by: John Pradarelli [ ]
The Cushman M53 scooter went into service in 1944 with approximately 5,000 units made. Able to travel at speeds of 40mph, they were primarily used for hauling .30-cal and .50 cal machine guns as well as other small, lightweight gear. In this example, offered by PlusModel, you are able to build a scooter and a reel cart.
Kit #438, U.S. Airborne Scooter with Reel, comes nicely packaged in a sturdy cardboard box sealed with a sticker label bearing a nice color picture of the assembled kit. Inside the box are two sealed bags containing 35 resin parts total, two photo etch sheets, decals, a piece of copper wire, and the instruction sheet. The bags are wrapped in a protective piece of bubble wrap.
My first thought when I laid out all the parts was “Dear god, what have I gotten myself into?” As a modeller who has experience with photo etch details on tanks, and resin figures/stowage kits, I immediately noticed that this kit contained several pieces that were much smaller than I was used to working with. You can see by one of the photos I’ve included in this review, just how small some of the photo etched parts are. I knew I was going to have to be very patient, and take my time if I wanted this to come out reasonably well. A sharp blade and a sharp mind were in order.
Before going into the assembly process, I will say that the detail on the resin parts is very good, albeit fragile. There is minimal flash to deal with, and the parts cut off their pour blocks quite easily. The photo etched parts are also well done. It is nice and thin making it very easy to cut the pieces free from their attachment points. I really liked that!
Before starting the assembly, I looked over the instructions to make sure everything seemed clear. I was a bit disappointed in the hand-drawn, exploded view style as it often left room for interpretation as to where a part is supposed to fit. The frustration was even further increased in that there are no real locator pins, or marks to aid in positioning parts. I highly recommend looking up photos of the real scooter to help you understand where the parts should be in relation to each other.
All parts both resin and photo etched were glued using a medium viscosity cyanoacrylate glue. The glue was quick-cured using Jet Set.
I noticed that in step one, the arrow directing where to attach the engine was poorly illustrated. If you weren’t paying attention to further steps, you could accidentally position the engine too far back.
In step two, the placement of part M7 was also not really clear until you look further ahead to understand how it is to be oriented.
In the third step, I glued the cage (part #3) a hair too far forward. This made it impossible to set the fuel tank (part #5) properly. I had to gently break the glue bond of the cage, and move it back a bit. Then the fuel tank fit. Again, this would have been a good place to have locator marks to ensure proper placement.
When building the reel cart, I had the same problem of vague placement diagrams. Several of the finer resin pieces were broken because I had glued them where I thought they should go, only to find they needed to be moved a bit to accommodate other parts. Because the resin pieces were so fine, it was impossible to pry the glue bond without breaking them.
I also had the feeling that the kit was a bit over engineered. There were a few extremely small pieces of photo etch that wouldn’t even be seen on the finished piece because they were on the underside of the model (unless of course you were going to model the cart flipped over).
I primed the finished pieces with Plasticote gray, sandable primer. Then I airbrushed the scooter and cart with Tamiya Olive Drab. Details like the seat and hand grips were painted with Vallejo acrylics.
I applied future floor wax to the areas that would receive decals. The decals were nice and thin and went on well with good adhesion.
Finally I finished off the model with some oil paint and weathering powders.
I have to say, this was not a fun kit to build…but strangely, it was very satisfying to finish. If you have the patience to deal with delicate resin and tiny photo etch, then you may want to take a crack at one of these. When you’re done, you really do end up with a nice representation of a unique subject.