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AFV Club - M-109A3/M185A3 2.5 Ton 6x6 Shop Van

Kit Number:
Friday, December 29, 2017
AFV Club
Retail Price:
$55.00 USD
Reviewed By:
Brian Messier

AFV Club 1/35 Scale M-109A3/M185A3 2.5 Ton 6x6 Shop Van Full Build


AFV Club has taken another big swing at the combat support vehicle fleets with their M-109A3 Shop Van. Complimenting their M-35 fuel truck, this vehicle provides an extremely detailed vehicle that is sure to add a lot of life to any diorama or as its own stand alone in a vignette. I previously have done a first look at this box that you can see here-



Before we get to far into the meat and potatoes, I have to say that this is a very detailed construction with a lot of small pieces and directions that require you to pay close attention to part orientation and shape of constructed sub assemblies. For this reason I STRONGLY RECOMMEND that builder check the instructions before and after the step or sub assembly they might be working on and dry fit everything! 

The Build
STEP 1:  we begin by assembling the frame and frame rails of the vehicle, and installing tie down points. Not a whole lot jumps out at you, but having a small square to make sure that parts are glued at a 90 degree angle will help keep everything straight and true. You might want to feed the carpet monster BEFORE you start this process, as a lot of the parts are small. A razor saw or a big piece of tape attached to the parts before they are removed from the sprue will help.  AFV Club's step one has several sub-assemblies that have to be put together in order to complete the step. Take sure to look closely at the instructions and parts orientation to make sure things line up right. Sub assembly A and B are repeat customers, and you are going to make 2 and 3 of the same parts. 


STEP 2 : Pay close attention to the orientation of your frame in this step, as you will be flipping it 180 degrees as well as some of the sub assemblies you made. In this step we are constructing the rear suspension and rear drive train. Parts are best put in place with a white glue such as gator glue or something that will be flexible for a little while, as parts A-13 and 14 can get fiddly when you try to actually put them on. They have opposing attachment points and will help set the rear wheels level so take care to line things up. Sub assembly C was a bit of a challenge for me as well, and this is one of those parts I think would benefit from being installed prior to the axles and drive shaft assembly. 



STEP 3: In this step, we are closing in the frame and assembling the front drive axle, as well as installing transmission/transfer case for the vehicle. Again, when gluing the frame parts together, a small square will help to ensure things are lined up, and liquid cement makes quick work of attaching things. 


Again in step three there are some very small pieces that need to come together so that the front steering is movable. This requires that you do not glue parts A-67 and 66 to the axle, and I found them a little difficult to fit in place. Once in place, the tie rod piece A-45 snaps right in place and gives a great movable set of front axle hubs. Unfortunately, in order to build sub part E, the steering linkage, I had to glue the parts together to keep them all lined up. Particularly note worthy also is that part A-3, the front shocks, have no specific attachment points on the axle themselves. The instructions appear to show how they are oriented but when I put mine on, they just seemed to hang there. Researching pictures in a book about M-35 chassis, it indeed appears that the mounting point on the axle is just "attached" to the leaf spring, so following the instructions should get the correct look.


Step four involves assembling the rear fender assembly, brake lights, and towing pintle attachment. It's fairly straightforward with the exception that the parts attachment points for part B18 are small and allows the parts to be out of square ( these are the attachment points for the brake light housings and attach to the frame of the vehicle). I intentionally skipped step 5 (the first part of it anyway)for right now, as this is where the tires are placed on the axles and I want to paint the frame and undercarriage and weather it before I put the wheels on. I had to choose weather or not to add the winch option to this step, and I decided it would look cool, so a winch we added! Key note here is that I took artistic license and replaced the string provided with some .05 rigging rope to add some more "size" to the winch rope. Putting the winch together requires close attention to the instructions (again) when putting the sides of the winch together. Also, be sure that you pay attention to the orientation of the front fender! If you don't use the winch, the instructions will have you turn it upside down. This matches right up with WWP "M35a2" reference book photos I have been using to keep things true to the real vehicle. 



