Different Modifications for CVR(T), Part 1 - Scorpion by Alan Ng February 2016
To the author’s understanding, since the introduction of the AFV Club kits of the CVR(T) gun vehicles (Scorpion and Scimitar), there has been confusion as to what equipment had been fitted and when. This has caused many sleepless nights trying to figure out how to configure the kit to suit any particular period or theatre of conflict that these vehicles operated in.
There are many good references out there but with more than forty years of service and numerous modifications, both official and unofficial, it is virtually impossible to include them all.
This article attempts to put together information gathered and learnt from all the available references: books, magazines, internet research, etc. with the hope that it will help the modeller have a better understanding of the vehicle’s development. Any reader with additional information or who finds any mistakes is more than welcome to point us in the right direction - and thank you in advance for your attention.
Scorpion was the first vehicle in the family of vehicles, known as CVR(T), or Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked), to enter service as a fire support vehicle. It was delivered in 1973. Scimitar was the second type of CVR(T), in the close reconnaissance role, entering service in 1974. The appearance of both vehicles is almost identical, with the distinct difference being the armament. Scorpion has a 76 mm gun, while the Scimitar has a 30 mm Rarden gun.
It will be unfair not to include the Sabre. This was a descendant of the Scorpion after the decision was made in 1993 to withdraw it from service because of an Health & Safety issue of toxic fumes when firing the 76 mm gun. (Some say this Health & Safety story is not true and it actually came about because of arms limitation talks where anything armed with a gun over 75 mm was classed as an MBT. As MBT numbers had to be kept down, Scorpion had to go.) It therefore made sense at the time to mount the 30 mm Rarden turrets from the Fox armoured car which were withdrawn from service at the same time, modifying them with an adapter collar to fit the perfect running hulls of the Scorpion, thus becoming the Sabre.
Part 1 – the Scorpion
The kit was initially released by Revell and later on marketed by AFV Club as AF35S02. It basically shared many common parts with the Scimitar (released as AF35013), just like the real vehicle did. However, as the Scimitar kit was based on a late variant/modification, if the Scorpion was built straight out of the box, it would represent a late production vehicle issued to the RAF Regiment in 1981 or an export version. This means it would not have the flotation screen as this started to be removed in 1980; it would have 4-barrel smoke dischargers instead of the standard 3-barrel one; and also the hinged transmission cover instead of the bolted one which most of the serving Scorpions had.
These are the obvious changes. Another common complaint are the Messier dampers (horizontal shock absorber assemblies attached to the front and rear road wheel arms) as they were believed to be a modification much later in CVR(T) service, around 1990/91, just before the first Gulf War! Though the Scorpion was withdrawn in 1993, the question of how many were retrofitted with it remains debatable amongst modellers. Not surprisingly, the Sabre was commonly seen with the old damper suspension, as their hulls were originally from Scorpions.
The kit itself is now twenty years old, and is obviously showing its age, but is still a lovely little kit. There are criticisms such as sink holes in the faces of the periscope optics (AFV Club part number C12), the driver’s periscope (A14) is too tall and thin, the aerial case is missing, the axe/hammer is missing, the shelf for the flotation screen/track guard is too thick, the cable reel is too large in diameter, the photo-etched (PE) mesh exhaust cover is too rigid to handle, and the rubber track is too tight and easily broken.
Most of these are easy to fix, such as with a drop of crazy glue which will solve the sink hole problem. The rest could just be a quick search in your spare parts box, and placing the PE over a flame should help to soften it. For the driver’s periscope, you may have to live with it or scratch build a new one.
We will start with the lower chassis. The kit provides both the ‘early’ idler wheel (C25/C26) and also the ‘late’ type (C30/C31), although the instructions only indicate the ‘early’ type to be used. However, many references show a plain-dished idler wheel (solid with no hole) should be used.
As mentioned earlier, Armstrong damper and bump stops (adapted from a Leyland bus apparently) were used as suspension for most Scorpions. However the rear bump stops/dampers were removed very early during their service life.
The hinged type transmission cover comes with the kit’s upper hull (A4). If you are building a British Scorpion, this must be changed. Various methods have been tried, either by removing the first section from the hull, while trying ‘your best’ to retain those intake louvres so they can be used again on a new fabricated engine cover that is flush with the upper hull; OR there are aftermarket replacements of either the entire upper hull or just that part of the cover. Make sure you replace the hinges with bolts!
