French Renault FT-17 Light Infantry Tank

Matchbox 1:76 Scale Vehicle Review

French Renault FT-17 Light Infantry Tank, 1:76 Model Kit Matchbox 40176.

Renault FT-17 was designed as an infantry tank, and it served in over 3000 engagements between May 1918 and the Armistice in November of the same year. The vehicle was bulletproofed with 22 mm of turret and frontal armour, enabling it to attack enemy machine gun positions with minimal risk to the crew. One weak point was the drive sprocket, it was made of wood and it could be whittled away by enemy fire. Despite its small size, Renault FT-17 moved at the same slow speed as the much heavier Schneider tank, but 8 km/h was good enough to keep pace with infantry advancing on foot.

Renault FT-17 saw much service between the World Wars, it was engaged in the Rif revolt in Morocco, 1925–1927, and it served with the Republican Forces in the Spanish Civil War, 1936–1939. In 1940, many of the now obsolete FT-17 light tanks remained in service, and they accompanied French infantry into battle once again. Following the fall of France, Renault FT-17 light tanks entered service with the Wehrmacht. The vehicles were fitted with radios, and they were employed in the internal security role in occupied France and on the Channel Islands.

Move or Turn

Renault FT-17 and other tanks with cleattrack steering, or gear-brake-clutch steering could only move or turn, but not both at the same time. Accordingly, simulation gamers should penalize the FT-17 in combat, requiring that the vehicle may either move forward, backwards or turn in place. Pirouette turns, i.e. with one track turning forward and the other track turning backwards, are not possible with this type of steering. By comparison, modern tanks are able to turn as they are moving in one or the other direction. Players quickly appreciate how difficult it is to manœuvre a vehicle like the FT-17 across rough terrain, and to reach a certain destination with accuracy. In 1940, slow-moving FT-17 tanks will find it difficult to evade enemy fire if they are spotted in the open.

Technical and Tactical Lineage

The Renault FT series gave rise to two different lines of new vehicles which fought in World War 2. Technically, the Renault FT is the direct ancestor of the French medium tank series, and the Somua cavalry tank:

Renault D1: 47 mm gun, 30 mm armour, 19 km/h speed
Renault D2: 47 mm gun, 40 mm armour, 23 km/h speed
Somua S-35: 47 mm gun, 25-56 mm armour, 41 km/h speed
Somua S-40: 47 mm gun, 31-56 mm armour, 45 km/h speed

In 1933, the Renault FT’s role as a light infantry tank – Char Léger d’Accompagnement – was confirmed as a tactical doctrin, and even the cavalry received a similar vehicle type, developed by Hotchkiss. In addition to its cavalry role, the Hotchkiss series was deployed as a fast infantry tank.

Renault R-35: 37 mm gun, 32-45 mm armour, 20 km/h speed
Renault R-40: 37 mm gun, 40-45 mm armour, 22 km/h speed
Hotchkiss H-35: 37 mm gun, 22-45 mm armour, 35 km/h speed
Hotchkiss H-39: 37 mm gun, 22-45 mm armour, 36.5 km/h speed

Apparently, Renault had plans to merge the light infantry tank (R-40) and medium cavalry tank (S-40) idea into a new medium tank design, designated Renault DAC-1, but this project had not been completed when France fell in 1940.


Three soldiers and one tank commander
Diorama base
Char Renault B1.bis
Char Léger Renault FT-17

  • Type: Light Infantry Tank, 1918–1944
  • Armament: 8 mm Hotchkiss MG
    or 37 mm L.21 SA18 Puteaux
  • Weight: 7 t
  • Road Speed: 8 km/h
  • Crew: Commander & Driver


Excellent choice of subject. Renault FT-17 is a legendary vehicle which served in both World Wars, and it is immediately recognizable by its unique design. The vehicle was copied by other nations, and a very similar K.C. light tank, known as "Ruskij-Reno", saw training and combat duty in the Soviet Army as late as 1941.

Scale model with much raised detail.

Two variants, with 8 mm Hotchkiss MG or with the 37 mm L.21 gun.

Easy to assemble, only 35 parts. The running gear consists of six parts each, and the rubber tracks fit perfectly.

High quality kit. Parts fit very well and there is minimal flash.

Compatible with Airfix, Fujimi, Nitto, and VAC-U-CAST.

Char B1.bis included in the kit, an important vehicle of World War 2. The combination of these two tanks in one kit is not particularly practical, they did not serve alongside each other in the same formations. Anyone buying the kit for the World War 1 version of the FT-17 light tank will be left with an unwanted Char B1.bis which saw its first action in the next war.

Historical Employment

  • French Army Infantry Tank, May 1918 – November 1918
  • Italian Army Infantry Tank, 1918
  • Finnish Army, 1919–1942. Of the 34 FT-17 tanks serving in Finnland, 15 were armed with the 37 mm gun, and the other 19 vehicles carried machine guns. The original 8 mm Hotchkiss machine guns were replaced by Maxim machine guns in 1937.
  • Romanian Army, 1920s–1945.
  • French Colonial Forces, Rif Revolt in Morocco, 1925–1927
  • Republican Forces, Spanish Civil War, 1936–1939
  • French Army, 1940
  • German Security Forces, France 1941–1944

Possible Conversions

  • Renault FT-17 Command, 1940
  • Renault FT-17 Bulldozer, 1940
  • Renault FT-17.bis with 75 mm L.12 tank gun, 1920–1940
  • Renault FT-17 with Maxim MG, Finnland 1937–1942

Matchbox deserves praise for offering the legendary FT-17 light tank, which served in both World Wars and in the interim period. This kit is a must-have for simulation gamers, modellers, and collectors interested in modern warfare. The Renault FT-17 is unique in design, it’s easy to identify, and the vehicle looks great in one of the French multi-colour camouflage patterns. The old Airfix French World War 1 infantry figures have just been re-released by HaT Industrie, and they go very well with the Matchbox model of the Renault FT-17.

Sample from Revell

World War One Miniatures