Dragon Wagon Soft Cab
Conversion (M26A1)

#TX 0101
Review by Terry Ashley


This new conversion set from Trakz is designed for Tamiya’s excellent M26 Dragon Wagon (kits #35230 and #35244) to convert to the late war M26A1 Soft Cab version which reduced the vehicles weight by some 21,000 pounds and alleviated much of the strain and tyre wear on the front suspension.
Note that most M26A1s used the upgraded M15A1 trailer and there are few if any photos of it using the M15 trailer that comes in the Tamiya Dragon Wagon kit.

The conversion sets contains 29 parts in light cream resin and a further 40 etched parts although 21 of these are very small bolt heads to be used as required.

Resin Parts (click for larger view)
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The quality of the resin casting is excellent with good crisp details and no warpage in the larger pieces and only some mould seam lines to be removed from the roll cage and supports.
There is the usual casting blocks and this did expose a few air holes when these were removed, most notable along the top of the side panels but these could probably best be dealt with by added a thin shim of plastic card along the sill instead of using filler. This would also help when adding the six small holes that should be drilled into the sill (There is an excellent overhead photo in the MMIR Dragon Wagon book showing the location of these holes). There were also a few holes exposed on top of the windscreen frame and a couple on the roll cage supports that will need filling.

There is some surgery required on the Tamiya kit to accept the new parts and unfortunately this shows up the weak point of the set with confusing instructions that adds some frustration here.
The instructions consist of text construction notes and some line drawings but none of the resin parts are numbered in the drawings and there is no part layout diagram as seen on many resin sets so you can’t identify the parts easily, except for the larger cab parts which are straightforward.
You will need to study the construction notes carefully to work out the sequence and it would also seem that some parts are missing from my set, but without any part layout or numbering this is hard to determine?

The notes mention that there is a “tool provided” to get the correct angle of the windscreen and roll cage supports and to bend the etched head light guards to the correct shape but unfortunately no such tool was in my set.

Also there should be three roll cage supports for the inside of the cab walls but only two are provided while there are five upper supports but only four were in the set, but these should be easy to make from 2mm plastic rod so all is not lost.
There are also two different style of supports as indicated in the text but you have no idea which is which due to lack of part numbering.
There are also two other small bracket parts that I have no idea what or where they go and I couldn’t see them in any of my reference photos.

Thin styrene rod is also required to make the grills on the front radiator and it’s not clear if this is supposed to be in the set or not and the thickness of the rod is not given so it’s a matter of checking references to get the right size.

The etched parts are numbered but unfortunately the numbers on the etched fret don’t match those mentioned in the instruction notes further confusing matters.
The correct etched part numbers are shown here with the incorrect numbers from the instructions in brackets;

I have included a separate guide here to show that main alterations needed on the Tamiya kit parts to hopefully help anyone building this set.

While the instructions leave a bit to be desired the same can’t be said for the fit of both the resin to resin and resin to plastic parts which in most cases is excellent.

The main cab is made up of the rounded front panel, the two side and the rear panel and these fit snugly together to make a perfectly square assembly.
There are large saw tooth locating plugs on the inside of the front panel and the front of each side panel and these lock together to ensure they locate precisely and give a perfectly square assembly while the rear panel also fits against raised blocks for the boarding step indentations and again ensure a snug square fit.
Large locating lugs on front panels

The good fit of these parts really does make the rest of the assembly straightforward. The join seams between the front and side panels need to be eliminated but this should be fairly easy with only small amounts of filler needed.
Any minor bowing of the rear cab panel will be eliminated when you glue this to the back of the kit engine compartment and as usual test fit before gluing the cab to the chassis to make any final minor adjustments that may be needed?
Small front join seam requiring filling

The windscreen frame has good details on both sides with indentations to take the etched screen frames that trap clear sheet between for the windscreen glass but this clear sheet isn’t included so you will have to provide this yourself. On the inside of the windscreen are smaller latches and wiper motors with etched wipers to add additional details. Unfortunately the etched frames are too large to fit into the indentations on the resin screen frame; the widths are okay but the height is out by a couple of millimetres and will require some modification to fit correctly.

Note etched frame extends past cut out

The extended bumper is the early type with welded extensions on either end of the M26 bumper while later M26A1 bumpers were built in one piece.

Assembly of the roll cage will require a bit if trial and error providing all the supports are available or after making any that are missing with the three internal supports being attached to the raised ribs on the side and rear walls and the corresponding upper supports attaching to the top of the inner supports while the other two are on each corner. You should be able to get the right angle for the side supports by centring the roll cage above the cab and aligning the supports accordingly.
The large roll cage top includes the many small tie downs cleats but you may want to replace these with wire tie downs for better detail definition?

You will have to add the four large grab handles on each side of the crew doors and again the instructions show some form of jig to bend the wire (not included) to shape but as this jig was not in my set you could easily make your own to ensure all four handles are the same size.

The two rear facing searchlights are moved from the armoured cab to mountings on top of the winch housings but only one of these mountings is included on the etched fret but you can use this as a guide to make the other one.

Some of the Tamiya kit parts are added to the resin soft cab such as the front searchlight mounting and top machine gun ring and the combination siren/flashing light that is mounted behind the radiator grill while there are minor modifications on the inside of the cab, some are noted in the instructions.

In all a nice conversion set with well detailed and cast resin parts with the very good fit of the parts reducing the amount of work needed but the lack of part numbering and confusing instructions make the job trickier than it need be.

There is still some work to be done and experience with resin update sets and etched parts would be very helpful with this conversion but with care a nice looking M26A1 will result and of course good references wouldn’t go astray either with the recent MMIR Dragon Wagon book having good images of the M26A1.


Dragon Wagon
A Visual History of the US Army's Heavy Tank Transporter 1941-1955
Ampersand Publishing
Dragon Wagon
The Military Machine
by Jochen Vollert
ISBN 3-9805216-1-3
Thanks to VLS for the review sample.

Page created 5 August 2004

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