Home > Reviews > USA > Merit International 1/35 scale Kit No. 63501; U.S. M19 Tank Transporter with Hard Top Cab

U.S. M19 Tank Transporter
with Hard Top Cab
Merit, 1/35 scale

Reviewed by Cookie Sewell


Stock Number and Description Merit International 1/35 scale Kit No. 63501; U.S. M19 Tank Transporter with Hard Top Cab
Scale: 1/35
Media and Contents: 757 parts (669 in tan styrene, 37 black vinyl, 35 etched brass, 17 clear styrene, 1 length of nylon string)
Price: US$150.00
Review Type: First Look
Advantages: First styrene kit of this vehicle in this scale; very nicely divided up with good choice of etched brass parts; lots of flexibility and applications
Disadvantages: Fair number of very tiny parts
Recommendation: Highly Recommended for American, British, Israeli or many other modelers from 1941 to the 1990s



When tanks first appeared in WWI one of the first problems faced was how to move them to the parts of the battlefield where they were needed. The big British Marks had to move by rail, but the French found a heavy truck could easily carry the little FT tanks. As tanks developed, the problem began to intensify, and one of the reasons that J. Walter Christie was trying to sell his wheel-and-track design was “self-deployment” by a tank that could run along at up to 80 mph on wheels.

Nevertheless, not all tanks were needing movement; once damaged or knocked out, they would need to be recovered for repair. And as a result most countries began to look at purpose-built military tank transporter/retrievers. The British, both working on their own efforts that resulted in the Scammell heavy truck and tank transporter, also contacted the US Diamond T truck company in 1940 to develop a heavy tank transporter capable of moving tanks weighing up to 45 tons (the Scammell initially could handle 20 ton tanks, and later 30 ton loads).

The resulting vehicle was the Model 980, which was a diesel-power heavy truck rated at 12 tons cargo capacity. While only a 6x4 design and not really suitable for off-road movement, it had a four-speed transmission with three-speed transfer case so was capable of moving up to 120,000 pounds of cargo on a trailer at speeds of up to 23 mph. Admittedly its best mileage was only two miles per gallon, but with big fuel tanks it was up to the task.

The vehicle was standardized by the US Army as the M20 Truck 12-ton 6 x 4 and the trailer as the M9 45-ton Trailer; together they formed the M19 Tank Transporter. Production started in 1941 and continued until 1945 when it was replaced by the later M26 “Dragon Wagon” off-road capable armored tank transporter/retriever. Diamond T built 5,871 of these vehicles in two versions, either the Model 980 or the Model 981 with a different winch arrangement; there were also open or hardtop caps nearly identical to those used on the smaller 4-ton trucks from Diamond T, as well as later vehicles having a huge 1090 cid Hall-Scott gasoline engine vice the Hercules diesel.

The US Army made extensive use of the vehicle as did the British, with over 1,000 going to the UK for their use. But once the more capable M26 was introduced during the campaign in Europe, the M19 was used more for heavy cargo transport rather than tank retrieval. After the war the vehicles were either sold or provided under MAP – the Military Assistance Program – to NATO countries or sold for heavy cargo transport. The Israeli Defense Forces acquired them and they were used to move tanks in both the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War among others.

About 35 years ago Matchbox released a model of the M19 in 1/76 scale and several versions have been released in resin, but Merit has the first full fledged kit of the big truck in styrene. While not cheap, it is a BIG model and very well detailed. The version in this kit is one of the original trucks with the Model 980 (M20) hardtop cab truck with single aspect winch and the Hercules DXFE diesel engine.

The kit fills a very large box (when the sample arrived my wife referred to it as a “crate”!) and has the more sensitive parts packed in foam a la Trumpeter. A small box in the center of the sprues holds the cab, trailer body, tires, clear styrene, etched brass and string.

Assembly starts with the Hercules engine and its main transmission. This takes all of Steps 1 and 2 as there are a lot of parts involved in the engine assembly. Step 3 covers the assembly of the frame and mounting the engine to the chassis. Step 4 covers the assembly and installation of the transfer case, steering gear, and winch roller feed assembly.

The driveline begins assembly in Step 54 with the springs being fitted and the two big driven axles being assembled. They are nearly identical but the forward axle has a feed for the connecting driveshaft (part B4) whereas the rear one does not. Note that the forward axle is D-D and the rear one is C-C. Also while there are torque arms used, unlike many other kits (the Omega M Ural-4320 coming to mind) the suspension does not operate.

