by: Rick Cooper [ ]
Tamiya just keeps plugging along doing what they have always done best; spitting out easy to build and well detailed plastic kits. You open a modern Tamiya kit and it is a very good bet that you are going to get an enjoyable build that never bogs down with impeccable fit, clever engineering, and anywhere from one to a handful of decent figures.
No surprise then that their latest release, the US built White M3A1 Scout Car, kit #35363, perfectly fits the above description. The kit comes in Tamiya’s standard slip cover box with superb artwork depicting a Soviet lend-lease vehicle with the full crew complement onboard. I won’t bore you with a description of the White Scout Car other than to remark that this kit depicts the most common version with the un-ditching roller and fender mounted lights. I will add that I am not an expert on the White Scout Car but the kit does compare well with the online research I was able to do.
The usual Tamiya Olive Green plastic that they favor for US and Russian subjects will greet you when you open the box. Inside are seven of the green sprues for the vehicle and the two machine guns, one grey sprue for the figures, and the one clear sprue for the windscreen and headlight lens. Also you will find the instructions as well as the foldout history and information sheet. Also included is the decal sheet with markings for two Soviet lend lease vehicles and one US vehicle.
An inspection of the parts revealed a fair number of injector pin knock out plug marks but these appeared to all be on interior parts. As I progressed through the build I discovered that Tamiya had placed all of them in areas that would eventually be covered by another part; clever guys, those Tamiya engineers! Other than that the kit was completely flash free as you would expect with a new tooling and had no parts that were short shot on plastic.
Build and Review
I had decided to build the US version of the model as it was a bit more colorful; nothing against a good basic olive drab or 4BO painted vehicle but a splash of color now and again is not a bad thing! The build proceeded smoothly and about as I would have expected; built from the chassis up. The build meanders through twenty-four steps for the vehicle and three for the figures but the first ten are for the chassis, suspension, drive train, wheels and tires.
I really liked the one piece frame that Tamiya provides. You don’t need to deal with crossbeams, gussets, or other frame pieces which helps to speed up the build. If you are flipping yours over in a diorama or whatnot it might be a drawback for you but I’m sure that the great majority of modelers will simply build this to sit on the four tires. The great thing is that you are certain of a nice square frame, one of those hidden menaces with some kits; get it off a bit and nothing will sit correctly. I was impressed with the way that Tamiya engineered the bell housing for the transmission to slide on to the almost ridiculously long one piece drive train assembly because I honestly had my doubts but in the end it came out as near perfect as my skills could make it. I did have a few minor bellyaches; some of the attachment points for parts were very hard to discern, the exhaust for one just had an arrow kind of pointing to the area where it should attach. Another small omission that Tamiya could have easily added was the tire markings, I believe these should be 8.25-20 tires but you wouldn’t know that looking at the kit tires. Someone may make some aftermarket tires with the correct markings but I don’t know who may have, or is planning, to step into the breach.
Once all that had dried up nice and tight I jumped into the interior of the vehicle. The floor board has a pleasing steel diamond plate molded in as well as separate gear shift, hand brake lever, and transfer case shifter. The brake and clutch pedals are joined on a piece that has an inset in the floorboard which I thought was really helpful in keeping these two properly aligned and made for a much easier installation. The dashboard was very nice with a couple of decals for the speedometer and the tachometer (I’m assuming that is what it is, it only makes sense but I am willing to be schooled here) which really make the rather prominent piece stand out in the finished model. One shortcut that Tamiya took was molding the accelerator pedal in place rather that providing a separate piece.
The remainder of the interior was fairly standard; driver and co-driver seats as well as six other crew seats, all two piece for a bit better detail, a couple of large storage boxes, some smaller ones, and the fire extinguisher (would have liked a decal for this but you can’t have everything!) However, before you can finish off the interior you need to finish up with the sidewalls, rear wall, inner partial bulkhead, doors, hood, and fenders. These all go together flawlessly, I needed no putty whatsoever on any of this. I liked the way that the two fenders were a one piece molding that connected them with a cross piece that sits above the half-engine. Again, this keeps everything nice and plumb.
