U.S. M113A1 ACAV

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Company: AFV Club - Website: Visit Site
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As a young man in the late 1960’s living in Canada, each weekday night I used to watch “The CBS Evening News” with Walter Cronkite. This was my window on the world, so to speak. And it seemed that almost every night the first thing that I saw through this window involved “the war in Vietnam”. Mr. Cronkite would tell me how many US troops had been killed or wounded, and then I would see a video clip from a correspondent in Saigon, or in some rice paddy somewhere in the countryside. Vietnam, I thought, was a place I didn’t EVER want to visit. Often in the background of the television videos, there were TWO objects regularly seemed to appear at some point during the newscast. One was a helicopter, often many, and the other was an M113 APC. These apparently, were the chariots that the Americans rode into battle, be it on the ground, or in the air.

What’s in the AFV Club Box

  • 10 sprues large and small of green plastic parts
  • 1 sprue of clear plastic parts
  • 1 fret of photo etched brass parts
  • 1 pair of rubber band tracks
  • 1 sheet of water slide decals with 7 different marking options
  • 1 booklet, with 20 pages of black and white assembly instructions covering 29
  • assembly steps and incorporating a color markings and painting guide

Under Construction

This is the second AFV Club kit in a row that I have reviewed, and they have turned out to be quite different in two respects. Detail wise, both have been excellent: the first was the M60A3 Main Battle Tank, and this M113 is just as well detailed, if not a little more so. Detail is crisp, there is lots of it, and the engineering of the parts is such that most everything fits very well together. This M113 kit is free of the heavy mold release substance that coated the M60A3’s parts, though I did give the kit a bath in Simple Green cleaner, and rinsed it well with warm water afterwards just in case. The parts in the M60A3 kit were basically flash free. This is NOT the case with the M113. There is in fact small amounts of flash everywhere.

Quite surprising in a brand-new kit, and nothing that can’t be taken care of with extra prep time, but a bit frustrating when most find modeling time scarce? Who wants to spend it removing flash from kit parts?

Construction of this kit begins with the lower hull and suspension components. Unlike many of the AFV kits I have built of late, which include separate lower hull plate, separate side hull plates etc., AFV Club’s M113 it a one-piece tub for the hull. No issues with lining up parts here, which is a positive point IMHO. Individual torsion bars are included thus allowing for a “working” suspension. I am NOT a fan of such ideas, since I don’t need to mount my road wheels at different heights, as I don’t build dioramas. All it means for me is more work attempting to get the angles of the road wheel suspension arms lined up. However, if you DO like moving suspension, then AFV Club is your friend!

Note that the rear idler wheel is adjustable on this kit, see Assembly Section 2, parts A5/A9/A17/A19. Check photos of the real vehicle to see how you want it to sit on your model. ALSO leave it unglued until you are ready to install the track, as there is no wriggle room with the track included in this kit. If you glue the idler wheel unit in place PRIOR to test fitting the track, then it might turn out that the track won’t fit properly. Assembly Sequence 3: road wheels, drive sprockets and idler wheel assembly. Detail on this area is excellent, and the main road wheels come in five parts, including separate “rubber” sections. This allows for superb detail and the correct look to the wheels, and it also means you can paint the wheels and their rubber surrounds separately.

The kit comes with a decent amount of interior detail: Assembly Sequences 4 through 8. Various interior hull bulkhead walls are included, and there is a driver’s area with floor pedal, and various leavers. The crew compartment is nicely detailed, including multi-part fold down seats, interior fuel tank, a multi part radio, fire extinguisher, etc. There is a very nicely detailed, multi-part and positionable “turret gunner” seat. Sadly, the interior parts in particular have lots of small areas of flash over many of the parts. There are also parts shown on the instruction sheet drawings but that have no part number attached to them. An example is the large rear hull fuel tank, which is Part C63. There is a second part that attaches to the fuel tank, shown on the instruction sheet, and minus a part number. I was unable to find this part anywhere on the sprues, and I can’t explain this. Either the instructions were wrong, and no part should have been there, or somehow the part didn’t come in the kit? Anyway, it was an interior part, and almost impossible to notice that it was missing once the kit was completed, so no worries. Just weird.

