ARM: Review - Commander 1/35 scale M2 Combat Car

Kit Review: Commander Models Inc. 1/35 scale Kit No. 1-025; M2 Combat
Car; 137 parts (108 in cream resin, 29 etched brass); retail price US
$79.95 from Iron Shipwright
Advantages: first kit of this vehicle in resin; very nicely cast
parts; nearly complete interior really a nice option
Disadvantages: no tracks (see text); hatch cover cast in one piece
vice three
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for all between the wars and early American armor fans
For anyone following American armored vehicle development, it
suffices to say the 1930s were both a time of advancement and
coalescing of ideas as well as extreme branch entrenchment and
silliness. The =93Combat Cars=94 of that time are an example of how dumb
things could be.
The Army had three major boards which determined its force structure,
equipment, and allocations of equipment per unit sets: Infantry,
Cavalry, and Artillery. As such, each had some say in what the others
did or began to work on in regard to future weapons systems. All of
them had a say with the Ordnance Board as to what was approved and for
whom. When the subject of new tanks came up in the early 1930s,
needless to say each wanted to get its own views to take priority.
The Infantry Board argued that it should have all tanks as tanks were
considered an infantry support weapon, and therefore the Artillery and
Cavalry should have no say in the matter. The Cavalry Board balked as
they realized they would need fast, light armored vehicles to be
relevant in any future conflict against a modern power. The Infantry
view was Cavalry Tanks =96 no way. After much squabbling, the compromise
was that the Cavalry would be permitted =93Combat Cars=94 =96 basically
light tanks but under another name. However, neither one would carry a
cannon as =96 of course =96 that was the purview of the Artillery.
The first solid prototypes of these new vehicles began to show up in
1936, with production in limited numbers coming in 1938. The early
vehicles =96 M1 Combat Cars =96 used a short-wheelbase suspension of two
vertical volute twin bogie units which would basically continue in use
with only minor changes until the end of M5A1 production in the
1943-1944 time frame. But they suffered from extreme pitching due to
the short wheelbase, and therefore some changes were made. As a
result, an improved model, the M1A1, was introduced in 1939; this had
a longer wheelbase that lessened pitching.
The M1 Combat Car series evolved into the M2, which instead of the
longer wheelbase used a sprung trailing idler to extend the track on
the ground and provide the same level of ride improvement. This also
translated into better obstacle crossing capability and stability. It
also added a Guiberson R-1020 nine-cylinder diesel engine for better
performance and mileage. This provided 36 mph with the new suspension
and with a full tank of fuel could cover up to 200 miles on highways,
which was better than any of the other tanks of its day in US service.
It also had a taller and improved turret design.
All of these vehicles were armed with one M2 .50 caliber machine gun
and two or three .30 caliber Browning M1919A4 machine guns: the .50
and one .30 in the turret, one .30 in a 3" ball mount in the glacis
for the assistant driver, and another .30 on a semi-retractable mount
on the rear of the turret for antiaircraft protection. Armor
protection was only 5/8" of an inch at best.
Thirty-four of these machines were built in 1940, with serials
running from W-40226 to W-40260. Note that all combat cars were 40xxx
serials and all competing light tanks were W-30xxx, which makes them
easier to separate if you can see the serials! But just to confuse
things, when the Armor Board was formed in August 1940 all M1/M1A1
Combat Cars were redesignated M1 Light Tanks and all M2 Combat Cars
M1A1 Light Tanks, with serials remaining the same.
Probably the best known M1A1 Light Tank was the one used by then
Major General George S. Patton during the 1941 Louisiana Maneuvers,
where he commanded the 2nd Armored Division. His command vehicle was
originally M2 Combat Car serial number W-40256, painted with four
color bands around the turret (red/white/blue/yellow to show the fact
that the mission of the Armored Force comprised all of the functions
of the Infantry, Cavalry and Artillery =96 as manifested in the new
Armor patch of the time. White was apparently just for balance and the
national colors.)
Commander has now released their promised kit of the M2 and it is a
gem. Hollow cast in light cream resin, it comes with a basic interior
to include the front half of the radial engine (once in place you
can=92t see the back, so not a problem) as well as the turret and
drivers=92 compartment. Oddly enough, with all this in play the hatch
cover =96 in reality three parts with only the front flap welded to the
turret =96 is molded solid. But as it is thin sheet armor it can be
replaced by 0.020" sheet plastic for those who wish it open.
The suspension follows the mold of the Tamiya-Academy-AFV Club kits:
two road wheels, a bogie carrier and backing, spring fork, front, top
and skid. Ditto the trailing idler and the drivers.
Tracks are not included as the recommended set for this vehicle is
the AFV Club T16 rubber pad track set (kit number AF35019). Ted Paris
stated at the AMPS 2011 International Show that he was not going to
include tracks from resin as most modelers don=92t like them and this
way they can choose their favorite set.
The rest of the kit is easy to assemble and comes with large sections
assembled for you in casting, such as the floor, firewall, and
driveshaft cover which are part of the lower hull.
The interior includes seats, control levers, a fire extinguisher and
instrument panel. No radio is provided.
The etched brass is part of the shared M2 Combat Car/M2A1 Medium Tank
fret but here only four parts are used =96 headlight guards, front and
rear air grilles for the engine deck.
No finishing instructions are included but the overall vehicle was
painted dark olive drab with blue-drab serials as noted running from
USA W-40226 to USA W-40260. A search on the internet will find
Patton=92s photos from LIFE magazine in full color for painting the
bands.
Overall this is a truly nice kit of this predecessor tank and one any
American light tank fan will want in his collection.
Thanks to Ted Paris for the review sample.
Cookie Sewell
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AMPSOne
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