This article originally appeared in the July 1999 issue of Internet Modeler.

Czotg lekki Char Mitrailleur
RPM's 1/35 RENAULT FT-17

Available from Squadron
at $24.96

By Dan Winfield

click on thumbnails for full image


Conceived by General Estienne as a light infantry accompanying tank, and designed by Messrs Renault and Serre, the Renault FT (faible Tonnage)prototype undertook trials at the Champlieu Camp in February 1917, after which Renault received a first order for 150 machines. It was the first tank in the world with an all- round traverse turret. A small number of the first production models were equipped with the moulded steel turrets, but due to manufacturing difficulties an eight sided riveted turret was designed, this again was changed on the Renault FT 18 to a cast steel type. Renault, Berliet, Somua and Delaunay-Belleville received an order for 1,000 machines, while the Miris Steel Company, of Sheffield, and other English steel works supplied the armour plate. Suspension was achieved by leaf springs combined with a vertical coil which tensioned the upper track run. Front idlers were of steel rimmed laminated wood.

The Renault FT first appeared in battle on 31 May 1918 at the Forest of Retz. During the thirties, the new 7.5mm model 31 machine-gun superseded the 8mm Hotchkiss in the vehicles that remained in Service.

Examples of this vehicle were widely dispersed in just about every military organization throughout the world. They fought in many bush wars, and even up to the end of the Second World War where captured vehicles were used by German occupying forces in France. Many variations were conceived, but most were grouped in four categories.....machine gun armed, 37mm light cannon, 75mm self propelled gun platform, and communications vehicles. Its design and manufacture set the trend for things to come and played a major influence on military tanks from its conception on.

Stats are


6.5 tons




Either one 8mm Hotchkiss machine gun, 37 mm light infantry cannon, or a 75mm howitzer


6 - 22mm


1 Renault gasoline, 4 cylinder, 35 hp, liquid cooled


4.8 mph


13.25ft (excluding ditching tail) x 5.67 x 7 ft


I'm not really sure what sort of introduction the kit deserves, but as far as I'm concerned I have been looking forward to having this particular tank as part of my collection. After many years of anticipation, I eagerly opened the box not really knowing what to expect. The only other example of this kit in this particular scale was the NKC resin version, produced in France and way out of my price range. There was a lot of praise, and then again a lot of cursing in relationship to this particular offering, so I said before.. the RPM release was welcomed with opened arms.

The box art is something that we've become accustomed to. The artist is no Rembrant, but I'm not Shep Paine either, so who am I to criticize. It is rather crude in some respects, but the contents of the box makes up the difference. Although there is a wealth of information about the Renault, color photos of the early FT's are rather scarce and the box art helps to pin point those colors that would make the finished product more convincing. So much for box art.

Inside, we find seven full trees of light gray styrene of approximately 260 itty bitty pieces. This, in itself, is almost self-defeating and to gaze at the parts breakdown, in the instructions, just about slams the top back on the box. Not being one to give up easily, I proceeded according to the instructions. Step one calls for detaching and glueing together each individual return roller (two halves to each roller about this big O) and then catching them in between two return roller supports (for lack of a better term) then repeat the step for the other side. Take precaution to handle them with care, a slip of the finger and they can roll into oblivion and out of your life forever. Believe me!!

This finished , I put it all aside and cursed the fall of Communism and the Berlin Wall. Two days later I attempted step two. Now, this gets even more confusing. There are no written instructions. Even if there were, I probably wouldn't have been able to understand them. This step calls for the construction of the road wheels of which there are nine . Meaning 18 pieces to complete just the wheels. Then we advance to trapping these wheels, which are a bit larger than the return rollers, but not much...( ) about like that, between eight different wheel shields and gluing them to a part that has three identical matches and none is appropriately labeled or numbered. Your only reference being the lopsided drawings and a faint image on a trees diagram. After this was complete, I put it all aside for a week, occasionally peaking inside the box hoping that the rest of the kit had been stolen in the night.

Awakened by a loud clap of thunder, I took this as a sign that the construction must go on. Now things got interesting! We were getting into the MEAT of the vehicle. Many arrows and un-numbered parts comparisons later, the main tread sponsons and supports where carefully going together. The size of the parts and the vague parts referencing in steps 3-6 leave one wondering. A couple of hints here will help you through this. In step 4, the large pin should go behind the main return wheel support. In step 5, part 24 faces to the rear of the assembled sponson. In step 6, the small return roller support fits comfortably into step 5's main support and you have a choice between a later version spring support and the early version. Parts 37 and 31, I forgot to put on. In step 8, the whole drive sproket fits in between the wheel sponson, with part 97 being inserted carefully through the whole mess. There... isn't that a lot better?