Regarding the three-part fold down crew bench seats. Parts D20 x 2, had ejection pin marks so deep into the parts that they almost came through to the other side. In fact on one of the two parts, they did. Thankfully they fit such that this is almost impossible to notice, and you could always put a pack or M16 sitting atop the hole if necessary, or use putty to fill the hole and sand it flush.

Assembly Sequence 9 deals with the front hull plate and the front hull access door, which hinges upwards. The door can be positioned open or closed, but since there is no engine detail in the front of the hull interior, I glued it closed. If you have an aftermarket M113 engine set (or if one comes out), AFV Club’s parts layout has you covered to allow display of the engine detail. Next comes the front hull detail (Assembly Sequences 10 and 11) such as the headlights, their covers, and the hull roof plate. There is more interior detail for the hull roof plate, including separate clear driver’s vision blocks. The fit of the hull roof plate to the hull is superb. Assembly Sequence 12/13 deals with the driver’s hatch, which is multi-part, and can be positioned open or closed. You also install the rear hull roof hatch at this point, also positionable opened or closed.

Assembly Sequence 14: various upper hull exterior roof detail. Note that the two parts listed D6 on the instructions (antenna mounts) are actually parts A11. The upper roof on board tools are put in place at this time, including separate axe, sledge hammer, pick axe handle, pick axe head etc. These are secured with photo etched brass straps.

Assembly Sequences 15 - 17: rear hull ramp. The rear hull ramp has a separate multi part crew access door within it. Both the door, and the ramp, can be positioned open or closed. In fact, the fit of the ramp is such that it is “workable”. It sits nicely in the closed position, with no gaps whatsoever, and if later you want to mount it open, you can do so. There are parts that need to be installed if showing it opened vs closed, in the interior of the hull.

Assembly Sequence 18. It is time to install the tracks. AFV Club has two options here. They include a set of rubber band tracks within the kit, and they offer a separate aftermarket set of link by link workable tracks, after market kit AF35306 “M113 APC T130E-1 Workable Track Link”. I purchased a set of the latter, as I am not a fan of rubber band tracks. I have found over the years that you risk them disintegrating due to the material they are made from reacting badly with either your paint thinners, or with the material they are made from being unstable. I always try to find an aftermarket set made of either injection plastic, metal, or resin. On the other hand, I know many modelers who LOVE single-piece rubber band tracks, and hate individual link tracks. Each to their own. As for the rubber band tracks themselves, their detail is good for this type of track though there are ejection pin marks on the inner surfaces of some links. They have a very novel way of assembly. You will see that AFV Club supplies two very small metal “pins” in the kit, and these are supposed to slip through holes in the tracks, anchoring them together firmly. You will need to make sure any “flash” in the area that the tracks mount together is carefully removed, and then that the holes go clean through the track parts so the pin can slip through. Then carefully line up the track ends, and gently slip the pins through the holes. It took me a few tries, but eventually all worked to plan. I would suggest making sure that the track join area matches up with the underside of a road wheel, and that super glue is applied to the join area, thus gluing the track ends together, as well as this mating area to a road wheel. This will give the join area more strength.

As for the separate aftermarket track set? This is more detailed than the rubber band track, and “clicks” together. The clicked together track holds together in most cases quite well, provided the little “pips” that allows for this aren’t damaged. If you find yourself with a couple of “difficult to click together” links, you risk damaging the pips, and then the track will need gluing and won’t be workable. However, these is a HUGE problem with these tracks, at least with the set I ended up with. This is that over 50% of the links had a minor to a major sink mark dead center of the track pad. A secondary issue is that the insides of the tracks have ejection pin marks on them. So where does this leave us? Well, for the price, the workable tracks are good value vis-a-vis other aftermarket M113 such as ModelKasten and Fruilmodel metal tracks. However, if the sink marks in the track pads is a common issue, perhaps the more expensive options are better in the long run? That said, the kit tracks are okay, provided you glue them securely together and to the road wheels.

Assembly Sequence 18, installation of the rear hull fenders and rear hull exterior jerry cans. The quality of the latter is excellent, being four parts, and they are secured to the model with photo etched brass straps.

