Tamiya U.S. M113A2 Armored Personnel
Carrier Desert Version, 1/35-scale Military Miniature Kit No. 35265
by Cookie Sewell
222 in sand colored styrene, 14 in black vinyl, 2 in grey vinyl); price
Advantages: plenty of external "kit" for stowage
Disadvantages: reuse of 30-year-old molds of early model vehicles is getting
to be a very bad habit with this manufacturer; initial errors not correct;
technology has passed this basic kit by
Rating: Recommended with resevations
Recommendation: for all modern US modelers and fans of Operation Iraqi
Someday I hope that Tamiya will give the rest of the modeling fraternity
the same consideration it has provided its German clientele in redoing
its older kits and making them worth the prices they charge. Alas, they
still do not and trust that many modelers will buy their products for
the name alone and not notice the quality does not match the reputation.
Such is the case with this kit, the basic variant of which came out with
a full interior in 1974 and was for that time what one could have easily
called a "Kit of the Year." It was a model of a standard US
Army M113 (gasoline powered with a nicely done Chrysler 361 cid V-8 engine)
and a relatively complete interior for the time, as well as five figures
in "action" positions.
But as time wore on and tastes became more sophisticated, the kit began
to show its age. The tracks were seen to have no detailing on their insides,
and were too thick and not properly duplicated. The axles were fixed,
so the model only could sit level. That was not surprising as the original
kit was motorized outside of the US and had to take a standard Tamiya
motor pack and batteries. As a result, the idler wheels were also not
correct as reliability of the motorization parts were more essential.
The M113 had a short life with the US Army as it was quickly replaced
with the Detroit Diesel 6-53 series V-6 diesel engine series and used
in that method for most of Vietnam and the postwar years. The redesigned
M113A2 fixed many of the other problems and added new items such as smoke
grenade launchers. The latest variant, the M113A3, added external armored
fuel tanks as well (which may be retrofitted to older vehicles, but most
of the ones sporting the tanks now are rebuilt to A3 standards at depots.)
But while the "Papa Chuck" – the nickname the infantry
gave the vehicle from the NATO phonetic alphabet characters for APC of
"Alpha Papa Charlie" – changed, the Tamiya kit did not.
The only changes Tamiya made over the run of this kit and its variants
was to (a) change the interior when provided, such as with the M106A1
and (b) add new parts sprues and double or triple the price of the kit.
This is an "Option b" kit and shows it.
First off, it retains all of the flaws of the old 1974 kit (and three
of the sprues and the lower hull reflect that date) and the original track
sets. Therefore the model is not an M113A2, but just an M113 with some
add-on parts. The engine deck and vent area are wrong and have to be changed,
as well as the exhausts and other items. Many of the kit's details are
now crude in comparison with modern items, such as the hatches (Tamiya
did add an improved .50 caliber M2HB machine gun to replace the obsolete
original effort but that is about the limit of major upgrades).
The main changes in this kit are 121 parts on two new sprues W and V
with the Operation Iraqi Freedom kit parts, mostly consisting of ALCE
("Alice" packs, ammo and water cans, and various packs like
camouflage sets and other items carried externally on the vehicle. The
interior sprues are long gone, so anyone wanting to show the model opened
up will need an interior from an older kit and a lot of work, or a conversion
kit or upgrade set. Two new figures and a puppy are included, but the
figures are not as crisp as many other recent Tamiya efforts which is
a bit surprising on a new dedicated sprue.
Markings are included for what appear to be two M113A2 and two M113A3
vehicles: an M113A3 in Iraq, March 2003 (3d FSB, 3ID); an M113A3 in Iraq,
April 2003 (1st BDE 3ID); M113A2 in Iraq, 2-7 Infantry (3ID) in April
2003; and an M113A2 with "crow's nest" in Bosnia, 1996 (1AD).
I am quite disappointed with Tamiya's continuing failure to upgrade older
kits. (I also note I got this one out of suspicion that they had done
exactly what they did, and got it on deep discount for about half-price
at the 2004 IPMS Region II show.)
If you want a REAL M113A2 kit, Academy makes a state-of-the-art one that
is far better and offers a choice of tracks (one-piece vinyl or link-and-length,
both state of the art) along with a correct interior, correct engine deck,
and other details. It's better to get that kit, Tamiya's separate set
of Operation Iraqi Freedom details, and add-on decals than to purchase
one needed as much work as this one to be accurate.