Just as summer follows spring, so now do Photo-Etch sets follow model kit releases. Voyager did a nice, but not perfect, job of evaluating Tamiya's kit for opportunities to correct problems and enhance details. The set contains 2 frets of Photo-Etch metal parts, a length of braided metal wire, a length of thin plastic rod, and 1 small booklet of instructions.
First up are the plates for the sides of the differential housing. These provide the rivets missing from the Tamiya parts. The part numbers should be reversed but it's obvious which part belongs on which side. The set also includes flanges for the inboard side of fenders and, although these provide the missing rivets, the pattern is not quite right. I suppose the true rivet counter could try and flatten the provided rivets and then add the rivets back in the correct pattern, but I'm not sure how much abuse these parts can take. I will probably use them as is.
Provided are latches for differential hatch, engine hatch, battery hatch, and some sort of inspection hatch. I'm not sure these are a real improvement over the kit moldings. If the PE hasp latch is used, the toggle part would be too thin as the real thing is more of a 3D bulged piece. Perhaps putting some white glue or putty on it would fix the flat look. I think I might stick with the kit parts. The PE parts would certainly be nice if the hatches were to be shown open, but doing so would require surgery on the kit. Some of these parts are tiny but Voyager gives you twice as many in case you mess up or the carpet monster eats some.
The provided Renault badges are nice as they actually say Renault on them! I'm a bit ambivalent about the included tow cable. Voyager provides some metal twine which requires you to make a noose on both ends. I was never a Boy Scout so I don't know if I'd use this. Of course, I would use the Voyager twine if I wanted to show the cable in use. However the tow cable/pick head straps are quite nice. I suppose I could try sanding the straps off of the Tamiya cable and using these. I would definitely use these if I did want to have the tow cable in the stowed position.
The tow signal plate and cover is quite nice and thin and makes a good replacement for the kit part. There is a small hole in the plate to help you orient the part for folding. Splash guards for the Commander are provided to replace the guards molded on the upper hull.
If you decide to open the side tool bin, that option is available with this set, but if leaving the bin closed is probably not as useful. The tool bin mounts seem a bit too thin so I might use the kit parts for strength. The provided tool holders are definitely good replacements for the Tamiya parts.
One of the shortcomings of the set is the idler fork. Ugh. I don't know why Voyager decided to make these as they look way too thin. The Tamiya parts are more like the real thing however there are separate nuts for the idler arm for which extras are provided.The tilting bin side flanges are much nicer than what is molded on the Tamiya bin.
From what I can tell from the one photo I have of an early UE from the side, the tilting bin tailgate guards were quite thin so the Voyager parts make good replacements for the Tamiya parts. The bend marks on these are faint but they are there. The muffler shield and mount are definitely an improvement over the Tamiya parts.
Parts are also provided for the UE trailer. As for the UE, the Badges should be used as they actually say Renault on them. Evidently, trailers might have two badges on them so an extra is provided. The supports for the front lip are missing from the Tamiya kit, so by all means, use them. Bolt Heads for the lower and upper forks are included and are great for adding the bolt heads that Tamiya missed. The large and small diagonal fork supports are much more realistic (thin with bolt heads) than the kit parts (D11 and D14).
The kit includes instrucions which have some problems. No mention is made on what the included plastic rod is for as an example. It is also not pointed out that D11 and D14 are to be replaced by PE parts. B11 and B12 are switched, as are A19 and A20. It is not mentioned that A9 and A10 replace kit part B34. The kit tool bin is B36, not B26. The parts A16 are NOT interchangeable. The top one should be used on the left side of the trailer fork.
Finally, there are some kit errors the set doesn't fix. On the UE, nothing is provided to detail the gears for the tilting bucket. The 3 bolt heads above the engine grill are also not provided though you could use slices of the plastic rod. On the trailer, I was most disappointed that the upper and lower lips of the fork are not provided. This is such a noticeable error on the kit. The trailer light cable conduit is not provided but the plastic rod is so thin that it could be glued into place, possibly without needing to apply heat to bend it.
I think this set is worth getting as it fixes up a number of kit omissions and provides some nicer replacements for some kit parts. I truly wish it had fixed the trailer fork so I'm going to knock some points off. I have absolutely no idea why they thought the idler forks would look better in photo-etched metal.
Highs: Renault badges, provides missing rivets on UE and trailer, nicer muffler shield.Lows: No fix for the trailer forks. Useless idler forks.Verdict: A nice but not perfect set for enhancing Tamiya's kit. I really wished it had included the corrections for the trailer fork.