LVTP7 (Landing Vehicle, Tracked, Personnel) was designed in late 1960s, first prototypes were built in 1967 and full scale production begun in 1970. A few of early examples were tested in Vietnam, but their production started too late for those vehicles to replace LVTP5 Amtracs in USMC units in Nam. Early LVTP7 were powered by GM diesel engine. Those earliest versions of LVTP7 are recognizable by large round recesses in front armor plate housing headlights. In early 1980s SLEP - Service Life Extension Program was initiated to upgrade the fleet of Marine Amtracs to LVTP7A1 standard. Most important changes included replacement of diesel engine with Cummins multifuel unit and installation of electric motors for traverse and elevation of the weapon station, instead of hydraulic systems used previously. The suspension was strengthened. Most noticeable external difference between A1 and older variant were new headlight clusters, located in rectangular recesses on top of front armor plate. In 1984 USMC, without changing a single bolt in the design, changed designation of the Amtrac from LVTP7A1 to AAVP7A1 (or just AAV7A1 to describe the whole family of vehicles) - Assault Amphibious Vehicle, Personnel, 7A1. In following years two construction changes were introduced: older weapons station equipped with just one M2 .50 " cal. machine gun, was replaced with Cadillac Gage station equipped with Mk.19 40mm (grenade) machine gun in addition to M2 gun. The new weapons station was sometimes referred to as UWS or UWGS - Upgunned Weapons Station. The other noticeable change was installation of trim vane kit on front of the vehicle - it was necessary to compensate the effect of increased weight of weapons station when operating afloat. Next major upgrade for AAVP7A1 vehicles was installation of EAAK (Enhanced Appliqué Armor Kit). This new armor package consists of a set of removable corrugated steel plates, bolted to the armor.
All AAVP7A1 were equipped with EAAK installation brackets (small rectangular metal blocks with holes for bolts in them) welded to side and top armor surfaces, but not all vehicles received the actual armor plate kits. This became a problem during Operation Iraqi Freedom, where some USMC units had to improvise and use flat armor plates instead of EAAK sections. All mentioned changes to the original LVTP7 design caused significant increase in vehicle weight, what put excess strain on suspension system. The ground clearance of the vehicle changed from original 16 inches to less than 12 inches. Power to weight ratio also dropped significantly reducing the mobility of the vehicle. To remedy this problem the Reliability, Availability, Maintainability/Rebuild to Standard (RAMS/RS) program was started in November 1998. Under this program AAVP7A1 vehicles are being rebuilt with Bradley IFV engine, transmission and whole suspension kit. The ground clearance returned to 16 inch and power to weight (horsepower to ton) ratio increased from 13 to 1 to 17 to 1. Not all vehicles were rebuilt to new standard, so during the Operation Iraqi Freedom, the mixture of AAVP7A1 and AAVP7A1 RAMS/RS vehicles was used. Rebuilt vehicles are recognizable by new large exhaust muffler installed on top of the hull and new suspension with return rollers, not present in original LVTP7 design.
Firstly, I will decipher all those acronyms in kit name: U.S. & R.O.K. M.C. LVTP-7 means Unites States and Republic of Korea Marine Corps Landing Vehicle, Tracked, Personnel - 7. Academy kit was released in 1990, but four sprues are dated 1988. Some people think that this Academy kit is a copy of Tamiya model, but it is not quite true. Dates on sprues suggest that in 1988 Academy indeed released direct copy of Tamiya kit, but then in 1990 reworked it and backdated to older variant. So while it is certain that many parts in the kit are indeed still direct copies of Tamiya ones, Academy actually did their homework and made all modifications required to backdate Tamiya A1 kit to earlier A-nothing variant. The kit represents basic early LVTP7 vehicle with old style headlights in large round recesses in front hull plate. In early 80s all Amtracs in USMC service were modified to LVTP7A1 standard, so the original LVTP7 variant was only used for about ten years. This variant however remained for many more years in service of naval infantries of many other countries, like South Korea, Argentine, Spain and Italy. The use of this variant by South Korean Marines is the main reason why Academy decided to backdate Tamiya kit parts and release the kit as their own.
