ARM: Review - DML M3A1 Halftrack 3-in-1 Smart Kit

Kit Review: Dragon Models Limited 1/35 Scale =9139-=9145 Series Kit No.
6332; M3A1 Half-Track 3 in 1 - Smart Kit; 496 parts (420 in grey
styrene, 64 etched brass, 10 clear styrene, 1 brass chain, 1 nylon
string); estimated price US$49.95
Advantages: first new kit of this specific vehicle in 30 years;
provides details for early or late model vehicles, as well as for
choice of M3, M3A1, or M3A2 variants; different armament options;
brilliantly designed track and bogie assembly captures look of the
original
Disadvantages: Apparently repeats some of the errors or odd choices of
the M2 kit; no non-slip diamonds in crew compartment floor
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for all American WWII armored infantry fans
In 2005 the US was caught off guard by the lack of reaction by local
and national authorities to Hurricane Katrina, which caused a lot of
problems. During the cleanup the general in charge of the military and
National Guard effort, LTG Russel L. Honore, gave a presentation to
the press but warned them not to jump to conclusions or report
incomplete information which admonished them with the great line,
=93Don=92t get stuck on stupid.=94 Right away the reporters did and were
thus told they were =93stuck on stupid=94. They got the message.
This can happen in the modeling world as well, as Academy found out
when they produced a long-awaited M3 Lee kit with badly researched and
incorrect bogie assemblies. They then followed this kit with another
much anticipated model, the M7 Priest, with correctly sized bogies.
But then they followed that kit with an M3 Grant with the original
poor bogies =96 =93stuck on stupid=94 =96 and modelers were not happy. (To
their credit, Academy offered corrected bogie sprues to those who
purchased those kits.)
17 months after releasing a brand-new kit of the M2 series halftracks
(the short-bodied model) DML has now released its kit of the M3 series
halftrack proper with the full long hull bodies. The kit adds more
than 100 parts to the first kit and borrows on the interim releases of
the M16 MGMC, M4 Mortar Carrier, and M3 75mm GMC versions for some of
the new parts.
The kit offers a number of versions and while it is labeled as a =933-
in-1" would be more like a =935-in-1" when modifications, upgrades and
rebuilds are considered. It offers sufficient parts for the M3
version, the M3A1 with M49 machine gun mount, and the stillborn M3A2
final variant. I say stillborn as 12,391 M3 versions were produced
(and upgraded to M3A1 later on), 4,222 M3A1 new build versions, but
only 1 production M3A2 =93universal=94 halftrack was completed. Many of
the features tested on the M3A2 appear to have been retrofitted to M2
and M3 series halftracks, such as the folding luggage racks at the
rear of the hull and the equipment attachment racks =96 often
misidentified as =93ladders=94 including here by DML =96 on the sides of th=
e
rear hull.
But letting the molds for this kit sit on the sidelines for 17 months
and not checking them for upgrades and changes has caused a few
problems. While there are two kinds of complaints modelers file =96
those from the =93boo birds=94 and those from the average modeling
community =96 both have some validity and apply to this kit. First off,
it uses the original DML M2 armored cab moldings with rivets vice
screws and fixed =93jerry=94 can holders. While the rivet complaint is one
pretty much from the =93boo birds=94 (e.g. nitpickers) as it is hard to
tell without a good magnifying glass, the other makes it more
difficult to make the early model 3 halftracks without a lot of
shaving and patching. It still uses the controversial slightly
flattened tires but the versions with the =93bulges=94 from the first
issue have been minimized, so this is again a matter of taste, and if
placed on a base with ground work is easily concealed.
The suspension remains the same and the later model bogie mounts with
the openings in them are also not present. But the biggest goof in the
kit is that for some reason the floor of the rear compartment is
smooth =96 the original used a standard steel treadplate design with zig-
zag or diamond pattern =93non-slip=94 raised cleats. (Anyone who has ever
tried to walk or stand on smooth steel when coated with mud knows why
they do this!) Since the floor is at the bottom of the rear body base
(F6) it is virtually impossible to correct without a lot of problems,
even if one has such things as the Old On The Mark non-slip plate
metal sheets. Plan on a good layer of mud or sandbags to hide if you
are concerned about this goof.
As for the rest of the kit, again DML provides a complete drive train
including a complete White engine and transmission. While the hood is
molded in one piece, DML has notched the back side as well as the
insides of the =93cab=94 sides to permit easy cutting to open them up for
display. The steering does not operate (no big loss of oversized
parts) but is very petite and neatly detailed. This kit offers a
choice between the spring compensated idlers and non-compensated
idlers with a set of parts included on an =93addendum=94 tree.
Even without the casting holes, the bogies and track runs remain
impressive, as the idlers and drivers are =93slide molded=94 with
respectively thin details and openings. Each bogie assembly consists
of 18 parts and is very petite; the mounting suspension provides five
more with the track tension adjusters nicely portrayed. The tracks are
the same with DML having them in hard styrene plastic in two halves,
cut in such a way that the =93chain=94 plate drive tooth guides in the
center are represented as they are found on the actual vehicle. Since
the tracks were metal with rubber =93endless belt=94 casings vulcanized
onto them, this is a neat way to portray it.
The model comes with three sets of body panels for the rear body =96
one set for an M3 or modified M3A1, one for an M3A1, and one for the
M3A2. Ditto rear panels, but if you wish to do an upgraded vehicle
with the rear luggage racks you will need the M3A2 rear panel with
mounts for them. The kit also comes with a pylon mount for the M2HB .
50 caliber or the original (M3A1) or modified (M3A2) M49 ring mount.
