by: Russ Amott [ ]
From the instruction sheet-
The M113 is one of the most readily recognized vehicles in the world, a fully tracked light armored infantry transport that has been modified to fit a wide variety of applications. Adopted by the US Army in 1960, it is still in service, with over 80,000 vehicles produced.
While the base vehicle was very useful as a basic battel taxi transport, in battle it was found to have some weaknesses as a support vehicle. During the fighting in Vietnam, an Armored Cavalry Assault Vehicle, or ACAV variant, was developed, transforming the M113 into a light tank/fire support vehicle with the addition of a circular gun shield at the commander's position for the .50 cal MG and frontal gun shields on either side of the large access roof hatch for two crew served M60 MGs.
There is a wealth of information on the M113 both online and in book form.
The kit comes in a medium sized, top opening box with artwork depicting an M113 with artwork on front and side representing a vehicle from the 22nd infantry regiment in Vietnam during the Tet offensive in 1968. On the box side are four side views of the decal options provided in the box.
The parts come bagged with the original Italeri parts, molded in grey styrene, in one bag and the additional Academy sprues, molded in a greenish styrene, that make up the ACAV portion packaged separately. With multiple sprues in one bag there is always a risk of parts being broken, and on my sample a few were knocked off the sprue, but there did not appear to be any damage.
The molds for this kit are old, based on the Italeri kit# 276 for the M113, released in the 1980s. They show their age. The kit has multiple sink marks, heavy mold seams, some flash and ejector pin marks all over the place, including on every single track link face. They appear somewhat deep and removal would mar what appears to be otherwise good detail on the track faces. The sprue gates are close and care will be needed in removing parts. The plastic seems to have a gritty texture, but does take well to the Tamiya extra thin cement I use.
Details are soft and somewhat thick. In test fitting the hull parts, the hull tub on my sample is warped on the front, with the sponsons bowed slightly downward and the hull sides inward. There is very basic detail offered for the interior consisting of seats, a firewall around the engine compartment with molded on detail, driver and commander seats with ejector pin marks on the seat face, bench seats in the rear compartment with molded on cushion detail that is very hard to distinguish, and a fuel tank.
The driver has basic controls but no instrument panel or radios. Some stowage, consisting of packs, bed rolls and camouflage netting, marked not for use, are included. I thought these items actually looked rather nice. The road wheels look nothing like anything I have seen in photos from Vietnam, and I have read that they represent a type manufactured in Italy only, and on the vehicles of international users of the M113.
The Academy parts, from what appears to be kit 1389 of the M113A1 Vietnam, are from 1998 and also show mold seams and ejector pin marks, particularly on the inner faces of the gun shields. Hand straps for the interior roof are provided but need some thinning. There are large tarps or tents, folded up, and an M79 grenade launcher and M16 rifle included, though the weapons are marked not for use. Also included is a 105mm recoilless rifle which the modeler may still employ based on references and what you want to build. The weapons provided are decent, but better detailed weapons are available, especially the .50 cal mg. There is a spare road wheel which looks correct for the type used in Vietnam. As Italeri was borrowing so much from Academy, it would have served them better to use the sprues providing the road wheels over their own, incorrect offering.
The instructions are basic line drawings which are, for the most part, clear and easy to follow. Construction is called out in 17 steps, starting the suspension and construction of the link and length tracks, then interior and finally upper hull. The instructions state the interior should be painted white but comments I have read say more correct would be a pale green, with the inside of the rear ramp and roof hatches the same as the exterior color. The floor should be aluminum. Assembly of marking option C omits some parts so plan ahead during construction. The painting guide consists of the paint color and included FS number, with Italeri acrylic paints listed by number as well.
Painting the exterior is "simple" with an overall, period appropriate olive drab paint coat. Markings for four vehicles are as follows:
A-A CO, 22nd Infantry regiment, "Triple Deuce", 25th infantry division, Vietnam, Tet Offensive, 1968, "To the alps/Rommel's army". This vehicle has four antenna on the roof and also writing on the gun shields: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/189010515587132304/
B-B Company, 1/5th infantry regiment, "Bobcats", 25th infantry division, Vietnam, 1968, "Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club", and "23". All searches for this track on line resulted in some group called "The Beatles", with no image of the actual track.
C-1/5th Infantry regiment, "Bobcats", 25th infantry division, Vietnam, 1968, "The perpetual peace machine", and "34". The last image on this page shows a small side view of the track: https://sobchak.wordpress.com/tag/m113/page/2/
It appears to have some structure on the turret top and some markings were painted out on the side. This track does not use the flotation box trim vane.
D-1/10th Cavalry, 4th infantry division, Vietna, 1967, "Trails of my tears". Photograph here, about half way down the page: http://medicinthegreentime.com/five-simple-words/
Another here, about 2/3 of the way down: http://tomclarkblog.blogspot.com/2013/11/tracks.html
Both blogs the photos come from offer a unique perspective in to what the M113 was, and what it was like to fight from it.
I actually started construction to see how well parts fit and found that the parts fit is quite poor. I assembled the suspension, interior and exterior structure. The interior looks nice, basic as it is, but is clearly lacking in detail. The suspension arms had a lot of play and the mating surfaces were not squared. The poor fit of the glacis and roof sections when test fit became worse as the interior structure-the firewall around the engine compartment, protruded slightly, and had to be trimmed back and down. After much careful sanding of all parts involved I was finally able to get things together, but there are still some gaps and raised edges. It can be made into a nice looking kit, but it can also be very disappointing to build because of the fit issues and missing details. On the plus side, the decals I used in the interior went down well, had good color and appeared to be generally in register, although some of the legible lettering was gibberish. The markings included offer some nice options.
This is a difficult kit to recommend because it isn't the best available kit, and there are announced releases of the M113 forthcoming which will likely leave Italeri far behind. When the price is taken into consideration, it makes it hard to say that this kit is much of a value. If you really want to make the effort there are aftermarket sets to replace the tracks, fix up the interior and exterior and add aftermarket guns. I couldn't find any in my brief searching, but there must be replacement road wheels as well. Or maybe not, as it wasn't considered worth the effort for this one kit. I am at the point where I don't know if I will complete the build or put my effort into something more worthwhile and personally enjoyable. There are some kits Italeri has produced that I thought were very nice. This isn't one of them.
Shopping around online, prices ranged from $27 US (ebay) to around $35 US from most online stores. This sample was provided to me by Kitmaker.