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Tamiya 1/35 M113A2 Desert Version Kit First Look

By Cookie Sewell

Date of Review October 2004 Manufacturer Tamiya
Subject M113A2 Desert Version Scale 1/35
Kit Number 35265 Primary Media 222 parts in sand colored styrene, 14 in black vinyl, 2 in grey vinyl)
Pros Plenty of external "kit" for stowage Cons Reuse of 30-year-old molds of early model vehicles is getting to be a very bad habit with this manufacturer; initial errors not correct; technology has passed this basic kit by
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) Approx $35.95

First Look

Someday I hope that Tamiya will give the rest of the modeling fraternity the same consideration it has provided its German clientele in redoing its older kits and making them worth the prices they charge. Alas, they still do not and trust that many modelers will buy their products for the name alone and not notice the quality does not match the reputation.

Such is the case with this kit, the basic variant of which came out with a full interior in 1974 and was for that time what one could have easily called a "Kit of the Year." It was a model of a standard US Army M113 (gasoline powered with a nicely done Chrysler 361 cid V-8 engine) and a relatively complete interior for the time, as well as five figures in "action" positions.

But as time wore on and tastes became more sophisticated, the kit began to show its age. The tracks were seen to have no detailing on their insides, and were too thick and not properly duplicated. The axles were fixed, so the model only could sit level. That was not surprising as the original kit was motorized outside of the US and had to take a standard Tamiya motor pack and batteries. As a result, the idler wheels were also not correct as reliability of the motorization parts were more essential.

The M113 had a short life with the US Army as it was quickly replaced with the Detroit Diesel 6-53 series V-6 diesel engine series and used in that method for most of Vietnam and the postwar years. The redesigned M113A2 fixed many of the other problems and added new items such as smoke grenade launchers. The latest variant, the M113A3, added external armored fuel tanks as well (which may be retrofitted to older vehicles, but most of the ones sporting the tanks now are rebuilt to A3 standards at depots.)

But while the "Papa Chuck" – the nickname the infantry gave the vehicle from the NATO phonetic alphabet characters for APC of "Alpha Papa Charlie" – changed, the Tamiya kit did not. The only changes Tamiya made over the run of this kit and its variants was to (a) change the interior when provided, such as with the M106A1 and (b) add new parts sprues and double or triple the price of the kit. This is an "Option b" kit and shows it.

First off, it retains all of the flaws of the old 1974 kit (and three of the sprues and the lower hull reflect that date) and the original track sets. Therefore the model is not an M113A2, but just an M113 with some add-on parts. The engine deck and vent area are wrong and have to be changed, as well as the exhausts and other items. Many of the kit's details are now crude in comparison with modern items, such as the hatches (Tamiya did add an improved .50 caliber M2HB machine gun to replace the obsolete original effort but that is about the limit of major upgrades).

The main changes in this kit are 121 parts on two new sprues W and V with the Operation Iraqi Freedom kit parts, mostly consisting of ALCE ("Alice" packs, ammo and water cans, and various packs like camouflage sets and other items carried externally on the vehicle. The interior sprues are long gone, so anyone wanting to show the model opened up will need an interior from an older kit and a lot of work, or a conversion kit or upgrade set. Two new figures and a puppy are included, but the figures are not as crisp as many other recent Tamiya efforts which is a bit surprising on a new dedicated sprue.

Markings are included for what appear to be two M113A2 and two M113A3 vehicles: an M113A3 in Iraq, March 2003 (3d FSB, 3ID); an M113A3 in Iraq, April 2003 (1st BDE 3ID); M113A2 in Iraq, 2-7 Infantry (3ID) in April 2003; and an M113A2 with "crow's nest" in Bosnia, 1996 (1AD).

I am quite disappointed with Tamiya's continuing failure to upgrade older kits. (I also note I got this one out of suspicion that they had done exactly what they did, and got it on deep discount for about half-price at the 2004 IPMS Region II show.)

If you want a REAL M113A2 kit, Academy makes a state-of-the-art one that is far better and offers a choice of tracks (one-piece vinyl or link-and-length, both state of the art) along with a correct interior, correct engine deck, and other details. It's better to get that kit, Tamiya's separate set of Operation Iraqi Freedom details, and add-on decals than to purchase one needed as much work as this one to be accurate.

Recommended with resevations.