November 26, Updated with additional comments (in blue text) and images showing some detail updates.
News of this new kit from Dragon certainly got the blood pressure of Allied modellers going with just the old (very old being released in 1975) to satisfy the needs of this important Allied vehicle of WWII which soldered on well into the future with the IDF.
After the usual advertising hype and with the kit now available in the shops
we can have a look to see what you actually get in the box.
The kit has 310 parts in light grey plastic, 7 in clear plastic, a small etched fret with 24 parts and a short length of twine and chain plus the decal and instruction sheets.
As with any review, I simply present the information and facts for your perusal and it's up to the individual to take or leave this as they see fit.
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 kit allows you to build the M2 or M2A1 half-track but it should be noted that only the ‘mid-production’ or later vehicles can be built as the early production types did not have the spring on the rear idler and there was also a simpler spring used prior to the ‘standard’ type included in the kit and this has a bearing on two of the decal options included in the kit.
A number of alternate parts are included for the two versions such as the weapons skate rail for the M2 and the later pedestal mount for the M2A1, two different compartment side and rear panels again for the different types as well as the front mounted roller or winch assembly plus the early and later head lights and you have to decide early on in the construction which version you will build.
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 including 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 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.
These wheels include a flat “weighted” section on the “bottom” which unfortunately is incorrect for vehicles with correctly, repeat correctly inflated tyres. All U.S., British and all other Military cross ply tyres of WWII do not bulge if inflated correctly.
Looking at literally hundreds of wartime photos of U.S. Half-Tracks
in the books listed below as well as hundreds of other types, Jeeps, GMC’s
WC’s, Dragon Wagons for example don't show any “bulging” irrespective
of what a service manual or design drawing may show, that's just a drawing.
Some may see a picture of a museum vehicle that has been sitting there for 60 years with flat tyres and say "see", but look at the hundreds of wartime photos, especially on tarmac, not soft ground and see there is no disenable "bulging".
But I guess this will appeal to those who like gimmicks in their kits but it’s a pity Dragon didn’t give you a set of correctly inflated wheels for those not wanting this feature to at least avoid the “every kit looks the same syndrome” and to let people add these non standard features themselves if they wish.
On the plus side this does give a free kick to aftermarket companies to produce a set of correctly inflated wheels but the question is would the model sit at the correct attitude with correctly inflated tyres fitted?
We can assume from this that all subsequent models of the half track (M3/M3A1 already announced) will have these incorrectly depicted tyres as well, a real shame that such a nice kit overall is spoil by added such a gimmick when including “standard” wheels like every other wheeled kit would have been the simpler option to take.
Another small issue with the front wheels is there is no air valve stem, but Dragon include the small recess in the rim where the valve stem goes so it's a simple matter of adding the stem from thin sprue, easy. But it does mean the valve stem will be in the exact same place on every kit wheel due to the flat bottom.
Added to the front is a choice of bumper and roller or later extended bumper and winch assembly, the roller is 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.
The large curved bumper that goes with the winch assembly is in two parts, upper and lower sections allowing good details to be included and again the fit of these parts is very good leaving just a very small join seam to be removed but I did have a little trouble fitting the winch mounting (part C4) as the locating points were not that precise and some test fitting would be advised.
Detail on the winch motor is very good with the embossed “Tulsa Winch Co” logo that you can actually read and the supplied thread and chain is added to the drum with this assembly also fitted to the chassis extensions that fit neatly into the front bumper, but watch that you fit parts C20 and C22 on the correct sides.
It should be noted that you can still use the roller on the later M2A1 as not all carried the winch assembly for a bit of variety if you wish.
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 and some additional detailing or replacing the springs with wire would improve these.
Also note that early half-tracks did not have this idler spring and it was only added after it was found the original fixed idler tended to throw the tracks on rough ground and the initial spring fitted was smaller than the final spring as included in the kit.
