Takom M60A3 with M9 Bulldozer
The First Look Review is here: https://www.amps-armor.org/SiteReviews/ShowReview.aspx?id=14741. In this review, I confidently stated that I did not expect any problems with the build - however, my optimism proved to be misplaced. Read on to find out where to tread carefully.
Step 1: Drill six .8mm holes in the front lower hull, followed by rear tow hooks, bump stops, lifting rings, and mounting brackets on the right hull side.
Step 2: Build up two single and two double shock absorbers.
Step 3: Build up and attach final drives, bump stops, lifting rings, and mounting brackets on the left hull side; attach shock absorbers; two plates, one with hydraulic fittings, on rear lower hull. Pay attention to the direction you orient the hydraulic fittings for a future step.
Step 4: Build up the towing pintle and rear taillights.
Step 5: Attach the towing pintle and taillights from Step 4; Build up 12 suspension arms in eight sub-steps and attach to both sides. Takom does a nice job keying the different parts for ease of assembly. I deviated from the instructions here in order to paint road wheels, return rollers, and sprockets, and lower hull. Attach two small U-shaped hinges (A29) per the instructions (for the rear access doors). This would be a good time to attach Parts E65 and G71 (Step 9) before attaching the sprockets, which kind of get in the way.
Step 6: Build up 14 sets of road wheels (although two road wheels are actually the idlers), six sets of return rollers, and two sets of sprockets, and attach all to the suspension arms. The road wheels consist of a one-piece inner wheel and a two-part outer wheel, which made it easier to paint. There's a barely visible tab inside the sprocket halves that fits into a notch on the sprocket hub.
Step 7: Drill one .8mm hole in the upper glacis; build up the driver's hatch, either with the retractable clear periscope deployed, or the cover in place. There is no indication as to the color of this periscope, which is molded in clear styrene. I painted it with Tamiya Smoke X19, and glued the backing to the rear of it. Attach a sliding bar to the underside of the driver's hatch, which enables it to be opened and closed - there is no interior, and as of this build, no specific AM driver station or interior for this kit, although it's probably on the way. Attach the three clear drivers fixed(?) periscopes along with their protective backings/covers, lifting hooks, and the extended headlight/blackout drive posts. Fill two slots on the glacis. The periscopes and blackout drives were also painted with Tamiya Smoke.
Step 8: Remove two molded on location marks on the rear engine deck; attach the fuel filler cap (G9) and two small armor plates (G18, G70) to the hull sides; build up and install the two-part gun travel lock on the rear engine deck; I glued it closed, but I supposed it could be displayed open, or even holding the gun barrel if desired.
Step 9: Attach the two rear engine access doors; attach two lifting rings on the rear sides; attach the upper hull to the lower hull.
Step 10: The rubber band tracks are nicely rendered, and came together with the single steel pin per side (with only a little struggle).
Step 11: Perform some minor surgery on the left fender by cutting off about one-fourth of the rear and attaching part U5, then attach support brackets and front mudflaps to both.
Step 12: Build up five fender-mounted storage boxes and two sub-assemblies for the hydraulic system, and attach them to the two fenders.
Step 13: Attach the two fender assemblies to the main hull. There are two slots on the hull matching two tabs on each fender; besides putting glue in the slots, I also put some Tamiya Extra Thin Cement in a few spots. Once the fenders were in place, I added small amounts of Extra Thin along the contact area to ensure a good seal. Attach two semi-circular fender supports to the rear underside of the fenders. NOTE that the right-hand one is mislabeled as G56 - it is actually G58. Build up and attach a small tool/storage box to the rear right fender. Attach hydraulic line U13 to underside of the left fender and to the hydraulic fitting U33 installed back in Step 3.
Step 14: Build up and attach two brushguards (four parts each) for the front headlights. Attach hose assembly G44 to the right front glacis and fender.
Step 15: Attach protective skid plates and hydraulic fittings to the dual hydraulic lines assembly; attach five L-shaped brackets to the hull bottom (instructions show a blow-up of the placement), then attach the hydraulic lines to the fittings. There are two short sections of hydraulic line (U14, U20) which are attached to their respective fittings per the instructions.
Step 16: Build up and attach a box-shaped hydraulic control unit to the front lower hull.
Step 17: Build up and attach the left and right hydraulic piston units - the large outboard assemblies with the rectangular cutouts and the hole for the piston rod. There are small parts (W51, W52) that when carefully glued to their attachment points, will permit the blade to raise and lower.
Step 18: Build up and attach the center brace assembly - the inboard assemblies that look like a right triangle with a neck, and a round bar connecting them. Note that parts W23 and W24 are reversed - just swap them for correct build.
Step 19: Build up and attach two Y-shaped frame assemblies to the hydraulic piston units (Step 17). They will pivot if left unglued, but it was a struggle to get them on - I didn't notice it at the time, but I managed to lose the left-hand hook mechanism (see above) while turning it over to wrestle the parts on.
Step 20: Attach two grab handles and two lifting rings to the rear blade top, and four brackets to the rear blade bottom edge. Attach the blade side plates and the tooth (teeth?) blade to the bottom (NOTE that the instructions drawing is upside down for this part). Attach the front blade face to the rear blade, and then attach the front bottom blade edge. It isn't clear what angle that should be attached at, so I attached it at about a 45 degree angle.