The kit comes in big top opening box with a picture of Korean Amtrac in MERDC-like camouflage and with large eyes and jaws painted on it. Picture quality is not on the same level as those on Tamiya kit boxes, but the vehicle itself looks quite interesting. On box lid side there are pictures showing camouflage pattern in four views. Note that there are no pattern drawings in instructions, so don't throw the box away! There is no picture of the camo pattern on the left side of the vehicle, so you need to use box art as reference. Camouflage pattern shown on the box is different from this used on US Marines vehicles. I don't know whether it is just inaccurate, or indeed Koreans used their own version of MERDC scheme. Inside the box we find five sprues of brown plastic plus two large separate parts for hull top and bottom. Just as in Tamiya kit two identical sprues containing mostly suspension parts are packed in one plastic bag and remaining three sprues are packed each in its own bag. Inside one of those bags small sprue will poly caps is added. In addition to that, inside the box I found one more small plastic bag with metal rod for idler wheels axle and four smaller poly caps. Flexible vinyl tracks are also included. Unlike the Tamiya original, the Academy kit does not include any twine, so you can't make towing cable from what you get in the box, even though cable ends are included on sprue A. Decal sheet contains markings for just two vehicles: Korean vehicle with eyes and jaws - the one from the box art, and US Marines vehicle. Very basic markings for USMC vehicle are provided: just four "AD6" codes and two "Pack Rat" cartoons. For Korean vehicle you get mentioned earlier MERDC camo patterns on the box, and US vehicle is supposed to be painted overall green. For Korean vehicle you also get decals for signal flags. Camouflage colors are given only as FS numbers and generic names. Assembly instructions are provided in 11 steps, just like in Tamiya kit, but are not copied from Japanese kit. They are however just as clear as Tamiya ones.
There are no sink holes at all on parts and ejector pin marks are either hidden or in places where they will be easy to remove. There is some flash on parts, but not much. Details are mostly exact copies of Tamiya ones, but even on parts added by Academy are nice and sharp.
As I mentioned earlier sprues manufactured originally in 1988 contain parts that are almost all copies of Tamiya kit parts (although the layout of parts on sprues is different) and many of those parts are not used in this kit. But both hull parts were reworked by Academy and sprue D contains details correct for older LVTP7 vehicles, not present in Tamiya kit.
Just as in Tamiya kit all crew and troops hatches on top of the vehicle have workable hinges and rear ramp can be attached either open or closed. Door on the ramp is molded as one part with it and it can't be opened. This is no surprise that Academy decided to follow Tamiya's steps and didn't include any interior parts.
The only figure in the kit is an exact copy of the one Tamiya included in their LVTP7A1 model.
DETAILS & ACCURACY
Suspension parts are the same as in Tamiya kit, with one exception. Academy was also offering motorized version of their Amtrac kit, so slight changes were made to lower hull part to allow for this. There are two small motorization holes on the bottom of the hull and two cutouts where sprockets wheels attach. Final drive housings, which were molded on the hull in Tamiya kit, here are provided as separate parts. They do not cover the holes in the hull completely, but once you assemble the kit, the remaining gaps will be completely hidden. According to R.P. Hunnicutt "Bradley" book shock absorbers were added to second road wheels in LVTP7A1 variant and were not present in earlier LVTP7. These shock absorbers are molded on hull of Academy kit, as they were in original Tamiya model, so it is most likely an inaccuracy. It is easy to fix however by grinding off molded-on shocks. All wheels are identical to parts in Tamiya kit and suffer the same problems (i.e. no mud relief holes in sprockets), but two additional parts are provided for "motorized" sprockets. Make sure you use correct parts here! Vinyl tracks are similar to those in Tamiya kit and at first glance you may think that they are just copies of Tamiya ones. But it is not true! Academy in some completely incomprehensible way managed to mold chevron shaped rubber blocks on track links UPSIDE DOWN! This means that replacement of those tracks with some aftermarket ones is even more recommended than in Tamiya kits.
The undersides of hull sponsons and all water jet parts are exact copies of Tamiya parts, so all my remarks about inaccuracy of this area from Tamiya kit review are also valid here. You get some additional parts in Academy kit to make "cage" guards around water jet exhausts. Such guards were indeed installed on early Amtracs and removed from later variants.
Also part B20 - armored left front fender, was not changed from Tamiya original and lacks strips of metal welded to the surface, which provide non-slip area for the driver to put his foot on while boarding the vehicle.
