fit the running gear, particularly on wheeled vehicles.
- Wheel design = tire wobble. The wheels have what seems like a pretty slick arrangement where the back press-fits into the hub and allows it to spin. Unfortunately, with that spin comes some slop and play that allows the tires to lean. This happens even after gluing the wheels to the axles and can cause headaches, especially if you install the middle tires in the stowed position and the flop out at an angle.
- Holy shit does this kit need resin tires. Seriously.
- The fit of the aft parts leaves much to be desired. I don’t know what the deal is, but the water turbines, the articulated exhausts/air filters/whatever, the muffler and so on all exhibit far sloppier fit than the rest of the kit. Not a dealbreaker, but something to be on guard for.
- The main gun could really benefit from a resin muzzle brake. This is my second French armored thing with this gun, and both attempts at it in styrene have disappointed. The Takom AML-90 uses a complicated arrangement of top and bottom plates and two vertical plates that draw their assembly inspiration from a house of cards. The Tiger kit uses top and bottom halves, with the vertical plates bisected horizontally. This is a lot easier to build, but has the distinct drawback of leaving very obvious join lines across prominent but hard to access parts.
Nope. I’m not going to highly recommend this kit. It’s solid, and if you have a thing for goofy French armored cars or an affinity for Mexican or Argentinian military vehicles, consider it right up your alley.
With some aftermarket support – particularly for the tires and the muzzle brake – I’d put this one up a few notches. But ultimately, my personal call would be to wait for Tiger to drop an ERC-90 F4 Sagaie that they’d be crazy to not release.