by: Keith Middleton [ ]
This is another kit in Cyber-Hobbyís expanding line of Orange Box Super Value kits. The kit models the M1A1 (Heavy Armor) version of the famous Abrams main battle tank. The kit, as is standard with the Orange Box line, includes a Dragon figure set #3020, U.S. Tank Crew. This figure set is a perfect match for the Abrams kit.
The kit comes packed in a standard Cyber-Hobby/Dragon slip-top cardboard box with very appealing color box art showing a profile view of an Abrams wearing modern NATO three color camouflage and IFOR markings that, despite the USMC in the kitís title, are included in the kit.
When I opened the box, I found nine sprues of parts for the Abrams, a single figure sprue, a single bag of Magic Tracks, and the lower hull tub. As can be seen in the accompanying photographs, all sprues are in Dragonís light gray plastic with none of that odd colored plastic the figure set was originally produced in. There are no photo-etch parts included. As near as I can tell, all of the kit parts come from Dragonís original generation of Abrams kits meaning there are no parts from the relatively recent M1A1AIM (3535) or M1A2 SEP (3536) kits included.
The instructions come in the standard Orange Box reduced size on glossy paper. Despite the reduced size, the instructions are easy to read. The instructions indicate very few parts are not used in the construction of this vehicle. The instructions are divided into 14 steps and the modeler is advised to read through them in advance as they will be required to make decisions along the way depending on which vehicle they opt to build.
The instructions also provide a color painting and marking guide for both the vehicle and the figures. The colors are keyed to Gunzeís Aqueous Hobby Color and Mr. Colour lines, as well as Modelmasterís enamel line of paints. In a step out of the ordinary, this Orange Box kit provides markings (and painting instructions) for three different Abrams. The first is a U.S. Army vehicle in three color NATO camouflage from Apache Troop of the 1-1 CAV serving in Northern Bosnia in 1996. The second vehicle is called out as ďUSMC, desert schemeĒ and it is in overall desert sand color with the Marineís wading stacks attached. Both the first and second vehicles are exact copies of color plates found in Concordís volume on the M1A1/M1A2 Abrams (7502). The third vehicle is another USMC Abrams in desert sand, but without the wading stacks. Both of the USMC vehicles are generic with minimal markings.
The small decal sheet is produced by Cartograf and, as one would expect, the quality of the markings is first rate. In a first for me, there is also a set of peel-off stickers included in the kit to be used on the IFOR Abrams to represent the CIPs. I am not sure what I think about that, or how well they will stand up to the usual weathering techniques most modelers will use.
The sprues from the Abrams kits have aged well as there is no visible flash, ejector pin marks, or sink holes in locations that will be visible on the completed model, as long as the modeler closes the hatches. The kit does not include a metal or slide-molded single piece barrel. Instead, the modeler will have to be content with a traditional two-piece barrel or resort to aftermarket parts. The turret and hull parts do have non-skid texture molded in which I hope is visible in the accompanying photographs.
As already mentioned, there is a single bag of Magic Tracks containing 165 links. While I did not open the bag, the track links appear well molded and I anticipate they will assemble fairly easily as with other versions of Magic Tracks.
The figures come with all four figures on a single sprue. The heads come as separate parts and while they are not up to resin figure standards, they are cleanly rendered with somewhat different expressions on each head. The uniforms are crisply molded with no visible flash and only moderately noticeable seam lines. As might be expected for a tank crew figure set, there are no separate weapons sprues.
All four figures are wearing tanker helmets and BDUs which can be painted in either Woodland Camouflage or Chocolate Chip desert camouflage. I consulted with the resident expert on modern U.S. armor in the Houston Armor Club who served in the U.S. Army from Vietnam through Desert Storm and he opined that these uniforms are appropriate for all three vehicles the modeler has the option to build. He also advised that the parts in the box can build an Abrams appropriate for Desert Storm into the mid-to-late 1990ís, but not an Abrams that participated in 2003ís Operation Iraqi Freedom or beyond.
While a modeler looking for a state of the art Dragon kit with all of the bells and whistles, or a version of the Abrams seen in combat over the last 7 years, should probably pass on this kit. As a modeler on a tight budget, I still like the idea of the Orange Box line.
In my opinion, even without the addition of any new parts, this kit represents a tremendous value as it gives the modeler a chance to build a mini-diorama out of a single box that features a ubiquitous modern AFV. With that caveat, highly recommended.