Italeri 1/35 M47 Patton Kit First Look
By Cookie Sewell
Images by Michael Benolkin
|Date of Review||April 2006||Manufacturer||Italeri|
|Kit Number||6447||Primary Media||275 parts (273 in either green or olive drab styrene, 2 in black vinyl)|
|Pros||Best kit Italeri ever produced, still state of the art today||Cons||Some problems with sink marks, static figure pose|
|Skill Level||Basic||MSRP (USD)||$35.00|
The US Army was not well prepared for WWII, and even the much improved M4 Sherman was found to be lacking in many areas of combat capability. In late 1942 efforts began to find a better design of tank that would be able to counter German improvements, and it resulted in the T20 series of prototype tanks. The tanks basically combined Sherman parts on a new, lower chassis with a Ford GAA engine that later found its way into the M4A3 series tanks. The design morphed into the T22 series and finally to the T23, which combined a new electric drive system with a new turret mounting the 76mm M1 gun with much higher velocities than the M3 75mm gun of the Sherman.
While 250 T23s were built, and would have become the M27 medium tank, events in Europe showed it would only have been a faster version of the Sherman, and so two new tanks were developed from it, the 34-ton T25 medium and 45-ton T26 heavy tank. The T23E3 had shown the viability of torsion bar suspension on this hull, so it was used on the two new designs. The T25 series did not show much promise, but the T26 did as it now mounted a 90mm gun with relatively heavy armor protection. After some evolution, the T26E3 was adopted as the M26 Pershing, seeing combat at the very end of WWII.
The M26 turned out to be an excellent tank with one glaring flaw – it was woefully underpowered. As a result, in late 1945 a modified version of the tank was ordered, the M26E2, which used a new Continental AV-1790 engine of 740 HP and a CD-850 automatic transmission. An improved version, the T40, began testing at APG in August 1949. The major difference between it and the M26E2 was an improved version of the engine and transmission, and a new track tension adjustment roller to reduce the tendency to throw track on rough terrain. The tank now had a totally new back end and engine deck, as the AV-1790 was air cooled and did not have the radiators used by the Ford GAM from the M26. With some modification, the T40 was accepted for service as the M46 Patton in November 1949 (it had been approved pending testing in July 1948.)
When the Korean war broke out, the M46 was in production and consideration was made of converting M26s to take the new engine and transmission. Problems that surfaced with both tanks showed a new tank with more modern features was desirable, including a cross-turret stereoscopic rangefinder. Another experimental tank, the T42 with a new 90mm turret on a smaller chassis, was in testing, but based on the exigencies of the time it was decided to mount this turret on an M46A1 chassis to get an interim new tank dubbed M46E1 (the projected final design, the T48, emerged several years later in April 1953.) The interim tank, now designated as the M47, was accepted for service on 1 November 1950. Over the next two years, 8,576 M47 tanks were built.
The tank served with the US Army for more than 10 years active and reserve, and was one of the main vehicles to be provided under the Military Assistance Program to NATO and other friendly countries (France, Italy, Spain, and Belgium among others.) It served with Jordan in the Middle East, and also was upgraded in the 1970s with more modern diesel AVDS engines, acquiring an engine deck shape similar to the M48A3 and M60 series. It was also upgunned, some later conversions mounting the L7-based M68 105mm tank gun.
The M47 was one of the few tanks to serve in the US Army in only one version and without major changes. But due to its wide distribution under MAP, it can be found in a relatively large number of colorful schemes. Other than the conversions, the only major difference seen on MAP tanks is a set of rain gutters mounted on the side of the turret, used in conjunction with a tarp when the tank is in storage.
The Italeri M47 kit came out in the late 1970s, and has been through a number of reissues to include one by Testors in 1979 (which this review is based upon). While it was the only kit that Italeri made based on this chassis, it was also arguably their best kit ever and stands up today as hard to beat. It does suffer a bit from sink marks on heavier moldings, and ejection pin marks as well as a seam clean-up problem along the joint line of the turret, but overall it is a very good kit and shows it.
The kit comes with a number of flexible options, one of the more interesting being a basic engine compartment with engine and transmission, and six optional position engine deck grilles to display it. This is a detailer's delight, as the basics are there and one only has to add wires, cables, and some detail painting to make it come to life.
The hatches are all separate parts, and little things are also covered. The short-barreled bow machine gun may be left movable, and Italeri has done a reasonably good job of getting it to replicate the casting on the original. The exhausts come with fairly respectable shrouds (one of the problems with the M46 in Korea was that the mufflers would glow cherry red at night, attracting Communist artillery fire) and have hollow-molded pipes. Fender skirts are included, and the stowage bins all have separate locking handles. Only the OVM (pioneer tools) look a bit wimpy, and a diehard detail fan may want to replace them.
The turret is pretty well done, and captures the shape of the T42 turret. The mantelet needs some careful cleanup. The M3A1 90mm gun includes a basic breech end with crew guards, and to cover the different periods in the life of the M47 three different muzzle brakes are included – cylindrical, flared, and T-shaped. The M2HB machine gun was good for the 1970s, but today modelers may want to replace it with one from the Academy US Machine Gun Set.
The running gear is nicely reproduced, with the correct shapes and pin heads, and unlike many other Italeri kits the vinyl T84 style tracks (23" with rubber chevron blocks) are among the most flexible of Italeri's tracks due to their relatively faithful representation of the originals – each block is joined to its neighbor by a center guide and two end connectors, with daylight visible between each block. (These tracks are also quite useful for conversions, as they are easy to join together by simply inserting brass wire pins through the end connectors into the blocks, but that's another story...) Since the M47 used "live" track, there is no real reason to replace these tracks with single-link types.
A single infantry figure is included, but he reflects the style of the early 1970s and is somewhat static in pose. While better than contemporary Tamiya figures, he isn't up to today's standards.
Four different finishing options are included, but Italeri didn't do a good job on the decals the first time around and hasn't gotten any better. They cover a tank from the 143rd Tank Battalion (no bumper codes or unit codes included), one from the 2nd Panzergrenadier Division of the Bundeswehr (no unit codes), one from the Italian "Ariete" division, and one from the French 1st DB. The latter two, based on photographs, also appear short on markings.
Overall, this is a great kit and a fun build, and one that can be built pretty much right out of the box less the decal shortcomings.
My sincere thanks to Testors for this review sample!