US M22 Locust Airborne Tank (T9E1)
Bronco Models 1:35 Scale Kit No. CB35162
Review by Terry Ashley
The kit consists of:
- 285 parts in olive drab plastic
- 8 clear plastic parts
- 49 etched parts
- 1 decal sheet
- 14 page instruction booklet
I don’t have any reliable plans for the M22 Locust at this time, the only ones I have are from the George Bradford series of WWII AFV Plans, but I have identified so many errors in that series of plans I wouldn’t regard them as reliable, more as a guide to the dimensions and layouts of the vehicles featured. That said the kit parts such as the drive sprockets, idlers, road wheels and suspension parts match the plans but there are few small discrepancies with the hull and turret dimensions, most notably the barrel tube length being slightly too long. Given my experiences with these plans I’m not going the get excited over the hull dimensions as they are only small in any case but the barrel issue is confirmed by other vehicle plans fitted with the 37mm M3 gun (e.g. M3, M8 etc.).
The quality of the moulding is very good with very little if any flash, no disenabled pins marks that would be visible after assembly. There are numerous very small parts that will need careful removal from the sprues and during clean-up of the fine moulding seams as well as the extensive use of slide moulds to achieve excellent detail on parts such as the one piece idler wheels. Surface detail is very well done with subtle weld lines on the hull along with fine raised detail for an excellent appearance, the fine mould lines are along the edges of the hull and other parts but will still need light sanding to smooth out.
Note, I have varied the assembly in some sections and made other modifications (e.g. the drive sprockets, fenders) but none of these are actually needed to assembly the kit which can be done perfectly as per the instructions, I have simply made these alterations to make things easier for myself during the review process. You may of course use these during constructions if you wish as you see fit.
The hull has a very basic interior with the front transmission, driver’s seat and drive levers and a coupler of other smaller items, there is also a large etched cage for the left side and the rear engine bulkhead but unless you plan to show the driver’s hatch open you can skip the interior to save a little assembly time. On the left hull side is a locating hole for the inner seat and on the right side two locating holes for the inside parts, these holes will need to be filled and sanded so they are not visible from the outside. The rear plate has the moulded on engine inspection plate and the exhaust pipe mountings along with the towing lugs and central towing pintle
The suspension is especially well detailed and a standout feature of the kit with some exceptional moulding on the drive sprockets and the one piece idler wheels which really do push the envelope in terms of injection moulding technology, this intricate moulding is very cleanly done with just some fine mould lines to be removed, but other than that is ready to and are superb renditions of the intricate Locust idlers. The two idler arms and spring unit fit together easily allowing the idler to rotate and the large idler mounting cover is another intricate moulding that fits neatly into place to the hull sides.
The drive sprockets are in two halves, the inner and outer sprocket discs and again the cut-outs in the sprockets and hub are very cleanly done no clean-up other than the usual sprue attachments and fine mould lines to be smoothed out. The two sprocket halves fit neatly together but take note as there are three small locating pins that are not evenly spaced and you must make sure you line up these pins correctly for the best fit. There is a small pin (part B30) used to attach the drive sprocket to the final drive housing that allows the sprocket to rotate, but given the small size of the pin and the difficulty of getting to the pin to add glue without getting in on the sprocket makes this an almost impossible job. The sprockets needs to remain unglued at this stage as they need to be movable to line up the track sprocket holes when the track is fitted, you can then just glue the sprockets to the final drives as you align the track later would be the easiest option.
I found the fit of the drive sprockets to the final drives not that snug and I decided on some minor modifications to the sprockets to make the job of fitting easier, again as noted above this isn’t necessary to assemble the kit, just and optional step.
I first added a 1.6mm plastic rod pin to the inner drive sprocket after first slightly enlarging the hole on the inside of the sprocket (part B9) taking care not to drill all the way through the sprocket hub. I then enlarged the hole in the final drives to 1.6mm drilling all the way through the inside final drive housings (parts D10, D11) ensuring the holes are drilled perfectly level and square. When the pin in the sprocket disc is completely dry this is simply inserted into the final drives with the end of the pin extended inside the hull. It will sit perfectly well unglued with the tracks holding it in place or you could heat melt the end of the pin to firmly fix the sprocket for a solid fit that won’t go anywhere and you fit the track while allowing the sprocket to rotate to align with the track tooth holes.
