by: Jake McKee [ ]
I love doing reviews for Armorama because it forces me to build a kit completely out of the box. No fiddly PE, no aftermarket resin, no super detailing, scratch building, nightmare inducing fun. Just open the box, build the kit, make note of the ups and downs along the way. It’s like modeling therapy. Plus, reviews push me out of my comfort zone (of typically WWII models).
Today, I present my review of the Italeri M1120 HEMTT Load Handling System (Kit #6525). For those of you who, like me, didn’t realize they made military vehicles after the end of WWII, this is a modern, American built Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck (HEMTT). Basically, this is an 8 wheeled, off road capable, 500hp diesel powered big ol’ flatbed tactical truck made by Oshkosh Truck Corporation. According to Wikipedia, Oshkosh has built 27,000 various types of HEMTTs to date. They have armored flooring and cab, and machine gun mounting options. Quite a beast!
This kit is based on the HEMTT Load Handling System (LHS). The LHS is a means of loading and unloading payloads of up to 11 tons without extra crew or equipment and all without the operator leaving the cab.
Payloads can come in multiple forms, from standard shipping containers (as shown on the box art, and available as a separate purchase: Italeri #6516), to custom loads of various equipment, ammunition, and so on. The bed of the truck can be demounted and the M1120 can be used for other hauling functions. This kit uses the bed, so we’re going to focus on that option.
The box is tightly packed with 5 sprues in plastic bag together, allowing little room for bouncing problems. There is a separately wrapped clear sprue. A small decal sheet and 9 vinyl tires round out the parts in the box, with the instructions laying on top of it all. The packing job is solid, and I doubt I could ever fit them correctly back in the box after I unwrapped everything. (This is a good thing – no shifting means no broken parts)
The instructions are oversized; nearly the size of the box itself. For a relatively simple kit, this means there’s plenty of room to see the drawings of each step - very nice. There are 21 steps, and while some steps seem like a lot of parts going together at once, it all makes pretty good sense. The instructions book is printed in black and white, with the exception of a marginally printed color page that shows two color schemes: “Unknown unit, Afganistan 2011” and “ISAF Unknown unit, Afganistan 2011”. (Yes, that’s how they spelled Afghanistan… the English translations throughout the instructions are pretty abysmal)
Given that these units are in frequent daily use as recently as the day this review goes live, it’s surprising that there’s not more specifics, options, and decals to represent units in action. Either Italeri has purposely created a “platform” kit that makes it easier for modelers to create specific unit/color schemes as they see fit based on their own research, or they just got lazy. Given the lack of proofreading throughout the instructions, I’m guessing this was more lazy than thoughtful.
1 clear sprues
1 decal sheet
9 vinyl tires
1 black and white instruction sheet (with a color page)
Let me first disclose that it’s been years since I’ve built an Italeri kit. I’ve been fascinated by the interesting new focus from companies like Takom and Meng. I’ve always been happy with the under detailed, but solid, fun builds of Tamiya. And I’ve gone crazy with resin and photoetch, and know what I’m getting into. But this Italeri kit fell into a weird spot in that line up.
To skip straight to the punchline, this kit didn’t impress me that much. Maybe other folks are used to this level of quality and problem, but I was pretty surprised at how much I was consistently annoyed building this thing. While it can build up into a decent kit, you have to take your time and put in the extra work to cover where Italeri fell down.
• Some locating holes/slots are simply missing
• Some locating pins are missing or easily mistaken for flash
• Details are both soft or far too out of scale
• A number of parts are too short to reach where they’re supposed to fit
• Knock out holes are located in some of the dumbest places possible
• Sprue gate connections to the parts are either really big or flat out huge.
The first step, literally Step 1, scared me a bit. The two main beams that form the basis of the chassis frame need to be shortened by cutting length off of them. Fortunately, there are markings that show where to cut. But can you imagine if this was your first model kit and literally the first thing you’re asked to do is cut two main pieces shorter with…. your #11 blade? I’m sure this task is necessary because Italeri is using sprues amongst various HEMTT variants, but seriously dumb. And in later steps when you need to affix the chassis end sub-assembly, there’s no real way to do so easily.
On those chassis beams, you also have to cut out your own locating holes for subassembly attachment that comes much later in the instructions. Study the instructions CAREFULLY to make sure you’re getting them cut in the right place.
Parts 7A and 8A go together fine, but figuring out where they go is tricky. So is making sure they stay upright as the glue dries. I might suggest saving this until you are ready to install the drive shafts in steps 3 and 4, as that whole assembly goes together very poorly. Drive shafts don’t seem to be the right lengths, making the axles and drive shaft placement very difficult. Dry fit, dry fit, dry fit.
Part 15A isn’t easy to figure out how to attach as there are locating pins on the part, but no locating holes on the chassis beam. Save that part for later to make sure you get it in the right place relative other parts you add in later steps.
Steps 2-4 - proceed as expected.
Step 5 – the parts fit OK, but make sure to take your time and check your 90 angles. The exhaust cover is one of the worst detailed parts in the kit. It’s almost cartoonish and could have been a perfect choice for a PE fret.