Step 21: Attach eight brackets (U23 - U30) to the top of the blade rear, and then attach those eight brackets to their corresponding connections. This was the biggest problem I had with the build, because the brackets, as glued, would not fit over the connections. After pondering this for a while, I used a small jewelers plier to carefully spread the close-together bracket, and slightly push the far away bracket enough that they would fit over the connection points, and then carefully squeezed them together and strengthened the brackets with some Tamiya Extra Fine Glue, making sure to keep the connection points glue-free. Attach a very fragile release handle and rod to the glacis and connecting rod.
Step 22: ARGHHHH! All my pictures of the turret build were out of focus. The good news is that the turret build was mostly uneventful; the bad news is that the turret basket build was the second big problem. Start Step 22 by drilling out six 0,8mm holes on the left turret side, and four 0.8mm holes on the right side. Attach the left side Tank Thermal Sight (TTS), hand rail, turret ventilator, lifting ring, and gunners periscope.
Step 23: Build up and attach the loader's hatch. This can be built with the clear periscope deployed or not, and the hatch can be attached so it can open and close. Note that there is no interior detail. Attach the cross-wind sensor, antenna mast base, gunners periscope armored cover, and turret side lifting rings.
Step 24: Attach twelve small PE brackets, bent into a U-shape around the lower turret side and rear for holding the two tow cables. Build up and attach the left-hand Smoke Grenade Launcher (SGL), smoke grenade storage box, fuel can, and tow cable. Note that a length of wire is supposed to be included in the kit, but this kit did not have wire; fortunately, I had some left over from a previous build that I was able to use.
Step 25: Build up the commander's machine gun (MG) cupola. You have the option of building it with or without the mantlet cover, and the commander's hatch can open and close if carefully glued in place. The commander's sight can be built open or closed, and the protective cover uses one of the small PE pieces for extra detail. The MG barrel muzzle is drilled out, but the ventilation holes are not. Attach the commander's cupola to the turret, attach the right side TTS, which has the option of an open or closed cover over the sight optics.
Step 26: Building up the turret basket using the PE mesh was the second big problem. Although a solid styrene jig is provided, I could not get the PE mesh to conform to the correct shape, despite clamping it to the jig for first one day, then two days, and finally three days. I was worried that if I tried heating it over an open flame, I might burn the fragile mesh up, since I've never tried that particular tactic. I super glued the already shaped PE mesh bottom to the styrene tubular frame, and after that dried, super glued the upper PE mesh to the bottom PE mesh a little bit at a time. I accidentally broke one part of the tubular frame, but was able to glue that back together. The completed assembly was slightly off-kilter due to all the wrangling I had done getting the PE to settle down. Build up and attach the right side SGL, smoke grenade storage box, fuel can, and handrail. Before attaching the two SGLs, I superglued a small length of fine solder to the bottom of the SGLs, and the other end to a small bit of scrap sprue I attached to the turret side underneath the SGL location.
Step 27: Glue together the two halves of the main gun barrel, attach the muzzle. Oddly enough, there is a one-piece slide-molded main gun barrel included, but it is not the M68 used by this M60A3. Fill in twelve small molded depressions in the mantlet cover, then build up the three-part mantlet cover, attach lifting rings and other small attachment parts to the mantlet, and insert the gun barrel. The gun barrel has a prominent join seam along the top and bottom that must be puttied and sanded.
Step 28: Attach the upper turret half to the lower turret ring; attach the PE frame to the mantlet opening, which requires slightly bending the bottom part of the frame; I found it easy enough to superglue the upper part up to the bend, then once dry, bend the bottom part down and superglue it. Attach the main gun barrel/mantlet assembly. Attach the turret assembly to the hull. Although the instructions call out AMMO by MIG paints for the four tanks shown, I used Tamiya paints. For the camouflage pattern, I used NATO Green XF67, NATO Brown XF68, NATO Black XF69, Buff XF57; Metallic Grey XF56 for the tow cable, Rubber Black XF85 for the tires, Gun Metal X10 for the commander's MG, Smoke X19 for the optics, and Mark Fit for the decals. I did use Vallejo Satin Finish as a protective base coat for the decals and upcoming weathering. I used the decals for Bravo Company, 4th Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 1st Brigade, 8th US Infantry Division, REFORGER 83. Build complete.
PROS: It really was a nice, easy build, with the exceptions noted. Instructions are clear and well illustrated, parts are almost entirely flash-free with mostly good connection points. Parts fit together well, no gaps or problems attaching fenders, hull or turret halves, or small details. The turret and hull show nicely rendered casting texture and very well done casting marks on turret and hull. The bulldozer blade can raise and lower, if glue is used carefully and sparingly. All hatches can be opened and closed, and there are nicely done optics that can be shown in use, or covered. The nicely rendered rubber band tracks look great, have some weight to them, and lock together with one steel pin - no heating up flat blades or wrestling with glue!
CONS: As noted above, the turret basket PE mesh was a bear to work with; heating it carefully over an open flame would probably have made molding it in the correct shape much easier. The bulldozer blade attachment system is actually well thought out, but until I actually bent or pried connection points open, I could not fit them over the connections. Once in place, the blade raised and lowered without issue. There are no interior details and no figure, although undoubtedly some of the AM companies have interior and exterior detail sets on the way, and there are a few Cold War tanker figures out there.
Highly Recommended for Beginner to Advanced builders. Even though I had some problems with the PE turret basket and attaching the bulldozer blade to the hull attachment points, this is a really nice kit, and a (mostly) fun build.
Thanks goes out to TAKOM for this review kit.
Reviewed by Joseph "Mac" McDaniel
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