ARM: Review - Commander Models 1/35 scale US M6 Heavy Tank

Kit Review: Commander Models Inc. 1/35 scale Kit No. 1-036: US M6
Heavy Tank; 249 partts (192 in cream colored resin, 57 etched brass);
retail price US$189.95
Advantages: first kit of this vehicle in this scale; details nicely
rendered
Disadvantages: pour block under main hull; no tracks; some air bubbles
Rating: Recommended
Recommendation: for all US Army prewar and =93heavy tank=94 fans
Prior to WWII every modern army decided they needed at least three
classes of tanks: light tanks, for scouting and general security
duties; medium tanks, for infantry support and counter-tank combat;
and heavy tanks, for breakthrough and overpowering enemy forces. The
US Army was no different, and by 1939 had drawn up all three classes
of tanks: the M2A4 (transitioning to the M3) light tank, with a 37mm
gun and five .30 machine guns; the M2A1 medium tank (transitioning to
the M3) with a 37mm gun and up to seven .30 caliber machine guns; and
the M6 heavy tank, armed with a 3" gun, 37mm gun, two .50 caliber and
two .30 caliber machine guns.
The M6 (at that time the T1E1 heavy tank prototype) was a 63 ton tank
that was enormous by US standards, albeit smaller than the similar
concept Soviet T-35. The 3" and 37mm guns were mounted in a large
revolving turret, the two .50 caliber machine guns mounted in a bow
mount that could be raised and lowered but not traversed, and the .30
caliber machines were located in the bow and coaxially in the turret.
27 feet long, 10 feet wide and 10 feet high, it was an impressive tank
manned by a crew of six. It used an 825 HP Wright G200 air-cooled
radial and a Timken two-speed automatic transmission, giving it a top
speed of 22 mph. With armor protection up to 4 1/4" thick it was the
best protected American tank of the time.
But in the wake of Pearl Harbor, the design floundered while the Army
tried to figure out what exactly it could do. Developed and
standardized as the M6 with a cast hull and M6A1 with a welded hull,
the tank essentially never got past test and evaluation unit
production. Only eight M6 tanks and 12 M6A1 tanks were ever built, and
most of them spent their lives either in test programs for new guns
and turrets or on bond tours (they WERE impressive in person!) and
rallies and posters for wartime projects.
This nice new kit from Commander Models is actually of the welded
M6A1, but as noted more of them were produced than M6 tanks. Like all
recent Commander kits, the model comes without tracks but recommends
two sets of T49 three-bar cleat tracks such as those from RHPS (now
Panda) for the model. These will need modification to fit.
The parts are in cream colored resin and are all relatively clean
with easy-to-remove flash and only minor air bubble problems. The
biggest hassle to cleanup is an old-fashioned 1/4" thick pour block
under the main lower hull section, but most modelers who have built
resin kits are used to this so it should not be a major problem.
The kit does provide some of the basics for an interior, including a
turret basket and guns for the turret and driver=92s controls and
accessories for the forward hull section. The .50 caliber machine guns
are molded complete and the bow .30 caliber port, as with the actual
vehicle, has been plated over.
Until finally installed the eight bogie assemblies are somewhat
fragile and care needs to be taken during assembly. Spacer blocks are
provided for the sides of the hull to fit the outer armor panels and
should help in mounting and aligning the bogies. There is also an
auxiliary road wheel/roller on the lower forward part of the hull,
three row drivers, and twin idlers to be installed.
The turret uses a lower shell and roof assembly and care must be used
to assemble them as the turret is a casting and the parts must align
smoothly (saves putty, at least). The 3" gun consists of six parts and
the 37mm is a single casting, and both mount in the mantlet. The tank
used an internal mantlet so the guns simply project out of the front
of the outer shell. With care the 3" gun can be made to elevate.
The etched brass covers the light guards, hand grabs and handholds,
and the large forward vent over the air intake for the engine. (The
model shares a fret with the Commander T23 kit, so both are on one
single offering.)
The tracks will take a bit of work, and for their assembly I suggest
the following. You will need to make a jig for proper assembly of the
tracks that permits aligning the components so it must be as wide as
the two pads and center connector and allow for the outer connectors
with drive teeth to hang down. To replicate the center fitting (not a
tooth on most of the tanks built) the inner pins must be cut back to
only about 1mm in length and the end connector installed upside down;
the tooth is then cut off to fit flush with the track. I also think
that the easiest way to do this is to have the tracks semi-workable,
e.g. one side is cemented in place and the other side left free to
hinge. While it makes it such that the last connection is left until
the tracks are painted and installed (four end connectors and four
pads left loose) it is the easiest way to tackle the problem.
Note that this kit was a =93Beta=94 version - Ted and John know their
clientele and try to get their latest kits up for the AMPS
International Show each year, and this kit and the new Soviet T-10M
kit were their new offerings. As a result the kit did not have the
supplemental track directions in the box, but later kits will have
it.
Overall it will take some effort to get a nice model from the kit but
Commander Models has managed to fill another gap in the history of US
Army tanks and armored vehicles. Kudos to Ted and John for a nice job.
(I will be doing a complete build review of this kit.)
Cookie Sewell
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AMPSOne
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