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M2A1 Half-Track 2 in 1

DML 1/35 M2A1 Half-Track 2 in 1 Smart Kit First Look

By Cookie Sewell

Images by Michael Benolkin

Date of Review October 2006 Manufacturer DML
Subject M2A1 Half-Track 2 in 1 Smart Kit Scale 1/35
Kit Number 6329 Primary Media 344 parts (319 in grey styrene, 23 etched brass, 1 brass chain, 1 nylon string)
Pros First new kit of this vehicle in 30 years; provides details for early or late model vehicles, as well as for different armament options; brilliantly designed track and bogie assembly captures look of the original Cons M2 being the short-bodied special purpose variant may not be as popular as more commonly known M3 – but wait...
Skill Level Intermediate MSRP (USD) $31-34

First Look


Okay, that is something of a misnomer – I had the privilege to see the test shot ("Beta" version) kit of this vehicle sent to Steve Zaloga, and have the advantage of his comments on the kit before I even saw this review example.

47 years ago Monogram came out with two kits of the famous WWII halftrack – the M3A1 with the M49 ring mount, and the M13 twin .50 caliber Maxson gun turret. Both were typical of the kits of the day, with heavy "working" drivelines (that never really worked, as the tracks would either snap or fly off!) and many "working features" such as operating doors, moving machine guns, and in the case of the M13 a working turret. While billed as "3/8 inch scale" (or 1/32) they were actually accurate 1/35 scale kits. Both came with figures (five with the M13, nine with the M3A1) and cost all of $1.49 each. They remained popular with modelers even with all of their flaws, as they were for many years the only game in town.

Stray kits came out from other companies, such as an odd T19 with "working" 105mm howitzer from Palmer Plastics in 1/24 (or so) scale and some Japanese clones with motors installed, as well as 1/87 ones from ROCO and 1/76 ones from Airfix. But it was not until 1975 that Tamiya released another large-scale kit with their M3A2 and US Infantry Set.

Unfortunately the Tamiya kit was surprisingly little different than the Monogram kit from 17 years earlier, as it had a very similar suspension and interior with only more accurate doors and chassis to differentiate the two. The figures here required assembly (Monogram's did not, but they were also armed with M14s and not WWII M1s) but overall it was a disappointing kit. To add insult to injury, rather than make the more common and combat veteran M3 or M3A1 they picked a prototype that was to replace both the M2 and M3 series with one vehicle, but never got into production.

Never one to give up on a good set of molds, Tamiya later released an M21 81mm mortar carrier and the most useful of the family, the M16 quadruple .50 caliber MGMC. But the basic chassis and hull problems remained. Nevertheless, these three kits kept a number of after-market manufacturers busy for 30 years making etched brass or resin components to replace the suspension, tracks and hull components.

No more. After several years of heavy prodding by people like myself, DML has now turned its attention to the American halftracks of WWII. The first of what promises to be a healthy series is a two-in-one kit that permits the modeler to either build the early war M2 or the late war M2A1 from a single kit.

For those people not familiar with the M2 series halftracks, they were nearly identical to the better known M3 series used by the armored infantry units in armored divisions but were special purpose vehicles that were designed for use by other elements. Two of the major users of this version were armored engineers and antitank artillery battalions. To that end, the M2 had two large stowage bins, one on each side of the hull behind the "cab" of the vehicle, and special racks as needed inside for stowage of essential items. The M2 later received add-on accessories such as "jerry can" racks for water or fuel and racks for mines on the sides of the body.

The major difference between the M2 and M2A1 was the replacement of the weapons mounting system inside the hull, better known as a "skate" rail, with multiple machine gun mounts sliding on it, with a more practical M49 ring mount above the co-driver/commander's position on the right side of the "cab."

Other variations were incremental and could be found on either M2 or M2A1 vehicles, more so as many M2s were rebuilt in the field into M2A1s with the skate rail removed and the M49 mounted instead. The three main optional features were: either a roller or a winch, of which the roller was far more common on M2 series vehicles; automotive style headlights mounted on the tops of the fenders, or "combat" headlights mounted on the sides of the armored grille; and luggage racks at the rear of the hull and mine racks, which were MWO (modification work order) items added in the field.

DML has managed to cover the gamut of items and provides most of them here in one package, and a "Smart Kit" with really amazing details as well. Four sprues provide the parts for the chassis and drive train, including a complete White engine and transmission. While the hood is molded in one piece, DML has notched the back side as well as the insides of the "cab" sides to permit easy cutting to open them up for display. The steering does not operate (no big loss of oversized parts) but is very petite and neatly detailed.

