£90 million contract for a demonstrator vehicle. The demo phase ended in September 1990 with the tank meeting 11 key criteria for the design. This was followed by a competition from other designs, including General Dynamics' M1A2 Abrams and Leopard 2 (Improved) from Krauss-Maffei. Finally in June 1991, the Challenger 2 was declared the winner and orders for 127 MBTs and 13 driver training vehicles were placed. A further order for 259 MBTs and 9 driver training vehicles was placed in 1994. Production began in 1993 at Elswick, Tyne and Wear and Barnbow, Leeds with the first tanks delivered in July 1994.
Grant Mk. I. The problem is that photos show bewildering shades depending on the lighting conditions but most of the time showing a darker shade than the WW2-era Light Stone. After again searching the internet, modellers mention that a more suitable mixture, taken from Osprey's Modelling The Challenger 1 and 2 book, is 3 parts XF-59 Desert Yellow to 1 part XF-3 Flat Yellow. I duly used this mixture although I added a bit more XF-2 Flat White. Even so, it still show different hues under different lighting conditions (maybe the modeller got it right then). The dust skirting was painted XF-57 Buff as many photos show them having a different colour from the vehicle itself.
To tell the truth there aren't many things to do by this time, and mainly it was concerned with further weathering. The loader's machine gun mount was assembled and finally put in place and followed by the towing cables. Things at the rear of the hull such as the external fuel tanks and the jerry can rack were then cemented onto the model. The crew figures were painted but I deviated a bit by painting the disruptive pattern in XF-49 Khaki instead of XF-52 Flat Earth. Also, while looking at photographs, the crew helmets are mostly in a lighter colour (some are even wearing the infantry Mark 6 / Mark 7 helmets). The loader's helmet was painted XF-57 with the earphones in X-18 while the commander's helmet remain in X-18. Photographs also show that Challys carry their camouflage / thermal blanket in a U-shaped roll along the sides and the front upper glacis plate. I'm interested in adding this feature although knowing the rate I work, the putty might harden before I can add the surface features.
After examining more photos, some show the roll being placed on the glacis plate atop the ROMOR bricks. This would have a smaller footprint, easing handling. I kneaded some two-part putty and then adding strips of Tamiya tapes and lengths of sewing threads. The still-soft putty was then pressed on the model. This resulted in elongated 'dough', the excess of which was cut. The placement was not not centred but I guess tank crews don't bother much if the roll is straight or not under combat conditions! Surface features were then added using a toothpick, a hobby knife and a nail file. Not sure about the colour of the roll, I painted it a mixture of XF-57 Buff and XF-49 Khaki. A water carton was placed between the loader's and commander's hatches while a ration carton was placed on the glacis plate (it is of the 10-person pack for infantry squads and not really suitable for a 4-person tank but what the heck). Guitar strings were cut and were then superglued to simulate radio aerials. Sand-coloured pigment powder was then applied to the lower hull and tracks.
After rather disappointing releases of American vehicles in the post-Cold War era (the M1A2 using the 1980s-vintage M1 kit as base and the M113A2 using the ancient 1970s M113), Tamiya released a wonderful kit of the Challenger 2. Although the lower hull is still based on their earlier Challenger 1 kit, most of the parts are new and well-moulded (case in point are the applique side armours - on the real vehicles, they are similar for both Challengers but the one in the Chally 2 kit has more detail than the earlier release). The only shortcomings with this kit are concerned with the lack of anti-slip surface and the engine deck grilles. Yet they still do not detract from the fact that this Chally is a very good kit.