M113A1 ACAV VN War – Full Build
By AFV Club
This is a full build review. The first look of this kit can be found here:
First Look Review
Suspension and Tracks
The construction starts with the suspension. The kit has a workable suspension, sort of, as will be discussed shortly. So the first step is to install the torsion bars. These fit in easily enough but there’s a catch. The rocker arms are separate and you then have to glue them to the torsion bars while not getting any glue on the hull or else you’ll lock out the whole assembly. That’s really hard.
Turns out it is also completely unnecessary. I simply glued the torsion bar to the rocker arm first and then installed the whole thing without any problems.
AFV Club should really change their instructions. But it’s at this point that I found out that the suspension isn’t completely workable. The problem is that while the rockers arms are movable on the torsion bars, the supports shocks on the front and back arms are molded as one piece in the neutral position.
So once you glue those in place, they’re locked out. Thus, only the middle three rocker arms can still be moved. Hmmm.
With the suspension in place, I turned to the roadwheels. These are a 6 pieces assembly which, while a little complex, result in an excellent representation of the undercut on the rims as well as correctly representing the thickness (very thin) of the hubs.
Attaching them to the rocker arms is a bit tricky since the mounting pin is pretty shallow. They are not designed to rotate so you can glue them in place and make some adjustments to the mounting to get everything lined up.
Next I jumped ahead to the tracks. The kit tracks are one piece vinyl that use a metal pin to connect the ends together. This replaces the traditional track pad. The upside is that the detail on the tracks isn’t compromised. But there’s a serious downside.
As you can see from the photo, the tracks are long. Since you really can’t shorten them, a potential solution would be to not mount the idler arm in the down position as shown in the instructions but in the full back position. This would help to take out the slack and thankfully the shock absorber for them is in two pieces so no modification is necessary. In retrospect, I would have done this and not followed the instructions in step two.
All that said, the other issue with the tracks is that they are made of a material that doesn’t seem to take traditional model glue. So there’s not a simple way to attach them to the suspension and get the proper sag. In fact, it’s going to be pretty hard to even keep them wrapped around the sprocket and tight along the bottom to the roadwheels and idlers.
To be honest, you’re best off replacing them with workable link-link tracks such as the set AFV Club just released which is reviewed here:
Workable Track Review
These tracks worked much better though I really wish I hadn’t locked out the idler position since I ended up with the dreaded ½ link sag problem (too long but too short to add another link).
So with the vehicle up on its tracks, the next steps are the interior.
The construction of the interior starts with the firewall between the driver and the engine, the floor, and the firewall between the engine and troop compartment. Assembly of these components is pretty easy as is mounting the steering levers and the accelerator. The problem is the there are some important items missing and they’re in a spot that’s pretty visible through the driver’s hatch. These parts are the transmission selection lever and the ramp actuating lever. I scratch built these as shown in white in the photo
If you don’t want to scratch build them, you can also find these in previous M113 kits from Academy and they’re available in both photoetch and resin sets that were released for older kits.
The next assembly is the parts for the right side of the troop compartment. This is mainly the seats, the battery box and the backrest. These are nicely molded with good detail. But again there are parts missing.
In the front is the personnel heater and in the back is the rear bilge drain pipe. There’s also a fire extinguisher mounted in the back but I didn’t have an extra one so I left it off. I realize that AFV Club can’t model every detail on the interior and leaving off the bilge pipe is understandable to some extent. But the heater is a big part that’s also included in previous releases from Academy.
The next assembly is the left side of the interior. This includes the fuel tank, the radio and rack, the seats, the driver’s seat assembly, and the commander’s seat assembly. The two seat assemblies are super well done.
The radio is also well done but I was surprised that the face part (E11) wasn’t fully molded so I had to scratch build the missing section.
In addition, I realized that there are a number of missing items in the driver’s section. Mostly these are below the instrument panel but they are again very visible through the driver’s hatch. I scratch built them but the big items are also available in previous Academy kits. One item that is included is the IR periscope which is an option to install on the driver’s hatch. But the storage rack on the left wall isn’t included. I scratch built the rack onto the periscope so I can mount the whole thing to the wall.
Next I did some detailing on the inside of the front glacis since it too can be seen through the driver’s hatch. As I mentioned before, it’s not realistic to expect AFV Club to cover every little thing on the interior but I do think some of these items could have simply been molded into the part itself.
Lastly I worked on the interior of the roof. Mostly I just filled the shallow pin marks. But there is an internal communications box mounted just behind the instrument panel that’s missing and readily visible. I also made a change to the ramp lock handle (the part sticking up near the driver’s hatch). The kit part has this molded in the forward position which is the locked position. But I intend to open the ramp so I cut it free and repositioned it in the open position. The biggest advantage is that it makes it possible to attach the entire mechanism part (C36) to the roof instead of to the top of the firewall as shown in the instructions. If you leave the part unmodified, you must follow the instructions since mounting it to the roof will cause an interference when you go to attach the roof to the hull.