Most photos of early half-track in Tunisia show no idler springs fitted which should be taken into account with two of the decal options included in the kit to be truly accurate.
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 but I mention this for your reference only and does not reflect on the kit tracks which represent newer correctly tensioned track and are perfectly okay.
Also note this is an early M2/M3 suspension 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 but the kit levers would do for most 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, 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 four alternate radiator louver panels, two for the M2 with roller, one with open and the other with closed louvers with the louvers themselves provided as etched parts. The other two are for the winch version with again open or closed louvers and offer some nice choices on the final configuration.
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 either the early fixed head lights which have separate clear lenses and etched bush guard grills or the later removable headlights which are completely moulded in clear plastic and included quite thin plastic guards. Note that some late production M2s had the removable head lights and this adds another option if you wish.
An issue with the body panels is that they are actually held together with large dome screws and not the round rivets depicted in the kit but this is difficult to remedy and interestingly Tamiya featured this on their 30 year old kit without the aid of current technologies.
The lower floor again has nice tread plate and includes the troop seats with textured cushions and includes the rear fuel tanks with alternate inner storage boxes for the M2 and M2A1 which includes the radio and you have to take careful note of the instructions to use the right parts with the right version.
There are also alternate outer body panels for the different version that have nice detail on both sides and for the M2 there is the full weapons skate ring moulded in one piece that fits nicely into the rear compartment and on the rear panel are added the taillight ‘boxes’ 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.
For the M2A1 there is the forward pedestal mount with the ring nicely moulded but there is a rather large mould seam to carefully remove and this fits to the alternate forward roof panel and again the tail lights are added as per the M2.
Added to the rear sides are the land mine storage racks which include the mines moulded in place but as these were not usually carried in practice you will have re-make the racks from thin card which is quite easy being simple flat sections.
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.
Dragon has re-done the .50cal and .30cal machine guns and mountings for this
kit and they are a marked improvement over their previous efforts.
The .50cal has a separate feed chute cover with internal detail as well as separate rear firing handles and the muzzle is slightly hollowed out.
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 which still 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 new .30cal MGs are very close, if not 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.
One thing missing from the kit is the large storage racks often fitted to the backs of M2A1 half-tracks and these will have to be made from thin card if you want to add them.
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 any part.
There are three small decal sheets included all with well printed designs with the carrier film cropped close to the printed image with one having a selection of white registration numbers, the second a selection of generic white Allied stars with circles and the third a selection of white Allied stars without circles and the American flags carried on the Tunisian Half-tracks, the only problem being the Tunisian vehicles had the star on a blue circle or with yellow stars or circles as per the new sheets just released by Archers Fine Transfers. Blue circle stars; Yellow outline stars;
The other issue is as mentioned above with many photos of Tunisian half-tracks showing them without the rear idler spring or with the early spring type and you would have to check references before using the two early 1941-42 decal options offered.The markings provided are:
Overall this is an excellent rendition of the M2/M2A1 half-track with some very well done details such as the suspension components and the general details throughout and the choices offered is really a good excuse to buy more than one kit to build the different versions.
Like any kit there are areas where improvements can be made in the supplied detail and in adding additional detail to lift the level further and overall it is a very good kit but far from the ultimate kit given some of the detail omissions and issues if that is of concern to you, if not, just built it and be happy.
At the end of the day the wheels are not that big a deal if you are happy with them as overall the model is excellent but the point is if Dragon can give you four radiator panels, two rear compartment walls, two styles of head lights, a full skate ring or pedestal mount and other alternative parts, why not a couple of "normal" tyres for those who don't want their kit to have same "modified" look as every other kit built.
Please Mr.Dragon include a set of “normal” wheels in subsequent Half-track kits so those wanting to build a normal kit can do so and leave the gimmicks to those who like that sort of thing, it would only need to the outer tyre section as the inner wheel section is already round, not hard really.
Click for list of available M2/M3 Half-Track references