ARM: Review - Commander Models 1/35 scale MBT-70 US Version

Kit Review: Commander Models Inc. 1/35 scale Kit No. 1-058; MBT-70 USA Vari=
ant; 125 parts in various colors of resin; retail price US$159.95
Advantages: well laid out kit of this legendary experimental tank; builds u=
p to one of the operational prototypes=20
Disadvantages: craftsman kit requires other items from the builder (includi=
ng tracks); pour block under main hull; directions underwhelming=20
Rating: Recommended
Recommendation: for all US and German armor fans of 1960s armor
In the late 1960s the US and Federal Republic of Germany decided to pool t=
heir efforts to create a new joint design main battle tank. Designated the =
MBT 70 project, engineering design work began in Detroit in 1966.=20
The new tank combined a large number of innovations: spaced armor arrays a=
t the front of the hull and turret, a variable height hydraulic suspension,=
a 152mm gun/launcher firing the Shillelagh missile, a 26-round autoloader =
in the turret bustle which could be reloaded from ground level, internal ra=
diation shielding, a variable compression diesel engine, and a lower hull d=
epth created by installing the driver=92s position in a gyrostabilized caps=
ule in the turret (ensuring he was always facing forward no matter which wa=
y the turret pointed). Right off the bat, the Germans had other ideas, as t=
hey wanted to go with a high-powered 120mm smoothbore gun as well as a 1500=
HP DB diesel engine instead of the Continental variable compression AVCR-1=
100 engine in the US tank.
The variable suspension in the US version permitted it to be raised to 29 =
inches of ground clearance or lowered to 5 =BD inches; 17 3/4 inches was no=
rmal running height. The German one had three fixed settings but also could=
be varied by turning a knob. Diehl 170 25" tracks were standard on both co=
untries=92 prototypes.=20
Things did not go smoothly, as it was soon found out that the driver tende=
d to get nauseous when the turret was turning while he was driving the tank=
. US tanks apparently suffered more turret and engine problems than their G=
erman counterparts as well. But after four years of testing the US and Germ=
any broke off joint development on 20 January 1970. The Germans turned to d=
eveloping what became the Leopard 2, and after an attempt to make a simpler=
(and cheaper) MBT 70 design as the XM803 tank the US took its knowledge an=
d used it to develop the XM1 Abrams tank.=20
Commander Models has now released a completely resin (e.g. no etched brass=
or other materials) kit of the MBT 70 full up prototype tank. This comes w=
ith the early test bore evacuator, fire control system, and pre-production =
layout used on the later prototypes. As noted it is still a =93craftsman=94=
kit in which the modeler must provide some items on his own, such as brass=
wire or plastic rod for the headlight guards, hand holds and turret basket=
; Commander Models does provide a turret bustle rack former for bending the=
wire and/or soldering it together. While the kit suffers the usual slings =
and arrows of air bubbles they are not excessive and easily repaired with A=
CC cement or putty.=20
Commander Models has made the big suspension units as one solid strip per =
side that attaches to the lower hull; while it lowers some definition this =
actually is not a bad idea, as it permits all six units per side to be atta=
ched at once and be in alignment. The road wheels block out a view of most =
of the mechanisms anyway so it is not a big deal.=20
The turret also includes the big hatch for the autoloader molded in place =
(the turret was to be rotated 90 degrees, the hatch lowered, and mechanics =
could rearm the tank in a few minutes from ground level).=20
The directions are rather spartan, and one part which is not called out in=
the directions is actually quite useful. A long block of solid resin is in=
cluded with no comment given, but when measured and compared to the needs o=
f the kit is actually a suspension gauge to permit the modeler to =93set=94=
the angle of the road wheels and road wheel arms to get the 17 3/4" ride h=
eight of the actual tank (12.9 mm in 1/35 scale). Note that the road wheels=
must be sitting on the track to do this.=20
None of the hatches are separate parts (less the driver=92s hatch, but tha=
t is the complete assembly so the modeler may permit it to rotate to replic=
ate the original=92s movement with the turret). This also includes the curi=
ous Rheinmetall 20mm cannon mount at the left rear of the turret, which is =
cast in the =93closed=94 position. It will be quite difficult to open this =
up and erect the weapon into firing position, as that also would call for h=
aving to scratchbuild the entire gun mount as well. =20
The external fittings are not called out or shown in the directions, and i=
n view of the fact that the eight pilot tanks apparently had few totally st=
andardized fittings it is not a surprise. These include handholds, hand gri=
ps, and the smoke grenade launcher guards at the rear of the turret (only p=
ilot 4 seems to have mounted them). I have a copy of R.P. Hunnicutt=92s =93=
Abrams: A History of the American Main Battle Tank Volume 2" but there are =
other references out there which can prove useful, as well as the Internet.=
Note that the front section of the upper hull has a sharp upward slant; th=
is is not warpage in the molding but a feature of the original design cause=
d by the need to avoid =93track slap=94 from the variable height suspension=
No finishing directions are included, as the tanks never got past test and=
evaluation operations. Paint was the semi-gloss dark olive drab (FS 24087)=
used at the time. Markings are rather spartan =96 white serials with TEST =
over U.S. ARMY markings on the rear of the hull with the registration numbe=
rs below them. Registration number 09A 005 67 was that of Pilot 5; apparen=
tly the entire lot were given serials 09A 001 67 to 09A 008 67. Note that s=
ome vehicles also received the =93O=94 markings for Ordnance testing which =
are black on a white field, applied to the bow, turret sides, and in front =
of the serials on the rear flanks.=20
Overall this is a cleanly executed kit and with a set of the recommended A=
FV Club tracks (AF35012, which are the =93Big Foot=94 tracks for an M1A1 bu=
t look the part) should be a nice addition to a =93Cold War=94 armor collec=
Thanks to Ted and Jon from Commander Models for the review sample.=20
Cookie Sewell
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