Dragon have released the second in their Half-Track series, well it’s actually been released labeled Cyber-hobby and Dragon at different times to muddy the Cyber-hobby/Dragon waters further but is for all intense and purposes a Dragon kit and represents the M4 81mm Mortar Carrier version which was basically an M2 with the addition of the rear compartment door and the 81mm mortar with associated ammo bins.
The kit is basically the same as the initial M2/M2A1 kit #6329 with the inclusion of two additional sprues S with the new rear compartment floor, rear panel, ammo bins and other bits and pieces plus of course the 81mm mortar which has a two piece metal mortar tube included.
There are number of issues with the kit if you want to build an accurate M4, foremost being the M4 was built on the early M2 chassis and you will have to remove the side Jerry Can mountings and fill the resulting holes, this then means the pick axe head is too small as this is chopped off to fit under the solid moulded on Jerry Can racks and you will have to find a replacement which shouldn’t be a problem.
Also most photos of M4s show them without the rear idler springs so these would be best left off and the locating holes in the chassis frame filled.
As the kit only has the early fender mounted head lights you don’t get the alternate radiator frame with the later head light mountings further indicating you should remove the jerry can mountings and the kit only uses the MG skate ring so there are quite a few parts you can add to the spares box.
A number of existing detail issues are carried over from the first kit which Dragon have decided not to address, these being the flat tyres, the lack of screw slots in the body screws, the basic driver’s foot pedals, misshapen gear levels, front seats too shallow and the detail missing from the bogies units as well as the exhaust pipe mounting bracket missing.
It’s a real shame that after the amount of publicity some of these
issues received with the first kit release that Dragon has chosen to leave
them unaltered unlike additions and improvements in other recent kits (Panzer
IV F2/G, Panther G Steel Wheel). This does fly in the face of the saturation
publicity with claims of the amount of research done and how they strive
to get things as correct as possible because that’s what modeller’s
Given this publicity to include a set of fully round wheels would not see anyone saying “told you so”, especially not me but would be welcomed by many and show that Dragon do indeed listen to what modellers want.
As the kit is basically similar to the first M2/M2A1 kit much of the review below is from that review with additional notes where applicable for the new and revised parts.
The kit has 346 parts in light grey plastic, 7 in clear plastic, a small etched fret with 20 parts and the two metal mortar tube parts plus the decal and instruction sheets.
Metal mortar tubes
The standard of moulding is again very good with clean crisp parts that did not have any flash apparent and just the usual array of small plastic knock out nodes on many of the parts which takes a bit to remove but is a small price for the cleaner parts.
There are a few very shallow pin ejector marks on some parts where unavoidable
but these are mostly fairly easy to deal with along with the usual fine
mould seams on the parts.
The full chassis frame and cross members is in one piece which ensures everything is nice and square to start with but there is a fairly large mould seam to be removed from the sides of the chassis which is easy to deal with.
Detail on chassis is good with separate rear side sections for the idler mounting allowing the mounting brackets to be crisply moulded with the chassis also includes the bottom sump engine section with all other components added to the chassis.
Added to the sides of the chassis are the steering gear, drive train mountings and at the back the rear cross member with towing pintle added.
The White 160AX petrol engine that powered all M2 and M3 half-track types is provided in just 7 parts that gives you the basics of engine block with separate head, air cleaner and exhaust manifold and oil filter plus the front engine mounting and fan, but take care as the instructions still show to fit the fan in the wrong place. It should go on the top of part A36 and not on the bottom as indicated and there is plenty of scope for additional detailing if you want to show the engine exposed on your model.
Added to this is a two part radiator assembly with nice mesh texture on the radiator but you have to ensure the engine mounting on the front of the engine (part A36) is correctly aligned or the fan will not sit evenly in the round coaming opening at the back of the radiator assembly.
The front axle has nine parts that fit together well and have nice details but watch as the instructions transpose the numbers for wheel hubs (parts A3 and A4) but the illustrations are correct with the axle mounted on two leaf springs but watch not to damage the detail while removing the mould seam.
Added to the axle brake drums are the two part front wheels which have very nice hub and tread pattern with the six small cut-outs around the rim being open for a nice look and about the only thing you may want to add is the air valve but the wheels are still depicted flat.
The fact is these wheels are not correct in representing those on the vast majority of serving vehicles, also the large number of aftermarket wheel sets released would indicate that many want to depict the wheels correctly but we have been over this before so I won’t labour the point.
