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Hobby Boss-- USAF XM706E2

Kit Number:
84536
Scale:
1:35
Published:
Sunday, April 18, 2021
Manufacturer:
Hobby Boss
Retail Price:
$35.95
Reviewed By:
Paul Roberts

xm706box.jpg

Cadillac Gage XM706E2

Hobby Boss #84536

$35.95

The Cadillac Gage Commando series of vehicles was created in response to an urgent requirement from the US Army Military Police Corps for a convoy protection vehicle for service in Vietnam. In addition, another version, the XM706E2 was created for the USAF specifically for air base protection. While the standard M706 had a turret armed with two machine guns, the XM706E2 replaced the turret with an open topped barbette that had fittings for several pintle mounted weapons around the edge of the barbette. These weapons were usually a .30 and .50 caliber MG but occasionally an automatic 40mm grenade launcher was fitted. These vehicles were mostly taken out of US service at the end of the Vietnam war, but some remained in Korea and the Philippines until as late as 1988. Other smaller militaries still field various versions of the Commando even though some are approaching 60 years of age.

The Hobby Boss kit is the latest in a series of Commando variants that Hobby Boss has produced over the last number of years with the original M706 kit coming out in 2008. The kit includes upwards of 300 parts on 6 light grey sprues, one clear sprue, plus one-piece upper and lower hull parts, although a number are not required for this variant. On that score you get a complete T50 twin-MG turret for another project (like an Aussie M113, perhaps?), which is kinda nice. The kit also includes a nice PE fret, some masks for the multitude of vision devices, the decal sheet with markings for two unspecified vehicles, four soft vinyl tires and a length of fine chain. There is a 12-page instruction guide plus a one-page, full colour markings/paint guide.

Overall, the assembly is straight forward, and I did not note any mistakes or omissions in the instructions. That said, there are a number of issues with this kit. As a general note, the level of detail of the kit is pretty low and an awful lot of parts have been overly simplified to the point of being incorrect. The fit of several parts is not up to the best standard and, most importantly, at least for me, for a vehicle that is open topped, where the entire interior can be seen easily, the interior details are both quite sparse and, in many cases, incorrect.

 


Figure 1 Bit of a spotty start. White seat is one I scratchbuilt to replace one I apparently misplaced.

As can be seen in Fig 1, the interior of the hull has a great many ejection pin marks. It’s pretty obvious that HobbyBoss did not really consider the open topped nature of the E2 when designing the common moulds for the Commando series. In addition, many of the suspension component locating holes come right through the floor and are visible inside the vehicle, so care must be taken when fitting interior components not to fit those which prevent clean-up of the protruding locating pins. In truth, one should complete most of Steps 8, 9 and 10 before starting the interior in Step 1 to allow the easiest access to clean up the floor. Once you are building the interior, the accelerator pedal assembly (D12, D18, D19) really doesn’t fit well together and then sits rather precariously on a very small locating pin. The gear selector and hand brake levers next to the driver are not accurate, but assemble well enough, as do the interior seats, although there is a nearly impossible to remove ejector pin mark at the bottom of each seat that is visible if the seats are assembled folded up.
In Step 2, the driver’s seat is, again, inaccurate, but fits well as do the steering mechanism and the instrument panel, which are also quite inaccurate. I would also leave off the rear grill housing (D11) until you are ready to assemble the upper hull to the lower as it interferes somewhat in getting things installed.

Figure 2 Upper hull interior details

Things that are missing out of the lower hull/floor are any hint of the normally prominent radio in the aft bay plus any of the various cushions and pads located in the hull for crewmen to sit on or lean on. These are very obvious in photos of the real thing and their lack makes the interior quite sparse.

Steps 3 through 6 are where interior components are fitted and this is another weak area of the kit. There are a number of features visible on the exterior of the vehicle that have significant interior components, these including the vision ports and the various gun port openings. The vision ports are thick armoured glass that are nearly flush mounted from the outside, but have a deep housing holding removable glass blocks on the inside, none of these blocks are provided at all and the exterior fitting of the clear parts has a raised rim that is significantly thicker than on the actual vehicles, see Figs 2 and 3. Similarly, the rotating gun port covers are not only subtly the wrong shape (they are shaped like a simple D whereas the lower left corner of the D should be elongated and angled as the rotation point) but there is absolutely no detail on the inside at all for this mechanism. In fact, for the port that is in the driver’s plate, the modeller has to open up the hole for that and, to facilitate it, the interior wall of that plate is rebated to thin the plastic for cutting, leaving a very obvious scar feature through the open crew hatches. The hatches, which can be left opened or closed have no interior detail at all; no latches, no handles, no workings for the gun ports, nothing, see Fig 3.

Also on the interior are a number of communications boxes that need to be fitted to the inside of the upper hull. Unfortunately, most of these are, again, inaccurate. HobbyBoss provides two PE parts for the inside of the hull to be located just inside of the upper doors on the side hatches as a lip or sealing frame as can be seen in Fig 2. I’m not at all sure why they bothered with this sort of fine detail considering all the rather obvious details they omitted.

Figure 3 Typical interior and exterior detail as found on the rear hatch

One thing that is common to a great many of the parts in this kit is that HobbyBoss did not plan them well for use on a kit where the interior could be seen. There are ejection pin marks on the interior surfaces of a great many components where a little more consideration in mould planning would have used off-part injection points to decrease the need of these mould features. For a modern kit, the amount of filling needed to clean up these visible surfaces is really excessive.

The kit provides reasonably nice M2HM and M60 MGs plus an unneeded FN-Mag. The guns themselves are not bad, though it appears that the charging handle for the M2 was a short shot in my kit. There is no indication of the cartridge ejection port on the underside of the M2, and the ammunition boxes that are part of each gun subassembly are awful and resemble nothing more than the really bad ammo boxes Tamiya used to include in the 70s. As depicted, with the box lids parallel to the bottoms, the ammo feed doesn’t actually work, the boxes are essentially shown closed, but with ammo coming out one side.

