U.S. M-107 Self-Propelled Gun
The Italeri kit this release is based on was first issued in 1988, and I not only bought it then but built it up into one of my all-time favorite dioramas. As with a lot of Italeri kits released at the time, there were a few spots of oversimplification, but it was a quick and fun build and certainly looked the part when complete.
Tamiya has done something interesting here, in that they have re-released this almost thirty year old kit along with their equally venerable U.S. Command figure set. Since I have built these figures numerous times over the intervening years, I will forgo the pleasure of repeating myself here.
Building the remainder of the kit remains a breeze, for the most part. Unlike a lot of slide mold kits today, there are a fair number of parts which have to be glued together and then sanded to seamlessness. That was my first task on opening the box, including the hydraulic rams, shells and jerry cans. The main gun required this treatment as well, of course, but although there is an aftermarket metal barrel for this kit I believe I will forgo the opportunity. It’s an enormous gun and unless you weight the chassis somehow a metal version would simply topple the kit over. Besides, the plastic version is fine if you take your time.
The upper hull also needs to have the sides very carefully fitted in order not to destroy the detail. After performing that task, I went after the relatively simple running gear, which probably took the lesser part of an hour. Despite the number of large parts, there was little filling needed except at the bow and a tad at the stern.
The rest of the assembly went together without difficulty, although I did spend a certain amount of time dealing with pin marks, which are prevalent on external surfaces, particularly the smaller pieces. Some of these are in awkward spots, such as the spade face, so you might want to take your time here. I lost a few items to the Carpet God, but fortunately nothing that wasn’t easily replaced. On the newer items, I elected to replace the chain supports for the seat with real chain as well as the vinyl piping to the gun mount with appropriate solder. Through careful building, I managed to keep the bulldozer blade, main gun and gun loader movable so I could decide on a final pose later.
The single-piece tracks have been molded in a somewhat softer vinyl than the rather stiff originals, but I suspect the mold is identical, as they show a bit of flash and numerous pin marks on the inner faces. Mine also seemed a shade long, but it might have been my build affecting the fit. In any case, none of this detracts from the final look and the tracks are easy to paint and install.
The kit includes decals for two different Vietnam-era machines. Having made one of these in a ‘Nam setting previously, I thought I’d go in a different direction by making this one as an Israeli vehicle. All this change entailed was replacing one of the new jerry can racks with an Israeli-style gas can and a quick rummage through the decal box. Otherwise, there were no other obvious modifications I could detect on my internet search.
I love this vehicle and this kit. That being said, I’m a bit disturbed by how Tamiya handled this re-release. I think Tamiya missed a good chance here to include a real Vietnam era gun crew – something I personally would have liked to see. Instead they just recycled one their much older figure sets. I also would have liked to see separate track links, but that’s just me. The additional sprue from their MUTT kit adds some helmets, ammo boxes and weapons, but isn’t really that much of a bonus in my estimation. It’s a sign of my age, perhaps, that I was put off by the much higher price tag for this re-release until my wife kindly noted that believe it or not, prices have gone up generally in the last thirty years. Ouch. Thanks for the reminder, hon.
If a modeler is buying this kit with the expectation it will feature all of Tamiya’s “shake and bake” model engineering, they’re apt to be disappointed. However, if they’re looking for an easy build of a truly fascinating vehicle or, like me, want a chance to re-visit an “old friend” then they’ll find what they’re looking for. As long as you’re willing to take the time dealing with the numerous external pin marks, you should be able to create a wonderful replica of this machine. My thanks to Tamiya USA and IPMS/USA for the chance to take a happy stroll down memory lane one more time.