On part 47B, make sure NOT to cut the center element of this part when removing from the sprue. I mistakenly clipped this out, thinking it was part of the sprue molding, not the part itself. (Which says something about the details of this kit…)
The platform subassembly (parts 31E, 35E, 35E) doesn’t have any clear location, so I saved it until the end of the build and put it where I believed it should be.
The storage locker subassembly (parts 50A, 51A, 52A) went together fine, but marked a series of ongoing questions throughout the build: “Is this significant seam supposed to be part of the design, or do I need to putty over it?” The instructions clearly show these seams sometimes, not other times. And I’m not sure if showing the seams means that the real world vehicle also shows those seams or if the instruction designers just didn’t care to answer that question.
Part 56B is simply too short to attach both ends of the part as it’s supposed to. I spent 10 minutes trying to figure out what I’d done wrong, and finally concluded that the part just wasn’t designed right.
Make sure to leave the tire off at this stage of the assembly or else you’ll have a bear of a time painting behind it.
This was about the stage where I lost it with this kit…..
• Part 77A didn’t have any location indication
• Part 70A (x2), the tie rods, weren’t long enough to actually be used and were left off the model
• Clean up on parts was a nightmare
• The holes in the chassis beams for locating parts 67A and B65A both needed drilled out to work (but these weren’t called out in the instructions)
• The parts next to each other on the “A” sprue were called 67A and B65A. Not sure why the extra “B” in the numbering other than to cause me pause for a few minutes to make sure I wasn’t missing something…
The cab assembly was relatively easy, as there’s not a lot of detail. You’ll need to really think twice about how you’re going to paint this interior, as it’s tricking to get access once the cab is built up. You can leave of the driver’s side door off, as it’s built from two parts, a frame and the door. But the passenger side is all one piece. Strange.
Also pay careful attention to how many knock out holes are present in the cab parts. You’ll be able to see most of them once the cab is built.
Step 10 – proceeded as expected
This built up relatively easily. Although, make sure you are ready to ensure “square” of parts 9E and 10E. I taped mine down once they were glued and left it for an hour or so to cure.
In subassembly “D”, you’ll have to modify the locating tab of part 20E to sit properly. It should be located on the far outside edge, but instead is in the middle of the part. Also, make sure that you properly and perpendicularly align parts 51E and 52E with the chassis. It’s easy for them to drift as your glue dries and it’ll look really weird if they do.
Again, you’ll need look at your research sources to figure out which seams are by design and which need some putty.
Steps 13-14 - proceeded as expected
The cargo base is a single part and overall well done. It’s not warped (a big deal on a part this large). But plan to spend some time on seam cleanup around all four edges. The seam is significant and with all the small details to work on and around, it takes a while.
Steps 16-17 - proceeded as expected
Prepare to spend some time on these two steps… you’re adding 28 small tie-downs, and each one needs some healthy seam cleanup. Fortunately, they go on easily.
Make sure you work in small sections and ensure that the tie-downs are all pointing down as gravity would have them. It’s easy to see them all going their own different directions.
Think through whether you want to affix the armor plate (part 117B) before or after your paint. It may be easier to paint it separately.
The most annoying knock out holes I’ve ever encountered are on the inside face of the mirrors (part123B) and they are significantly deep. Be careful as you fill and sand away the putty to not damage the rim of the mirror.
Part 126A had to be drilled out to properly fit parts 127A and 23A (installed in step 2) on either side.
Locating the lifting subassembly is very, very difficult as the kit doesn’t doesn’t do much to help you. On top of that, I had to sand down some details in order for part 13E to fit properly between the gas tank and the chassis.
I missed one of the holes I was supposed to open up in step 1 and so when I installed part 60E, I had to snip the locating tab and eyeball the location. Same problem when trying to locate subassembly “H”… I had to clip the locating pin on part 55E. I honestly was so frustrated by this point that I didn’t bother to go back and check whether the instructions forgot about these holes or whether I just didn’t understand the instructions properly.
Italeri also forgot to include an instruction to install the trailer hitch (sorry, forgot to look at the sprue for part number). The instruction sprue layout show this part as unused, but I doubt the real world vehicle would simply have left it off, leaving a huge hole in the chassis… so I added it.
In the end, this builds into a pretty sizeable and fun looking vehicle. As a long time armor modeler, the shortcomings that would have been very, very easy to fix are frustrating because this kit could have been a lot more fun to build. Perhaps I’m spoiled by the new manufacturers really working hard to deliver wonderful build experiences. Perhaps that’s not a bad thing.
While there a number of glaring problems with this kit, a newbie might have a good time building it, especially as cool as it looks when it’s done. An experienced builder can turn this into a decent model. But they’re going to have to buy some photoetch and resin to get the quality up to par, and they will spend some time fixing things that they shouldn’t have to. It’s not a horrible model, but it’s also not one I’d recommend unless you’re dying to do this particular subject and you’re ready to put in some work.
Army manual for operating the M1120 HEMTT LHS
a href="https://oshkoshdefense.com/variants/m1120a4-lhs/">Oshkosh Product page