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Commander Models 1/35 US M6 Heavy Tank Kit First Look

By Cookie Sewell

Date of Review May 2012 Manufacturer Commander Models
Subject US M6 Heavy Tank Scale 1/35
Kit Number 1036 Primary Media 249 partts (192 in cream colored resin, 57 etched brass)
Pros First kit of this vehicle in this scale; details nicely rendered Cons Pour block under main hull; no tracks; some air bubbles
Skill Level Experienced MSRP (USD) $189.95

First Look

Prior to WWII every modern army decided they needed at least three classes of tanks: light tanks, for scouting and general security duties; medium tanks, for infantry support and counter-tank combat; and heavy tanks, for breakthrough and overpowering enemy forces. The US Army was no different, and by 1939 had drawn up all three classes of tanks: the M2A4 (transitioning to the M3) light tank, with a 37mm gun and five .30 machine guns; the M2A1 medium tank (transitioning to the M3) with a 37mm gun and up to seven .30 caliber machine guns; and the M6 heavy tank, armed with a 3" gun, 37mm gun, two .50 caliber and two .30 caliber machine guns.

The M6 (at that time the T1E1 heavy tank prototype) was a 63 ton tank that was enormous by US standards, albeit smaller than the similar concept Soviet T-35. The 3" and 37mm guns were mounted in a large revolving turret, the two .50 caliber machine guns mounted in a bow mount that could be raised and lowered but not traversed, and the .30 caliber machines were located in the bow and coaxially in the turret. 27 feet long, 10 feet wide and 10 feet high, it was an impressive tank manned by a crew of six. It used an 825 HP Wright G200 air-cooled radial and a Timken two-speed automatic transmission, giving it a top speed of 22 mph. With armor protection up to 4 1/4" thick it was the best protected American tank of the time.

But in the wake of Pearl Harbor, the design floundered while the Army tried to figure out what exactly it could do. Developed and standardized as the M6 with a cast hull and M6A1 with a welded hull, the tank essentially never got past test and evaluation unit production. Only eight M6 tanks and 12 M6A1 tanks were ever built, and most of them spent their lives either in test programs for new guns and turrets or on bond tours (they WERE impressive in person!) and rallies and posters for wartime projects.

This nice new kit from Commander Models is actually of the welded M6A1, but as noted more of them were produced than M6 tanks. Like all recent Commander kits, the model comes without tracks but recommends two sets of T49 three-bar cleat tracks such as those from RHPS (now Panda) for the model. These will need modification to fit.

The parts are in cream colored resin and are all relatively clean with easy-to-remove flash and only minor air bubble problems. The biggest hassle to cleanup is an old-fashioned 1/4" thick pour block under the main lower hull section, but most modelers who have built resin kits are used to this so it should not be a major problem.

The kit does provide some of the basics for an interior, including a turret basket and guns for the turret and driver’s controls and accessories for the forward hull section. The .50 caliber machine guns are molded complete and the bow .30 caliber port, as with the actual vehicle, has been plated over.

Until finally installed the eight bogie assemblies are somewhat fragile and care needs to be taken during assembly. Spacer blocks are provided for the sides of the hull to fit the outer armor panels and should help in mounting and aligning the bogies. There is also an auxiliary road wheel/roller on the lower forward part of the hull, three row drivers, and twin idlers to be installed.

The turret uses a lower shell and roof assembly and care must be used to assemble them as the turret is a casting and the parts must align smoothly (saves putty, at least). The 3" gun consists of six parts and the 37mm is a single casting, and both mount in the mantlet. The tank used an internal mantlet so the guns simply project out of the front of the outer shell. With care the 3" gun can be made to elevate.

The etched brass covers the light guards, hand grabs and handholds, and the large forward vent over the air intake for the engine. (The model shares a fret with the Commander T23 kit, so both are on one single offering.)

The tracks will take a bit of work, and for their assembly I suggest the following. You will need to make a jig for proper assembly of the tracks that permits aligning the components so it must be as wide as the two pads and center connector and allow for the outer connectors with drive teeth to hang down. To replicate the center fitting (not a tooth on most of the tanks built) the inner pins must be cut back to only about 1mm in length and the end connector installed upside down; the tooth is then cut off to fit flush with the track. I also think that the easiest way to do this is to have the tracks semi-workable, e.g. one side is cemented in place and the other side left free to hinge. While it makes it such that the last connection is left until the tracks are painted and installed (four end connectors and four pads left loose) it is the easiest way to tackle the problem.

Note that this kit was a “Beta” version - Ted and John know their clientele and try to get their latest kits up for the AMPS International Show each year, and this kit and the new Soviet T-10M kit were their new offerings. As a result the kit did not have the supplemental track directions in the box, but later kits will have it.

Overall it will take some effort to get a nice model from the kit but Commander Models has managed to fill another gap in the history of US Army tanks and armored vehicles. Kudos to Ted and John for a nice job. (I will be doing a complete build review of this kit.)

Parts List (bagged or free parts)

  • 5 Hull top and bottom, transmission, turret bottom shell and basket
  • 2 Sponson bottoms
  • 2 Outer armor sides
  • 8 Spacer blocks
  • 4 Fenders, fender bins
  • 21 Turret roof, viewers, cupola, hatches, mantlet
  • 32 Bogie frames
  • 32 Road wheels
  • 16 Springs
  • 16 Return roller sets and mounts
  • 8 Drivers
  • 6 Idlers
  • 6 Auxiliary road wheels
  • 4 37mm gun, .50 machine guns
  • 30 Details (lights, hatches, various hull parts)
  • 57 Etched brass