Designed to fulfill a requirement by the United States Army and Marine Corps for a main battle tank to replace the M4 Shermans and M46 Pershings of the 1940’s, the M48 Patton tank found its place America’s armor hall of fame as the United States’ main battle tank from the early 1950’s through the early 1970’s. Originally fitted with gasoline engines, early M48’s were limited in range and were prone to erupt in flames when struck by hostile fire, thus necessitating the need for an improved version with increase range and less susceptible to secondary explosions and fire when impacted by enemy rounds. Enter the M48A3 variant, equipped with a new diesel engine and improved drive train and fire control system. In addition to production of new M48A3’s, earlier M48 variants were retrofitted to the M48A3 standard, and became the primary US tank during the Vietnam era. By the early 1970’s the M48 gave way to the M60, which was eventually superseded by the M1A1 Abrams in the early 1980’s.
In the Box
For this rendition of its Mod B M48A3, Dragon packs the hefty box with 7 gorgeously molded gray styrene sprues, accompanied by 2 in clear plastic. Detail is crisp, and features cast hull and turret texture with serial numbers, thin fenders, whip antennae, and delicate bustle racks and grab handles. Dragon Styrene 100 (DS) is the material of choice for the superbly molded tracks and mantlet cover. A piece of steel wire is provided for the tow cable, and the kit rounds out with crisp, clear instructions and a decal sheet with markings for 5 different mounts – 3 USMC and 2 US Army.
Fit is generally very good, although the turret interface to the turret ring is a bit snug and extra care had to be taken to properly align and seat rear deck modules. I was a bit surprised, though, by an oddly asymmetrical gun tube for the uncovered mantlet option, even the replacement part, shipped promptly through the most excellent Dragon Care customer support, had the same odd asymmetry. Fortunately, I chose to build mine with the mantlet cover, and used the alternate, and symmetrical, gun tube.
Detail, fit, and accuracy, when compared to pictures in David Doyle’s M48A3 in Vietnam In Action from Squadron/Signal Publications, is fantastic. Based on marking options provided, it’s evident the kit’s engineers had access to the same sources during product development.
Workflow is the standard “from the ground up,” starting with the road wheels and running gear, progressing through the lower hull, top hull, and turret. Tracks are saved for last, of course. Instructions were clear and appeared to be error-free.
If I were to build this kit or another Dragon M48 variant again, I’d likely take a more conservative approach, putting fewer tiny parts at risk of breaking, would be:
- Build road wheels and running gear elements
- Assemble upper and lower hull halves and gross topside detail
- Add axle and transmissions housings, drive sprockets/idlers, and suspension elements
- Assemble larger turret parts and gun barrel
- Add delicate detail to turret and hull
- Paint and decal
- Add turret, road wheels, and tracks
The DS mantlet cover and tracks required little trimming or cleanup. When a sharp hobby knife was insufficient to remove smaller blemishes, Tamiya Extra Thin Cement, applied liberally but with caution, did the trick to knock them down. Tamiya Extra Thin Cement was also used to secure the ends of the tracks together. That DS is great stuff!
Finishing and Decals
Upon completion of assembly of all but road wheels and tracks, the model was primed with gray rattle can primer from Walmart. Taking a page or two from Michael Rinaldi’s TankArt 2 – WWII Allied Armor, the OD base was then built up with Tamiya XF-27 Black Green, and topped with XF-62 Olive Drab. Building upon the 2 base layers, AMMO by Mig Post-WWII Olive Drab (from my friends at Fox One Hobbies) provided the main color, and was then modulated with a final layer of the same lightened with a couple drops of Vallejo flat white. Mantlet cover and searchlight cover were painted with Tamiya XF-51 Khaki Drab.
Decals were applied into wet puddles of Future, then dulled with Model Master Acryl Flat Clear upon drying. Decals were, thin, sharp and in-register, and settled down well.
Tracks and road wheel tires were painted with Vallejo NATO Black, and the track links were painted with Lifecolor Rust Base Color.
Weathering will be done following the review, for the sake of publishing the review in a timely manner.
Conclusion and Recommendation
Now setting a new standard for M48 kits on the market, Dragon’s M48A3 – Smart Kit is well-suited for intermediate and advanced modelers, while part count and a couple of the finesse elements may prove a bit of a stretch for beginners and juniors.
All considered, I highly recommend this kit for advanced and intermediate skill-level modelers. It’s clean, accurate, and doesn’t put up a fight on the bench, either. It was a fun build.
Many thanks to Dragon Model USA for the review sample and to IPMS/USA for the opportunity share the experience through this review.