AFV Club M109A3/M185A3 2.5 Ton Shop Truck
The M 109A3/M185A3 Shop Van is the result of mounting a maintenance shop van on the chassis of a standard M-35 2.5 ton 6x6. Alternately, the M185A3 version also mounted the front mounted 10K winch, and was specifically designed as a machine shop. ( This will be a picture heavy review). AFV Club's rendition of this Vietnam/Cold war era vehicle provides some parts for both versions. The winch in particular is a very notable option, as it is not depicted in the box art. Speaking of the box art, AFV Club did a really cool thing in my opinion and included an 8x11 print of the box art with the kit. Its virtually identical to the box top with none of the text, a nice touch. Instructions are in Japanese with some English translation of the front page. This appears to be a very direct translation and can be a bit confusing to read. Information on this vehicle is truly abundant online, and reference material as well can be found for the M-35 series vehicles almost anywhere.
Taking some time to do a little research on this vehicle, the M-35 series of trucks started out being produced by Reo and was a result of competition between Studebaker., REO, and GMC in the 1950s. When the XM-35 was designated M-35, it became the standard 2.5 ton truck for what ended up being most of the cold war. Interestingly, the original M-35s were gasoline powered, and only developed into diesel versions with the M-35A2. The A3 differs only slightly, and is virtually identical to A2 structurally. When paired with a van body, the M-series 2.5 ton became known as M-109. This is not to be confused with the self propelled artillery of similar nomenclature. Several different models of van trucks were produced, but differed mostly in their interior layout and specific functions of the vehicle. The primary external differences, which can be found in this kit, are the inclusion of a powered winch and the choice of hard or soft canopy cab. For those who need further reference photographs, Wings and Wheels No 12 "M-35A2 in Detail" has an extensive combination of black and white, as well as color photos. It was used for much of this information as well,.
The instruction booklet that comes with this kit is a bit of a busy read, so careful attention to the steps and sub assemblies is in order. The callouts are pretty straight forward letter and number combinations, but exactly where and how parts are oriented can get complicated, so I recommend reading twice and dry fitting parts BEFORE applying any glue. Also important to note is that the front wheel hubs are not glued onto the axle, as it appears they can be posed in a turn.
The 20 steps are broken down further into sub assemblies and are another case for paying close attention and dry fitting. I have not provided photos of every page, but you can get a good idea of what to expect build wise in these photographs.
The last pages of the instruction booklet provide some very good color drawings for different versions of paint schemes for vehicles contained in the kit. The decal sheet provides decals for four versions of vehicle. Painting instructions include options for three different MERDC color schemes and two solid OD green color schemes.
Looking at the sprues themselves, they are all packaged in plastic. Some are packaged in a single bag, and some are in multiples ( a plastic bag with sprues, and more plastic bagged sprues inside that!). This was at first odd to me, but I then realized that the parts double bagged were the second set of clear sprues, very smart to keep these parts from getting scratched up!
Sprues are in an olive drab and clear plastic. Very little flash was evident anywhere. Parts are attached by fine sprue gates which should minimize a lot of the sanding that comes along with parts removal. A razor saw will be helpful in removing some of the smaller parts and tools from their sprue gates, as these parts are very nicely detailed but very fine in thickness as well.
Searching the parts and sprue for ejector pin marks reveals there are quite a few parts that will need attention. In particular, the walls that build into the shop have so have about a dozen very fine marks that will need to be sanded smooth. Some of them will be covered by work benches but for the effort I recommend hitting them all with a sanding stick.
Surface detail on all parts is crisp and clean, with very few mold seam marks that will require any kind of real work. Detail is raised on the parts and very fine, which might require some careful attention when sanding is necessary.
There are quite a few parts that will not end up on the model as its built, and curiously it appears that there may be enough parts to build an entire fuel tank system.
AFV Club has come up with a good representation of a class of support vehicles that has been somewhat lacking in the industry. Furthermore, their choice to manufacture the shop van on the M-35 chassis covers the entire cold war as well as a period of Vietnam. This allows the modeller a fairly vast canvas to add this model to. Because of the small chassis parts and technical drawings, I would recommend anyone with average modelling skills and up will find this build a worthwhile endeavor, but I would caution newer modellers who choose to tackle this project again- take it slowly, read the instructions twice and dry fit parts first, and if frustration sets in, take a break or build another sub assembly!. This one is going to hit the build bench today, so look for a full build review down the road a ways ( I consider myself the modeller who needs to go slow, take breaks, and read twice and dry-fit!)
Highly Recommended for intermediate to Advanced builders.
Thanks goes out to AFV Club for this review kit.
Reviewed by Brian Messier
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