Kit Review: Academy 1/72 Scale WWII Ground Vehicle Set 7 Kit No.13409; U. S. Tank Transporter Dragon Wagon; 217 parts in olive drab styrene; price US$27.00
Advantages: first kit of this subject in this scale; parts breakdown offers a myriad of options for finishing the model; can be turned into a show-stopper with some effort
Disadvantages: tires not spot on; some parts (e.g. windows) not provided; directions do not highlight the kit's engineering
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for all small-scale US Armor fans (WWII and Korea)
The big tank retrievers that developed during WWII have always fascinated modelers, primarily as were very large and "bitty" - lots of things hanging off them and details tucked into just about every available niche or slot that could be found. The US M25 "Dragon Wagon" with its massive armored M26 tractor and M15 semitrailer was probably the best example of this until the German Faun "Elefant" appeared in the late 1960s.
For many years the only kits available of this beast were the Peerless Max one in nominal 1/35 scale and the ROCO one in HO, both of which basically came out in the 1960s. About ten years ago, Tamiya came out with a totally "in your face" kit of the Dragon Wagon in 1/35 which while not cheap was a stunning example of the kit-maker's art and found a lot of homes with modelers.
Academy continues its nice new series on what it calls "Ground Vehicle Sets" (apparently in an attempt to convert aircraft modelers in 1/72 to armored vehicles - the armor modelers are the "faithful" here and need no converting!) with a very well done kit of the Dragon Wagon. It provides the standard version - the armored M26 cab and not the later M26A1 "soft" cab - with the M15 semitrailer.
Unlike the other sets this one just provides the Dragon Wagon - no other vehicles or accessories come in the kit, but on the other hand in 1/72 this is a BIG model. But as it is 1/72, modelers should not expect to see the same level of detail that Tamiya used to set the standard.
The model is well laid out and as noted above the kit is better engineered than the directions would have you to believe. All of the doors and armored panels on the cab are separate and may be posed, but be advised there are ejection pin marks on the inner faces of the panels. Unlike the big kit, the cab of this one comes in four parts and not one. The interior provides seats, several of the lever controls, and other details. Serious modelers will find plenty of room to add detail though as this cab is roomy and as noted can be opened up. The cab has a number of separate parts to include tow bars and a hip ring for the machine gun. A single-piece M2HB and a separate ammo can complete the cab roof details.
The chassis consists of a backbone frame with add-on frame extenders and all of the primary and auxiliary winch details. Drive details are well done, but for some reason Academy made the tires far too square- shouldered and these will need some sanding to get the right rounded shape to them. The winches are nicely detailed and the only part which is greatly simplified is the "strongback" assembly (here part A6) which could be erected on the Tamiya kit for towing or using the tractor as a wrecker. A6 is a single part with the "strongback" folded down into stowed position around the fifth wheel.
The trailer is simplified compared to the Tamiya one and as noted Academy does not even bother to point out options such as having the ramps (C42/C43) up or down, showing just the "up" position. Ditto the "landing gear" (Parts D21, C49 and C50) which is also only shown retracted; however this will take more work to install in the "down" position. Also shown in the "up" position are the rear wheel guards (parts C33-C41, D11) which are stowed on the gooseneck of the trailer.
The model comes with three different finishing options, all in olive drab: all are listed as "unknown" and two are for France 1944 and one is 1994 - no clue if it is a restored vehicle or not. The second one clearly shows markings for "465-O EVAC 11" which should be the 465th Ordnance Battalion, which would be a higher echelon unit and not a divisional one.
Overall Academy has provided a sound basis for an outstanding model, and I am sure that Eduard will continue its dovetailing to provide a good set of brass for this kit to really bring out its nicer features.
Thanks to Bob Lewen of MRC for the review sample.