Of course you will want to add the 360 degree skate rail which is a rather prominent part of the interior of the vehicle, my recommendation would be to follow the instructions carefully and proceed slowly! You need to build up the machine guns mounts that you are going to use as they can’t be added afterward without some rather brute force which would probably not be worth it and can be avoided by, you guessed it, following the instructions! Tamiya provides only one M1919 machine gun along with the M2 .50 caliber machine gun so you only really need two of the mounts but Tamiya provides three if you want to leave one empty or source out another MG. If you have ever built either of these two Tamiya offerings (which can be found in numerous WWII era Tamiya kits) you know they are both little gems. If you haven’t built a new generation Tamiya kit before, they are both little gems, well detailed and easy builds with a minimum of fiddley parts (although you do need to drill out the barrels for both).
With that you will have virtually the entire vehicle done, the only now is to add the last few exterior parts, tools, paint, and decals, etc. In other words you are about half way done! The tools are well done although the brackets and straps are molded on so you don’t quite have the level of detail that photo-etch material would provide. The two tripods for the machine guns are very well done however the retaining straps for both are not included. The two 5 gallon cans and holders are well done with the can molded into the holder; I would have preferred the holder and can to be molded separately but I guess it helps keep the aftermarket fellows in business. The headlamps and guards are pretty standard stuff, nice clear lens provided and the guards do look better if you sand them down to a more appropriate thickness. Tamiya does provide the hood latches as separate pieces which I thought were really well done and easy to attach.
For painting I wanted the more colorful US Army 82nd Armored Recon Battalion, 2nd Armored Division vehicle from Sicily in 1943. I choose this scheme because it was a bit more colorful with the Olive Drab and the Sand paint as well as the very prominent US star decals on the vehicle. I used the new(ish) AK Real Colors which I have had great success with through the airbrush. I used the RC023 Olive Drab No. 9 and the RC030 No. 6 Earth Yellow but you could find an appropriate match with pretty much whatever paint line you like best. I did think it was odd that Tamiya recommends their line of spray cans to paint the two main colors? Maybe it is a concession to the fact that many builders will be just casual modelers who may not have a whole airbrush set-up?
After the paint set up for a couple of days I gloss coated in anticipation of decaling. The large stars and surrounds for the side went down well enough but I made an error in placing them just a bit forward of their correct location. Normally would not have been much of an issue except that I left myself with not enough room to place the ‘Buster Crabbe’ vehicle name in the correct location in front of the star. Instead I made an executive decision and placed the ‘Buster” decal over the rear wheel instead. It did take a couple of rounds of decal softener to get them to snuggle down over all of the molded on detail but with a little patience everything should turn out okay. One caution; put the decals down BEFORE you try to add the door handles, it will save you some headache. One omission which is a bit hard to reconcile; Tamiya neglected to include the War Department registration number decal that should be on the side of the hood. I neglected to add one but will be sourcing one out from my stash soon.
When all that was settled I installed the machine guns and had a little fun with some weathering and called it a day. It was a really quick build, nothing to daunting, but I did need to have a bit of a plan for painting and weathering as it is an open topped vehicle which can pose a bit of a challenge to synchronize everything. The fit of every single part is impeccable notwithstanding the few instances of vague instructions. The decals are in perfect register and nice and thin and the extras in the machine guns, figures, and extra ammo cans are a nice touch.
The crew figures are for either of the Soviet versions of kit. You get five in all, driver, commander, two machine gunners, and for good measure another soldier riding shotgun with a PPSh-41 at the ready. I wasn’t going to need any of these fellows as I built it up with the American markings but I did put the shotgun rider together just to be able to speak at least a bit about the figures. I may have shed a tear when I realized how well at least the one figure was engineered and fit together. Tamiya is to be commended for the figures they have been releasing over the past several years and these are no exception. I was especially impressed with the head sculpt, while not quite as fine as a good resin head I really appreciate the clearly Asian features of this particular figure. Also, the commander figure is molded in mid-yell with mouth open and lower jaw just slightly thrust forward, a really nice touch. I will set these troops aside and definitely plan a future build around them.
This is another great kit in the Tamiya line up. The ease of building makes this accessible even to a novice builder but the nice open interior beckons the veteran modeler as well. The engineering and fit is consistently superb throughout and the instructions are, for the most part, easy to follow in the typical Tamiya style. The markings are nice and thin and in perfect register. The figures that have been included are among the nicest injection molded ones that I have seen. This would be a highly recommended kit for anyone interested in World War II vehicles.