Each bogie is a very delicate and well detailed assembly made up of 14 parts each but assembly can be a little tricky fitting so may small parts together at the one time as per the instructions and assembling the bogies in steps is an easier option. The fit of the bogie parts is very good without any trimming and result in a very detailed and impressive bogie unit that fits snugly to the hull side mountings.
- Glue small brackets (parts C6) to bogie arms.
- Assemble parts B5, B14 and let dry.
- Assemble parts B11, B16, B17, B18 and let dry.
- Glue the front bogie arm (part B6) to the sub-assembly 3.
5. Finally fit the wheels and rear bogie arms (part B5) to sub-assembly to complete the bogie, repeat for all four bogies.
With the bogie units attached to the hull sides the connecting rods can easily be fitted into place along with the return rollers. These have very small pins designed to allow the rollers to rotate but you can save time and just glue the rollers together and glue to the hull mountings as there is no advantage in having these movable at all.
The tracks are supplied as link and length with very well done link details with no flash at all, there is the top run with the subtle sagging as seen on Locust track, the lower ground run, the short section between the drive sprocket and lower run and individual links for around the drive sprocket (7 links) and the rear idler (13 links). Assembly is very straightforward but as mentioned above the drive sprocket has to be left unglued so it will line up with the track teeth holes as the track position is governed by the position of the sag profile over the return rollers and the sprockets have to align with this, not the other way around.
There were a couple of minor alterations needed to properly fit the track, firstly the first link on the top track run (part C5) had to be bend downward slightly using flat nosed tweezers to mate with the links around the drive sprocket. Similarly the last link on the short front tract section (part C4) also had to be bent slightly to better sit around the first road wheel on the suspension. Lastly I had to trim about half a link for the rear end of the ground run (part C3) to fit properly between the front and rear sections of track.
Once the tracks have been fitted the one piece fenders can be added to the hull sides as per the instructions, these hide the top track run in any case and there are the pioneer tools added to the left rear section, the tools have moulded on brackets along with some etched fender brackets.
It is advisable to attach the fenders to the hull top instead of the lower hull as per instructions to make things easier during assembly as this allowed the other parts to be added prior to fitting to the lower hull. Again I stress this altered assembly isn’t required to assembly the kit as per instructions; I found this method easier to ensure a perfect fit between the fenders and hull top as well as making it easy to fit this modified sub-assembly to the lower hull.
The new fenders included with this kit are the US style without the front, rear or side extensions, being basically flat and this does help with access to the tracks at any time if you need, added to the left fenders are pioneer tool with etched brackets, the instructions show you have a choice between the original fenders with the side sections or the new flat US style, training photos exist of M22s with both types of fenders so you can make a choice as to which you prefer.
One nice feature on the rear deck is the very fine intake louvres that are moulded open; they may need to be blanked off from the inside to prevent the see though look as there is nothing inside the hull. Also provided is an etched mesh for the lovers but period photos don’t show this mesh and it may be a museum addition to keep debris out of the intake and it’s probably best not to fit the etched mesh for a more accurate representation. While the lovers and very cleanly done there is a small issue for those inclined, the actual Locust deck has 12 lovers but the kit only has 11, but as they are so fine I doubt anyone would notice and I only mention this as a point of fact.
Added to the glacis are the siren and the headlights that have separate clear ‘glass’ along with the large etched headlight guards provided, these need to be carefully bent to shape to get the correct width of the guards after bending.
A new driver’s hatch is included with this kit and provides the early square hatch cover with hinged front visor door (part G7) along with the top periscope mounting ring is separate as is the clear plastic periscope and this can be used for an early production vehicle or the later angled hatch for a later production. The hatch can be positioned open or closed but you don’t get the weather screen cover used when driving with the hatch open for long periods.
