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Chinese Power Vehicles Techniques and Camouflage Guide Book Review

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Product review “Chinese Power”

Published by AK Interactive

Reviewed by Glen Broman

And now for something completely different I thought as I was letting my fingers do the walking through the “upcoming good staff” page of the Last Cavalry web site. A new book by the folks at AK Interactive on Chinses armored vehicles called “Chinese Power”. It seems a logical product with the influx of kits from Chinese modeling power houses like Trumpeter, Hobbyboss and Meng, not to mention all the love the Chinese digital camo schemes have been getting in the modeling press these days. I was a little hesitant to pull the trigger with the $55 price tag with nothing more to go on than a picture of the cover, but, as you may have guessed by now, I bought it.

So was it worth it? In a word, yes. First, this is a book about Chinese armor, published in Spain and written by European, Chinese and American contributors. Tell me that isn’t a veritable smorgasbord of the world modeling community. Secondly, I don’t know that much about Chinese armored vehicles, most of my exposure having been to vehicles they sold other folks. It turns out the Chinese are the Bargain Bobs of the world arms markets these days, which adds to the appeal. Type 69’s in Iraqi, Pakistani or Bangladeshi schemes anyone?

So what do we get for our hard earned modeling shekels? For starters this is a 243 page book, so it’s not small. It’s a heavy card stock cover, and it’s completely color on high quality paper. The book is organized with a brief history of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) armored component followed by a listing of most vehicles since 1945. For me this was the most valuable part of the book as it lists the Type number as well as the Chinese State Factory number, for example, the Type 96, ZTZ 96 Main Battle Tank (MBT). So let me go on the record as stating that the Chinese designations can be confusing as hell with all of the different versions and sub variants. This book definitely helps clear up the confusion. This section is also full if color profiles of vehicles in Chinese service as well as export customers. Very impressive. The next section covers modeling techniques which consists of different ways of making digital camo schemes. There’s also a section that shows the various camo schemes over the years with the colors matches to the AK paint line. The final section covers build articles on various kits with emphasis on the painting and finishing techniques.

There are a few weak points in the product. One of them is a pet peeve of mine, indifferent editing and translating. Overall, the translation is good, but there are a few that leave me scratching my head, along with the occasional sentence fragment that looks out of place. To be frank, good editing fixes problems like those, that but I fear that editing is becoming a lost art. I would also have liked to have seen more on early Chinese armor from the 1945-49 civil war period. The only profile from this period is a Japanese Type 97. Finally, the profiles are all captioned, but the photographs are usually not. Captioning the pictures would help with knowing exactly what variant you are seeing, along with some context, but this is a minor issue.

On to the strong points; the illustrations are excellent, with a combination of color illustrations and color photos. The modellers involved in this project are all world class builders and painters. Probably most significant is that this is the first up to date book in my library on Chinese armor. That alone makes it worth it in my opinion, the build articles and technique articles are just icing on the cake. Even if you have just a passing interest in Chinese armor and only have a few kits of in your stash, this is well worth the purchase price as a reference, especially if you are looking for some way cool paint schemes.

A few final random observations as I read through the book. First, the PLA has got a lot of vehicles, but they do not appear to be as modernized as I originally thought. According to the book, the most prevalent tank is still a transitional 2nd/3rd generation MBT, the Type 90/96, developed following the first Gulf War when the Type 69s the Chinese sold to the Iraqi’s got their butts handed to them by Coalition armor. What is also interesting is that the Chinese designs are largely derivative. The Type 58 is a T-34/85 clone, as are most tanks up until the most recent ones, although even those tend to resemble modern Russian vehicles. The Type 80/88 is a reverse engineered T-62 with a German diesel engine and an L7 105mm gun. The utility vehicles covered in the book are all HMMWV, Land Rover and jeep clones with just a little soupcon of UAZ and UAL thrown in. Chinese wheeled armored and amphibious vehicles appear to be the exception, as they show some interesting capabilities and the amphibious assault vehicles look to be ahead of those in the West. From a camouflage perspective, the Chinese are really fashion forward with the razzu, high speed digital and naval schemes. I’ve always wanted to paint an armored vehicle blue. Now I have my chance.

Overall, I recommend this product; it represents value for money, it’s well done and has a ton of great possibilities for interesting subjects and schemes. And finally, if you’ve ever had trouble sorting out Chinese vehicle designations, here’s your Rosetta Stone.

I purchased my copy from Last Cavalry at www.lastcavalry.com.