Added to the front is the roller in two halves that fit together very
snugly leaving just a very minor join seam to be removed and results in
a perfectly round roller with nice detail on the two roller mounting brackets
and etched plates added to the top bumper joins and this is attached to
the chassis with two extensions that fit neatly to the chassis, it’s
best not to use the extended bumper and winch with these early vehicles
as indicated in the instructions.
The drive sprockets on these half-tracks are very intricate with many cut-outs and ribs and Dragon have made extensive use of slide moulds to create possibly the best replicas of the sprockets that you could possibly do in injected plastic.
The two sprockets are fitted to the separate drive tooth disc and then
to the two part brake drum assembly and include the small bolts between
the sprocket ribs and correct cut-out sections. The only minor issue are
four very small pin marks on the inner disc that are difficult to remove
but as mentioned are very shallow and difficult to see from some angles
and if you wanted to get real picky the ribs and outer disc are slightly
too thick but really not worth the effort of thinning and as mentioned
they are excellent efforts.
Like the drive sprockets the idlers also have many cut-outs and inner ribs
and these too are superbly done with again the only issue being some very
small pin marks around the inner disc but the ribs and outer rim on the
real idlers are thicker than on the drive sprockets and are pretty much
okay on the plastic idlers.
Note that the cut-outs on the two idler discs don’t line up evenly as they do on the drive sprockets but are offset and Dragon have nailed this feature also.
The bogie units are nicely engineered and fit together very well with the volute spring and return roller assembly separate that fit into the inner bogie unit with the outer unit and cover slipped neatly over this for a snug assembly.
The central bogie units include the inner suspension arm with the outer wheel having separate arms that trap the nicely detailed wheels between them and these are in turn trapped between the inner arms and if you leave these loose the outer bogie wheels will actually articulate.
There is one thing to watch with the outer suspension arms (parts D22) as they are not the same top and bottom with a slight raised profile that should be positioned at the top, the instructions simply don’t show this and it is very easy to fit these the wrong way around.
The large idler springs are somewhat simplified with the mounting base lacking details and a large mould seam in the springs themselves but as mentioned these could be left off to represent most M4s.
As with any kit there are details that can be added and there are a few that stick out for the suspension bogies, on the inner bogie mounting there should be a hole with raised lip added at the bottom and four hex bolts should be added to the return roller mounting and lastly four small rivets should be added to the front of the inner suspension arms. See images.
There should be a small angled L shaped bracket that attaches to the outer return roller bolts to hold the end of the exhaust pipe so it doesn't just finish in mid air and this will have to be added from thin card and wire/sprue. See images.
Also on the outer bogie housing covers some have casting numbers while
others have an oval hole in the housing and others are plain like the kit
parts if you wish to add a bit of variety to your bogies.
The rubber/steel belt tracks of the half-tracks usually don’t show any sag and Dragon have moulded these in two halves pre-formed to the correct profile to fit around the drive and idlers wheels and the details on the track is nicely represented.
You should note that the two track halves have to be fitted around the fully assembled suspension units and can’t be fitted if glued together earlier so take care here as the instructions are not that clear on this.
Overall this is very good solution to these type tracks as there is no pressure on the delicate suspension components allowing the intricate detail to be included without fear of damage.
Note: It should be noted that the tracks of the Half-Track did show subtle sag on the upper run on older worn track where the rubber/steel belt has stretched a little though use or on incorrectly tensioned track, usually on the early model without the idler tensioning springs. This can be seen in some photos and should be taken into account if you leave off the idler springs to depict most M4s.
Also note this is most prevalent on early M2/M3 suspensions without the rear idler spring.
For reference only and does not reflect on the kit track which is perfectly okay.
Image courtesy of Hunnicutt Half-Track book.
The lower cab floor and fenders are moulded in one piece with nice tread plate on the floor with the driver’s foot pedals just depicted as raised detail on the firewall and replacing these will add to the appearance as will adding the numerous bolt heads on the driver's firewall floor.
All the gear levers are separate parts but the larger gear shift lever (part B13) and the smaller lever (part B25) don’t have the correct contours and the hand brake lacks the release cable which is easy to add from thin wire. See images.
The instrument panel has engraved details nicely done and the steering wheel has commendable thin ribs while the two part seats have nice cushion details but these are too short and should extend out past the seat frames by about 2mm.
Added to the floor section are the side panels with details on both sides as well as a few inner pin marks but these are mostly hidden and shouldn’t be a problem while the engine top panel and the side panels have engraved lines on the inside if you want to cut out the engine bay doors to show open exposing the engine, but care is needed if doing this to not damage any of the panel details.
The two doors are in lower and upper halves and you can show the top section raised or lowered and there is an additional etched armoured flap to close the vision port if required. The detail on both sides of the door panels is nicely done without any pin marks to contend with.
