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1/76 M3A1 and M5A1 US Armored Halftracks
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 Post subject: 1/76 M3A1 and M5A1 US Armored Halftracks
PostPosted: March 4th, 2017, 7:33 pm 
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There are three versions of US Armored Halftrack injection molded kits available in 1/76, from Airfix, Nitto (now Fujimi) and Matchbox (now Revell). The Matchbox kit represents the M16 AA version. I have read that it is underscale, but if it is, the difference is maybe 1mm or so on the width. However, it is not the version I need. As a teenager, at the time I decided I needed US halftracks as troop carriers, the Airfix kit was out of production and the Nitto kit very hard to get, so I did convert two Matchbox M16 to M3A1. Badly... So, I recently added three Nitto M3A1 and two Airfix M3A1 kits to my stash to replace the two Matchbox ones and add three more. But... neither the Airfix nor the Nitto kit actually represent the M3A1 troop carrier version as advertised.

Most of you probably already know all this, but in case someone reads this who doesn't, here is a little history on the US halftracks. Two manufacturing standards were involved. White (the original developer), Diamond T and Autocar produced the standard versions intended for the US Army. International Harvester were added to produce a substitute standard version intended for Lend-Lease, with inferior quality but thicker armor, making their halftracks heavier and slightly slower. Externally, the most obvious differences between the two types was the shape of the front mudguards and the shape of the join between the side and rear armor plates. The White version had front mudguards with the sides enclosed towards the rear, while the International Harvester (I.H.) versions were open at the sides. White halftracks had a straightforward 90 degree join between the sides and rear plates, but the IH version had the sides bent in a curve round to form part of the rear armor. Many of the specialized versions were duplicated in both versions, with different and confusing (to me at least) designations:
- Artillery Prime Mover: White M2 and M2A1; I.H. M9A1 (the A1 indicates that the 0.5" MG Ring Mount 'Pulpit' was fitted)
- Armored Infantry Carrier: White M3 and M3A1; I.H. M5 and M5A1
- Twin 0.5" Anti-Aircraft Turret: White M13; I.H. M14
- Quad 0.5" Anti-Aircraft Turret: White M16; I.H. M17
Other specialized versions were only produced on the White version, I believe: T30 75mm Howitzer; T48 57mm ATG; T19 105mm Howitzer; M4/M4A1/M21 Mortar Carriers; T28E1/
M15/M15A1 37mm AA Mounts etc.

So why is all this relevant to these kits? Because the Airfix kit appears to have been based on the I.H. M14 twin 0.5" AA version, and the Nitto kit is widely regarded as a copy (albeit a superior copy) of the Airfix kit. In this case it's good that Nitto copied Airfix, as the Airfix kit is dead nuts on 1/76 (not 1/72 like some of their packaging has claimed over the years...), so Nitto's occasional habit of adding great detail to inaccurate base dimensions was avoided! In fact, the Nitto kit even comes with the M14's M33 twin 0.5" AA turret as an option. Both kits have the I.H. style front mudguards, but neither have the I.H rounded rear/sides. Both are intended (as an option at least for the Nitto kit) to be Armored Infantry Carrier versions, but neither has the interior even close to being correct for that. All that said, choices need to be made and then modifications created!

Nitto Kit:
Image
Image

Airfix Kit, Type 1
Note this this packaging comes with a tilt...
Image
Image

Airfix Kit, Type 2
No tilt...
Image
Image

And I also purchased a conversion kit from Matador for one of the Airfix kits:
Image
Image

So my plan at the moment is to produce an M3A1 from one of the Airfix kits (sans Tilt) with the Matador conversion parts and one M5A1 from one of the Nitto kits. At some point in the future , I will then convert the other two Nitto kits to M5A1 and maybe the Airfix with the Tilt to an M2 or M9A1 for a 6-pdr ATG. Start with two... baby steps...

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1/76 M3A1 and M5A1 US Armored Halftracks
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PostPosted: March 4th, 2017, 10:16 pm 
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Watching with interest.


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1/76 M3A1 and M5A1 US Armored Halftracks
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PostPosted: March 5th, 2017, 12:52 am 
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This should be fun and educational to watch.

For years as a young boy back in the sixties I was convinced that both the Americans and Germans used the M3, because every war film or tv series used them, all the film makers did was change the colours and markings. At least modern film makers try to achieve better accuracy.

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1/76 M3A1 and M5A1 US Armored Halftracks
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PostPosted: March 5th, 2017, 10:18 am 
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I look forward to this Neil. Despite my enthusiasm for half-tracks and these being pretty much ubiquitous I have only ever built the Airfix kit on a couple of occasions many moons ago and have never built one in 1/35th scale. Why I have never built more I cannot really explain! Back in the 90's I was able to examine a restored one close up, including being able to go inside, at a classic car show at the kind invite of the owner.