So that wraps up the interior construction. Obviously I’ve noted that the kit is missing a number of pretty visible items. If you’re not going to open up the hatches and/or the rear ramp, or if you’re going to have figures in them, then you can ignore this issue. Otherwise it’s up to the individual modeler to determine how much extra work to put into the kit.
Before continuing with the rest of the construction, I needed to paint the interior first.
For the base color, often referred to as ‘Duck Egg Blue’ I chose Tamiya Sky which I’ve found to be pretty close after fading and weathering. After painting the interior that color I also panel faded in a lightened version. Then I added the decals. AFV Club provides a nice set of the placards and warnings that are super visible. I found the decals to be excellent with good detail. I had no problem getting them to lay down over a gloss coat using Solvaset.
Then I painted out the myriad of details and added a bunch of stowage. The large ammo can comes with the kit and includes the decals. So do the personal weapons. These are really beautifully done and are just about the best I’ve seen in this scale and easily rival even the best resin offerings. Plus, you get a lot of the them. I only chose to use a few since I’ll add more outside the vehicle.
Then I gave the interior a flat coat and a general wash of thinned Raw Umber oil paint. I wrapped up the interior by adding a little pigments plus some dry brushing with flat black and aluminum.
The next steps are all focused on the exterior. First up is mounting the roof and front glacis parts. The fit here is excellent. It’s tight but once you wiggle everything in place, almost no putty is needed to get it right. Once these are in place, the rest of the work is just putting on the little details. There are a lot of them and many are quite small. But the result is a very convincing look. Overall the fit is good but as you can see from the photos, there are a few pins marks to address.
Of course, part of what makes the ACAV unique and cool are the weapons mounted on top. The ACAV had a protected commander’s cupola and AFV Club does a great job of providing this with very well done parts that have the correct scale thickness. I found the overall assembly to be straightforward. You get two weapon choices, the traditional M2 .50 cal or the M134 minigun. I chose the M2 because I like the look of it with the shield and also for the markings on the vehicle.
AFV Club produces a very fine set for the M2 and they simply include it in the kit. In my opinion, this is the best M2 on the market in plastic and frankly, just about as good as what you can find from the best resin companies as well. The detail is excellent and AFV Club uses a lot of parts to allow really nice details like having the barrel separate from the cooling jacket, the cocking handle is also separate, and the ammo can and holder being individual pieces. It just looks great once assembled.
Also included in the kit, but not noted in the instructions are the smoke grenades that I strung along the side of the cupola shield. The .50 cal ammo belts came from my stash.
Though I’m not going to use it, I also built the minigun. Overall this too is very nicely done and the design of the parts is such that there’s a gap between the barrels which helps with the realism. It should be noted that this assembly is quite delicate with a lot of small parts.
Lastly, I turned to the M60s. These too look great and again there’s a lot of nice details like having the bipod arms as separate pieces. One item of note on these is that you do need to drill out the barrel.
So that completed the assembly of this model and the finished look is very impressive.
Painting and Weathering
I started the painting by first painting the lower hull, suspension, and tracks in Model Master Raw Sienna to represent to the dirt and dust typically seen on these vehicles. Then I gave the rest of the model a base coat of Flat Black. I followed this with a panel fade of Model Master Green Drab and then a lighter fade of Model Master Faded Olive Drab.
Next I turned to the markings. I used the ones on the box cover and had no trouble getting them on over a gloss coat.
After that I gave the model a ‘dusting’ using thinned Tamiya Buff and then a flat coat. With this done, I dry brushed the model using Model Master Afrika Dunkelgrau and then painted the details like the weapons, tarp, and spare roadwheels. I wrapped this up with another flat coat.
I began the weathering with a wash of thinned raw umber oil paint. Then I used some earth color dry pigments to tie in the low and upper hull. I continued with more pigments to represent the dust and dirt that accumulates all over the vehicle. I finished the job by doing a little dry brushing with flat black and then a very little more with Model Master Aluminum in high traffic areas.
Overall I really enjoyed building this kit. The details are very impressive, especially on the weapons and exterior. Obviously, as I noted in the review, there are a number of items to deal with on the suspension and tracks as well as some missing items in the interior.
But these issues are manageable and more that offset by the outstanding detail and accuracy put into this kit.
Recommended for intermediate to advanced modelers.
My sincere thanks to Hobby Fan for the review sample.
Reviewed by Jim Wechsler, SoCal AMPS
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