by: Jan Klarbæk [ ]
BackgroundI guess we all know the feeling picking up a kit at the post office, hurrying home, opening the box and immediately wanting to start it well knowing that you ought to finish some of the stuff laying around first – well that’s the feeling I got with this kit. It's not only the looks of this piece of machinery that’s attractive, the kit is also highly attractive with a full interior including a engine and crew compartment, photo etch and a general high quality. In my stash I have AFV´s 155 mm gun so when Hobby Boss brought out the 3in./90 mm version of this tractor (kit #8247), I decided to calm down and wait for the “right” version for my 155 and it was worth the wait.
In the boxThe box is a sturdy cardboard box divided into 2 compartments to protect the contents – in the smaller part is the lower hull and the crew compartment while In the other you get 5 grey sprues (2 of which are identical), a clear sprue for windows, a sheet of photo etch, a small sheet of decals, some lengths of string and metal chain, and some masks for the windows. There is also instructions and a sheet of paint and decal suggestions.
ReviewSince it was on sale, I also ordered the Ampersand “High Speed Tractor” by David Doyle and Pat Stansell to aid my build. The book shows mostly “as new” vehicles and some in use but lacks drawings so evaluating the kits dimensions is not included in this review. The instructions are well printed but fairly busy and are not the ordinary sideways layout as you might expect. The instructions are well made with a reasonable amount of steps ensuring that the single steps don’t get too “crowded” and I haven’t found any parts mislabelled – but that may change when I begin construction.
The tracks are one-piece rubber tracks, quite soft and flexible, however they are not glue-able with ordinary plastic cement like Tamiya's tracks, requiring superglue or heat to secure them together. Details are fine and sharp for the medium but some cleanup is needed on the inside areas in particular. As I haven't started building my own kit, I can't comment on the fit of the tracks but other modelers who are well into their builds report that the supplied tracks are 2 links too long to give a snug fit.
So you can either cut out two links or you can go for the aftermarket tracks, which is a petty since the kit tracks actually aint that bad "
From an “inbox” point of view this looks mighty good, there’s no flash to be found on my sample and the mold seams are very discreet. There are some knock-out marks present but most will be hidden in the construction. Those that aren't must be dealt with - especially those inside the storage bay and engine room. Others outline the crew compartment on the top of the sponsons and will be partially hidden by the sides but will be visible nevertheless unless you choose to build your M4 with the cab doors closed. Molded details are small and sharp and are enhanced with photo etch where appropriate with a good balance between detail and build-ability.
The kit includes a full crew compartment with a reasonable level of details but the kit doesn´t include any crew storage or personal gear, so if you want your M4 to look lived-in, you will have to refer to the parts box or aftermarket suppliers. The seats are very straight and boring and screams for replacement with something with a more baggy and used look. A bit of work with a Dremel and some putty should make the look more used, realistic, and interesting. Seat belts are lacking but can be added with foil.
The M2 .50 cal is not on par with the offerings from other manufactures, so if you have replacements in your spares box, the kit would benefit from a replacement here. You also get an engine compartment complete with engine, cooler, and other parts to make a nice and crowded engine room. There's always room for improvement in terms of adding wiring, plumbing, etc. but it's a question of how much will be visible once the side doors are added or you decide to go for a scene with the doors open. The doors are a fine piece of photo etch that really does the kit honor and the same level of detail would have been impossible in styrene. The kit provides masks for all the windows which is a nice addition to the kit.
In the rear of the vehicle you find the storage compartment designed for 12 rounds for the towed 155 mm in the central part of the compartment with 2x propellant charges in the 2 side compartments. Unfortunately, the kit only gives you 2 155 mm rounds and nothing else to populate the storage compartment. Due to this, it would have been nice if the tarp for covering the compartment had been included to hide the lack of content. Even if it's easy to add yourself with lead foil or tissue paper it still would have been nice to get a molded tarp in lieu of the missing details. The supports for the 155 mm rounds are nicely molded and are quite thin for being made in styrene but some ejector marks are present. These are easily dealt with since the parts are completely flat. The rear door is bottom hinged and supported in the open position with chains. The chain is supplied in the kit and, even if seems to be a bit on the large side, it's still more realistic than a photo etch chain.
Under the storeage compartment you find a complete winch with cable supplied, most will be hidden due to the compartment sitting on top of it, but it's there and it looks good. The running gear have an overall OK appearance but lacks some of the fine details concerning bolts on the swing arms, grease nipples, etc. Although the overall impression is good, you still have the option of spicing it up with added details if you wish.
The decals provided are in the form of a quite small sheet with decals for only one vehicle. Some research would be in order to ensure that the decals really applies to the vehicle you want to build and to make certain that it fits the era – WW II or postwar/Korea for example. The inclusion of photo etch is relevant and lifts the appearance of the kit and finished model – especially the large mesh doors for the engine compartment. You also get mesh screens for the intakes and grills for the lights to enhance the level of details.
ConclusionThis is a fine kit from a relatively new manufacturer on the market. The overall quality is good, but not quite to the current standard of Dragon or AFV. In my opinion it's a bit better than Trumpeter and on par with Bronco in terms of fine details but without over-complicating the parts.