Figure 4 Front differential assemblies

Steps 8, 9 and 10 are where the suspension is added to the underside of the lower hull, see Fig 4. This is another area where oversimplification hurts the accuracy of the kit. From an assembly point of view, the fitting of the leaf springs is confusing with inadequate location marks to prevent incorrect assembly. I actually assembled the front springs wrong way around at first, luckily discovering this before the glue dried. The standard pioneer tool rack is also oversimplified, having no straps or brackets for any of the tools and with the shovel virtually hanging in mid-air. There really is no excuse for this as this is a well-known standard item found on many vehicles and where this lack of attention is noticeable.

Figure 5 Rear

The differentials that are assembled in Step 9 go together well enough, but, again without sufficient locator marks to prevent misassembly. But they are also very under-detailed for parts that are quite visible. The assembly of the differentials and shock absorbers onto the leaf springs is a delicate dance of trying to get eight pins and slots on five pieces to all line up at once. In the end, I managed to bend one shock absorber shaft. As can be seen in Fig 5, the drive shaft for the rear differential is actually short of the hull by more than 1.5mm which is pretty bad form, in my books. There are also no features on the bottom of the hull to indicate the waterproofing or gaskets needed to seal where either drive shaft enters the hull or any indication of how the steering mechanism inside might be joined to the steering tie rod attached to the two font wheels. At this point one also adds the front guide frame for the interior winch to the front of the lower hull. As can be seen in Fig 6, this frame is the only indication that there is a winch at all as nothing is included for the interior in the driver’s compartment. You get a nice clear hole into the interior and HobbyBoss provides, very oddly, a length of very nice chain and a hook that you are supposed to hook to an exterior lifting lug and then push the remaining chain into the winch hole. That this is supposed to be cable attached to a winch is not reflected in the kit anywhere. I omitted both. One of the things that is a bit mystifying is that HobbyBoss provides a separate hatch for accessing a winch that is very obviously not there.

Figure 6 The see-through gap where there should be a winch and a cable reel

The assembly of the wheels and tires to the suspension subassembly were amongst the worst fitting parts of the model. Luckily, the hollow vinyl tires can be added to the rims after rim assembly, making painting a snap, however the fit of the rims to the hubs on the suspension required a lot of carving. It’s a good thing I dry fitted this prior to assembling the finer details to the hull as I would have very likely broken off a number of fittings trying to sweat the rims on the hub. In the end I had to carve away a substantial amount of the supposed mating material on the interior diameter of the rims in order to get them to fit at all as can be seen in Fig 7. And, of course, at that point any alignment features were long removed meaning final assembly after painting was a nightmare trying to get all four wheels aligned. On another note, the vinyl tires have relatively prominent mould seams, as can be seen in the pictures of the finished model. I tried to freeze the wheels in order to sand off the seams, but that did not work. I seriously recommend replacing them with resin wheels to avoid this.

Figure 7 Carving away the wheel to fit the hub

This stage is where you also add the head and taillights and guards. The lights are all found on the clear sprue and I am at a bit of a loss as to why. The entire light is in clear plastic, so you either paint the back surfaces in silver prior to assembly, mask the lenses and then overpaint everything in the exterior colour, removing the masking to reveal the silver under the thick plastic or you assemble the light to the model as and when they suggest and then you really don’t have the ability to utilise a clear part at all. It would have made far more sense to have produced the headlights with small hollows and then have the clear lenses only on the clear sprue. On the plus side, the PE mesh grille over the headlights has a really nice woven texture to it that is quite effective.

Figure 8 A large gap between the rear of the engine compartment and the rear of the hull remains after the clamping the hull together

The last couple stages of assembly involve the open-topped barbette. This is as separate feature, just as on the real thing and can be built with the folding doors up or down, closing off the interior. The majority of the PE parts are used to create the five MG mounts spaced around the barbette. These go together quite nicely and really enhance the look of the model. The M60 MG also has a pair of really nice bipod legs that work really well.

To finish the model exterior, I used Vallejo US Olive Drab, slightly lightened with dark yellow as I am representing a brand new vehicle. I also painted the interior of the visible hatches in the exterior colour. For the interior, I mixed up a custom “interior green” based on period photos and some restored examples. I painted the seats and cushions in black as seen in reference photos and painted the MGs in a “Parkerized” dark grey with Forrest Green furniture on the M60 and the ammo boxes. The model is depicted in a bit of a “What if” scenario so I did not apply the kit markings, although I did apply them to my paint mule to try them out. They went on well, were not thick, and snuggled down over details nicely with Micro Set and Micro Sol.

My intended finished scenario is as a vehicle under trial with the Canadian Armed Forces in the mid-60s. We actually did trial the basic M706 but not the E2. The scenic base I will finish later will represent trials at CFB Shilo in Manitoba which is a very sandy environment (it’s situated on what used to be the bottom of an ancient seabed) and as such I have heavily dusted the wheels and lower hull using AK Interactive’s Africa Dust Effects and added some streaking with AKs weathering pencils and a bit of water to blend them in.

On the upside, the PE is well done, especially the grills over the headlights and the inclusion of masks for the various view ports is a nice touch. The instructions are clear and straightforward, but, overall, this was a disappointing model. The lack of detail and the occasional serious fit issues really detract from what is otherwise an attractive subject.

As this is the only M706E2 in polystyrene, if you want one and are prepared to put in the work, this is the place to start. However, as a reasonably accurate model out of the box, I cannot recommend this kit.

Thanks goes out to MRC for this review sample.

Reviewed by Paul Roberts

 

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