by: Vinnie Branigan [ ]
introductionIt’s been a long wait! The last injected plastic kit of an US halftrack was in the 70’s, and modeller’s have been crying out for an up to date version ever since. Dragon to the rescue with their 3rd ‘Smart Kit’, the M2A1 Halftrack.
the kitI have to own up, that when it comes to Allied armour from WWII, I know very little, and that because of this fact, this review will concentrate in explaining what you get, the production quality, and what you can build from it etc., and little will be said of the accuracy of the kit, other than to assume that Dragon has done it’s research, and everything’s correct.
The kit is marketed as a ‘Smart Kit’, meaning that it contains a minimum of photo etched parts and other ‘extras’, and can be quickly built up into an accurate model of the vehicle it’s supposed to represent. Having said that, the ‘Dragon card’ is still there, this time containing a small transparent sprue, 3 decal sheets, the running gear wheels, a small length of copper chain, a length of nylon cord, and a fairly good photo etched fret!
Also in the box is of course, the instruction sheet of Dragon’s usual expanded line-drawing type, and eight sprues of light grey styrene, of which 2 are supplied twice. Also in the box are two small sprues with two types of front engine louvres on.
The kit is marketed as a 2 in 1, therefore the modeller can build either an M2A1 with winch, and .50 Cal M49 Armoured ring mount, or a straight M2 halftrack, with front roller, and skate ring around the entire rear of the vehicle.
The detail on the parts is very sharp indeed, if anything Dragon are still improving in this area, and each kit release seems to raise the bar slightly. Look at the winch housing for example, and you can quite clearly see the manufacturers trademark embossed in the side.
It’s difficult to tell if Dragon have actually missed anything out. It certainly appears as if they haven’t. There’s a full White 160 AX 6-cylinder engine, which from the photograh I’ve found, is a bit simplified as you’d expect, but the basic shape and size is there, and if you fancy a bit of ‘dressing’ it up and leaving the hood open to display it, there’s a radiator too. The steering mechanism and drive-train looks fairly complete as well, with fully detailed differential housing, disc brakes, etc. The front wheels aren’t steerable, but it doesn’t look too difficult to make them so, more on that in a few days when I’ve built it! The tyres do have a 'bulge' moulded into them, so take care as to which way round you fix them!
The biggest bug people had with the old US halftracks from the other manufacturer, was the track assemblies themselves along with all their running gear. With the advance in technology since the 70’s, particularly with regard to slide-moulding, and it’s application to model making, Dragon seemed to have got this right too. The Drive sprockets are made up of 3 parts, the idler wheels from two, and comparing them to photographs of the real thing, these look very accurate indeed.
The two tracks in the kit are where Dragon have taken a radical step and decided not to provide them as vinyl, which would have been the obvious material to use. Instead, Dragon have them moulded them in two halves on the sprue. With the real thing being rubber, and being subject to virtually no sag, these should look good once painted up, although if a modeller wanted to depict the vehicle in a diorama setting, with it going over an obstacle it might be a problem, however, the after market manufacturers should soon come up with a solution.
The choice of whether to build the M2 or M2A1 will have to made fairly early in the build so as to install the correct parts on the front of the chassis……… either for the winch or the roller. Dragon have even made a small adjustment to the gearbox for the power takeoff for the winch.
The kit is full of small touches that make construction easier, and the final result will look great. For example, the transparent sprue includes the entire windscreen assembly, which means with some careful masking before assembly, it should be very easy to get a great result. There are some other minor differences between the M2 and the M2A1, for instance the placement of the ammunition boxes for the .30 Cal’s, and the supports for the skate ring etc., but these are all clearly marked by Dragon. As ever, a careful preliminary read-through of the instructions, with some short notes on which version you are going to make will be a big help!
The small photo etched fret supplied by Dragon must be handled with care…….. at least until you have those brush guards for the headlights off it! These are extremely fine, and you will need to take extreme care when installing them. The upside of course is how good they will probably look once they’re installed! Transparent lenses are supplied, which have a ribbed pattern.
Also supplied as photo etch are the louvres for in front of the radiator. It’s worth depicting these open because of the superb radiator that’s supplied! However, if you wish to have them closed Dragon have supplied an injected plastic part. In fact, Dragon have supplied 4 different versions for the front of the engine compartment, two with the hole for the winch power supply, open or closed, and two without the hole, open or closed. So whichever choice you make, installing the correct part should be easy enough! There are also photo etched straps provided for the stowed gun mounts, sliding covers contained in the armoured windscreen shield, and rear mudflaps.
The .30 & .50 Cal’s are pre-drilled, as we’ve come to expect now from Dragon, and all doors are fully detailed, inside and out. The one thing I’m a little unsure about why it’s been done by Dragon is the way the tank mines have been moulded into the storage racks on the side of the vehicle. Don’t get me wrong, they look fine, but I just can’t understand why they’ve been done this way? Looking at the racks themselves, it wouldn’t be too hard to scratch build a couple of new racks, and then you’re free to have them the way you want.
Marking optionsDragon provide 3 decent-sized decal sheets in this kit, the first one is a generic stencil sheet, and so will probably be included in all the variants to come, the second a whole series of allied ‘ringed’ stars, and the third specific to this kit, containing allied stars, the vehicle number and two US flags.
Five different versions are provided for on the instruction sheet, three M2’s and 2 M2A1’s. All in overall olive drab, except for one of the M2A1
versions depicted in two-tone camouflage as it would have appeared in Belgium 1945 as attached to the XX Corp. The others are M2 of the 1st Armoured Division, Italy 1944. The 1st Armoured Division in Tunisia, 1942. A generic US Army vehicle of an unidentified unit in 1941-’42. The other M2A1 version is again, unidentified, US Army 1941-’42. Of the five, my favourite has to be the Tunisia vehicle with the stars and stripes on the side!
This vehicle has been so ‘needed’ for so long! Looking at the parts, everything just looks so ‘right’, and absolutely cries out to be built. There will be more versions to follow, but having been an Axis halftrack fan for so long, I must confess that this one excites me just as much, and I can’t wait to get started on it. Very highly recommended indeed!
My thanks to Dragon for the review sample!