Moving on to Step 6, I had my first real " Oh SH*t" moment, when, after sanding down some ejector pin marks, noticed that I had broken one of the side pieces B25!!. I was able to glue it right back together still on the sprue, and cut it carefully away from the gate. To my fortune, the piece ends up being more of an interior piece that would likely go un-noticed after installation, so it ended up being a moot point. Step 6 includes no less than SEVEN sub-assembling steps. The front cab of the frame begins to take shape in all of them, as well as the front grill. Pay close attention to part orientation for square-ness. Having things lined up and dry fit before using a fast setting glue will be a benefit. my B12 rear plate part does not fit the doors as nicely as Id like but nothing a little putty can't fix. Pay CLOSE attention to the choices you make in step 6, as you are going to alter a piece of photo etc depending on which bumper/winch combo you use. 


This photo gives a good representation of the winch and how the bumper needs to be oriented to allow the cable to slide over it. The front grill is not installed here yet, as well as the headlights which I left off for painting. 


OHHHH NOOOO!!!!! Tragedy strikes !!! In my ignorance, I left my parts box on the table overnight. The big cat decided it would be a good time to go traipse around and knocked the box off the table. I lost ONE PART!  One of the front wheel brake cams (part that the wheel hub fits onto ) was lost in the ensuing chaos and I have taken a close to 2 month hiatus to try and locate it somewhere. After struggling with how to re- make this part or take it from another M-35 Kit I have, I decided to try casting it in resin. 


Fortunately, the part cast PERFECTLY. I had to add some small strips of 040x060 styrene on the back to make it lock into where it should, but all seems well as I super glued it into place......




Having placed the part and primed it, I went back to step 5 and assembled the tires, and placed them. The tires and rims fit incredibly well together, with the rear tires even having lugs on some hubs that snap into holes on matching hubs. Placement of the tires was slightly less exciting as half of the duals fit poorly on the axles. I spent a few minutes test fitting them all onto different axles and came up with what I hoped would be a good fit...... it was. 





Finally came the moment of truth... Would this kit, with its dozens of suspension parts and multipart chassis "sit"?.........Id say so!! I am VERY happy with the way the wheels touch the mat of my bench, and I have to say AFV Club's mold pours and fine casting paid off!. A quick note that I did have to add a fair amount of filler and a piece of sprue to get the right fits for all the parts and the hood correctly, so again, take your time and be ready to test fit and glue with a fast setting glue. 


With the successful casting of the missing part, and the model sitting on 10 tires that all touch the mat, I will start working on some sanding......and sanding, and sanding. The body panels have just a "few" Ejector pin marks that might show up, and I don't dare take the chance....


My sanding benefits greatly from an electric sander I bought from Micro Mark a few years ago, so this comes out really great. Using Perfect Plastic Putty also helps to keep the sanding light and not lose some of the fine details on these pieces. Now, where am I ???? Oh yea! Step 7. Probably the shortest parts count step, but one of the most intricate as well! All we have to do is get the dash cluster and steering wheel attached to the hood and get the hood on..... Easier said!  Each of the dials is an individual decal which looks really good once placed over a coat of gloss! Fairly time consuming but worth it in the end! Attaching the hood for me revealed a gap, which I will equate to a previous part connection that I didn't do right. It was a very small gap that was filled with a small piece of .040 evergreen strip. 





For safety, I almost completely skipped step 8 here, as this is a full page of assembly of small parts and clear glass. Worthy of note in step 8 is part L18. DO NOT use it. It will go on the rear of the shop body as well, but there is only one single part so far as I have found. I did build sub assemblies J K and L to install. The other reason I skipped ahead will be abundantly clear in the next few photographs.......



SHELVING!!! Step 9, 10, and 11 involve initial assembly of the repair shop itself, with the shelves built and installed. I have been looking forward to this step as soon as I opened the box, because this is where the M-109 gets its unique assembly from the M-35 chassis. The left and right shelves also have a couple of banks of drawers, four of which can be posed open! This will become really useful when the tools provided get added to the mix. 


Also in step 11 you prepare the truck bed for attachment to the chassis. Take care when applying parts L9 and L16 which are the frame rails, as some dry test fitting should be done before you commit to glue. 