Assembly Sequences 23 – 25: Upper hull defensive weapons positions. The ACAV M113 that this depicts comes with an open topped “turret” atop the hull. ‘Inside’ the turret is a gunner’s hatch, which in the kit is a multi-part affair, including separate clear vision prisms, and can be positioned open or closed. The kit comes with two options for the armament of this turret, either an M2 .50 caliber machinegun or an M134 mini-gun. The detail for either gun option is superb, some of the best I have ever seen, especially the M2 MG. Each gun is a multi-part unit. Also included are two lighter machine guns, which mount into separate gun shields, Assembly Sequence 27. Again, the detail on both the shields and the machine guns is amazingly good, though the gun shields unfortunately have some large ejection pin marks on their inside surfaces, which need to be carefully removed. The kit also includes two small sprues’ worth of personal crew weapons: M14E2 light machine guns, M14 rifles, M21 sniper rifles, M16A1 assault rifles, and MX177 submachine guns: 14 guns in total on the two sprues. For injection molded guns, these are amazing in their detail.

Paint and Decals

AFV Club provides the modeler with seven marking options. Six are US military vehicles in olive drab, while the seventh is a Republic of China (Taiwan) Army vehicle in FS34079 Green. While dates aren’t provided for all the US vehicles, they appear to be Vietnam era:

  • Option A: 1st Squadron, 10th Cavalry, US 4th Infantry Division
  • Option B: US Army, “Baby Duster”, unit not listed
  • Option C: 2nd Squadron, US 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment
  • Option D: US Army, unit not listed
  • Option E: US Army, unit not listed
  • Option F: 1st Battalion, 17th Cavalry, 82nd Airborne Division, Saigon, July 1969
  • Option G: Republic of China Army, 173rd Battalion, 109th Mechanized Division

I was a bit hesitant to use the decals in the kit I must admit. They appeared a bit thick and seemed to have some sort of “residue” coating the surface. However, they came in the kit, and I had nothing in my aftermarket decal collection to replace them with, so I went for it. I used the Gunze Sangyo two-part decal setting solution set (Blue Top & Green Top bottles) for this project. The decals proved a bit limpet-like, in that once removed from the backing paper and onto the model surface, they were difficult to move around. The Blue Top decal setting solution also seemed to soften the decals dramatically, and so not only did the decals not move around easily on the surface, but shortly after coming into contact with the decal solution, they were too soft and mushy to move at all. This all said, they DID adhere well to the model, and in the end, look great on the kit. Once they were allowed to dry for 24 hours, I airbrushed a number of sealer coats of Tamiya X-22 Gloss Clear over the decals.

After the clear coat was given a couple of days to cure, I mixed up some dark brown oil paint “wash”, and applied it liberally to the areas of raised detail and in the various recesses. This was allowed to dry for 24 hours before some Q-tips dipped in odorless mineral spirits were used to remove any excess “wash” and clean up “tide marks”. The model was then left alone for 72 hours to allow the oil paint wash to set up, before a few light coats of acrylic matt clear were applied. My favorite is AK Interactive’s “Ultra Matt Varnish AK 183”, the “mattest” matt on the market. I airbrush this without thinning it, straight from the bottle.

I then took a suitably dark gray color from the Vallejo range of acrylic paints and mixed a couple of drops of paint with a drop of distilled water, plus a dab of Vallejo airbrush thinner to break the surface tension. I snipped off a small piece of sponge from a sheet I have of this material, and dipped the sponge material in the paint utilizing some tweezers. I then wicked most of the paint off on a paper towel, and then proceeded to dab the paint-covered piece of sponge randomly about the model, “chipping” the OD paint

The tracks were hand painted utilizing Vallejo “Track Color”, a dull rusty brown color. The track pads were painted Vallejo Dark Rubber. Two shades of “rust color” oil paint was utilized as “washes” for the tracks. A final matt clear coat was then sprayed to seal the model one last time.

Overall, this is a superbly detailed kit from AFV Club, and its construction was for the most part problem free. If you want to add an M113 to your collection, then this is the best detailed, most accurate one currently on the market if you want a Vietnam era M113A1 ACAV variant. The only real frustration with the kit was the excessive amounts of flash on various parts, a real surprise for a newly molded kit. This said, the flash was easily removed from the parts by scrapping with a hobby knife and sand paper, it was just time consuming. I would give this kit a “highly recommended” rating for anyone with good modeling skills, and I think you will be very pleased with the results if you purchase and build this kit. My sincere thanks to AFV Club for kindly supplying this review sample to IPMS USA.


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