by: Jason Bobrowich [ ]
The Tank Mounting, Bulldozer Earth Moving, M8 has been a very elusive accessory for 1/35th armour modellers wishing to build an M48A2/A3/A5 with the correct dozer blade. With the exceptions of a few scratch built versions over the years this has been a huge void in the M48 conversion/detailing sets...until recently.
The M8 dozer blade entered service with the M48A1 and was improved over the years to the M8A2 used on the M48A2 and the final M8A3 version used on the M48A3 and M48A5. The dozer blade provided tank crews with the ability to clear obstacles and dig defensive positions organically within Tank Companies therefore freeing up Combat Engineer assets to conduct other tasks. It appears from a standard Order of Battle within a U.S. Army Tank Company that one (1) tank was designated as the dozer tank. This may have been the XO's tank or a variation within the Company.
Weighing in at around four tons the M8 dozer did have an impact on the mobility of the tank. Hydraulic cables were routed along the upper hull services and covered with metal guards. Controls provided in the driver's compartment permitted operation of the blade in lowered, raised, hold, and float positions. Externally there was a manual pull handle so the driver could lock and unlock the moldboard (blade) from the carrying position as well as emergency lifting cables that were looped on to the track end connectors in order to raise the blade in the event the hydraulics were inoperable.
Thanks to Perfect Scale Modellbau (PSM)modellers now have a version of the M8 dozer for M48 builds. As examples a variety of images of M8 dozer blades can be found on M48s related to the Vietnam War (USMC and U.S. Army M48A3s), Lebanon (Lebanese Army M48A5s), and South Korea (U.S. Army M48A5s), and Germany (German Army M48A2).
A few things to note...the M8 dozer differs from the later M9 dozer used on the M60 tank series and the predecessor, the M6 dozer, used on the M47. The M8A1 dozer version used on the M48A1 differs from this dozer kit in several ways including the headlight guards, the hydraulic line piping layout, the guards, and the reservoir arrangement. PSM has released a specific M8A1 dozer set designed for the M48A1...#34154. In fact set #35154 includes the modifications done to the headlight mounts as seen on the famous M48A1s deployed to the Checkpoint Charlie standoff.
PSM markets kit #34150 as M48A2-A5 dozer blade. The kit consists of 71 resin parts, 47 PE parts, and 2 x copper braided cables. The set is designed for use with the Dragon M48A3 kit. I will explain why this is as I continue with the inbox review.
The quality of the cast resin parts is very good whether the large blade or the very small grab handles. Typical of resin parts produced by PSM each part is attached to a large casting block which will need to be removed. For the most part this should be easy for this kit as the parts are very well defined.
The instructions consist of two double side colour printed sheets showing the parts layout, the construction process, and the final product. The instructions also have limited written (English and German) notes regarding modifications to the base kit or assembly tips as the build progresses. Each page has multiple small images of the build process and this is the one downfall of PSM instructions when trying to construct sub-assemblies as are included in this kit. Understandably PSM is trying to provide the modeller with as much information as possible with the least amount of paperwork to include in the kit box.
A suggestion to PSM is to perhaps include high resolution images of the instructions steps on the site in order for modellers to see exactly what goes where during assembly.
The build and attachment of the dozer blade and associated components is broken down into five (5) steps in the instructions. However, each step includes multiple sub-steps and multiple parts. This is great as much detail is added along the way.
This is not a "plug and play" kit that simply builds up and attaches to the base kit. As I stated earlier the kit is designed for the Dragon M48A3 kit. This is because in the first step you must cut off a portion of the front of the lower hull off the Dragon kit so that the PSM replacement part can attach to the Dragon lower hull. I understand why PSM created the kit this way in researching the M8 dozer blade. The two large brackets that hold the hydraulic cylinders are complicated parts with multiple angles and curves. They are also the stabilizing points for the entire dozer blade assembly. By creating the lower front nose with the brackets cast on as a single piece PSM has created not only the shapes of the brackets but has correctly placed them solidly on the lower front hull. The replacement lower front hull with attached brackets is strategically cast to fit on the Dragon lower hull with the seam in a position that should be easily to fill and sand. It is also placed in a way that the modeller should be able to gauge the location to make the cut on the Dragon hull with the least amount of anxiety and stress!
Step 1- Hull
The removal of the Dragon lower front hull and the attachment of the PSM lower front hull and bracket part. The removal of various hull side supports in order to fit the hydraulic boxes and guards. The removal of the driver's right periscope.
Step 2- Dozer blade and Emergency Lifting Cables
This step requires the attachment of various resin parts, PE parts, and the copper cables in order to create the blade and the stowed emergency lifting cables. The two resin triangular shaped push beams attach to the blade. These will in turn attach to the mounting brackets on the lower front hull. Four resin tilt arms attached to the bottom of the blade and these in turn will line up with the mounts at the bottom of the attachment brackets on the lower hull. The blade is nicely cast and no warping in my kit. The blade cutting edge is molded in place but the blade lacks all recessed bolt detail for attaching the cutting edge on the backside. Granted this will likely not be visible when the blade is mounted.
