by: Gino P. Quintiliani [ ]
In 1951 the Ford Motor Company was given a contract to develop a new vehicle to replace the WWII era MB Jeep and its descendant the M38. The result was the M151 series of ¼ ton utility trucks, designed by Ford and later built by Kaiser, AM General Corporation, and GM. A production contract was awarded in 1960 for over 10,000 units that would be used by all US and many foreign military forces. More commonly referred to as simply a "jeep" or "quarter-ton", The M151 was produced from 1959 through 1982 and served from the Vietnam War throughout the Cold War and beyond.
The M151 had a monocoque body design making it roomier than previous jeep designs, and incorporated front and rear independent suspension with coil springs. Production of the M151 continued for just a short time when the M151A1 was introduced in 1964 with modifications to carry heavier loads and added small turn signals to the front fenders. Serious problems existed with the suspension that made the M151 and M151A1 unstable and susceptible to roll-over in tight cornering situations due to the central articulation of the suspension arms, the lowering of one wheel relative to the frame would make the wheel move inward, effectively over-steering the vehicle and causing it to abruptly overturn. With some M151A2 units still in US military service in into the 1990s, the M151 series achieved a longer run of service than that of the WW2 MB/GPW, M38 and M38A1 series jeeps combined. It has since been replaced by the larger AM General HMMWV.
Tamiya surprised everyone when they announced two new M151 jeep kits. This review focuses on the M151A1 Vietnam War version. The kit is a major rework of their earlier (1980s) release of the M151A2 kit. The model depicts an early M151A1 as seen during the Vietnam war and includes decals and parts to build either a US Army or USMC vehicle. The kit includes two large sprues with the basic jeep parts, a smaller sprue with new parts for the canvas top (with correct, early two rear windows), a thin sheet of acetate with the clear windshield, a small decal sheet, and a 13-step instruction sheet. The decal sheet includes markings for either an M151A1 from the US Army’s 18th MP BDE or the USMC’s 3rd Marine Division, both in Vietnam. Also included are decals for the gauges and various placards for the interior. The kit also includes one driver figure that is the same as in their original M151A2 release. Per Tamiya standard, the parts are very crisply molded with no flash. Details are very good with both raised and engraved details where applicable. There are no visible deficiencies or issues with the plastic parts.
As stated above, the basic M151A2 parts from Tamiya earlier release were reworked to backdate it to the M151A1. Tamiya has done this very effectively. There are new parts for the rear suspension to correctly represent the swing-axle rear suspension (the first in any M151A1 kit). They updated the windshield to include the center post and the correct pneumatic windshield wiper motors (with one accurately turned 180 degrees), reworked flat front fenders and the grill with blackout lights and small turn signals on top. Tamiya also added separate pieces to show the angled rear wheel openings, and they reworked the rear plate to have the correct rear lights. It also includes optional bumpers and fender sections for behind the rear wheels with tie-down rings to make either the USMC version, or without the tie-down rings to make an Army version. The last of the new parts is a very nicely molded canvas top with finely molded details and support rods.
What wasn’t reworked?
There are a couple things Tamiya left from the M151A2 kit that shouldn’t be there or could have been done better. Oddly, the reworked grill piece has very nice, hollowed out headlights, but solid green plastic lenses are provided to cover them with. A couple clear lenses would have been really nice. The steering wheel is the version seen in the M151A2, dished with large spokes. The M151A1 steering wheel was flat with smaller wire spokes. Also, the mounting plate for the NATO power adapter has been left on the right side engine cowl below the windshield. This should not be there at all, another A2 feature. An issue with their earlier kit as well, the floorboards under the driver and passenger seats are not correctly represented from the underside of the body. The fuel tank and battery compartment are under the seats that are not represented in the kit. They also could have updated and corrected the front suspension. It is missing the upper A-arm assemblies and all the steering arms and connecting rods. Also missing are the pedals for the gas, brake and clutch in the driver’s foot well.