Step 7 covers the installation of the truck wheel sets. None of them rotate so you will have to plan ahead when considering painting and finishing. With some care, the front wheels may be positioned in a turning position, but this will take some care and preferably some experience with posing wheel sets.

The fenders and main headlights are installed in Step 8. For the most part, the use of a blackout light (part L4) is only for the British vehicles so can be skipped for a US M19. The directions give you no indication of which is which or that two clear lenses (part GP2) are provided and may be used.

The fuel tanks and running boards come next, and there may be some seam problems with the main fuel tanks (parts A3/4/5/6) as they are split vertically; an etched brass non-skid plate covers the top but the ends are visible. Next is the winch assembly, but while it notes the nylon string is mounted on the drum there is no comment on rigging it out the back under the ballast body nor is there a hook or fairlead indicated.

Step 11 is the ballast body, and as these vehicles usually had some sort of dead weight in the body to give them traction (hence the name) some combination of model railway rock would probably look correct back here. (Without sufficient weight on the back end the tires cannot get traction against a full load and will spin; weight here gives the vehicle the oomph it needs to move the towed load.) No harm no foul on Merit for not providing it, as the ballast changed from vehicle to vehicle and some used concrete or even sections of tank armor for weight.

The cab is the next step and comes complete with all pedals – surprise! – as well as the controls for the transmission, transfer case, and power takeoff for the winch. Doors are one-piece with a choice of either full windows or no windows, but do come with both door handles and even the window cranks.

The truck is completed in Step 15 with the hood being installed – there is no notice of leaving it loose but it seems a shame to put all that work into the engine and then seal it away! With some careful work and perhaps a bit of reinforcement the hood (parts C10/13/34) can be left removable. Note that the front bumper does contain rollers for the winch to pass through.

Anyone who has ever built an HO railroad car will identify with the construction of the trailer, as one of the first items is the installation of the brake cylinders and rigging. Assembly of the trailer is reminiscent of the Tamiya “Dragon Wagon” one as it is a big assembly and a bit clumsy to handle in some steps.

As noted the winch does not come with a fairlead or hook, but two large pulley blocks are mounted on the deck of the trailer; they are fixed and not removable (their inner side is molded in place). Two flip-down loading ramps and four moveable chocks are provided for the load carried.

The turntable is assembled in Step 20 and includes full parking brake rigging. The tires and wheels are assembled into bogies of four tires each and it is probably easier to leave them off until painted and ready for final finishing. The last step involves the hitch (parts B15/62) but as they do not work it is an either/or process; if the model is on a diorama base this is a moot point.

Advanced modelers will want to pick up one of the reference books on this combo as it does need air and electrical lines run from the truck to the trailer.

The model comes with two finishing options, both in US Army olive drab: one American and one British. I have no idea on the British truck as to correct or not, but it comes with a full set of markings and census numbers for both the truck and trailer. The US one comes with what appears to be accurate markings for the ASCZ (Advanced Section Communications Zone – the people who ran the famous “Red Ball Express” in France) and the 3595th Transportation Company, with markings for Truck 27. Note that most US units used one of two conventions for trailers – either a sequential number of one more than the prime mover and a second one with the same number but with a T after it. This kit comes with markings for TRK 28 which should be correct for the trailer as well.

Overall this is a stunning kit and something anyone who has the Tamiya M26, Sd.Kfz. 9 and trailer combination, or the Hobby Boss M1070 HET combo would like to complement them.

Parts Breakdown:

A 13 Main frame, fuel tanks, saddle brackets
B 85x2 Suspension, truck wheels, driveline components
C 43 Hood, fenders, chassis components
D 27 Ballast body, winch drive
E 91 Springs, transfer case, driveline components
F 40 Hercules diesel engine, mounts
G 11 Trailer chassis, frame details
H 39 Trailer components, towing yoke
J 38x4 Trailer wheels, ramps
K 27x2 Ramps, trailer components
L 27 Cab doors, seats, controls, bumper, floor
GP1 17 Clear styrene
MA 4 Etched brass
MB 31 Etched brass
1 Cab
1 Trailer body
1 Nylon string
11 Large tires
26 Small tires

Thanks to Tony Chin of Merit for the review sample.