Fibre-glass mudguards and fenders were installed when it came into service, but they were easily damaged and were soon discarded. However, as with modelling, its appearance had nothing to do with practicality!
Moving on to the upper hull, we have the flotation screen. The first 59 were believed to be installed without the tin cover. From the 60th vehicle, a sheet metal ‘blast guard’ was installed across the front and at the sides for the first few feet to stop the blast of the 76 mm gun blowing out the skirt. Later, it was completely covered probably to prevent damage to the screen. However, it started to be removed altogether in 1980 as there was no longer a need for wading operations.
With the flotation screen raised, there was also a need to have an exhaust extension to direct the exhaust upwards. This is the thick pipe with a right-angled bend on one end stored just underneath the exhaust muffler. With the removal of the screen, this disappeared as well.
Below the exhaust extension, there is an aerial stowage case. Later, this was moved to on top of the RHS bin (A5/A18) when installed. This is an omission in the kit.
The exhaust cover in the kit is made of PE (G3) to represent the mesh type which many modellers complain as being too stiff to work with. As mentioned earlier, placing it over a flame will soften (anneal) it to bend it more easily. There is obviously the other choice of using other aftermarket PE parts and, for those interested in backdating it, the early exhaust shroud is solid. The exact time of this switching is uncertain and some Scorpions were seen with the solid exhaust shroud towards the end of their service, even being carried on to some prototypes of the Sabre.
Another omission in the kit is the stowage of either an axe or sledgehammer on the RHS hull underneath the shovel. Obviously, the pioneer tools would be relocated if a storage bin was available.
The long and thin LHS bin (E14) was standard configuration for the Scorpion, but the shorter and wider one as in the Scimitar kit (F3/F8) became standard after the flotation screen was removed. Even a long stowage bin borrowed from Chieftain was commonly installed after the removal of the flotation screen.
Moving to the rear of the vehicle, there was no rear hull bin when Scorpion entered service. Even the NBC intake (A3) was just a round tubular shape and fairly quickly the familiar rectangular pipe was installed. REME and local workshops fabricated different versions of stowage racks and large suitcases were commonly stored there during exercises. A purposely-built rear hull bin (A1/A6/A7 in the kit) was believed to have been standardised in 1980 (or might be even earlier as its design was detachable to make room for the erection of the flotation screen which had begun to be removed by then!)
Last but not least, where the hull is concerned, are the headlights. Smaller 5-inch lights were originally mounted below the flotation screen platform. With the removal of the latter, sometimes they were moved to the upper surface of the platform. During the last stage of its service, late 80s to early 90s, larger 7-inch headlights (F7 from Scimitar kit) were mounted with or without a shroud. Sometimes the shroud could be seen with no headlights inside, but the old headlights still under the platform!!
For the turret, as illustrated in the instructions, it was not just the Spanish Scorpion that was not fitted with the thermal intensifier (E1/E16/E17). Even the British Scorpions were not installed at the very beginning of its service life. It is also worth noting that in the original instructions (on first release, now corrected in more recent kits), E17 was mistakenly marked as E18.
Moving around, the 4-barrel smoke dischargers were only fitted to late production RAF Scorpions and those versions exported. The majority (and it should be correct to say all) British Army Scorpions were installed with the 3-barrel smoke dischargers up until the turret was withdrawn from service.
Stowage was always an issue after it came into service. However, the turret rear bin (E8/E9/E12/E13) that comes with the kit was installed at a very early stage. Make sure you do NOT drill holes on both sides (E12/E13) as indicated in the instructions. These are to attach the two Chieftain boxes (G) which were a later unofficial modification. Various attachments, such as the cable reel (F), jerry can and even a large fire extinguisher were seen, so check your references.
The small fire extinguishers (C21) were seen in various places and different positions on the turret, in particular, the position at the left lower frontal face of the turret, as indicated in the instructions. The fire extinguisher (D8) attached to the LHS of the hull was the BCF type at the beginning, as in the kit.
There was an open-topped first-aid kit holder installed on the left lower frontal face of the turret at the very beginning. This was probably relocated inside the vehicle later.
The LHS of the turret seems to be quite empty but, in fact, there was a PVC hold-all issued as stowage. However, it was very flimsy and always tore apart when running in the field. Later on, all sorts of ammo boxes (81 mm mortar boxes seemed to be the crew’s favourite) and other bins were bolted to its aluminum structure. Welding onto aluminium was impossible.
