Three score years ago, Monogram wowed the model world with a series of one-thirtieth-something military vehicle (and figure set) models. One of them was the M29C ďWater WeaselĒ, or Amphibious Weasel
and Attack Weasel
, as Monogram marketed it. It was kit 6003
. Monogram released their Weasel in 1957 with several reissues, 1966, 1973, and 1982 to name few.
In 1957 the first release had the box number PM24-98 and sold for 98Ę. The box art showed Weasels landing and troops deploying. The second, released in 1966 with art showing a Weasel creating a hill, was kit PM156-100, selling for a dollar. (That one was my first Weasel.) Then came the sterile age of Monogram's 'White Box' era and the 1975 release, kit 8212. Finally, they jazzed up the box with a basic diorama for the 1982 release, kit 6303, the star of this review. I thank Old Model Kits.com
for the vintage box tops.
Every now and then I put aside the latest-greatest slide-mold kits with resin and photo-etch uber-detail parts and just enjoy an oldie but goodie. This is one of those times. Build almost completely OOB, this is my third Monogram Weasel
. It was a pleasant stroll down modeling memory lane and a fine break from AMS Ė Advanced Modeler Syndrome. Letís see how the old Weasel looks.
Injection-molded in dark olive styrene, Monogramís Weasel kit contained instructions, decals, and 54 pieces (59 including five figures):
51 X dark olive styrene
5 x figures
2 X vinyl tracks
1 X acetate windscreen
Molding was above average for 1957. Mine is the 1982 reissue and I forgot to look for the mold date; the kit suffers from some flash, some noticeable seam lines, and visible ejector circles and yet no sink marks. Some of the ejection circles are raised instead of recessed. That creates some problems in assembly. The flash is easy to remove although some of the seam lines require carving away. The seam lines on some of the figures are significant and detract from the figures. Otherwise, molding is sharp and details crisp, even of the vinyl tracks. Unfortunately, many items, i.e., shovel and axe, are molded onto their host parts. Even the splash vane is molded to the hull. Weasels had canvas weather covers for the crew area but Monogram did not make one.
The parts break down with left and right hull halves, three decks (the Army probably did not refer to them with such Navy terms but they make sense to me), 26 parts for the running gear, and several individual pieces for items that were beyond the molding technology of the time. Common for decades, the tracks are strips of vinyl that require the modeler to close the loop with a tab and slot junction. Many tracks of the day used a peg-through-hole design, with the modeler having to use a heated flat object to melt the pegs into the other end.
Not surprisingly, a cursory internet search about Monogramís Weasel states that it is a decent model that needs help to be a serious model M29C. At least two discussions are here on the KitMaker Network. However, this review focuses on the classic kit idea and thus major improvements are beyond the scope of this presentation.
I have read that the original Monogram military series (jeep, Weasel, Figures set, half-tracks, Patton tank, etc.) were 1/35 but they gravitated to 1/32 starting with the German tanks, and follow-ons. I've also read that Monogram's 1/35 was 1/35-ish. I included a shot of the Weasel with a Tamiya 1/35 figure (the one standing in the Weasel) and one with it measured, the distortion of the lens compensated to be squared with the rear.
From the dirt up, the treads look good. Each track link is not as deep as the real thing, and they are too wide. The running gear? Disappointing. All of the wheels, return rollers, idlers and sprockets are marred with large rivet detail. Fortunately, once the fenders are attached, you canít see much of it, although the road wheels are visible.
The hull halves have good bolt detail but molded rudder control cables. Monogram also molded the towing pintle as part of a hull half. Happily, they did not try to mold the fenders as integral to the hull.
Topside is assembled with a separate front deck, separate rear deck, and crew compartment floor. Dozens of solid tie-downs are molded onto various parts. Unfortunately the fire extinguisher, steering bar, shovel, axe, hatch, seat cushions, windshield supports and the like are molded on.
Components that are separate for your attaching pleasure are the gear shift and steering levers, bollard, headlamps, grappling pole, muffler, antenna mount, rudders and rudder bar. While Monogram molded the seat cushions on the floor, the seat backs are separate parts. As is the radio suite; many different AM and FM radio set combinations were utilized in the M29. I donít know my Signal Corps Radios (SCR) but the kit sets look like a SCR 610 (the square one) and the rectangular SCR 560 (a BC 652 receiver and BC 653 transmitter). Monogram molded impressive sharp small details into the radios. What little I know about SCRs dates this Weasel to the Korean War era.
