Ref : Dragon #3531
Eduard #35510
AFV Club #AF3512
Echelon Fine Details #T35004

USMC version of the M1A1, it differs from the Army version by the smoke dischargers, a missile counter measures device and a wading gear for shallow water. This assembly is essentially used to exit the landing craft to reach the beach. Moreover during operation Iraqi Freedom, the Marine tanks were fitted with a bustle rack extension bin.

The kit has been issued by Dragon some years ago and has been recently reboxed in a Baghdad version to stick to the current events. The kit #3531 does not provide neither the MCD (Dazzler) designed to jam the ATGM nor any accessories. On the contrary DML issue two CIP's.
The kit is quite good with some inaccuracies or forgotten parts to correct. The molding is well done with the antislip coating represented.
The tracks are of the link and length type. As a lot of flash is to be removed on them, the AFV Club set (being more accurate) is used as a replacement set.
The instructions comprises 13 steps plus the painting scheme. 3 decorations are proposed, two for the Marines Corps and one for the Army in Bosnia.
The interior has been done using the kit parts, the Eduard ones and scratchbuilding the remaining parts. As far as the exterior is concerned, some parts have been "borrowed" to the Tamiya M1A2.

The turret

The interior

The main challenge was to represent the turret interior as detailed as possible. I used the DML parts, the Eduard PE set and a lot of pics. The hardest with the latter was to discriminate the variants.
The DML parts are not fully accurate but constitute a good base. The Eduard set corrects a lot but presents some flaws too. The loader station is the worse area as the parts provided seem to belong to a M1 and not a M1A1. The coax ammo rack suffers from the same mistake. The job done by both Eduard and DML on the TC and gunner stations is rather good even if not perfect.

The job was divided into three separate tasks : the turret lower half and the basket, the floor and the turret upper half building.

I thickened the turret ring behind which is hidden the rotating system and added the mesh protections. The seats were not glued at this stage as they rest on supports bolted to the floor (being also parts joining the floor and the ring for real).
I detailed the inner walls with various switch boxes, stowage racks and radio sets. The ammo compartment wall got PE parts like the vertical support. The shell aft end caps come from the PE set.
The gun area was improved with PE parts to detail the coax MG mount and its ammo feeding system. The secondary/auxiliary gun sight has been added with plastic tubing directly glued to the gun "axle". All the sights received the oval shaped forehead rest.


The floor was done thanks to pics of Rob McCune's own project and of the real vehicle.
First, I cut a plastic card discus of the turret ring diameter. I glued on the upper surface a thin plastic lip inside which will be glued the basket mesh.
The seats and their supports are added as well as the various "boxes" under the gun breech assembly.

When completed, I joined the floor to the lower half.



The upper half received the sights and the fire control panels from both Eduard set and DML parts. Be cautious when placing the parts as when ill-located they may forbid the final assembly.
The fit of the turret halves was a nightmare. The inner wall of the TC station showed a gap when looking through the hatch. I had to file it and add some putty to fix that.
The ammo compartment wall needed to be sanded to allow a perfect fit.
Finally, I had to fill the gaps of the mantlet location prior its installation.


The exterior

Some details are missing in the kit while several parts are ill-shaped too. Hence some extra work to do before getting a proper M1A1.

The DML TC weapon station appearing grossly cast, the Tamiya one was preferred to it. The vision blocks are filled with plastic card parts. The interior of them comes from the DML kit.
The M2 is improved by sanding the sights, drilling the barrel and replacing the ammo box support by the Eduard one. The M2 mount is drilled out along its whole length as in real it is not a solid block. (This is where the spare cases are expelled) A rectangular part is added on the support arm close to the left side of the M2 back. The TC sight inner face is slightly carved. (The DML part is correct unlike Tamiya one)
The inner of the hatch is detailed with a strap, a T shaped handle and a PE locking handle.

The loader weapon station has the MG ring replaced by the Eduard one. The MG mount is detailed with the two visible pins at its base. The interior of the hatch is replaced by the Eduard part, the vision block being built from an angled plastic strip.


The roof is improved with the adjunction of the J shaped APU conduit behind the loader hatch as well as the straight conduit running along the blast panel. The APU connection box is scratchbuilt using Tamiya part as a template. Finally, the APU is totally redone using Tamiya parts as templates once again. From the DML kit part, I just kept the rivets.

The smoke grenade launchers are replaced by the Tamiya ones whose detail is by far crisper. The electric wire and its triangular protection is added too. The grenade storage boxes are enhanced with the lid from Eduard and hinges made from brass rod.

The MCD (missile counter-measure device) comes from the Tamiya kit and has been detailed with the handle on the top of it and the side heatsinks made from lead foil. The wiring is represented as well as the junction box on the left of the MCD mount.



The tow cables are detailed. Their molded hooks are sanded and replaced by PE ones. The positioning pins are removed to allow a better fitting of the cables on the turret side. The bulgy part in front of each cable needs to be re-located.

The stowage bins have their handles removed and replaced by Eduard ones. One padlock is added. One broken handrail has been replaced by plastic rod. The others need a thorough sanding to remove the ill-positioned sprue marks.

The bustle bin is done after having thinned the various parts and removed the ejector pin marks. The fit is not that bad unlike what I read in the ML tweak list. The mesh comes from the PE set.

The vehicle I decided to represent has the extension rack fitted so I scratchbuilt it from plastic strips, rods and brass mesh. The data come from Andy Elesky's file with pics and measurements. Some adjustments were needed to perfectly fit the DML bustle rack.


The hull

This is the easy part of the job. The anti-slip coating is present and has been a template for my Tamiya kit.

The chassis

As no skirt section is represented missing, I did not detail the chassis that much.
I just drilled out the mud relief holes in the sprockets.


The front

The front fenders are improved with their retaining system. The right one is thinned from inside to simulate a damaged part. I added one track connector to the retaining rod as seen on numerous pics.
The gap between the headlight and the junction box is filled. A bolt is added on the protection horizontal bar.
A hollow line under the front slope is filled and the weld seam is added. The left side gas tank cap is modified and its retaining pin re-located.
The driver vision ports are PE parts as well as the wipers of the central port.
The grab handle beside the driver on the left sponson is re-located forward and the positioning holes filled.


The sides

The skirts are detailed with their rubber strips from Eduard and have their angled supports made from styrene strip. The retaining pins are done with plastic rod. The last skirt received the PE chain of the pin joining the skirt and the rear mud flap.
The exhaust in front of the NBC compartment is drilled to give it some more depth.


The engine deck

The only improvement is the replacement of the grilles by PE ones
The various handles are provided in the PE set but I let them apart.

The rear deck

The taillights are replaced by Tamiya ones much more accurate. The wire conduit on the right side is sanded and replaced by a piece of plastic rod which is drilled out to fit the brass wire simulating the electric cable being connected to the back of the light.
The various towing eyes are drilled out. The towing hook is detailed to give it a more realistic look.

The tracks

The kit ones are set apart and replaced by the AFV club set which provides beautiful links. These need a little sanding to remove the ejector pin marks. After assembling both tracks, several links and connectors remain.

The decoration

As I chose to depict the tank "Sinister Minister", various accessories from Tamiya and Plus Models have been added. The decals come from the Echelon decal sheet dedicated to the tan USMC MBT's. Prior the application, the tank is sprayed with a gloss varnish coat to avoid any silvering. Afterward, a mat varnish coat is sprayed over the whole model.

After applying the base coat

After the weathering process