Step 3- Hydraulics and Dozer Locking
This is a step that takes analysis and preplanning as you test fit and adjust at least eight resin parts that make up the armoured guards that cover the hydraulic pipes and lines from the glacis plate and along the upper right hull. The instructions reinforce the need for test fitting and proper adjust placement as you go along. You will also have to remove some of the molded on mounts on the Dragon kit fenders in order to fit the right side hull armoured guards and the hydraulic reservoir. PE parts are included to represent the various attachment brackets for the armoured guards. Study the instruction carefully as a sub-step is constructing the manual pull handle and carrying hook/rod assembly. The large hydraulic cylinders are one piece shrouded in the armoured guards. They are to be drilled out and attached to the attachment bracket in Step 4. The instruction images become very blended at this point and studying real images or a technical manual diagrams for the M8 dozer blade would be recommended. A variety of PE brackets are also added during this step.
From examining the technical manual I believe the breakdown of the armoured guards in comparison to the PSM parts is as follows:
Part 20- Glacis hydraulic cylinder hose armoured guards (one piece but in reality is two pieces)
Part 18- Manifold armoured guard
Part 19- Control linkage armoured guard
Part 5- Control Valve Assembly armoured guard
Part 10- Hydraulic Tubes armoured guard assembly
Part 6- Housing Assembly
Part 7- Hydraulic Reservoir Assembly
Based on a comparison of the PSM parts (specifically Part 10 and Part 6) and a M8A3 dozer blade technical manual and images of the dozer blade mounted on M48A3s in Vietnam I do see a couple of differences. In the kit, PSM has Part 10 running directly into Part 6 in a straight line. In the technical manual for the M8A3 dozer blade the armoured guard represented by PSM Part 10 shows it not being full length along the hull side and there is an additional component called the Rear Guard Assembly between the armoured guard and the Housing Assembly. From a fitting on the rear end of this rear guard component the two hydraulic hoses emerge and run exposed to the top of the Housing Assembly (Part 6). The PSM dozer blade kit does not indicate any exposed hoses and Part 6 is not cast with any top attachment points for hoses.
However, in comparison to a technical manual diagram for the M8A2 dozer blade mounted on a M48A2 and a top view image a M48A2 mounting a dozer blade it appears that this is the version that PSM has created in their kit and Part 6 and Part 10 match the diagram components.
While I am only surmising, I would be curious to know if the differences in the M8A2 and M8A3 dozer blade armoured guards and hydraulic hoses closer to the reservoir was due to the addition of the side loading air cleaners on the M48A3 and the need to run the short section of the hoses exposed. I do not know if the style of hull side armoured guard and housing assembly (as depicted in the PSM kit) was used only on the M48A2 or also on the M48A3 and M48A5. Hopefully we can obtain clarification from an accuracy standpoint for M48 builds.
Step 4- Lighting and Hydraulic Cylinder
In this step the hydraulic cylinders are attached to the mounting brackets but the exact placement is a challenge to figure out from the instructions. The extended headlights are mounted and PE is provided to be bent and attached as the guards. This issue I see straight off with the PE headlights guards is that there is no reference or bend indicators on the PE parts. They are just straight PE strips and you are left to figure out where they are to be bent at 90 degree angles.
Step 5- Turret
A couple of very nice multi-part PE tow cable brackets and provided for the tow cable ends. As well a PE cast foundry marking is provided for the turret left side below and to the rear of the left rangefinder blister.
While the instructions don't specifically mention it I suspect with pre-planning during Step 3 you can decide whether to have the blade in the lowered or locked carry position. Having it in the floating position without the carrying hooks positioned on the blade attachment points will be much more tricky.
I applaud PSM for creating such a detailed kit of a version of the M8 dozer. The detail on the resin parts is very good. The multiple PE parts will provide an even higher level of detail but I can foresee challenges bending the headlight guards. The inclusion of copper cables instead of an easier and cheaper string option was a very good choice by PSM.
The instructions are difficult to dissect with all of the sub-steps and components. Collecting good detailed references in advance is a must have to build the steps correctly in the sequence provided in the instructions.
Clarification as to whether the kit is the M8A2 or M8A3 and if it can be accurately used for M48A2/A3/A5 versions would be very welcome. If the PSM kit is limited to the M48A2 perhaps PSM can complete a trifecta of M48 dozer blades (M8A1/M8A2/M8A3) with the additional minor components required for the M8A3 on the M48A3.
Build images of the dozer blade on the Dragon M48A3 kit can be found on the PSM site.