ARM: Review - Italeri 1/35 scale LVT-2 Amtrac

Kit Review: Italeri 1/35 Scale Kit No. 6462; LVT-2 Amtrac; 166 parts (161 in grey styrene, 4 in silver vinyl, 1 section of clear styrene);
price US$45.00
Advantages: first kit of this vehicle in this scale; very nice interior details
Disadvantages: as it comes, will only build into a late-production version of the base LVT-2; some shortcuts in production; tracks are a matter of acceptability (see text)
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for all "alligators" and US WWII fans
    Since Italeri released their first LVT kit in 2001 (LVT-4 Water Buffalo, No. (6)379) they have also produced two others, the LVT(A)-1 and LVT(A)-4 but to mixed reviews. Acceptance of the kits depends upon what the modeler wanted to see, and over six years has ranged from very happy to extremely disappointed. The first kit was met with the same views - it was either (A) "kit of the year" or (B) "dog of the year" with little in between. As then, my views on the kit were (C) None of the above.
    This model builds on the previous kits and has its own unique points, both good and bad. The actual LVT-2 was a developed version of the "proof of concept" LVT-1 and fixed many of its problems with thrown tracks by modifying the track return roller assemblies, adding five feet to the bow section to provide a more seaworthy hull profile and solve some of the handling problems with the LVT-1. It had a downrated version of the engine used in the M3 light tank family, and over 2,950 were built with about 52% going to the Army and 46% to the Marine Corps. Its one fatal flaw was the fact that the troops carried in its hull compartment had to climb up and over the sides to get out of it, which silhouetted them for Japanese machine guns and caused a lot of casualties. It also made loading and unloading anything other than man- handled cargo very awkward and difficult. Due to crew casualties two options were taken, one being a simple armored sheet with slits stuck over the normal folding windows in the cab, and the other being a full- fledged armored cab and applique package.
    This kit provides the basics for a mid- to late-production LVT-2 and the sprues indicate that somewhere down the line Italeri has an LVT(A)-2 variant coming as well. The kit only comes with the "two hole" version of the sponsons, as those are shared with other kits. Most of the early production LVT-2s had four, with two more being located about 30 inches above the two in the kit; this is an annoyance to have to build as it requires a lot of cutting and filing to get the holes to match. The kit is fine as it comes, but some modelers would have liked the option.
    The running gear has taken a lot of heat as Italeri unfortunately simplified much of it to provide an easy to assemble kit. When assembled it looks the part, but some items could be better done such as the idler adjustment assembly.
    The most savaged part of the Italeri LVTs has been their tracks. Now admittedly many people do not like Italeri tracks in general as most of them tend to be very stiff and inflexible, and that is not a good quality for a model that intends to represent a prototype with curving or drooping tracks and flat runs. The ones in this kit have been hit hard on those grounds. The biggest problem is the fact that in order to get a clean "pull" from the molds there are two ejector pins located in the "cups" of the track shoe attachments, and those do degrade their appearance. The tracks also do not sit down on the identical drivers and idlers, so to get a proper look the teeth must be trimmed down to get the tracks to sit properly. But the tracks, like many model parts, are part compromise, and overall they really do not look all that bad when properly seated. (The alternative is to seek out a resin set or a $90 after-market set which is as close to correct as one could possibly hope for, but it is up to the modeler if he wants a $45 weekend build that looks good or a $200 one that looks fantastic - e.g. brass, the high end tracks, etc.)
    Italeri has done a fairly decent job on the interior, as it comes with the driveshaft and tunnel in two parts split laterally, but once assembled it looks fine. The kit also has the floor plates for the gunners in the right spot and other interior details which match the photos I could locate and my own slides from Camp Pendleton. But Italeri is still using the .50 caliber Browning M2HB they came up with 32 years ago for their Sherman kit, and it has seen better days and should be replaced. The .30 caliber Brownings are a bit better but also could use either replacement or some TLC. The kit also comes with a solid styrene tow cable, which is borderline in this day and age.
    Note that there are a number of holes that must be opened from the inside during construction, and while called out careful attention must be paid during construction or you will miss the callouts.
    Markings are provided for four vehicles, but sadly Italeri has picked four nearly identical ones with identical overall grey schemes. They cover vehicles from Saipan 1944, Makin Island 1943, New Guinea 1943 and Tawara 1943. It's a shame they didn't do more research, as the LVT-2 stayed in service for the duration of the war and some very colorful ones with three-color camouflage, stripes and white numbers fought at Iwo Jima in 1945.
    Overall this is not a bad kit to use as a basis for a great model, and at the end of the day credit should be given to Italeri for doing these vehicles. Or, for the "sniffers" you could either pony up $225 or more for a resin one or wait until one of the other companies does one.
    Thanks to Bob Lewen of MRC for the review sample.
Cookie Sewell
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