by: Brian Culbertson [ ]
This review covers a conversion piece from Verlinden Productions that is used to transform the standard Tamiya M113 A.P.C. - A.C.A.V. into the M132 Armored Flamethrower nicknamed “Zippo”, which was used during the Vietnam War. The first use of this system was in August 1962 and was used four times in combat. In December 1964, the 1st Armored Cavalry was sent two M132 “Zippos”, however the Army Concept Team recommended that a total of (4) M132’s and (2) M113’s be sent to each regiment, a decision which was based on prior combat experiences.
The turret was based on the commander’s cupola seen on the M48/M60 tank line. The .50 cal. Machine gun was removed and replaced with the M10-8 Flame gun. The fuel system was mounted in the rear compartment of the M113 which was gutted in order to make room for the M10 fuel/pressure unit which was 12.5ft long and contained 4 spherical tanks, each holding 50 gallons per tank for a total of 200 gallons of fuel. The unit was mounted on a steel frame to facilitate easy removal for maintenance.
In addition to the M10-8 flame gun, the cupola also contained an M28D periscope, M104A2 periscope mount, M50 instrument light, and an M73, 7.62 cal. machine gun. The range of the weapon was around 200 meters or 218 yards/656 feet and could maintain a continuous flame for 32 seconds, longer if done in short bursts.
This item, along with two other Verlinden Productions items were received and contained in an unassuming brown cardboard box. Like Item #2800, which I reviewed earlier, this item #2799, the Flamethrower turret for the M113, was packaged in a white colored, 4”x4”x1.5” card type box with flip top ends. On the box front was a color photo of the product after finishing. Inside said box was a clear plastic Ziploc type bag which contained the turret and a sprue for the barrels of the M10-8 flame gun and M73 machine gun, plus a piece of brass wire for the turret. There is no instruction sheet included, so based on the box art I am assuming the brass wire is to go around the base of the turret.
All the parts are cast in a cream colored resin and upon closer inspection; I noticed that the barrel for the M73 machine gun was already broken off its sprue. The turret is a single cast piece and the barrels are separate castings. There was no visible flashing on either the barrels or the turret piece. The turret cast seems to have been poured very cleanly without any discoloring or bubbles. The detail for the five vision ports on the turret seems to be crisp, but lacks some detail such as weld marks, bolt holes, etc. The same can be said for the ejector port for the M73, which on the right side is lacking weld marks.
The dust covers for the weapons seem to have very good detail to them, but looking at the hatch, I’m questioning if this is correct. The hatch placement seems to be off center, left and is a crescent moon shape for the opening into the vehicle. The hatch also lacks the hatch lock handles on the outside.
The periscope is placed center, to the rear of the weapons mount on the top and is lacking a periscope guard while the box art shows a guard. The box art also shows two “U” shaped mounting holds for removal of the turret, but these are also not present in the kit as received. While holes have been pre-drilled at the base for the turret to install the brass wire, it is unclear on how this is to be mounted as there are no instructions provided and the turret lacks any type of mounting brace or brackets. Although extra wire has been provided to do this, it is my opinion that the braces or bracket be will have to be scratch built.
Another issue is that when the turret is placed on the M113, there is about a 1/32” gap between the piece and the turret which allows for significant movement and will cause the piece not to be centered when placed inside the ring.
Again, an instruction sheet would be helpful here since I’m not sure if the chunk of resin under the turret needs to be hacked off or if this is the guide for centering the piece?
Overall, this is a decent turret for the M132 “Zippo” conversion. The major drawback I see with this is that if you want to show off the interior you’d have to hollow the piece out since it is solid. Also this kit does not come with the tanks, frame, pressure unit and hoses required to complete the conversion, it’s just the turret.
So for it's $12.95 reg. price ($11.66 at Verlinden’s webpage.), the question is, is this a good value? Personally, I’d have to say, no. To me it’s somewhat over priced for what you’re getting. I can see if it was priced at maybe $8.95, then yes it’s a good value. Would I pay more if the rest of the conversion came with it? The answer is, yes, I would.