Once all the parts are assembled, we will glue them all to the shop floor. I am taking the time to wash the parts with alcohol before I apply them and prime and paint prior to gluing to the floor, as some degree of weathering will go into this part of the model. The next few steps involve closing in the shop body and I want to have the access to weather the interior without the walls being in the way. I also am starting to really jump around in the building steps as I can see the value of jumping ahead to some of the shop tools installation. In order to get the desk tops right there are four tool bases that are mounted in step 18. I quietly put the parts in before painting. 




After priming and installing the base parts for the drill press, compressor, bench-top clamp, and grinder, I made up a 4-1 mix of Vallajo IDF Green and Insignia White. In my estimation it came out close enough to an interior green/pale green color I wanted. 



The one real drag of building the body/shop area is that almost every part that encloses the shop is LITERALLY dotted with some ejector pin marks that stand proud of the parts themselves. This requires use of a flat blade chisel tip knife and gentle pressure to bring them down to level, and a little bit of sanding for each one. I know I am going to miss a few... 



Moving onward with the building has become both a blessing and a curse. The kit body is really coming together nicely, and I am very pleased with the fit and level of detail in construction. HOWEVER, in step 12, we build the body around the shelves and the truck bed. Not a big deal in itself as the parts themselves fit pretty well and it really gives the modeller something to look at and be proud of, EXCEPT that moving forward to step 15, you have to install parts H1 and H2.....again.



I can find no good reason for this in the instructions or in building. Also, this is the step where part L18 SHOULD BE used.  Step 13 is another one where I partially completed, leaving off the tiny PE tie downs till just before I am ready to paint the vehicle. Step 14 is a pretty straight forward step with no surprises, except to take care and glue part L5 to L8 and then that assembly to the door, and make sure you are gluing it on the INSIDE of the door and not the outside, where another L5 goes. 



The whole kit is taking shape, and I decided to add the clear parts to the shop body for painting. Masking the parts inside and out was very easy to do with tamiya masking tape and the windows were installed with gator grip glue. Step 16 will involve installing the window sliders in the big blank spots, which I will be leaving in the down position so folks can see inside the kit. Step 17 is installing the pioneer tool kits and their holder, which takes us to the last 3 steps of construction, including mating of the body to the frame. 


PE newbies, avert your eyes for the next few pictures.... Its painful!  I decided to get ready for priming the entire body, and added in no less than 12 PE tie down straps. These straps required a few small bends, and once bent are TINY. Gator Grip glue and two sets of good quality needle nose tweezers will make the job bearable. The finished product looks really good, and as long as they stay on during painting I will be THRILLED! 


Those are my sprue nippers for scale...... after the parts were folded. 



Body complete through step 20 and ready for priming! 



Primer complete, base coat of greens complete!!!!! 


The shop body is not glued in place yet, as I intend to weather the chassis before I glue the body down, and I want to do some more interior work to bring out the "shop" nature of the build, but with the exception of putting on the rear doors, stairs, and decals, its damn close to done ! 



Basic camouflage is complete!! Chose the MERDC for the 41st BSB, so there are virtually no decals to apply other than bumper numbers. I just like the colors, even though I really feel like my interior green is a bit dark for the kit colors. Overall I'm calling this done aside from the front glass, side view mirrors, and the spare tire going on. 








STICK A FORK IN IT!  The painting and decals are DONE! All the parts are on ( with the exception of  the mirrors and a shroud for the exhaust). The Mirror mounts are broken very badly (my fault trying to get them off the sprue) so I am going to try and bend up some brass rod. I am very happy with the results of this kit. The instructions left me frustrated more than a few times, but the parts fit, finish, and details are fantastic. No more sanding than any other kit I have done, and the subject is unique. This will end up getting more treatment later, but for now... its FINISHED! I hope you enjoyed the build review, and please send me input at If you have a chance to get this kit, and you have some skills with very small parts, its worth the effort! 

















Highly Recommended for experienced to Advanced builders. Because of the detailed nature of some parts and the need to pay very close attention to instructions, I would not recommend this as a beginner's kit (without at least an experienced builder mentoring!)

Thanks goes out to AFV Club for this review kit.

Reviewed by Brian Messier


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