The ‘Solido’ brand name – suggesting strength and robustness – was first established in France in the 1930s, but it was after World War 2 that Solido became a major producer of diecast model vehicles. In 1961, Solido launched their 200 series, a new range of military vehicles.
The range was built up steadily during the 1960s and 1970s, with a focus on vehicles used by the French army (including some US-built equipment acquired during and after WW2), but also incorporating a selection of suitable opponents in the shape of German, and some Russian vehicles. By 1980, a catalogue of more than 70 military models had been established. The larger vehicles including most of the tanks and trucks were made to 1:50 scale, while some smaller vehicles were 1:43. The armoured vehicles especially are hefty and often impressive pieces, with generally good accuracy and moving parts.
In 1981 Solido was purchased by Majorette. Development of new castings for the military range largely ceased from this point, though variations and updates of existing models continued to be released until the early years of this century.
To become acquainted with the Solido range, where better to start than with one of their earliest military models, the M47 Patton tank?
The M47 Patton was an interim tank design rushed into production owing to the perceived shortcomings of US and NATO tanks versus those available to the Communist powers at the time of the Korean War. In the event, it arrived too late for use in that war, entering service in 1952, and was quickly retired to be replaced in US service by the M48 (also, confusingly, called Patton) by the end of the decade.
The M47 married the hull of the M46 (which was itself an M26 Pershing with improved engine) with a new turret design. The turret was a quite distinctive, elongated shape presenting strongly tapered and curved surfaces to the front and side, but with an extension or bustle at the back, which was further lengthened by an external storage compartment attached behind it.
The tank carried a 90mm main gun and a crew of 5. It was moderately well armoured, with more than 100mm of armour on frontal surfaces, and was capable of a top speed of 30mph.
Although an interim design, more than 8,500 M47s were built. Many of these were passed to NATO countries and other nations, where they usually served through the 1960s until replaced. Jordan deployed a small number during the 1967 Six-Day War, and Pakistan fielded several hundred in their wars with India.
France, which desperately needed a replacement for the aging M4 Sherman, was one of the countries which received the M47. 857 were purchased and saw service between 1954 and 1970, when they were phased out by the new AMX-30 tank. Thus, when Solido started their range of military models around 1960, the M47 was an obvious choice to be one of their first releases.
Solido Patton Tank
Solido 202 M47 Patton Tank
Year first produced:1961
L160xW65xH58, Metal 320g, Scale 1:50, Features: 3
Solido tanks, as the name suggests, were fairly robust models. Everything on this model is made from diecast Mazak, except for the plastic wheels, and it has a good weighty feel. Both the hull and turret are made of two parts, an upper and lower casting, and the fifth major casting is the gun and mantlet. The turret rotates and the gun elevates.
The running gear is made from plastic wheels mounted onto metal axles, and the tracks are metal (see below). The wheels revolve and the tracks move freely if put under pressure.
There are some simplifications (or, if you prefer, inaccuracies) in the model. The most noticeable area is the turret. On the real M47, the turret is sloped all the way down the sides to improve armour protection, whereas on the model the widest part is roughly half-way down where the upper and lower mouldings meet. This gives the turret of the model an undercut which if present on the real tank would have acted as a dangerous shell-trap in combat, any incoming rounds being deflected downwards into the hull! The gun muzzle is strangely flared, maybe in an attempt to represent the transverse muzzle brake sometimes sported by the M47.
The running gear has also been pared back. Instead of road wheels arranged in doubles, the model has single wheels; the three return rollers above the road wheels have been reduced to two; and the track tensioner positioned between the rearmost roadwheel and the idler has been omitted. The correct arrangement can be seen on the box illustration below.
The early Solido packaging is reminiscent of that of Dinky and Minic Ships of the same vintage – cheerful yellow cardboard boxes with end flaps.
On the side of the box, we can see a sentence which translates as “This military vehicle is part of the new series of miniatures manufactured by Solido which combines the strength of metal miniatures and the perfection of plastic kits.“ Here, in a nutshell, are the strengths claimed by Solido for their new military range – the robustness of metal married with the accuracy and detail more commonly associated in the 1960s with plastic construction kits.
Note also the text “Chenillage Breveté S.G.D.G.”, which proclaims that the tracks (chenillage) are of a patented design. No wonder Solido wanted patent protection, for they had devised a method of manufacturing metal articulated tracks which required no assembly. To my knowledge, no other manufacturer of that era used cast metal tracks on its model tanks and these are perhaps the iconic identification feature of the Solido military range.
Underneath the vehicle are the following marks:
“Solido”, “MADE IN FRANCE”, “-CHAR BLINDÉ-” (Armoured Tank), “GENERAL PATTON” and “M-47”.
The model is painted green overall, with decal markings applied. It is finished with plastic accessories including aerials to the rear of the turret, and machine guns next to the commander’s hatch and at the front of the hull.
So, there we have it. Notwithstanding the accuracy limitations noted above, the model is a reasonable portrayal of the real subject, with moving running gear and turret, and above all, it has presence, owing to its size and weight. After all, we want our tanks to be solid, don’t we?
Solido often updated the decals and paint finish of their models, and so there are several versions of the M47 to collect. Perhaps the most eye-catching is a sand-coloured vehicle in Israeli markings, which is something of a puzzle since as far as I can find, the M47 never served with the Israeli armed forces (although some were fielded against Israel by Jordan during the Six Day War). The M47 was also briefly made available as a motorised version complete with wired remote control, though this was a short-lived experiment.
Solido also produced two other US-manufactured tanks that saw service with the French army (and indeed, most Allied armies): the WW2 era 231 M4A3 Sherman and the 232 M10 Tank Destroyer. The M10 was built on the same hull as the M4; Solido likewise reused the same lower hull assembly for both models.