DML provides two beautifully done .50 caliber M2HB machine guns and
four equally well done .30 caliber Brownings, all with the correct
mounts (the .30s come with one =93rocker=94 mount and one similar to that
used by the .50 for each one, so a maximum of three .30s can be fitted
to the model.)
The model comes with two sets of mine racks: one single-piece type
with the mines in place and one open one with 12 individual mines per
side, enhanced by etched brass.
All plates include the correct WWII taillight configuration: an oval
on the left top for the taillight, a rectangle on the right top for
the stop light, and two rectangles on the bottom for the combat
blackout taillights.
Minus the previously noted nips on the rivets versus screws and
=93jerry=94 can mounts, the =93cab=94 is neatly done, and two sets of grill=
e
mounts are included. One is for use with the =93Combat=94 light and the
other with the =93Automotive=94 headlights. One of each is provided closed
and one with the folding louvers removed (these have to be made from
etched brass, as no plastic parts are provided for the louvers.) As
noted in other reviews the model has the =93civilian=94 style dashboard,
so note that the instruments are a brushed aluminum color on preserved/
restored vehicles and not the more common black with white numerals.
(Archer Fine Transfers has a great set for these gauges.)
The winch and roller each come with their own bumper and
accouterments. The winch has a length of nylon string for the cable
and a chain for the final hook arrangement, which matches photos of
wartime models in service. Note that the driveshaft for the winch
needs to be installed in Step 4 at the bottom.
The etched brass, as with other =93Smart Kits,=94 is more extensive and
provides the pressure plates and handles for the individual mines as
well as headlight guards for the =93automotive=94 version, mud flaps, the
aforementioned engine air louvers, windshield wipers, and the sliding
covers for the view slits.
Other bits include the fact it comes with the so-called =93potable=94
water carrier versions of the =93jerry cans=94 with flip-up lids (the gas
cans normally had screw-type caps with better seals). It also comes
with two different types of radio sets and antenna mounts: either the
SCR-508/608 type of armored troops radio set (one on each machine gun
sprue) or the more common SCR-510/610 type, racked up side-by-side
rather than tuner on top of power supply. A nice cabinet abd antenna
base masts are provided for the SCR-508/608 set.
The model comes with two Cartograf decal sheets =96 a targeted set of
stars and tactical markings and bumper code =93jungles,=94 oddly it does
not come with blue drab serials. Five suggested finishing options are
provided: one for an M3 =96 2nd Armored Division, Morocco 1942 (ABABA,
stars and 48-star flags); three for M3A1 vehicles =96 4th Armored
Division, Germany 1945 (24th Engineers); 1st Armored Division, France
1944 (actually 1st Division Blindee, Free French Army, with French
markings); 3rd Armored Division, France 1944 (M-11, probably with a
maintenance company from one of the armor regiments); and one for the
sole production model of the M3A2 (white stars only).
I strongly suggest getting David Haugh=92s =93U.S. Half-Tracks=94, Steve
Zaloga=92s =93US Halftracks in Action=94 from Concord or Jim Mesko=92s =93M=
3
Halftrack in Action=94 from Squadron/Signal as they both provide a lot
of photos and good information for finishing, but there are a lot of
other good books on the market covering these popular vehicles.
Overall, while there are some spots where DML appears to have been
=93stuck on stupid=94 and ignored comments from modelers, overall this kit
is really decent and the average modeler can built one of the many
options and be pleased with the result.
Thanks to Freddie Leung for the review sample.
Cookie Sewell
Reply to
AMPSOne
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"While there are two kinds of complaints modelers file ? those from the ?boo birds? and those from the average modeling community ? both have some validity and apply to this kit. First off, it uses the original DML M2 armored cab moldings with rivets vice screws and fixed ?jerry? can holders. While the rivet complaint is one pretty much from the ?boo birds? (e.g. nitpickers) as it is hard to tell without a good magnifying glass . . ."
To be honest Cookie, I think the rivet/screw issue transcended nit-picking and flummoxed even average modelers simply because Monogram's halftrack kits from Nineteen-ought-four or whenever were able to get it right . . .
KL
Reply to
Kurt Laughlin
Kurt,
True, but those who pronounce the kits "useless" for that tend to be either those who look for excuses on the Internet to deify themselves or explain why they don't build ("not up to my standards").
But as noted DML got it right with the M16 and then gets "stuck on stupid" by releasing a kit with the original parts. Only would have cost them a couple of cents to add the other sprue with correct parts.
No excuses on the floor pan though.
Cookie
Reply to
AMPSOne
As an inconsolable nit-picker/rivet counter I've generally tried to frame my picking/counting as "Here's what doesn't match the prototype. How you want to deal with it (including doing nothing) is up to you." The only model items I've considered truly worthless were aftermarket sets (particularly gun tubes) that did not improve what you got in the kit. Kits are made with compromises - I can understand that and live with what I'm not willing to change. Aftermarket parts, on the other hand, exist solely to improve or change what comes in the kit. If the A/M parts aren't better or aren't right, buying them is a complete waste of money and I have not reservations about saying exactly that.
KL.
Reply to
Kurt Laughlin
=EF=BF=BDAftermarket parts, on the other hand, exist solely to improve or
As Robert Newton once said, "ARRRRmenn!" Worst mistake I ever made was picking up an "M5A1 Update Kit" which provided two so-so figures, a lot of so-so stowage, and a new lower hull with seams and rivets -- but fixed absolutely ZERO wrong with the Tamiya kit.
Gun barrels can be fixed with a Flex-i-File so am surprised how many modelers still buy aluminum where not needed.
Cookie
Reply to
AMPSOne

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