All weld seams present on hull sides of Tamiya kit are copied on Academy hull part, but here is the first area where Academy corrected Tamiya's omission. Round weld seams around round recesses in hull sides, missing from Tamiya kit, were added to Academy part and look quite well. Parts installed behind those recesses, with boarding steps in them, remain the same as they were in Japanese kit.
All parts for the hull rear and ramp are almost identical to those in Tamiya kit, but for some reason taillights are rotated slightly inside their guards and look a bit strange set at odd angles.
Completely new parts were designed by Academy for front hull armor and for headlights located on it. They are quite accurate and well molded. The lower hull part is different from Tamiya part also in this area, as the front armor plate was integral part of the hull in Japanese kit and is separate here. LVTP7A1 style headlights are present on sprues, but not used in this kit.
Academy completely reworked the upper hull part to show all features of diesel powered early LVTP7 vehicles. Not only all modifications and changes required to backdate the upper hull were correctly done, but also some details common to LVTP7 and LVTP7A1 vehicles were added, which were omitted in Tamiya kit (like those in front of driver's hatch shown on photo in my previous review). Engine grilles were modified (but still lack mesh shields on them and have solid lifting eyes), exhaust pipe relocated (again no mesh in this part), antenna masts moved from the rear to the middle of the hull and commander's station was lowered with new part for older type of sight included. The commander's hatch remains the same as in Tamiya kit, but for driver's hatch new part is included. Please note that on the finished model shown on photo in kit instructions the hatches are swapped - make sure you don't repeat this mistake if you build this kit. Academy remembered to include opening levers for both those hatches, missing from Tamiya kit.
On kit sprues you will find parts for two types of weapons station. One is the same as included in Tamiya kit and is not supposed to be used in this kit, and the other type is older variant, as used on early LVTP7 Amtracs without smoke grenade launchers installed. Academy provided hatch opening lever part to be attached to weapons station side, missing from Tamiya kit, and in instructions they even shown its correct positions when the hatch is open and closed. There is also a new part for the hatch itself added by Academy, with grab handle molded on its edge. Lifting eyes are however still missing from weapons station sides. Vision blocks are molded solid, not open as was the case in Tamiya kit.
Fire extinguisher handle port on the left side of the hull is still just a hole in the plastic, as it was in Tamiya original, so Academy missed the opportunity to correct this error.
All parts for troop compartment hatches and pioneer tools are the same as they were in Tamiya model, but poles supporting hatches in open position were correctly modified, as there is just one on each side of LVTP7, while there are two present there in later variants.
As mentioned earlier you don't get any twine in Academy kit, so you need to find it somewhere yourself if you want to add moorings. For towing lines some brass cable is better anyway. Copies of four small Alice packs known from Tamiya kit are also present here.
I must admit that the Academy kit, despite being partially copy of Tamiya model, is actually a bit better than the original. Of course some Tamiya kit inaccuracies are still present here, but Academy corrected several others and included details, which Tamiya missed. Academy did a very good job backdating the kit to LVTP7 variant - all external features of this type, with the small exception of hardly noticeable shock absorbers, are correctly reproduced. There are just two areas where Tamiya kit was a bit better: taillights molded at odd angles and tracks with inverted road blocks. But tracks in Tamiya kit were not so great either, so some aftermarket replacement was suggested for them anyway. And even if you decide to use tracks provided by Academy, I'm sure hardly anyone would notice that track links are upside down, as long as you make sure that chevron shaped blocks point in the right direction. Motorization features of Academy parts are not that big problem as in some other kits, so I wouldn't consider them significant. So while Academy kit is generally similar to Tamiya one, in my opinion it presents a bit better value. Of course its usefulness depends on your needs - Tamiya LVTP7A1 kit can be used for Desert Storm vehicle, this one cannot. This variant was however used by US Marines during invasion of Grenada in 1983, so it took part is some real combat operations. Older LVTP7 vehicles were also used by military forces of several countries - or maybe still are, so you actually have some interesting choices to finish this model. Of course you would have to add all markings yourself as those included in the kit will let you build Korean and US vehicles only.
Link to the review of Tamiya's LVTP7A1 kit.
Link to the review of Tamiya's AAVP7A1 w/UGWS kit.
Link to the review of Mini Hobby Models's AAVP7A1 w /EAAK kit.