Fruilmodel 1/35 M2 Bradley; LVTP-7; MLRS Track (Early and Late Types) First Look
|Date of Review||June 2004||Manufacturer||Fruilmodel|
|Subject||M2 Bradley; LVTP-7; MLRS Track (Early and Late Types)||Scale||1/35|
|Kit Number||ATL78 (Early) / ATL79 (Late)||Primary Media||White Metal|
|Pros||Nicely done metal tracks lend "heft" to a model; fit a number of vehicles beside those listed||Cons||Use of separate bolt heads is novel but will frustrate some modelers|
|Skill Level||Intermediate||MSRP (USD)||$30.00|
The US Army, like many other countries, finds things it likes and stays with them over the years. There are some things that do meet the criteria "if it ain't broke don't fix it."
The Army changed over in the early 1950s to families of vehicles sharing engines, component parts, and running gear. The earliest of them were the FMC designed T18 armored personnel carrier and T37 light tank, both of which came out right at the very beginning of the 1950s. The APC was first to go into service as the M75, seeing service in Korea in 1953. The tank took longer, finally being redesigned to produce the M41 light tank, the M42 twin 40mm SP AA gun, and the M59 APC later in the decade, as well as the M44 and M52 SP howitzers.
All of them shared the same basic parts: a Continental air cooled flat 6 engine, transmission and the same 25.5" x 4.5" road wheels and T91E3 tracks. These were single-pin live tracks with a triangular rubber pad in the center that could be replaced without replacing the entire track link. They had a width overall of 21" and a pitch of 6".
These tracks served well over the years, and a slightly modified design was used when FMC created the LVTP-7 in the late 1960s, as well as with the same company's use of them and parts from the LVTP-7 when creating the M2/M3 Bradley family of fighting vehicles in 1976. These tracks, obviously a favorite of the FMC design teams, worked well and were a good match with vehicles in the 25-30 ton range.
As a result of lessons learned during Operation Desert Storm, the tracks were finally redesigned in the late 1990s and a new larger track pad was fitted; this was formed in the shape of a rectangle with a tab at the wide end of the link. This is the track currently fitted to the M2/M3 family.
Fruilmodel is now producing sets of both of these tracks, and they will match up well with the Tamiya Bradley kits, the Academy and Tamiya LVTP-7/AAV-7 series kits, as well as the DML MLRS launcher. However, photos are a good idea if trying to match vehicles as the changeover period appears to be based on wearout and not a firm date. Likewise, early model vehicles – unless you have photos of one in a current unit – only used the early style tracks.
These kits both provide the now-standard Fruilmodel system of a length of wire for pins and metal links with hollow cast hinges. The wire is inserted into the hinges to join links, a touch of ACC cement, a snip with wire cutters, and off to the next link. While tedious at first, the system is not that hard to learn, and some tricks do help. By putting a slight kink in the wire before insertion, friction will hold the nascent hinge pin in place until cemented down.
(There's another solution: as they are roughly 0.020" size holes, drill them out with an 0.020" drill and use styrene rod to joint them – faster and easier with less hassle.)
Some modelers have complained that this system is not prototypical, as it leaves a small hole at the end whereas the actual tracks have bolts or nuts (based on which end you look at.) As a "shut up" for them, Fruilmodel now includes a matching set of 1/35 scale white metal bolt heads to fill up or seal the open end of the pin cavity. These are molded laterally to the sprues so they have to be cemented on flat (you can't "cheat" as with a Grandt Line bolt head and leave a section of .010" rod from the sprue for mounting in this case.) They also redefine the term TINY.
Overall, these tracks are nicely done and as far as I know this is the only set of the new so-called "Big Foot" tracks available for the M2/M3, AAV-7A1 UGS, and MLRS as serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Thanks to Bill Miley of CMD for the review samples.