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1/76 M3A1 and M5A1 US Armored Halftracks
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PostPosted: March 5th, 2017, 12:29 pm 
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You go Neil. And thank you for the background information.

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1/76 M3A1 and M5A1 US Armored Halftracks
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PostPosted: March 5th, 2017, 10:00 pm 
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Should be interesting to watch for sure.

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1/76 M3A1 and M5A1 US Armored Halftracks
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PostPosted: March 5th, 2017, 10:55 pm 
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Good intro, should be a interesting project to watch.

Airfix Magazine had a 5-part survey article on American Halftracks, Jun 1971 through Oct 1971, but offers no modeling suggestions.

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1/76 M3A1 and M5A1 US Armored Halftracks
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PostPosted: March 6th, 2017, 2:46 am 
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Very interested in this. Will follow with anticipation!

splash wrote:
For years as a young boy back in the sixties I was convinced that both the Americans and Germans used the M3, because every war film or tv series used them, all the film makers did was change the colours and markings. At least modern film makers try to achieve better accuracy.


Actually the Germans did make fairly extensive use of captured US half-tracks. It's not always inaccurate to depict them in German markings. :) Of course most TV shows and movies used them because they were conveniently available, not because it was accurate!

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1/76 M3A1 and M5A1 US Armored Halftracks
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PostPosted: March 12th, 2017, 10:07 pm 
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I decided to start on the Fujimi kit first as this will let me use the Matador conversion parts as a guide for the interior. The first step is cleanup of the track units:
Image
Image

These photos show the before and after. The drive sprocket and idler are highly simplified. The originals were very complex designs, oddly so for a mass produced US military vehicle. All three 1/76 versions are equally unrealistic, as are the Hasegawa and Academy versions in 1/72. Dan Taylor makes a PE set of replacements, which look perfect, but very fiddly to do. Maybe I will try this on a future one. For right now, I opted to deepen some of the features and drill some holes to make them at least look a little better. The sprocket, idler, bogies and return roller all come as single wheels, where the real ones were paired (like the Matchbox version). So I used my Dremel to cut grooves in the middle of all the wheels. The tracks also need some work, and not just to cleanup the prominent mold line. The real tracks had the treads in two rows, with a gap running along the middle. So out came the Dremel again and I also drilled the center drive holes. On the inside of the tracks, real ones had a continuous raised guide ridge, but that seemed a detail too far, so I left these as they came.

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1/76 M3A1 and M5A1 US Armored Halftracks
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PostPosted: March 12th, 2017, 10:12 pm 
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Next I have started work on the interior. The passenger area floor and sides come like this:
Image

Which may be OK for an M13/14, but not for an M5. First steps were to fill and sand four ejection pin marks, drill holes for the gas (petrol) cap on the top of the gas tanks and remove the spurious seats.
Image

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1/76 M3A1 and M5A1 US Armored Halftracks
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PostPosted: March 13th, 2017, 6:09 pm 
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Great to see the initial stages Neil - that is some intricate work there as these vehicles certainly don't build into large models in 1/76th!

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1/76 M3A1 and M5A1 US Armored Halftracks
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PostPosted: March 15th, 2017, 1:48 am 
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A little more progress on the interior...
First I added Evergreen .125" square section to form the lockers under the seats, and added a step at the front where the pintle MG mount went, when fitted (M3/M5 rather than M3A1/M5A1).
Image

Next, I added some wire mesh to add texture to the floor and to mark out the under floor lockers. The Fujimi kit has lockers marked, but not in the right places...
Image

Then some fiddly support brackets for the rails that went in front of the seats. Not sure what they were for?
Image

And finally added the rails from brass rod.
Image

Next up, the seats and side equipment bins...

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1/76 M3A1 and M5A1 US Armored Halftracks
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PostPosted: March 15th, 2017, 8:52 am 
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That is really wonderful detailing work Neil. Perhaps the rails in front of the seats are foot rests?

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1/76 M3A1 and M5A1 US Armored Halftracks
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PostPosted: March 15th, 2017, 10:20 pm 
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The rails might be tie-down points for loads, but foot rest sounds good.

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1/76 M3A1 and M5A1 US Armored Halftracks
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PostPosted: March 19th, 2017, 6:32 pm 
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I also though the rails might be for the passengers to hang onto on rough terrain? Foot rests works too...

A little more progress. I added the side stowage containers, the gas caps and the seat cushions. For the cushions, I wanted to try and create texture and creases. In the past, I carved patterns and indents, but this time I thought I'd try using a thin plastic base and then building them up with putty. I tried coating the plastic strip first, intending to cut the cushions to size afterwards, but the Tamiya putty shrank as it dried, distorting the strip... So I had to apply it after cutting the plastic and sticking them in place. For the gas caps, I stuck sheet plastic across the bottom of the holes I drilled previously and then used smaller diameter plastic rod to add the cap, allow for space all the way round.

Image
Image

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