If you like the big and unusual when it comes to models then Gecko Models has something worthy of your consideration; the LARC-V (Vietnam War) US Army Amphibious Cargo Vehicle. This vehicle is as big if not bigger than the average tank and can carry a load of 5 tons on both land and water. The vehicle was developed in the 1950’s and went into service with the US Military in the early 1960’s. It was at this time that the LARC-V saw service in the Vietnam War and proved its worth beyond doubt, so much so that updated versions are still in service today with the US Military. 1000 or so LARC-V’s were produced with half of them destroyed in Vietnam, mostly being sunk to avoid capture as American troops left Vietnam. Some of these vehicles have made their way into private ownership where they are used mostly for tourist trips.
This offering from Gecko Models is packed in a cardboard tray with a flip top lid and additional card lid; the level of protection offered in this packaging was made clear to me as the box was severely damaged by crushing and the contents all survived the mistreatment. The sprues are supplied in separate plastic bags except where they are duplicated. The decals and photo etched parts are supplied in separate Ziploc bags. There is a well produced instruction booklet that has kept the various stages easy to follow.
The entire lower hull is a single moulding and once everything is added I believe will float in the bath if so desired. The driveshafts are hidden inside the vehicle for the most part and so very little is replicated; due to this Gecko has not been able to provide wheels that could be turned and so I can forgive them. There is no mechanical suspension as the tyres provide your only comfort. The single centrally mounted propeller for water propulsion; you are given a choice of a 3 or 4 bladed propeller and I believe the 3 bladed is the Vietnam period propeller. Finally a small rudder is also present. The wheels on this vehicle are monsters and you can see how they did the job of suspension, flotation and drive on land. A nice touch is that Gecko has supplied weighted tyres.
The cab of the vehicle is fairly simple in its layout with the pilot sitting in the middle chair of three. The instrument panel has raised dial surrounds and decals supplied which improves the detail greatly; I suspect that this kit will prove popular and one of the photo etch manufacturers may release a set to make this aspect easier to replicate. I was only able to find one cab interior image and that supports a good amount of the provided cab detail, but before anyone starts with the “that’s wrong“ please remember this is a civilian vehicle and so altered for a different purpose.
The clear mouldings have good clarity and I am pleased to see the lights with clear lenses. There are some very small photo etched parts that will test those not use to using or is uncomfortable with its use. Gecko has supplied photo etch placards to which you add decals which is an interesting way of tackling this. Looking at the wiper blades and arms for the windows which are photo etched parts and should look good.
Looking at hatch detail and assembly I am really pleased with how Gecko Models has tackled the elements. The parts have been designed to go together well and provide the modeller with a good finish. Hatches have been provided as separate mouldings and so options are available to the adventurous. The shape of some photo etch parts I believe should be semi circular and I would have liked to see Gecko Models offer the less experienced modeller a way to tackle this; I suggest a suitably sized drill bit as a shaping surface.
Moving to the raised rear deck which hides the diesel engine and again all of the hatches could be displayed open for those who feel the need to add and ability to add the interior parts. The exhaust has its baffle moulded in place and so represents a vehicle that does not have its engine running. The exhaust has photo etched clamps and guard and the instructions show a bending instruction where as these need to be curved; Use the exhaust itself to shape the clamps and a drill bit to curve the guard. Supplied on the very rear is what looks to be a convoy light and I have been unable to find this in place on a military machine, I suspect they are used but are not commonly attached. I really like how the rubber bumpers have been provided sot hat a clean joint is achieved.
A 50cal is supplied as a defensive weapon and has been supplied with a good mount. There is a small amount of photo etched parts for the weapon which should not cause too many issues during installation. A turned metal barrel would be a nice addition here and a relatively cheap addition. I did some searches on this aspect to check the position and I was only able to find a single photograph with one in place and so is by no means a must add element.
The centre area has some protection from the water via canvas/plastic shields with a frame to keep it in place. Looking at the detail these frames would appear to be collapsible and so storing them off of the vehicle is not an issue, but I don’t believe these would go to sea without them in place. This aspect does make me wonder if the LARC-V could carry oversized pieces of kit that were under its weight ability. Gecko Models has provided the rope and tyre fenders for the model and shown clearly where to place them. The tyre fenders looked to be vinyl rubber, but are injection moulded plastic which is a good move due to how modelling modelling products can affect vinyl rubber. The rope fenders are a really nice piece of moulding which while you can obtain real rope versions this is a good second best.
Three finishing options are provided with this model in the form of two US Army offerings based in Da Nang in 1965 and the third covers an Argentine vehicle during the Falklands War of 1982.
This offering from Gecko Models is a stunning offering in terms of the moulding quality and what it represents. This is one of those kits that screams build me and at the same time provides something very different from the normal kit. I would have liked to see a couple of suitable figures thrown in for good measure, but I cannot criticize a model for what is not added as an extra. I find myself hoping sales of this kit soar in the hope that the much bigger brother makes a showing.