Then, I thought to myself....hummmm "It might not be a bad idea to give the thing a base coat of paint, considering this would probably be the last time I had access some parts, and somebody out there will inevitably notice a sploch of bare grey styrene through the paint scheme if I don't. So, I proceeded to paint the entire vehicle Italian Yellow #2... a Polly Scale paint, light colors first ......etc. I then sprayed the interior Polly scale Doped linen, a pale off white, trying to simulate a rather weathered, well used space.

The construction of the drivers compartment was next on the agenda. Not being numbered in sequence, and thrown about on the sprues as if someone intentionally meant to confuse you, the small clutch, gas and break pedals are not easily identified as mentioned before. The steering brake levers and gear shift must be hunted down and then placed according to yet another drawing, with the drivers cushion painted leather. Now, it starts to fall together. The hull halves are inserted outside of the bottom plate. Which ...again... isn't made clear and you'll hunt all night for part 50, as there is none. Part 151 is the rear most plate, that completes step no #10....Carefully insert the drivers controls into the forward compartment, making sure it aligns itself with the interior walls. Step 11 shows the situating of the frontal vision plates and hull cover. The drivers entrance hatchs can be left either open or closed, but be careful to have the doors slightly overlap the hull sides, they will not fit flush, but a close up photo of the original vehicle shows a little overhang.

We've reached the de-ditching plate on the rear. A total of 13 pieces make up this section that glue's directly to the non-existant part no #50... Steps 15 and 16 deal with tool boxes, muffler, tools, and brackets.. that compliment the exterior.. plus a small bucket and separate track that simulates the spares that where sometimes carried. The chain, which is seen on almost all vehicles , drapes over and around the de-ditching device at the rear. I chose to use an old piece of chain found in one of Ms Marcia's (my wife) jewelry boxes. Strange, she really did miss it.

Proceeding on, you'll notice that everything so far has been grouped into sub assemblies: the hull, the wheel sponors, the de-ditching device (which is already attached) and turret, which is saved until the very last. The placing of the track housing to the hull sides is tricky say the very least. Two pegs on pieces 96(?) are, or should be, rotated before gluing so that they align with the two hull indentations. The instructions give little indication that this will occur, other than in step 8... they show this oblong piece with the end peg facing basically towards the other end of the track sponson.....I don't know. Be careful with parts 99, they are very fragile! Removing them from the sprue can snap them in two! These are very important, as they are the sole attachment point for the track sponson on the front of the vehicle hull.

We'll pause here for a moment.......The tracks themselves are a total pain. I was fortunate to have another kit to fall back on. You literially have to loosen each and every link, to get them to conform to the track sponson. If not careful.. they will break very easily. Whatever material they are made of resists your ordinary adhesive - CA and foul language. I finally glued them directly to the track sponson.....let me know if you figure out a different approach. Now glue the track assembly to the hull.

The turret is the last step, and its construction is rather straight forward until you reach the point of attaching the rivets provided in the kit. These little bumps on the sprue are very difficult to remove, and are equally as difficult to attach to the turret. I searched through my spares box for a replacement, as the turret provided is the cast turret instead of the eight-sided plate version, seen in most reference material, you still need the rivet detail. I finally tracked down a set of old Grandtline 1/87th scale 1 7/8 nuts and 3 3/16 washers part No #5101, these give that little extra umfph, and look pretty convincing.

The box art gives you the impression that you are provided with one particular version either the 8mm Hotchkiss, the 7.5mm upgraded later versions or the 37mm cannon version, but you are provided with all of the options in the same kit. RPM markets three different boxings of this kit, but only the instructions differ and model's illustrated box and painting references. I decided on the 37mm version which, with a little fileing and sanding, will fit nicely into the gun sponson. Please don't forget to include parts 113 and 114, as I did, or your gun will not elevate or depress. By this stage of the game I had had it. You also have to sand part #106 until the turret ring fits into the hull. At least will be unable to traverse.

For my markings I chose the Armii Amerykanskiej: Front Azachodni, Francja 1918, which I figured meant the American Army, France 1918 . . . . . This scheme consists of what I suspect are the Humbrol paint numbers, so I proceeded to compare the colors as closely as I could to the Polly Scale equivalents. These resulted in Italian Yellow, German Panzer Red Brown and Fr Fok Dark green 34096, I sprayed it in a random pattern with feathered edges, and highlighted the exterior with graphite and a mild wash.

In conclusion, I think that in order to finish this particular kit you really have to stick with it. Although the detail is crisp and clean, there is alot of clean up of the parts. Mainly sprue connectors, not at all much flash. The pieces are extremely tiny, as is the tank itself, but the end results are very rewarding and make an excellent comparison for your later, much larger ancestors. The kit is not for beginners at all, and patience is the key.

Thanks to Bill Hornback for taking the photographs used to illustrate this article.

Good luck!!