Kit Review: Masterpiece Models 1/35 scale resin conversion kit No. (no number given); 1/35th Scale LVTH-6 Amphibious Landing Tractor Turret;20 parts in cream colored resin; retail price US$19.95; available from Masterpiece Models, 7907 NE St Johns Road, Vancouver, WA 98665; phone 360-256-1488, FAX 360-573-5583; website
Advantages: nice, simple conversion kit makes a perfect beginner=92s option; solves the problem of what to do with the AFV Club LVTP-5 kit if you don=92t want to buy the Hobbyfan interior or build your own
Disadvantages: some compromises in part count to simplify the kit (turret body, gun barrel, OVM panel =96 see text)
Recommendation: for all Marine armor fans who want a howitzer tank now
During WWII, the Army and Marine Corps jointly developed the armored versions of their LVT tracked amphibians, finally resulting in the LVT (A)-4 which had the complete turret of the M8 75mm GMC mounted on it for close support to beach landing teams. This was later modified with a roof, more armor protection and add-ons to increase seakeeping qualities as the LVT(A)-5 which served in Korea.
After the war, the Marine Corps drove ahead with its own ideas of LVT designs, eventually adopting the LVTP-5 which could carry up to 35 fully-equipped Marines or a platoon. 10 of these vehicles could transport a Marine infantry battalion, and other support variants also were designed. One of the more interesting was the LVTH-6, a unique vehicle which basically used the 105mm M49 howitzer shared with the US Army=92s M52 105mm HMC. But the LVTH-6 could carry up to 151 rounds of ammunition onboard =96 about 100 if it was swimming in for a landing =96 and thus provided instant fire support. Later, due to seakeeping problems and other drawbacks to the first versions of the LVTP-5 family, an =93A1" variant of the entire family was created with a taller exhaust tower on the rear of the engine deck to prevent flooding and also exhaust feedback into the cargo compartment.210 of these vehicles were built, but only 18 ever saw combat duty with the USMC. A three section company was sent to Vietnam where it was designated the 1st Armored Amphibian Company and used for direct support to Marine units by sections of six weapons each. It served honorably and effectively, and was the last Marine armored unit withdrawn in 1972.
Other LVTH-6s serve with the ROC Marines to the present time.
AFV Club came out with a really nice kit of the LVTP-5A1 several years back, but while the exterior was super, there was not one whit of interior with a model of a vehicle essentially the size of a moving barn with a cavernous front hatch. AFV Club=92s parent company, Hobbyfan Trading, offered a complete resin interior for the model =96 but it retailed for $115 and was that of an ROC Marine Corps variant, which was quite different from the Vietnam-era USMC version. As a result, many of these kits went up on shelves to sit and wait for something =96 anything! =96 to happen.
While AFV Club has promised the LVTH-6 variant for some time, in the interim Masterpiece Models has answered the mail and come out with a new resin conversion kit for this vehicle. It essentially consists of the turret, a hull adapter plate, a new front deck plate with travel lock, a barrel, two new rear hatches, and 14 fittings and hand rails to fit on the new turret.
Masterpiece Models provides very nicely detailed directions =96 and with the level of detail in their directions and the simplicity of the kit, if you have an LVTP-5 kit and wanted to build it closed up, this kit offers you an =93alibi=94 to finally build the model. It is also a perfect first conversion kit for those who want to branch out, as other than one step it is literally a =93drop-fit=94 conversion.
Step one is to clean up the turret base, which is molded with straight edges to the overflow so it will provide a complete pour. Next, using a sharp Xacto knife or other cutting tool, the LVTP-5's machine gun cupola base on the front deck of the hull roof must be removed. The new resin part is then added and filled in flush with putty (the deck on the original is one piece). The turret base is aded to the center of the hull, and the new hatches just behind it. A separate spring mount is then added to the left side of the turret, and another on the right (the review sample was missing one of the two whip bases.) Then the tool rack is cemented to the rear of the turret to the flat sloped plate.
The main gun and conical machine gun barrel hider/guard are then cemented to the front of the turret face; note that you can cement them in any position relative to elevation desired but the center axis of the hider/guard must be even with the center axis of the howitzer. The howitzer has a concave rear surface that fits perfectly with the face of the turret rotor. (Note that the review sample was also missing the cone-shaped hider/guard.)
Some additional gun guard/stops must be added from 0.030" (0.75mm) styrene rod; templates are provided for matching the shapes and sizes. Where kit parts are used and repositioned, the directions point these out as well.
The turret only sits on the adapter plate; there is no pin or race to fit it, but with some mensuration and a good drill a pin could be fashioned from 1/4" styrene tubing which would suffice as the turret sits flush on the surface. Getting the exact spot to drill will take some time, though!
A five-view plan in 1/72 scale is included along with the templates.
Some parts are not provided (since this was a =93heads-up=94 review sample I don=92t worry about the missing antenna mount or flash hider/ guard) such as the armored cover over the APU exhaust on the right side of the hull just behind the turret. This is visible on the plans and in actual photos but not on the demo model nor present in the kit. Also the commander=92s machine gun mount is not described even though one has been added in the demo photos.
No finishing directions are provided, but the few photos I have of LVTH-6A1s in Vietnam show them in USMC Bronze Green with yellow markings, specifically the buoyancy marks (=93asterisks=94) at the front and rear of the hull and the serials. The only one I have is USMC101558.
Overall, this is a good effort and while seasoned modelers can go to town adding to the kit, it is easy enough to be a first conversion project.
Thanks to John Geigle of Masterpiece Models for the review sample.