The Véhicule de l’Avant Blindé (that could translate as Forward, Ahead of or Front Armoured Vehicle) was developed by Giat Industries and Renault Trucks to give the French Army a fast and mobile troop carrier. It’s simple design and the use of a commercially produced engine made it relatively cheap and versatile. It entered services in 1976 and more than 5000 VABs have been produced in 30 different versions. It has served with fifteen armed forces, many of them formerly parts of the French Empire. However, France is by far its most important user and the French Army has a fleet of almost 4000 VABs.

The VAB is France’s basic infantry regiments vehicle. It is simple, very mobile, amphibious, air mobile and capable of operating in a NBC environment. It exists in four and six wheeled versions, the additional wheels giving greater mobility but also greater weight and complexity. Over the life of the vehicle over 1000 modifications have been made to the original design. It has been deployed in virtually all theaters where French infantry have been present, most notable in Yugoslavia and Africa and 376 were used in Operation Desert Storm.

Although the French Army has selected a replacement vehicle, the VCBI, as its new wheeled infantry fighting vehicle, the VAB is still offered for sale in many versions, ranging from ones equipped with a 25mm gun turret to an ambulance version.

I picked up this little kit for a pittance is a games shop in Bendigo. You wouldn’t want to pay much but it’s not bad. It probably comes from the period when Heller were releasing some of their best kits in the late 1970s.

When it came to putting this kit together, it was over almost before it started. What’s there to say? The VAB is a box on wheels and so is the model. A more dedicated modeller might use this kit as the basis for making all 30 versions of the VAB in the endless variety of colourings it has appeared in. Not me, though. One is enough. I made it straight from the box and my only bit of innovation was to leave out the transparent window bits to make the painting easier and then filling them in with white glue later.

I used the colours specified by Heller by their Humbrol numbers and the two colours are so similar that you can hardly tell them apart. That left the model looking a bit lifeless so I gave it a touch of dark wash and little dry-brushing to bring out some highlights. The result doesn’t look too bad.

Leigh Edmonds
December 2005

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Model A

The Model

X VAB Heller 72 The Little Aviation Museum


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