by: Andy Renshaw [ ]
IntroductionAcademy has been releasing several versions of the M151 ¼ ton utility truck and some of their releases cover some previously-never-released versions such as the M151A1, as the only offer available before was the 20 year-old Taymia M151A2. This new tooled release by Academy covers the basic M151A1 in the box.
kit contentsOpening the box you will find a nicely packed box with 3 dark green sprues, a one-piece body, and one clear sprue. There is also a bag of vinyl tires, separately packed decals, and standard black-and-white exploded diagram instructions. The spues and body are bagged in pairs with the clear parts separately bagged.
reviewLooking over the parts, they are up to Academy’s current standards and are flash-free and crisp. In addition to receiving in plastic an M151A1, the kit also features a complete engine and parts for the engine compartment, separate clear headlights and marker lights, molded-in battery compartment detail, and many detail improvements over the old Tamiya kit.
As we look further at the parts, the body is very nicely molded and has the correct rear and front panel with early style tail lights. The engine is very nice and test fitting of the parts shows this to be a well fitting kit. However when comparing some items with references, the initial excitement fades and Academy’s short-cuts become apparent. For starters, they did not improve the underbody details and it's almost exactly what you get in the 20 year-old Taymia kit. There is still a very simplified drive train with no universal joints and simplified suspension that represents the A2 suspension and not that found on the M151A1. The A1 had more of an A-frame suspension on the rear, which is completely lacking on this model and Academy also missed the upper suspension arms in the front. Also, we still have the gaping holes under the fuel tank and battery compartment and the front skid plate that goes from the bumper to the front differential is missing. The rear suspension parts seem to sit a tad low, so those will have to be shimmed up if you are modeling an un-loaded vehicle.
On a positive note, Academy has provided us with a full engine and engine compartment detail. All the main components are there and are nicely detailed. The engine itself is 15 parts with another 7 parts to fill in the compartment. A few cables and wires will dress this area up nicely and as a bonus they also included the markings under the hood.
Moving to the top, there are many nice details. The hood hooks are provided separate as is the external power receptacle (part B36) used to “slave” or jump start the vehicle from another. However check your references because this was not a standard feature on the A1 and may not be present on some vehicles. The seats are nicely molded but lack any detail on the backside and have incomplete framing. There should be small “legs” on the front of each seat frame that go to the floor and, on the rear of the seats, springs and stowage pouches. Also the steering wheel (part B26), though nicely molded, is from the A2 and is not correct for an A1 which resembles ones used on the Willys Jeep. Another detail lacking is the gas pedal which makes one wonder with a open top wheeled vehicle how do you forget that?
The kit includes various options, such as a machine gun mount with M60, radios, and a wire cutter. The MG mount is simplified and does not appear accurate. Looking at the TM for the M151, it calls for an M4 gun mount which was mounted about midway between the seats and had long braces toward the rear. The kit instructions illustrate the mount a little too far back and no braces are included. The M60 is nicely detailed and could easily be dressed up. The radios are also nicely molded with the 2 RT units separate and only need some cables to make them look good. As a side note, the whip antennas should be 109” and 118” long adjusted to scale if fitted for these radios. The wire cutter is thick and best replaced with some bent evergreen L shape or PE part from the scrap bin.
The wheels are very nicely molded and the vinyl tires fit very well. A small mold seam is present but is easily removed using a fine file and sanding sticks, basically the same process you would use for injection molded ones. They make painting and weathering easy as you can leave them off until the last steps. The hubs have open holes and the tie-down eyes are molded separate and look excellent. The only hit here is the rear wheel parts (C31) are a bit large and end up covering over the holes in the hub so you loose some of the “see through” look seen on the real M151. However, the wheels are overall outstanding and a huge improvement over previous efforts.
For colors and markings your choice is the basic Army green of the 1960s with 2 decal options provided suitable for vehicles in service in Vietnam. The decals are thin and include the various placards for the dashboard as well as under the hood.
ConclusionOverall this is a nice kit and a welcome addition, even with its shortcomings. It does provide many improvements over previous offerings, however it would have been nice to see Academy not repeat some of the errors made in the older kits. This kit does provide a solid, accurate base for detailing and improvements and Academy could release newer M151 kits and just include a new sprue with some of the missing details. Even with that, the kit is a never-before-released version, parts are nicely molded and fit well, and it does have many nice features such as clear lights and full engine. For the most part, the issues with the suspension are hard to spot once the model is on the ground. Even with its flaws, it still builds into a nice model and provides ample room for the modeler to add details without having to alter the basic model.