I have just received this advance release of the new LVTP5A1, courtesy of the Australian AFV Club distributors JB Wholesalers.
The kit consists of 260
parts in olive drab plastic, plus a further 68 parts for the tracks. The tracks
are 'link and length', which I prefer over the full individual links in some
kits and aftermarket sets. Especially for this kit, where the hull sides hide
the track tops.
The quality of the mouldings is excellent, with many of the parts being extremely small and finely moulded. Extreme care must be taken when removing these bits from the sprues. The quality of the mouldings is well up to the standards of the earlier AFV Club releases.
The hull top is in one piece measuring 250mm (10") in length with cutouts for all hatches and engine compartment. The surface detail is very well done, especially the weld seams along the top edges and on the front plate/hatch and along the hull sides.
While there is no interior included in the kit, there is detail on the inside of the forward hull and side escape hatches. Maybe the rumours of Hobby Fan (parent company of AFV Club), releasing a resin interior for this kit have some merit.
The large top hull troop hatches are in four separate pieces and designed to operate with small, well done hinge mechanisms. The other smaller top hatches are also separate pieces. All this adds weight to an interior coming along later.
This review kit is built straight out of the box, to give an account of basic construction and identify any traps along the way. As with any kit there is potential to detail the kit further.
Construction begins with the running gear. With 8 bogie assemblies of 4 parts on each side, this is a slightly tedious undertaking, but construction is straightforward. The drive sprockets, idler wheels and road wheels have good surface detail. The only problem encountered was the locating points for the bogies being a little "sloppy" requiring care to get all the road wheels aligned level with the ground. The bogie assemblies and idler wheels are then trapped between the main hull and the side panels. The fit is good with precise locating points between the hull and side panels. The rear and front hull panels are then added to form the basic "box" hull. It is important to use tape to pull the panels together as the glue dries, thus eliminated any need for filler. The join lines coincide with weld seams on the hull front and rear, a nice design feature by AFV Club. The front boarding ramp has detail on the inside and the hinges are designed to work, another indication that some sort of interior may follow. I deviated from the instructions in leaving the drive sprockets and track off at this stage, to be added later. (see below)
The instructions also call
for the large number of small detail bits to be added to the top hull before
attaching this to the lower hull, this leaves a lot of scope for damaging
small parts when attaching the top hull. For this reason I attached the hull
top to the main body at this point. The fit of the top hull is good, but
must be used to "pull" the joins together to ensure a fit not requiring filler.
There is potential for Grand Canyon type gaps if care is not taken attaching
the hull top. After the glue had dried I cleaned up the hull top/side join
with fine wet and dry paper. No filler was required.
This completes the basic construction, you now have basically a big box on tracks. I glued all the separate hatches in the closed position, as there was no interior to be shown off.
The other two main 'sub assemblies' are the turret and engine exhaust "box". The turret fitted together without any problems, the five periscopes are separate pieces and give good definition. I also drilled out the .30cal barrel. There are some very small bits to be added to the turret, a pair of good quality tweezers is essential. The exhaust box was added to the separate top panel. The fit here again was spot on with no filler required. This assembly is then fitted into the hull top cutout. The fit was again excellent with it almost holding in place without glue, I did of course glue it on. The two engine grill panels either side if this assembly also fitted precisely.
There is a myriad of small detail bits, fine grab handles and spot lights etc. to be added to the top hull. I won't go over each bit separately, only to say that careful removal from the sprues and cleaning up of the parts (mould lines etc) is required. I found it easier to remove the fine mould line along the grab handles before removing them from the sprues. The only area requiring attention here was the two large periscopes on the crew cupolas. They are separate pieces and had mean sink marks, which required filling, the tops of the four mooring posts had small sink marks requiring filler. A couple of the searchlights also had small sink marks in the center of the lenses, but apart from this there were no other imperfections in my sample. Fitting of all these fine bits is fairly time consuming, but don't cut corners as this will show in the final appearance of the kit.
As mentioned these are in link and length style. I didn't add the track hidden by the hull over the return rollers, for ease of assembly and as it's basically a waste of time.
I left the drive sprocket off to allow for the fitting of the tracks. The separate track links are laid around the drive sprocket and lightly glued with liquid cement (taking care not to glue them to the sprockets themselves). Once this section had dried, I attached the length sections in turn (with a separate link for the bend around the end road wheels) and finally the separate links around the front idler wheel. This was repeated for both sides and you are then left with the track assemblies (see pic). A final application of liquid cement was brushed on the ensue all the joints were secure. When dry, the tracks can be removed from the drive sprocket and painted separately. The tracks were finally attached to the model prior to final weathering.
The decal sheet provides markings for 3 USMC vehicles as used in Vietnam and 2 vehicles of the ROC Marines. A nice touch to the painting guide is paint numbers given for Tamiya, Gunze, Humbrol and Revell paints.
The kit was given an overall coat of Humbrol HP5 "U.S. Marine Corps Green". When dry, I glossed the areas for the decals. The decals are good quality and very thin, only a small amount of decal setting solution was needed for a good "sit" on the model.
When dry, the model was given an overall coat of matt varnish. Weathering was applied using a combination of black washes, dry brushing and light over spray of dust etc. I kept the weathering to a minimum to allow the kit details to be seen.
This is an excellent kit with good detail and will build into an impressive "bus". The amount of small details included in the kit is most impressive. The only real omission was an interior. With such a large front loading ramp and top hatches this would be easily seen. Maybe AFV Club will release another version of the kit with interior (at a higher price obviously) like Tamiya did with their original M113's?
As with any kit there is room for added detailing. Some of the hatch handles could be replaced and other small bits refined. I my opinion the many grab handles around the hull top do not need replacing with wire as is often the case with over scale bits. These parts in the kit are nice and fine and look just right when fitted.
In all an excellent kit, highly recommended for U.S. armour buffs. The fit of the parts was excellent and as mentioned the level of detail impressive. It will look great with a herd of grunts sitting on top enjoying the view. This is a "big" vehicle.
Click here to see The Sprues
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