The fit of the lower and top hull is spot on without any trimming needed and once together the rear mounted exhaust pipe assembly can be added, this comes with a few etched pipe clips and etched heat guard with the correct diamond pattern mesh. This is easily curved to the right shape and fitted over the exhaust on the fender without any real problems. Fitting these small etched clips can be a little fiddly and care will be needed to get them positioned correctly but provide a nice appearance when fitted.
Just note that the turret shell still includes the locating indents for the British smoke dischargers on the sides and these will need to be filled and sanded before proceeding with the assembly.
The grab handles on the hatches are separate parts as are the three small lifting rings added to the front, top and right turret side (parts A44), the right side ring has no locating marks on the turret wall so you have to position this yourself as the instructions don’t actually show you where it should go, using the painting guide illustrations as a guide will show where this part should fit.
There is the full M3 gun assembly with separate breech and guard with the barrel tube separate and these parts assembly easily without any problems apart from yet again another minuscule etched part (P33) added to the rear guard. This has no bend lines and you have to ‘judge’ where to bend taking into account one side should be slightly longer than the other to sit properly on the guard. Unless you are specifically going to expose the interior, save some time and forget this etched part. Note with the 37mm barrel, not glue the barrel tube onto the gun at this stage, also barrel outer tube is 1.5mm too long and you could either cut off the barrel at the collar, trim the 1.5mm (taking into account the cut) and reglue to the correct length or replace the barrel with any of the available aftermarket M3 37mm barrel tubes. Some minor modifications would be needed to fit the aftermarket barrel as none are designed for this kit obviously.
There is also a full M1914A4 cal.30 co-axial MG that is nicely done in plastic with indentations for the cooling jacket holes and the muzzle slightly recessed, drilling this out further would improve the appearance if you choose not to replace the barrel with any of the available metal barrels.
Assembly of the inner gun mounting required a little care if you want this movable after assembly, firstly glue the bracket parts (A21, A23 and A21, A22) together while separate from the inner gun mounting (part A50). Once these small brackets have dried glue the left side bracket (parts A21, A23) to the locating recess on the inside of the turret face and let dry completely making sure it is seated snugly in the recess. Once this sub-assembly is dry slip the inner gun mount (part A50) into place and glue the right side bracket (parts A21, A22) into the turret recess making sure not to get any glue on the gun mounting and leave this assembly to dry completely before proceeding.
Next slip the assembled gun though the inner mounting till it extends as far forward as possible, then glue the outer gun mantlet to the pin on the underside of the gun assembly and making sure it is aligned squarely leave to again dry completely. When dry move the mantlet back until sitting flush with the turret front gun mounting and apply a little tube glue (not liquid cement) to the inner gun mounting join, take care with the glue and this is why it’s best to use tube cement to avoid the capillary action of liquid cement. Once this is completely dry the co-axial cal.30 MG can be fitted to complete the gun mounting assembly which can be elevated as required, the desired barrel tube can be easily fitted in place through the front of the mantlet without any problems provided the gun mounting parts were all aligned correctly during assembly.
The turret basket is also provided with the floor ring with separate seats and the three support arms, there is also fine etched mesh for around the lower basket ring which fits easily into place. The support arms also fit easily just note the different part numbers for each arm with these gluing to the lower turret ring without any problems other than being a little fiddly to get the arms and floor aligned correctly with the turret ring. The turret ring is a nice snug fit to the underside of the turret shell with just the fine rear bustle join line evident. This is an actual join line on the real turret castings and show on some turrets as a partial fine line or small weld depending on the finish of the turret, so just a light sanding of the turret join could be the appropriate treatment.
The assembled turret fits neatly into the hull top turret ring but does not clip into place and remains loose, so take care as this will come adrift if lifting the model after assembly. The turret obviously is free to traverse as required and can easily be removed for painting etc. due to the lack of attachment lugs or clips.
Option 1: Unidentified US Army M22
Overall this is an excellent kit with high levels of detail and moulding quality as well as good fit of the parts in most areas and will be very welcomed to add to the growing list of Allied vehicles released recently.
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Photo Journal of Second World War