Aah, the MENG Whippet, such a breath of fresh air! Suffering from severe C-47 burnout, I decided to reboot my passion for modeling with a funny looking beast. Fine choice!
Throughout history, technical designers took a great deal of inspiration out of nature. From the shape of an airplane wing, to the lines of a swimsuit, animals helped push innovation to the next level. When talking about tanks, though, it was pretty difficult to apply this strategy. There are no projectile throwing reptiles, nor any tracked birds out there.
What tank designers did extensively though, was name their machines after animals. Germans are especially famous with their big cats (Tiger, Panther, Leopard), bugs (Wespe – wasp, Hummel – bumblebee, Grille – cricket) and of course, the Elefant wildcard. Like with most things, though, Brits started it all. For those who don’t know, the Whippet is a breed of hunting dogs that use their speed to chase down and catch the prey.
With such a suggestive name, you will probably be surprised to hear the top speed of this tank was known to only go up to 14kph (8.3mph). It doesn’t look like much, but compared to their bigger brother, the Mark I, it was over double (6kph).
Although it looks like a turret, the fighting compartment was built as a static box in the back of the tank. The importance of a rotating turret was not obvious yet. The Brits had an easier solution up their sleeve, mounting not one, not two, but four Browning machine guns, giving the tank close to a 360° firing arc. One fun fact was even with the engine mounted separately, the tank got unbearably hot to drive for long periods of time, so they had to keep the access door at the back open. Not that the 6mm of armour protection would have been of tremendous help.
200 units were produced between 1917 and 1918. They stayed in service throughout numerous conflicts, some of them eventually being sold to Japan, USSR and Germany. Below is an excerpt from Aubrey Wade, an artilleryman remembering the Whippet assault from the battle of Amiens, August 8th, 1918:
Lumbering grey shapes loomed up. The caterpillar flanges bit deep into the road as they advanced. They were the biggest of all their tribe, with machine-guns fore and aft, tractor belts propelling them like ships with squat conning towers. One by one they rolled past the trenches, tank succeeding tank, as I stood and marvelled at their number.
Plenty other recollections and great looking photos can be browsed on the Tank Encyclopedia page.
Out of the 200 initially produced, today only 5 Whippets survive, in various conservation states. If you’re curious to see one up close, get ready to book a vacation in either the United Kingdom, Belgium, Canada, South Africa or the United States. I personally built the one available at The Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History in Brussels, the A347 Firefly.
The kit comes in a small box, adorned with wonderful artwork, tank history and color guides. I like it so much I decided this will be the first one I will end up keeping. Inside, there are 5 sprues for the main body and 2 sprues for the machine guns molded in a sandy-beige plastic. The tracks come as individual links molded on 3 black sprues.
As extras, you get a piece of string for the tow cable and a sheet of sexy Cartograf decals for building multiple Whippet versions, the British Firefly, Caesar II, and Musical Box, plus a Soviet and a German variant. Great quality decals, I plan on saving the rest for other tanks.
The build process
The build took just one day. It certainly was the most enjoyable day I’ve spent modeling since I started, a bit over 4 years ago. The perfect fit, low part count and lack of flash and seam-lines make this a great kit either for a beginner modeler or a more experienced one looking for a break.
The things I struggled a bit with were the track grousers / spuds that had some visible mold lines right down the middle. Some of them also had recessed pin marks on the sides. The track links should be mentioned as well. While the system is pretty neat and works fine for creating workable tracks, the links are pretty fragile. When pressing them together, they sometimes broke. Luckily, you get plenty of extras in the kit.
One other thing to note, the fighting compartment requires some parts to be bent. While I managed to keep the parts together, without breaking, I would recommend heating them up a bit in some warm water before shaping, just in case.
As a small modification, I decided to replace the string from the kit with some metal wire. Looking back at it, I think it should have been a bit thicker, but it doesn’t look that bad.
If you want to do more customization, you can take some thin thread and wrap it around the muffler. Also, the Whippets were optionally equipped with a canvas tarp from front to end that acted as a mudguard. It was tied to the horizontal beams and can be easily replicated, if you so desire.
Painting and weathering
There’s a large controversy over the original colours of the Whippet tanks. Black and white photos, coupled with 100 years of nature affecting their original finishes and museums choosing to repaint the surviving units to preserve the metal have made it almost impossible to pin-point an exact shade. Which for us modelers is the perfect opportunity to improvise.
I chose to mix 75% Vallejo Model Air Black Green with 25% Vallejo Model Air IDF Sand Grey 73 and I am quite happy with the result. I’m not that good with an airbrush, so I was a bit reluctant to do any color modulation with it. I took the easy approach and shaded the panels using AMMO by Mig Oilbrushers.
Most of the Whippet models you see online are heavily covered in mud, thick on the tracks and splatters everywhere. To make mine a bit more special, I decided to keep it clean. Together with some dark enamel wash and various pigments for the tracks and exhausts, the weathering was complete. I could probably go back and add some streaks, but for now, it should be fine.
Ground level perspective:
If you’ve built the Whippet yourself, let me know what you thought about it. Also, if you have any feedback for my version, don’t be afraid to share it.
If you enjoyed the article, don’t forget to like my Facebook page for constant updates on my work and for inspirational galleries shared by other modelers.