At the front are two alternate radiator louver panels, one with open and the other with closed louvers with the louvers themselves provided as etched parts and as mentioned you don’t get the alternate louver panels with the late head light mountings or winch opening.
The windscreen is provided as a clear part with plastic outer armoured cover as well as etched windscreen wipers to add with the armoured flap in the open position.
Added to the fenders are the early fixed head lights which have separate clear lenses and etched bush guard grills with the later head lights added to the spares box as they are not used.
As previously mentioned the real body panels are actually held together with large dome screws and not the round rivets depicted in the kit but this is difficult to remedy and it’s a statement of fact that the 30 year old Tamiya kit featured these screw slots.
The new lower floor is redesigned for the mortar mounting and ammo round boxes with the original side wall panels parts K20 and K21 used along with the new rear panel with separate door. Unlike the rear panels in the original kit the new rear panel and door have a number of large pin marks to be filled with these most noticeable on the inside of the rear door but thankfully there is no detail around these making them easy to fill.
On the insides are the crew seats with nicely textured cushions, the rear fuel tanks with the inner M2 type storage boxes along with the two 20 round ammo boxes each side and the two 8 round boxes at the back plus the 56 rounds in the side opening racks for a total of 112 rounds carried in the early model M4.
It is probably not something that many will notice but the ammo containers in the side racks are larger in diameter than those in the internal ammo racks and I’m not aware that there were different sized containers but stand to be corrected?
The full weapons skate ring is moulded in one piece and fits nicely into the rear compartment and on the rear panel are added new taillight ‘boxes’ for the M4 which have the left and right lights correctly depicted as they are not both the same and Dragon have this correct.
Added to the panel are the folded ground tripods for the .30cal and .50cal machine guns which also have etched tie downs and lower mud flaps for added detail.
As the fit of the forward cab and rear compartment is very important it
is best to dry fit these before gluing one to the other to ensure there
is a snug fit and it may be better to glue to two together before attaching
to the chassis as it’s easier to modify the body/chassis join if
needed than the two body halves.
The 81mm mortar has a two piece aluminium barrel, the lower section with ball pivot and the outer section that is actually a tube for a good appearance and these are joined with a central plastic part that the finely moulded bipod supports.
One minor issue is the mortar base that is the type fitted to the early M4 with limited movement as it was designed for the mortar to be dismounted for firing and the later types had a redesigned base to allow firing from inside the vehicle. This may not be a big point and there are only minor differences between the bases and good references would come in handy.
The .50cal is nicely detailed with a separate feed chute cover that has internal detail as well as separate rear firing handles and the muzzle is slightly hollowed out and while these are an improvement over previous .50cals from Dragon they still suffer from solid cooling jackets which also have parallel sides and not tapered as they should. This leaves the superb .50cals from Tasca as the premier weapons in 1:35 plastic as these have the tapered and hollowed out cooling jackets plus the separate feed cover with internal detail.
The .30cal MGs are some of the best in plastic having excellent details on the received and barrel which is also hollowed out slightly and about the only improvement would be to add one of the available metal barrels and cooling jackets.
The various weapons mounts are also nicely depicted and offer a choice
in the style of mountings for the early and later types used.
The pioneer tools are provided with the brackets moulded in place plus additional tools without the brackets but no etched brackets are provided so you have to source these elsewhere, but it’s good the naked tools are provided for this option.
Also included is a 7 part driver figure that has basic but adequate details
that should look the part and there is also a new seat cushion with appropriate
There single decal sheets has markings for three M4s but some are a little suspect with two marked as “unidentified units” and the other from 2nd Armored Division.
The markings provided are:
These are the normal exploded view drawings which in the main are easy
to follow but there are some annoying errors both in the parts numbering
and part placement and you have to be on your guard. It is best to test
fit the assemblies before gluing to make sure things are in the right
place and I have learnt with Dragon instructions if
it looks like a part may need to be altered to fit it is usually a warning
something is amiss with the instructions so check carefully before altering
Like the first kit of the M2/M2A1 half-track this kit has some nicely done details such as the suspension components and the general details throughout but there are also a number of issues if you are concerned about detail accuracy.
It is also unfortunate Dragon chose not to address any of the issues from the first kit especially given the amount of publicity they received while including a few more with the Jerry Can racks and rear idler springs for the model depicted.
But if you just want to build it and be happy then it will go together without too many problems but be prepared for a bit of work if you want a truly accurate model of the early M4 Mortar carrier.
Highly recommended 7/10