Other detail includes the wipers molded onto the windshield, engine gauges and controls, tool straps, and conduits to the lights. The tool restraints are way oversized. One thing Monogram missed is the exhaust port for the poorly represented metal mesh covered muffler.
Five figures are included: driver; radio operator; standing rifleman; kneeling rifleman; Thompson gunner. The good news is that Monogramís sculptors put a lot of good detail into the figures: uniforms; weapons; faces. The bad news is that itís all molded on with poor proportions and scaling. They also seem to have mixed the M1943 uniform with the retired M-1938 canvas gaiters. More bad news is that the molding technology and expectations of the day means that the figures are molded as a single piece of plastic, and that results in figures with solid plastic between arms and body or weapons as well as significant seam lines. And the radio operator has a hand that looks like a crab claw.
Overall, kit detail is a mixed bag and yet does make a decent model.
Instructions and decals
This issue of the kit has instructions printed from and back with more than 20 clear and well-illustrated steps. All are black-and-white line art although some have halftone emphasis. For painting there are only a few colors listed by Monogram.
Decals are very basic - white stars, Army serial numbers and floating stenciling. Monogram also printed some ďnose artĒ but did not include any unit markings. The decals are opaque and mostly sharp, except for the floating stenciling. Carrier film is thick but the decals do not curl up or shatter. But they do have that silly white glue adhesive that gives me concern while it dries.
Building the Model
This kit is fairly simple and quick to assemble, although it needs a bit of work to make it look good.
Four one-piece bogie parts per side support the Weasel upon 16 road wheels. Those attach to the model via pegs into hull holes as well as axle or spring parts that are glued to the bottom of the M29. I think this is the most challenging aspect of the assembly although it creates a surprisingly sturdy structure. Donít take that for granted when you put the tracks on. The tracks have always been tight. I had to mount the tracks around the sprockets and bogies, and then mount the idlers. Fortunately, the sprockets and idlers are mounted with large pins that are very strong.
The tracks are looped by inserting an end tab through a slot on the other end of the track lengths. The tension from stretching the tracks around the wheels wants to pull the ends apart. I used superglue to strengthen the track junctions and later used more superglue to lock the tracks to the wheels. After handling the tracks as such, I found an article about dipping the shrunken tracks in boiling water, immediately stretching them and then setting the stretch with ice water. Maybe Iíll try that with my next one?
Monogram instructs us to attach the seat backs and driver controls to the floor, and then glue the floor into a hull half. When the hull halves are joined, those raised ejector circles make their mischief. I carved them away and yet the halves still donít mate without a gap. Generous amounts of Ambroid liquid glue and pressure helped fill in the gap.
For the most part I assembled the model per the instructions. Some carving, shaving and sanding was required. However, I could not quite suppress my AMS. I textured the seat cushions with tube glue. Nylon mesh enhanced the anemic screen detail on the muffler guard part, while a piece of Tamiya Matlida manifold became the exhaust port. The screen was anchored with superglue before liquid glue melded the mesh to the part. I nipped the toothpick-like antenna from its mount and substituted a paintbrush bristle. Finally, I scribed an undercut around the pioneer tools.
I did use the kit decals. (Most of them.) They have a milky adhesive that looks horrible while the decal is drying but it does (usually) dry clear. I also used decals from a Tamiya M4 Sherman and DUKW to create the unit code.
Tamiya olive drab went on as the base coat. I modulated it with my technique of wetting the base coat and then spatter-painting it with several greens and khakis, flicking each individual color onto the model with an acrylic paint brush. I used a variety of paints and weathering products to get the finish I wanted, including commercial and homemade washes. I wanted the Weasel to look as though it has been operating in a muddy area.
This is my third Monogram Weasel. I have a soft spot for some vintage models and enjoy treating them to techniques and products available today. If one wants an accurate and authentic 1/35 Weasel, thereís a lot of work to do. There are also modern resin models available. Yet, this old model can be built into a nice model of the spunky tracked amphibian. I am happy with it.
Thanks to www.oldmodelkits.com for the use of the box art!