The bogies and track runs are very impressive, as the idlers and drivers are "slide molded" with respectively thin details and openings. (Some "boo birds" have already complained they are too thick, but I invite them to compare them to the Tamiya offerings first and then ask if they really want to solder the parts together from etched brass.) Each bogie assembly consists of 18 parts and is very petite; the mounting suspension provides five more with the track tension adjusters nicely portrayed. The tracks are very interesting: DML molded them in hard styrene plastic in two halves, cut in such a way that the "chain" plate drive tooth guides in the center are represented as they are found on the actual vehicle. Since the tracks were metal with rubber "endless belt" casings vulcanized onto them, this is a neat way to portray it. (Steve answered one of my questions in that they do fit on fairly easily, as they are installed at the same time as the drivers and idlers so the entire assembly can be snugly fitted to the model.)

The model comes with two sets of body panels for the rear body – one with the mounts for the skate ring and one without, based on which one you wish to do or an "upgrade" in the field with the skate ring mounts and the M49 ring mount. DML provides two beautifully done .50 caliber M2HB machine guns and four equally well done .30 caliber Brownings, all with the correct mounts (the .30s come with one "rocker" mount and one similar to that used by the .50 for each one, so a maximum of three .30s can be fitted to the model.) While the sides are molded in one piece, like the hood DML has grooved the inside and provided open space for the stowage bins if the modeler wants them opened.

While the correct folded ground tripods are included for the normal fit of two .30 and one .50 caliber machine guns, surprisingly one of the few missing options in the kit was the MWO luggage racks at the rear of the hull. Another item to note is the correct WWII taillight configuration: an oval on the left top for the taillight, a rectangle on the right top for the stop light, and two rectangles on the bottom for the combat blackout taillights. About time!

The "cab" is neatly done, and two sets of grille mounts are included. One is for use with the "Combat" light and the other with the "Automotive" headlights. One of each is provided closed and one with the folding louvers removed (these have to be made from etched brass, as no plastic parts are provided for the louvers.) The model has the "civilian" style dashboard, so note that the instruments are a brushed aluminum color on preserved/restored vehicles and not the more common black with white numerals.

The winch and roller each come with their own bumper and accouterments. The winch has a length of nylon string for the cable and a chain for the final hook arrangement, which matches photos of wartime models in service. Note that the driveshaft for the winch needs to be installed in Step 5!

The etched brass, as with other "Smart Kits," is held to a minimum, and covers the headlight guards for the "automotive" version, mud flaps, the aforementioned engine air louvers, windshield wipers, and the sliding covers for the view slits.

Other bits include the fact it comes with the so-called "potable" water carrier versions of the "jerry cans" with flip-up lids (the gas cans normally had screw-type caps with better seals). It also comes with two different types of radio sets and antenna mounts: either the SCR-508/608 type of armored troops radio set (one on each machine gun sprue) or the more common SCR-510/610 type, racked up side-by-side rather than tuner on top of power supply.

While the model comes with three (!) Cartograf decal sheets – generic stars, generic serial and bumper code "jungles," and a targeted set for this kit – the markings and finishing information is somewhat spartan. Five different vehicles are covered: an M2 in 1st Armored Division, Italy 1944 (two color camouflage); an M2 in 1st Armored Division, Tunisia 1942 (OD with US flags on the sides); M2, generic US Army, 1941-42 (OD with stars); M2A1, XX Corps, Belgium, 1945 (two color camouflage); and an M2A1, generic US Army, 1941-1942 (OD with stars). I strongly suggest getting either Steve Zaloga's "US Halftracks in Action" from Concord or Jim Mesko's "M3 Halftrack in Action" from Squadron/Signal as they both provide a lot of photos and good information for finishing, but there are a lot of other good books on the market covering these popular vehicles.

Overall, this is a winner and I am very happy to see that an M3/M3A1 kit is coming right behind it. Based on those two, the rest of the family will hopefully follow – M4/M21 mortar carriers, M13/M14 MGMC, T28/M15/M15A1 AA halftracks, and the various SP models with 57mm, 75mm and 105mm weapons. A great time for American modelers for a change!

Thanks to DML for the review sample.

Sprue Breakout:

  • A 40 Chassis and suspension
  • B 28 Armored cab assembly
  • C 29 M49 mount and front bumper assemblies
  • D 48x2 Bogie assembly and wheels
  • E 7 Clear styrene parts
  • H 4 Front grille (open/closed)
  • J 37x2 Machine guns and radio set
  • K 40 Rear body components
  • W 8 Slide molded drivers and idlers
  • MA 23 Etched brass
  • MC 1 brass chain
  • MD 1 nylon string