Two troops from B Squadron of the Blues and Royals, each with two Scorpions and two Scimitars (with a single Samson in support) were sent to the Falklands in 1982. Some make-shift modifications were made for their preparation and were only seen during that conflict. Before we discuss these specific Falkland modifications, let’s look at the general description of the CVR(T) as a whole first.
At this time, they all had the old suspension and bolted transmission cover. The flotation screen had all been removed by now. The square turret rear bin and the removable hull rear bin were fitted. A jerry can was carried on the LHS of the turret bin. There are no clear photos showing the sprocket and idler wheels, but we believe the early type sprockets (C23/C24) were used, and the plain solid (not spoked) idler wheels were used.
A very specific Falkland modification was the installation of a transmission breather cowl to which was attached a flexible hose that ran along the RHS of the hull. They believed they might have to ‘swim’ ashore. The hose soon disappeared once they landed, but the breather cowl stayed on until the end of the conflict. There was also a large fire-extinguisher carried on the RHS of the turret rear bin, in addition to a second LHS hull bin.
81 mm mortar stowage boxes, Rarden 30 mm ammo boxes, and spare road wheels and/or sprocket rings were seen carried around the vehicle, either on the front deck (sprocket rings), or under or on the sides of the rear hull bin. There is no mistake here. Rarden 30 mm ammo boxes were carried by Scorpion and Scimitar alike, while each vehicle was a little different - so check your references. The general rule for Scorpion was that no stowage boxes were carried across the front, as the blast of the 76 mm gun would blow them open! There is one photo taken on Ascension (where they performed firing practice) with Scorpions with mortar boxes across the front. This is probably where they learnt their mistake before going on to the Falklands!!
Scorpions remained in service up until 1993. Therefore, towards the end, you will find a large LHS bin on the hull (F3/F8 from Scimitar kit), along with a jerry can (F22*) as well as turret side bins (F2/F13/F17 and F4/F14/F16*) appearing on both sides. The angled rear turret bin (F1/F7/F19/F20*) appeared at the same time as the OTIS (Observer’s Thermal Imaging System) sight mount – the circle on top of the commander’s periscope (F12*). In fact, this should be a ring with two wing nuts on the rear face to fasten the sight. The sight was only used when the vehicle was static and was stored in the rear turret bin. The sight itself (a thermal imager) is a bit of a mystery as we cannot find any photos of it!! Obviously the later spoked idler (C30 and C31) were fitted, and the Messier dampers as supplied in the kit were, as mentioned above, a fairly late mod around 1990/91. (*Remark – Sprue F only comes with the Scimitar kit.)
Interestingly, the bolted transmission cover and those 3-barrel smoke dischargers remained unchanged until the Scorpion retired from British service.
This covers the basics of most of the modifications on Scorpion during its service life. As always, please check your references for any particular vehicle that you are building. It is almost true to say that no stowage arrangement would be the same on any two vehicles, although most of the modifications were squadron specified, especially when they are out in the field.
Other than stowage, it is worth mentioning that shackles and tow ropes were a common sight stored on CVR(T) instead of steel tow cables. In many publications the tow ropes are called Kinetic ropes. Strictly speaking this is incorrect. A pair of 8-foot Polyester ropes were carried by CVR(T)s and the Kinetic rope (which was 30 foot long) was supplied one per troop or as standard equipment in Samson. Briefly, the Kinetic rope would be attached to the vehicle ropes and used for recovery.
Part Two will focus on the Scimitar.
Osprey New Vanguard 13 Scorpion Reconnaissance Vehicle 1972-1994, Foss, Dunstan, Sarson, ISBN 1 85532 390 7, published 1995
Tanks Illustrated – Scorpion, The CVR(T) Range, Dunstan, Arms and Armour Press, ISBN 0 85368 747 1, published 1986
Museum Ordnance Special Number 23, Scorpion, Scimitar and Sabre, Darlington Productions, Prigent, published 1998
Modern Combat Vehicles 5, The Scorpion Family, Forty, Ian Allan, ISBN 0 7110 1175 3, published 1983
Scorpion and the CVR(T) family, Bob Morrison, Concord Publications Company 1044, ISBN 962 361 044 0, published 1994