|B a c k g r o u n d|
During World War II, U.S. Forces needed a specialized vehicle to haul armored vehicles over long distances. Additionally, when an armored vehicle broke down, a rapid means of moving the vehicle back to the combat trains for repair was necessary. In answer to this need, the Army fielded the M-26 Tank Transporter and its specially designed trailer, the M-15.
Combined, these two pieces of hardware were affectionately known as the "Dragon Wagon".
|T a m i y a ' s K i t|
In commemoration of their 30th anniversary, Tamiya have released a 1/35th scale rendition of the venerable "Dragon Wagon". This plastic model kit features over 600 individual parts. In addition to plastic, the kit also features photo-etched parts, metal axles, nylon tires, nylon twine to be used as cable, miniature chain, and poly-vinyl tubing.
The plastic parts are all molded in olive drab. The moldings are exquisite, with no flash, crisp detail, and minimal mold seams. There are a number of cumbersome mold release marks on many parts, and they do require some effort to clean up. The mold release marks, however, are the only shortcomings this kit suffers.
|C o n s t r u c t i o n|
Tamiya's engineering to produce this masterpiece is top notch. The kit almost literally falls together. Quite simply, it was a joy to build. The level of detail is unprecedented. The chassis, drive train, and suspension are complete, as is the cab. The interior detail consists of canteens, personal weapons, fuel cans, fire extinguishers, and a complete instrument panel, along with all driver controls. Tamiya also includes four nicely detailed figures. Although the kit does not depict a complete engine it is not necessary, as there is no way to view an engine once the cab is together
The winch assembly that mounts to the tractor just aft of the cab depicts every piece of linkage found on the original. These components are molded separately. Even though many of the parts are tiny, they all fit exactly as depicted in the instructions. The engineering is so good that each of these tiny parts simply fell into place with little or no fuss. The kit also includes an articulating hoist complete with a detailed come-along, including chains, d-rings, and cargo strap. The miniature chains are made of brass, and they are nicely rendered. The kit also includes nicely detailed oxygen and acetylene tanks.
The drive train and suspension are spectacular. In fact, the details are so well done that it would be a shame not to display the model on a mirror. There are no less than five individual drive shaft components. The differentials even simulate the rough castings of the real items. The front wheels articulate. The wheel and tire assemblies are excellent and easy to assemble. All wheel assemblies mount via vinyl bushings. The only problem I encountered during assembly of the tractor was the cab's aft bulkhead. Assembly produced a seam that needed to be filled with putty. Once sanded and polished; however, the component cleaned up nicely.
The M-15 trailer is a model kit unto itself. The trailer assembly consists of an upper and lower component, and they are assembled using screws. Tamiya supplies two metal plates that are sandwiched between the two halves to add rigidity to the long trailer. The trailer includes numerous fittings, accessories, and pieces of hardware necessary for loading and hauling other vehicles. Some of the details included are additional ramps, hydraulic jacks, and wheel chocks. The aft loading ramps mount to the trailer utilizing metal hardware, making for a sturdy assembly. The aft loading ramps may be depicted in the stowed position, held in place by more brass chain. Eight wheels support the trailer, and each wheel articulates independently. If not mounted to the tractor, nicely detailed skids support the front of the trailer. The skids articulate, and may be placed in either the extended or retracted position.
The trailer features numerous photo-etched tread plates. These are masterpieces. The plates looked so good on their frets, and the tread pattern was so well rendered, that I had a hard time painting over them.
I painted the model an Olive Drab mix overall. Using Tamiya acrylics, I lightened the olive drab paint by mixing three parts olive drab and one part flat white. I weathered the vehicle using a specially formulated mix of pastel chalk and common driveway dirt. In addition to the dirt and dust, I simulated wear and exposed bear metal with silver antiquing paste. This product may be found in most craft stores and is normally used to antique and detail wooden picture frames. Using a soft cloth, I rubbed the paste on exposed edges and raised detail to simulate wear. This product was particularly convincing when simulating wear on the tread plates, and it did a nice job of accentuating the distinctive pattern. Once the antiquing paste is dry, it is as durable as any silver paint. I have even used it shade panels on aircraft models with natural metal finishes.
The kit comes with a rather nice sheet of decals, although I have yet to apply them. The decal sheet includes white vehicle markings typical of the day. In addition to standard markings, Tamiya offers the modeler a choice of interesting markings to personalize the vehicle.
|C o n c l u s i o n|
The Dragon Wagon is without question, one of the nicest plastic kits I have ever built. When completed, it measures nearly 15 inches in length, and as a result you'll need a large area to display it. Overall, fit and ease of assembly are exceptional. The level of detail is such that after market details really aren't necessary.
I really have to applaud Tamiya for undertaking such an interesting and such a bold, project. I'm curious to know if this kit was produced in response to modeler demand, or if Tamiya's marketing professionals are just real good.
Regardless of the reason for production, it appears that Tamiya have another winner on
their hands. Once this kit is viewed, I'm sure most modelers won't be able to resist
purchasing and building one.
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